Q: What attracted you to the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald in Los Angeles?
We’ll always be fascinated with Scott and Zelda’s fall from grace from the pinnacle of celebrity and fame. That attracts a lot of writers and readers. But I want to talk about that later story when he gets up off that mat and becomes himself again. I want Scott’s point of view, and you can only do that though fiction.
Q: What is happening to Fitzgerald when the book begins?
It’s 1937. His wife Zelda is in a private asylum in North Carolina, and he realizes that she is not getting better. His daughter is in Connecticut, and he’s deeply in debt to his agent. He has no other prospects, and he has no choice but to try screenwriting for the third time.
Lots more great reviews of The Odds, plus a Q&A with the Savannah Book Festival.
The Christian Science Monitor: “The Odds” is a comedy, but a rueful one that anyone who’s ever stayed up late wondering how to pay the bills or if a marriage was worth saving will recognize.
USA Today: O’Nan weaves in vivid descriptions of the falls’ natural wonders and the cheesy attractions. (Art insists on touring Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, as they did on their honeymoon.) O’Nan is never condescending, ever sympathetic to his main characters.
The Globe and Mail: O’Nan’s prose is agile, light and utterly unself-conscious. Very contemporary. At the same time, his superb rendering of psychological drama recalls 19th-century novelists like George Eliot. He has good fun with this story.
Niagara Falls Review: Released late last month, The Odds is a crisp 180 pages with plenty of humour and O’Nan’s sharp dialogue (a chapter where the couple believes they see Nancy Wilson of Heart at a local restaurant shows O’Nan’s impeccable grasp of characters). But all throughout is the ominous feeling something bad is about to happen to them, which is only natural when happiness rides on red or black at the roulette table.
DO: The central couple in your most recent novel, “The Odds,” is jobless and facing foreclosure, a scenario that no doubt rings true for many readers today. Art and Marion’s solution is to bet the little they have left at a roulette wheel – and it pays off. What’s the biggest gamble that’s paid off in your life/career?
O’Nan: No doubt, it was making the switch from aerospace engineer to writer in my late twenties. For years I wrote stories in my basement after work, but I never thought of doing it fulltime, but my wife Trudy encouraged me to pursue it. I can’t imagine a better job than reading and writing and talking about books.