Interview with Mara Monoski, Author of Downtown Dani
21 May 2020
What can you tell us about your new release, Downtown Dani?
Downtown Dani is a medical (urology!) romantic comedy about a divorced former nurse from Texas doing her urology residency in New York City. She is smart, hard-working, and focused on her career. She has to figure out how to find a balance between her professional ambitions and her love life. Dani is strong and successful, but it also flawed in ways I think a lot of people can relate to.
When I decided I was going to write a fiction novel, I knew it was going to be a romantic comedy because those are the kinds of stories I like to read. However, I wanted to add a couple of elements to this genre that I don’t think are out there, at least not in abundance. First, it is difficult to find a female protagonist who is intelligent and tough, but also a professional who doesn’t work in the entertainment or fashion industry. This genre often depicts women as slightly pathetic and pining for a man to complete them, which is not how I portrayed my main character, Dani. Second, I wanted to educate people on female sexuality because there is a lot of misinformation out there. The entertainment industry likes to idealize what happens during sex in ways that are often not physically possible for women. I tried to write sex scenes that are fun but realistic, and even educational in a humorous way.
Making my main character a urologist was a no-brainer because I used to be a urologist and I figured it was best to write what I know, right? Looking back on my medical training, it is ripe with good stories that are exciting and ridiculous that I was able to draw from. And I think there is a lot of interest in what the life of a doctor, and especially a surgeon, in the hospital is like.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
When I stopped practicing urology, it was the first time my career was not on a very straight and well-defined path. I had the luxury to think creatively and I kept coming back to the idea of writing. It took me a while to decide on a fiction novel, but at some point, it just made sense. I could still use my background and what I had learned in urology to reach out to people, whether that is telling an entertaining story that the reader can escape into, giving somebody a good belly laugh, or teaching some important facts about sexuality that can potentially improve a person’s quality of life.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Eight by Katherine Neville
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
A Good Year by Peter Mayle
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
Anthony Bourdain would be my first guest, if he were still alive. I found him fascinating. He had a really unique way with words that drew me in. He lived life hard and told it like it was with an honesty I found to be refreshing. He had a very open mind about people and was willing to walk in their shoes to better understand them. I loved his adventurous spirit, his unconventional ways of doing things, and learning about his rise to success that started in restaurant kitchens.
I wish I could have asked him what made him truly happy and content? Given he had such an exciting life full of travel, I wonder if it was the quiet moments. What motivated him to get involved in writing and filmmaking? What was his favorite meal? What were his top five cooking tips? What was his favorite combination of food and drink?
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
There’s nothing like hearing somebody laugh out loud when they are reading something I wrote. I also get an incredible sense of accomplishment when I knock out my goal for how much I wanted to write in a day (about 2000 words). Yessssss!
What is a typical day like for you?
Exercise, get kids ready for school, go to work, take kids to afternoon activities, cook dinner, clean, put the kids to bed, and now it’s time to pay bills/do laundry/WRITE!
What scene in Downtown Dani was your favorite to write?
The sex scenes were probably my favorite to write, not because they were easy, but because they were the most challenging and gave me the biggest sense of accomplishment after I finished each one. I had never written scenes like this before and they were difficult, especially because there are few good words in the English language to describe the male and female genitalia without it sounding too clinical or just plain ridiculous. Does anybody really say, “there is a burning in my loins” anymore? Come on! I definitely blushed some during the process, but I wanted to prove that I could write an entertaining and provocative scene while still keeping it realistic.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
Work hard, play hard. I know it’s generic, but it’s true. I try to teach my kids that nothing comes for free in life and you’ve got to earn everything. Then you can be proud of and appreciate what you have accomplished. However, it’s also important to take the time to enjoy what and who you have in your life. Love those special people hard and tell them often how much they mean to you.
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