Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.
Sabitha: Today we’ll talk to Ryan Uytdewilligen about his satirical novel, He’s No Angel. Ryan, can you introduce us to your book?
Ryan: Charlie Fritz is a Hollywood talent agent hanging onto his career by a thread. After embarrassing himself at a movie screening, he’s in need of a comeback and a superstar client. Luckily, success comes his way in the form of his presumed-to-be dead father. When Bernie Fritz mysteriously arrives in the middle of Los Angeles by taxi, it’s evident he doesn’t remember anything about his prior life, but the white-robe-wearing man does have a cryptic message from the afterlife to share with anyone who will listen. Is he an angel from above or someone who’s simply lost his memory?
After Bernie’s message goes viral and creates a social media sensation, Charlie seizes the opportunity to become his dad’s agent. It’s the perfect opportunity for them to finally connect and find a little meaning in their lives—even if for one of them, life is technically over.
Sabitha: That sounds delightfully absurd. What inspired you to write this book?
Ryan: I lost my father nearly ten years ago and I went on a walk one day, wondering, “What if I ran into my dad?” Then a few moments later, I thought “What if I ran into my dad, and he didn’t remember me or anything about his life?” I thought that was an intriguing premise and fleshed it out from there.
Sabitha: We have a lot of writers in our community. What’s your writing process?
Ryan: I’m one to plan ahead, so after coming up with the premise, I made a “beat sheet” with the entire plot and then wrote that exact plot, which took about seven months. I like to edit as I go too, so the first draft is very concise and polished by the end.
Sabitha: Do you have a “fan-cast” – do you have actors you’d cast as your main characters?
Ryan: Slovenly Bill Murray would make a perfect Bernie Fritz while motormouth Charlie Day would make a great Charlie Fritz. Perhaps the dearly departed Anne Meara would be a perfect Nancy Fritz. News anchor Ted is blatantly Ted Knight.
Sabitha: What was the hardest part of editing?
Ryan: It’s always tough taking criticism, but I think for this book, most of the feedback was that the protagonist was not a likeable person. But he’s not supposed to be. Some said they liked his “nasty to nice” transformation while others didn’t. That was a tough line to walk.
Sabitha: How did you choose the title?
Ryan: The movie We’re No Angels with Robert De Niro and Sean Penn is an inviting and curious title that has often stuck in my head. When I first played around with that, He’s No Angel seemed like it could strike the right chord.
Sabitha: What do you most want your readers to take away from reading your book?
Ryan: If you’ve ever had a loss and wanted to reconnect with a family member, I hope this book tugs at the heartstrings, shows grief in a relatable way, and gives people hope alongside a good laugh.
Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story and your process. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?