After graduating from Harvard College, where author Zack Love studied literature, psychology, philosophy and film, he relocated to New York City to work as a corporate consultant. In 2013, he published Sex in the Title: a Comedy about Dating, Sex, and Romance in NYC (back when phones weren’t so smart). Zack’s novel about five bachelors who take on Manhattan in pursuit of dates, sex and adventure has been called “The male Sex and the City.”
In the spring of 2014, Zack released his other unpublished works of fiction, including works such as The Doorman, a novelette about tormented love, empty office life, and theological introspection inspired by the tragic events of September 11th, and Central Park Song, a charming screenplay about a chance encounter between two very different individuals and the life-changing romance that follows. All of his short stories and scripts were published together in a 70,000-word collection titled Stories and Scripts: an Anthology.
In Love’s most recent novel, The Syrian Virgin, a young girl escapes the carnage and brutality of the Syrian Civil War to begin her life anew in New York, and finds herself at the center of a complicated love triangle. To learn more about Zack and his writing, visit www.zacklove.com.
How would you describe your childhood, and how did it shape who you are today?
Ever since I was a child, I was fascinated by stories and the written word. That is about the only useful link I can find between my childhood and my adulthood. It’s mostly been a wild and unpredictable ride from then to my current life as an adult (and an author), but I recently reflected on why I write, and produced this “author manifesto” of sorts.
What are your fondest memories of your early years in New York?
Discovering Big Nick’s Burger & Pizza Joint (sadly, it recently closed). Avoiding puddles with different colored chemicals in them, wondering how many New Yorkers could identify the many diverse liquids randomly floating about in their midst. Running through Central Park, marveling at how such raw nature could co-exist with the thoroughly unnatural urban environment surrounding it.
What inspired you to write Sex in the Title? How did the story take shape, and how much of the novel is drawn from your own experiences?
The original bio that I wrote to accompany the novel answers this best:
Zack Love graduated from Harvard College, where he tried to create a bachelor’s degree in Women. With the bachelor portion of that degree in hand, he settled in New York City but – to afford renting his bed-sized studio – found himself flirting mostly with a computer screen and stacks of documents. Determined not to die a corporate drone, Zack decided to sacrifice sleep for screenwriting, an active social life, and Internet startups offering temporary billion-dollar fantasies.
To feed his steady diet of NYC nightlife, he regularly crashed VIP parties in the early 2000s and twice bumped into his burgeoning crush, a Hollywood starlet. But – much to Zack’s surprise – neither of those awkward conversations led to marriage with the A-list actress. Zack eventually consoled himself by imagining fiascoes far worse than those involving his celebrity crush. In the process, he dreamed up a motley gang of five men inspired by some of his college friends and quirky work colleagues. And thus was born Sex in the Title. But the novel is not autobiographical: Zack never had his third leg attacked by any mammal (nor by any plant, for that matter). In fact, keeping his member safe has been one of Zack’s lifelong goals – and one of the few that he’s managed to accomplish.
From your perspective, how has the dating process changed since the early 2000s? Do you feel that technology has made it easier or more difficult to meet people and form meaningful relationships?
Yes, definitely. I think technology has made it far easier to meet people, but that also makes it harder for people to commit (since there’s always the promise of meeting someone new and better), and that in turn probably makes it harder for people to form meaningful relationships. On the other hand, these days many marriages (perhaps most?) result from online encounters, so I’ll defer to the social scientists to study the data and produce conclusions that are more reliable than my armchair speculations!
What made you decide to use the Syrian Civil War as the backdrop for your most recent novel, The Syrian Virgin?
It’s a tragedy of historic proportions and there is a genocide against Christians happening there (and in other parts of the Middle East) mainly because the rest of the world has stood idly by without intervening. I wanted to highlight and humanize the issue by focusing on one survivor’s story. Frankly, I’m surprised that there haven’t been more stories inspired by or related to these events because they’re hugely significant, in terms of world history, and normally momentous issues inspire many fiction and non-fiction works. We’re talking about nearly 200,000 people killed in under four years, with millions of refugees produced by the conflict — and the brutality and horrors of this war have been documented and shared on social media like no conflict before it. So the real question is: why hasn’t more attention been given to this topic, in the form of journalism, film, fiction, non-fiction, or otherwise?
I planned the story so that the heroine would escape her city just before an incident of massive “religious cleansing” that received almost no media coverage: the expulsion of 50,000 Christians from the city of Homs by Islamists in early 2012. How is it that virtually no one knows about this atrocity? While fiction can provide a happy escape from life, I think authors also have a responsibility to reveal some truth about the world around them, and if they can also inform their readers about — or even move them to act on — a pressing social or political issue, that makes their books even more meaningful.
What aspects of the romance genre do you find most enjoyable or exciting?
The interplay of two psychologies dancing around each other, trying to understand and approach one another despite whatever fears or obstacles may stand in the way.
How have you evolved creatively since you started writing?
I started formal storytelling in a more intense/serious way with screenplays. When I came to the conclusion (as most would-be screenwriters eventually do) that virtually no one reads scripts, I eventually turned to fiction. But I still craft my plot and characters with the essential principles of cinematic storytelling in mind, and often watch the “movie of my book” before transferring it to the page. Actually, I imagine several different versions of the movie before deciding on the one that I like enough to transfer it to the page.
Do you read reviews of your own work? If so, how do they affect your approach to writing?
I suspect that nearly all authors read at least some reviews of their own work. Because writing is not a performance art, reviews are as close as an author can get to audience reaction, and it’s gratifying to see what that response is. Of course, there’s also some element of unfairness in the open system of reviews that exists today (the most obvious example being that people who admit to not reading more than 10% of a book can still leave it a 1-star review). But reviews have never affected my writing, although I do have beta readers and will often revise/improve a draft in response to their feedback.
What is the best movie you’ve seen recently?
Unfortunately I have far too little time to go to movies these days, but I did recently see Maleficent and enjoyed it enough to share some thoughts about it in a blog post.
What are you working on next?
The sequel to The Syrian Virgin.