After 36-years, Sharon Yang’s (English) first novel Bait and Switch, is finally on the book shelves. Released in December by Touchpoint Press, it is the result of patience and a dream that never died. Bait and Switch, a period mystery, follows actress Jessica Minton, a sharp, imaginative woman living in New York during the second World War. Jessica is suddenly plunged into a fight between the Allies and Nazis when she is given a mysterious package that holds the fate of the country and her life. The book is filled with a blend of witty dialogue and suspense.
The suspense of whether the book would ever see the light of day was part of a long journey with plenty of rejection and draft after draft of re-writes. When the process started in 1980, Yang was 24, working on her master’s thesis by day followed by a shift at the now defunct department store Caldor. When she got home, rather than rest after a long day, it was time to work on the novel.
Thirty-six years of inspiration has filled the book with a rich assortment of characters. Jessica is inspired by Yang’s favorite actress Joan Bennett. Her relationship with her sister-in-law had a hand in Jessica’s relationship with her eccentric sister Liz. Dusty the cat, and show-stealer, is inspired by the real-life feline Dusty.
Yang did a lot of research on the mystery novels of the time, a favorite genre of hers. She got information from her relatives who could recall the time period, books on New York, and the movies of the time.
The biggest help though, was the wartime editions of microfilm newspapers at the local library. They provided a snapshot into the life of those living in constant fear of the war. How they lived, what they bought, and what they felt all aided in creating a realistic background for the novel.
“People tell me I have a knack for the language,” said Yang.
The book finally found a home with Touchpoint Press thanks to a bit of luck when it fell into the right hands in publisher Sheri Williams. Yang is proud of the book and is getting great feedback thus far.
“A lot of people really like it,” said Yang. “They thought it was clever, suspenseful, like watching an old movie.”
One of her biggest supporters is former co-worker Professor Emerita of English Ruth Haber, who made sure it got in as many hands possible. She also received help from her husband, who illustrated the cover of Jessica under a 1940s style streetlight. Yang even served as the model for Jessica.
Now that the first one is done, Yang is ready for more. She has plans for six more books in the series, with the last one taking place during the Vietnam War. If she wasn’t willing to rest after her shifts at Caldor, why start now?
The book is available at Barnes and Nobles and Amazon. Yang is scheduled to do readings and book signings for Bait and Switch at two local independent booksellers: Annie’s Book Stop (65 James Street, Worcester) on February 20 and The Booklovers Gourmet (55 East Main Street, Webster, Mass.) on March 19. Both appearances will run from 2-4 p.m. She will also be at the Chelmsford Library on February 23 at 4:30-5:30 p.m. to speak to the Young Writers Club.
More details about Bait and Switch can be found at sharonhealyyang.com.
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