The original title for Spinsterella was supposed to be Heavy. However, the story I planned never worked. After reworking the premise around a darker comedic theme and making the heroine a Goth, I retitled it Spinsterella.
The premise for Spinsterella revolves around a single question: What scares the spooky girl? And the answer to that question was very simple: Basic social interaction. While many Goths have a dark and spooky appearance and enjoy dark stuff like horror movies and graveyards they struggle with a lot of anxiety and fear regarding social situaitons. I thought people would enjoy sharing a laugh while watching my Goth heroine come to realize that those everyday social interactions she was so afraid of participating in weren’t anything to be afraid of at all.
What most people don’t know about Goths are that many are very shy. And the scariest thing for Goths is just trying to talk to people outside of their social circles. With many Goths being introverts, they live inside their heads and imagine things being more terrifying than they actually are. The most horrifying thing for a Goth like Matilda is just thinking of approaching a stranger like the fictional Shawn. So they imagine scary scenarios about those strangers to avoid talking to them. In many cases some Goths are actually more scared of people than people are scared of them!
Matilda’s nickame Spinsterella is a jab at the Fairy Tale Cinderella. Back during the late 19th Century a spinster was an over 30-woman who many thought had no chance of ever getting married. Many at Amalgamated Consolidated didn’t think Matilda would ever get to the happily ever after of marriage due to all the emotional walls she erected around herself.
Spinsterella is the second romance novel I’ve written. The first one I wrote was A Recipe For $ucce$$/The Cassandra Cookbook in 2004.
In some ways Spinsterella can be considered the bookend to A Recipe for $ucce$$/The Cassandra Cookbook. Spinsterella contrasts to A Recipe For Success/The Cassandra Cookbook in theme, style, tone and design. While the characters in Cassandra’s world are whimsichal, lighthearted and live in an idealized Technicolor world, the characters in Spnisterella are dark, cynical, and live in a Noirish world that’s Black & White.
Both A Recipe for $ucce$$ and Spinsterella are actually 10 years apart. I started A Recipe For $ucce$$ in 2004 and Spinsterella in 2014.
For a fun in-joke a Matilda and Shawn actually go out on a date to see A Recipe for $ucce$$ on their date at the Magic Johnson in a later chapter in the book.
Both Spinsterella and A Recipe For $ucce$$ were written during dark periods in my life. I started work on A Recipe for $ucce$$ after a period of depression I was going through after being fired from a reception job at a law firm and I wrote Spinsterella to deal with unresolved issues I was going through after being fired from a job as a CUNY Office Assistant seven years ago.
Both Spinsterella and A Recipe For $ucce$$’ heroes are based on myself. And they both follow What If? scenarios that completely contrast each other. Simon is trying to move forward in the job I’ve always wanted to have, while the fictional Shawn is working towards picking up the pieces of his life after losing that job at City College seven years earlier.
The Shawn Character in Spinsterella is the most like the real life me. He has a lot of my mannerisms and pretty much acts like I do in real life. On the job I am a “Quiet Man” who says little and gets the job done. And many of the issues Shawn deals with in Spinsterella are many of the same issues I’ve dealt with in real life. Weight, social anxiety, and shyness are things I struggle with in the workplace. Thanks to these issues, I often spend most of my time focusing on getting myself through a day rather than on socializing and forming relationships with co-workers.
I use the Shawn character to make a commentary about long-term unemployment, the unstable American job market and the effects it has on a person’s mental health. When I was of work I’d have to literally put my life on hold. And during that time I had to shut down parts of my personality so I can get through a day. So if a person who’s out of work isn’t being social when they first return to the workplace it’s not because they’re aloof or concieted, it’s because they are trying to figure out if things are going to be stable enough in their lives to think about forming those relationships with others.
What many don’t understand about the job market over the last 20 years is that it’s hard to get things started when you can’t find a job and even harder to keep them going if you can’t keep it. All that economic instability prevents someone like myself from being able to think about things like little things forming social relationships at work. Many long-term unemployed people like myself don’t think of making personal connections with others because they don’t think they’re going to be staying for an extended period of time. So they keep their distance to avoid being hurt and disappointed about losing another job.
The Shawn Character in Spinsterella deals with a many of the fears I’ve had in my life. It’s these issues I thought that kept me from being able to keep a job. And as the character faces those fears he starts to move forward in his life.
Both A Recipe For $ucce$$ and Spinsterella are actually comedies. While a Recipe for $ucce$$ is a lighthearted comedy with dark undertones, Spinsterella is a dark comedy with light undertones.
Both A Recipe for $uccess and Spinsterella story models were influnced by the style of two of my favorite directors. A Recipe For $ucce$$’s story model influenced by director Billy Wilder while Spinsterella’s story model was heavily influenced by director Tim Burton. I’ve always been a fan of Tim Burton’s dark and unique visuals and his cerebral approach to storytelling. Growing up with Tim Burton’s films I’ve always taken ideas from his movies and applied them to my stories. Some like The Temptation of John Haynes are practically Tim Burton movies in paperback.
Spinsterella’s comedy is heavily influenced by Tim Burtons’ comedies like Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, along with workplace comedies like Office Space, Clockwatchers, and the TV show Daria. While A Recipe for $ucce$$ is rooted in Wilder’s 1950s-early 1960s approach to comedy, the humor in Spinsterella comes from the model I studied in Burton films and 1990’s films. That model uses a bit more irony, satire, and sarcasm to get a laugh. The only technique I took from the oldschool comedy models of the 1940s and 1950s was to make fun of the situations that made introverts uneasy. I wanted people to laugh at the peoples’ reactions to what went on, not the people themselves.
Spinsterella is set during December 23-January 15. This time in an office is notoriously known as DEAD time because most companies have finished their work for the year. During this time NOTHING happens in a workplace and people who haven’t taken their holiday vacations are just sitting around killing time. I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity for two introverts to have a romance. No one would see them, and they’d feel safe about expressing themselves once they faced their fears.
The name Amalgamated Consolidated is a satirical jab at American corporations. With all the mergers and acquisitions companies have they call themselves crazy names like ExxonMobil, GlaxoSmithKine, and NBCUniversal.
I intentionally didn’t describe what Amalgamated Consolidated actually does because I wanted the reader to imagine what kind of company it was and what they did. But they’re a big company that’s been around for a LONG time and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
The Offices of Amalgamated Consolidated are inspired by one of my favorite indie movies, Clockwatchers. In Clockwatchers the office space the temps work in seems to be frozen in time with Formica desks, vinyl chairs, florescent lighting, and elevator music right out of the 1960s. I thought that kind of archaic environment was the perfect place to set up as a DEAD space that contrasted the modern people like Matilda and Shawn trying to go about their lives in it.
The Matilda Crowley character is inspired by actresses Tia Mowry and Persia White. I was listening to something Persia White said on a radio show in 2009 about “being so dark because she was so light skinned” and came up with the idea to create a character who showcased the dark side of being biracial.
Matilda Crowley’s relationship with her dad is inspired by Tia Mowry’s relationship with her father. A year and a half ago I saw a picture of Tia on Facebook hugging her father and her talking about the close relationship she had with him. And that inspired me to write a story showing the love that biracial children have for their White fathers. A misconception that many Black people have about interracial relationships are that White fathers often abandon their families. When this isn’t the case at all. There are some White men who love their Black wives, their Biracial children and have loving relationships with their familes.
If I had to describe what Matilda looks like visually it’d be a Gothed up Tia Mowry with the fashion sense of DC Comics’ Death, the hair of Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice and the voice of Persia White.
Matilda’s reasons for being Goth relate to her living on the dark side of being light skinned. As a Biracial woman she has been bullied and harassed by Black people for not being “Black” enough in terms of her “Black” identity. Reading about the Tragic Mulatto as a teenager she believes a tragic end will come to her life if she contines to make efforts to conform to the stereotyped standards of “Black” identity established in America. So in a desperate effort to break away from the path of the Tragic Mulatto, she becomes “Mad Matilda” the Goth Monster who seeks to walk down her own dark path in life.
The name “Mad Matilda” is inspired by the character from the 1980s Road Warrior Movies Mad Max. Like Mad Max, the teenaged Mad Matilda was making efforts to forge her own identity in uncharted territory of a post apocalyptic Black Community filled with zombie crackheads, druglords, punk gang members, and hair hatted hoodrats.
Oftentimes a Goth’s name directly relates to their life experiences or something important to them. And these names sometimes evolve as a Goths’ life experiences change them. Which is why 40-year-old Matilda is currently known as Spinsterella, the Black Widow at Amalgamated Consolidated.
There is actually a method to “Mad Matilda’s” Madness. The “Mad” part of her name is actually play on words. Matilda is “Mad” because she feels can’t be her true self in a world where biracial people aren’t truly accepted by either most Black or most White people. And she’s also “Mad” because she thinks she has to play crazy to keep people from hurting her. The method behind her “Madness” is a major part of the first act of Spinsterella and relates directly to the characters’ fears about forming a personal connection with Shawn.
The “Mad Matilda” Era of Matilda’s life from her teen years to her early twenties was inspired by what I knew about Goths growing up. Back in the 1990’s I watched a lot of Jenny Jones shows where she featured Goths as guests and I watched a news reports about Rave parties in warehouses and clubs.
Matilda’s father Jason Crowley is inspired by actor Tommy Lee Jones. Every time I wrote a piece of dialogue featuring Professor Crowley, his was the voice I heard. I thought it’d be a hilarious contrast if someone as formal as an Ivy League college professor had a Goth for a daughter.
The reason why Matilda lives in Sugar Hill is because I’m very familiar with the neighborhood. My father used to take me to a barbershop on Fredrick Douglass Boulevard when I was a kid and to visit relatives who lived in the area. I also used to walk through Sugar Hill to go to the train station when I used to work at City College of New York back in 2008. After I lost that job, I used to visit the area when I would go shopping at the PathMark (Now SuperFoodTown) on 145th Street and Fredrick Douglass Boulevard. I always thought it’d be a great place to set a story in, and I always wanted to tell a story where I could talk about the culture and history of the area.
Matilda Crowley isn’t my first attempt at writing a Goth Character. The first Goth character I created was actually Colleen Anderson in 1989. Back when I was writing my first novel The Changing Soul back in the 1995, Colleen is described as “A Grown up Chocolate covered Wendesday Addams”, wearing a white blouse, black skirt, black tights, black lipstick and combat boots. Unfortunately, in spite of years of revisions I couldn’t get the book to a place where I felt it was ready for publication.
The second attempt at a Goth character was Marilyn Marie from All About Marilyn. Marilyn’s dressing in Black at the end of the second act of the screenplay was actually supposed to be the first phase of her becoming a Goth, but I decided not to make it part of her character transformation arc because it didn’t fit the character.
I’ve been planning to write a Goth Character since the mid 1990’s. But the details never were right or the character just didn’t fit into the story I was planning. To get the details to make Matilda’s life as a Goth as realistic as possible I spent over a year and a half researching the Goth Subculture. In that time I studied Goth fashion blogs like Sophistique Noir, Watching videos on Goth makeup from YouTubers like Drac Makens, and learning about the subculture from various Goths on numerous YouTube channels. In the Acknowledgments section of Spinsterella I mention many of the bloggers and YouTubers and thank them for giving me the information to help me make Matilda’s Goth experience. I’d love to thank them all personally in an e-mail, (I did send Sophistique Noir a note thanking her before she stopped blogging) but I don’t know if I’d offend anyone else.
With Spinsterella I wanted to write a different type of romance. On the surface it’s a story about a pair of misfits, a Goth and a Quiet Man, but when a reader peels past the layers they’ll see it’s actually a story about two introverts finding love with each other as they face their fears.
As a man who continues to struggle with social anxiety and shyness I wanted readers to understand how an introvert’s fears hold them back and prevent them from getting the best in life. Oftentimes introverted people are so busy living in fear of what they imagine will happen that they don’t go for what they want in life. And it’s those fears that keep them from having relationships with great people. Introverts like Matilda and Shawn often erect mental walls around themselves and are afraid of letting others into their lives.
There’s usually a great person inside an introvert’s head. But they just need to feel safe enough to let real people get to know that person.
In Spinsterella I wanted to show what happens when introverts like Goths and Quiet people face their fears: They go out and enjoy this thing called life. Yes, both Matilda and Shawn fall and stumble on their road to a relationship. But as they pick each other up and help each other deal with their fears they grow closer as a couple.
It took a year and a half to for me to take Spinsterella from the concept stage to completed novel. And in that time I learned a lot about Goths, the Goth subculture and the people who live that lifestyle. And I learned they are GREAT people. Again, if I ever met a few I think I could be a friend to them.
I also learned a lot about social anxiety, shyness writing this book. And I faced a lot of my own fears. I was extremely uncomfortable writing sex scenes before I wrote this book and I finally faced that fear when I went to they keyboard to write this novel.
Personally I think I grew some writing Spinsterella. And I’m hoping that people come out of the reading experince learning something about how people like outsiders and introverts find love and romance with each other.
You can pick up Spinsterella in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com. It’s a great book you’ll really enjoy!