The Story Behind The Story…Jamie Shupak’s ‘Transit Girl’
A few months ago when my book deal was announced I got a text from a guy, let’s call him Ted, saying he couldn’t wait to see what his character was like in my novel. Would he be more chivalrous than the real Ted? More villainous? Maybe I made him into some kind of super hot sex machine, not that he wasn’t in real life.
Fine, he wasn’t.
But Ted wasn’t off base for sending me this text. We dated for a few months and had a fantastic rapport over email and phone. Yes, the phone! We even stayed friendly after I ended it with him, as evidenced by his congratulatory text.
Just like that night I told him I couldn’t be his girlfriend though, I had to break this bad news just as tenderly.
“Unfortunately we had to cut Eli,” I texted him back. (In the first draft of the novel I had named him after his beloved Giants quarterback. I’m not that horrible.) “He was just too… nice.”
The truth hurts. But the truth is that nice, middle of the road characters don’t make for a very interesting novel. Fictionalizing my life for Transit Girl was fun but not always easy. Some story lines got more depressing, dramatic or exciting, while others (like Ted’s) were dropped altogether.
But it’s all in the name of fiction. If I wanted to tell the actual story of the year I was single — and I didn’t — then I would have written a memoir. Instead I wrote Transit Girl as an escape from real life. I was pretty traumatized by the breakup I had been through and as many of us do in the aftermath, I wanted to make sense of it. I wanted to figure out why certain things had happened the way they did. Luckily I found that turning certain people into characters (and caricatures) of themselves allowed me to take a step back and do just that. As I click-click-clicked my way through the story on the keyboard, I was able to gain some perspective on the situation because it was no longer “why did you hurt me,” but instead, “why did JR hurt Guiliana?”
By the time I was done with the book I felt wiser and stronger and most importantly, ready to close that chapter of my life.
It helped that by then I was with (my now-fiancé) Brian, my real life Ben, who was one of my most favorites to fictionalize. I think accentuating some of his mannerisms made him even more loveable, but I’m biased. Some of what’s in the book is pretty real though, like the night in Central Park that we now mark as the anniversary of when we started dating. Most of those details like the overalls I wore, the wine we drank and the songs we sang together actually happened. Recreating passages like that allowed me to relive some of the most precious moments of that year.
Writing is a beautiful thing, in that way. It provides the freedom to live in a different life, even for just minutes, hours, or days at a time. Much in the same way that reading a novel does — allowing you to escape, fantasize, and get lost in the characters and story. I hope Transit Girl does that for its readers, the way it did for me.
Jamie Shupak is the morning traffic anchor on NY1, Time Warner Cable’s popular 24/7 news channel in New York City. Shupak, a news Emmy nominee, can be seen every weekday morning from 5 a.m. until Noon. She has been the subject of profiles in The New York Times and the New York Post, the latter of which dubbed her the “Trans-It Girl.” The New York Observer named her one of the media’s top 50 “power bachelorettes” while she was the dating columnist for Complex magazine, penning her advice for single men and women everywhere on a weekly basis. But the Philadelphia native and University of Maryland graduate now chronicles her romantic home life and the delicious, healthy meals she cooks on her food blog, TV Dinner. Featured on Mashable and in New York Magazine’s Grub Street, Shupak showcases her culinary talents, tailored to her meat- and dairy-free diet. She currently resides in Manhattan with her fiancé, senior media correspondent for CNN and host of Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter.
Learn more and order your copy of Transit Girl here.
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