First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria = Hilarious

September 8, 2009

It’s not often that I read a book in three days. But that’s what happened with First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria. It was THAT good!

The author of this hilarious travel memoir slash love story, Eve Brown-Waite, is with us today to talk about the process of writing and publishing her book. At the end, she’ll take your questions, too.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and a Third World Adventure Changed My Life appealed to me because it’s a memoir about a woman in Africa — Sound familiar? But Eve’s voice and personality are so different than mine. I’m the kind of traveler who’s forever trying to prove my dedication by roughing it, whereas Eve just does not think she can go to Africa without a cappuccino maker. She’s so honest about her experiences, first in Ecuador with the Peace Corps, then in Uganda with the do-gooder husband she manages to reel in, that she had me cackling on my couch, page after page.

Author Eve Brown-Waite

Author Eve Brown-Waite

Welcome, Eve! How'd you come up with such a great title? (This comes from a writer who’s struggling to invent her own.)

By force, really. I’d had a working title for years (and years and years … did I tell you it took nearly 15 years from inception until I gave birth to this baby?). It was “Take Me Home” and it sold under that title and no one ever said, “Boo” about it and I assumed it would stick.

And then one day, after the entire manuscript was in my editor’s hands, she mentioned – like it was no big deal – oh, we need a new title. It was a huge bombshell, ’cause I LOVED my title (even had a soundtrack made involving certain songs with that title … yes, my book has a soundtrack … doesn’t everyone’s?). So then I spent a few grueling days kicking around titles with my editor, agent, my editor’s assistant and basically anyone else who had an idea. On one of those days I threw out First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria – which I actually liked (but not as much as “Take Me Home”) and that’s the one that eventually stuck. And now I LOVE it – even more than “Take Me Home”!

Are you this funny in person? Is your writing voice always humorous?

Yes, I really am this funny! But my writing is not ALWAYS funny. Sometimes seriousness is called for. But I like being funny and it seems to be my natural voice. You can check out my Web site and read some of my old Eve’s Droppings columns and also a hilarious performance piece I wrote about my (new and improved!) breasts. I do some serious writing too. The website has a couple of serious short stories and some political commentaries I’ve done for public radio.

Some of the events in First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria took place more than 20 years ago. What techniques did you use to mine those memories? How'd you decide what to include or leave out?

I was actually writing bits and pieces of First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria as it was happening – in the form of short stories and vignette pieces and lots and lots and lots of letters (and I guess they were pretty entertaining because people saved them). I also have a really good memory for details, speech and events. I’m getting to that age, however, when I can’t remember people’s names if I run into them out of context, but I’ll remember things like what we were eating and where we were sitting and what the weather was like when I met them. I have a real fear of running into my husband in the food co-op one day and I’ll be like, “Damn, I can’t remember your name, but I know I’ve seen you naked!”

As for what I included and what got left out in the book, in a funny way, the horse sort of led the way home. What I mean by that is, the more I got into telling the story, the clearer it became what the story was and what was important to tell. Somehow, it all just came together.

It's obvious from your acknowledgements page that you loved your agent, Laney Katz Becker. How'd you connect with her?

Laney and I found each other like a lot of agent/author pairs, I guess – blind dating! I queried, they ignored, or I queried and got to first base, then I got rejected …. repeat ad nauseum. But I learned a bit from every rejection and kept at it. I also used one of those enormous agent listing directory books to try to narrow down and only query agents that seemed like they’d be good matches. When I read about Laney I had an incredibly strong feeling that she was THE ONE. (Not unlike the feeling I had when I met my husband … and we all know how that turned out.) And she was.

For those of us who have read the book: How was Uzbekistan? Are you working on a sequel?

Uzbekistan was like downtown Brooklyn on a really bad day when even the water in your toilet bowl is steaming (if you’re lucky enough to have water in your toilet bowl) and everyone is cranky ’cause they’re wearing bad shoes and their livers are ruined by too much vodka and really cheap champagne and the horse meat ain’t what it used to be, in fact nothing is quite what it used to be since the communists left and the whole place went to pot. Y’know … usual third world fun!

Yes, I’m working on a sequel called “The Lights Are Listening: My Life As A “Spy” in the Former Soviet Union.” (Working title: subject to change!)

Eve has offered to answer your questions in the comments. Go at it!

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    0 Replies to “First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria = Hilarious”

    • Great interview! And the title rocks…

      Mystery Writing is Murder

    • Oh, I’m so glad that you liked this and connected with Eve!

    • Karen Walker says:

      The title is fabulous and so is this interview. Thanks to both of you.

    • Peggy says:

      Your description of Uzbekistan assures me that your humor is in top form, and I will surely add this book to my “must read” list. Your new title tells us that the book contains humor (unlike the old one–although I do like that title too) so maybe that’s why the Malaria one is the one that stuck? I’m going through the same thing with my book title. I had a title that I thought was clever. My agent decided it should be changed. We spent a few weeks trying to get it right. Now I love the new title, even better than the one I’d come up with originally. Of course, it’s possible an editor my change it again.
      Thanks for a great interview! Peggy

      • Ooops, Peggy – I missed your comment. We must have been writing at the same time. Great minds thinking alike and all …

        Soooo …. what’s your title? Old and new? I’d love to know. Isn’t it funny how you can be totally in love with, committed to one title and they change it and then (if you’re lucky, I guess) you can fall even more in love with the new title? OH MY GOD … I just realized … some people are like that with relationships!

    • Well, thanks to Alexis for having me. I just finished my year at – so now I’m basically wandering around like a fart in a blizzard and talking mostly to myself. It’s nice to have folks to “chat” with once in awhile.

      Elizabeth and Karen – if you like the title and the interview – I PROMISE you’ll like the book! Really. Buy it please. Please. Please.

      Hi Jen. How’s motherhood treating you???

    • Julie says:

      Cannot wait to read this! Eve, after 20 years of working on the book, how did you know when you were ready to make the move to sell it?

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Great question, Julie!

      • Hi Julie. Thanks for putting me on your to-read list! Please … It was ONLY 15 years working on it … but the truth is, I started trying to get it published after, I don’t know, maybe five years or so. Problem was I didn’t know a damn thing about how to write a book, get a book published, nor did I know anyone who did … and mind you this was well before the internet and all the wonderful writers’ communities that have sprung up on it.

        So I did an awful lot of diddling around in the dark. (And I worked on getting published, too!) And I’d send off a few chapters here or there, have someone who once published a poetry chapbook give me some advice, got in touch with someone who taught writing when I was in grad school (alright, it was grant writing … so let this indicate how really clueless I was).

        But I learned whatever I could wherever I could and I re-wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote until it really was something I could get an agent to look at seriously. And voila!

    • Carolyn Yalin says:

      Fabulous interview. I love the title of the book!

    • Terrific interview and terrific title. I would think the title would cause people to pick up the book and look at it. Best wishes for your success.

      Stephen Tremp

    • From following my husband around the world, I can understand your affinity for the title, “Take Me Home,” but I love the clever title you ended up with. It sounds like a fun book.

    • Eve’s memoir sounds like a great read. I’ll check it out.

    • jessiecarty says:

      The title made me laugh out loud and I thoroughly enjoyed the interview 🙂

    • Thanks all for your wonderfully supportive comments. I hope you’ll all read and enjoy the book. And if you do, please spread the word. There’s nothing like word-of-mouth advertising to drive a book up the charts (or in my case, anywhere near the charts) and frankly, it’s all I can afford!

    • Ami says:

      I’m adding Eve’s book to my to-read list. These great interviews with authors who’ve spent more than a decade working toward a completed manuscript and publication give me hope that I, too, will one day finish my own memoir and get it published.

      Thanks for the great interview, Eve and Alexis!

    • Another one for my Book Reviews page I think… 🙂

      More to the point this gives me a lot of incentive… I’ve been sitting on my African adventures for more than 10 years now and I assumed it was simply too late to write the book, since names have changed, politicians have been voted out of power, new lifestyles prevail… but maybe I’m wrong and it’s not too late.

      You’ve given me a lot of food for thought here… Great interview, as always!

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