TORONTO – Writer Monica Heisey says her divorce at age 28 inspired her novel “Really Good, Actually,” because she didn’t see her experience reflected in pop culture and wanted to change it.
“Everything out there about divorce was about people many decades, and later, in their lives with different and bigger concerns about child custody and the division of homes and properties,” she said. “And that wasn’t my reality at all.”
The 34-year-old Toronto comedian, who has written for “Schitt’s Creek” and “Workin’ Moms,” crafted a tender but edgy debut, detailing the self-discovery and absurdity in heartbreak.
‘Really Good, Actually’, due out on 17 January, has already been optioned for a TV series and is receiving much praise, landing on several eagerly awaited books from 2023 list publications including The Guardian and the BBC.
It also fits into a vibrant new subcategory of women’s fiction dubbed on social media as “books for sexy girls,” with readers clamoring for the word “hot” to refer not just to one’s looks or style, but also to the quality of the literature that they are reading. you’re in. These books often feature female protagonists who may appear polished, but the turmoil lurks just beneath the surface.
“I think the hot girls maybe aren’t doing very well, emotionally, but they look good,” said Heisey, who now lives in London. “And they’re reading good books while doing it.”
Heisey said she would like her book to be dubbed a “book for sexy girls”.
“I’d be honored if they would put it in their tote bag,” she said. “Sexy girls purses always have some lip gloss, some cigarettes, and a novel from a woman having a complete breakdown.”
“Really Good, Actually” follows a 29-year-old woman going through a divorce and her attempt to find joy in her daily life as she deals with heartbreak.
“It’s a very ironic experience in that it’s so big and so mundane at the same time,” she said. “Whatever age it hits you, it still looks the same and hits just as hard.”
Heisey said the TV shows and books she watched and read about breakups were intense and focused on the painful parts of heartbreak, but as a comedy writer, she’s used to digging into her own life for experiences and funny stories.
“I was surprised to find that when I was going through a divorce at a young age, even in the darkest parts, I could see there was something funny about it,” she said.
He started writing “Really Good, Actually” in January of 2020 and was done within a year.
“I thought I should really challenge myself,” she said, adding that she felt vulnerable showing her book to publishers and publishers.
“It took such a long period of my life and it tapped into some really difficult feelings,” she said.
To help convey the protagonist’s state of mind, the book incorporates modern influences such as Google search history, unanswered emails, and a call log detailing charges per divorce attorney’s phone call.
Heisey said those pieces were the first things he wrote as character exercises to get inside the narrator’s head.
“Borrowing from my emotions, I was still imagining a person and the events and I really wanted to get a sense of where this character and I differ and where we crossed paths, and just who he was,” she said.
She said she began writing Google’s searches and fantasies of the character as a way to ground the book in its setting, while also revealing something intensely personal about the protagonist.
“I’d rather die than expose my Google search history to anyone,” she said.
Looking ahead, Heisey said she has wrapped up a series of untitled British romantic comedies that she co-created, served as lead writer and executive produced, which is slated for a spring release.
He’s also hard at work on the pilot for the TV adaptation, which he hopes will be a love letter to the friendships as well as Toronto, and has plans to write a second novel.
“I think it’s going to be a challenging year in a way that I never could have hoped for,” he said. “I feel so lucky.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 11, 2023.
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