“Tiffanie DeBartolo is an American novelist, filmmaker, co-founder of the independent record label Bright Antenna, and co-founder of The ShineMaker Foundation. Tiffanie has written three novels: God-Shaped Hole, How To Kill a Rock Star, and the upcoming Sorrow, scheduled for release in October 2020.”
1. What are you most excited for your readers to learn about themselves while reading ‘Sorrow’?
I hope the book makes them examine their approach to life and examine how they move forward in the face of fear. One of my favorite quotes is this one from Georgia O'Keeffe: “I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life — and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
That quote pretty much sums up my life. All of the important decisions I’ve ever made have hinged on that feeling, of being scared — of failure, of disappointment, of being wrong or ridiculed or not good enough — and nevertheless listening to my gut and mustering the courage to do it anyway.
I hope readers ponder their own fears, or whatever it is that holds them back, and ask themselves serious questions about the paths they’ve chosen.
2. What was your favorite thing about writing this story through the lens of your male protagonist, Joe?
3. What words of encouragement do you have for those individuals that feel haunted by a history of failure?
It’s imperative to do what you want to do in life. To do what makes you happy — Joe’s definition of happiness, that is — to do what stirs your soul, what moves you — instead of what’s expected of you, or what society deems acceptable. Life is too short not to listen to your heart. And it’s never too late to change. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s possible and important to constantly evolve.
4. How has your writing style evolved over the years? And in what areas do you think you can still improve?
I think I have acquired a certain kind of patience as a writer that serves me well. I used to be in a hurry to finish a story, couldn’t wait to get to see what was going to happen next, and now I enjoy the process so much that I can really savor the unfolding and discover moments of magic along the way that add depth to the work. Having said that, I also think, ironically, that the area in which I could improve would definitely be to write more books. So. LOL.
5. What have you found is your secret to writing characters whose personality and stories pop off the page and into the hearts of your readers?
I think it’s simply the ability to put myself in a character’s shoes, to embody them, to see what they see and feel what they feel. I have a lot of empathy — it’s one of the blessings and curses of my life — and it allows me to get inside the hearts and minds of my characters without judgement or censorship. It also enables their humanity to shine. The *secret* to great characters is finding their humanity and translating it to the page.
6. You are the founder and Chief Executive "Super Goddess" of Bright Antenna Records. When did your love of music begin? And who are some of the artists that inspire your writing?
I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t enamored with and obsessed by music. I can recall sitting on the floor of the basement of my childhood home with my older sister, listening to all of our dad’s old 45s from the ’50s and ’60s when we were 3 and 4, and not being able to get enough — artists like Frankie Valli and Elvis and Ricky Nelson.
And I remember hearing the song “Wildfire” for the first time when I was about 5 and just crying over that f**king horse.
From there, my obsession with music just grew and grew. MTV was a big deal for me back in the ’80s when they actually used to play music; I would watch videos for hours and hours. Furthermore, almost everything I write is somehow inspired by music.
7. Overall, what was your writing process like for “Sorrow”?
Well, running a record label is a full-time job, and my writing has to sort of revolve around that. Typically, when I’m writing, I get up quite early — like, in the 5s — and I have coffee, go for a run, and then write for a few hours before going to work. COVID has changed that, obviously, and my schedule is a lot more flexible at the moment. But it wasn’t flexible when I was working on “Sorrow.”
8. Your father, Edward DeBartolo Jr., is the Hall of Fame former owner of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. Under his ownership, the 49ers won five Super Bowl championships. Do you have any favorite memories of the Super Bowl and which one stands out most for you?
They were all pretty epic, and a lot of fun. But I guess in terms of the games themselves, the one in 1989, I think it was in Miami against the Cincinnati Bengals, was the most memorable. The 49ers won the game after scoring a touchdown in the last 34 seconds. Lots of joy and mayhem ensued.
9. What has been one new skill or hobby you’ve picked up this year during quarantine?
Going to therapy.
10. What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
My advice is always to sit down and slog through it. But often when I feel stuck, I’ll pick up a favorite book from my shelf, open it to a random page and read a random paragraph, and see if that sparks anything. It usually does.
11. What’s the best book you have read this year so far?
12. What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?
I once heard someone say that happiness is an inside job, and I think that’s true. We get to choose how we react to things that happen to us and around us. But I think more than receiving advice, I have learned through experience that real happiness comes from being true to yourself and in giving of yourself to the world. Giving love is the best way to get it back.
13. Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
Yes! I’m hoping to start a new novel right after “Sorrow” is released!
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