The Play Company has a dynamic group of Ambassadors who are advocates for the organization and the work we produce. And we are excited to announce that PlayCo Ambassador Erin Martin has co-authored a new book with James C. Hormel titled Fit to Serve: Reflections on a Secret Life, Private Struggle, and Public Battle to Become the First Openly Gay U.S. Ambassador
Here’s the scoop on the writing process with Erin herself!
PLAYCO: First off, how did you get involved with The Play Company?
ERIN: PlayCo’s literary associate, Melissa Hardy, introduced me to the company through Ronald Schimmelpfennig’s New York premiere of Arabian Nights. It was such a captivating production that I made a mental note to keep following PlayCo’s work.
PLAYCO: How did you start working on the book and what was your role in writing it? What was the writing process like?
ERIN: Ironically, given the title of the book, Jim Hormel and I got to be friends on the tennis court. When he mentioned that he was struggling to write his own story, I offered to work with him as a co-author. The partnership took off from there, weaving its way through a highly collaborative process of interviewing, writing, reviewing and re-writing – it took a while to massage nearly eighty years of colorful living into a manageable book! More than a year into the project, we connected with literary agent Gillian MacKenzie, who persuaded us that the story should be constructed differently. We took her advice and did a major re-write.
PLAYCO: What did you find most challenging in working on this project? Most rewarding?
ERIN: Two things were very challenging: 1) sifting through so many good, interesting experiences and disciplining myself to use only those that told the story, and 2) as a straight, 40-something woman, finding the ability to write in the voice of a gay, 70-something man – getting it right was a matter of time and practice, along with a great deal of patience on Jim’s part!
The most rewarding thing has been the great media interest in the book. When we were looking for publishers, we were told over and over that “gay books” don’t sell. But we’re already seeing otherwise.
PLAYCO: Why is this book important to read? Why is it important to you?
ERIN: Fit to Serve is an intimate story about a man who confronted his fears and kept his insecurities at bay in order to do something remarkable for the world. Although his experience plays out on a national stage, he relates it in a way that underscores the power we all have to live our lives and be true to our most heartfelt desires. The trick, as Jim explains it, is to be brave enough to trust in those desires. That message is important because I need that reminder—my inner critic gets the better of me far too often.
PLAYCO: Who is your favorite novelist and/or playwright and why?
ERIN: Eesh, I could never pick just one! For novelists, I love Vikram Seth, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Zakes Mda, Junot Diaz, A.M. Homes, most of Salman Rushdie, most of Isabel Allende…I could go on. For playwrights, I always find new, revelatory things in Shakespeare (truly!) and I adore Athol Fugard—Master Harold and the boys was the first play to make me cry. I always get a lot of laughs out of David Henry Hwang’s work. Of course, I can’t wait for Jonas Khemiri’s next play. For a language lover, INVASION was as delicious as the Caribbean in winter!
Thanks for sharing with us, Erin! For more info on Fit to Serve, please visit: www.jameschormel.com