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Interview with Lilian Duval, author of 'You Never Know'

We have as our guest today a wonderfully talented woman, Lilian Duval, who just so happens to have written a fantastic book titled You Never Know: Tales of Tobias, an Accidental Lottery Winner.


We’ve all longed to win the lottery.  No financial worries; life’s a piece of cake, and it’s the secret to happiness, right?




Maybe not?


I’ve read the book and, seriously, it’s not only one of the best-written books around, but the message it gives you is priceless.


Thank you for this interview, Lilian. I absolutely loved your book. I loved the characters especially because they are what make this book come alive. Can you give our readers an in-depth character sketch of your main character, Tobias?


Lilian: Tobias always tries to do the right thing. Early on, he’s tested with a tragic car accident that claims the lives of his parents and leaves his younger brother, Simeon, brain-damaged. This turn of events alters Tobias’ life, forcing him to drop out of college and become his brother’s caretaker.


He perseveres in spite of the harsh reality. Although he sounds pretty saintly, Tobias is far from perfect. He broods over what could have been. He compares himself to his best friend and former college roommate, Martin, who now has an MBA and a great job. He argues with his wife, just like anybody else.


Eventually his life develops into anything but extraordinary. He marries, has children, takes an unassuming job, and lives in suburbia trying to make ends meet—until his life takes yet another unexpected twist: he wins the New Jersey Mega Millions jackpot!


All of a sudden, doing the right thing becomes more difficult and less predictable. Trying to avoid pitfalls as he wraps his mind around this staggering amount of money, he comes close to losing everything that he holds most dear.


Simeon, his brother, was hurt in an automobile accident that Tobias feels was his fault.  Why does Tobias feel that way?


Lilian: Tobias just can’t let go of his lingering guilt, even though the accident was not his fault, because he was driving. Plus, the family had been returning home from a restaurant—not their usual restaurant, but one that Tobias had selected. And one more coincidence: just as they were about to leave the parking lot, Tobias remembered he’d left something behind in the restaurant. His brother Simeon ran in to get it. That 5-minute interval was exactly enough time for Tobias’s car to arrive in the intersection at the fatal moment of the tragic accident that killed his parents and injured his brother.


What makes his guilt even more haunting is that his injured brother was an exceptionally talented cartoonist, and now he can’t even draw recognizable stick figures.


It’s so sad that Tobias had to give up his dreams to take care of his brother, but isn’t that all about what makes Tobias click and is this why what happens to him at the end happens?


Lilian: Yes, you’ve got that exactly right. Tobias is the product of several conflicts:

  1. He’s very ambitious, but his ambition has to take a back seat when his younger brother is orphaned and injured.
  2. He’s loyal to his best friend Martin, but jealous of him at the same time. He can’t help comparing his mediocre way of life to that of Martin, who graduated from college, got an MBA, and embarked on an exciting career.
  3. He loves his wife Carmela, but at the same time he feels diminished in her presence. She’s a psychiatric nurse, but he’s a only clerk in a bookstore.


Do you believe that it was fate or destiny when Tobias won the lottery?


Lilian: I must admit that I truly do not know. All my life, I have pondered this question, but never resolved it. So it is up to my readers to decide. Everybody’s different, and each reader will come away with a distinctive interpretation.


The first part of the book was concentrated on revealing what kind of person Tobias was.  Is this why you didn’t start out with him winning the money at the beginning?


Lilian: Yes, absolutely. You have to get to know the main character first before you watch him deal with the biggest challenge of his life: becoming suddenly and immensely rich!


You Never Know is really a study in luck: first, awful luck; and years later, astonishingly good luck. Which is harder to adjust to?


I’d be interested to know if you planned what was going to happen throughout the book ahead of time or did some things come to you later?


Lilian: That is one of the very best questions anyone has ever asked me. I wrote a chapter outline and thought I would stick to it, but events kept intruding. And, most puzzling of all, these characters all took on personalities of their own. Sometimes I would try to make them do something, but they defied me and did something else!


After writing the end, how did you feel?


Lilian: I sat there and cried for a while. These people were so very real to me. I was happy for their happiness, and I grieved for their sorrows and losses. It was a bittersweet ending that felt so lifelike to me that it took me a few minutes to snap back into my own real world.


Thank you so much for this interview, Lilian.  Do you have any final words for us?


Lilian: Yes, I am very grateful to you for your time, your interest, and your first-rate, thought-provoking questions. And I wish you good reading, good writing, and, of course, good luck!



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