Interview: Yona Zeldis McDonough, Author of Two of a Kind

Tell us about your new novel, Two of a Kind.

It's about a widow and widower who meet and take an instant dislike to each other.  But she takes a job decorating his apartment--he needs the work done, she needs the money--and they find themselves falling in love. That, it turns out, is the easy part. It's staying in love that's hard. Her daughter despises him; his mother frets because she's not Jewish. Their natures are very different. Complications ensue. It is this process of laying aside the past to embrace the future that interested me in this story; how do these two manage to reconcile their pasts and blend their lives so that they can move forward? 

What inspired you to write this novel?

I had never written a love story before and I was interested in writing one in which the protagonists were not young, but middle aged, with a lot of baggage. I wanted to see if they could get and stay together; it was their journey that I wanted to explore in this novel. 

Which of your characters do you relate to the most and why?

Strangely enough, I am closest to Andy Stern, who is a widowed, Jewish doctor--a guy! But somehow I relate to his nature, which is quick to anger but quick to forgive too. And he has a certain scrappy energy that I find both familiar and even admirable. 

Describe your experience writing Two of a Kind

It required many drafts because of the subplots and the different voices. But as much as I planned, I found I simply had to write from a more intuitive place and then go back and revise again--and again!

Have you always wanted to write women’s fiction? When did your passion for it develop?

I never thought I was writing women's fiction. I was writing fiction I cared about, stories I wanted to tell and to read. I think that those categories are often imposed from without, and do not originate organically from within. Also, there is a bit of a double standard at work here: when men write about domestic issues, they are hailed as brave and honest; when women do it, we get marginalized.   

What are your top five favorite books?

LolitaThe Velveteen RabbitAnne of Green GablesGoodbye Columbus , and The DwarfBut that is just this month. My favorites shift around. 

Which authors do you admire and why?

Do poets count? In that case, I would cite three Williams: Shakespeare, Blake and Yeats  because of what they knew and how they were able to express that knowledge in language that sings. And haunts.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do for fun?

Like my character Christina Connelly, I love thrift stores, yard/estate sales, and flea markets. I love pawing through other people's stuff and bringing it back to life, restoring its meaning and purpose. I love the thrill of the hunt and the serendipity of the find. 

What are you working on now?  

A new novel for NAL called You Were Meant for Me. It's about a single woman who finds a newborn infant on a subway platform, and plans to adopt her--until the baby's biological father shows up. 

Thank you, Yona!

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of five novels for adults, The Four Temperaments, In Dahlia's Wake, Breaking the Bank (which has been optioned for a film), A Wedding in Great Neck, and Two of a KindShe is also an award-winning children's book author with twenty two children's books to her credit. Her latest book, Little Author in the Big Woods, a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, will be published by Holt. For over a dozen years, Yona has been the Fiction Editor at Lilith Magazine. She also works independently to help aspiring writers polish their manuscripts. To arrange a book club visit, inquire about editorial services, or just say hi, please contact Yona via her website: