Home https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ Entertainment https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ “Jaws at 35,000 Feet”: The Stewardess, whose debut thriller sells for seven figures | Books

“Jaws at 35,000 Feet”: The Stewardess, whose debut thriller sells for seven figures | Books

Flight Tori Newman was working on the red-eyed flight from Los Angeles to New York when the idea for her debut novel came to her. To be precise, it blocks access to the cockpit – a security procedure needed when pilots take a break in the toilet. “I was standing in front of the plane,” she says, “watching the passengers.”

; It was dark and everyone was asleep. And I had this thought, “Their whole life, our life, is in the hands of the pilots.” This is not entirely new – but the opposite has also occurred to me. With so much power and responsibility, how vulnerable is what makes a commercial pilot? “

Newman, speaking through Zoom from his home in Phoenix, Arizona, was shaken. “I just couldn’t shake the thought. A few days later, I was working on a different voyage with a different set of pilots and I told the captain, “Hey, what would you do if your family was taken away and you were told that if you didn’t crash, they would be killed? “What was his reaction? He had no idea what he was going to do – the thought terrified him.”

She realized that there was a beginning to a story. Working as a flight attendant, mostly in first-class red-eyed flights, so named because they were overnight, she often held the front galley of the plane while passengers slept. So she uses the peace to plot in her head. She began with her pilot Bill Hoffman, discovering that his wife, son and baby were being held hostage by a terrorist. “It’s simple,” he is told. “Crash your plane or I’ll kill your family. The choice is yours. “Newman says,” What does he do? I started there, and then the story just unfolded. “

“Drinks, food, a smile – this is not the job” … Tori Newman. Photo: Steve Craft / The Guardian

This becomes Falling, her very debut debut thriller. Bought for a seven-figure sum from Simon and Schuster, the novel is described by criminal Don Winslow as “Jaws at 35,000 Feet.” Departing from the dilemma on the plane, will Bill tell his crew, warn the passengers and risk panicking? – and the nightmare that unfolds for his wife Carrie and children at home, Falling also delves into what lies behind the demands of terrorists.

The chaos in the sky is nothing new. From the airport to the snakes on a plane, the story of “hanging by a thread” produced a very high-octane drama. But Newman’s prehistory means that Falling brings freshness and depth to the genre. While the story is prompted by the impossible situation in which Bill and his family find themselves in captivity, it is based on the relationship between the cohesive crew: Bill, his co-pilot Ben, his old girlfriend Joe and her fellow flight attendants Kelly (new to the job) and old hand Michael (known as Big Daddy). This is an open look at the reality of working on an airplane. As Joe says, the service side of the role – the drinks, the food, the smile – is not the job. It’s just something they provide. “Five weeks of training,” she says, “and on just one of those days, they reviewed food, drink, and hospitality.”

Newman said: “For better or worse, the light in which flight attendants are most often depicted is a little sweeter – you know, lower-hanging fruit. Most people don’t actually see flight attendants do ours work. They see us carrying food and drinks and, you know, smiling – but that’s not our job. The service is something we are happy to offer, but we are ready for safety and security at the end of the day. “

Newman was careful in portraying the people who took Carrie and her children Scott and Elise hostage: these are not your anti-American bad guys. “I worked hard to create three-dimensional characters that are not the stereotype of terrorists we have seen so often. They are the opposite. The antagonistic plot is not about America’s enemies. It’s about America’s friends. And the actions I have portrayed are – what would happen if we betrayed our allies and friends? “

Tall jesters ... Newman during his summer days.
Tall jesters … Newman during his summer days. Photo: Courtesy TJ Newman

Newman’s mother and sister are also flight attendants, but her original plan was not to follow them into the family business. She graduated in musical theater from Wesleyan University in Illinois and moved to New York to start “hacking to be an actor.” It didn’t go well. “It was a failure after a failure after a failure after a failure,” she says. She returned to her parents’ house in Phoenix to “reassess where I was,” and ended up working in an independent bookstore called Changing Hands. “I just fell in love with being surrounded by books and talking about books. That’s exactly what I needed to find my balance again. “

She has always written stories, starting and leaving book after book, and has decided that the flexibility of attending the flight will allow her to work properly on her writing. She left the bookstore in 2011 when Virgin America took over. “It’s an absolutely pleasant job,” she says, “but it definitely has its downsides. This is a group of strangers in a metal pipe. Who knows what will happen? There are days when you question every choice you have ever made. And flying reveals aspects of people’s personality. This can create very interesting interpersonal experiences, especially if you add alcohol or emergency medical care. “

It was a while before she was ready to show anyone the story she had spent all those long nights writing. “When I came back from New York, after being burned so badly, I felt that my personal quota of public creative risk was exhausted – that it was time to get serious, find a real job, get out and become an adult. And so I didn’t tell anyone. I became convinced that no one should know, but just do it for themselves, that if the story doesn’t go anywhere but your own brain and computer, that’s enough. “

Chaos in the Sky ... Dean Martin and Jacqueline Bisset in the 1970 airport thriller.
Hanging on a Thread … Dean Martin and Jacqueline Bisset in the 1970 airport thriller Photo: Album / Alami

The feeling did not last. About 30 drafts later – with contributions from her old friends – booksellers – she went looking for an agent. She didn’t know where to begin, so she bought a copy of the “Basic Guide to Publishing Your Book” and began making inquiries. She sent 41 copies and received 41 rejections. It was a difficult time. “Rejection is difficult,” she said. “Even if my time in New York had made my skin a little thicker, it’s still hard, especially 41 failures. But I have never lost the belief that this is a good story that people will enjoy reading. “

Her 42nd performance at the end of 2019 was by Shane Salerno, the Hollywood screenwriter who became a star literary agent, whose authors include Armageddon, Savages and Shaft. “I was like, ‘I have nothing to lose at this point.’ I have 41 rejections and this man is the biggest of the big ones. There is no chance he will be interested. “

Salerno, known for mediating large deals for its authors, signed it immediately. They worked together on the manuscript while Newman continued to fly full-time until the pandemic last March. She took a voluntary leave of absence from the airline and spent every day at home alone, editing and rewriting. “It was a pleasant distraction to have such a sense of purpose at a time when we were all just shaking our heads and saying, ‘Where are we going from here? “It was just me and the voices in my head. “

By the fall, Falling had been signed by the first editor Salerno approached: seven figures for a two-book deal. “I drove to my parents’ house,” says Newman, “because it was our little quarantine pad. I was standing in their kitchen and I thought my face just looked confused. It was a surreal, surreal experience. There was a time when I almost gave up. Then I went to sign books here in Phoenix. There were two authors who talked about their books and asked questions and answers. Just seeing them reminded me of what I work for, why I had to keep going until I gave up. “

Falling will be published this summer and Newman’s first book signing will be at Changing Hands. The author, who left her job as a flight attendant, predicts that there will be tears. “I can’t believe this is really happening,” she said. “It’s an amazing story with Cinderella in full circle.”

Falling by TJ Newman was published by Simon & Schuster on June 10 in the UK and a month later in the US.

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