YZM: You’re a lawyer by training; how did that inform the writing of the novel?
AO: I volunteer to help women secure protective orders, so I am personally familiar with the legal process described in the book. Claire is a lawyer and a Cornell Law grad like me. I tried to strip my prose of all the legalisms and pompous style that occasionally creep into my regular speech. You won’t find too many “furthermores” and “therefores” in the text.
YZM: Does the Jewish community you write about mirror your own?
AO: The Jewish community in Fat Chance is more like where I grew up, South Orange, New Jersey, than my adopted hometown of Bloomington Indiana. It is an invention, as is the Rabbi in the book. (My mother the Rebbetzin and my sister the Rabbi are very keen that I point out that the rabbi in Fat Chance bears no resemblance to my late father, Rabbi Jehiel Orenstein, or my sister, Rabbi Debra Orenstein.)
YZM: Do you think Jewish life in a small town is more cohesive than in a big city?
AO: I do, but Hudsonville in the story is more a New York City suburb than a small town. One of the wonderful things about a town like Bloomington is that we all daven and hang out together even though we come from very different backgrounds. That’s for another book.
YZM: What’s next on your horizon?
AO: If Fat Chance takes off, I hope to continue writing about Claire. My plan is to have her in the courtroom more often and to develop a love interest with someone kind, Jewish, and pathologically messy—and who beats her in court.