Thursday, October 30, 2008

New York Times Best Seller Time of My Life

I am ecstatic to write NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER Allison Winn Scotch dropped by to answer my questions about her Best Selling Book Time of My Life.

Tell us about your latest book.

Time of My Life is the story about a woman who, on the surface, seems to have it all. But when you peel back her layers, you discover that she is deeply unhappy and has lingering “what ifs” about her past. Rather than face her current problems, she wakes up one day seven year in her past – at her old job, with her old boyfriend – and has the opportunity to rewrite her future.

What pulled you into this story, and as a writer made you think ‘I have to write this’?

I knew I wanted to write a book that dealt with time-travel in some way…the last episodes of Felicity were among my favorite hours of television EVER, and I was drawn to doing something like that. But I didn’t know how to sort it out in my mind. In fact, I mentioned something to my agent about “time-travel” for my next book, and I think she thought I was nuts! But then one afternoon while this was on my mind, my best friend called while she was on vacation in a city of her ex-boyfriend, and she said, “I’m so weirded out…I can’t stop thinking about what my life might have been like.” Then we had one of those intimate life conversations that you can only have with your closest friends about her what-ifs and my what-ifs, and how this was all very normal, even though people didn’t really talk about it. We hung up, and I headed out for a run, and bam, the idea, characters and plotlines just presented themselves very clearly. I came home, wrote what are now the first 14 pages, and sent them off to my agent, who flipped for them. I think, as so many of us get older and look back on our younger years with nostalgia, it’s very easy (and normal) to consider what the other possibilities could have been – and I wanted to explore that.

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

I guess you could call my process organic. I start with a plot idea - in this case, as I mentioned, I wanted to explore what-ifs and second chances. But the character very much define where the book goes from there. Jillian presented herself to me immediately – her voice and her situation rang very clearly to me on the run I just mentioned – so I came home and wrote HER story, that happened to fit into my plot. But from there, I let her (and the other characters) dictate what happens…often times, a book will go in an unanticipated direction because the characters lead me there. Which I why I don’t work from an outline – it seems like an exercise in futility.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

When I’m in the writing groove, which I’m not right now, I have a pretty specific schedule because with two kids and a dog to walk, I don’t have a choice. It also really, really helps curb my constant procrastination. So, basically, I drop my son off at school and take a little walk to clear my head. I’m get home, eat breakfast and surf any necessary junky gossip or writing sites that I absolutely can’t live without before I start work. I usually set a time limit for myself because if not, I will do this for the entire day – seriously Facebook or JCrew or can suck me in forever – so at 10:30 or so, I start writing. I set a word count for myself, when I’m really in the groove, it’s about 2k a day – and this usually takes me about 2 hours to reach. Once I’m there, I break for errand running/lunch picking up/gym, and then if I have magazine stuff to tackle, I do so afterward in the mid-afternoon. Then, I’m off to walk the dog (he gets walked in the morning, so he gets a good romp in with his friends), and then, by 6pm, my sitter leaves, and I’m whipping up dinner for my kids. (And by whipping up, I usually mean nuking something moderately healthy. Let’s not kid ourselves here.)

Do you have a vice that you’ve given up, but long to continue?

Does sleeping in count? J Because that’s the one luxury that I really miss these days. All through my life, I’ve been a champion sleeper – I even modified my major in college when I discovered that one of the required classes met at 8 AM, and I knew that I wouldn’t make it. But now, with two kids, I’m up waaaaay too early for anyone’s good, and I truly long for the days when I can pass out and not wake up until my body is truly ready to. Oh, wow, just thinking about it makes me want to cry.

How do you promote your books? Are you going on tour for this book? Any upcoming signings?

I am doing a few signings, but the truth is that with two small kids, I’m not anxious to jet all over the nation in the hopes that some strangers will show up and ask for my autograph. Instead, I’ve found that using the web for promotion can be much more efficient (and you don’t have to worry about losing your luggage!). So I’m guest-blogging on a host of sites, and my publisher is also running ad campaigns on a variety of sites like I think that visibility is the key to selling books: I read somewhere that a consumer has to see your book cover three times for it to really make an impact, so any place that I can get that cover and title out in front of people, I am. I’ve also been really fortunate, really, really fortunate, I should say, to have gotten a lot of magazine coverage in places like Redbook, Cosmo, Family Circle, and Hallmark, so certainly, that is a big boost.

For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?

Oh geez, this feels a little bit like asking a celebrity what’s the worst part about being famous! But right now, the most difficult thing for me is coming up with my next big idea. I’ve been starting and stopping several attempts at books, but none of them seem to compare to Time of My Life. I’m sure that this is just undue pressure I’m placing on myself, but I can’t seem to get over it. That said, I write my best when the idea just hits me, as it did for Time of My Life, and as it did for my first book, so I’m sort of sitting around, waiting. (And spending too much time on the web!) I suppose the other down side of being an author is that really, your future is basically the great unknown – who knows if your efforts will be published, and if so, if anyone will like them anyway? But for me, that’s also what makes this a great life: I love knowing that I’m at the helm of my career, and that for the most part, I can steer it wherever I like.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Solid As Barack

I laughed so hard at this I cried... Wow this election is bringing out the very best of SNL! Plus I am a huge Maya Rudolph fan.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hollywood Girls Club

Hey all! A friend of mine just sent me a link to Highheels and Lipgloss (is that a FANTASTIC name or what)! The blogger reviewed Hollywood Girls Club. So great to read that although the book came out 18 months ago people are still discovering Lydia, Cici, Mary Anne and Jessica and loving the ladies as much as I do!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cutting Loose by Nadine Dajani

Not only did Nadine Dajani stop by to answer some questions about her latest book Cutting Loose but she's also gave me a copy of Cutting Loose to give to my blog readers! Wow! Gotta' love that. So the first person who emails me at gets a copy of Nadine's latest book!

Tell us about your latest book.

This is the first time I attempted multiple POV and I loved it! It’s the story of
Ranya, a petrodollar heiress of sorts who discovers the traditional Middle-Eastern husband she was supposed to be saving herself for all these years (she’s past 30 now!) would rather jump Paolo the decorator than her. Unable to deal with the humiliation in a close knit society that lives for gossip and scandal, she flees to the city of her heart, London. One chance encounter with a Miami millionaire duty-free shopping mogul later and she’s off to work at the first job she’s ever held down in her entire life.
That also where she meets Rio, a Latina editor-in-chief with a serious chip of her shoulder, and her reluctant roommate Zahra, who hates Ranya’s living guts (she’s gorgeous, got legs up to their, and has got the love of Zahra’s life drooling over her… wouldn’t you?) but who needs the extra money to send back to her struggling family in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. There’s a lot of chick lit whimsy in the book (magazine setting, sexual intrigue, female friendships and rivalry) set again some seriously explosive issues: the fate of ‘illegals’ in the US, the conditions of Palestinian captivity under occupation, discrimination and racism. And yet I managed to throw in plenty of hot n’ heavy love scenes in there – don’t ask me how!

What pulled you into this story, and as a writer made you think ‘I have to write this’?

My books tend to reflect whatever issues are haunting me at a given point in time, the problems I’m noticing people around me are facing. With Cutting Loose, I didn’t have much choice with the launching point since I knew it would be a spin-off of my first novel, Fashionably Late, that picks up Ranya’s story. Ranya for me represents the whole subset of girls that Jane Austen might have described as ‘silly’ and who we still see plenty of, whether it’s on those Girls Gone Wild videos here in North America, or these idle, wealthy, sheltered women in the Middle East who don’t seem to care about very much. It was challenging to make Ranya sympathetic, so I made her funny and self-reflective. The only way to put up with a snob is if that snob had a sense of humor! But when it came to the rest of the story, I was very driven by taking familiar stereotypes and turning them on their ear – Rio, the editor-in-chief of a Latina magazine, has a one-woman vendetta against the waif-ish, homogenous cast of most fashion magazines, Zahra is a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem, possibly from one of the oldest Christian families in the world, and the boys are from a fifth-generation Lebanese-American family based loosely on the Maloufs of New Mexico, self-made multi-millionaires who own the Palms casino in Vegas, an entertainment channel, some sports team… Lebanese and Syrian immigrants also played their part in American frontier legend, and we don’t get to hear their rags-to-riches story often. The story Georges tells Ranya about how his family came to America and built their fortune is a historically accurate account. I feel that the story of each and every character in Cutting Loose is a thread in the tapestry that is North American culture.

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

It’s an extremely erratic process – isn’t that terrible? For any writers starting out – please do not take this as license to be erratic… it is NOT the best way to work. Unfortunately, I find that if I don’t get in a ton of “thinking time” up front and don’t work out the characters’ issues from the get go, it’s difficult for me to start. But once I have a few “Ah Ha!” moments under my belt, I get started and zip through the first draft. If I start earlier than I feel comfortable starting, I end up throwing out most of what I’ve written at the beginning. So to answer your question – a whole lot of daydreaming for many months, then a few hours a night to get the broad strokes down, and then cramming as I would for an exam – getting 4 or 5 thousand words out in one sitting, wherever I can squeeze in the time, usually right after work and doe many hours in a row! It’s a harrowing schedule, but so far it’s worked for me.

If you could only own and read 5 books for the rest of your life, (excluding your own) what five books would you choose?

Only five??! I read so much – anything I can get my hands on – that this is really tough! I’ll do my best:

The Blue Castle by Lucy Maude Montgomery. If you like the character of Elizabeth Bennet and you haven’t read this one, I beg you to check it out of the library TODAY. It’s the only book of LC Montgomery’s body of work written for an adult audience and is just so uplifting it’s hard to do it justice. Don’t just take my word for it – read the Amazon reviews. For such an old, relatively obscure little book, the number of reviews and the extremely high level of praise is astounding – and well deserved. Valancy Stirling is the ultimate chick lit heroine – and she’s Canadian to boot!

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – this is a play, so I may be cheating, but I cannot stress enough that I hate plays. So for this to top my list of best 5 books ever, it must on hell of a play.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I am due for a re-read of this 1400 page monster. Though if I can’t read anything else for the rest of my life, maybe 1400 pages is a good thing?... Again, don’t let the oversimplified movie fool you, this is an extraordinary book.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen… but of course!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – I think I cheated a bit by picking a craft book rather than straight fiction, but Anne is a hilarious, humble writer who manages to inspire with every word. I’ve read this book a bazillion times already and would do it again.

For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?

The onus of publicity is on the author, and that’s tough. It’s extremely time consuming, erratic, and expensive. But, as with pretty much anything, success depends on finding innovative ways to get the word out and network tirelessly… which at the end of the day just means playing nice and making friends with people. And how bad is that, really?

What do you love about being an author?

I love the process of intimate communication with complete strangers that writing affords. I got an e-mail today from someone I’ve never met, who’s not part of RWA or any writing network – just a random person who saw my books in bookstore, bought them, and liked them enough to take the trouble to write me and tell me so. When I tell curious people how many books I’ve sold (people love to ask that question – it’s nuts!), I sometimes think about how insignificant that number might be next to a Stephen King or a Sophie Kinsella, but then I think hey – it’s still thousands and thousands of people. Thousands! It’s really amazing when you think about it in that way.

What’s next for you?

I’m contracted for one more book with Forge that I am hard at work at… I won’t say much other than expect this one to be even more “real” seeing how riveted I am with the financial industry that’s swallowed up the companies and banks I’ve worked for most of my adult life. But it’ll be just as fun as Cutting Loose anyway… promise!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Water Witch by Deborah LeBlanc

Another Girlfriend with another brand-spanking new book. Water Witch by Deborah LeBlanc hits bookstores today.

Deborah stopped by with some words of wisdom for writers as well as non-writers...

And The Man Said by Deborah LeBlanc

When I first started writing, I had been in business for more years than I cared to remember. At first, I thought the two entities (writing and business) had absolutely nothing in common, so I tried separating the two. It didn’t take long for me to realize how big a mistake that assumption was. Writing is a business, just different from the ones I was used to. Needless to say, though, as I restructured my thinking and attempted to merge the two together, I met with frustration of the highest order. Argg! As some of you have heard me spout off about before, publishing does not follow any standard business practice known to man, woman, or wooly-back orangutan. It’s its own worst enemy at times.

That being said, however, I decided to take the advice of a man I’d admired for years. One whose wisdom has helped me understand the meaning of success, which inevitably moved me up the ladder in quite a few corporations. I figured why not use those same principles in writing?

So I did. And I’ll be damn if they didn’t prove to be just as true in the publishing business as in any other venture.

I thought I’d share some of that guy’s wisdom with you today….

"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.

The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel-these are the things that endure and these are the qualities that are so much more important than any of the events that occasion them.

Success is like anything worthwhile. It has a price. You have to pay the price to win and you have to pay the price to get to the point where success is possible. Most important, you must pay the price to stay there.

Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent's pressure, and the temporary failures.

If you'll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives.

Remember, it's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up."

----Vince Lombardi

What or who has inspired you to keep pushing forward when life gets tough?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Palin vs. Biden SNL Style

Lorne Michael, Tina Fey and every writer at SNL must be hoping election seasons lasts FOREVER! Another great one.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Looking Forward to Thursday!

Wow. Who do you think is better qualified?

Happy Birthday Butterbean!

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday dear Buuuuutttterbean!
Happy Birthday to you!