“A Tender Thing drops at just the right time: if fans can’t go to the theater right now, at least they can read about it.” –Variety
“Debut author Neuberger…clearly knows the world she’s depicting; she brings to life with nice historical detail the rehearsal milieu….Smart, savvy, atmospheric work from a promising new talent.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Neuberger’s thoughtful tale succeeds at showing how art can both reflect and change how people see the world.” –Publishers Weekly
What’s your book about?
A Tender Thing (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020) follows Eleanor, a young singer from Wisconsin, as she moves to New York City in 1958 to audition for a musical by her favorite composer, Don Mannheim. Her voice and personality catch his interest, and he casts her in the development of his newest work, “A Tender Thing”, a controversial love story about the romance between a white woman and a black man. Eleanor and her co-star, Charles, find themselves in the center of a political firestorm as the production heats up. It’s a love letter to the golden age of musical theatre, and the risks that artists take every day.
Can you tell us about your path to publication?
I wrote the novel while getting my MFA in fiction at Brooklyn College. At the time, I was also working in editorial at Viking Books. I wrote at night and before work, and even on my lunch break! After I finished a draft, and revised several times, I pitched a group of agents, and ended up working with Sarah Fuentes and Christy Fletcher at Fletcher and Company, and after a few more months of revision, the book was pre-empted by Gabriella Mongelli and Sally Kim at Putnam. I was overjoyed. They’re truly the dream team.
Where were you when you heard your book tour and/or launch party was cancelled and what did you do?
It was more like watching something slowly fall off a table from across the room. I knew it was happening but couldn’t stop it. I had a trip to Europe planned for the middle of March; day by day it became clear that I wasn’t going. My book tour was scheduled to start two weeks after I got back. More days passed and everything was getting cancelled. I inferred by the first week of March that my events wouldn’t happen.
At first, I took some time to cry. This is a huge moment for me, the biggest achievement of my life, and now it’s just not happening. My parents were planning to come from out of town for the launch; all my friends, colleagues, and peers were going to come out. I had a tour planned, including a stop in my hometown, where my grandmother could see me read. So I let myself feel sad. But the lack of tour doesn’t take away from the achievement of publishing a book; my book will still be out there. Right now, there are so many more important things to worry about. I have family members who are ill or at-risk, and I’m spending a lot more time concerned about their welfare than my book tour and launch. Still, I plan to do something, even if it’s just a dinner party for close friends when we can be close together again. My friends have been really supportive, even their parents are pre-ordering!
Are you and your publisher doing anything special/different instead of a book tour to promote your novel?
Putnam is amazing, and my marketing and publicity teams are working tirelessly to be their creative selves in this difficult time. Since my book focuses on musical theatre–which is my background as well!–we’re working to really use that, hoping to cheer people up in connection with the book. I studied singing in college, and have been making playlists of my favorite musical tunes that people can listen to cheer up, work out, or find a new favorite during this time. Here’s the playlist I made to go along with A Tender Thing.
Do you have any quirky writing rituals?
I love to write when I’m hungry. Somehow, I feel more creative when I don’t have food in my stomach. So this often means I write early in the morning, before starting my day, with just coffee. I’m a runner and I find this meditative activity also helps me a lot when I’m working through a difficult scene. Otherwise, my routine mostly includes moving my cat off my keyboard.
What was the hardest thing you had to cut from your book, your favorite Dead Darling?
I actually wrote almost the entire musical “A Tender Thing”! In the original draft, I included a lot of lyrics and lines from the musical. We had to make cuts for space, but a lot did make it in. I did the recording of the audiobook myself, and was able to sing the lines from the musical, which was so much fun. It was a great creative exercise, writing in a different format than prose fiction.
Where can we buy your book?
Yay! You can pre-order it here or from your local indie!