The Wedding Beat has a male protagonist whose search for a happy ending is a journey we can all relate to. Gavin Greene is the kind of man I’d like to meet. He is written with an honesty that is refreshing and genuine. With charismatic secondary characters and a heroine who is both adventurous and elusive, this cleverly written debut novel comes alive with a quick wit that is keen, perceptive, sometimes sardonic, but always hopeful. As we follow Gavin’s road to love we begin to understand the relationships he has with his family and friends, his angst, his search and his choices.
The author of The Wedding Beat is journalist Devan Sipher. Mr. Sipher is a writer of the New York Times “Vows” column. His exceptional articles about the most intimate details of how two people meet, fall in love and marry is definitely not your typical wedding column. To read his articles is to fall in love with a man who knows about relationships and romance. When I received a copy of his debut novel I was excited to read his fictional take on a subject he has been chronicling for years. I found the same personal touch, insight, humor, and care personified in the book. I had the good fortune to ask Mr. Sipher some questions and he graciously answered.
INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR DEVAN SIPHER
B&N: Mr. Sipher, I fell in love with Gavin Greene. His perspective on dating, love and romance is not what I usually encounter from the male protagonists in the books I read. I feel there is a gender bias against men when it comes to expressing their emotions. What’s your take on the differences between how men and women deal with dating, romance and love?
Well, I’m coming from a unique perspective, because I’ve spent years asking both men and women about their love lives. And here’s the big revelation: men can be every bit as romantic as women. Which shouldn’t really be a surprise. After all, when it comes to big romantic gestures, from whisking someone away for a weekend in Paris to getting down on a knee and proposing, there’s usually a guy involved. That doesn’t mean I haven’t noticed differences between the sexes: Women seem to view romance as a state of being, while men tend to look at it more as a set of specific actions. Women share their emotions with greater ease. And a BIG difference is that women get much more excited about planning their wedding (even before they have a particular bridegroom in mind), But when it comes to describing their feelings about dating, romance and especially love, men and women sound (and behave) pretty darn similar.
B&N: How do you think 21st century technology – email/Facebook/skype – has changed the way we not only meet people but how we interact and carry on relationships?
What I find most interesting about 21st century technology is that it’s brought back a 19th century approach to romance. Emails and texts have picked up where love letters left off. I’m not suggesting that no one wrote love letters in the latter half of the 20th century, but phone calls largely replaced written communication. The problem is a phone conversation is ephemeral. There’s less need to carefully compose one’s thoughts and feelings. Emails are different. The person writing it and the person receiving it both know that what’s being said can potentially be preserved for posterity. I’ve interviewed couples who have almost their entire courtship recorded through emails and texts – which comes in handy when preparing their wedding speeches.
B&N: If you had the opportunity (that is if you’d even want it) to be a dating coach like Mike Russo – what advice would you give about how much to reveal on the first date?
Here’s the thing people need to remember (Who am I kidding? This is what I need to remember): We reveal much more about ourselves than we’re aware of. The way we talk, the way we dress, the way we talk about our family, the way we don’t talk about our family. A first date is a smorgasbord of information we have no idea we’re offering. I think the key is to be very open (and, yes, it can be exhausting opening oneself to every new prospect). But I think it’s also good to leave a little mystery. It gives someone a good reason to want a second date. Now I’m not suggesting being secretive. Or, worse, being cagey. I just don’t think you need to share on a first date the details of your dietary regimen or how many times you’ve had to put restraining orders on past boyfriends. (Yes, this really came up on a first date.)
B&N: One of the things I loved about Melinda is her ‘all or nothing’ take on life. Facing her fears head on allows her to live a life filled with exciting adventures. When we first meet Gavin I wouldn’t call him an adventurous person but as the book progresses he begins to take on a bit of her ‘face fear in the face’ attitude. This made me think of a similar personal experience. I once dated a man who loved to scuba dive, so I learned to scuba dive in order to share something he loved. I hated every minute of it; it scared me to death. I feared my last moments on earth would be underwater. When we broke up my first thought was ‘Thank God – I never have to scuba dive again’. My question for you is: What lengths should a person go to in order to share the things their partner loves?
I think there’s nothing wrong with expanding your horizons. I never particularly liked sushi until I dated someone who loved sushi. I regularly took her out for sushi, and I don’t think it ever occurred to her that I wasn’t equally fond of it – and by the time we stopped dating I was. (You never know where you’ll find your happy ending.) No one should be so set in their ways that they can’t change a little. In fact, if you’re single and want to be otherwise, change is precisely what you’re looking for. But there’s also no benefit it pretending to be someone you’re not, and doing something you resent is going to be destructive to a relationship. One of the bridegrooms I interviewed summed it up best. A self-described Star Trek fanatic, he said “I don’t need to be with someone who loves ‘Star Trek,’ just someone who allows me to love it.” (I should note he didn’t complain when his wife dressed up as Uhura for their first Halloween together.)
B&N: When the drunk and bitter best man at Mike and Amy’s wedding approaches Gavin and says:
“You know what you should do? You should do a column about what happens after the wedding. You should do a column about what happens six months later. Six years later.” It made me wonder, what do you think keeps a relationship healthy and loving?
I wish I knew. Unfortunately, my professional expertise ends as the honeymoon begins. But I do keep in touch with some of the bridal couples I write about, and what I will say is that I find the healthiest and happiest relationships are the ones based on mutual respect – not just for each other’s virtues but also for each other’s flaws. Couples that can acknowledge (and laugh) about their partner’s imperfections (and their own) seem to have the strongest foundation. Those are also the couples I most admire.
B&N: I know you’ve probably been asked this question a million times – but I’m going to ask it anyway. How much of you is in the character Gavin Greene?
Well, we are not one and the same (and for the record, I’m taller). When referring to Gavin’s trials and tribulations, I often say that only the painful parts are true. But it would be more accurate to say that Gavin and I have shared a similar journey. We’re both single guys writing for a wedding column, and we’re both rather hopeless romantics. I’m pretty sure that I’m the more self-aware of the two of us, but he’s the one who gets the girl.
You must be a registered user to add a comment here. If you've already registered, please log in. If you haven't registered yet, please register and log in.