As Molly Shapiro enters the Leawood coffee shop, she’s immediately recognizable from her website—striking, sporting an open and warm smile. Her walk is confident and she has the appearance of someone comfortable in her own skin.
Following introductions, Shapiro slips into a chair, poised to chat about her book that’s making a splash on the national scene, “Point, Click, Love.”
“I was a freelance writer in 2009 when the economy was on the downturn,” Shapiro explains the novel’s genesis. “I decided to make lemonade out of lemons, and to do the book I’d been thinking about for years.”
The award-winning author (her first book of short stories, “Eternal City,” won the prestigious Willa Cather Fiction Prize in 1997) and Kansas City native moved back to the Heartland in 2003 after time abroad in Rome followed by a stint in Jamaica to interview family and friends of the legendary ska and reggae musician Bob Marley for a biopic. She’s also resided in New York and San Francisco and became enamored with the Pacific Northwest when living in Seattle. Shapiro writes for nonprofits, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and ghostwrites for high-profile politicians and celebrities.
Readers relate to the four smart and sophisticated characters Shapiro crafted in her sharp, witty and well-conceived 2011 debut novel. She coaxes out of the quartet of women in “Point, Click, Love”—Katie, Annie, Maxine and Claudia—gut-level, honest yearnings for authentic love connections and sets the sometimes hilarious-poignant-vulnerable stage for their personal experiences. The women range from contentedly divorced to miserably married to achingly single. She has them stumble along the path to love, discovering a Brave New World of dating in the 21st century—as many of the book’s readers probably have encountered on their own journeys.
“There’s a part of me in each of the characters,” says Shapiro, who admits to being obsessed with some of the same tawdry websites her characters follow and grappling with some of the same issues they face.
The novel is a delicious dip into the pool of digital-age relationships, a book Carrie Bradshaw would certainly have written if “Sex and the City” had run for a seventh season. Since that groundbreaking television show and its exploration of modern women and how they choose to find love came to an end, someone had to pick up the conversation and keep the ball rolling. Luckily for us, Shapiro decided—following her own divorce—that the era of contemporary dating deserved more time in the spotlight. After all, she’s been in the trenches: healing from the grief and loss of divorce, adjusting to life as a single mother with two children and feeling her way through the snarly jungle of Match.com, ultimately meeting her significant other on the dating site after falling for someone else’s pumped-up and not-so-truthful profile.
Shapiro is indeed buzz-worthy, both in the publishing world (Target has named her as an “Emerging Author” and she has received myriad accolades about her novel’s fresh perspective) and on the Huffington Post news website, with her frank views on dating, love and marriage.
Following the release of “Point, Click, Love,” Shapiro penned two well-received entries on HuffPost’s “The Blog.” The first appeared online March 2, 2012, a point-blank assessment about why she won’t remarry. The piece resonated with hundreds of HuffPost readers, and the majority of comments from women expressed gratitude (and relief) for Shapiro’s thoughtful opinion. In the essay Shapiro expresses contentment with her love life and being committed without marriage.
“Many divorced people forget the fragility of marital bliss and remarry with the same certainty and optimism they had the first time. I didn’t want to forget, and my decision not to remarry was my way of ensuring I never would. But that didn’t mean I was immune to the pressures of society constantly telling me that marriage was the one thing that would make my life complete,” writes Shapiro.
Today over coffee Shapiro clarifies her position on divorce.
“Divorce isn’t bad…it is the people that make it bad,” she says. “How many families are out there where the parents don’t get along? I know that what my kids have now is a happy Mom and Dad.”
Her second entry was on April 2, and addressed the topic of online dating.
“Once you admit that there’s nothing wrong with actively looking for a man, you’ll realize that online dating is the most sensible, time-efficient way to find him,” writes Shapiro in that post.
Shapiro lives with her kids in Crestwood and has fully embraced life in the Midwest—even winter and shoveling snow. “At this point I love everything about being back here,” she says. “I enjoy maintaining a lawn and even bought a gas grill. The people are genuine, the trees are big, the neighborhoods are great.”
No doubt Shapiro has more on her mind that will eventually find its way into another book. After all, it’s the dream of any author or writer with something to say, especially in today’s cluttered arena of nonstop social media and messaging, to have an eager audience.
And Shapiro has only just begun.
Visit mollyshapiro.com for more information.
photo: Paul Versluis