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Q&A: Silicon Valley. High-Stakes. Serious Gamers. Romantic Tension - Extreme!

Exclusive interview with author Joan Gelfand by Dakotah Jennifer

Image courtesy of Mouth Digital PR

Joan Gelfand's Novel, Extreme, is a thriller perfect for a day in the sun and a business drama that you can curl up and sink your teeth into. The piece is not only fast-paced, witty, and powerfully written, it also teaches readers something not many authors can grasp.


Gelfand, a writing coach in practice, started her career in corporate America. "I learned everything that's in the book about men and power, and women and power, and, what makes the company tick," Gelfand remarked. "The biggest thing that I think I've learned to bring out in this book from my work life is that when you have a magical group of people working on a common goal. That is really powerful." After twenty years in the corporate realm, Gelfand turned to writing. And though that's a pretty strange switch, Gelfand says, "When you're a writer, you're a writer."


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It all started when she met her current husband who works in Silicon Valley. When she fell in love with him and was introduced to his world, her first reaction was near astonishment. "They weren't just gearheads, and they weren't just math geeks, they were dynamic and interested in art and wine and music." Gelfand then had the idea to document, complicate, and humanize people who were a part of a complex world and one that many people do not understand. Gelfand wrote a draft of the novel in the early 2000s and decided to pick it back up many years later. Through her life in corporate America, Gelfand incorporated not only her observations, but her emotional truths, "All of my characters are conglomerates of myself and people I know." At first, the piece was mainly about cutting-edge voice recognition software, but times had changed when she decided to return to the piece. To make the piece as authentic, advanced, and tangible as she could, Gelfand hired an award-winning tech company, Playmatics, to help with the logistics and brainstorming of the piece. "They're famous... They're an award-winning game company, so we were grateful that they took the time to do this with us, really, really," Gelfand said.


Extreme dives into the world of startups and the fast-paced complexity of the tech and media industry. In Extreme, Hope is a part of a team that works so magically that they facilitate the quick rise of their app Fear to Shred. Gelfand examines the morals and ethics of the industry, the exciting beginnings and cruel failings of projects with potential, and ultimately, her message is a simple one: it's all a game of chance; when a project fails, you pick up and keep moving.

Hope, the main female character in Extreme, is a powerful woman in the Silicon Valley Innovative Technological industry. "Though never as successful as she may have hoped to be, her name was one of the ones raised when recruiters, hiring managers, and CEO's played the 'who's innovating' game at meetings and cocktail parties," is how Hope is explained in the novel. Still, Gelfand makes her an attractive, smart, and ambitious woman— but what's unique and authentic about Hope is that she is unapologetic. She finally knows who she is in the business. Hope is, as Gelfand says, "she's emblematic of her moment," and like many women in the stem fields, she gets a once in a lifetime dream opportunity, but is also ultimately taken advantage of. The "We'll ask her, she'll do it" attitude, Gelfand mentioned, is prevalent, and she wanted to highlight that with the novel as well. "I think that's something that's probably not talked about very much, but it's an issue that I feel so strongly about. I think women just get taken advantage of, everywhere," Gelfand said.


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Gelfand's smart, dynamic writing, artful use of language, and complexly atypical angle make Extreme an extreme read. Through the novel, we see the ups and downs of an industry, a brilliant woman trying to make it in a male-dominated space, personal issues making their way into the workspace, and the magic that is made with a good team and a better idea. As a writing coach, Gelfand's work is not only intricate and thought out, but it pulls you in. In true Extreme fashion, Gelfand's most pertinent advice, for all writers and readers, is, "When you start something, finish it."

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