August 20, 2008

3 Questions with Bridget Asher

Some days I REALLY want this lolcat tattooed on my butt for those moments dealing with other humans where the ONLY possible response is to drop trou and moon.

more morelolcatpls

SO as you can see, I am still not out of the PITY MUDS yet, but I quit pig-rolling and am slogging my way to the edge. The church hunt is going well, enough days have passed that I assume the angry people who are angry will be go be angry people who are angry with SOMEONE ELSE soon enough and forget I exist. (Let me thank you AGAIN for your bracing slew of BUCKUPLILCAMPER comments. GREATLY needed, DEEPLY appreciated.)

Since I am not QUIIIITE fit to be around HUMAN BEINGS YET, let me introduce you to someone who is --- Bridget Asher is here to answer three questions about her book, MY HUSBAND’S SWEETHEARTS.

It is an AWESOME book by the way. I read it in galleys for a blurb, and I said it was”… a whip-smart, tender, and eccentric tale that chronicles all the ways forgiveness can come to us; don't miss this ride.” and I meant every word of it.


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

BA: I’d always wanted to write a novel about the complexities of loving a loveable scoundrel, about betrayal and forgiveness, and the way that, during a heartbreak, friends can become family, the deep bonds that can form between women especially as we grow up and older (and maybe wiser).

My Husband’s Sweethearts was the title of a novel that I knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t know what the novel was about. In the summer of 2005, I was teaching a screenwriting workshop to grad students at the FSU Film School and we were working on pitches for movies. As an example, I pitched this idea.

A woman has married an older man, Artie, but, when she found out that he was cheating on her she leaves him. Now, six-months later, he’s dying. When she goes home to care for him on his deathbed (because she couldn’t consider herself a good person if she abandoned him and because she still loves him), she gets angry and asks him where all of his sweethearts are now. “They were here for the good times,” she says, “and now I have to go through this alone.”

He gives her his black book and tells her to call them up.

She gets drunk and calls his bluff, leaving messages on women’s answering machines late into the night.

The novel got most interesting to me when two of the women actually showed up – one claiming that Artie saved her life and one who seeks revenge. And, of course, there’s one more sweetheart: Artie’s long-lost son.

Sometimes a title presents itself and the novel floods in around it. That’s what happened in this case – My Husband’s Sweethearts is one of those floods of a novel.

JJ: lot of writers read this blog----how did you
…Find an agent

BA: My agent found me and then I lied to him to keep him.
I’d published a short story in a tiny little literary magazine. My agent, Nat Sobel (link, who wasn’t my agent yet, read it and asked the magazine if he could contact me. My answer: of COURSE!

I knew that agents wanted novelists, and I was a short story writer. And, worse, I was actually a devout short story writer. I believed it was the true American form and that novelists basically lacked self-restraint and that a real writer could get it done in 25 pages or less. All fine and dandy and high-minded, but I knew that Sobel would be looking for a novelist not an overly pretentious short story writer.

I had two kids at the time (added a couple more later), and so on the day he was to call, I had a huge box of jelly beans on hand. When he rang, I took a minute to turn on the TV, hand the kids the box of jelly beans, and tell them to have at it. (Nothing in their lives had ever happened like this before. They were stunned, for a moment, but then started mowing.)

When Nat asked me if I was working on a novel, I lied. I said, “Yes I am. And, coincidentally, it’s based on that short story you like.” He asked to see the first fifty. I told him it’d take me a month to polish them, but I’d send ‘em on.

From an eleven-page short story called “Girl Talk,” I wrote the first fifty pages of a novel. My plan was to lure him into signing a contract with me; I’d give him the collection of stories to sell while I “finished” the novel, and that would be that. (By the way, this was actually a great thing. I never had to start a first novel. I only had to write the first fifty pages of an undeniable novel that I never intended to write. A much easier proposition.)

He loved the pages and said, “I can’t wait to see the rest.”

And so, I had to write the rest. Eighteen books later – including novels for younger readers under the pen name N.E. Bode,
and the new two-book deal as Bridget Asher, the short-story collection doesn’t exist (I stole from it to make novels) and we still haven’t signed a contract.

JJ … sell that first book

BA: Nat put the book up for auction. I talked to a few editors and, at the end of the day (literally), there were two editors at a stalemate. I talked to both, but one of them – a junior editor at that time with Simon and Schuster – was hooked into the book in a way that I couldn’t explain. It already seemed to be hers. Her name, Greer Hendricks. She’s gone on to do great big things at S & S.

JJ: … come to realize you wanted to pursue writing as a career instead of a personal passion or a hobby.

BA: I was probably ten years old. My sister was an actress living in New York. I didn’t know any novelists. I probably still thought that books were born from bookshelves or written by people long dead. But playwrights, they were real people – anxious chain-smokers pacing in the dim lobbies of off-off (sometimes off-off-off-off-off) Broadway theaters. I knew that that’s what I wanted – not the chain-smoking, but to be the one behind it all.

Jj: I know you blog yourself over at Bridget Asher dot com Why do you blog and does it feed you or take energy from you?

BA: I write about the things that appear in my work, especially the new novel – the bonds between women, overbearing mothers, scoundrel men – plus my own motherhood (I have four kids ages 1-13) and the writing life. It makes me pay more attention to my everyday life. I now look around at something that strikes me as hilarious or touching or suspicious or scandalous and I don’t think – What would my characters think of that? Instead, I get to say: What do I think of that?

Because I blog, I exist a little more – day to day – which is a good thing because as a writer I tend to want to hole up and roost in my own head.

It’s the same as motherhood. As a mother of four kids (from ages 1-13), I’m only allowed to hole up in my head so much. Kids make me live in the world in some similar ways that the blog does – and it all overlaps, of course. Writing and raising kids have a lot of cross-over for me – they can both sap your energy and then zap you full of energy, but you never know when you’re going to get sapped -- or zapped.

Posted by joshilyn at August 20, 2008 11:42 AM

I'm adding this book to my Amazon shopping cart right now -- I love the idea of all those emotional complications. My husband and I have a screenplay idea that started the same way this did -- it's a title that we both love, and we have a basic concept. We're working on a different story now, but that title is there waiting for us, and it will be a screenplay some day. It's funny how ideas come... you never can tell.

Posted by: Aimee at August 20, 2008 1:35 PM

I had just put that book on my list yesterday after peeping it on A Good Blog is Hard to Find. I thought it sounded really good, so I am glad to hear you liked it. Now I can't wait to read it.

All this talk of climing out of the mud reminds me of Douglas Adam's Dirk Gently's Detective Agency? Have you ever read it? I love that book, and it's sequel, The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul. I hate that he died before he could write any more in the series. He was such a funny, funny and erudite man.

Posted by: Jill at August 20, 2008 2:59 PM

Climbing-- I meant climbing, not climing. Gak! Typos!

Posted by: Jill W. at August 20, 2008 3:01 PM

Oh, and one thing I wondered about Ms. Asher is why the pen name? Especially when she has been so open about the fact that it is a pen name? Is it just a way to sort of "brand" a different type of book than what she writes as Julianna Baggott? I am just curious.

Posted by: Jill W. at August 20, 2008 3:05 PM

I have the same question as Jill W. I had to scroll up and look again at the author's name, and wonder why it didn't sound familiar, because the story of how she found an agent seemed VERY familiar, and then I figured out it was the same person whose agent-finding story I'd read before (except under her real name). So why the pen name? Inquiring minds and all that!

Posted by: amy at August 20, 2008 3:30 PM

I can't wait to read this! I'm definitely checking it out.

Posted by: Julie at August 20, 2008 6:39 PM

Thank you for introducing this clever author, whom I am blissfully imagining as a kindred soul. Four kids between 1 and 13? I did that! Plus five! "Zap" is just EXACTLY the verb I've been looking for all these years.

Posted by: Kalynne Pudner at August 20, 2008 8:45 PM

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to check it out.

Posted by: Lisa Milton at August 20, 2008 11:11 PM

Pants Up, oh mighty trou dropper. Your friends quite obviously outnumber your supposed enemies. When my patent-pending "Haters Begone" spray is produced, I'll send you a case.

Posted by: Lori Parker at August 21, 2008 12:22 PM

my decision to go with a pen name for this book was a real struggle. i felt there are pressures, confining pigeonholes for me as a woman in this industry. and the pen name was a way for me to take the reigns.

i'll start from the beginning.

my first pen name N.E. Bode was created because i needed to write under a pen name because i was a little too prolific - as Julianna Baggott I published three literary novels in three years. Bode writes novels for the 8-13 year old set. -- i loved the liberation of the pen name, the creation of a new identitiy and that i could make a clear pitch to a clear market.

so, with Bridget Asher...
i want to be able to build fans for this voice -- a voice that in the commercial literary cocktail has more commercial than my usual mix -- and then not lose that audience by following up that book by publishing a literary book set in an insane asylum at the turn of the last century. basically we love it when our actors do a superhero flick and then an art film, but it's too confusion in the book biz ... i'm trying to carve out a way to do both.

but i feel like i have to make these distinctions -- if i don't, then other people do it for me -- in marketing -- and that's been hard from me personally, as a woman writer, in particular. this way I get to decide before they tell me what i'm writing and for whom ...

does this make sense?

Posted by: Julianna/Bridget at August 21, 2008 3:01 PM

J/B-- that does make sense, actually. I have already read one of your JB books, and I am looking forward to reading this BA one. I saw the N.E. Bode books on your website, and I have those down on my list, too. I am always looking for books for my nephew that I can enjoy reading, too. It sounds like we would love those.

Thanks for coming back to satisfy our curiosity. ; )

Posted by: Jill W. at August 21, 2008 6:47 PM