Jeff Zentner’s new novel Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is a story about big dreams, big chances, and the mediocre results we sometimes end up with as a result. It is also a laugh-out-loud funny ode to friendship, creativity, and horror movies. This book totally snuck up on me and is fast becoming one of my favorite novels of the year. I’m very excited to have Jeff back today answering some of my questions.
Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee?
Jeff Zentner: One night, three years ago, I came home on a Saturday night and turned on the TV and started channel surfing. I never do this because I have a Netflix queue a mile long. I came to the Nashville public access station and it was playing a low budget horror movie. This was very strange. I kept watching, fascinated. The movie then cut to these two young women dressed in horror garb, named Marlena Midnite and Robyn Graves. They were the hosts of a syndicated public access show out of Davenport, Iowa called Midnite Mausoleum. I was fascinated. It was so goofy and fun and sweet. It got me thinking about who hosts these kinds of shows. I immediately started thinking up an idea about two young women who host their own public access creature feature.
MP: This novel alternates between Josie and Delia’s narrations. Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the hardest?
JZ: I loved them equally. I loved writing Josie’s sense of humor, because it’s closest to my own. And I loved writing Delia’s sense of poetry about the world, because it’s closest to my own. I loved writing the relationship between Delia and her mother and the relationship between Josie and Lawson.
MP: Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is your third novel. It’s one of the funniest books I’ve read and a bit of a departure from your previous novels which were much heavier stories. Did this shift in tone require a shift in your writing process? How did you go about channeling the quirkiness and humor to tell this story?
JZ: It did require a shift. I love very lyrical, poetic writing. But that sort of writing often comes at the cost of humor, so there wasn’t as much room for this kind of writing as in past books. As for channeling the humor, I love to joke around. It was just a matter of storing up humorous observations and insights and putting them in Josie and Delia’s mouths.
MP: How do you fit writing into your daily routine between working full time and other obligations? What does a typical writing day (or writing session) look like for you? Where are your favorite places to write?
JZ: I have a pretty intense and demanding day job, so I really have to fit writing into the cracks. I do 80 percent or so of my drafting on my iPhone with my right thumb on the bus to and from work. It’s not my favorite place to write, but it’s where I do most of my writing. My favorite place to write is my writing studio at home. I have a room devoted to it that’s full of favorite books, letters I’ve gotten from fans, scented candles, cool vintage bookshelves and typewriters, and my vintage pulp paperback collection. It smells like heaven. It’s so cozy and wonderful. I’ve never before lived in a house with a room devoted solely to work and creativity and it’s wonderful.
MP: So far, all of your novels exist in the same world with a few references (and even characters) traveling between books. Can you tell me anything about your next project? Can readers expect more connections between your novels?
JZ: My fourth novel is about two young people from small town East Tennessee who get scholarships to an elite northeastern prep school. As readers may (or may not) recall, Nana Betsy from Goodbye Days is from East Tennessee, and it turns out that my main character in this fourth book is her grandnephew. She has a small, but pivotal role in the new book. Also, if it survives the edit, there’s another really fun cameo from an important figure in the Zentnerverse!
Thanks again to Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can also check out my review of Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee.