An Interview with Jana Eisenstein, Author of Ghosted – Dating & Other Paramoural Experiences

Short Bio: Jana Eisenstein is a writer. Ok, so prior to Ghosted: Dating & Other Paramoural Experiences no one technically paid for her writing, but it’s what she loves to do. Growing up, she idolized Dave Barry and, as an adult, she thirsts for anything Tina Fey creates. When she’s not writing or working her day job, she spends her time traveling (unless there’s a pandemic), dancing (poorly), trying to convince herself that she enjoys running (unsuccessfully), and dating (when she needs a good laugh, or a good cry).

Ghosted by Jana Eisenstein

1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

You’re asking a self-deprecating humor writer to describe herself? Succinctly? My therapist would encourage me to write: funny, warm (emotionally – I’m actually quite cold most of the time), and driven. OCD’s more a diagnosis than a character trait, but it also applies.

2. What inspired you to write “Ghosted: Dating & Other Paramoural Experiences”? Was there a specific moment or experience that prompted you to share your dating journey?

I actually didn’t set out to write a book. Writing is my way of processing what’s happening – it’s my therapy. I hoped that by writing out my failures as they happened, I’d be able to make sense of them and maybe identify the problem. (Spoiler alert: It’s me.) 

As it happens, I’m exceptionally good at being a dating failure. So, after just a few years I collected enough bad dating stories to fill a book. And then, once I was brave enough to actually read through them without cringing, I began to notice some themes – among them, that I consistently dated men with whom I was clearly incompatible. As I teased out those threads, they coalesced into a central arc, and I realized I had the makings of a book. Or, a helpful manual for my therapist.

3. Jana, in “Ghosted: Dating & Other Paramoural Experiences,” what’s the most relatable and funny incident from your dating adventures that you think readers will connect with?

One story that I think will resonate with a lot of readers is my brief relationship with a guy who, though I wasn’t terribly into, courted me hard enough to keep me around. We went on several dates and then on Valentine’s Day he fed me some corny line about how much he missed me. He even invited me on a ski trip with him and his friends the following weekend. And then he ghosted. 

I wasn’t even that interested in him. And I don’t particularly care for skiing. And yet this jackass had convinced me that I was invested in him. I suspect many people out there have similar stories of being strung along till they were ghosted. It’s a shitty feeling, regardless of how interested you actually are in the person.

I think part of the fun of Ghosted is that my stories aren’t unique. These are the stories we all have, the stories we share with our friends over drinks when we’re performing the postmortem on another failed relationship. It’s gonna resonate with readers who know that life doesn’t always deliver tidy resolutions or grand romantic payoffs. It offers a way for us to laugh at ourselves and commiserate with others, because although we may be lonely, we’re certainly not alone. Also, in my completely unbiased opinion, it’s just a fun read. Regardless of your dating status, if you want a quick read that will make you laugh, give Ghosted a shot. And tell your friends.

4. Can you share a particularly challenging moment from your dating journey and how you overcame it?

I think the hardest moment for me was my breakup with Jed (not his real name). Jed was the first guy I’d dated who I really cared about – the first one who seemed to genuinely care about me. Mind you, I had dated dozens of other men by the time I got to him, so that’s saying something. I assumed that when I finally met someone I clicked with it would just magically work out. So, when it didn’t, it was pretty devastating. I couldn’t get angry at him for ghosting or being a liar or a cheater like so many of the others. I had to actually process my emotions and be sad for a while. Gross.

Fortunately, time (and distraction) heals all wounds. In an attempt to get through those post-breakup days I threw myself into running and other self-improvement activities, I volunteered, I joined rec leagues, I tended to my friendships, and I went on trips. By the time I was finally ready to date again I had accidentally developed a strong sense of self-worth. I started making smarter dating choices because I finally had standards. Turns out, it’s ok to be selective and not just accept a date from every guy who licks your face. It took me a decade to figure that out, but it’s a lesson I won’t forget.

5. Friends often play a role in our dating lives. Can you talk about how your friends influenced your approach to dating?

My friends are the best. While I can’t keep a romantic partner for more than a few weeks, my friendships are lifelong. My friends support me in all of my dating choices and genuinely care (or at least pretend convincingly to care) when my poor choices inevitably come back to haunt me. I think my ability to make light of my failures helps. I’m sure if I cried on their collective shoulders every time a guy ghosted, I’d have far fewer friends.

However, their emotional support is where their influence on my dating life ends. There was a brief period when a few of them tried to set me up with people they knew. As I say in my book, once my friends started setting me up, I realized they might not like me very much. After a series of duds I’ve politely recused myself from their good intentions.

Now I’m back to just sharing my stories with them over drinks – laughing about the unique situations I get myself into and commiserating over those situations we’ve all experienced. I know some day we’ll outgrow the urge to pass around and speculate about unsolicited dick pics, but not today!

6. How did you handle differences, whether they were political, personal, or cultural, when they arose in your relationships?

Poorly. Especially in my early dating days, which are what I write about in my book. I either refused to speak up about issues that were important to me and passively resented the guy I was dating until he broke up with or ghosted me, or I refused to speak up about issues that were important to me and passively resented the guy until I got the courage to break up with him (without explanation).

Now adays I lean into differences. Often, I walk away from those dates or relationships with new experiences under my belt. And, while the guy may not stick, a fun new experience does.

7. Jana, there’s this news about a Russian guy using a chatbot for 5000 Tinder matches. What’s your take on it, and how do you see it shaping the role of technology in dating these days?

Bots have been trolling dating apps since the beginning of dating app time. I personally don’t see it as an issue, but it also depends what you’re looking for. I think if you’re just swiping based on pics, you have to expect that many of those profiles aren’t real. A good way to vet those matches is to set up a Facetime (or other virtual platform) “date” before making any real plans. AI dating bots are notoriously camera shy.

One of the main things I look for in a profile (and the subsequent conversation with a match) is humor. That’s a lot harder to fake than a great shirtless selfie, and as far as I can tell, the AI algorithms haven’t mastered comedy yet. So, fortunately, I’m safe for a while. Once they figure out how to tell a seamless joke though, I’ll be investing in all their NFTs.

8. Were there any specific authors or books that influenced your writing style or approach to storytelling?

My introduction to humor writing was Dave Barry. In the days before the internet, my mom used to clip his articles from the newspaper and share them with me. Through him I discovered satire and, more importantly, sarcasm – a mainstay of my current existence. Once I discovered those types of humor, I sought them out in everything. I devoured books by Nora Ephron and Joseph Heller. I used to watch The Simpsons with a notebook and pencil so I could write down and memorize the best lines or make note of the references I didn’t get so I could look them up and laugh at them later. 

More recently, Tina Fey has emerged to fill the satirical void in my life. I once had a date tell me I reminded him of her – it was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. I still remember the compliment; can’t remember the dude’s name.

9. As an author, what was the most challenging part of writing this book? Were there moments that were emotionally difficult to navigate?

The actual writing process was extremely cathartic. It allowed me to make sense of all the poor life choices I was making and to poke fun at myself for being so blind/ignorant/naïve/[insert additional well-deserved insults here]. Even the moments of my story that are emotionally raw or dark came very easily to me. I find if I don’t acknowledge something painful or embarrassing, I hold onto and obsess over it. Whereas when I admit those transgressions to others, I feel immediately better. I’d never hold up during a police interrogation, but I’m great at a dinner party.

Truly, the hardest part about the book was finding someone to publish it. There’s so much rejection. Fortunately, my dating life prepared me well.

10. Your book cover is impressive! Did you come up with the visual concept yourself, or did you work closely with designer Ronaldo Alves to create it?

Thanks! I agree. And Ronaldo gets all the credit for that. He asked me to send him 10 examples of covers I liked from other books, along with any specifics I wanted him to incorporate. I sent him a bunch of brightly colored book cover images that otherwise had nothing in common and advised him that I was a blank slate when it came to artistic creativity. He took my total lack of creative direction and created something I absolutely love.

11. Do you have other writers in the family and friends?

I’ve made other writer friends throughout my journey to get published – you can’t navigate this industry alone. But no, prior to intentionally immersing myself in the world of other writers I didn’t know anyone who wrote in any kind of professional capacity. My friends and family all got jobs that actually pay.

12. As you reflect on your success, are there specific individuals, experiences, or moments that you feel particularly grateful for on this journey?

So much of my journey has been the result of happenstance and good timing – and for each person who directed me to my next step along the way, I’m extremely grateful. 

As I was just starting out, I randomly met another writer who invited me to join an invitation-only women’s writing group on Facebook. From there I lurked in the forums and consumed all the advice they shared. That’s how I learned about the importance of beta readers and critique groups. By some miracle, the first critique group I joined was full of amazing humor writers who provided the exact kind of critiques I needed. From them I learned the importance of attending conferences, pitching agents, and crafting the perfect query letter. (For those unfamiliar with the query process, it’s soul-crushing and time-consuming. Fortunately, my disappointing dating life has fortified me against the barrage of rejections I received from the publishing industry.) And then, one magical day, I got a message from Dr. Nick Courtright, the founder of Atmosphere Press, about publishing my book. Obviously, I thought it was a scam. But, after researching the company and several of its authors I realized it was a legit offer. I didn’t even have to send money to a Nigerian Prince!

There are also the people supporting me emotionally in a million ways – they buy my books for their friends, leave positive reviews online, tag my book in social media posts. And, of course, there’s my mother who, after reading my book not only still speaks to me but strong-arms everyone she meets into buying it.

Finally, most of the guys I date these days buy and read my book. At this point I think my dating life accounts for almost half my sale, so, thanks guys!

13. Your grandfather’s storytelling seems to have left a lasting impact. Can you tell us if you incorporated any of his storytelling techniques or elements into your own book writing?

As kids, when we stayed at my grandparents’ place, my grandfather would tell us stories every night at bedtime. Usually he’d recount fables for us, but sometimes he would make up fairy tales starring me or my sister as the princesses. He always encouraged us to come up with our own stories and helped us write them down. He delighted in, and saved, even my worst creations. In one piece, a particularly ugly man was walking past a castle when he caught the attention of the particularly ugly princess within. The two fell immediately in love and became beautiful. Not my best work. 

While I don’t think my grandfather would condone me writing so openly about my dating/sex life, as I do in Ghosted, I think he’d be proud that I crafted my own story and shared it with the world. If he were still alive, I’m sure he’d buy a copy. Though I’d encourage him not to read it.

14. Jana, for aspiring authors interested in writing about real-life issues, what simple advice would you give based on your writing experience?

If you’re gonna write about your personal experiences, warts and all, you need to be completely honest (with your reader and yourself) about your role in your own story. If you make yourself out to be a constant victim that bad things just happen to, no one’s gonna be invested in you. 

In my book I describe my many, many dating failures. It could have easily become a man-bashing book highlighting how much dating sucks. But, at the end of the day, it wasn’t that the men were terrible – ok, some of them were legitimately terrible – it was that I consistently made terrible choices. 

Oh, also, your family’s gonna wanna read it, so keep that in mind when you’re writing about blow jobs. Wish someone had given me that advice when I started…

15. Throughout your dating journey, what were some key lessons you learned about yourself and what you’re looking for in a partner?

There are a couple key things I learned (after far too many years of dating):

  1. Just because a guy likes me doesn’t mean I have to like him. I spent almost a decade trying to force relationships with the wrong men and feeling bad about myself when it inevitably didn’t work out. At one point I was so distraught over a breakup that I threw away an entire batch of Funfetti cupcakes! No person should have to experience that.
  2. I don’t need a partner to complete me. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been alone for so long and therefore already do all the things I wanna do, but a guy has to be truly amazing for me to want to make space for him in my life. And when I do date, I’m looking to enjoy myself – I don’t have my eye on “forever.” I’ve already got great friends and family, a reliable mechanic, and a handyman. I don’t necessarily need one partner for the long haul. There’s a reason STIs are on the rise among the elderly. I aim to be part of the problem.

16. Lastly, can you share any upcoming projects or topics that you’re currently exploring or planning to write about in the future?

As I’m sure you’ve gathered from my other answers here, writing is how I process the difficult things I’m going through, and humor is how I’m able to move past them. One not-so-funny topic that I touch on briefly in my book is my struggle with binge eating disorder and the ensuing depression I experienced. I’m fortunate enough to have found strategies for managing my disorder, but, like any addiction, it’s a daily struggle. Most books about binge eating are in the self-help genre; I’ve been toying with the idea of writing another memoir – this one a dark comedy about my daily life with an eating disorder. There’s definitely some sad humor in those moments of fishing food out of the garbage at work or eating a baby’s smash cake at his 1st birthday party. It’s proving to be a bit trickier than writing about dating because, turns out, eating disorders are kind of a bummer. But, if I do my job well, I’ll bring some levity to an otherwise weighty topic. And, if nothing else, my therapist is gonna love it.

Dive into Jana Eisenstein’s hilarious dating memoir, Ghosted. From face-lickers to online creeps, follow her journey through love’s twists. Buy the book on Amazon for a rollercoaster of laughs and poignant reflections.

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