Bookshelf: Zoe Fishman writes herself into her new novel

Penning ‘The Fun Widow’s Book Tour’ proved cathartic for Atlanta author.
Zoe Fishman is author of "The Fun Widow's Book Tour."
Courtesy of Willam Morrow/Karen Shacham

Credit: Willam Morrow/Karen Shacham

Credit: Willam Morrow/Karen Shacham

Zoe Fishman is author of "The Fun Widow's Book Tour." Courtesy of Willam Morrow/Karen Shacham

What’s a novelist to do when both her agent and her editor shoot down her idea of writing a memoir?

She boldly writes a novel about herself. That’s what Zoe Fishman did with her new book, “The Fun Widow’s Book Tour” (William Morrow, $18.99), which publishes March 14.

Both Fishman and her protagonist Mia are mid-list authors and widows raising two young sons on their own. They both met their husbands the same way, and they lost their husbands the same way, too — suddenly and without the chance to say goodbye.

“I completely wrote myself into the book,” said Fishman. “Mia is me, there’s no question. The boys, the dudes (as she refers to them both in the book and in real life), are my sons. The father who babysits the dudes is very much based on my own father who died in 2019, so it was a way for me to write him back to life, which was a joy. The rest is an amalgamation of lots of people and lots of friends and lots of relationships I’ve encountered along the way.”

Originally Fishman set out to write a book that “pulled back the curtain” on the life of a mid-list author. The author just happened to be a widow who goes on a book tour, but Fishman’s first draft failed miserably. Her agent and her editor had the same reaction after they read it.

“(They said) it’s not about a book tour, it’s about a widow who happens to be a writer who’s trying to figure out who she is again,” said Fishman.

As the title clearly states, Mia does, in fact, go on a book tour, though it’s not as glamorous as one might imagine.

“So many people seem to think the publisher rolls out a red carpet and sends the author wherever they want to go all the way first class,” said Fishman, “and that’s just not how it works.”

Like Fishman, Mia has to organize and fund her own book tour, visiting cities where she has friends so she can crash with them overnight, and that’s where “The Fun Widow’s Book Tour” really soars.

Taking a break from her hectic daily life as a single mother and writer, Mia embarks on a journey that reconnects her with three close women friends — George, Rachel and Chelsea — who live in three different cities — San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta — where she manages to book author events.

Mia knows each woman from a different phase in her life, and they couldn’t be more different, but they all gathered around her following her husband’s death. The joy she derives from the bond they share is just the balm her battered spirit needs as she tries to sell her new book while continuing to grieve.

Fishman, too, was surrounded by a loyal band of women friends who supported her following her husband’s death and beyond to this day.

“I feel like I’m so lucky because I did not meet my husband until I was 30 and because of that I had the opportunity to make these amazing friendships,” she said. “I created my own family out of these amazing women that I met along the way, and when he died, they all rallied around me in such a beautiful way. My sons don’t know anything but kindness. It’s really incredible. I wanted to write about that, the beauty of the village.”

Once Fishman set aside that unfortunate first draft and fully embraced telling her own story, the writing experience proved cathartic.

“Writing about yourself is terrifying, but it’s also liberating,” she said. “It gives you a sense of not really caring how people are going react to the character who is you, more or less. It gives you the opportunity to assess your own stuff as you’re going through it, to joke about how ridiculous you can be and to pay homage to the fact that you’ve endured hell, and you’re still here.”

In the process, she realized there was another important reason she needed to write this book.

“I had to tell this story if I wanted to tell any other story. I had to get it out,” she said. “This was going to be the last obvious tribute to the love of my life, and then I was going to move on in what I chose to write about.”

Side note: Fishman did write a beautiful, very moving essay-length memoir about her husband’s life and death for the AJC in 2018. You can read it online at

Fishman’s book launch for “The Fun Widow’s Book Tour” coincides with the relaunch of A Cappella Book’s Writers at the Wrecking Bar series. It will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, in the Marianna Room above the Wrecking Bar Brewpub, 292 Moreland Ave., Atlanta. Fishman will be in conversation with Susan Rebecca White, author of “We Are All Good People Here.” For details, go to

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contact her at