Reprinted with permission of Evergreen Newspapers: “Tin man turns wordsmith”
Evergreen resident and first-time novelist Jim Ament recently released “Waiting for Zoe,” a genre-bending novel. Available on Dec. 1, the book tells a bittersweet tale of ruin and recovery. “In many ways, it’s about endurance,” he says, “and how we learn to get through adversity.”
Retired businessman begins new chapter as novelist—By Stephen Knapp:
Evergreen resident and first-time novelist Jim Ament readily admits that his inaugural effort, “Waiting for Zoe,” isn’t shaped to fit a standard literary mold. “It’s not an easily defined genre,” says Ament, who set down his briefcase and picked up a pen in 2005 after almost four decades in the aluminum industry. “It’s a love story, but it’s not a romance. There are underlying religious themes, but it’s not a philosophical book. There’s a little political commentary here and there, but it’s not about politics. It explores some very serious themes, but there are light moments and humor, too.”
Stripped to its essentials, “Waiting for Zoe” describes the bittersweet collision of the title character, a bright young East Coast woman of prospects, and a prosperous Southern California businessman named Russ. Strangers on page one, the unlikely confederates follow separate paths of loss, pain and emotional desolation that intersect at a small town on the windswept Wyoming prairie. Individually and cooperatively, the two disparate personalities struggle to make peace with the misfortunes that have blighted their lives, and to find new paths leading out of the confusion and purposelessness that threaten to overwhelm them.
“They’re facing the same problems from different perspectives, and their stories intertwine,” Ament explains. “In many ways it’s about endurance, and how we learn to get through adversity.” Endurance is a quality that Ament knows something about. He began telling Zoe’s story in 2004, while still living in Riverside, Calif., and hindered by the many distractions attending his day job as a top-tier sales executive.
“Why I wanted to write about a girl, I don’t know, but I had this idea for a story about a privileged, smart, capable girl who feels like she’s lost everything she cares about. I got about 50 pages done and realized I loved my characters, but didn’t have a story yet.”
The story would have to wait until 2007, two years after he and his wife, Karen, retired to Evergreen and three years before he’d have a completed manuscript ready for expert critique.
“That’s when I started diligently working on it. I didn’t outline the story ahead; I just let it evolve naturally. I thought I had it done in 2010,” Ament laughs. “I gave it to Laura Abbott, who’s a professional editor, and when she gave it back, I’d never seen so many red marks in my life.
“It’s been quite an education, but the fact is that I knew absolutely nothing about publishing, and it was great to be able to concentrate on the writing and let the professionals worry about the million other things it takes to publish a book.”
That’s not to say that Ament escaped an author’s peripheral responsibilities entirely. “I’ve done some things I thought I would never do,” he says. “I have a Facebook page now.”
He’s also got an indispensable ally in Hugo House Publishers in Englewood, and come Dec. 1 he’ll have a title for sale both electronically on the Internet and in paperback at a bookstore near you.
While plagued by the nagging doubts and vague dissatisfactions typical of authorship, Ament is generally pleased with the way “Waiting for Zoe” turned out, and even the most critical reader will agree that his satisfaction is amply justified. The characters are sharply defined and appealing, and the dialogue flows smoothly and moves the narrative along at a comfortable pace. The settings and situations are neither contrived nor trite, and the conflicts are at once challenging and accessible. In short, there’s nothing within “Waiting for Zoe” that marks its author as a newcomer to the literary stage. And, Ament is careful to point out, there is very little in the way of personal revelation.
“It is not autobiographical. Some of the vignettes are drawn from personal experience, and some of the characters are composites of family members and friends, but the story is pure fiction.”
While a good tale well told may be reward enough for most lovers of fiction, Ament has taken the additional step of attaching a “Reader’s Guide” to his novel — 20 thought- provoking discussion questions designed to help thoughtful readers relate more directly to the book’s themes, concepts and characters.
“I was actually kind of surprised when I mentioned it to my editor and she said she loved the idea,” Ament smiles. “I think all books should come with reader’s guides. They help you process the story in a more personal, meaningful way.”
To learn about Jim Ament and “Waiting for Zoe,” visit www.jamesrament.com.