Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Fidelity Files by Jessica Brody

Some of you may remember that Jessica Brody stopped by a couple months ago with her latest release The Fidelity Files...but Jessica is one of our newest GCC members. Welcome Jessica! I have the pleasure of hosting her and her fabulous book a second time...

Tell us about your latest release and the inspiration behind it.

The Fidelity Files is the story of a beautiful, L.A. woman who works as an undercover “fidelity inspector,” hired by suspicious wives and girlfriends to test the faithfulness of the men in their lives. Except no one in her life knows what she does. Her friends and family all think she works for an investment bank.

Before I became a full-time writer, I worked in a very corporate environment. And like all corporate jobs, there were a certain number of “alcohol-related” events that I was expected to attend. I would often find myself at work happy hour functions in nearby bars, observing the interactions between single and non-single co-workers as their behaviors gradually declined from professional to something else entirely. Something hardly capable of being described as “appropriate.”

Witnessing these “indiscretions” upset me on a profound level. I secretly wished that someone would tell the “conveniently” absent significant others about what their husbands/wives/boyfriends/ girlfriends/fiancés really did while attending these “obligatory” and supposedly “uneventful” work functions. But I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to do it. I was brave enough to think it…but not exactly brave enough to go knocking on people’s doors with bad news. You know what people tend to do to “the messenger.”

So instead I created a character whose job and purpose in life was to do just that. To reveal the truth to anyone who wanted to know. To knock on all the doors that I never had the courage to knock on. An invincible superhero-esque woman whose quest is to fight against the evils of infidelity. But of course, she soon finds out…she’s not as invincible as she once thought.

What's been your biggest surprise about getting published?

How LONG it takes for a book to hit the shelves! Holy cow! I was a young woman when I sold that thing. I really wasn’t expecting it to take that long. I thought six months maybe, nine tops. But from the time I got the publishing deal to the time it was actually available in stores was 19 months! And I recently sold a YA novel to another publisher and that one is going to take 24 months to release. I’m still not entirely sure why it takes so long but that was definitely an unpleasant surprise. Especially for someone like me who get frustrated when it takes longer than ten seconds for music to download.

Do you write from a character or from a plot idea?

I’m definitely more driven by character. I like thinking up interesting characters with intriguing back stories and then forming a world around them. Like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a story about a woman who tests men’s fidelity for a living?” Then I go forward from there. “What would her life be like?” And “What kind of interesting things would happen to someone like that?”

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

The writing process is very random for me. It all depends on the day. Because I tend to be equally right and left brained, sometimes I feel as though the writing process is just a constant struggle (or sometimes clash) between the two sides of my brain to come up with a consistent way to write a novel. I write outlines, because my analytical side tells me it’s the right thing to do, but then halfway through the story, I come to the conclusion that I only write outlines so that I’ll have something to deviate from. I create complicated spreadsheets (a nod back to my days as a strategic analyst) for my storylines and page counts and pacing only to abandon them halfway through. And yet, despite this seemingly random chaos, it all feels perfectly natural to me. As if it was designed specifically for a purpose. So I suppose, my lack of a defined process is a process in itself.

Now that you are published, what (if anything) have you changed about your writing routine?

I hate to say it, but I tend to procrastinate a lot more now than I ever did before I got published. I think there’s something about that desperation for a book deal that keeps you on track. Now, I just find so many other things to do. It’s really bad! In terms of actual writing, I think I’ve definitely grown as a writer since I got published and I’m learning to trust my instincts more when it comes to what is working and what isn’t. I used to fight that voice inside that says, “This scene really sucks,” convinced that I wasn’t experienced to know what I was talking about. Now, when I hear that voice, I listen and start pounding on that delete key.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

My favorite part of writing is definitely the beginning of the story. There’s nothing more exciting and inspiring than a fresh new idea and a blank piece of paper. The possibilities are endless, the promise is huge and the character is brand new. It’s like that first four-hour long conversation with a new guy. So much hope for where it could go!

What advice would you give to other writers trying to get published?

Take criticism. Believe in your work and stand behind it, but don’t be afraid to make changes. Try to be as objective as possible when it comes to your writing (I know how impossible that sounds) but it will only help you in the long run. Use rejections to evolve yourself as a writer, not just to line your waste basket. When someone rejects your work and offers a reason, don’t just blow it off and claim that they “didn’t get it” or that they clearly didn’t read it closely enough, dissect it and try to figure out if what they’re saying makes sense and if it will inevitably help your work. There a lot of people in this industry—agents, editors, other writers, etc.—who know what they’re talking about and know what it takes to make a book work. After all, that’s what they get paid for! Listen to them with open ears and grateful hearts. There’s a fine balance between staying true to your art and being open for suggestions, try to stay somewhere in the middle. If they “didn’t get it,” chances are, readers won’t get it either. And you won’t be there to explain it to them in the middle of Barnes and Noble.

What’s next for you? Is there a new book in the pipeline?

Oh, gosh, I have so many things going on right now, it’s hard to keep track! Although, this question may help me get my head around everything. I just finished the first draft of the sequel to The Fidelity Files which St. Martin’s is publishing in Fall of 2009 and is yet untitled. That’ll also be out in the UK around the same time. I’m waiting to get my revision notes back on that so I can go for round two. Also, I just finished revising the manuscript for my new young adult book, THE KARMA CLUB, which FSG is publishing in spring of 2010. And I recently started a new YA series that I’m super excited about and will hopefully try to sell early next year. AND…one of the screenplays I co-wrote just got financed for a feature film so we hope to start shooting that in April. Yes, I know, I’m a masochist. What can I say, idleness is my only enemy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead

Fellow GCCer, Saralee Rosenberg, has a new book out! Her new book Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead just hit store shelves. She answered some questions about her process as an author as well as questions about her latest book.

What was the inspiration for your new novel?

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 homerun. 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.

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

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.

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

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?

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

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.

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

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.

When deadlines hit, what happens in your house?

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.

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

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!!!!

What comes first? The title or the idea?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

What is your writer fantasy?

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!”

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

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.

What is up next for you?

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.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Invisible Touch by Kelly Parra

The FABULOUS Kelly Parra stopped by to answer my questions about her newest book .

Tell us about your latest book.

Invisible Touch is about Kara Martinez. Kara was in a tragic accident at eleven and lost her father, yet also gained something else--visions. Or "signs" that she sees on individuals' torsos. She must piece these signs together like a puzzle and do her best to stop unfortunate fates. When she sees the sign of a gun on a fellow classmate, the latest mystery takes her into dangerous territory. The danger increases with a new relationship with a boy from the wrong side of town. Invisible Touch has mystery, romance, and family drama, and I'm hoping I give readers an entertaining read.

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

I'm more organic. I usually start with a concept, then I have fun building the character in my mind. Then I usually find that scene that makes me want to write the book. I'm terrible at plotting ahead and enjoy having the story come together as I write. I'm all about layering and going back and adding in threads and subplots.

If you had to watch only five films for the rest of your life, what five films would you choose?

Five is really tough for me. I love movies and have been watching so many since I was little. But I'll give it a go: Goonies, E.T., Breakfast Club, Ghostbusters, and Pretty Woman.

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

The most difficult part for me is the promotion. I think a new author can't be one without having some promo tied in, but you have to be really unique and savvy for it to have any grand scale effect.

What do you love about being an author?

I love the creativity and freedom of using my imagination. The two times I've actually held my own book in my hands always has me smiling. I mean, its a gift really. The story, the characters, and the setting all came from my imagination. The realization never fails to make me happy.

What's next for you?

I'm working on a sci-fi young adult novel. Its really challenging with the world-building so its good for me. I don't think I'd ever want a book to be too easy to write.

Kelly thank you for stopping by. Congratulations on the new book!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We Did It!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day!

Nothing makes me weep with joy quite the same way as all the pictures of Americans lining up to vote. Perhaps it's the knowledge that even though we are all different and unique that we still on this day, the first Tuesday of November, share a common experience. We get this moment to be heard and we share this amazing moment with our fellow Americans. So go make your choice, exercise your right that so many brave people have died to protect.


Happy Election Day!