June 18, 2009

3Q with Bridget Asher (and a contest!)

I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on THE PRETEND WIFE ever since I was so thoroughly charmed by Bridget Asher’s fierce and funny MY HUSBAND’S SWEETHEARTS last year.

Asher (a pen name of Julianna Baggott) writes the kind of books I like best: fast-paced, hopeful, sometimes funny, sometimes wrenching, and the layers are there if you want them. They are re-readers, meant to be first gobbled up guiltlessly at the beach while sipping a fruity beverage, and then read again for the underbook, which has plenty of fodder for thought (and book club discussions). I’ve already got THE PRETEND WIFE in my beach bag to take to Destin in a couple of weeks.

If YOU want it in YOUR beach back --- in signed first edition form, no less – just leave a comment on this blog entry before MIDNIGHT EST Friday, June 19th, and we will let the cruel and capricious gods of Random choose three winners. Contest rules are here, shamelessly PIRATED from my friend Miriam. Here’s the skinny on the book:

What would life be like with the one who got away? For Gwen Merchant, love has always been doled out in little packets—from her father, a marine biologist who buried himself in work after her mother’s death; and from her husband, Peter, who’s always been respectable and safe. But when an old college boyfriend, the irrepressible Elliot Hull, invites himself back into Gwen’s life, she starts to remember a time when love was an ocean.

What does Elliot want? In fact, he has a rather surprising proposition: he wants Gwen to become his wife. His pretend wife. Just for a few days. To accompany him to his family’s lake house for the weekend so that he can fulfill his dying mother’s last wish. Reluctantly Gwen agrees to play along—with her husband Peter’s full support. It’s just one weekend—what harm could come of it?

But as Gwen is drawn into Elliot’s quirky, wonderful family—his astonishingly wise and open mother, his warm and welcoming sister, and his adorable, precocious niece—she starts questioning everything she’s ever expected from love. And as she begins to uncover a few secrets about her own family, it suddenly looks like a pretend relationship just might turn out to be the most real thing she’s ever known.


JJ: You’ve said that you sometimes feel like a pretend wife yourself. What does that term mean to you and how does the novel relate to your own life?

BA: The Pretend Wife tells the story of a woman who’s been married for three years and then runs into her college boyfriend – the charming and irrepressible Elliot Hull -- who works his way back into her life.

If you went back in time – circa the late 80s, early 90s – and found me and my college girlfriends in a bar called Gators in Baltimore – which, frankly wouldn’t be that hard to do as we spent most of our time there – and asked us to pick the least likely to get married, I’d have probably won. (Well, there’s this one other friend who went on to date two Olympiads and had already broken up with a wealthy Brit who was older than her father by this point. She might have beaten me, but I’d have been in the top two.) I found it hard to invest in long-term relationships. I might have been kind of impaired – an emotional A.D.D. type. I sometimes broke up with guys without even realizing I was doing it. Maybe I suffered from a form of break-up specific Tourrettes.

In all honestly, I never thought I’d get married. I was pretty sure that once my friends moved on, I’d hole up in my parents’ attic and be a spinster writer, a post-virginal Emily Dickinson. I’d write about flies.

And so it was a shock to everyone that I fell madly in love with Dave, was engaged in a couple months, married in less than a year – at twenty-three. This seems insanely young now. In fact, I’ve recently taken to referring to myself as having been a child bride. Marrying Dave was spontaneous, reckless, and it would have been stupid, except that it works.

I still feel like a pretend wife, honestly. I often think about my marriage as Gwen does in the book -- in very abstract terms. Dave and I both often hold it at arm’s length like scientists studying the mating patterns of prairie dogs – which, in fact, are monogamous. What is marriage? How does it work? How does it fail? What do we need from each other? What do we want and fear? And in what ways a real marriage make us whole?

(As for the character of Elliot Hull, he’s a conglomerate. The argument of whether Gwen slapped Elliot in a bar or simply grabbed his face very hard is an important argument in the novel – and one that I had with an old flame, a decade after the event. We still stay in touch. I still claim I slapped him, and he still says I only grabbed his face, hard. This is an ongoing point of contention.)


JJ: Did the novel require a lot of research?

Sometimes you set out to write something that you know is going to require a lot of research. Other times, you wander in, whistling a little tune, ready to write about matters of the heart, things that will require digging around in the murky waters of your own past, yes, your own psychological silt, but not having to sort through the dusty archives of Special Collections. But then you’re unwittingly seized by a need to know many things you never thought you’d need to know – things you didn’t know that you didn’t know. This was the happy go lucky wandering into, whistling a tune, kind of novel that turned on me …

For this novel, I researched the verbalizations of fish. Yes, how fish communicate to each other. I had no idea that fish talk when I began the novel, but they do. A lot. I know this, and now you know. Some of you may even remember the National Geographic that came to your house in 1979 that included a flimsy record of endangered humpback whales, singing. That little tidbit, for example, surfaces in the novel.

I also had to research Otis Redding, ice cream (okay, that wasn’t mandatory, but I really wanted to nail the details), updates to Baltimore’s cityscape, house staging, nesting eagles, things regurgitated by owls, bridges, gustnadoes (like tornadoes but smaller), and edible flowers. I did not eat edible flowers, but I did eat plenty of ice cream – all research-related. Trust me.

JJ: I have eaten the edible flowers. I would eat them again. You should go RE-research that, focusing heavily on candied violets. Who did you dedicate this book to and why?

BA: If you write a novel entitled The Pretend Wife and in that novel a marriage gets, well, let’s say upended by the appearance of an old flame and if you’ve embedded little true specks from your own life – even if heavily mixed in with lots of stuff of the imagination – and you do NOT dedicate the book to your husband, you’re not a good person. It’s pretty straightforward. And you’re an especially bad person if your husband is truly the love of your life and you just kind of forgot to mention him. There will be coal on your anniversary – well-deserved coal. And so, for many, many reasons, I have dedicated this book to my husband Dave, real as real can be …

Posted by joshilyn at June 18, 2009 7:01 AM

Mmmm...candied flowers and ice cream... I wanna win a book! Nevermind the pile of 50 waiting to be read on my nightstand. Pay no attention to those. I want *this* one!

Posted by: Jen A at June 18, 2009 7:58 AM

This sounds great - I'd love a copy!

Posted by: Becky at June 18, 2009 8:13 AM

I want a beach book! Even if I don't get to the beach this year. I must know what happens to Gwen.

Posted by: JenniferG at June 18, 2009 8:27 AM

I should write a book that involves ice cream research ;) This sounds great - I'd love to get hooked up with a copy!
(If I don't win I'll get my library lady to order it, because they love me there!)

Posted by: Heather at June 18, 2009 8:27 AM

Oooh, book, good stuff. I need one!

Posted by: Eleadra at June 18, 2009 8:30 AM

Oooooh, pick me! Pick me! Sounds like a delicious read!

Posted by: KellyH at June 18, 2009 8:31 AM

"real as real can be.." Love that line. Can't wait to read the book.

Posted by: stuckinmypedals at June 18, 2009 8:35 AM

Sounds really good - please pick me!

Posted by: CathyR at June 18, 2009 8:42 AM

I never go to the beach, but I read a lot.

Posted by: hollygee at June 18, 2009 8:55 AM

Mememememememe. Pleez.

Posted by: Rachel at June 18, 2009 8:56 AM

Big Money, Big Money...oh, wait. I mean beach book, beach book, no whammies...

Posted by: SupermansMommy at June 18, 2009 8:58 AM

I would love a copy:)

Posted by: Wendy at June 18, 2009 8:59 AM

Well, I hope the Gods of Random pick me. Because I would very much like to read this book but await EMPLOYMENT in order to have Clams with which to do things like buy books. Or I could wait several months for my library, which also Needs Clams, to procure it. I think about marriage quite a lot (on Marriage 2.0), married at 19 (real child bride) and stayed married nearly 20 years before opting out. I married again at 43 (real matron bride). Version 2.0 is going quite well, except that Hubby works three hundred miles away (this I have been told may contribute to marital longevity).

Like the line about post-virginal Emily Dickinson.

Pick me.

Posted by: parrotzmom at June 18, 2009 9:00 AM

Sounds like a great book!

Posted by: Katie B at June 18, 2009 9:02 AM

Heh ... beaches and fish talk. Followed by ice cream and whale songs.

Yep - that sounds like me ... a beached whale eating ice cream and being threatened to "swim with the fishies" if I don't talk!

I'm in!

Posted by: Mit at June 18, 2009 9:02 AM

I'm going to the beach in July with my family. This would be awesome.

Posted by: Michele D at June 18, 2009 9:03 AM

Oooohhhh... I want this book. Count me in.

Posted by: Karen at June 18, 2009 9:11 AM

Me! Pick me Gods of random!

Posted by: heidi at June 18, 2009 9:17 AM

I loved-loved-loved My Husband's Sweethearts! Would love to get my hands on a copy of this. :)

Posted by: Mandie at June 18, 2009 9:37 AM

I love Julianna Baggott. (And you, too, of course.) Since today is my 15th anniversary of pretending to be a wife, I think this would be a great anniversary present!

Posted by: Rita at June 18, 2009 9:40 AM

Yes, I'd love to win, and either way I'm sure I'll read her book(s) because you...you do a fine interview!

I'm sure I haven't mentioned that before, but since novelists are my heroes, seeing in print what one of my favorites novelists asks another interesting novelist, bliss!

Posted by: Karen at June 18, 2009 9:53 AM


Posted by: emily jane at June 18, 2009 10:02 AM

Um, wow! This sounds great :-)

Posted by: Beth R at June 18, 2009 10:09 AM

I would love this book!

Posted by: Jessica at June 18, 2009 10:17 AM

New author for me and I'd love to win this one.

Posted by: Michelle M. at June 18, 2009 10:19 AM

I've been waiting for this one. Can't wait to read it. Is it coming out on audio as well? (desperately hoping)

Posted by: Chris of the Woodwork at June 18, 2009 10:22 AM

That sounds like a fabulous book. I would love to win a copy!

Posted by: Jessie at June 18, 2009 10:25 AM

Sounds like a fantastic read, please sign me up! (I maintain great hope that if I keep entering your contests the great gods of random may one day pick me)

Posted by: Amy S. at June 18, 2009 10:27 AM

Sounds like two great reads!! I love that whenever I run out of things to read, I can check Kudzu and always find another thing to feed my OCD reading habit!!

Posted by: Glory Words at June 18, 2009 10:27 AM

I want to read that book! I am already planning to research my library to see what else they may have by Bridget Asher.

Posted by: Ann from Minnesota at June 18, 2009 10:32 AM

I'm leaving for Fort Lauderdale soon, and would LOVE to have this book in my beach bag. (Just in case I don't win, I put it on my Amazon wish list.)

Posted by: CariAnne at June 18, 2009 10:36 AM

I love your 3Q series of posts. This sounds like another great read for my summer vacation. Would love to win.

Posted by: Sheri at June 18, 2009 10:39 AM

The book sounds great! Oh random number generator, I've got a batch of cookies with YOUR name on it.

Posted by: Aimee at June 18, 2009 11:00 AM

If I weren't a Christian I would probably be praying to the gods of random right now, but that would just be wrong - right? But I really want this book!!!! I think I liked it better when you printed off everyone's comment and let Maisy play the god of random (I won that way once).

Posted by: Kathy at June 18, 2009 11:02 AM

Sounds like a great book!

Posted by: Robin at June 18, 2009 11:07 AM

Since I am actually going to the beach soon AND do lots of research on ice cream (although, sadly, I am not writing a book about it. But I might one day!) I think I should win. Plus I never win. The RNG hates me.

Posted by: Jen G. at June 18, 2009 11:10 AM

Since last time my scheming backfired (I waited until later to comment, because the RNG ALWAYS picks high numbers - grrrr), this time I'm just commenting right now, when I happen to get here, and let the universe decide. Maybe if I let go, I'll win? *fingers crossed*

Sounds like a great book, btw, and I look forward to reading it!

Posted by: Julie G at June 18, 2009 11:17 AM

Book! I'd love to read it on my pretend beach vacation!

Posted by: ailo at June 18, 2009 11:18 AM

pick me!
oops ... wait.
this is my book. i got caught up.

(it will come out in AUDIO -- someone had asked. MY HUSBAND'S SWEETHEARTS is already out on audio.)


bridget (aka julianna baggott)

Posted by: bridget asher at June 18, 2009 11:23 AM

Gee, do you think the Gods of Random Chance will be swayed if I just start chanting "...I want it I want it I want it I want it..." under my breath until I (or they) turn blue? Pretty please?

Posted by: JMyersbook at June 18, 2009 11:26 AM

Oh, this book sounds great!

Posted by: Laura F at June 18, 2009 11:48 AM

Sounds like a fabulous read!

Posted by: Alison at June 18, 2009 12:08 PM

I just bought an ice cream maker from Williams-Sonoma & have been doing LOTS of research. I also live on the world's smallest beach. So as Donkey (Shrek) says, "Pick me! Pick me!

Posted by: GrandeMocha at June 18, 2009 12:25 PM

Can't wait to read it!

Posted by: Jill W. at June 18, 2009 12:50 PM

Here's hoping I win this time

Posted by: Patti D at June 18, 2009 12:54 PM

I love candied violets! And I am short on summer reading material!

Posted by: Haley at June 18, 2009 12:58 PM

Highly looking forward to getting my hands on this one.

Posted by: Danielle Hamill at June 18, 2009 1:03 PM

Looking forward to reading this!

Posted by: Mandi at June 18, 2009 1:18 PM

Oh, I hope I win. Loved the first, would love to read the second.

Posted by: Stefanie at June 18, 2009 1:56 PM

Book sounds good, heroine's name is even better!

Posted by: Gwen at June 18, 2009 2:17 PM

I have been looking for a book to take to Myrtle Beach in August and haven't been satisfied with anything I have scanned. This one looks perfect. Pick me!!

Posted by: Robyn at June 18, 2009 2:22 PM

I have been living in a hotel for a week now with my precious family and I have several weeks to go and I desperately need a good book to bury myself in.

Posted by: Becca at June 18, 2009 2:27 PM

I'm always looking for new authors!

Posted by: Rikki at June 18, 2009 2:34 PM

This book sounds great!

Posted by: Darla at June 18, 2009 2:46 PM

If you pick either me or emily jane at 10:02, it is as though you chose two readers with one number, because we are sisters and we share AND she is a Very Fast Reader and will have finished the book by the time I trek down to mississippi in july and I can bring it back to new york w me.

Posted by: elizabeth at June 18, 2009 3:01 PM

gotta throw my hat in the ring, too--love a book by jb

Posted by: Cass at June 18, 2009 3:02 PM

Me me me!!

My daughter loves Julianna Baggott's books for young readers and I can't wait to read some of her adult novels!


Posted by: Carol at June 18, 2009 3:06 PM

No whammies no whammies no whammies STOP!

Err... enter me, please.

Posted by: Kristin at June 18, 2009 3:23 PM

I always want a new book.

Posted by: gina at June 18, 2009 3:53 PM

O! god of computer-generated numbers-I will ritually sacrifice a 2gig memory stick to you if I get selected. Thank you, thank you very much.

Posted by: Bridget at June 18, 2009 4:05 PM

YUM YES PLEASE. I have a real husband too! Isn't that a strange thing......

Posted by: Kate Setzer Kamphausen at June 18, 2009 4:21 PM

Wow - this sounds really good! I just put it on my wishlist and can't wait to read it. Thanks for the chance to win one.

Posted by: Pamela L at June 18, 2009 4:28 PM

Nice to have a book-club book, even with no book club. I will probably make other people read it if I need to talk about it....

Posted by: Diane (TT) at June 18, 2009 4:28 PM

Can't wait to read it

Posted by: Chris at June 18, 2009 4:56 PM

Sounds great! Hope I win... :-)

Posted by: Lara at June 18, 2009 5:02 PM

Yes please! I need a good book club pick.

Posted by: catherino at June 18, 2009 5:06 PM

I just finished Between, Ga and loved it...and would love to receive this new book that you recommend and will share it with many others in my book clubs. I hope I WIN!!!

Posted by: Susan at June 18, 2009 5:35 PM

Oh my. There's a lot of competition for this book. But I would love to win something so add me to the list.

Posted by: Catherine at June 18, 2009 6:39 PM

I would love to win the book, and I would love to take said book to the beach. Alas I am in landlocked Oklahoma and 8 months pregnant, so the beach is a distant dream. If I win the book, I will soak my swollen tootsies in some epsom salted water and pretend that I am at the beach!

Posted by: Berni at June 18, 2009 7:16 PM

Mmmmmm...ice cream. Edible flowers. Talking fish.

Wait, what? Fish that talk?

Ice creammmmmmmmmmm....

Posted by: Kim at June 18, 2009 7:29 PM

I'd love to read this book! I also want to look up her other books.

Posted by: Theresa at June 18, 2009 7:58 PM

This book looks fantastic and I am sure it would resonate with lots of us who have ever had those "what if" moments.

Posted by: Allison at June 18, 2009 8:21 PM

Please pick me. By the way, I have the best husband in the world.

Posted by: Jean at June 18, 2009 8:28 PM

Yes, please! :)

Posted by: Penny at June 18, 2009 8:37 PM

To: Random gods

Posted by: Jody at June 18, 2009 9:02 PM

Love the interview!

Posted by: Mama Bear at June 18, 2009 9:11 PM

I believe you've picked another winner here! I also believe, by the life in that woman's face, that she indeed slapped him, and that he will never be able to forget that, or her.

Posted by: Cindy Ericsson at June 18, 2009 10:19 PM

Count me in. This sounds like the PERFECT book for the pool. Thanks for introducing us to great authors and their books!

Posted by: Charmi at June 18, 2009 10:20 PM

This sounds delicious! Thanks for the giveaway!

Posted by: pendy at June 18, 2009 10:59 PM

Count me in. I love a good read!

Posted by: blairzoo at June 18, 2009 11:13 PM

Really, who lets people get married when they are 23? I was a month out of my 23's and I wonder who handed over license to handle heavy machinery (or marriage license. Tomato/Tomahto). Luckily, probably, our balls are bigger than our brains at 23 (or barely 24) and the risks that we take end up so worth it! I'd love to read this book.

Posted by: Em at June 18, 2009 11:27 PM

Yes, please!

Posted by: Miss Monky at June 18, 2009 11:34 PM

I would love to get this book! Enter me please!

Posted by: Lynnetta at June 18, 2009 11:50 PM

Oooo! Sound like a great book - if the gods of random don't smile down on me, I'll be sure to be heading to bookstore!

Posted by: Tina at June 19, 2009 12:18 AM

Thanks for bringing such great books to my notice through your blog. This is yet another book I MUST read. Have read books by David Cristofano, Michelle Richmond, since I started reading your blog, and I just received The Girl Who Stopped Swimming from Amazon.


Posted by: Michelle at June 19, 2009 12:42 AM

Shameless, grasping comment.

Posted by: dustmouse at June 19, 2009 1:01 AM

pick me! pick me!

Posted by: the planet of janet at June 19, 2009 2:52 AM

Sounds like a fun read! I just hope (couldn't tell from the interview) that she didn't think whales were fish! ;-)

Posted by: Brigitte at June 19, 2009 5:47 AM

Ooh! I want to read this book! And I want to eat ice cream! Please, random picker-thingy, pick me so I will read and not eat.

Posted by: edj at June 19, 2009 8:02 AM

This book is at the top of my list, and I haven't even read the jacket, but I've been recommending it to friends because _My Husband's Sweethearts_ was so excellent (and personally moving--long overdue forgiveness emerged). Now I'm going to have to pick up your _The Girl Who Stopped Swimming_. My books-to-read stack is high, and I wonder if I will ever get to read all these books I crave, but if I "win" The Pretend Wife, I may give up daily Facebook checks to carve out the time. :)

I may have to research fish conversations in the meantime, though, because I don't know how long I can wait to satisfy that curiosity (and so I can show off to my biology-obsessed nephew).

Thanks for this delightful interview!

Posted by: Tonia at June 19, 2009 8:45 AM

Another great interview and another book added to my list. Hopefully this time around the gods of Random will smile on me!

Posted by: Kim at June 19, 2009 9:30 AM

I'm keeping my fingers crossed! Either way, can't wait to read it!

Posted by: Janie at June 19, 2009 9:32 AM

Sounds interesting. Thank you.

Posted by: Tammy at June 19, 2009 9:49 AM

I'd love to read this one! It sounds fantastic!!!!

Posted by: Terri at June 19, 2009 10:04 AM

Oh, wow, this sounds great. I adored My Husband's Sweethearts.

Posted by: RandomRanter at June 19, 2009 11:13 AM

RNG: I love you the best. Please choose me.

Posted by: Melisa at June 19, 2009 11:42 AM

"Asher...writes the kind of books I like best: fast-paced, hopeful, sometimes funny, sometimes wrenching, and the layers are there if you want them. They are re-readers, meant to be first gobbled up guiltlessly at the beach while sipping a fruity beverage, and then read again for the underbook, which has plenty of fodder for thought (and book club discussions)," sounds like someone else's books I know. Would love to read it. Pick me; choose me; love me -- oh wait, I don't think that last part applies.

Posted by: Lori at June 19, 2009 12:49 PM

sounds like another great read. Thanks.

Posted by: Linda J at June 19, 2009 1:37 PM

Yay, I beat the deadline!

I second the recommendation to re-research the edible flowers. Besides candied violets, you could try nasturiums (sp?). They're good in salad and look pretty. I tried making a rose petal cake once too because I thought that sounded soooo romanticalicious with a capital RO but it actually was kind of bland and the color didn't stay pretty. :-/

Posted by: DebR at June 19, 2009 2:44 PM


I want one too please!

Posted by: JMixx at June 19, 2009 3:14 PM

I want a new book.

Posted by: Lynn at June 19, 2009 3:36 PM

I am in desperate need of a book/distraction as I anticipate my mother's nuptials! Step family on the way! Pleas pick me.

Posted by: Jess H. at June 19, 2009 4:38 PM

I'm a southern girl teaching school up north. Give me something to think about other than how funny these people talk!!! :)

Posted by: Jena at June 19, 2009 4:54 PM

I just want to wrap myself up in that cover. It's delicious!

Can't wait to read the stuff inside it, either.

Posted by: Erin Scoggins at June 19, 2009 5:12 PM

Sounds like a good read.

Posted by: Momsy at June 19, 2009 5:59 PM

Oh, lovely Joss, please pick me!

Posted by: Erin at June 19, 2009 6:09 PM

I want to read this because I am really intrigued by the idea of the "underbook".

Posted by: Terry at June 19, 2009 6:20 PM

yay - books!

Posted by: 5elementknitr at June 19, 2009 6:45 PM

You had me at "underbook". And I have a special beach vaca coming up soon, so Must Buy Books. (unless the all-powerful gods of randomness are smiling down on me?)

Posted by: PattiH at June 19, 2009 7:13 PM

Sounds like a great book.

Posted by: cheryl at June 19, 2009 7:37 PM

Great premise. I'd love to check it out.

Posted by: teachin' at June 19, 2009 8:04 PM

I'd love to read this book! Enter me, please!

Posted by: Rene at June 19, 2009 8:13 PM

One of these days, the random generator has to smile upon me.

Posted by: Pam at June 19, 2009 9:48 PM

I would like some please oh Random Gods of Choosing Winners!

Posted by: Gail at June 19, 2009 11:42 PM

I must hurry if I want this entry in by midnight as it is 11:46 P.M. here right now.
I would love to win this book.

Posted by: Jane Squires at June 20, 2009 12:46 AM