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April 26, 2021

Denis’s sophomore novel, Life Is Big, which
 was a finalist at this year’s New York City
 Book Awards,
 is a departure from her previous work, The Last Day of Paradise. Writing from the perspective of 11 different narrators proved difficult, but, Denis says, “it also gave me greater pleasure because I was doing something new, exciting, and pretty challenging.” Described as “innovative and witty” by BookLife Reviews, Life Is Big embraces the belief that “wise-thinking” based on a positive attitude leads to a longer and happier future and is the only way to guarantee a “Life greater than Death.”

The BookLife Review of Life Is Big describes it as “a riot of philosophical debates and surreal details.” How would you describe the book to someone in 30 words or fewer?

Life Is Big is about the beauty of connectivity among individuals who have very little in common and how that beauty defeats even death.

To what extent do you draw from real life, and what responsibility do you feel to reimagine or change characters based on real people?

I draw a lot from real life. For instance, in the book there is a character named Maria Antelman, who is a real artist. I am a big fan of her work. There is also Pablo Neruda’s fictional lover, Liya. Liya’s character is based on Liya Kebede, the Ethiopian model/actress who’s a huge bookworm and a good friend of mine.

Reimagining a character from real life is fun and risky, but I love doing it. Whenever I can, I reach out to that person and ask for permission. Of course, in the case of Albert Einstein, Neruda, or Nikos Kazantzakis, it was a bit hard to do, but I hope they weren’t offended when they found themselves in my story.

Who is your ideal reader and why?

My ideal reader is any person between the ages of 13 and 100 who is interested in existential questions—such as “Why are we here?”—and chooses to deal with the seriousness of life with humorous zest.

What is the one thing you most want to tell readers, booksellers, publishers, or agents about you or your book?

I’ve always imagined Life Is Big as an interactive read/journey, which means that every time it is read, it evolves. That unfortunately hasn’t happened yet, but I am still hoping the day will come when a publisher or fellow dreamer will help materialize that vision. Then, Life Is Big will achieve its “real” potential.

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