For 10 years, the first version of Courtney Maum’s “I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You” sat in a cardboard box, having suffered more than a dozen rejections from publishers.
So when her literary agent — her third one, by the way — read it and declared the book her debut novel, Maum was hesitant. After some badgering, Maum agreed to try again. The result was extraordinary — the completely rewritten manuscript became an acclaimed debut with publications as diverse at People magazine to Real Simple to The Wall Street Journal praising its humor, depth and appeal.
Maum, who is doing a book tour to launch the novel’s paperback release, will talk about writing, her creative process and more at 7 p.m. Thursday at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor. It is her first Michigan visit — and if no one shows up, Maum promises the experience will end up somewhere in a novel down the road.
“I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You” is described as a reverse love story set in Paris and London. It tells the tale of Richard Haddon, whose marital affair and attempts at redemption allowed Maum to explore questions around love, marriage and whether people truly change.
Q: Have you ever been to Michigan before?
A: I’ve never been. I’ve never really been to the Midwest. I have some friends who went to school in Michigan (but) they won’t be there that night ... I’ve done a lot of events, but this is the biggest and most formally put together tour that I’ve done for this book or anything else. It’s pretty rare that a debut author would tour for a paperback. But you just didn’t know with a debut if anyone would read it at all or if they’d hate it or if they’d even notice. So this is a neat opportunity for me. I feel a lot more prepared and excited and grateful.
Q: But what if you’re the only person in the room?
A: Even when an event goes bad, I’ll just use that somewhere in my fiction down the road. I’m always able to channel it. But I’ve been pretty fortunate so far; we’ve had good attendance. The only event that went wrong was at the big book launch. I thought it would be fun to serve everyone french fries, like real pomme frites. I knew a place near my apartment in New York; it was this old neighborhood joint. I thought I’d get all of the French fries from that guy. But the fries had to go from Manhattan to Staten Island. French fries don’t travel well; they were so soggy no matter what we did to try to fix them.
Q: What appealed to you about writing fiction?
A: I think I’m a good liar. And in fiction, you’re making things up all the time. I like making up worlds. I like writing about locations where I don’t live. I always knew I wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. I’ve been writing stories since I was 6 or 7. I do write non-fiction, but I like to get out of my head.
Q: How did this book come about?
A: I wrote it originally 10 years ago, before I was married. I think I wrote it when I was 23 or 24 ... I was working on another book, but (my agent) didn’t think it would do well. She asked me: ‘Do you have anything else?’ I said, ‘I have this ancient manuscript in a box, I haven’t looked at it in 10 years.’ She read it and said this is it; this is your debut novel. It just needs to be revised. I had just found out I was pregnant; so I had seven months, basically. I tried to revise it, but I just couldn’t work that way. So I rewrote the whole thing from scratch... It was actually good in hindsight that the book didn’t work the first time because I didn’t have the compassion I have now. I matured.
Karen Dybis is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.
Reads from “I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You”
124 E. Washington., Ann Arbor