Class of 1997 alum Fayette Fox’s debut novel, “The Deception Artist” will be published in North America this month by Berkeley’s Roaring Forties Press. In this sharp and funny debut set in Marin during the 1980s recession, Fayette delves deep into the dark heart of an ordinary American family – and finds out that make-believe isn’t just for kids. We caught up with her to learn more about her journey to publication, her new business My Love Ninja, and what else she’s up to.
Congratulations on getting your first novel published! Tell us a bit about it.
Thanks! I’m super excited. The Deception Artist is literary fiction, told from the point of view of eight-year-old Ivy who has a vivid imagination and tells lies so people will like her. The book explores themes of childhood and make-believe, truth and lies.
How did you decide to write a novel?
It was late October 2006. I was working at Lonely Planet Publications in London when a colleague told me about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s a personal challenge to write a 50,000 word novel during November. I hadn’t done much fiction writing since studying Creative Writing at Hampshire College and I think I must have missed it. A novel is a daunting project, especially for a social and distractible 27-year-old. NaNoWriMo was just the kick in the pants I needed to start.
How did it go?
Well, I didn’t get very far that month. I probably only wrote about 15,000 words, but I’d already fallen in love with Ivy so I kept going. And going. And going. I’d only written short stories before and really had no idea how long it’d take to write a novel. In the end it took me five years.
That’s a long time! How hard was it getting it published?
Incredibly, that part was surprisingly easy, though the book initially got published in the UK. In 2008 I left London and spent the whole year traveling around Asia. In India I volunteered for a grassroots nonprofit called the Sambhali Trust where I taught English and sex-ed to Dalit (Untouchables caste) teenage girls. Afterwards, I traveled around India with Meg, the Australian volunteer teacher, and her British friend Ben. In those days I told everyone about my novel and at some point I mentioned it to Ben. Here’s where the story gets kind of ridiculous. Years later, back in England, Ben did a two month internship at an independent publishing company called Myriad Editions. Unbeknownst to me, on his last day, he pitched my novel to fiction editor, Vicky Blunden. Ben hadn’t read a word of my novel. I’d only told him about it and he’d thought it sounded cool. Vicky said she’d look at the manuscript. She absolutely loved it and Myriad published The Deception Artist in 2013.
That’s amazing. And how did you find your US publisher?
Roaring Forties Press actually approached me. They share a UK distributor with Myriad which is how they heard about the book. They loved my novel and especially appreciated it being set in the Bay Area since they’re local too.
How does it feel finally having your novel published in the US?
It feels really wonderful. The Deception Artist is a universal story about childhood. It was well very reviewed in the UK and shortlisted for two awards. But to have the book published here and finally available in bookstores all over North America is really amazing. I’m so excited to be able to share this story with a whole new audience. I feel like Ivy is coming home.
What else are you working on these days?
My partner Tyler and I just launched My Love Ninja, an OkCupid profile makeover service. We rewrite people’s profiles to help them put their best foot forward and find love. We get to know our clients on Skype, or over coffee if they’re local. This helps us craft compelling profiles that show how awesome they are.
How’d you come up with the idea for My Love Ninja?
I love playing with words and helping people, and have a lot of experience with online dating. Last May during a trip to DC, I helped a good friend with her OkCupid profile. She loved what I did and suggested I do it professionally.
What do you like doing with your time when you’re not writing?
I love catching up with friends, hiking and camping, checking out staged readings of new plays, going to Ecstatic Dance, cooking, and reading. I left the Bay Area right after MA and only just moved back two and a half years ago. Now I’m living in Oakland and am having a lot of fun getting to know the area. I love getting to see more of my family these days including my brother Ezra and sister-in-law Sarah Jebrock, (both class of 2003) and my baby nephew.
Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why?
I had so many amazing classes at MA. I loved discussing literature in my English classes and the creative freedom of my art classes. Of course my writing classes had a huge impact on me and helped set me up for my writing career. But I’m actually going to pick aikido with James Shipman. I’m not a sports person and was grateful for a totally different option to fulfill the P.E. requirement. James created a safe space for us to practice. I loved the whole aikido philosophy of trying to see things from your partner’s point of view, and indeed seeing them as your “partner” and not your “opponent.” I like to think I’ve continued to embrace that conflict resolution philosophy in my day-to-day life.
What is one of your best MA memories?
Senior Vision Quest was one of the most powerful things I experienced as a teenager. MA is such an incredible high school to offer this solo desert experience to its students.
If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?
Great question! I would be in more plays and not get so bogged down with homework. My grades might be a bit lower, but I’d have a lot more fun. These days I believe strongly in making time for things that make me happy.
Interested in being in the Alumni Spotlight? Send a message to Beth Sherman ’96, Director of Alumni Relations!