Music Playlist Underscores Coming-Of-Age Tale
First-time novelist Laura Huntt Foti has written a coming-of-age tale from the viewpoint of a teenager who dreams of moving to the big city and making her own future. In The Cusp of Everything, now available from Amazon, Foti recreates the era of mid-1970s, best remembered as a time when sex and sexuality were no longer taboo subjects and change was a way of life.
The Cusp of Everything is a book with a fully-integrated soundtrack, perhaps the first of its kind featuring the music of an era and life in transition. “While I was writing the book, I was inspired by Keith Richards’ autobiography Life,” says Foti. “As I read it, I craved the music, and several times went to my desk to play songs that were mentioned-and even buy them when I didn’t already have them. If I’d had my Kindle Fire then, and if the music had somehow been integrated into the book, it would have been a much more satisfying experience. That’s my long-term goal with this book.”
There are references to more than 200 primarily 1970’s-era songs throughout The Cusp of Everything, setting tone and time frame. “The original concept for the book was that it would be published as an e-book through Amazon or iTunes so that you could play clips seamlessly while you were reading and buy the songs if you liked them,” she explains. “But I couldn’t figure out how to do it without completely interrupting the reading experience.”
The compromise is a playlist by chapter, which resides in multiple forms on the website cuspofeverything.com, including clips from songs to purchase on iTunes or Amazon, and full streaming music via Spotify and Playlist.com. The Amazon list also incorporates books and movies mentioned in the book.
Foti grew up in Westchester County, New York (she now lives in Los Angeles) and set her story at long-gone hangouts and the occasional survivor, such as Rye Playland and Scarsdale’s Candlelight Inn. In the book, Karen Walsh’s post-high-school-graduation summer is spent working at Playland, where a summer fling diverts her attention from her parents’ divorce. When she starts college in the fall after many of her friends have headed out of town to school, it is as a lonely commuter. Her discontent and raging hormones lead her to make poor choices until a promising new relationship with the caring Mark changes her outlook, but then rocks her world.
There is a dual meaning to the book’s title. The “cusp of everything” describes both the precipice of adulthood, when “real” life begins, and the enormous societal changes happening in the 1970s. “Suddenly having an abortion was legal, getting divorced was no longer a mark of failure. Women entered the workforce in droves,” says Foti. “I remember the day after I graduated from college my dad asked when I was getting married. My mother had gotten married the week after she graduated, and he didn’t seem to realize that wasn’t my plan-not to mention that I wasn’t even dating anybody! I already had a job and was out in the working world, but he just sort of shook his head like ‘Where did I go wrong?’ Everything had shifted.”
The Cusp of Everything might never have been written if not for a car accident in the summer of 2009. Crossing Pacific Coast Highway in a crosswalk in Laguna Beach, California, Laura was hit when an impatient driver whipped around a waiting car. “She hit me just as I got to the center of the intersection and knocked me out,” Foti recalls. “It turned out she’d sideswiped me with her side mirror, but I hit the pavement so hard that, when I came to, I thought I’d been run over. Two things crossed my mind: one was Natasha Richardson and that I must have a brain scan, and the second was that I was going to die unpublished.”
Foti always knew she would be a writer. “The first time I was published I was in high school, and I wrote a little piece for Seventeen Magazine about being one of the first girls in New York to have a paper route. They paid me $35, which was so exciting, and then published one more piece of mine.” She went on to earn a BA in journalism from NYU and has pursued many areas of writing since. Following her epiphany about her unfinished novel, she joined a writing group to propel it forward toward completion.
The Cusp of Everything is set Westchester County, New York in the year leading up to the nation’s Bicentennial. It was the era of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, television shows like “The Waltons” and Sammy Davis, Jr.’s “Sammy and Company” and Mahogany, Diana Ross’ big screen follow-up to her Oscar®-nominated Lady Sings the Blues. Diana Ross and the Supremes figure heavily in the story as the true objects of the affections of Karen’s friend Mark Cassone. “The whole idea of a friendship between a straight girl and a gay guy is really what the book ended up being about, which I was surprised to discover as I started writing it, but you don’t always have control over something that moves you.”
Feeling like an outsider, uncomfortable with who and where she is, informs many of Karen’s choices and instills anger into her relationship with her mother. “The daughter is very resentful of the mother’s dating success, and the mother can’t say anything that doesn’t seem to set her off. Having a teenager myself during the time I was writing was very helpful in capturing that fraught relationship.”
The teal, magenta, orange and puce on Cusp’s cover evoke the era. “I wanted to mimic the colors of that shiny wallpaper that was so popular in Scarsdale in the ’70’s, colorful stripes, including silver or gold. Unfortunately metallics are too difficult to print, but the color scheme is accurate!” The cover was designed by NorthSouth Studios.
The Cusp of Everything is published by Prince Willow Publishing and available now from Amazon for $12.00.