by Ruby Comer
Whatever “Simon says” you best take heed! Simon is a relentless, conniving, and conspiring character in my galpal Sally Fernandez’s recently published political thriller, Brotherhood Beyond the Yard. (Sally’s pen name is Jordan Ames and there’s buzz that the book is headed for the big screen.) The alarming plot, under Simon’s manipulation, will have you wobbling in your Marc Jacobs spiked pumps.
The cool, calm, and collected Simon is a mastermind, sort of like Sally. I mean, when this girl puts her mind to something—like writing this first novel—it gets done. Mostly reared in Portland, Maine, via Virginia (near Washington, D.C.), at twenty-one she left college and moved to New York City “looking for the bright lights.” Her first job was as an au pair, and since then, she’s dabbled in, and become an expert in, banking, computer technology, and business consulting. A world traveler, this cosmo beauty lived in Hong Kong for several years working for J.P. Morgan to develop strategic plans for their technology groups. While there, Sally became a patron and volunteer with the Po Leung Kuk Orphanage.
Sally and I met several years ago in a car rental line in San Francisco—of all places, right?! We took to each other like a bear to honey. At that time she was volunteering for the San Francisco Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (SFCASA), an organization that provides community support to foster kids who have been neglected and abused. Sally is also associated with Heifer International, which works to end world hunger.
This afternoon, Sally and I meet up after one of her book signings at the always-pleasing, intimate Joey’s Café in the heart of West Hollywood. Directly across the street is WeHo City Hall where I just finished my seminar on “Gloveless Equals Loveless.” At the restaurant, Sally and I embrace and do a cheek-to-cheek “mwah.” I order my usual goat cheese chicken breast salad with mango dressing and Sally has the Ahi salad.
Ruby Comer: Girl, it’s so lovely to see you again. Gracious me, we last saw each other in the fall at your Florence pied-à-terre. [She divides her time between that enchanting Italian city and Florida.] And obviously it’s no accident that part of Brotherhood takes place in Florence….
Sally Fernandez: No, not at all since it is my favorite city. But then again, it’s a toss-up between Florence and wherever I happen to be. [She smiles, those pearly whites glowing.]
[I briefly stare at her and she looks at me quizzically.] Jennifer Aniston…resembles…you. Yes! I just now noticed that. [She shakes her head in disagreement.] Okay, let’s fantasize here a minute. Once your book is turned into a film, who do you see playing Simon?
I get asked that question a lot and I’m still thinking but…Max Minghella or Zachary Quinto.
Good choices! I know you’re smack dab in the midst of writing a sequel to Brotherhood—give me a little teaser.
The second book of the Simon Trilogy is Noble’s Quest, and it begins in January 2017. It’s supposed to be released toward the end of this year. Naturally, Simon will return, along with other familiar characters, but new characters will be introduced. The plot, similar to Brotherhood, will take place between the U.S. and Europe, however it will be slightly less political and more suspenseful. The book starts fast and maintains the pace. There’s much more dialogue and more insight into each of the character’s personalities to go along with the suspense.
What a busy lady you are!
I knew when I started the sequel it would be a major challenge. Noble’s Quest must stand on its own merits. When I needed to describe certain events from Brotherhood, so the reader could follow the continuing saga, I also had to ensure I wasn’t being repetitive. Therefore, I added new dimensions to the events, along with tidbits that will answer many gnawing questions intentionally left dangling in Brotherhood.
I know! Reading the last words, I said aloud, “Wait, I want more! This can’t be the end,” so I’m waiting with baited breath, girl. [I take a bite out of my delectable stacked salad with fresh veggies.] You have a special interest in children, since you’ve been involved with many charities—[she politely cuts me off].
Yes, I’ve always been a fervent believer that if we are to correct any of the ills that have beset our country, we must first start with the protection and education of our children.
Yes, ma’am, enough said! Being a self-described political junkie, what’s your take on the Obama administration’s approach to the AIDS epidemic?
Honestly, I’m uncertain. There have been no major breakthroughs to overshadow earlier efforts, of which I am aware. Clearly, the greatest impetus was in 2003, when President Bush started PEPFAR and in 2008, when he committed $48 million. I understand President Obama recently pledged $50 million, but qualified it by saying the funds would have to be recovered through savings and cost-cutting measures.
Hmmm, sounds limiting and confusing. Do you remember…[I change thoughts] I can’t wait any longer to ask you. Who do you think will be the Elephant candidate and how do you think the elections will play out?
As the field slowly narrows, my guess is Mitt Romney will become the GOP nominee [Editor’s note: The interview took place before recent developments in the race.] Too bad, I can’t vote for Mr. Potato Head—a candidate who looks like Romney, possesses Gingrich’s intellect, adopts the economic plans of Paul, and exhibits Santorum’s passion. Now that I’ve given away my political bent, I believe Obama will be reelected. The bully pulpit and a mediocre opponent will open Obama’s path back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Yes! [I strongly stretch out my hand, with my newly painted candy apple red nails, and hurl it into the air as Lady Gaga might do ending a climatic note.] Now back to my original thought. Do you remember when you first heard about the epidemic?
I moved to New York City in the late seventies before the epidemic became widely known. During that time, I met and became friends with people in the gay community, but was largely unaware of HIV/AIDS until 1985, when Rock Hudson died. That event brought my knowledge into sharp focus, although it was not a topic discussed among any colleagues, who had considered it an “African” problem before Rock’s death.
Have you lost anyone to this disease?
Oh, Ruby, I’m devastated by this disease. However, I’m fortunate not to have lost any close friends, but I have several colleagues, friends of friends, and acquaintances who have died of AIDS. In two specific events, I vicariously experienced the horror of this disease from friends of mine who stayed with loved ones during their last days.
You and your handsome, engaging husband, Joe, met in 1979, before AIDS became public. Did the epidemic have any effect upon your sex life?
When we met, I was twenty-four and he was fifty-one. We were both part of the singles scene, but I was naive and he was worldly and much more aware of the issues. [For a few seconds she gazes out on Santa Monica Boulevard.] Fortunately, we were extremely lucky and have spent thirty-two healthy years together.
Kudos! You two complement each other so nicely….
Did I mention my husband is my editor, too?! [She shoots me a knowing grin, as her amber eyes twinkle.]
Where do you think we as a nation stand with the epidemic today?
I believe dedicated interest groups, governments, and individuals over the past two decades have done a yeoman’s job to heighten awareness, but it will require a lot more funding and commitment to eradicate the epidemic.
Oy, indeed! What actually sparked your “addiction” to politics, Sally?
My unbounded interest in political history and current events began when I was a senior in high school. I studied Contemporary Civilization, a course taught by an amazing teacher, who also happens to be my aunt. She devised the concept of the “Five Threads”: social, cultural, geographic, economic, and political. She believed all events influenced all aspects of our lives. The analysis we conducted in class developed my interest in research and delving into details. During those exercises, I tended to migrate to the “political” thread, believing it had the most power to affect the other threads.
[She leans in closer.] If one were to apply these concepts today, Ruby, it would be painfully clear how HIV/AIDS weaves seamlessly throughout all aspects of our contemporary civilization….
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected]