July 29, 2009

3 Questions with Sheila Curran (and a contest!)

Meet Sheila Curran. I’m a big fan of her writing, and I’m really pleased to have the chance to host her here as she talks about Everyone She Loved. I read it in galleys and wrote an early review, saying, “Curran is a beautiful writer, both witty and evocative, and she knows how to keep a reader riveted. I was up way past my bedtime, unable to stop turning pages. I had to know what happened to this family. Read this book, then pass it on to your dearest friend. She'll thank you." Here’s the skinny:

curranesl.jpg Penelope Cameron, loving mother, devoted wife and generous philanthropist, has convinced her husband and four closest friends to sign an outlandish pact. If Penelope should die before her two daughters are eighteen, her husband will not remarry without the permission of Penelope's sister and three college roommates. For years, this contract gathers dust until the unthinkable happens. Suddenly, everyone she loved must find their way in a world without Penelope.

Sheila Curran explores the faith one woman placed in her dearest friends, the care she took to protect her family and the many ways in which romantic entanglements will confound even the most determined of planners. A story about growing up and moving on, about the sacrifices people make for one another and the abiding strength of friendship.

If YOU want your very own signed first edition of EVERYONE SHE LOVED---and Sheila has graciously pitched in THREE---leave a comment on this blog entry before MIDNIGHT EST Friday, July 31st, and we will let the cruel and capricious gods of Random choose three winners. Official contest rules are here, shamelessly PIRATED from my friend Mir’s cost-cutting shopper’s site.

JJ: Your main character seems to be nothing like you. After all, you describe yourself as “A mess who is a wee bit selfish “ while Lucy is a neatnik who is willing to make huge sacrifices to raise her best friend’s children . What DO you guys have in common or, if nothing, how'd you manage to inhabit shoes so different from your own?

SC: Lucy is my main character, though her lost best friend, Penelope inhabits the book in such a way that some people might find her my main character. Now, Penelope, who is highly imaginative to the point of hysteria and sometimes oversteps polite boundaries in her efforts to ‘help’ people, well, that’s me. But Lucy, who is a painter, is more the person I would like to be. (Plus she gets to live on the beach which is on my bucket list.)

One commonality we share is the meaning we get from what we do. As I say in the book: “Lucy loved her work in a way that was almost unseemly.” That’s how I feel about writing. It’s always on my mind, even when I can’t do it. Also, I spend a lot of time ‘inside my head.’ This made me a push-over as a mother, not because I haven’t believed in discipline and consistency but because I was so distracted I would forget to remember that I might have put my son in time-out and discover an hour later that he was happily ensconced with the video game I had forbidden during daylight hours.

I know a lot of people would say this is bad parenting but I have treated my children according to the golden rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Luckily, in our case, it’s worked out, as both of our kids seemed destined from the womb to be the generous, sweet souls they’ve turned out to be. Anyway, Lucy is accused of being a push-over as well, because her way of loving her children is so accepting. This criticism of her plays into the plot and allows their father to override his best judgment when it comes to treating one of the girls’ eating disorder by isolating them under the care of a soul-deprived ‘therapist’ who practices tough love to the point of no return.

JJ: A lot of writers read this blog----how did you find an agent and sell your first novel, the SPECTACULAR Diana Lively is Falling Down?

The wrong way. I was so afraid of rejection that I’d send out five queries, get rejected, and decide the problem was with my manuscript. I didn’t realize that finding an agent is as difficult and specific as finding a soulmate. So rather than continue my search, I’d begin a new manuscript. This went on for years and years, with a couple of twists and turns along the way.

By the time I’d written Diana Lively is Falling Down, some twenty years after starting to write novels, two people recommended that I try Laura Gross. I was certain she wouldn’t like my work because I knew Laura had grown up in England and my characters were British. However, finally, I did send her my manuscript and when she called to tell me how much she loved it, she gave me a great compliment by saying that she’d expected me to have an English accent.

We went through a lot of rejections before Susan Allison, at Berkley, Penguin took it. Even then, it was a battle. As Susan says, she started it, loved it, but knew it didn’t quite fit her list. She continued reading is as a “guilty pleasure.” Then she went to her boss, the publisher and said, “I know we can’t publish this, but I loved it too much to reject it without having you read it too.” Then Leslie read it and liked it too. So they sat down and brainstormed where they might place it in a genre, and agreed to take the risk on me. Their courage in buying such a quirky genre-defying novel is something I’ll never forget.

JJ: How did you come to realize you wanted to pursue writing as a career instead of a personal passion or a hobby?

SC: Hmnn. Well, for ten years I waitressed and bartended, then wrote grants on the side (which I still do for select clients) so it’s not as though I’ve been able to work full-time (if you don’t count mom, wife, housekeeper) for the past few years. I don’t think I’m really prepared to do much else, to tell you the truth, though sometimes I look back fondly on my restaurant days and remember how that was a job you never took home with you. Frankly, though, I don’t think I ever sat down and made a decision to do this ‘as a career.’ I just couldn’t not write.

THANKS, Sheila!

Posted by joshilyn at July 29, 2009 8:32 AM

This sounds like a wonderful book! I can't wait to grab it and sit outside in my back yard reading it.

Posted by: Keri at July 29, 2009 9:29 AM

The book sounds great. (Will you kick me out of the running if I correct you and point out that Friday is actually July 31?)

Posted by: Rita at July 29, 2009 9:38 AM

"I just couldn't not write." How wonderful it is to have a fruitful passion like that! Wish I could get paid for reading!

Posted by: elizabeth at July 29, 2009 10:08 AM

I love the books you recommend - just finished The Pretend Wife this weekend. I will surely read Everyone She Loved!

Posted by: Ann from St. Peter MN at July 29, 2009 10:26 AM

Count me in, please! Sounds like a very fascinating book!

Posted by: Leandra at July 29, 2009 10:29 AM

Sounds like an amazing story. Pick me, O Random gods!

Posted by: Andrea at July 29, 2009 10:38 AM

Sounds like a good story! I really hope I get picked this time. *pointed stare at the gods*

Posted by: Trish at July 29, 2009 10:52 AM

This book sounds really great! Count me in!

Posted by: Rachel at July 29, 2009 10:58 AM

I am sending my youngest child off to college in three weeks. I need something to fill my time now that there are no more school events to attend and papers to sign . . . Pick me, pick me!!
This book sounds wonderful, as are all your recommendations!

Posted by: Gail at July 29, 2009 11:01 AM

Now THAT is a great hook -- the kind that promises me that the book will be character-driven. Change one of the characters and you would change the plot. See my hand waving wildly in the air? My reading-eyes begged it to do so. It is busily finger-spelling: "Please pick me!" ;)

Posted by: JMyersbook at July 29, 2009 11:10 AM

Laura Gross is one of our very good customers in the small independent bookstore I manage, and she always makes sure we have Sheila's books in stock. We keep selling out of Everyone She Loved before I have a chance to read it, so I'd love to win a copy!

Posted by: Jess H at July 29, 2009 11:16 AM

I love the author's story about how she finally got published. The plot of the story is great and I can't wait to read how it all plays out.

Pick me pick me! Oooohhh!! My hand is raised REALLY high!!

Posted by: Chandler at July 29, 2009 11:17 AM

I love the books you recommend, and that you take the time to do it. This sounds delightful, and complex. I'll take a risk with the random Gods, count me in!

Posted by: Karen at July 29, 2009 11:20 AM

Ohh! Pick me! Pick me! My to read stack is getting thin!

Posted by: Katie at July 29, 2009 11:34 AM

Thank you for introducing us to Ms. Curran's work. I look forward to reading this book!

Posted by: CariAnne at July 29, 2009 11:55 AM

This sounds like a wonderful book -- Please pick me, random gods!

Posted by: Kelly at July 29, 2009 12:06 PM

Sounds like a great read; I'd love to win a copy.

Posted by: Charlene at July 29, 2009 12:09 PM

I have Diana Lively in my TBR pile...might get bumped up a bit. I want this one too!!

Posted by: Jen A at July 29, 2009 12:19 PM

Pick me.

Posted by: Lynn at July 29, 2009 12:25 PM

Sounds delightful. I'm getting my books ready for the long flight north!

Posted by: Tequila Cookie Chris at July 29, 2009 12:31 PM

Pick me! Pick me! I just finished reading all of your books, so I would love to move on to books you recommend. Oh Random gods, pick me!

Posted by: Stephanie at July 29, 2009 12:34 PM

I'd love to have a copy. I am off to Scotland for four months and am very sad that I won't be able to use the public library there, so I am desperately trying to hoard reading material for my trip!

Posted by: Haley at July 29, 2009 12:36 PM

This sounds like a thought-provoking and emotion- churning book - I'd love to try it.

Posted by: Diane (TT) at July 29, 2009 1:31 PM

I would love to win this!

Posted by: Cristin at July 29, 2009 1:42 PM

Oooh! Even if I don't win, this is totally going on my to-read list.

Posted by: lizardek at July 29, 2009 1:47 PM

I loved "Diana Lively..." It inspired me to laughter, tears, and strong feelings of violence against one of the characters. What else can you ask for in a book?

Posted by: Jill W. at July 29, 2009 1:53 PM

I would love to win this! Thanks for the opportunity!

Posted by: mere at July 29, 2009 2:28 PM

C'mon, god of Random, pick me for what sounds like a great read!

Posted by: Charmi at July 29, 2009 2:42 PM

I wish my library had more of the authors that you interview. They all look so lovely. But alas my library doesn't have this one too.

Posted by: Linda J at July 29, 2009 2:50 PM

This sounds like a great read. I'd love to win a copy.

Posted by: Gina at July 29, 2009 3:06 PM

Sounds like a great book - I can't wait to read it. Thanks for this opportunity to win one!

Posted by: Pamela L at July 29, 2009 3:12 PM

I'd love a signed copy! This book sounds great!

Posted by: Laura F at July 29, 2009 3:14 PM

Sounds like a great book! I'm putting this one on my to-read list, whether I win or not!

Posted by: Katie B at July 29, 2009 3:20 PM

Thanks for the contest! Both books sound fabulous.

Posted by: Sarah at July 29, 2009 3:23 PM

What a neat concept for a book - I look forward to reading it!

Posted by: corrie at July 29, 2009 3:30 PM

Please o Please!!!
And thanks for the great interview.

Posted by: Lori P at July 29, 2009 3:49 PM

sounds like a great read; thanks for the chance to win a copy!

Posted by: Susan at July 29, 2009 3:50 PM

Sounds like a winner - I'd sure like to win it!

Posted by: Jill Cooper at July 29, 2009 3:55 PM

Ooh... yes, please! I read "Diana Lively is Falling Down" and really liked it, although I found that Ms. Curran did SUCH a good job characterizing the husband that I (a) got a stomach ache while reading about him and (b) amused myself by shouting British slang at him, a la "You poxy git!" or "You tosser!"

Posted by: Aimee at July 29, 2009 3:56 PM

Oh I would love to actually win something one of these times! Thanks - Joss

Posted by: Catherine at July 29, 2009 4:11 PM

This book sounds right up my literary alley.

Posted by: pam at July 29, 2009 4:13 PM

sounds like a great read, please pick me!

Posted by: elizabeth at July 29, 2009 4:14 PM

Sounds really interested! will look for it. :)

Posted by: Jess at July 29, 2009 4:26 PM

Dear Random God of numbers that I can't keep straight.

Me! Me! Me!

And so I can take courage in Sheila's writing!

Posted by: Mit at July 29, 2009 4:33 PM

Sounds like an interesting book. While I am waiting to win, I will see if my library has her first novel.

Posted by: Chris at July 29, 2009 4:34 PM

My list of "To-Read-ASAPs" is growing by leaps and bounds since my intro to Kudzu. Thanks Joss!

Posted by: Glory Words at July 29, 2009 4:51 PM

Sounds like a great read. I'm already looking up the first book!

Posted by: Chris of the Woodwork at July 29, 2009 4:57 PM

I love your books, and also the books you recommend. I would be so happy if Random chose me!

Posted by: Kathy at July 29, 2009 5:35 PM

I need a new book like I need a sweater here in Hell, uhm I mean Arizona but SQUEEE it sounds like something I would rillllly like so...

Posted by: Scottsdale Girl at July 29, 2009 6:20 PM

I love the author interviews you do, Miss Joshilyn. And of course I'd love to win a signed copy of any book you recommend!

Posted by: Lulu at July 29, 2009 6:47 PM

I LOVE trying out new authors!

Posted by: rikki at July 29, 2009 6:54 PM

I LOVE your 3Qs. Just finished The Pretend Wife (which I bought because the RNG hates me). So far all of your 3Q books have been winners, even if I am not.

But there's always hope for next time!

Posted by: Jen at July 29, 2009 7:34 PM

See Joshilyn read. Read Joshilyn read. See Joshilyn post contest. Win Bridget win!

Posted by: Bridget at July 29, 2009 8:07 PM

This one looks like another winner. Can't wait to read it. Hope the RNG pick ME!

Posted by: dee at July 29, 2009 8:33 PM

Wow - the book sounds wonderful, and I really like what Sheila Curran has to say in your interview. I'd love an opportunity to win this book.

Posted by: Sandi at July 29, 2009 8:42 PM

Pick me!! I love your author interviews, too.


Posted by: Carol at July 29, 2009 8:58 PM

This book looks like a book club choice!

Posted by: Kaye at July 29, 2009 9:32 PM

Oh another great book to add to the list! Hopefully the gods of Random will look favorably upon me this time around.

Posted by: Kim at July 29, 2009 10:03 PM

Yet another one to add to the list. Or was that two (I haven't read the first one yet!)

Posted by: PattiH at July 29, 2009 10:52 PM

It sounds very interesting :)

Posted by: Heather at July 30, 2009 12:54 AM

This sounds like a fantastic book. It's now on my 'to read' list!

Posted by: Theresa at July 30, 2009 1:18 AM

Would love to win. Thanks for the chance.

Posted by: Betty at July 30, 2009 5:33 AM

Ooh, the mere description of the plot is making my eyes damp! If I were to win, I'd have to read when I was by myself, with plenty of tissues on hand, I suspect.

Posted by: Brigitte at July 30, 2009 6:36 AM

This book sounds great! Pick me, pick me!

Posted by: Becky at July 30, 2009 7:48 AM

I would love to read this book!! Please pick me!

Posted by: Amy S. at July 30, 2009 8:16 AM

Random is good! Thanks for generously introducing us to another great author.

Posted by: Alison Law at July 30, 2009 9:19 AM

Me, pleeeeze! Thanks for the interview and the chance.

Posted by: Teri at July 30, 2009 9:24 AM

Random Gods choose me! Please?????

Posted by: heidi at July 30, 2009 9:44 AM

One more plea to the Random Gods, would love to read this book.

Posted by: Jody at July 30, 2009 9:44 AM

Sounds great.

Always love your book recommendations. Please throw my name into the hat.

Posted by: cheryl at July 30, 2009 9:56 AM

Oh! Me! Me! Please, Random gods, pick me! (I too love all the books you recommend)

Posted by: Julie G at July 30, 2009 10:00 AM

Maybe this is the day the God's of Random will smile they're lovely faces down on me?

Posted by: Emily at July 30, 2009 10:03 AM

Pick me, oh random book gods!!! Can't wait to get my hands on this book! :)

Posted by: Lindsay at July 30, 2009 10:44 AM

I would love to win this book! Pick me!

Posted by: Marla at July 30, 2009 10:54 AM

Dear Gods of Random, I would dearly love to read this book. It sound like a good one, and I'm flat broke. Thanks for listening. My library is broke, too, so I just have to win.

Posted by: Victoria Bolton at July 30, 2009 11:10 AM

Sounds like a good book for me to read regardless...*commentcommentcomment*

Posted by: Sarah at July 30, 2009 11:18 AM

random roll gods, pick me, pick me!
the book sounds like just what i need!

Posted by: dramamama at July 30, 2009 11:53 AM

Sounds good! Pick me please!

Posted by: Cathy at July 30, 2009 12:23 PM

sooooooooo many great books! I'll just have to find the time to read them all.

Posted by: desi ashby at July 30, 2009 1:06 PM

This sounds like a great back to school read. Please, oh, gods of random, pick me!

Posted by: Erin at July 30, 2009 1:47 PM

OOOH! I'd love to have a copy! Thanks for writing about her!

Posted by: Melody at July 30, 2009 2:00 PM

Dear Gods of Random, I would dearly love to read this book. It sound like a good one, and I'm flat broke. Thanks for listening. My library is broke, too, so I just have to win.

Posted by: Victoria Bolton at July 30, 2009 2:09 PM

Sounds intriguing!

Posted by: RandomRanter at July 30, 2009 3:11 PM

I'd love to win this one--it sounds like a great read.

Posted by: Alison at July 30, 2009 4:15 PM

If I tell you that an English teacher at Millsaps College who apparently moonlights at our indie bookstore thinks you are the new Flannery O'Connor--a friend of mine bought some Flannery and some Joshilyn together, and the professor couldn't help commenting--would that make the gods of random happy?

It made me happy.

Posted by: emily jane at July 30, 2009 4:36 PM

ME Please

Posted by: Jean at July 30, 2009 7:01 PM

I've put Diana Lively on request at my library, but I'd love to win Everyone She Loved!

Posted by: Stacey at July 30, 2009 9:02 PM

Crossing fingers.....

Posted by: blairzoo at July 30, 2009 9:19 PM

I just built a new deck, by myself. I think a good christening is in order, oh gods of randomness!

Posted by: tuney at July 30, 2009 10:27 PM

Can't wait to read Sheila's new book! Great interview, especially her comments about the agent-procurement process and her writing passion. "Just couldn't not write" pretty much sums up the reason I get up at 5 a.m. before going to my day job or stay up way past a reasonable regular-working-folks bedtime to shoehorn in my writing time. I really appreciated hearing the affirmation of that urge/drive (obsession?). Thanks!

Posted by: sandragale at July 31, 2009 1:02 AM

I want a copy!!!

Posted by: Nikki at July 31, 2009 3:05 AM

Pick me!Pick me! I'd love the Everyone She Loved book!!!!!

Posted by: Kim Burgett at July 31, 2009 8:11 AM

Sounds wonderful...please pick me!

Posted by: Andrea at July 31, 2009 8:44 AM

Sounds like a great book!

Posted by: liz at July 31, 2009 8:54 AM

I'd like to be put in the random drawing. The book sounds great!

Wanda Vaughn

Posted by: Wanda Vaughn at July 31, 2009 9:20 AM

I'd like to be put in the random drawing. The book sounds great!

Wanda Vaughn

Posted by: Wanda Vaughn at July 31, 2009 9:28 AM

Lovely interview!

Posted by: 5elementknitr at July 31, 2009 9:58 AM

I have been searching for a new read that just "hits" me and now I think I've found it. Thanks!!! :)

Posted by: Terri at July 31, 2009 9:59 AM

Ooh, pick me?

Posted by: Beth R at July 31, 2009 10:18 AM

Sounds delightful! I'd love to check it out!

Posted by: Allison at July 31, 2009 11:06 AM

Hoping the random gods like me -- sounds like a great book.

Posted by: Mary Beth at July 31, 2009 11:38 AM

I'd love to read it and now that I've blown through most of my to-read pile on vacation, I need a good read!

Posted by: Lori at July 31, 2009 1:18 PM

I need a great story to read as my Little Man marches off to his first day of kindergarten next week. :) There is no worthier a distraction from hyper-mothering than a good book.

Posted by: Jennifer at July 31, 2009 4:30 PM

Love the cover and the book sounds GREAT! I hope I win!

Posted by: Terri at July 31, 2009 6:22 PM

I'd love to read this!

Posted by: Lynn in Texas at July 31, 2009 8:56 PM

Add me in! I'd love to win a copy.

Posted by: Julie at July 31, 2009 10:43 PM

Add me in--I'd love to win this!

Posted by: Julie at July 31, 2009 10:44 PM

Pick me!

Posted by: Lori B at July 31, 2009 10:47 PM

Oh I'm probably too late! But I'll buy the book anyway!!

Posted by: Heather Cook at August 1, 2009 12:09 AM

I'm not in the contest. I just want to say how much I LOVE SHEILA CURRAN'S WORK!


julianna baggott & bridget asher

Posted by: Julianna Baggott at August 1, 2009 9:36 PM