February 19, 2008

3Q with Karen Neches

Meet Karen Neches, who was was single for over twenty years. She used to tell people she was in the “hospice stage” of being single, as she never expected to recover. Then at the age of forty-three she finally met her soul mate. Her novel, Earthly Pleasures, is dedicated to him.

Publisher’s Weekly says, “Skye Sebring is a greeter in the Hospitality Department of Heaven who finds herself drawn to the Earthly Pleasures TV channel (reality TV for Heaven dwellers) after she welcomes the handsome, reformed playboy Ryan Bad Boy Blaine to the pearly gates. The lawyer son of a former president, Ryan's stay in heaven is cut short (his death is more of the brush-with-death variety), but he can't forget Skye, who reminds him of someone he knew. The feeling is mutual for Skye, who follows Ryan back to Earth, where it's pretty apparent there's something strange going on with Ryan's wife, Susan, who is planning a huge gala wedding follow-up to their earlier low-key impromptu nuptials. As Skye investigates her connection with Ryan and Ryan looks into what's causing his wife's strange behavior (he also forms a radio call-in show habit), a tangled story of cold ambition and true love unspools. Neches's funny and sweet novel shows that to err is human and angelic as well.

It’s also a Book Sense Notable for February. Whee!


JJ: What do you think of your cover, and how does it compare to the cover you imagined when you were writing the book?

KN: I love my cover. If it were a man, I’d sleep with it, write it sappy love poems, and feed it peeled grapes. EARTHLY PLEASURES is about a greeter in Heaven who falls in love with a mortal on Earth. I imagined a male/female version of God touching Adam’s fingertips in the Sistine Chapel. What I got (initially) was a picture of a record (like an LP, remember those?). That’s because my main character, Skye, takes Earth 101 classes, and learns all of life’s lessons through five Beatle songs.

Before I could squawk about having a plain, old record on my cover (some people don’t even know what a record is anymore) I got a jpeg of this lovely floating lady, and I was so happy! I could imagine my character Skye in blue outfit (I LOVE the little fur embellishments at the neck and the sleeves), coolly sipping coffee as she awaits the arrival of her next client. It’s my favorite cover ever, and I get a lot of compliments on it.

JJ: Can you talk a little about the significance of your title and how you came up with it?

KN: EARTHLY PLEASURES is the name of a show that Heaven dwellers watch to spy on people on Earth. They have their favorite Earthlings and avidly follow the drama of their lives (because Heaven, being so perfect, is woefully low on drama.) A few select Earthlings are very big celebs in Heaven and my main character, Skye, falls in love with one of them, Ryan Blaine, after he has a near-death experience.

JJ: Your main character seems to be nothing like you. After all, you are a Mortal and she is a new soul in Heaven. What DO you guys have in common or, if nothing, how'd you manage to inhabit shoes so different from your own?

KN: Skye is a greeter in Heaven, which is actually a low-level bureaucratic job. She gives the newly dead pamphlets on “What to Expect Now That You’re Expired” and if any of her clients get upset she sprays them with TIC. (Tranquility in a Can) She’s actually a clock watcher and reminds me of myself in my twenties when I worked at a few dead-end jobs, i.e., receptionist in a blood bank, travel agent(which isn’t as glam as it sounds).

Skye is probably more like me than any of my other main characters in books past. She gorges on chocolate and red wine (no consequences in the hereafter) and engages in occasional retail therapy with her Wishberry.

She’s also very practical in many ways and maybe just a wee bit of a pessimist (which I fight against). When she’s chosen to live her first life on Earth, she doesn’t imagine herself as a future supermodel or celebrity (as most of her classmates do). She figures she’ll end up as a subsistence farmer in Nigeria or working in a sweatshop in Honduras.

Thanks, Karen!

Posted by joshilyn at February 19, 2008 12:21 PM

Oh to be a greeter in heaven!!! What fun. Like a Walmart greeter, you'll find joy in aisle 11,etc...

Posted by: pam at February 19, 2008 3:23 PM

I just ordered this from our local bookstore not even five minutes ago. What timing! I love the premise, and the cover, and the reviews sound great. The weird thing is that the bookstore is a Booksense store, but didn't have any copies. Here's hoping they simply ran out and have more on order!

Posted by: Caryn at February 19, 2008 6:28 PM

Wow, this really made me want to buy this book! Thanks for the behind-the-scenes info!

Posted by: Heather Cook at February 20, 2008 12:09 AM

I'm so going to buy this book, its plot is priceless and I love the idea of a Wishberry!!!

Posted by: tina at February 20, 2008 2:29 PM

And Joss makes THREE. So, off to the bookstore I go.

You know, you are often the THIRD, Joss. The one that pushes me right over the edge. The one that makes me buy. The Man will come home and I'll be buried in a new book and he'll just raise his eyebrow. "Let me guess. Joss did 3Q, and she was the third person you heard about that book from, right?"

He is so smart, isn't he?

And so are you.

And pretty. Very, very pretty.


Posted by: dee at February 20, 2008 6:51 PM

Well, I'm sold. If for no other reason than the mention of learning all of life's lessons through five Beatles songs.

Posted by: Stephanie at February 21, 2008 9:09 PM

Yay! Karin.
See you at Wordsmith's-- and anyone else in the ares needs to come hear funny Karin do her shtick. I'm buying the wine!

Posted by: linda at February 22, 2008 9:39 AM