Jean Meltzer's perfect new novel...plus a book giveaway
|Photo by Lisa Damico
Jean Meltzer studied dramatic writing at NYU Tisch and has earned numerous awards for her work in television, including a daytime Emmy. Like her protagonist, Jean is also a chronically-ill and disabled Jewish woman. She is an outspoken advocate for ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), has attended visibility actions in Washington DC, meeting with members of Senate and Congress to raise funds for ME/CFS. She inspires 9,000 followers on WW Connect to live their best life, come out of the chronic illness closet, and embrace the hashtag #chronicallyfabulous. Also, while she was raised in what would be considered a secular home, she grew up kosher and attended Hebrew School. She spent five years in rabbinical school before her chronic illness forced her to withdraw, and her father told her she should write a book―just not a Jewish one because no one reads those.
- A doctor or lawyer (preferably a doctor)
- Baggage-free (no previous marriages, no children)
- And of course—he must be Jewish
For me, it’s less about the writing itself and what my books put into the world. I’m always so beyond touched when someone who has read my books tell me that they felt seen. That how I described an experience—such as living with ME/CFS in The Matzah Ball or living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Mr. Perfect on Paper—resonates with them in a way that feels truthful. Or, to hear a reader say, “This book put into words what I experience but could never explain.” People need language to help them express themselves, and their reality to others. I love when my books can facilitate that.
Beyond that, and something I’m truly proud of as a rom-com author, is how many people have reached out to me to tell me that my books have made them laugh during a period of difficult. That after a death, or during challenging times, my books were their safe space. I guess the old saying holds true. You can take the girl out of rabbinical school…
I feel so darn blessed that I have a job where I get to put good things into the world, where I get to write books that ultimately help other people. It’s interesting that so many people think of romance as fluffy, or predictable, because in my experience, it is the exact opposite. Romance can be healing in profound and important ways.
What did you learn from writing The Matzah Ball that you applied to Mr. Perfect on Paper?
One thing that’s important to remember about my writing journey, is that I never expected The Matzah Ball to get published. I wrote that book during the pandemic, as a way to hold onto my joy, and as a gift for my niece who needed a book where Jewish women loved their noses. Everything else which came after writing it was wonderful, but it wouldn’t have changed my experience, or feelings, about that book.
And so, when I sat down to write Mr. Perfect on Paper—I tried to hold on to that aspect of what brings me to the page. I tried to keep writing with joy. And I putting all the rest of it—deadlines, sales, publicity, etc.—out of my mind.
If Mr. Perfect on Paper were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
I always get this question, and I always answer it the same way. I do not know celebrities, at all. Unless they are Real Housewives. Sadly, I don’t think any of them are right for Mr. Perfect on Paper.
What is the strangest Jewish ritual for you to have to explain to someone?
EASY! Hoshana Rabbah, which is the holiday right at the end of Sukkot and before Simchat Torah. During the service, a bunch of people in Tallit (prayer shawls) go around in a circle, over and over, shaking and waving lulav (long ancient palms) all while holding an etrog (a lemon, but with a fancy tip.) And then, during the circle dancing, after waving and shaking and chanting, you take those palms and that fancy lemon, AND SMASH THEM ALL OVER THE GROUND! Then you go around and do the whole thing again, and again, and again… chant, wave, shake, smash… chant, wave, shake, smash…
Honestly, the first time I saw it I thought, “This is the most pagan thing I have ever seen in my whole life.” Participating in it is even weirder. You really do feel like you’re in a Fellini movie. It’s actually so hard to explain that, even though Mr. Perfect on Paper covers the High Holiday cycle from Rosh Hashanah to Simchat Torah and into Hanukkah, I purposefully left Hoshana Rabbah out.
Tell us how you met your husband.
I met my husband on a cruise to Bermuda. I was a first year rabbinical school, and he was a college student, in the military, about to deploy to Iraq. Plot twist—he also wasn’t Jewish. We clicked immediately, and two weeks later, he came to my house for Rosh Hashanah, took one bite of my brisket, and said, “Jean. I’m going to marry you.” LOL
Thankfully, everything worked out for us in the end. But our relationship, the idea that you could be deeply committed to your faith, but fall in love with someone outside your faith, despite your best intentions to do otherwise, became the inspiration for my second book, Mr. Perfect on Paper.
Since Dara has a few bad dates, tell us about the worst date you've ever been on.
Oh man. I would feel too bad telling those stories! But I will say that one of the dates in Mr. Perfect on Paper was inspired by a real life event. I’ll leave it to you to guess which one, though.