I was immediately curious when I found out that author Joanna J. Charnas had come out with a new book: A Movie Lover’s Search for Romance. I had reviewed her book about chronic illness a few years ago and thoroughly appreciated her transparent authenticity as she addressed a difficult topic.
I was intrigued by her new choice of topic, seemingly lighthearted – and yet proving, as I read each page, that it was also quite heartfelt and meaningful. In this new title, she uses a diary-like format to share two intertwined stories: her love for movies and her journeys in dating life as a woman in her forties and fifties. She has a terrific attitude that shines through in the book as well as in the interview below.
Joanna Is Such a Relatable Author
In my review of her previous book, I noted that Joanna Charnas is “relatable, believable, and trustworthy.” We see that shine through in this memoir. She is vulnerable, sweet, funny, and sometimes pokes fun at herself, not to the point of being self-deprecating but to a degree that we can all relate to when we think about some of our foibles and funniness that emerge when we are in dating mode.
“After dating enough eager men to populate a baseball lineup, I consider the effects of my newly slimmed body and recently discovered hotness, as well as the downfall of being smart and verbal in the dating world.”
Sometimes we see her training in social work and psychotherapy slip into the way that she analyzes her own love life. The book begins with her crush on an actor, and by the end of that diary entry, she’s wondering whether she’s attracted to him because he looks like her father or because he’s younger and she’s “unconsciously longing for the romances of youth.”
A Love for Movies
“When I’m happy, when I’m sad, when times are great, and when they’re awful, I go to the movies. They help me relax, feel a range of emotions, and think about people and life outside my own existence. When I can’t make it to a movie for more than a few weeks, I become cranky, as if I abruptly stopped taking a necessary medication.” – A Movie Lover’s Search for Romance
Interview with the Author
I’m thrilled to be able to share this interview with Joanna Charnas about this new title:
What inspired you to use a diary-style format for this book? What were the pros/cons (eases/challenges) of sticking to that format?
The format of a A Movie Lover’s Search for Romance wasn’t intentional. I began writing it to process my feelings, and then shared the essays with my friends and family. They enjoyed reading them, and I was having fun, so I continued. I realized about halfway through that I might eventually have enough material for a book, and decided to keep writing about my dating adventures. I never considered altering the format, which readers have told me enhances the intimacy of reading the book.
Before you start sharing about the dates you went on in this book, you share the story of your movie crush; what do you think are some of the psychological/emotional benefits and good things about entertaining a crush like this?
My crushes woke me up romantically after a dry spell post-divorce. They served as a bridge to dating and making an effort to find a man with whom I could have a meaningful relationship.
She writes of another crush on her father’s friend, “It’s never going to evolve into a relationship, but it serves as a source of genuine comfort. It confirms that I’m still capable of ardent feelings and reminds me that the dim pilot light fueling my romances has not been extinguished from either lack of use or misuse.”
You mention in the book that you get cranky, or feel off, if you don’t go to the movies at least once every few weeks. How have COVID‘s theater restrictions affected you?
Many of my family members and friends have asked me this question. Fortunately, I’ve managed well. All of our lives were completely upended in March, and so many aspects of our day-to-day routines were forced to change. I missed going to the movies, but that was so far down on my list of concerns and challenges it barely registered. That being said, my local movie theaters are re-opening, and I’m very eager to resume my love affair with film.
That makes sense. In what ways do you think your background in psychology has impacted your dating experience?
My training as a clinical social worker has taught me to listen carefully and pick up on small cues. This was a helpful skill as I was going on numerous blind dates. I learned to be attentive to indications about my dates’ character and be watchful for red flags.
In addition, when I was disappointed or distressed, I tried to be as kind to myself as I might be to my must befuddled patient.
That’s so important! We can be so hard on ourselves. What, for you, are the biggest joys/pleasures of dating life? What are the hardest parts?
I genuinely enjoy meeting new people and getting to know them, if only for an hour or two. I couldn’t be a social worker if I didn’t. Several women who’ve read Movie Lover’s Search for Romance have told me that they don’t like small talk and wouldn’t want to engaged in it over and over again on blind dates. But I like making chit chat with new people, and I’m comfortable with it. That being said, going on numerous blind dates is exhausting, and when nothing transpires it can be demoralizing. I knew a woman who went on two or three blind dates a week for six months until she met her husband. I marveled at her fortitude.
Have you / would you ever date someone who didn’t have any particular interest in movies?
I had one date with someone who was as in love with film as I am, but nothing came of it. When I met my former husband, he liked movies, but didn’t go very much. I tried to find movies I thought we’d both enjoy. Early in the relationship we saw the 1991 film, The Fisher King, which we loved. Over time, he ended up going to the movies as much as I did, but our tastes weren’t the same, so we often saw different films. But we continued to go to the movies together at least once a month until the marriage ended. I was pleased we could share that part of our lives. I’m open to dating someone who doesn’t particularly like movies, as long as we have other activities we can share.
How would you describe your ideal date night?
My idea of heaven is cooking dinner together, taking a short stroll after we eat, then settling in on the couch, holding hands while we watch a good movie.
Sounds wonderful to me, too! What tips / advice / thoughts do you have for dating when one or both persons live with a chronic illness?
The most important thing that people like me, who live with chronic illness, can do when we date is be open about our needs and take responsibility for them. I usually tell men with whom I’m starting a relationship that I have a chronic illness, but that I can take care of myself, I just need to rest more than most people. Pacing is very important if I want to maintain my health.
I dated a man with Crohn’s Disease, and he was very good about letting me know what he could and couldn’t eat. His diet was severely restricted, but he managed his needs well. He often brought food to my home, and knew which restaurants would have something on the menu that wouldn’t aggravate his digestive system.
With good communication and a little flexibility, two people with chronic illness can manage well and still have a sizzling romance.
How was working on this book different for you than working on your other books?
Writing A Movie Lover’s Search for Romance was fun. I hope that the fun I had writing it translates for its readers. Several people who’ve read the book told me it made them laughed out loud. My three other books are about managing chronic illness, health, and general wellness. Although I tried to keep my tone light in those books, they were meant to help others, while Movie Lover’s Search for Romance is more amusing.
What do you expect to work on next?
I’m taking note for a book specifically about movies. When my publicity for A Movie Lover’s Search for Romance slows down, I’ll start writing it.
Exciting! Anything else that we should know?
I’ve been writing for twenty years, but only began publishing my work in 2015, when I was fifty-five. In the last five years I’ve had four books professionally published, wrote on the HuffPost Blog for over two years, and been published on several international websites. I’d like your readers to know that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. Mine have come true.