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Entries in GCC (28)


One last GCC Hurrah

So, I know I said that last week was my final GCC tour, but Saralee Rosenberg asked if I could kindly tour her, as she'd just joined when I opted out. So below, please see some fun answers to a variety of questions about her book, Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead. (What a great title!) And for a little FYI: I know there was some debate in the comments section as to why I left the GCC, and I just wanted to address it quickly because I think these women are fabulous, and I think the camaraderie that they provide is also fabulous. In a nutshell, we all commit to touring each other on specific dates, and the truth is that once I start writing my next book (which I plan to in about two weeks after I get back from my vacation), I'm no longer going to be able to honor that commitment. I intend to keep blogging, but it might be more erratic or come in spurts or take me on different tangents as I delve into the writing process, and it wasn't fair to these authors if I wasn't able to tour them...nor would it be fair to me if I felt really guilty over this obligation that I knew I couldn't honor. So, I hope that clears up those questions that were posed in the comments section... :)

Without further ado, Saralee Rosenberg and Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead.

In Mindy's yoga-obsessed, thirty-is-the-new-wife neighborhood, every day is a battle between Dunkin' Donuts, her jaws-of-life jeans, and Beth Diamond, the self-absorbed sancti-mommy next door who looks sixteen from the back. So much for sharing the chores, the stores, and the occasional mischief to rival Wisteria Lane.

It's another day, another dilemma until Beth's marriage becomes fodder on Facebook. Suddenly the Ivy League blonde needs to be "friended," and Mindy is the last mom standing. Together they take on hormones and hunger, family feuds and fidelity, and a harrowing journey that spills the truth about an unplanned pregnancy and a seventy-year old miracle that altered their fates forever.

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead is a hilarious, stirring romp over fences and defenses that begs the question, what did you do to deserve living next door to a crazy woman? Sometimes it's worth finding out.

Q. What was the inspiration for your new novel?

A. Of my four novels, DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD is the only one that was inspired by, well, me! This story is based on my first novel, ALL IN THE CARDS, which was never published, but did take a very exciting journey to Hollywood. Back in 1997, Bette Midler optioned it for a feature film (she was looking for a follow up comedy to “First Wives Club”). Exactly! Wow! First time out and it’s a home run. Sadly, the reason you never heard of it is because ultimately, Bette and her partner couldn’t get financing or find the right screenwriter to adapt it. Bye bye Bette... Now fast forward to a few years ago. My novels, A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE, CLAIRE VOYANT and FATE & MS. FORTUNE had done very well but were about single women looking for love in all the wrong places. I wanted to write about my “peeps” in the suburbs and pitched my editor on letting me rewrite ALL IN THE CARDS. She was hesitant because she wasn’t sure Avon was the right publisher for a suburban/soccer mom story with bickering neighbors. Then came “Desperate Housewives” and suddenly it was, get me suburban/soccer mom stories with bickering neighbors. Timing is everything.... So although DEAR NEIGHBOR is an incarnation of my earliest novel, it is a much richer, deeper, funnier story and is resonating with readers of all ages.

Q. When you got that first phone call announcing you had sold a novel, how did you react? How did you celebrate?

A. Phew. You can’t imagine the relief. I had given up a successful career writing non-fiction, which had sent me on two national book tours, including an appearance on Oprah (heaven!!!!), only to have my writing life come to a screeching halt when I switched to working on a novel. It took me three years to write A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE, another year to find an agent, and the agent a year and a half to make the sale to Lyssa Keusch at Avon. In theory, the sale should have been one of the greatest events of my life, if not for the timing. I got word that the deal was done exactly two days after 9-11, and because I live in the New York area, the grief and shock was all I or anyone could think about. I let family and friends know, of course, but run out and buy diamonds or book a cruise? Didn’t happen. And interestingly enough, all of my book celebrations since then have been, not subdued as much as put in perspective. I’m sure that my joy and satisfaction will always be tempered with the memory that life is so full of yin and yang. And maybe that’s for the best.

Q. Which scene or scenes in your novel did you love writing?

A. I am crazy about writing dialogue and would spend days working on a scene between Mindy and Beth to make sure that I got the tone, the phrasing, the timing and the subtle nuances just right. There was so much that they wanted to say to each other after eight years of making each other crazy, I just had to let it out a little at a time, like air coming out of a balloon. But the scene I loved writing the most was the one where they are in a hotel room and Beth confronts the fact that she might be pregnant. It is a funny, poignant moment where both characters reveal their greatest joys and misgivings of motherhood and I remember when I sat at my computer, the words just poured out and I had to sit still to hear every last word coming through. I realized at the end that they had just broadcast my own conflicts and vulnerabilities about being a mom and it was whoa... where did that come from?

Q. Is there a scene you cut from the book that you kind of wish you could put back in?

A. Funny you should ask. Originally, I wanted to title the book Same S--T, Different Zip because the story was very much about that no matter where you live, you have to put up with so much petty neighbor crap and competition. For obvious reasons, I wasn’t allowed to have a curse in the title but in keeping with the theme, I incorporated a funny blog in the story titled, “You Say You Want A Revelation”. It was “written” by a mom in Georgia and Mindy was so hooked on it, she couldn’t wait for the next post. Unfortunately, the blog, which appeared every few chapters, took up a lot of space and got cut on the editing room floor. Bummer. It had some very funny commentary, but I did get to include one out-take in the back of the book.

Q. When and where do you write? Is it cluttered or minimalist heaven?

A. I’m a crack-of- dawn morning writer maybe because my muses are busy all night and can’t wait to have me pour out what they sunk in (at least they let me go to the bathroom first). That being said, when I’m in the zone, I write morning, noon and night. I know I’m done, however, when I look up at the computer screen and I see this, “She said, hjkljkl;uiop.” Then it’s time to shut the lights. As for where I write, the majority of my work is written while chained to my computer table which is situated right smack in the middle of my master bedroom... I never thought this would be my workspace. I always fantasized about having the kind of home office that “playwright” Diane Keaton got in “Something’s Gotta Give.” - this huge, white, ocean-facing office that was stocked with floral bouquets and a breathtaking view. Perhaps one day, but for now it’s fine. I look out at my beautiful backyard and at least my commute is a breeze. Not to mention I can make it to the fridge in under thirty seconds.

Q. When deadlines hit, what happens in your house?

A. Let me put it this way. Please don’t ring my bell unless you’re bringing fresh baked cookies because I don’t want you to see that the dining room looks like a mini landfill. And that’s before you reach the piles on the stairs (I swear there is one that has been there since Clinton was President). The clothes in the dryer go round and round for days because I keep hitting wrinkle remove, we run out of milk, the shows saved on Tivo go unwatched, calls from my kids get answered with, “Make it quick and NO CRISIS’s today”. Also I look like hell and probably need of a touch up. As for dinner? The family is on their own... although they would tell you I say that every day. Basically it’s every man/child for himself and don’t give me a hard time about anything... This is why I write all the time, otherwise I’d lose my privileges, lol.

Q. Do you put friends in books? Have any of them recognized themselves?

A. I get asked all the time by family and friends to be in one of my novels, but I tend not to go there unless they’re willing to buy several dozen books in appreciation for being immortalized (if Girl Scout Moms can bribe, so can I). Once I did give in and named a character after a friend, only to describe the character as a philandering shoplifter. She was horrified and wanted to know how I knew? I didn’t know, I made it up, but boy did that make things interesting afterwards... Also, my husband’s business partner had been prodding me for years, to which I would say that a character who sold insurance, played golf and visited his grandkids in Florida would not exactly be memorable. But finally, in Dear Neighbor, to get him to stop bugging me, I did name a minor character Steven Hoffman. I made him a lawyer in Portland, and it really made Steve’s day... then he asked why he wasn’t a major character and could I feature him again in the next book? Men!!!!

Q. Do you think about writing series or do you prefer stand alone titles?

A. Readers often ask if I can turn my novels into a series because they like the characters so much and want to revisit them, which is great. I have thought about it, but the bottom line is, the high drama, intrigue and craziness that unfolds in the novel is pretty much a once in a lifetime event for the characters. I wouldn’t know how to replicate the same level of intensity and sea changes and I’d be afraid that readers would post this on Amazon: “The first book was so much better!” That being said, I have thought about writing a novel where my previous characters make token appearances so readers could learn what was new in their lives. I might call it WHINED AND DINED, and it would take place at a spa weekend so that there would be a chance for lots of characters to mingle and to get to know one another. And I do like the idea of having tough-as-nails Shelby Lazarus fighting over a massage therapist named Ivan with get-out-of-way Beth. Stay tuned.

Q. What comes first? The title or the idea?

A. For DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD, the title came to me only a few months before publication and trust me, by then I was in a total panic. The original title, based on the very earliest draft, was ALL IN THE CARDS, but everyone agreed that was kind of boring. Then I submitted a list of twenty titles, some interesting, some wacky, some that would never fly because they involved curse words. Here is a sampling: Hot, Hungry and Hormonal; Ask Your Doctor if Stress Is Right for You; Same SH-T, Different Zip; If Lucy Hated Ethel; and one of my personal favorites, The Bitch Next Door. No, no, no, my editor said to all of those. Then I came up with Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead and she smiled. We have a winner!!! And I must admit, it’s a beauty. Everyone gets it. No need for an explanation. As for my novel, CLAIRE VOYANT, that title came to me years ago and it took me a while to create an entire story based on the premise that a girl named Claire would have super natural abilities.

Q. What is up next for you?

A. I am very excited about my next novel because the focus is about a child leaving for college and this is hitting very close to home fas our youngest is now a senior in high school. But in this story, Jackie, a twice-divorced mom, has one son, 17-year old Daniel and she is in a panic thinking that when he leaves for college in the fall, she’ll be left alone with her ornery, widowed father. Thus, when she sets off on the campus tour circuit, she decides to throw caution and her underwear to the wind and boy does she have one hell of a good time. It’s worse senioritis than even Daniel has and their adventures visiting the Ivies is one for the books. In the end, she rediscovers the smart, ambitious girl she left behind at Yale Law and pledges to get her life back on track. The title of the book is EARLY DECISION and I think it’s going to be my best yet. No publication date as of yet.

Q. If Oprah invited you on her show, what would the theme of that show be?

A. Sigh. I’ve actually had the distinct privilege of appearing on Oprah to discuss my non-fiction book, 50 FABULOUS PLACES TO RAISE A FAMILY, and I gotta tell you, it was awesome. She was soooo nice and I and my husband/co-author were treated like royalty. We got the limousine, the fancy hotel, the nice dinner out, hair and make-up and a souvenir coffee cup that still sits on my desk as a pen holder. And Steadman was there, too (he smelled so good!) Would I love to be a guest again? Are you kidding me? It would be a dream come true to be invited back as a best selling novelist. In fact, I had a dream scene in DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD that involved my character Mindy being on the show to talk about what it was like to live next door to Beth, the bitch. It had to be cut because of space limitations, but trust me, Oprah is always on my mind. Nobody sells a book like her.

Q. What is one of your strangest/most quirky author experiences?

A. My first three novels are a trilogy in that they all deal with the super natural. All of my main characters have funny and intriguing encounters with the other side, the after life, and/or a ghost. But never did I expect that I would personally have a strange encounter with the spirit world while I was hard at work. And yet... I had been writing my debut novel, A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE over a three year period, and as you can imagine, was very very tired. All I wanted to do was cross the finish line, have a good cry and eat a box of Mallomars... One night, I was working on the final pages and was so bleary eyed I convinced myself that the ending was terrible but maybe my editor wouldn’t notice, or would say to me, no, this is great, don’t change a word. But just as I was fixing the last page, we had a power outage and the whole house went dark. It was so strange. There was no storm, no reason to lose power. But when the lights came back on a minute later, I had lost the latest version of the ending. It literally disappeared and I freaked out and cried. How could this happen? On a whim I called my neighbors to see if their power had gone out but it turned out ours was the only house that did... Clearly it was a sign from above. The next morning I started over on the ending, and when I finished, it was so much better, so much more rewarding. This time I cried from joy. I had finished and it was great.

Q. Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline or are you more organic?

A. I know that every author has a different approach and there is no right or wrong way to go about writing a novel. For me, the most important thing is to have a steady handle on my protagonist because I believe that the question readers should ask is not what is your book about but who? If the main character is multi-dimensional and in a serious bind, that is the recipe for a great story. The way that I develop a compelling character is to write their back story- pages and pages of how their life unfolded, what frustrates them, the things they desire that have eluded them, etc. Then I put on my Katie Couric hat and interview them and out of that, comes tons of possible story lines. In the end, I liken the process of writing a novel to driving with a man. I know where I want to go but damned if I’m going to stop for directions. Sure I’ll get lost but eventually I’ll arrive at my destination and tell everyone I knew where I was going from the get go. And one other thing. I do not outline because I find it too confining. No surprise for the writer? None for the reader, either.

Q. What is your writer fantasy?

A. I can only have one? I have several. I want to make it to the New York Times Best Seller List and stay there for at least a year. No wait. I want to have two books on the list at the same time, just like Jodi Piccoult. I also want to have Oprah tell me that she couldn’t put my book down and why am I wasting time talking to her, I should be busy writing the next one. I also want a feature film or TV show to be developed based on my book and it should star Jennifer Aniston and John Mayer (and their maybe babies). Finally, I would like my kids to say to me, “Mom. You Rock!”

Q. Would your high school friends be surprised to discover you’d become a novelist?

A. Funny question. When I attended my 20th high school reunion in Munster, Indiana, I had been living in New York since graduating college and had lost contact with most of my classmates. One of the first people I ran into was Mary Ann Jugovic, the class valedictorian and the sweetest girl ever. The first thing I said to her is, “please tell me that you went to med school and became a pediatrician.” To which she said, “only if you tell me that you moved to New York and became a writer.” And the verdict was? She was a pediatrician with a beautiful family and I was an author with a beautiful family. Dreams do come true.

Q. If you could ask one author for one piece of advice, who would you ask and what would you want to know?

A. I’m very lucky because I actually had that opportunity. One of my favorite authors in the world is the novelist, Sol Stein, who wrote THE MAGICIAN and THE LIVING ROOM, among many others. I discovered him in college and feel in some ways, he was an influence in my secretly aspiring to be a writer. Recently, I was curious to see if he was still writing (or even still alive) and discovered he had a website and an email address. I wrote him this long, flowery message, never expecting a response. But the next day he sent me a lovely note back and we exchanged several emails. In one of them I asked his advice on whether I should change my name and use a pseudonym for my next book. This is something that my editor and agent had been discussing and I was torn. He wrote back and said, don’t you dare. Saralee Rosenberg is a wonderful name and quite memorable.... now you know why I loved this guy, and so far, I’ve followed his advice.


My Final GCC: Kelly Parra and Invisible Touch

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you certainly have seen these GCC posts pop up a couple times a month. The GCC is the Girlfriend Cyber Circuit, and what that means is it's a fabulous group of supportive authors who help spread the word about each other's books. Well, I've been privileged enough to be part of this group for about two years now, and truly, you guys know how much I value collaborative, encouraging writer friends, and thus, I truly value and valued my fellow members of the GCC. But, given how hectic my life has gotten, I have to bow out of the tour for now, and thus, today's post will be the last GCC post. I hope you guys continue to follow these authors on their various blogs because whether or not you love their genres or their books, they are top-notch people who share the same belief in camaraderie that I do, and it's been an honor to tour them all for the past few years!

So, with that, I'm thrilled to tour Kelly Parra, who is the author of Graffiti Girl, and her new book, Invisible Touch! Here's the scoop:

Do you believe in fate?

Kara Martinez has been trying to be "normal" ever since the accident that took her father's life when she was eleven years old. She's buried the caliente side of her Mexican heritage with her father and tried to be the girl her rigid mother wants her to be -- compliant and dressed in pink, and certainly not acting out like her older brother Jason. Not even Danielle, her best friend at Valdez High, has seen the real Kara; only those who read her anonymous blog know the deepest secrets of the Sign Seer.

Because Kara has a gift -- one that often feels like a curse. She sees signs, visions that are clues to a person's fate, if she can put together the pieces of the puzzle in time. So far, she's been able to solve the clues and avert disaster for those she's been warned about -- until she sees the flash of a gun on a fellow classmate, and the stakes are raised higher than ever before. Kara does her best to follow the signs, but it's her heart that wanders into new territory when she falls for a mysterious guy from the wrong side of town, taking her closer to answers she may not be able to handle. Will her forbidden romance help her solve the deadly puzzle before it's too late...or lead her even further into danger?

And here, she stops by to answer my usual questions.

1) What's the backstory behind your book?
K: I've always believed in intuitive vibes and repetitive signs and thought wouldn't it be cool to have a girl who really saw visions and have to piece the signs together to help others? I wrote up a proposal and I was so glad MTV Books thought Kara's story was worthy of publication.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?
K: My first novel was about a girl who loved graffiti art in GRAFFITI GIRL. Everyone asked if I was that girl. There were aspects of me, but I was never a real graffiti artist and many people still don't believe me. In INVISIBLE TOUCH, Kara sees psychic images and I surely don't! But she lives in a town based on my hometown and she also lost her father abruptly as I did. I don't write about my life, but I can't help adding a few characteristics of myself in my books.

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
K: Most of my life had been about art and graphic design. But about six years ago, I became an avid reader of fiction. Two years later, I read a bio about a local author who made a living at writing books, and that day I sat down to begin my first book. I started out writing Romantic Suspense, which I did sell. Unfortunately the line closed before that book could be published. A few months after my first sale, I sold GRAFFITI GIRL to MTV Pocket Books--and now I'm excited to be going in a new direction in my writing career.

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What's your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
K: It's the same for me. The Internet is my procrastination addiction. I usually check email and favorite sites in the morning, then I close up the Net and try and write for a couple of hours before it's time to pick up the kids. Then I edit in the evening or write some more.

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
K: The actors I like are too old, but here is the make-believe scenario: Kara would be possibly be Vanessa Hudgens. Anthony would be a younger Milo Ventimiglia.


If and When Blogger Ever Unlocks This Blog...

Ugh. Apologies! For some reason, Blogger has locked this blog to review it for potential spamming, and I've been unable to post since Friday! SO ANNOYING. So I'm writing this in the hopes that I can get it online sometime soon.

I don't want to write anything too important in case by the time this goes up, it's outdated, but in the meantime, I'm actually on my GCC tour this week! So to keep you occupied until I get up to speed with blog posts, here are some links to various Q/As I've done.

Again, apologies on the inactive blog. Blame Blogger.

Brant Flakes -

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga -


Kelly Parra:


GCC Presents: Nadine Dajani and

Whew! So I'm taking a break from the whirlwind of ToML stuff to promote someone else's book, something you know that I'm always happy to do! We're returning to our regular programming with a GCC tour stop. Today, we have Nadine Dajini and her new book, Cutting Loose, which Publishers Weekly deemed "engrossing," and the Romantic Times calls, "hard to put down." Nice! Pick up a copy on Amazon today!

Here's the scoop, and then Nadine answers my usual questions (aspiritng novelists - be sure to read her answer to #3):

Ranya is a modern-day princess—brought up behind the gilded walls of Saudi Arabian high society and winner of the dream husband sweepstakes . . . until said husband turns out to be more interested in Paolo, the interior-decorator-cum-underwear-model, than in his virginal new wife.

Smart, independent, but painfully shy, Zahra has managed to escape her impoverished Palestinian roots to carve out a life of comfort. But she can’t reveal her secrets to the man she adores or shake off the fear that she doesn’t deserve any of it. Neither can she stop herself from thinking that if she holds on to anything—or anyone—too dearly, they will be taken away in the blink of a kohl-lined eye.

Rio has risen above the slums of her native Honduras—not to mention the jeers of her none too supportive family—to become editor in chief of Suéltate magazine, the hottest Latina-targeted glossy in town, and this in spite of Georges Mallouk, her clueless boss, and in spite of Rio’s affair with Georges’ delicious but despicable younger brother, Joe.

In this city of fast cars, sleek clubs, and unapologetic superficiality, Ranya, Zahra, and Rio wrestle with the ties that bind them to their difficult pasts, each wondering if she will ever manage to cut loose…

1) What’s the backstory behind your book?

I always look at a new book as an opportunity to address an issue that’s bugging me – looking at it from different angles, finding characters that embody the clashing views and struggles, and then put them in a room together against some dazzling backdrop.

In Cutting Loose, there are many issues – every single character in this book has a different ethnic makeup – there’s the Lebanese Muslim social butterfly, the shy Palestinian Christian accountant whose family is struggling to survive under military occupation, the Honduran-American whose piece of the American dream was much more hard-earned than most, and then there’s a multi-generational dynasty of Lebanese Christians with roots in the US going back to Frontier times, and who’ve built a business empire. Every one of these characters represents a demographic that flies in the face of the conventional narrative we’re always being fed about who really occupies this world we live in, and what it is that really matters to them. Their struggles unfold against a few cities – Montreal, London, and Miami, but most of the action takes place in sizzling Miami, where I love to spend time when I can.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?

There are a few elements of Ranya’s experiences as an expat in Saudi Arabia that were lifted from my memories, but I was too young back then to really be out and about and have something memorable to comment on – I lifted some of my cousin’s experiences, who is older and so had more interesting things happen to her… like sharing a classroom with actual princesses from the Saudi royal family. There are so many of the (last stat I came across was 11,000 in a relatively unpopulated country!) so it’s certainly possible (probable even), if you go to the top schools. Like Zahra, I’m originally Palestinian, though born in Lebanon, and I did want to explore that a little bit. But the most autobiographical element is right up front in the first chapter – I was sitting in a posh London restaurant (Harvey Nichols rooftop terrace, to be precise), thinking about how to begin this book. Just as Ranya notices, Middle Eastern wealth is really on display over there, as may Gulf Arabs spend their holidays in Europe and take advantage of the excursion to as (as do tourists all over the globe…). I guess the lady sitting at the table next to me was a little miffed by all the headscarf-clad heads in this posh place, and the loud, jovial chatter, so she turned around to her companion and said” “C’est payant, le terrorisme” which I’m sure you guessed, means “terrorism pays”.

Let me tell you, for an author who was looking for a good way to start a novel dealing with racism, it couldn’t have been more inspirational.

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?

The old fashioned way – polishing and polishing and polishing my first effort until it was obviously ridiculous not to send it out. I researched agents, pitched at an RWA conference, identified my top two “perfect fit” agents, queried them both. They both requested a partial (that’s the first chapter and a 5 page summary). They both came back with both positive and negative feedback and gave me a shot at spiffing up my first few chapters and resubmitting. I did, and with their feedback, the chapters really were much better – and they both made an offer! It was an incredible moment in my life. In fact, I was keenly aware that no other “first” would top this one – it was the first time I’d gotten validation from someone willing to pay actual money for these sentences I’d strung together, mostly for fun. I decided on the agent I felt had the best experience, and the one who could offer constructive criticism (and not just gush over my writing, or want to be my friend). A couple of months later, I had a deal!

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What’s your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?

I also have a serious procrastination problem, and there are no better motivators than meeting deadlines and getting that check in! I tried to weed television out of my life, but with all these Planet Earth reruns and the constant election coverage, I can’t resist anymore! It’s a constant struggle with no shortcuts… sorry.

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?

I love this question! The whole time I was writing, I had a clear picture of Aishwayra Rai (even made a reference in the novel…) of Bride and Prejudice as Ranya, the doe-eyed, mocha-skinned beauty being taken for a ride by the ageing blond-bombshell cad, Jude Law. As for her studly but darker-humored savior Georges, my dream casting would be my current Hollywood crush – Javier Bardem. But the boys are supposed to be brothers and I have a hard time picturing Jude and Javier as remotely related!

For the driven and snarky Latina editor of Sueltate magazine where Ranya lands her first ever job, I can see Rosario Dawson (who shares the character’s first name!) with a no-nonsense pixie cut. Marisa Tomei would be great too.

As for Zahra, the slightly overweight, shy Palestinian accountant, I think Jennifer Aniston would be fabulous if she agreed to put on 30 pounds and be made up to look frumpy, à la Nicole Kidman in The Hours or Renee in her infamous take on Bridget Jones.

And for my favorite character of all, the unlikely young Latin hunk poised to rock Rio’s cynical world, I would love to see Jay Hernandez who totally rocked my world in Crazy/Beautiful opposite a nutty Kirstin Dunst.


GCC Presents: Roberta Isleib and Asking for Murder

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with reading mysteries (often murder mysteries, which, hmmm, I have to check in with my parents about why they allowed that!), and from the sound of Roberta Isleib's new book, Asking for Murder, I think I'm going to take them back up. This one, the third in her Dr. Rebecca Butterman series, sounds soooo juicy. I'm posting the scoop below, and then be sure to read on as she answers my usual five questions. I really, really liked her story on how she found an agent because it shows that determination and grit can definitely pay off in our industry.

Here's the scoop:

Psychologist/advice columnist/sleuth Dr. Rebecca Butterman plunges into her third mystery in ASKING FOR MURDER by Dr. Roberta Isleib (Berkley Prime Crime, September 2008.) When Rebecca’s close friend and fellow therapist Annabelle Hart is found beaten and left for dead, Rebecca is determined to help search for answers. But this time, no one wants her help. Not Detective Meigs, who thinks the crime was either a botched robbery or the result of a relationship gone sour. And not Annabelle’s sister, who makes it clear that Rebecca isn’t welcome in family affairs.

The only place where her opinion matters is the therapist’s couch. Rebecca's agreed to see Annabelle’s patients while her friend is hospitalized, but it won’t be easy. Annabelle’s area of expertise is sandplay therapy, which Rebecca knows little about. While she studies the images in the patients’ sand trays and puzzles through Annabelle’s family secrets, another victim is murdered. With a killer on the loose, she can only hope the clues in the sand are buried within easy reach.

1) What's the backstory behind your book?
When I wrote the first book in the advice column mysteries, I gave Dr. Rebecca Butterman, my protagonist, a friend who conducts sandplay therapy. I can't remember why--I knew virtually nothing about interpreting sand trays! So when Rebecca's friend, Annabelle Hart, became a main focus of ASKING FOR MURDER, I had to do some research. I found a wonderful therapist in New Hampshire who walked me through the theory and practice of sandplay--it's fascinating!

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?

I am a clinical psychologist and I had a therapy practice in New Haven, very similar to that of my character. After that, our lives diverge! I'm married to a lovely man who isn't in the mental health business (thank goodness!) and we live near Rebecca Butterman's town. I would never investigate a murder--I'm a very big chicken. I love to eat, but Rebecca is a better cook than I am!

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
I studied Elizabeth Lyon's The Sell Your Novel Toolkit and Jeff Herman's Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents. I contacted agents who had interests like mine (mystery, sports, psychology), or who had some feature in their personal background that made me think we might connect. I hired an independent editor to give me fairly inexpensive but useful feedback on my manuscript-she directed me to several agents. I attended mystery conventions and talked with people there about the process. I attended the International Women's Writers Guild "Meet the Agents" forum in New York City. I groveled in front of everyone I even remotely knew connected with the publishing business. And I suffered through multiple rejections and shouldered gamely forward, my skin toughening by the hour. Finally an agent I'd met at IWWG called: Another agent had visited her office, seen my manuscript, and fallen in love with it. We're still working together!

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What's your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
I have a serious email addiction. If I'm on a deadline, the best thing I can do is to work offline. I set mini-goals about how many words have to get done before I can check for mail. It works!

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal!
Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
I'd consider Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, and Meg Ryan as the three women friends. Probably Tom Hanks as the ex-husband...I'll take suggestions for Detective Meigs.


GCC Presents: Joanne Rendell and The Professors' Wives' Club

I love Joanne Rendell, an author friend who is also a busy mom and can commiserate with all of the juggling that we working moms do, and I also love the premise of her book, The Professors' Wives Club, which I picked up at Barnes and Noble last week. The premise reminded me a bit of Sex and the City for the academia set: strong friendships, strong women, life crises, life re-evaluations. Check out the description below, and then read on for words of wisdom from Jo herself. (I love her even more for copping to her Facebook addiction!) :)

In her new novel THE PROFESSORS’ WIVES’ CLUB, NYU faculty wife Joanne Rendell tells of four professors’ wives who risk everything to save a beloved faculty garden.

With its iron gate and high fence laced with honeysuckle, Manhattan University’s garden offers faculty wives Mary, Sofia, Ashleigh, and Hannah a much needed refuge. Each of them carries a scandalous secret that could upset their lives, destroy their families, and rock the prestigious university to its very core.

When a ruthless Dean tries to demolish the garden, the four women are thrown together in a fight which enrages and unites them. The wives are an indomitable force. While doing battle with the ambitious dean, they expose the dark underbelly of academia – and find the courage to stand up for their own dreams, passions, and lives.

1) What’s the backstory behind your book?
The initial inspiration The Professors' Wives' Club came amid a rather giggly, wine-soaked evening with one of my girlfriends who, like me, is a professor’s wife. After our usual catch-up, the cabernet began to flow and we found ourselves gossiping about other faculty wives. We talked about a wife planning a boob job; another pregnant with her fifth child. The best piece of gossip came last, however: a professor’s wife who’d just run off with one of her husband’s grad students.

The next morning I started to hammer out my first ideas for the novel. As I typed, the more I realized what intriguing characters professors’ wives would make. Even if they aren’t professors themselves (which many are), most professors’ wives are deeply connected and invested in the university where their husband or partner works. Like my friend and me, they live in faculty housing, they go to the campus gym, often their kids go to the same daycare. Yet these women often have little power when it comes to university decisions.

I liked the idea of pitting these seemingly powerless women against a dean who, in his little kingdom of the university, has so much power.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?

Well, I’m a professor's wife and my husband teaches at NYU which looks a lot like the Manhattan U., the university in my novel. Real life and real people sneak into the book, therefore. But they’re always heavily disguised, and I’m not telling exactly where. My husband likes his job at the university too much!

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
I was working on a writing project with a friend and through this friend I met my (now) agent. Almost as an aside, I mentioned to my agent the idea for a novel called The Professors’ Wives’ Club. I remember her looking me dead in the eye and saying, “Write it, it will sell.” So I did and, yep, it sold! Two publishers were interested in the book and there was an auction, which was all very exciting (especially because I was visiting family in Europe at the time and thus I received a flurry of phone calls in the middle of the night!). The Professors’ Wives' Club sold to New American Library in the end, and I’ve had a great experience working with them. They will be publishing my second book next summer (2009).

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What’s your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
Me too! I try hard not to check my emails or idle away time reading Facebook profiles of people I barely know, but somehow the ping of the email or the glow of the Facebook icon always lure me in. In the end, though, I know my writing time is limited. I write when my five year old son sleeps late in the morning. If I don’t write when he’s in the land of nod, then nothing gets done! So, after satisfying me email/Facebook urges, I unplug the internet cable and write for a couple of hours. I have to admit my best writing times have been at our little ramshackle cabin in upstate New York. We have no internet connection, and it's amazing how much I’ve been able to write there. In fact, I wrote nearly half of my second book last summer while at the cabin.

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
I would cast Susan Sarandon as Mary. Mary is the wife of the ruthless dean in the book and she’s also been on the receiving end of his violent temper. However, she is not some weak, shrinking violet of a woman. She is a successful writer and popular and commanding professor of writing at the university. I think Sarandon would capture these often very real contradictions and show how it is possible to be caught in an abusive marriage even if you are strong and successful woman.

Sofia would have to be played by someone like Selma Hayek. Sofia is a firecracker! She’s feisty and fun, but also sensitive, smart, and intensely loyal. Hayek, I think, could play this beautifully.

Hannah is an artist who’s stuck in a lukewarm marriage to a man who cannot seem to get over the fact his wife is no longer a fashion model. He loves her for her beauty and she wants him to see beyond that. I think Keira Knightley would make a great Hannah.

Finally, my character Ashleigh – who’s been hiding from her senator father the fact that she’s in a relationship with a woman – could be played by someone like Julia Stiles. Stiles was great in Mona Lisa Smile playing a young Wellesley woman who is trying to please those around her and quashing her own desires in the process. I see Ashleigh as a similar kind of role.


GCC Presents: Ellen Meister and The Smart One

Ellen Meister is not only one of my favorite authors, she's one of my favorite authors, and by that, I mean that she just totally rocks as a person. Sassy, fun, supportive. I love her. So that should be a high incentive for you guys to all check out her new book, THE SMART ONE. Here's the scoop:

Bev Bloomrosen thinks her sisters see her as a loser. Not that she minds being the Smart One, but she can't imagine she'll ever live up to her family's expectations ... especially since she left behind her artistic ambitions-along with her humor-impaired ex-husband-to pursue a career as a "mere" schoolteacher.

But her sisters have their own image problems. Clare, the Pretty One, married well and seems to have the perfect suburban life, yet worries that the paper thin fabric of her beautiful designer world is ripping apart. And Joey, the Wild One who had 15 minutes of fame as a one-hit-wonder rock star, struggles with sobriety and keeping the secret of her weirdest ambition yet.

They love each other but mix like oil, water, and hundred-proof gin . . . a combination that threatens to combust over family tensions, suspected infidelities, a devastating accident, a stunning confession, and the sudden reappearance of their handsome, now all-grown-up former neighbor, Kenny Waxman, who's back in town making his mark as a TV comedy writer.

It seems they'll never understand where their differences begin and their own destructive tendencies end. Then it happens: the sisters discover a decades-old body stuffed inside an industrial drum and begin a bold, heartbreaking, and sometimes hilarious journey that will either bring them together . . . or tear them apart for good.

Here, she stops by to answer some questions!

1) What's the backstory behind your book?
The inspiration for THE SMART ONE hit me from several different directions. I always wanted to write a sister story because that relationship intrigues me. This thought was floating around in my head when I got an offer on my first book, SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA. I was thrilled about the offer, but also in a minor panic about what it would mean to become a world-famous author. (I'll wait a few moments while you finish laughing.) Yes, I was terribly naive, and didn't realize I wouldn't even become a celebrity in my own house. Still, the thought passed though my head, and it made me wonder what it was about some people that made them actually covet fame. Was it something from their childhood? Something about the family dynamic?

I knew, then, that one of the sisters in my next novel would have to be a character who sought--and achieved--fame. It's not a major focus of the book, but it was a spark that started to make the story gel.

The other big inspiration was a news story that happened right in my home town. A man moving out of his home opened a sealed 55-gallon industrial drum that had been in a crawl space since he moved in ... only to discover a mummified body inside. It was a young woman, nine months pregnant, who had been killed thirty years before. After she was identified as a factory employee of the home's original owner, who had since retired, the detectives went to Florida to question him. They wanted to get a sample of his DNA to test against the fetus's, but before they could serve a warrant for it, the man shot and killed himself.

This happened so close to home that it captured my imagination and wouldn't let go. How could something like this happen in an ordinary suburban home in an ordinary suburban town? How did the killer keep his secret for so long? And how did it affect the people around him?

Of course, I had no intention of writing a true crime story, so I simply used this macabre event as the inspiration for a discovery made by my three adult sister characters ... and it became the catalyst that drives the arc of their relationship.

2) What do you love most about writing fiction? What do you like least?
My favorite part is hearing from readers who I've touched in some way. That makes the whole thing worthwhile. The despair hits when I realize I have to unravel a large chunk of a novel in order to make a change. It's so overwhelming. I start out in a panic thinking there's just no way I can do it. Then I roll up my sleeves and get to work.

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
A lot of time, work and rejection! Wish I had some magic shortcut to suggest, but I don't. Step one is to finish your manuscript and get it as perfect as possible. Step two is to write a kickass query letter, keeping in mind that you're trying to be the one an agent chooses out of hundreds. Most of all, remember that almost every successful writer has a long history of rejections. Keep at it!

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What's your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
I, too, suffer from procrastination. Web-surfing is my downfall. Caffeine is my friend. Deadlines also help, so if you don't have someone breathing down your neck, create your own deadlines.

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
My main character, Bev, could be played by Gwyneth Paltrow or Jennifer Aniston. I think they could both be smart, funny and sarcastic. The younger sister, Joey--the wild one and former one-hit-wonder rock star--could be well played by Maggie Gyllenhaal or Drew Barrymore. The beautiful older sister, Clare, is a little tougher because she's voluptuous in a real woman sense (and not in a Hollywood "I weigh 93-pounds but have double-D breast implants" kind of way). So Scarlett Johansson comes to mind, only she's a little too young, and Charlize Theron is a bit too statuesque. Such problems!


GCC Presents Jackie Kessler and Hotter Than Hell

If you're even remotely hooked into the book biz, then you know that vampire/demon books are the rage these days. Just look at Stephanie Meyers' success! Now that she's wrapped up her series, I can think of no better successor than Jackie Kessler! I met Jackie over at Backspace a few years ago, and seriously, beyond crafting juicy novels, she is such a champion and cheerleader of other writers that I really do encourage you to support her by picking up a copy of her book.

Here are a few details on Hotter Than Hell, the sequel to The Road to Hell. And then Jackie kindly answers my usual questions.

Whose soul do you have to damn to get a promotion around here?

Daunuan was never the ambitious type. There's so much to love about his job just the way it is—mind-blowing sexual prowess, the power to seduce any human, excellent dental plan. But now Pan, the King of Lust, has offered to make Daun his right-hand incubus—a position other demons would give their left horn for. All he has to do is entice a soul destined for heaven into a damnable act of lust. Should take, oh, seven minutes, tops.

Then he meets his target, Virginia Reed. She’s cute. Funny. Smart. Unfathomably resistant to his charms. He can’t understand it. But Daun has centuries of seduction to his credit. He’s the best there is. Sooner or later he’ll transform this polar icecap of a female into a pool of molten desire, and every instinct tells him she’ll be worth the effort.

Meanwhile, he has to deal with a plague of rogue demons Hell-bent on taking him down, sent by an unknown enemy with a serious grudge. And one other problem: the dawning realization that he’s falling in love—that unholiest of four-letter words—with the woman he’s about to doom for all eternity...

1) What’s the backstory behind your book?
Ever since Jezebel mentioned her buddy, the sexy incubus who could make her sweet spot tingle without even touching her, Daunuan refused to be just a minor character. Originally, he was going to be the one who shot Jezebel in Hell’s Belles and then he was going to get killed by Paul. But the book took a completely different direction from what I’d imagined, and next thing I knew, Daun was (shudder) helping Jezebel instead of hunting her. And then in The Road to Hell, his feelings for her became quite clear—to me, if not to him and Jesse. Demons don’t love, after all. So what he was feeling must have been nothing more than indigestion. (No one ever said demons were the smartest creatures out there.) I knew that I wanted to write Daun’s story, but it took a while for me to figure out what sort of story it would be. Daun’s in Hell, and Jesse’s with Paul, which doesn’t do much for a happily ever after for him. Did Daun even deserve a happy ending? He’s a demon—an Evil creature who has sex on the brain pretty much all the time. What would he know of love? What if he had to find out the hard way? Poor Daun. He never knew what hit him. (Hee hee hee…) And thus, HOTTER THAN HELL.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?
I swear up and down, I’m not a demon. No matter what my mother might think.

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
I started getting serious about wanting to be a published author in 2003. That year, I worked on what I referred to as my Great American Novel, or GAN. It was a contemporary fantasy—that is, it had characters from Here suddenly appear There, a place where magic was real. Chaos ensued. (I know: strikingly original, right?) By January 2004, I was ready to start the querying process. By January 2005, I had scored more than triple-digit rejections. That’s when I started a new novel, this one a chick-lit story. I wrote it in five months and started querying. I quickly got 40 rejections, but most of them were actually personalized, saying that they loved the first person, sassy voice but didn’t like the story. So I took the fantasy from the first book and the sassy narrator from the second book and merged them, aiming for a “magical chick-lit” style. And I wrote HELL’S BELLES, which is about a demon who runs away from Hell, hides on Earth as an exotic dancer, and learns the hard way about true love. (Sex, strippers and demons; what’s not to like?) And I queried…and wound up getting five offers of representation. I selected one to be my agent, and he sold the novel to Kensington in a three-book deal one week later. (FYI, HELL’S BELLES is getting reissued as a mass-market paperback in September 2008. Smaller and cheaper—life is good!)

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What’s your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
Usually, I write first thing in the morning, before my day job, and then at night, when my Precious Little Tax Deductions are sleeping. (Yeah, I get very little sleep.) No real rituals, although there are times when I simply must have music playing (like when I’m writing a club scene with Jesse, or if a dynamic character is making a first appearance). Motivation? Well, deadlines are a good one. J Once you’re contracted, you have to make your deadlines. For the stories that aren’t contracted yet, those tend to wait until the Muse moves me. (Sometimes with a crane, but hey, it’s still movement.)

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
Ooh. Anyone other than Demi Moore can be Jezebel. And as for Daunhmm. I just saw The Dark Knight, and let me tell you, Christian Bale is seriously doing it for me. Hee hee hee

6.) What's your favorite part of writing? Starting something new? Revising what you've already got drafted? Developing characters? The plot? Something else all together?
Getting lost in the writing, where a scene just sucks me in. Man, there’s no rush like when you’re on a roll, and you know every single word you’re crafting is exactly right. When I’m doing it right, it’s almost like the characters are the ones doing the writing, and all I’m doing is transcribing for them.


GCC Presents: Jess Riley and Driving Sideways

I've mentioned Jess Riley and her new book (a perfect beach read), Driving Sideways, on the blog before, but I'm really excited to tour her today as part of GCC because her road to publication is awfully similar to a lot of readers' roads, which is to say that it was easy, but she persvered, and now, voila, here she is. Before we get to my questions and her answers, here's some scoop on the book:

Leigh Fielding wants a life. Seriously. Having spent the past five years on dialysis, she has one simple wish: to make it to her thirtieth birthday. Now, thanks to the generosity of the late Larry Resnick and his transplanted kidney, it looks like her wish may come true.

With her newfound vitality (and Larry’s kidney) in tow, Leigh hits the road for an excursion that will carry her from Wisconsin to California, with a few stops in between: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the Rockies, Las Vegas–and a memorable visit to thank Larry’s family for the second chance. Yet Leigh’s itinerary takes a sudden detour when she picks up a seventeen-year-old hitchhiker, Denise, a runaway with a bunch of stories and a couple of secrets. Add a long-lost mother, a loaded gun, an RV full of swingers, and Hall and Oates’s Greatest Hits to the mix, and Driving Sideways becomes a hilarious and original journey of friendship, hope, and discovery.

1) What’s the backstory behind your book?

I started Driving Sideways in the summer of 2004, after a near three-year hiatus from fiction writing. Based on the lessons learned from my previous ‘practice novel,’ (which shall forever remain unpublished, and deservedly so), I wanted to tell a story that was both fun to write and a little different. So after my What-If moment (“What if a young woman has a kidney transplant and convinces herself she’s channeling the traits of her donor—tastes in music, food, hobbies, etc.—only to learn she’s completely wrong about him or her?”), I created the character of Leigh Fielding, who sees her new kidney as a catalyst to tie up the loose ends of her life by taking a cross-country roadtrip.

I wanted to make it somewhat outlandish, somewhat raunchy, somewhat heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful. The research for the book was fascinating, and I stumbled across the reason for Leigh’s failed kidney almost by accident—Polycystic Kidney Disease. It’s the most common life-threatening genetic disease in the world, and there is no cure, yet most people haven’t heard of it. I’ve been humbled by the book’s reception from PKD patients and their families, and it has since become a cause I support.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?

Many of the amusing anecdotes are true, including some of the more off-the-wall bits (yes, there really WAS an ad campaign like that conducted by Geoffrey with a G, and the way the ‘real life’ Larry died was even more unbelievable than that in the story). I also took the same road trip my characters did, with my own best friend, at least twice (possibly more—it all blurs together now). Speaking of which, my best friend was the inspiration for Jillian, and she was a fantastic sport about it.

But I did not have a kidney transplant necessitated by renal failure, and both of my parents are living and still together. I don’t have an overprotective older brother, either. That said, people who know me well tell me that “Leigh is totally YOU!” (concerning her outlook on life, neuroses, use of humor as a coping mechanism).

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?

First, I learned some hard lessons about craft and market trends by having my initial attempt at a novel roundly rejected. But four years later, I parlayed those lessons into Driving Sideways, the first three chapters of which I entered in two very different writing contests to ‘test the waters’ before querying agents again: the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and the Get Your Stiletto In The Door competition. I was floored to learn Driving Sideways was one of eight finalists (from 600 entrants) in the James Jones contest, and the only one of 200 entrants in the Stiletto competition to receive requests for the full manuscript by the two final judges (an agent and an editor). My goal was for the editor to like it enough to request the full manuscript, and as soon as I had that name, I subscribed to Publisher’s Marketplace and looked up every agent that had ever sold to her. I sent out 10 query letters, was able to choose between 4 agents (I was floored!), and we sold Driving Sideways at auction just before Christmas in 2005. It was very nearly orphaned when my editor left our acquiring house (HarperCollins) for Random House, but amazingly enough, I was able to shift my contract to Random. The book’s release was delayed by one year, but I got to stay with the editor who gets me and my book.

And now, the book’s been out for five weeks, and I just learned it’s going back for a second printing…I’m so, so glad I didn’t quit writing back in 2002, when I was so discouraged by rejection that I very nearly did!

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What’s your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?

Oh, I hear you on this one!! Lately, my routine has been “Procrastinate all day with email, walking the dog, watching the cute wren family in the backyard, read a magazine, walk the dog again, write some blog entries, and talk on the phone.” But I do squeeze in some late-night fiction writing. In a perfect world, I will find a way to balance the promotion of book number one with the writing of book number two—I think I need to divvy up the day somehow. I have until October to figure it out, when I return to my day job.

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
I wish there was a female equivalent of the Judd Apatow crowd—we need more quirky, salty, snarky Ellen Page-type actresses. A whole brat pack of ‘em. There are plenty of roles for young women in Hollywood, but comedy (think the girl version of Superbad or Swingers) remains elusive. I think Ellen Page would make a great Leigh, and Amanda Seyfried would make a great Jillian (or an unexpectedly fun Denise). Maybe Rainn Wilson as Chris? I like Paul Rudd and Vince Vaughn, but they’re a little too old for Leigh.


GCC Presents Amy Wallen and Moonpies and Movie Stars

Yes! I know! I have questions to answer from you guys! (And keep sending 'em!) But I'm still also doing my GCC tours, so today, I'm thrilled to present Amy Wallen (a new member of the GCC!) and her book, Moonpies and Movie Stars, which is newly out in paperback. Not only should you pick up this book because the Los Angeles Times calls it, "spirited and honest," but you should also pick it up because there is a major plot involving The Price is Right! (If you've read The Department, you know why I love this!) Here's some more scoop on the book, along with Amy's answers to a few of my questions. (I particularly appreciate her answers to the first and on why she doesn't "write what she knows.) Check it out. And have a safe and happy holiday!

Ruby Kincaid has her hands full these days. In addition to running the bowling alley after the death of her husband, Rascal, she has the daunting task of caring for her two boisterous grandchildren, since her daughter Violet disappeared without a trace four years earlier. It’s 1976 and Ruby and her nearest and dearest in Devine, Texas are watching their favorite soap opera at the bowling alley when they see Violet in a Buttermaid commercial. Expecting it will only take a little motherly guilt to rein in her wayward daughter, Ruby loads up the Winnebago and heads for Hollywood to try and bring Violet back to the Lone Star State.

Along for the ride are Imogene, Violet’s over-bearing and pretentious mother-in-law (who’s ready to assume the title of “celebrity-in-law”), and Loralva, Ruby’s wild sister who is itching to visit Tinsel Town because it’s where all the game shows are taped – and nothing’s going to stop her from making it to her favorite, The Price Is Right. Rounding out the group are Ruby’s grandchildren Bunny and Bubbie who are confused, sad, and excited at the prospect of finding their mother. They give Ruby the courage she needs to track Violet down and try to make things right.

1) What’s the backstory behind your book? Also, it seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?

My main character is a woman named Ruby who is in her 50s, lives in a small town in Texas called Devine, and she owns a six-lane bowling alley. None of which I can say I have ever done. Although I’m working my way to my 50s, but I was only 34 when I started the book (I’m 44 now). I believe that there are at least 3 kinds of writing: autobiography (fact), just straight made up stories (fiction) and a combination of the two. I believe I am the 2nd kind. I make stuff up. Ruby did stem from my grandmother who lives in a small town in Texas, and is an entrepreneur owning many different kinds of businesses, but never a bowling alley. I had to research that—spending many hours learning to bowl (badly) and eating fried cheese, drinking Coors Light and wearing goofy shoes. I used to go to writing workshops and take early drafts of my novel. The others in the workshop would read my work and then look at me and say, “You’re not the person that wrote this.” Well, I am. I don’t believe in the expression, “write what you know.” I think the best creativity comes when you write what you don’t know. When you explore, dig around, delve into the stuff that intrigues you. Something about my grandmother’s go-getter personality interested me, I guess. But another major character, Loralva, Ruby’s sister is also based on my grandmother. My grandmother is such a big personality that she had to be two characters in my book. But the story, the plot line, none of that really happened to my grandmother. She used to always ask me, “How come you live out in California and you ain’t never been on one of them game shows.” So I put a Price is Right scene in the book, just for her. But she never was on one, but she dreamed of it. Maybe writing is my way of giving her that.

2) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?My agent gets credit for that. She knew immediately where to send my book. I signed with her, Meg Ruley at the Jane Rotrosen Agency in NYC, one April and by Memorial Day I was deciding between two different publishing houses. This was a good example of why it’s so important to look for an agent who really loves and knows your work. If they represent other work similar to yours, then they have a good idea of where to send it.

3) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What’s your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?

Procrastination. I think what I’m doing right now could be considered procrastination. On the other hand, it’s important to keep the publicity side going too. It’s a tough call balancing all the things we have to do in life. You can’t just put your kids out on the front porch like I can my cats when they are bothering me. But sometimes, cleaning the refrigerator out can sound like a whole lot more fun than writing. I try to approach writing like a regular 9-5 job and sit down at my desk and turn off my email and go at it as long as I can. Inevitably something interrupts me, a cat wanting out, a Fedex guy bringing me the stuff I ordered from catalogs last week when I was procrastinating, or a nagging feeling that I should really organize the shoes in my closet Some days, the 9-5 thing works though.

4) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?

You know, I should subscribe to People magazine because I don’t know diddly about celebrities past 1982. But a few people have told me they think Kathy Bates could be a great Ruby Kincaid. And I think I would die a happy person if Jessica Lange would play Loralva. I interviewed Valerie Bertinelli at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival at the end of April and she told me on the golf cart riding over to our stage that she was reading MoonPies and Movie Stars wanted to play Ruby in the movie. I think she would be the best Ruby I can think of. She’s even somewhat how I pictured Ruby—medium length dark hair, loveliest disposition and smile. I think her personality is not too far away from what I see Ruby being, so I think it could be an easy role for her. But I haven’t heard anything else from her. If anyone knows her and can stick a reminder in her ear, I’d pass on a free case of MoonPies.

5) What's your favorite part of writing? Starting something new? Revising what you've already got drafted? Developing characters? The plot? Something else all together?

When I’m creating something new, I feel like that’s the best part. Until it hits a road block. Then it’s hard and I think I should get a job at Home Depot in the tile department (I just retiled my bathroom, so I’m expert now). When I’m editing or rewriting, I feel like that’s the best part. So, I think that I love the whole process. None of it is ever boring. (If it is then I need to rewrite that section!) Overall, I believe in just moving forward and making sure I’m enjoying whatever I’m doing because life is too short, and my cats are sure to interrupt at some point.