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Interview: April 15, 2021

The price of true love is betrayal, suspicion and murder in THE PERFECT MARRIAGE, a twisty thriller by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of such novels as DEAD CERTAIN, NEVER GOODBYE and THE BEST FRIEND. In this interview conducted by reviewer Ray Palen, Adam Mitzner talks about the book’s message and its central themes, why he chose a life-threatening illness to be the driving force behind the actions of his protagonists, who’s to blame for most failed marriages, how the pandemic has impacted his writing routine, and two upcoming projects --- one of which is a fun departure for him. It is obvious from your dedication in the book that you believe in “the perfect marriage.” Without giving away any spoilers, which characters (if any) in the narrative can you say understand the meaning of this and why?

Adam Mitzner: The message of THE PERFECT MARRIAGE is that marriage impacts many more people than the two people in it. So what might be perfect for the betrothed might be less than that for others. I think that all the characters understand this on some level. Even if they think James and Jessica, the titular Perfect Marriage, are blissfully happy, they understand the price to be paid for that happiness.

BRC: The setting for THE PERFECT MARRIAGE is the world of fine art and art dealing. What is your interest in this area, and is there any particular reason why you selected it for the background of the novel?

AM: In my legal practice, I have represented many art dealers and artists and find their world to be fascinating. The fact that someone owns a piece of paper that might be worth millions, but maybe it’s a forgery that is worthless, is great fodder for a book.

BRC: Greed plays a big part in the story, not only within the fine art world but also as depicted with the broken health care system, as well as investment banking.  What statement are you making about the role of greed in society as it plays out in the narrative?

AM: A central theme in each of my books is what people will do when pushed to extremes. Practically nothing is more extreme than what a parent will do to save his or her child. Then on the other end of that spectrum are people who break the rules for no greater purpose than money. The point at which those extremes meet is what makes for a great plot point.

BRC: With the divorce rate at an all-time high, the protagonists in your story --- James and Jessica --- are each in their second marriage. Is this intended to serve as a comment about the failure rate of first marriages, or are the two individual characters partially to blame for that failing?

AM: I think both parties are to blame for a marriage’s failure. By definition, a marriage only works if it works for both people. Of course, there are things someone can do in a marriage to make the dissolution their fault, but the mere fact they acted in that way meant that the marriage must not have been working for them. At the same time, I’m enough of a romantic to believe that when the right two people get together, love can conquer all. But I suppose THE PERFECT MARRIAGE ultimately challenges that assumption too.

BRC: Does James get involved in high-risk, somewhat shady business dealing solely to assist with his stepson’s health care costs, or would he have naturally gravitated towards this as part of a need to stay involved in risky business?

AM: James is the kind of person who thinks he’s moral because he’s more honest than some of the people around him. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily make him honest. He also suffers from a feeling that he’s not being rewarded for his honesty, which is a dangerous trap to fall into. That being said, we see that many of the characters do things that they might never have imagined they would do. In that regard, James is just the first to cross the line.

BRC: Owen is a pivotal character to the plot, and his leukemia diagnosis provides the impetus for much of the actions taken by James and Jessica. What made you choose a life-threatening illness as the means to challenge your lead characters as opposed to mere infidelity?

AM: As I said above, I think fiction is often driven by extreme situations, and there is nothing more extreme than the potential loss of a child. It was important for me, however, to make Owen a character in his own right, so that his struggle isn’t solely seen through the eyes of others. I think that’s where the story is its richest. And not just his illness, but his parents’ divorce too. And then his mother’s remarriage. All these adults think that they know what he’s going through, but they really don’t. How could they?

BRC: You make reference to how low the murder rate is in New York City and how there would not be enough to keep all the “CSI” and forensic television dramas fueled for an entire season. What was your reason for inserting this detail, and was it intended to get readers to let their guard down?

AM: It wasn’t meant as a head fake, but just something that always seems strange to me about how people perceive New York City, where I’ve lived my entire adult life. It’s actually a very safe place, but you couldn’t tell that from television (or my novels, either).

BRC: How has the pandemic impacted your writing style?

AM: It’s given me more time to write, that’s for sure. Back in the olden days, I was pretty much limited to writing on the weekend because of my day job, but now I sometimes write from the time I wake up until maybe 10:00am, at which time I switch gears to my day job. In other words, the time I used to spend getting ready and going to work is now dedicated to writing.

BRC: I have asked this two-part question of all authors I have spoken to over the past year. Do you feel the need to address the pandemic in your upcoming work? In your opinion, is the role of fiction intended to be a reflection of what is going on in the real world, or a means for readers to escape from it for a while?

AM: I have a two-part answer: I’m currently working on two different books, which is a first for me to have two projects going at the same time. One takes place entirely before the pandemic because I just could not get my arms around writing about this period, and did not think anyone actually wanted to read about it either. The second takes place two years after the pandemic, so things are back to normal, but there is clearly a toll that the pandemic has taken that drives the story.

I strive, above practically everything else, for my books to be accurate. I check the law multiple times, and even strive to make sure that the items my characters order off menus in real restaurants are actually on the menu. So in that regard, I don’t see how you can set a story in 2020-2021 or after and pretend COVID-19 never happened. At the same time, I am not eager to immerse myself in the world of masks and fear and isolation, either as a writer or as a reader.

BRC: What can we expect to see from you next?

AM: The aforementioned two projects, one of which is a legal thriller and the other is a departure for me, a family story without a murder. Or is there one?