Art, love, redemption converge in music executive’s stunningly poignant novel critiquing masculinity and the millennial generation


SAN FRANCISCO – It’s never too late to become who we’re meant to be, or to summon the courage to develop into the person whom we desire to be.

Indie record label owner and author Tiffanie DeBartolo’s newest novel, “Sorrow,” (Oct. 20, Woodhall Press) expertly examines this idea through the lenses of art, music and love. Inspired in part by the music of The National, the book is both a humorous and emotional assessment of the millennial generation.

Dreams abandoned, out of work and uninspired, guitar prodigy Joe Harper is a sensitive, struggling character, rapidly approaching his mid-30s and haunted by a history of failure. With a promising future in music long forgotten, Joe is resigned to a life of virtual seclusion, listless among his beloved redwood trees. But when he receives word from his long lost love, October, informing him of her upcoming art exhibit, Joe is awash with memories of the past and must ultimately decide if cowardice is reversible. Given a second chance, in more ways than one, can he recover the self-respect he lost long ago?

Drawn from DeBartolo’s extensive experience in the worlds of music, art and academia, “Sorrow” delivers a heartbreaking yet empathetic critique of the male psyche and lays bare a quick-witted social commentary on the widespread malaise plaguing so many of us today.

“Loving a woman who can break you is the bravest thing a man can do.”


Tiffanie DeBartolo | Oct. 20, 2020 | Woodhall Press | Literary Fiction
Paperback | 9781949116304 | $19.95

Early praise for Tiffanie DeBartolo and “Sorrow”

“A smart, thoughtful work that balances romance with intriguing philosophical questions.”
— Kirkus STARRED review

“This novel is a rare gem: a profoundly warm, witty story about art, love, and the journey of the soul from my all-time favorite author. Worth the wait! DeBartolo’s emotionally rich characters remind us that it is both painfully difficult and astonishingly beautiful to be human.”
— Colleen Hoover, New York Times bestselling author

” ‘Sorrow’ hit me like a truck, and it’s been years since I read a book that physically moved me and made me feel as deeply as this one did. DeBartolo masterfully crafted characters you’ll fall in love with, root for, want to scream at, and ultimately see yourself in, with a story that is narcotically enthralling. ‘Sorrow’ reminded me of the power of literature to deeply move you, uplift you, remind you of all the possibilities, love and magic in this world, and help you fall deeper in love with life. It’s a masterpiece.”
— Kyle Nicolaides, musician

“An art-infused story about love with achingly beautiful characters.”
— Tarryn Fisher, New York Times bestselling author

“Imagine you walk across a beautiful meadow filled with Indian paintbrush and Colorado columbine. Suddenly, you are struck by a lightning bolt. You’re blown out of your shoes, you fly through crackling air and land hands-and-knees deep in a brook bubbling over moss-covered rocks, shaded by weeping willows. You realize you are alive, more alive than ever before. You howl for the love of life. This is how reading Sorrow by Tiffanie DeBartolo made me feel.”
— Tim Sandlin, author of GroVont Quartet and “Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty”

” ‘Sorrow’ took me on a beautiful journey — a deeply fulfilling passage through nature and art, love and loss. Days after I finished the last page, the characters of ‘Sorrow’ are still with me, their words and actions echoing in my mind like those of long-lost friends.”
— John Shors, bestselling author of “My Midnight Sun”

About the Author

Tiffanie DeBartolo grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, where she insists there was nothing to do but read books and listen to music. It’s no surprise that after graduating high school a year early to study philosophy at UC Berkeley, she became a writer and founded a record label. Tiffanie’s most recent novel is “Sorrow.” Her previous works include “God Shaped Hole” (2002), “How To Kill a Rock Star” (2005), the graphic novel “Grace: Based on the Jeff Buckley Story” (2019), and the film “Dream for an Insomniac” (1996), which she wrote and directed.

Tiffanie is the founder and Chief Executive Super Goddess of Bright Antenna Records, whose roster includes The Wombats, Sports Team, Wilderado, Prep, and more. She also co-founded the ShineMaker Foundation, a charity organization dedicated to making the world a better place. And she is a faculty member of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, where she teaches writing every June. She is also a runner, hiker, yogi, traveler, cook, poet, artist and feminist. Tiffanie lives in Mill Valley, California, with her husband, Scott Schumaker, and her two Irish Wolfhounds, Dipsea and Kazoo.

In an interview, Tiffanie DeBartolo can discuss:

  • The inspiration and influence behind “Sorrow,” both personal and musical
  • Being a feminist and how literature can help readers analyze themes of misogyny, masculinity and the male ego in themselves and in their relationships with others
  • Challenges and rewards of choosing to write a male character from a feminist perspective
  • The importance and meaning behind the book’s Northern California setting
  • Her dual careers in music and writing and how women can make a place for themselves in both the music and publishing industries

An Interview with Tiffanie DeBartolo

1. How have your own experiences influenced the novel’s setting and characters?

I live in Mill Valley, the magical town where a majority of the novel takes place. I hike through the redwoods almost every day and find them just as inspiring as Joe and October do. I think a lot of the emotional core of the story, however, comes from my work in the music business. I’ve seen a number of talented musicians either abandon their dreams or sabotage them, usually because they’re full of fear and can’t get out of their own way. That kind of fear bleeds over into a person’s personal life. Moreover, in the past, I’ve certainly had the heartbreaking experience of being in love with someone who was too afraid to love me back, and that’s a big part of what “Sorrow” is about.

2. Owning a record label, you have an established career in the music industry. How did that knowledge help when it came to crafting the plot and characters for the book?

My creative work always seems to begin with my love of and passion for music. Music informs everything I do. It has throughout my entire life, and throughout my writing career. I think many authors have themes that they return to again and again, because we have existential questions we’re trying to answer, and one of my themes is music and the powerful role that art plays in our lives.

3. What challenges did you encounter writing your main character, Joe, from the male perspective? Are there things you would have done differently if you had decided to give that character a different gender?

To be honest, I expected it to be more challenging to write from the male perspective than it actually was. I originally began writing the book with October as the narrator, but I quickly realized that unless readers were seeing and feeling the world through Joe’s eyes, they weren’t going to understand him or empathize with him, so I switched to his POV. And my takeaway, after walking in his shoes for two years as I wrote this novel, was that men and women aren’t as different as society has conditioned us to believe we are. Deep down, we all want the same thing — love — and we’re all just trying to figure out how to overcome all the shit that holds us back from surrendering fully to that love.

4. The famous redwoods of Northern California are a good example of how a book’s location can be a character in and of itself. Can you talk a bit about their significance and meaning throughout the novel?

It’s interesting, because early in the writing process, I was struggling with discovering what made Joe tick, and I happened to run into a friend at the local coffee shop where I wrote a lot of the book (Equator Coffee, the same one Joe hangs out in!). My friend mentioned that he’d just read a beautiful book about redwood trees, and as we spoke about the trees for a while, something clicked in my head and heart. I was like, “That’s it! Joe! The trees!” I immediately read the book my friend was talking about, and Joe’s character blossomed into life. And, of course, the metaphor between Joe and the trees was so obvious and became a crucial component from that moment on. The more I learned about the trees, the more I learned about Joe.

5. Let’s talk The National! The book was partially influenced by the band’s music — how did they inspire your writing, and are there any Easter eggs fans of the group can find in the book?

OK, so despite the fact that The National have a song called “Sorrow” which is referenced in the book and obviously inspired the title, the song that planted the seed that grew into this story was “Pink Rabbits.” I remember listening to that song one day, hearing the line: “Somebody said you disappeared in a crowd/I didn’t understand then/I don’t understand now,” and my mind conjured up a scene at an outdoor concert venue, a man standing in the middle of the crowd beside the love of his life, everything about to fall into place, and for some reason he breaks, just walks away and doesn’t come back. That was the first scene I wrote, and obviously it developed into something more complex than that original idea, but the novel really grew around that nascent scene. As far as Easter eggs go, the homage to the “Pink Rabbits” song is the cocktail Joe makes in the scene where he and October talk in his apartment. Joe’s version is a little different than the traditional cocktail, and he calls it a Brown Recluse. There’s two more “Pink Rabbits” mentioned in the book, but I’ll let the fans find them on their own.

6. What do you hope people take away from this book?

These characters taught me a lot, and I hope people take away from this book what I took away. Namely, that it’s never too late to become a better version of yourself and that love and art can often be the portals to that becoming.

7. As the 21st century seems to get bleaker by the minute, what would you say to someone who is convinced their best days are behind them and that they’re too old to act on their dreams?

I’ve been revisiting the work of Joseph Campbell a lot lately, so to quote him, I would say, “Follow your bliss.” It’s never too late for that. And it’s imperative to the experience of having a meaningful life. The past is gone and the future is only a possibility. All we have is this moment, and if you listen to your heart, if you take steps toward the life you desire to be living, if you just get on that path, that’s where you’ll find the truth of who you are. That’s where you’ll find joy. It’s not about success. It’s not about money. This is a spiritual quest we’re talking about. It’s everything.