Molly Shapiro has done the math: If everyone in Kansas City bought Point, Click, Love, her book would be a best-seller. The local author (who won the 1997 Willa Cather Fiction Prize for her debut story collection, Eternal City) knows that isn't going to happen. But in the six weeks since her first novel hit stores, she and the book — a witty examination of the push-pull hazards and rewards of online flirtation —have kept a high profile. And she's not finished. Point might be the most Valentine's Day-appropriate volume ever to come out of KC, so Shapiro reads from her novel and signs copies of it at 2 p.m. Saturday, February 11, at the Overland Park Barnes & Noble (11323 West 95th Street, 913-492-8187). She answered The Pitch's questions by heart-shaped e-mail.
The Pitch: Why a novel centered on online dating?
Shapiro: After getting a divorce and diving back into the dating world at age 39, I felt like there were a lot of myths I wanted to debunk. Things like: Divorce is terrible and tragic, and your kids will suffer for it; online dating is scary, and everyone doing it is a desperate loser; and marriage is the end-all be-all of happiness. So I wrote a book about how there is life and love after divorce, and going on match.com isn't all that scary.
You met your partner online. What makes a good dating-site profile?
You want to put up good pictures of yourself, but not the best picture you've ever taken in your entire life. You don't want the person you're meeting to come to the door and be disappointed — you want them to be pleasantly surprised. Regarding the written part, I think correct spelling and grammar are musts. And don't go on too long about your needs, goals, aspirations and the meaning of life. I think it's best to just give a general impression of yourself in as few words as possible — enough to be intriguing and get someone to want to know more.
I don't believe love is a scientific endeavor. I don't think that just because you like the same books, movies and music, you'll make a great match. Some people are really funny and entertaining in their e-mails but miss the mark in real life. And I think there are those who only want that virtual connection. It's kind of like Anthony Weiner. He probably never would have followed through in real life. He just wanted to have a secret, sexual life online. As much as people want to crack the secret code to why some people are attracted to each other and make good mates, I don't think we'll ever know. And that's probably a good thing.
What are you reading right now?
The last book I read was The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. I'm a pretty critical reader, particularly when it comes to current fiction, but this book blew me away. It takes the multiple-protagonist concept even further by presenting about a dozen characters, all of whom are involved with an English-language newspaper in Rome. I think part of the reason I loved it was because I lived in Rome for a while and was completely enamored of it. Some of the stories in my first book, Eternal City, are set in Rome and Florence.
Kansas City, where your novel is set, isn't exactly Rome.
I wanted Point, Click, Love to be set in the Midwest, and I thought it would be silly to choose some random town rather than the place where I live that I know so well. Some people have noted an ambivalence about Kansas City in the book. It's true that I really enjoyed living in New York, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco and Rome, and I do miss those places. But Kansas City has its own charms, and I have a very deep affection for it. It was actually really fun using some real-world settings. But I must say, I was very distraught when Sharp's in Brookside shut down because a pivotal scene takes place there.