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Joanne Rendell is Crossing Washington Square

So today, I'm thrilled to shut my own trap and let someone else do the talking b/c let's be honest, you guys might get sick of me every once in a while! With that in mind, I asked my friend, Joanne Rendell, to swing by the blog and answer a few questions just in time to launch her second novel, Crossing Washington Square, which hit bookstores yesterday! Joanne is one of those super-cool writer-moms whom I feel fortunate to call my friend, so read the below, then run out and grab a copy of her latest!

This is your second book: how did the writing process differ from that of your first?

My writing process didn’t differ too much. As with my first book The Professors’ Wives’ Club, I spent a few months mulling over ideas for Crossing Washington Square. When a clear sense of the story came into view, I then outlined and wrote brief chapter descriptions. I always like to have a pretty clear sense of where the story is going to go before I start writing. I also like to work on my books in a very chronological, chapter-by-chapter way. Things change as I go along, of course, and I amend my original outline and retweak past chapters but on the whole I’m a pretty structured kind of writer. I actually wrote over half of Crossing Washington Square during the summer of 2007 while staying at our little ramshackle cabin in the Catskills in upstate New York. We have no internet connection there, no distractions, barely any running water, and its amazing how focused it made me. Thoreau was definitely onto something! 

How about the actual publication process? Feeling calmer or less calm the second time around? :)

I only have one child, but I have heard people with two or more children talk about how much less fraught they were when the next kids arrived. It’s the same with the publishing process. By the second book, you know the lay of the land, what is expected, and the timing of it all. I’ve definitely been much calmer with this second book. The Professors’ Wives’ Club came out the same time last year and I spent August fretting and worrying about whether I was doing enough promotion, whether the book would sell etc. This August I’ve spent more time enjoying the summer!

You happen to live on a college campus and you also happen to write about lives on college campuses. People are told to write what they know, but how closely should they adhere to this advice? Obviously, your storylines and characters aren’t replicas...where do you draw the lines? What do you use for inspiration?

Both my books are set at Manhattan U., a university which resembles very closely NYU where my husband is a professor and where we live in faculty housing. Mostly it is the setting which I borrow from real life. Characters and storylines, although sometimes loosely based on things I’ve heard and seen, are largely fictional. I draw inspiration from other books, philosophical ideas, and cultural concepts more than I do from real events and people. With Crossing Washington Square, for example, one of my main inspirations was other novels about university life. I’ve always enjoyed these kinds of books (think Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys or Richard Russo’s The Straight Man). But what I noticed about such “campus fiction” was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Furthermore, most of the male professors in campus novels are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students, or at least consider sleeping with their students or are accused of it. I wanted to write a novel with women professors at the forefront and I wanted these women to be strong, smart, and interesting – instead of drunk, despondent, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons.

 Another big inspiration for Crossing Washington Square was Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and its portrayal of the two very different Dashwood sisters: Elinor led by her sense and Marianne led by her irrepressible sensibilities. I always loved how Austen explored the sisters’ strengths and weaknesses, how they clash but also how they learn from each other. I enjoyed putting these two kinds of women in a modern context and then adding very opposing views of literature to stir up more sparks between them. When I was in grad school (I have a PhD in literature), I was always fascinated by debates about what’s considered “good” or “trashy” literature and what kinds of literature should be studied in English departments. Should it only be the classics and literary fiction or should John Grisham and Nora Roberts be studied too? It was fun to bring this debate alive in fiction and have my two main characters hold such staunchly opposite views on the topic. 

You’re also a busy mom. How do you juggle motherhood with writing full-time?

It’s quite a juggle, but somehow I manage it. For the most part, I write when my six year old son is asleep. When he was younger he took deliciously long naps. However, those days are sadly gone so now I wake up early and write before he gets up. We’re actually homeschooling Benny, so that is why I have to squeeze in writing time while he’s sleeping. “Homeschool” is somewhat a misnomer, though, as we spend a relatively small amount of time schooling at “home.” We live in New York so are lucky enough to have an amazing array of fun and educational places on our doorstep. Benny and I, together with his friends, are always out on trips to the Met, the Natural History Museum, aquariums, zoos, galleries, libraries, and parks. When we’re not out and about, Benny and I love to read – either together or separately. I’m so thankful he loves books like I do. Also I’m learning so much as a writer through Benny’s books and his homeschool experiences in general. Inspired by another homeschool family, we recently started a loose history curriculum in which we’ve studied dinosaurs, early man, Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt followed by Ancient Greece and Rome. We’ve combined relevant story and picture books, with many trips to museums. Benny has learnt a lot, but it’s amazing how much I’ve learned too about Greek myths, ancient texts and civilizations. I feel my mind – and my writing – expanding because of these studies!

As a published author, can you look back and give an advice on mistakes that aspiring authors might make?

The biggest mistake that an author aspiring to be published might make is being unprepared. It is a very tight market out there right now and so to get a look in with an agent or a publisher you really need to know what you’re doing. You have to make sure who you’re sending your manuscript to is the right person for your book (do they take YA or romance or women’s fiction? Do they accept new submissions? Who else do they represent or publish?). You have to know about what other books are out there which may be similar to your book – and be able to say why yours is different and better and appealing. Knowledge is power, as they say, and the more you know about the book industry the better you’ll do. 

What’s next for you?

I’m working on final edits for my third novel which was bought by Penguin last fall. The novel tells the story of Clara Fitzgerald who thinks she might be related to the nineteenth century writer, Mary Shelley. On her journey to seek the truth and to discover if there really is a link between her own family and the creator of Frankenstein, Clara unearths surprising facts about people much closer to home – including some shocking secrets about the ambitious scientist she is engaged to. The book is told in alternating points of view between Clara and the young Mary Shelley who is preparing to write Frankenstein.


Weekend Reading

So just a quick note today - almost done my line edits for The One That I Want - so want to get back to them, but wanted to tell you guys that if you're looking for a fabulous book to check out over the weekend, pick up Julie Buxbaum's After You, which hit stores on Tuesday. I loved it enough to blurb, and even if you don't trust me, Jodi Picoult loved it enough to blurb as well, which really says something! 

Here's the synopsis: 

The complexities of a friendship. The unexplored doubts of a marriage. And the redemptive power of literature... Julie Buxbaum, the acclaimed author of The Opposite of Love, delivers a haunting, gloriously written novel about love, family, and the secrets we hide from each other--and ourselves.

It happened on a tree-lined street in Notting Hill to a woman who seemed to have the perfect life. Ellie Lerner’s best friend, Lucy, was murdered in front of her young daughter. And, as best friends do, Ellie dropped everything--her marriage, her job, her life in the Boston suburbs--to travel to London and pick up the pieces of Lucy’s life. While Lucy’s husband, Greg, copes with his grief by retreating into himself, eight-year-old Sophie has simply stopped speaking.

Desperate to help Sophie, Ellie turns to a book that gave her comfort as a child, The Secret Garden. As the two spend hours exploring the novel’s winding passageways, its story of hurt, magic, and healing blooms around them. But so, too, do Lucy’s secrets--some big, some small--secrets Lucy kept hidden, even from her best friend. Over a summer in London, as Ellie peels back the layers of her friend’s life, she’s forced to confront her own as well: the marriage she left behind, the loss she’d hoped to escape. And suddenly Ellie’s carefully constructed existence is spinning out of control in a chain of events that will transform her life--and those around her--forever. A novel that will resonate in the heart of anyone who’s had a best friend, a love lost, or a past full of regrets, After You proves once again the unique and compelling talent of Julie Buxbaum.




Q/A with Hyatt Bass and The Embers

So here's a funny (and true) story that is just so 2009. About a month ago, I was in bed reading InStyle, when I flipped past their summer book recommendations. I was surprised (and excited!) to see that I knew one of the authors, but not through my usual network of author friends. In fact, she had dated my brother in college! I called my mom, and, as moms do, she of course knew that said ex-of-my-bro had written a book, and thus, I googled said ex, found her on Twitter, sent her a tweet, and then she tweeted me back, and then we swapped email addys, and then we emailed, and then she sent me her galley, and then I asked her to do a Q/A on this blog. 

Whew! Like I said, so 2009! :) Yes, thanks to modern and social media, I am thrilled, THRILLED, to present Hyatt Bass to Ask Allison readers. I read The Embers, which is garnering great reviews, including being named one of People's hot summer reads, and was just in awe of her mastery of language. She is just a beautiful, beautiful writer (and one who clearly dates good guys). :) She stops by below to offer some really fabulous writing insights and other insightful answers to my questions:

1)How long did it take you to write The Embers? Where did the story idea come from?

It took me seven years to write the novel. Before that, I tried to write it as a screenplay. A filmmaker at the time, I was in the editing stage of my first feature film, Seventy-Five Degrees in July. One day, I saw a precocious-looking adolescent girl in a café, and realized someone like her, caught between childhood and adulthood, would make a compelling subject for my next film. There was also an actor, Harris Yulin, who was so fantastic in Seventy-Five Degrees in July, I knew I wanted to feature him prominently in the next film as well. So, I started creating a story about an unlikely friendship between a young girl and an elderly man. When it became clear that the screenplay wasn’t working, I had this crazy urge to write the story as a novel. And at that point, the man’s family began to grow around him. The girl is still there, too, but the family ended up becoming the real focus of the book. There’s a quote by Van Gogh that I use in The Embers, “One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet nobody come to sit by it.” That quote was something I had in my head, and it really described the way I thought about this family. In addition, it gave rise to some other elements of the book, including the title.

2) I was so very impressed with your character development in this book. Do you have a set process that you use when envisioning and developing characters? How do you create and keep track of all of their nuances and habits?

For me, the characters and the story are so intertwined. Usually, when I’m first getting ideas for a book (and this was true for film as well), I get little glimmers of things I think I’d like to write about¾places, activities, character traits, major life-changing moments¾and then the challenge is to figure out how to fit all of those things together. Of course, a lot of stuff just ends up getting thrown out or put away for another project. But by having this odd collection of personalities and events and themes or questions I want to explore, I end up having to flesh out the story and the characters in a way that allows me to weave all of these elements together. Then, once I’ve got the whole thing mapped out, and I start writing, it’s immediately clear if I run into something I don’t know yet, or that needs to be worked out in order for the novel to work as a whole. So, then I’ll stop and do a little more of what I think you’re talking about, just working on a character, and asking a lot of questions about them¾Do they habitually stay out all night or turn in with a book at 9pm? Do they pick fights or shy away from them?¾Whatever I need to know for the story. And then once I’ve gotten to a certain point in the writing, the people are totally real for me. They’re just there.

3) You have some pretty big reveals in the second half of the book. I tend to write my books as they come to me, not knowing how they’ll end. Did you have this plot all mapped out or did it surprise you when you got there?

Both. I do map everything out. I have pages and pages of notes, scene by scene. Which works really well for me because it helps me avoid that overwhelming feeling of facing a blank page, and the structure also gives me more freedom in my writing. Because I know where I’m going, I can take all kinds of detours; whereas if I had no idea where I was going, I’d be really cautious¾kind of frozen up¾afraid of going the wrong way. At the same time, even though I’ve got this clear map of the book next to my computer, I’ll often stumble upon something while I’m writing that’s a total surprise, and that makes me realize things can happen differently down the line. And that’s really cool. I also have to say that the main thing I learned over the course of writing this book is that the problem-areas are often the biggest goldmines. When I avoid them or try to pretend they don’t exist, they just keep giving me trouble. But if I’m really honest with myself, and bore down into them, those are often the places I find really interesting questions¾and answers¾that end up altering the book in totally unexpected and exciting ways.

4) You’re also a screenwriter. What’s are the differences between writing a book and writing a movie?

Well, people often say that a screenplay is like a blueprint, which is true in the sense that it’s not the final form the project is meant to take. And one thing that’s nice about writing a novel is that you know you are writing the actual final form of something, and you can do it without someone giving you a huge check, or without a dozen people coming in with their own interpretations of your blueprint and telling you how they think you should shape things from there on. I don’t mean to sound obnoxious¾I actually really like the collaboration of film, but a screenplay is just frustrating that way. Also, when I started writing The Embers as a novel, I was amazed by how much freedom I had, not only in terms of length (a screenplay generally has to be 120 pages or less), but also in terms of how many different ways I suddenly had to tell a story. You can go into people’s heads, and back out again, and describe the scenery or gestures in great detail, and so on… You know, compare that to action, dialogue, action, dialogue.

5) You’re donating a portion of the proceeds of this book to charity? Want to talk a little bit about the charity and why it was important for you to give back?

Around the same time I started writing the book, I became involved with the New York Women’s Foundation, which makes grants to community-led, grass-roots organizations working with women and girls to promote sustainable economic security and justice. I’m now a board member of the NYWF, and the people I’ve met through the Foundation¾fellow board members, staff, volunteers, and grantee-partners¾are such an incredible group of inspiring women. And they, and the work that we’re all so passionate about, have been such a grounding force for me throughout the process of writing this book. Out of debt and deep gratitude, I’m giving a portion of the book’s proceeds not only to the New York Women’s Foundation, but to several similar Women’s Funds throughout the country.

6) What’s the scariest thing about publishing your first novel? And what’s the best thing?

The scariest thing right now is the prospect of the readings. Writing and reading have always been intensely private experiences for me. There’s just something so strange and terrifyingly intimate about the idea of reading my own book out loud to an audience. If you want to see me crawl under the table, or into a bookcase, you should check out the tour-schedule.

The best thing is hearing from people who have read the book and really gotten something out of it. I can’t tell you how meaningful that is. Or I guess I can actually since I must be one of the zillions of people who have told you how much they loved Time of My Life. So, you know what I’m talking about.

7) You’re a busy mom of two little ones. How do you manage it all and keep track of your time?

I have a great babysitter and a strict writing schedule so that I can enjoy my time with the kids, and I also have an incredibly supportive husband. But the truth of the matter is, I don’t really manage it all most of the time. I’m always feeling guilty that I’m either neglecting my kids or my work or some other part of my life. My piles and to-do lists are ridiculous, and I always feel like I’m forgetting something, which I usually am.



Want to Win Some $$$

Of course you do! Eileen Cook, awesome writer, even funnier person, is running a contest over on her blog in which you can win a $75 gift certificate, which can buy you a slew of good reads, all to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the release of her book, What Would Emma Do?

Head on over to Eileen's website for details. Happy weekend!


Anna David Can't Be BOUGHT (Or Can She?)

So we haven't done an author Q/A around here for a long time, and despite the fact that I am so very wise, sagacious and all-knowing, I think it's time to mix it up. :) (Er, yeah, sarcasm, in case that doesn't translate.) So today I'm super-excited to have a Q/A with Anna David, author of the newly released BOUGHT and the previously released PARTY GIRL, which I very much enjoyed.

I've known Anna virtually (and by that I mean online) for a few years now, and we finally, finally got to meet a few weeks back when she popped her gorgeous mug into my reading with Laura Dave. As always, it is fabulous to connect with like-minded, supportive authors, and thus, I jumped at the chance to host her here today. Okay, enough of me. Here's the scoop on BOUGHT, and then read on to get some scoop from her.

Tired of gathering banal quotes from the B-list on the sidelines of the red carpet, Emma Swanson publicly yearns for a more substantial career but privately dreams of a hotshot boyfriend to transport her into the beating heart of the Hollywood scene. Instead, she meets Jessica—beautiful, cavalier, manipulative—who shamelessly trades sex for the gifts it can bring. Convinced that writing a story about Jessica and her ilk would seriously boost her journalistic cred, Emma soon finds herself sucked into a world where the luxuries of prettied-up prostitution may cost more than she ever expected.

1) This is your second novel - how did the experience differ this time around than the first?

It was about a thousand times more difficult. I don’t know what your experience was but my first book flowed out of me like the words had just been sitting in the front of my brain, ready to be downloaded onto the keyboard at the earliest opportunity. It was like, “This novel thing is easy! Why do people say it’s so hard?” And then I started writing this book. Because my first novel was based so much on my own experiences and this one was basically an entire figment of my imagination – with bits from an investigative feature
I’d done on high-class prostitution for Details – I struggled and struggled and struggled to find the story. I ended up taking the manuscript back from HarperCollins after they’d bought it and explaining that I wanted to do a page one rewrite. The books is 272 pages, and I barely want to think about how many pages were thrown out. 200? 500? I have no idea.

2) Any lessons learned along the way to publication or between books #1 and

I guess I would have leveled my expectations more. I hope I’m doing that this time (sometimes I don’t know that I’m not doing that until it’s too late, if that makes sense). When my first book came out, it felt like such an accomplishment, and I guess I thought my entire life was going to change as a result. Instead, I learned that hundreds of thousands of books are released every year and few make an impact or an actual impression on the world. This time, I’m enjoying the process more. Yes, I’m killing myself promoting this book, but it’s fun to be interviewed about your book and try to get people excited about it and plan parties for it, and I’m taking the time to remember that this is the celebratory part. All that it’s-the-journey-and-not-the-destination stuff.

3) You were open about your first novel, which I loved, btw, somewhat mirroring your own life. Where did the inspiration come for Bought?

As I mentioned, I had done this investigative piece for Details on high-class prostitution. I had spent about six months infiltrating this world of exploitative madams, porn stars doing tricks as “side work,” pimps demanding money in exchange for information, and FBI informants playing me tape recordings of tapped phone conversations with madams, and it ended up being this 2000-word story that was, essentially, about how rich men get their rocks off. So I decided to fictionalize what I’d learned and incorporate in aspects of some of the dysfunctional relationships I’ve been in to tell a story about how much we all sell ourselves to get what we want.

4) You have a huge platform and are a media name: how did you go about
building this platform for yourself? A lot of Ask Allison readers are still
at the beginning stages of platform building, any specific tips?

For me, it was a sort of accidental offshoot of working at magazines. When I was on staff at Premiere and my photo began appearing on the contributors page, VH1, E and other cable networks started calling and asking me to come on to talk about various and sundry aspects of celebrities and celebrity-dom. That really is a good entrée in because there are hundreds of shows about celebrities that need to fill their hours and are thrilled to do that with free labor! I also wrote about sex, dating and relationships and was lucky enough to be hired to answer those questions every week on G4’s Attack of the Show. I also go on my friend Greg Gutfeld’s show, Red Eye, about twice a month…it’s not a paid gig but the show has such an ardent following (just like Attack of the Show) that I’ve connected with a lot of viewers that way. I really do think TV is the way to build a platform and if you can show up, be comfortable and deliver what they need, the same shows – whether it’s Today, CNN’s Showbiz Tonight or Hannity & Colmes – will keep asking you back. Creating a blog that’s controversial or gets a lot of traffic or writing a slew of magazine stories on similar topics or finding the newsy angle to your novel and then starting to contact the bookers at those shows would definitely be a way to start getting on. I’ve had to hire outside publicists to help on this.

5) You are a Twitter queen. (@annadavid) We've had a lot of debate here on
the blog as to the benefits (or not) of Twitter - where do you come down?
How do you use it?

When I meet people who say, “Yeah, I want to get into Twitter but it would be so much work,” I feel grateful for the fact that I actually enjoy doing it. It doesn’t feel like work to me. And I have connected with some of the nicest fans on there – I’m talking about people who have gone all out helping me get the word out about Bought, created Iphone applications for my blog, edited together video clips of my appearances on shows…I’m telling you, the nicest people in the world. I’ve also gotten help on any number of things – hiring web developers, handling computer issues, even making my DVD player work when it was acting up. But I think it’s too soon to say for certain what the long-term benefits of Twitter are.

6) You used to do a slew of celebrity interviews. Any favorites? Any great stories (even if names are withheld?!)? :)

I’ll tell you my least favorite: when I covered the Oscars for Premiere, I was really nervous. I couldn’t believe I was standing at the Governor’s Ball. I went up to interview this French actress who had been nominated, and I was such a bundle of nerves, she accused me of not really being a journalist. When I swore that I was and asked her how she prepared for the night, she spat out, “I did the Alexander Technique” but she said it in this indecipherable French accent and at the time, I didn’t know what the Alexander Technique was. I asked her to clarify and she told me to get a dictionary and look it up, and then swept off. It was so traumatic that I actually fictionalized this incident and used it in Bought.


Laura Dave Rocks (And More...)

So the main ingredient to Ask Allison is that this is a place where authors, aspiring, published, on their way, support other authors, and so today, I wanted to shoot off a quick post about one of my favorite people in the world, Laura Dave, whose paperback, The Divorce Party, was released yesterday. Woot!

Now, before you rolls your eyes and think that I'm just pimping one of my author friends to increase book sales, I wanted to give you a little background. Yes, Laura is one of my dear friends, but we became dear friends because I wrote her a fan email. Yes, this is true. Even authors write other authors fan emails. :)

A few years back, I plunked down on the couch and started reading her debut, London is The Best City in America. I barely removed my ass from the couch until I was done. (And this was while I was at the beach, which is seriously saying something.) I saw that she and I had gone to the same college, so I fired off a note to her about her precocious and tender writing. Well, she wrote me back, invited me to meet for coffee (because that's just the kind of gal she is), and a friendship was born.

Here is the type of friend, author aside, that Laura is: not only did she insist on reading a print out of an early draft of Time of My Life (which she actually printed herself), she then promptly offered me what is now the epigraph in the book. It was one of her favorite quotes, a quote, in fact, that she had reserved for one of her own books, but she insisted, INSISTED that I take it. I have countless other ways that she rocks, but that one really exemplifies her collaborative, supportive spirit and why I hope you'll take a quick sec to click on the Amazon link and buy the book, which is a wonderful, smart, insightful novel that stands on its own, even if she were the most horrible person on the planet. :)

I just always think it's great when authors embrace other authors: there are those out there who are threatened by their peers and there are those who bring out the best in their peers. You already know which category I choose my friends from. Same with Laura.

Here is the link: check it out!

Also, NYC-ers, Laura and I are doing a joint reading/discussion on writing and publishing THIS MONDAY, AT MCNALLY JACKSON (52 PRINCE STREET) AT 7pm. Hope to see some of you there!


I'm Outta Here But Not Leaving You Empty-Handed!

At long last, I am off for vacation! Ahhh, beaches, warm breezes, two toddlers running, okay, it might not be quite as relaxing as I'm imagining, but I'm going to try my damndest to chill out for the next week or so. Which means I won't be posting on the blog, barring any breaking news. But in the meantime, I'm leaving you with a fabu interview I did with my friend, Eileen Cook, whose blog is all sorts of hilarious and whose new YA book, What Would Emma Do, is a perfect last-minute gift purchase for any and all who qualify as teen-readers (this can include their parents, who have been known to devour YA books with the best of 'em).

Here's a synopsis, and then Eileen answers some questions. I particularly love her answer to #2 because this is exactly what I've been saying here on Ask Allison!

Thou shalt not kiss thy best friend’s boyfriend…again….

There is no greater sin than kissing you best friend’s boyfriend. So when Emma breaks that golden rule, she knows she’s messed up big-time. Especially since she lives in the smallest town ever, where everyone knows everything about everyone else….and especially because she maybe kinda wants to do it again. Now her best friend isn’t speaking to her, her best guy friend is making things totally weird, and Emma is running full speed toward certain social disaster. This is so not the way senior year was supposed to go.

Time to pray for a minor miracle. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time for Emma to stop trying to please everyone around her, and figure out what she wants for herself.

1. Was there a difference in the writing process between YA and adult? Did you like one better than the other?
My agent was the one who suggested that I try writing a YA. She felt that my voice would work well in that genre. I was unsure. It had been a long time since I was YA, and I wasn't sure if I had a story in me. I hunkered down with a large stack of popular YA books and what I discovered is that while the setting and the age of the characters is different the conflicts are very similar to adult novels. Plus, at long last I had a place to focus all my teenage angst. While I can't say that I enjoy one more than another- I do enjoy the high stakes that are inherent in any YA. Everything seems to matter so much more at that age and anything seems possible. You love more than anyone has ever loved. You hate with a passion never felt before. It was a lot of fun to jump into that character mindset.

2. This is your second book…any big lightbulb moments of learning that made this one easier to write than Unpredictable?
The largest surprise I had after Unpredictable came out was that the world kept spinning on its axis just as it had before. I had dreamed about being published for so long I was certain that somehow things would be radically different. No parades, no trumpets, no phone call from Oprah. Imagine my dismay. The silver lining was the realization that publishing isn't magic. It's a business. Others may have already realized this, but for me this was a lightbulb moment. This took the pressure off writing the second book as I approached it like a job. I set goals and timeline and was off to the races.

3. What are you working on now?
I’m working on another YA, which is currently called Black and White. (Stay tuned the title may change.) It's a story of revenge, classic movies, friendship, and love. I’m having a lot of fun coming up with all sorts of nefarious plots for the revenge part. Turns out I have a very evil side. Who knew?

4. Is there somebody who convinced you that you have what it takes to be an author? If so, who?
Both of my parents are big readers. Weekly trips to the library were a part of our family routine and we’d come home with stacks of books. I’ve loved books and reading as long as I can remember. As soon as I understood that there people who got to make those stories up I knew that I wanted to do that. My parents saved an English homework assignment I did in second grade where the teacher wrote at the bottom “Someday I’m sure you will be an author!” When my first book came out my dad hunted down this teacher. She was over 90 years old and lived in a nursing home. We went out to visit her and my parents were hoping for a big meaningful moment- but she spent the whole time talking about her bunions.

5. What's your work environment like? Any rituals, totems, or must haves?
I love my office, but I write about half of the time there and the other half of the time wherever my laptop and I end up. When I’m stuck I tend to write better in public like a coffee shop or the library. If I am really stuck then I write by hand. I think I’ve convinced myself that if I’m touching the paper I must be closer to the story. I am aware that this is completely illogical- but it works for me so I go with it.

6. What do you do when you're not writing?
I like to knit and love the feel and color of yarn. I’ve bought enough that there could be a world wide sheep shortage and I would have enough stockpiled to last me the rest of my life. I’m a lazy knitter- I don’t like to do complicated things- thus I make a lot of socks and scarves.

7. Would you like to close with a writing tip?
Read- read a lot. You can learn so much about writing this way. Read books you like and books you hate. Break them down to see what works and what doesn’t. Underline or highlight passages/dialog you really like (assuming that this isn’t a library book). It isn’t about trying to write like someone else, it is about discovering the process of what makes a story work.


Yeah Baby, Book Three!

So at long last, I have some great news! This is from today's Publishers Marketplace. I'll be back Monday to discuss how this deal happened, how they are "branding me" as a writer, and why it represented part of the long-term strategy that my agent and I foresaw for my career. Happy weekend! (And no, I haven't written it yet...)

Pub Lunch:
NYT bestselling author of Time of My Life Allison Winn Scotch's THE HAPPIEST DAYS OF MY LIFE, in which a perfectly content thirty-something woman is given the unwelcome ability to see into the future of everyone's life but her own, and discovers that her marriage to her high school boyfriend might be rockier than she anticipated, that her dreams might be smaller than she realized, and that her happiness is in no way guaranteed unless she finds a way to steer fate back into her own hands, to Sarah Knight at Shaye Areheart Books, in a significant deal, by Elisabeth Weed at Weed Literary (world).


Are Men From Venus?

So today, I'm happy to mention a new book that comes out this week: Confessions of a Contractor by Richard Murphy. I don't really know Richard, but his galley was passed to me by a mutual friend, and I really enjoyed it. Head out to your local store or to Amazon and pick up a copy today!

What I found interesting about Richard's book (among other things) - and what I'm finding more and more these days - is how appealing a man's writing can be to a woman. In fact, some of my favorite writers these days - Jonathan Tropper, Tom Perotta, Nick Hornby, Larry Doyle, Joshua Ferris - are men, and I think that Richard's book falls well into the same category of these aforementioned authors. All of their books transcend gender lines, and some, in fact, might even been aimed slightly more AT women than at men. (For example, Tropper's How to Talk to a Widower was widely read by a lot of female friends I know.)

But when I thought about the flip side- do men read works by female writers - I started to think that maybe this is a one-way phenomenon. Am I crazy? I can't ever imagine seeing a guy pick up a book by Jennifer Weiner or Emily Giffin or even less-chicky writers like Jodi Picoult. (Well, maybe Picoult. Maybe.) Yes, there's a huge category - women's fiction, duh - devoted to female writers and their readers, but there really isn't such a thing for men. Is there? Have I missed something?

So are female writers being helped or hurt by this? I'm not sure, to be honest. I suppose that part of the whole "women's fiction" or "chick lit" category is nothing more than a marketing ploy...and that really, even if a book didn't have pink on the cover (or whatever), men wouldn't be interested in the words inside. And maybe having these easy categories helps women readers narrow down their choices at the book store. Hmmm. I don't know. But it definitely makes me think.

What do you think of the gender divide in books? Do you tend to read mostly male or female-authored books? Or doesn't it matter? And don't forget to pick up a copy of Richard's!


Which Person Comes First?

Today, I'm over at WriterUnboxed talking about why I write in the first-person, and why I think writing in the third person is so much tougher (for me).

And last night, I attended a book party for the awesome Laura Dave and The Divorce Party. I had the pleasure of catching up with some writer friends, and here's a pic! (Taken from a Blackberry, so it's sort of sketchy....and please ignore my bag that looks mildly perverse stuck between my legs! Ha!) With me are Sarah Mlynowski, Janelle Brown (whose book I posted about last week), Laura Dave, and Alison Pace. (The woman on the end was a friend of a friend.) Great fun!