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!


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