by: Lisa Diane Kastner
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 29, 2017
Publisher: Running Wild Press
Lauren has a dead end job as a waitress at the Oaklyn Diner. She becomes ecstatic when the diner is chosen to be the focal point of an upcoming movie, *Jersey Diner,* starring Jonathan Pearce. When filming ends she moves to California to start a new life with him. Lauren quickly discovers that all that she thought was real and true are in question.
Hi Lisa. Welcome to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. Why have you chosen to set Jersey Diner in 1985?
Wow, that’s a great question. When I first began writing Jersey Diner all of the imagery and references that came up were very mid-80s. I liked the contrast of the 1980s bright colors (blue eyeliner and bright yellow shirts) and pop songs (Wake Me Up, Before You Go-Go). Everything seemed innocent and yet there was a dark undertone with the impending fall of Wall Street in 1987. Which is a nice parallel to the events in the book.
Tell me about Lauren. Who is she, what makes her tick.
When we first meet Lauren she’s lonely. Since she was a child, she had cared for her parents. She tended to be every body’s friend but no one’s best friend. She had lots of crushes but either didn’t have time for a boyfriend or the boys she liked never asked her out. She didn’t necessarily excel at any specific thing. Not much about her life provided optimism so she turned to films and television as points of escape. When we meet her in the book, she’s at a juncture where she’s trying to figure out what to do next. She doesn’t like where she is (in a small town in New Jersey, working as a waitress) yet she doesn’t know how to get out.
When Lauren packs up and moves to California, to be with Jonathan, do you think she’s naive or brave? Why?
She’s both. For Lauren moving to California is terrifying. She makes the biggest change in her life after spending her entire life in the same small town with the same people. She packed her bags, said goodbye and simply decided that she was going to change her life. To me that’s brave. I don’t think I could have ever done that.
The naïve part is more so related to her relationship with Jonathan. Because she is so inexperienced in relationships, much of her knowledge has been gained through watching television and movies, so she makes assumptions based on possibilities and doesn’t understand the warning signs that are right before her.
Is there a little of you in Lauren? If so, what?
There’s a lot of me in Lauren. When I was growing up all of my friends were the gorgeous popular girls. I was a nerd. I mean, “hide in the library reading a book” nerd or “spend hours in the art room after school and during lunch drawing, painting and sculpting” nerd, or “have fun solving math and science problems because I could” nerd.
In elementary school I thought Xanadu and the Smurfs were cool in a neighborhood where Michael Jackson and Prince were idolized. (Note: I loved them too but I own lip-syncing to Olivia Newton-John and the Chipmunks album. Yes, I said it.) I wasn’t skilled at socializing. I’m a natural introvert. So, I totally understand Lauren’s drivers and perspective.
What do you want readers to take away from this story?
I want them to enjoy it. I hope they have a lot of “Oh my gosh, did that just happen?” moments. I hope they finish the book and say, “Wait a minute?” and replay the events of Lauren’s story to piece together the book’s mystery.
I hope that readers reflect on their own lives and find a little bit of Lauren in them.
Lisa, thank you sooo much for taking the time to talk with me today.
Thank you! Truly an honor to be here today. Thank you so much for inviting me.
“I navigated the newly mopped floor to the front door.
“I’ll be right there,” I yelled. Who wanted something to eat at ten at night? The closer I got, the clearer I saw the figure. His faded brown corduroy jacket looked like it had been worn a thousand times. Patches of leather covered the elbows and pockets. Their softness hung on the wearer’s skin. The jacket was accompanied by black pants and black leather shoes, the kind of shoes that a formal man wears when he tries to look casual. He knocked one more time when he saw me. Weird. He wore sunglasses.
“I’m almost there.” I wiped my eyes with the backs of my hands. I tried to avoid getting cleaning fluid in them. I wondered if I’d be allowed to stay on set while the movie filmed. Mr. Smarthey didn’t say we had to leave and he didn’t say we could stay. I had started to question if I’d meet Jonathan. As I unlocked the deadbolt I looked up. “I’m sorry, we’re closed.”
“I just wanted to stop by and introduce myself.” He moved his hand into the door’s opening. I followed the length of him, which led me to his eyes hidden behind the dark frames. “I’m Jonathan Pearce.”
For whatever reason, what he said didn’t immediately register. Maybe I watched his mouth too closely or the scent from the cleaning fluid made me too lightheaded or maybe I was tired from the day, but I repeated those words in my head before they finally registered. I’m Jonathan Pearce. I’m Jonathan, Pearce. I’m. Jonathan. Pearce. And then it hit. I couldn’t imagine what I looked like to him. Other than the fact that I was covered in cleanser and stank of garbage and artificial lemons. I wasn’t sure if I should hide, hug him, scream in delight, or run far, far away. I couldn’t seem to find the right place for my hands or my eyes. Suddenly everything felt awkward and out of place.
In the movies his face was illuminated. In person, he glowed. I traced each line of his face and verified that this wasn’t another dream. The thickness of his black lashes, the slope of his nose. One dimple accentuated when he smiled. The angle of his jaw that brought me to the length of his neck. I wanted to reach out and touch him, just like before. This time if I did, this would be real. I’d know the softness of his coat, the strength of him against the fabric. The feel of his skin, smooth and firm. My mouth opened and then closed. I wanted to tell him that he’d found me. All of this in seconds. Only the sounds of passing cars entered through the doorway.
“I hear I’m gonna spend a bit of time here. I wanted to take a moment to meet everyone.” I moved out of Jonathan’s way so he could come in. He offered his hand and held mine like a true gentleman. I felt lightheaded and grabbed his hand tighter so not to fall. Then I realized I had stopped breathing and deeply inhaled. “Hi,” he said.
What was I supposed to say? I simply said “hi,” in a voice I didn’t recognize. One that was squeaky and small.
Mrs. P looked up. “Who is it, Lauren?” She wrote line after line on her pad. “If he needs to make a call then we have a phone. No coffee. No food, but we have a phone and ice water if he wants.” When she turned to see him, she narrowed her eyes, “You look like—”
He winked at me and then headed to her. He moved the same way he did in television shows and movies, like his shoes never touched the floor. He removed his glasses as he approached her. The skin at the tips of his eyes wrinkled when he smiled.
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Lisa is a former correspondent for the Philadelphia Theatre Review and Features Editor for the Picolata Review, her short stories have appeared in magazines and journals such as StraightJackets Magazine and HESA Inprint. In 2007 Kastner was featured in the Fresh Lines @ Fresh Nine, a public reading hosted by Gross McCleaf Art Gallery.
She founded Running Wild Writers and is the former president of Pennwriters, Inc. (www.pennwriters.com). She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University, her MBA from Pennsylvania State and her BS from Drexel University (She’s definitely full of it). Her novel THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS was shortlisted in the fiction category of the William Faulkner Words and Wisdom Award and her memoir BREATHE was a semi-finalist in the nonfiction category of the same award.
Lisa presented at a TEDx in Seattle on The Power of Connecting. And presented at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) on the “You Sent Us What?” panel.
Born and raised in Camden, New Jersey The Redness migrated to Philadelphia in her twenties and eventually transported to Los Angeles, California with her partner-in-crime and ever-talented husband. They nurture two felonious felines who anxiously encourage and engage in little sparks
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