I want to tell you the truest thing about me on this day, of all days, when my novel THE JUICE is being released. It’s something that I rarely talk about to anyone but close friends and family, because there’s a sting to it.
It has to do with this guy, pictured above, David Chachere. I met him just after 9/11 in a New York art museum, the Neue Galerie. We had a bit of an intellectual jousting match, and I was so jaded about dating that I would have just walked away and never seen him again. “Aren’t you even going to drop a glove?” he asked as our time together ended. So I gave him my card.
I soon discovered, over beautiful evenings, that he was Creole whose family went back centuries in New Orleans. He can regale people with his stories about his great grandfather, a cornet player named Manuel Perez, who was one of the first jazz musicians, well known to music historians. The first known ancestor in his family who came to America was a French fur trader who, as best as David can figure out, migrated from Canada and was a spy for the Spanish government following the French and Indian War. Another ancestor was a Black man who owned Black slaves before the Civil War, then freed them and moved to Cuba.
David is a provocative man given to controversial thoughts with an encyclopedic knowledge not only of New Orleans but New York, which he’s called home now for decades, ever since winning a scholarship to Columbia University, where he studied anthropology.
After many years of simply living together, we were wed in 2017, and shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. The darkness of this period – the hospital visits, chemo and radiation treatments – delved me deeper into writing THE JUICE. The novel became a crucial way for me to escape for a few hours a day over many months and years. It was, and is, my conduit away from pain into a world that feels quite real and magical.
David himself has been my greatest champion as a writer, from the first time he read one of my film scripts at the start of our relationship. So there’s much behind my dedication to him, at the start of the novel.
If you get to the acknowledgements page in THE JUICE, you’ll see that I had a huge amount of support from a band of producers, writers and editors, some of whom provided critical feedback for some short story spinoffs as well. They’re such a talented bunch, whose own accomplishments are well worth exploring: Larry Maness, Jenna Zark, Barbara Vaccaro, Stephen Yaffe, Lyralen Kaye, Jan Kimborough, Tracy Charlton, Jennifer Wollan, Deb Brozina and Pat LoBrutto. And that’s just a few of the people to whom I extend immense gratitude in the acknowledgements — including my publisher, Gwen Gades of Dragon Moon Press, and publicist extraordinaire, Rachel Tarlow Gul. Then there’s a small army of friends who read the advance reader copy in order to post reviews early on, and hopefully bump up its prominence. You know who you are, and I am so indebted to you.
David has surprised his doctors. They thought he was about to die a year ago, but he rallied, showing a force of will power that made him a star patient, written up in case studies. He isn’t done with living yet. He started quoting Tim Robbins’ character in SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” And I am extraordinarily pleased that he is here to see THE JUICE on its release day. Heaven willing, he’ll be with me a great deal longer than that.