Elizabeth Fournier – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

All Men Are Cremated Equal: My 77 Blind Dates is the memoir of a lovelorn mortician that captures the experience of being single, female and fast approaching 40, still longing to find “The One.”

I was freshly broken up with my fiancé, and wasn’t in the market for yet another dead-end relationship. I made a list of the ten qualities I was looking for in a man and forwarded the list to my vast social network. I then ventured on 77 blind dates, letting friends act as matchmakers in the Portland and San Francisco Bay Area dating scene.

I take my readers along on the good dates (the sexy local candidate), the bad (the concert promoter who ended up bloodied), the utterly bizarre (the man who speaks in quotations), and the educational (the contractor who invites her along on a last-minute concrete pour). I chronicle the giddy anticipation of a first meeting, the sense of adventure as the night lingers on, and the challenge to remain optimistic when there were 55 dates down, and 22 more to go.

Throughout, I discuss my life in the funeral industry, from the workaday tasks, to the more unusual aspects of the business. My memoir describes how I balanced my social life (with the living) with my professional responsibilities (to the dead).

Tell us something about yourself.

I spent a lot of time in funeral homes as a kid. Not because of my family in the business, but my family in caskets. Fourniers don’t exactly have the best longevity record.

At my tiny Catholic school (where most students lived with both parents), I stood out. Everyone knew my mother had died, and they all knew that when they suffered the loss of a family member, or even a pet, I was the person to talk with. I was the only death resource in the community of students. When I got into junior high, and when someone’s parent or sibling would die—anyone, really—I’d be the person they’d seek out. Everybody looked at me as their go-to girl for death.

The funeral industry seemed like such a natural life path, and I truly feel that it is my calling and my ministry.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

When I wrote All Men Are Cremated Equal: My 77 Blind Dates, I was newly married. After planning a wedding across the country in only five months, I decided I could do anything. So I promptly sat down at the keyboard after our return from New Jersey and cranked out my manuscript.

The conflict between wanting to be with my new husband and wanting to write was tricky. It was a long, hot summer, and I had to miss out on some great fishing and hikes, but I managed to never miss a tasty barbecue! I was so lucky to have a supportively fabulous husband so I could take that time and do my work at home.

I was a novice writer trying to get my manuscript launched and having a hard time being placed since I had an off-beat subject with a wacky title. I received creatively written rejection letters from publishers that praised my writing but honestly stated they didn’t know what to do with me. How could they market a small-town mortician who went on 77 blind dates in search of a husband?

How long did it take to write and revise your memoir ready for publication?

I finished my first draft in a month. Seriously, I did. The book started from a series of e-mails I sent to my beloved father. I would tell him about a date and then e-mail him the not so great events of the date when arriving home. He loved being a part of my quest to find true love as much as I loved having him along for the self-deprecating ride.

The first draft was 77 chapters, one chapter for the 77 individual dates. I thought it was fresh and brilliant! None of the literary agents I sent it to could see that point of view. I quickly decided that a redo was inevitable.

With enthusiasm quashed, I got back to the keyboard and enlisted help from a wonderful storyboard editor down Hollywood way named Michele Gendelman. She had worked (among many things) on a few episodes for The Facts of Life. The show’s glamour character, Blair Warner, was the end-all for me in my youth, so I knew I was in capable hands.

Michelle encouraged me to break up the manuscript into larger chapters, add dialogue and most of all, have fun. Sound advice, and even though she knew dialogue doesn’t easily appear out of the sky, I opened my heart, and it all poured out with ease.

As I had revisions revised and revisited, it all tightened up into a nice story. The original manuscript was twice as long. While preparing the final version, I was most concerned with being extremely honest without violating the privacy of my wonderful friends – and blind dates!

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

What did I learn from having a drink or a dinner with so many blind dates over the course of a year? One thing really stands out: I cannot believe I had such patience to plod through all those dates — I think I am still quite flummoxed!

Flummoxed is a sassy word meaning confused. It seems peculiar that I had to go out with 77 men in order to find true love. But being set up on a date by friends is a terrible paradox. It’s momentarily stirring to envision getting together with a fresh prospect that comes pre-ordained as nice-looking, sharp, and charming by people you know and trust.

Predicting magnetism is hard, and being acquainted with a person isn’t always the clearest lens through which to view their intrinsic worth as a partner. I’ve set up two of my girlfriends with men, and it actually worked. Marriages happened. One taker was my college roommate, and she thanked me by making me her maid of honor. I love love!

Even though not one of my blind dates netted a coveted second date, I’m happy I accepted these dates from wonderful people in my life who meant well with their great intentions. My friends spent some of their spare time trying to find me some love, yet it sure wasn’t what I thought I signed up for.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I have been asked to start compiling my notes for another book. There is interest in my life as a small-town female mortician who lives where she works and brings her baby to work at the funeral home. I have years of funeral and cemetery experience that has been rather fascinating, and I am flattered and equally thrilled to move forward with my first draft.

I do all my writing at my funeral home. My parlour is located on acreage in the country in a remodeled goat barn. It is peaceful, and my mind feels untroubled there. I can stare out the window and see deer, green grass and lots of beautiful trees and plants. It’s Heavenly!

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Read aloud what you have written. Generally your ear is better than your eyes, and if you read it out loud you are much more likely to find dreadful sentences, terrible tenses, and other errors.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?