This is a pretty cool three questions, because first we have the fancy new LOGO, courtesy of Noah, and the author wrote the very book I plan to buy today. It's called Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA. I'm going to be reading/signing at the Borders in Athens, and the drive TO Athens ought to finish off the 11 CD unabridged HEAVY HANDED hyperdramatic boring miserable murder-and-angst filled CRAPPY audiobook I have been listening to for about 100 years. Which, I KNOW, right -- I should just throw it out. But I paid full retail for the dern thing (I bought it on the road instead of AUDIBLE-ing), so I am listening to EVERY FREAKIN WORD and wringing every possible drop of pleasure from it. It has provided I think 3 drops so far...
I expect MUCH better from this one, which will be my NEW audiobook---I always have one going. I am REALLY looking forward to it because the book sounds hilarious --- Intrigue and Machivellian schemes tear up the PTA when Applewood's elementary school gets the nod to be the location for George Clooney's next movie---and after 11 CDs of overwrought ponderous prose I am SO ready to be charmed. As a bonus, Lisa Kudrow read the audio version. Whee!
ALSO -- you have to love the Comic Book Art inspired cover:
PS Secreted in this interview is a link to a GREAT George Clooney story. Run and find out, oh my Rikki Tikkis....
JJ: As a Southern writer, I think everything is about locationlocationlocation. How did growing up in Long Island influence your work?
EM: First off, us Long Islanders suffer from a prepositional handicap. We don't say we grew up in Long Island, we say we grew up on Long Island. Why is that? People don't say they were born on Jamaica or that they grew up on Manhattan. I don't know where this oddity comes from, but it messes with our heads.
If that wasn't bad enough, we don't stand in line like everyone else. We stand on line. So when we tell someone to get on line and buy tickets for Snakes on a Plane, we're not talking about Fandango.
But prepositions aside, Long Island is unique in that it's a vast suburb with a more complicated caste system than anywhere in India (on India?). Indeed, there are class distinctions within class distinctions here, and people from, for instance, upper lower middle class will feel significantly superior to those from middle lower middle class. So growing up here made me acutely aware of ways in which people cling to status symbols to define their place in the community. It always felt like so much nonsense to me, and yet the sting of being judged for not wearing the right shoes or carrying the right handbag still smarts. I think that shows up in all of my fiction.
JJ: Can you talk a little about the significance of your title and how you came up with it?
EM: SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA started out with the title GEORGE CLOONEY IS COMING TO APPLEWOOD, which everyone loved. Everyone, that is, except the legal department at HarperCollins, which insisted I change the title, unless I could get George Clooney's permission within the next forty-eight hours. I couldn't understand why my innocuous title was verboten, while Al Franken could call his book RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT. (Friends have suggested it's because Al Franken's title is factual, while mine is fictional.)
I don't think the lawyers expected me to actually try to obtain the permission, but I gave it my best shot. If anyone's interested in the chain of phone calls and disappointments this entailed, I blogged about it.
The upshot, of course, was that I didn't get permission, and so had to come up with a title that pleased both me and my editor. I was after something that would be obvious in its irony, and finally came up with SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA, suggesting Lichtenstein-esque cover art to drive the point home.
JJ: Tell us about your own experiences with the PTA and how they relate to writing SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA.
EM: I am, of course, a member of the PTA and have been for a number of years. Thus, people often assume I lifted experiences from my own life for the book. I didn't. However, I did try to capture some of the emotional essence of the experience. Understand that the book was conceived long before Desperate Housewives was on the air, and the myth of the perfect (and wholesome) suburban housewife was stubbornly prevalent. As an imperfect suburban housewife myself, I was eager to crack the veneer and show the heartache, pain and joy hidden beneath. It was a liberating experience.
Today I got an e-mail from reader titled "mash note." I just freakin' love that. I am behind on answering e-mails. I am behind my own behind. I am neglecting YOU, my most beautiful internets. I am SO sorry.
I will be a better human soon, you will see. I have all sorts of plans for reformation and virtuous goodness. SO many plans that ONE of these long summer days, a couple of these plans must surely pan out and leave me a better person, scrubbed and hopeful and halo'd and less worrisome and stinky. Yes? No? Yes.
Let's play a game. I'll say a word to you, and you say the first word that comes into your mind. Are you ready? Here it is:
I like that I can put up polls now, for the cost of one irritating pop up ad from the free poll service per vote. POLLS! Let's have another one.
OKAY, you said, Sex, right? COME ON, you thought the word "sex." Or am I just a perv? See I think I may be just a perv, because when I asked my pervy friends (Julie and Pam), they said, "Um, sex." But when I asked my UNPERVY friend (Vicki) she said "Sunset."
She had NO IDEA it was used to mean, um, you know...Afterglow. This leads me to believe it may only be pervs who think it's a sexual term. Although I did call my excessively UNpervy mother and ask her, and there was a LONG silence which could best be interpreted by "Why is my daughter asking me this" and then she gently said, "Honey... it's sexual. Did you not know that?" Which, really, that is not a comfortable question to answer when one's mother asks. I rang off quickly.
I ASK ABOUT THIS BECAUSE...
Yesterday I got an e-mail from my church --- here in my small Georgia town we have an end of summer festival with big pillowy jumping air castles for the kids and street vendors and music in the bandstand and clogging grannies in the gazebo and pony rides and funnel cakes. It's called Powder Springs Day. And yesterday, my church sent out an e-mail that said that our church would be having a community outreach event that will be called.....Afterglow. Because it begins AFTER Powder Springs Day. At SUNSET. See? But I'm thinking to myself, "Afterglow is nice and all, but it's not something I want to experience with my whole church family. It's sort of an event for TWO. Don't get me wrong. I love my church family. Just....not that much.
I called the organizers and gently said I thought the name might be...not the best name, but now I am wondering. AND LET ME SAY, the organizers were ABSOLUTELY in the Vicki-non-pervy-I - am-thinking-of-lovely-sunset camp. 100% in that camp. AND! When I look up Afterglow in the dictionary, the ONLY definitions are SUNSET related or otherwise non sexual.
BUT if 90% of the rational world thinks afterglow means a lovely sunset orange soft beauteous sky light , well then. I should shut up and get help for pervertness. BUT if 75% think it is sexual, as my Three-friend-and-one-mother poll indicates...It may not be the best name for a GROUP activity. We're not that kind of church.
BTW...Here's a link for you if you are sitting there thinking, Dude, what's the Grey Elephant in Denmark Eating a Grape Trick?
OKAY -- I will leave this poll up until the next 3Q, and announce the winner by using it. The poll service SHOULD stop you from voting more than once...but if it doesn't, please vote only once.
Design 3 is meant to be used by each of my questions, not as a header. The other three are headers. You don't have to take this into account when voting, as both formats are fine with me.
Winner gets the gods in Alabama on tape and a Fox Doll.
because I am serving up today a Huge, Disgusting Full Fledged, Self-Pitying Whinefest!
First of all, my arrest was a squib on the BookSlut blog. Which....I have to admit I had a fangrrl tittery response to that. ("I'm on BookSlut! I'm on BookSlut!" like that.)
Right after I finished being tittery, though, I had to have big dumb stupid girly cry about it. Because remember what I said about, NO MATTER WHAT, just being arrested makes it looks like I DID do something wrong? Yeah.
BookSlut says, "Novelist Joshilyn Jackson (Gods in Alabama) was arrested and jailed in Austell, Georgia, and we can all rest easy. Jackson's crime: having her maiden name on her Social Security card, and her married name on her driver's license. In other words, being a remorseless criminal monster out to destroy America."
Now granted, I AM "a remorseless criminal monster out to destroy America." No one is denying that for a second. BUT, the small fact that I DID NOT actually have my maiden name on my soc card and my married name on my drivers license has been forgotten. Not just by BookSlut. Friend after friend has said to me in casual conversation, "I can't believe you got arrested just for not changing your name." And I say BUT BUT BUT As soon as the SS office TOLD me that was the case, I went and FIXED it. Lawfully, Obediently. Long before they punitively canceled my driver's license. I complied. Like a good dumb dog. AND they arrested me anyway.
And then my friends say, "Well that wasn't really clear (Which it was!) and anyway that's not really the point. (But it is!)
They are focusing on Injustice the first -- which is that this crackdown is causing a relatively law abiding citizen ...
(I say relatively because, Best Beloveds, I was speeding.
When the officer pulled me over he said: Why did I pull you over?
and I said: I was speeding. Heh.
And he said: Yep.
And then he waited a sec for me to say the obligatory: Please don't give me a ticket and PS did you happen to notice I have enormous, mighty cleavage? smilesmilesmile
But I didn't say any of that. Not because my cleavage isn't mighty. Oh NO!
I didn't say it because... I WAS SPEEDING. Actions have consequences. I was in the wrong. I deserved the ticket. The end.)
....to be carted off to jail, but IT WAS THEIR PAPERWORK MISTAKE. Not only is it ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY that any person MUST be carted off to jail if their "papers aren't order" (which is insane) but I was jailed even though my papers WERE in order.
See, the whole idea is well these laws protect us law abiding citizens, because they are designed to weed out illegal aliens and therefore catch the bad terrorists. And some gardeners.
So have your papers in order, like a good dog, and nothing bad will happen to you. That's doesn't seem terribly "RA RA PERSONAL FREEDOM YAY AMERICA!" in the first place. But, it's actually worse.
I had my papers in order.
I was the goodest of good dogs.
AND anyone who doesn't think anything bad happened to me
1) Must have $1,500 bucks lying around they were thinking of using to light their smokes or eating like a fresh crisp salad
2) Should try being marched down the busiest street that runs through their small town in handcuffs
3) Did not see that freakin' jail house toilet.
(To be clear about #1 -- I don't mean bail. That's a WHOLE ANOTHER 1,000 I had to lay out, but I will get that back when I show up for court. It will cost me just under $1500.00 bucks OVER and ABOVE the bail, and I won't get it back. And SURE if I had infinite time and resources I COULD MAYBE sue the DMV and get it back, but I could incur several more thousand in legal fees and still lose as the DMV does this all the time and can't really be expected to cover the costs for every single little wrongful arrest they cause...So.
I am just paying it. I can't take hours away from my children and my work and gamble MORE legal fees on the hope that the the system that CAUSED MY WRONGFUL ARREST is going to own up to their responsibility. I would like to point the DMV to my little YEAH! I WAS SPEEDING! I WAS WRONG! MY BAD. I TALE FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THAT BAD CHOICE! paragraph above, but the DMV, you understand, is just going to buy an even LOWER cut blouse and maybe bounce a little on its heels. It is NOT going to say, OOPS! WE WERE IN THE WRONG.)
I've been told that I'm overreacting and missing the point of my own arrest. Many of my friends have already forgotten that I did not actually do anything wrong, and are focusing on the fact that if I HAD done the wrong thing, it would still be huge overreaction to arrest me. People are telling me the bigger point is more important.... The bigger point being, that with these new laws, a soccer mom can be pulled over for speeding and arrested because "her papers are not in order," and that this should not happen in America.
BUT! I'm being told that the fact of my innocence is ONLY an important distinction to me, my mom, and my kids, that only WE care that I did not ACTUALLY DID NOT BREAK THE LAW they arrested me for breaking.
I beg to differ. It makes a difference, actually, because NO ONE, not even the most patriot-act adoring safety first sort can say to me "Oh ! BUT! These more stringent measures are not intruding on good dog citizens, because IF you had had your papers in ORDER this would not have happened to you and AMERICA is SAFER this way. So get your papers in order."
I HAD THEM IN ORDER. They arrested me anyway.
You could have all your papers in order, and they could arrest you too.
Welcome to the new America, where you can be arrested if you screw up your paperwork....or if your friendly, local government does.
Did you know the QUILL NOMINEES came out? TIME TO GO VOTE.
I was most especially excited to see what has been with NO question my favorite this book so far this year, Water for Elephants up for the Quill in General Fiction. If you haven't read that yet, GO READ IT. Immediately. Do not pass go. Do not collect Franklin Mint coins. Hie thee to a bookstore!
OH! AND! My main manly gunplay man, Michael Connelly is up for the mystery/suspense/thriller award with The Lincoln Lawyer. Which DUDE! that was an easy vote since 1)It may be my fave Connelly book EVER and that is saying something because I love me some Harry Bosch. And 2) the Quills FOOLISHLY and WRONGFULLY overlooked Lee Child.... Otherwise that could have been a dilemma. Of course, Connelly IS up against Arthur Conan Doyle, who practically INVENTED deductive reasoning. Tough call, BUT last I heard, Doyle was still dead and doesn't much care if wins a Quill.
GO VOTE! It's fun, and just flipping through the nominees, even in catagories I didn't vote in, added to my READ THIS list. Do you know I've never read Harlan Coben? How did I not do that? And I am DYING to read The Stolen Child now.
WHAT ELSE!. Oh, I did a fun fast flip interview with the Trashionistas. They sent me an ICON! Which I think is a link. And I have NO IDEA what it looks like. I am just going to HURL the code they sent in and hope it the graphic doesn't turn out to be PeeWee Herman in a weenie bikini. Ah, living dangerously...
Well, that's cute!
OH! Speaking of ICONS, remember I was whining yesterday that 3 Questions should have a little graphic or icon? WELL YOU GUYS ARE DARLING! I have already been sent TWO very cute possible graphics/icons. LA LA LA! THANK YOU! I think we should make this an official contest.
You have til the end of the week to whup something up in Photoshop or Paintshop Pro, a header or icon I can use on the 3 questions days on the blog, yes? Be sure and steal the background color so it MATCHES. Let's say get them in by MIDNIGHT YOUR TIME FRDAY. I will post all of them (or at least all of them that do not feature PeeWee Herman in a Weenie Bikini) on Saturday. OR if ya'll are all freaky-artsy-madmen and we get BUNCHES, Scott and I will narrow it down to our five or six favorites. If I can FIGURE OUT HOW, I will post them as a POLL and you can VOTE!
There are TWO POSSIBLE WINNERS. The popular vote winner and the icon I actually use. These may or may not be the same icon. And I may or may not use ANY of the icons. The winner OR winners get a book on tape of gods in Alabama and one of my brother's mondo-cool little foxes. Which I am getting stingier and stingier about. SO. Get one while you can.
AND I plan to go to the Post Office next week, so if you are waiting on mail from me, keep waiting, patriently, in a Kevin Costner "If you build it..." sort of way. Your package WILL come...
I need a little LOGO for 3 Questions. Like something with a ? or a 3Q kinda thing? ANYWAY. Best Beloveds, TODAY! is my last guest blogging spot over at Literary Chicks, so feel free to drop by and discuss pRon and the comparative merits of The Manty. In other words, I am over there talking about the upcoming television season...
AND HOW APPROPRIATE IS THAT? Because, here, today, for your delectation, I have ensnared the lovely and talented Stephanie Lehmann, whose blog is CALLED Anything Good On? and today she TOTALLY nailed what's wrong with S3 of Project Rnway which is, obviously, that they Auf'd Allison instead of that SNOOZEFEST OF ROBERTHOOD or that FOAMING BORE Vincent. Ah well, VIVA LA ULI and HIP HIP HU-MICHAEL, we must all carry on...
Appropriately, Stephanie's new book, You could Do Better is about a curator at The Museum of Television & Radio. I'll let Stephanie tell you about it, but BookList says, "...things don't sort themselves out the way Daphne wants them to in this very funny tale. And just when it seems that it's all about the laughs, Lehmann switches gears and introduces true poignancy."
JJ: How important is location to you as a writer, or, a better way to say that might be, could these books be set anywhere else?
SL: Location seems to be important to me, in that all four of my books are set in New York City and could not take place anywhere else. I grew up in San Francisco, but I can’t imagine setting a book there. People there are way too relaxed. I like to call them “mindless pleasure seekers.” All the angst of New York City definitely inspires me. Something about having lots of people around who I don’t need to talk to is very comforting. Even when I was growing up in SF, if I was feeling lonely or depressed – and could tear myself away from my TV set -- I used to go downtown and walk around to cheer myself up. So it's like I was happy to find a city that's "all" downtown. In my first novel, THOUGHTS WHILE HAVING SEX, the main character has moved to New York to have a play produced.
In my second novel ARE YOU IN THE MOOD? an actress who lives in the East Village gets married and moves to the Upper East Side and then looks for an apartment on the Upper West Side; the city is almost a character in itself. In my third novel THE ART OF UNDRESSING the main character grew up in midtown Manhattan just a few blocks away from where her mother worked in a strip club. Now she’s moving back into that same apartment with her mother while she goes to a culinary school to become a pastry chef. In YOU COULD DO BETTER the main character also grew up in New York City, and her job is at The Museum of Television and Radio, which is on 52nd Street. It’s kind of funny for me to think how I used to be afraid of the city. When I was a kid, I visited here with my parents and was totally intimidated. I didn't want to leave the hotel or walk down the street. I thought you had to be crazy to live here. Then I came here to go to NYU, felt right at home here, met my husband (who's from Long Island) and never wanted to leave. I think I like being a permanent tourist.
JJ: How did you research the history of television? Books and google? Did you have How did you research television? Books and google? Did you have to experience working in the museum to be able to write about it?
SL: YOU COULD DO BETTER is about a curator at The Museum of Television and Radio. I’d been there many times. The first time I went was because I was trying to get a job writing for ALL MY CHILDREN, and I wanted to watch some old episodes. They had some from the 60s and the 70s with the original ads still in. I was hooked. (Didn’t get the soap job, though.) When I was trying to come up with a new book idea, I thought how it would be fun to write a novel about a character who works there. So I interviewed a curator there, and also someone who works in the viewing library. I also went there a bunch and watched old shows – grueling research! I also read every book I could find on the history of television. The Performing Arts Library is right in my neighborhood and was a great resource. My main character is obsessed with television pop culture, and through her the book actually gives a little mini-history of television. I showed the book to someone who works at the museum, and she said it was amazing I'd never worked there because I captured it so well, so I felt pretty good about that.
JJ: Tell us about your relationship with television. How does your life intersect with the book?
SL: When I was growing up, like my main character, I was addicted to TV, and it was definitely something I turned to in order to escape reality. I was particularly attached to the screen when I was going through puberty, which was also the time period when my older sister was in and out of the hospital. (She had Hodgkins Disease.) The TV, pitiful as it may sound, was always there for me. I had my own black and white portable by my bed, and I watched it every night, often falling asleep to Johnny Carson. I’d often wake up in the middle of the night to static, or the sound of God Bless America and a flag waving. It's easy to forget that the stations went off the air at night! Anyway, I think it's inevitable that I would create a character who's turned to television because of emotional trauma. After all, my writing has also been a way of exploring my feelings and escaping. Which I guess means I'm escaping reality by writing about a character who escapes reality.
My mental illness number just exceeded the national debt, so this entry could get long...
1) From being a girl.
Mildly related anecdote: I just got a letter from my friend Matt, who is married to his friend Drea. He and Drea went over to HER mom's house, and her mom had gods in Alabama on the coffee table. She had just finished it and had set it out to give to Drea because she really liked it (PREEN!!!!). The mother in law did not know Matt and I know each other and that he, of course, already had the book. So, anyway.
I get this e-mail from Matt: "Drea really dug Gods. I tried to get her to read it like 239084 times, but all her mom had to do was say 'Hey, you should read this.. It's good' and she started right into it.
You girls are crazy."
My response: I blame the estrogen. It's like a big shot of psychedelic mushroomic mood embellishers hurled right directly into the brain. Want some? The first hit is free.
Of course, on the OTHER hand, boys have to contend with testosterone. At least MY psychedelic mushroomic mood embellisher doesn't make me want to, you know, have a war or watch sports.
I am restructuring a HUGE thing and I think it is right but wow, it's big. I prowl around in utterly repulsive sweat pants and attempt to make chapter whatever-I-am-on-that-day work and call everyone I know and snivel when it doesn't and call everyone I know and yell pleased ululations of revolting triumph at them when it does. Either way, it's not attractive.
If I DO leave the house, like, if I am FORCED to be by being out of food or I have an appointment I can't miss, I find I am having mildly crazed FALLOUT. I get weepy and shaky every time I drive through Austell now, which, I admit that's a little like saying DOCTOR, IT HURTS WHEN I DO THIS, and now you say, SO, DON'T DO THAT!
Except Austell lies directly on the path between me and....everything. If I go NOT toward Austell, I generally come to some cotton. To the left of Austell? Some kudzu and also goats. To the right of Austell...Super Walmart, and Dude, I much prefer the cotton/kudzu/goats. The right-of-Austell Super Walmart is where despair goes to die. It smells like the rendered fat of a thousand McDonald's French Fries. Everyone there is either on Lithium or Crystal Meth or both or should be on at least the first one. I think they have a direct portal to Hell in the sporting goods. I am not a big Super Walmart fan, to be honest, but THIS one is beyond regulation horrifying on every possible level.
It is also true that if you go THROUGH the goats and kudzu, you come to Hiram, which has a movie theater and an Italian place with decent stuffed mushrooms and a Tar-jay and a Starbucks, but no bookstore, and none of my close friends live there. So. I have to go through Austell a LOT. It's wearing on me, and I feel, quite frankly STUPID, for having such a boring and predictable weepy-spooked emotional reaction to being arrested. How dull. If only Austell sent me into foaming gibbering psychosis, or filled me with secret sexy I'm-a-dangerous-criminal thrill.
But no, it's pretty much your regulation post-trauma snifflies. I'm tired of it already and bored of it already and yet my body keeps HAVING the reaction as I drive through Austell. I'm rawther disappointed in myself.
ALSO -- it upsets me to say I was arrested, and that I have to insert the word wrongfully, and it REALLY upsets me that people who don't know me and donut follow the link to the whole story and who read this will probably assume I was rightfully arrested because, face it, 99% of people who are arrested claim it was wrongful and 99% of that 99% are big fat liarhead criminals. I SO LIKE BEING BUNCHED WITH THEM! I ALWAYS WANTED TO FIND SOME COMMON GROUND WITH PEOPLE WHO SELL CRACK IN SCHOOL YARDS! AND NOW I DO! FOREVER! Because JUST LIKE THEM, I can now make big mooky sincere eyes and say, "I was wrongfully arrested." NEAT!
Scott took a picture of me on the Church steps, and I feel it captures an essential truth about the state of my internal landscape:
Kinda looks like I want to pull your face off and eat your brains, huh? Yeah.
image courtesy of those nuts at Seattle Mystery Bookshop
I guest-blogged over at Literary Chicks telling them a Henry story you already know, but throwing ij a heretofore secret tale of CHILEAN DEATH SCRABBLE, a favorite pastime of mine. It may or may not involve the loser being fed to tigers...
Meanwhile, to entertain you HERE, I profer a heaping scoop of Diana Peterfreund, author of Secret Society Girl. It's the story of Elite Eli University junior Amy Haskel, who never expected to be tapped into Rose & Grave, the country’s most powerful–and notorious–secret society. She isn’t rich, politically connected, or…well, male...The New York Observer says, "Ms. Peterfreund’s descriptions of the ambitious Amy Haskel’s collegial life are both vivid and amusing ... Amy's story is both witty and endearing, peppered as it is with rhetorical questions and moments when she emphatically addresses the reader as “dude.”
Which, as you know, I recently become pro-dude. Because my nine tyear old son says it SO constantly, I have been unable to not pick it up like a virus. So. Dude. I'll let Dinana talk now...
JJ: What do you think of your cover and how does it compare to the cover you imagined when you were writing the book?
DP: They actually changed my cover at the last minute. The original cover looks a lot like my website (http://secretsocietygirl.com). Same teal color scheme and swirly fonts. The old cover was beautiful, but I think the new cover nails the tone of my book. When I was originally consulted for cover concepts, I wanted something along these lines -- gorgeous old stone building and then something cute or girly in the foreground to hint at the fact that it was a comedy. My editor and I did mockups of a scary stone tomb with a girl in college wear out front. (If you go to my website, you see the image of the "secret society girl" -- the girl in the hooded robe over her pink shirt and jeans. I think that's very in the spirit of the new cover. I love the cover. I love how it is a play on a scene from the book.
JJ: A lot of writers read this blog----how did you
a) Find an agent
b) sell that first book
c) come to realize you wanted to pursue writing as a career instead of a personal passion or a hobby.
DP: a + b) I'd been writing and submitting romances for several years, and though I'd gotten plenty of nibbles and a handful of awards, I hadn't yet gotten a bite. I started writing this story and it seemed to have the magic "lightning in a bottle" ingredients of voice, timing, and opportunity. I've always writen highly sarcastic characters, and this time I got to indulge in that voice completely, tell a story about strong women, use my own experiences, and add a dash of romance to the mix. I wrote three chapters, and then told a writing friend about the story, She went to a conference that weekend and sat next to an editor who, as luck would have it, was looking for something just like my book. And she wasn't the only one. By the end of the conference, my freind had garnered a bunch of requests for my uncompleted manuscript. I'd submitted to the woman who would become my agent before, and she'd always asked to see my next project. We'd actually met once, and she was currently considering my most recently completed manuscript when I emailed her and said I had a bunch of interest for this new proposal. She asked to see it as well, read it between the time I sent it to her from my office and took the metro home, and offered me representation. She turned around and sent it to a bunch of houses, and in a week and a half, we had a six way auction. I sold the book to Kerri Buckley of Bantam Dell. She's been an absolute joy to work with.
c) I've always written stories, but in college, I found it difficult to be in an academic environment and sustain a love for genre fiction, which is my passion. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life my senior year when my boyfriend read a story I'd written for one of my classes in lieu of a term paper and said to me, "I don't know why you're pretending you want to be anything other than a writer." He really encouraged me to put my money where my mouth was. After I graduated, while freelancing for a newspaper, I decided that it was about time to see if "someday I want to write a novel" could ever turn into something more. I told myself that if I could write a whole novel, then I'd invest the time and energy into the rest (i.e., researching the industry, joining writer's groups, going to conferences, etc.). So I wrote one, which really surprised me. Then I joined RWA, met a bunch of people who were career writers and took the next step. I knew I could write a book; could I write a good one? I definitely recommend that aspiring writers pass the first test before they start worrying about query letters and all that rot.
JJ: Who did you dedicate this book to and why?
DP: The book is dedicated to "the sons and daughters of Eli," which is a fancy way Yalies refer to themselves. The university in the book is an alternate-reality Yale called "Eli University." I think of this book as a love letter to my alma mater and all of its wonderful traditions and eccentricities, as well as a love letter to the people I went to school with, who are some of the best people I know.
JJ: What's the best STUPID LITTLE perk about having your book sell? You must here confess what RIDICULOUS dorky thing has pleased you WELL beyond the scope of it...
DP: I think the most amazing aspect of the sale for me has been connecting with people. Of course, there's the whole lofty concept of connecting to my audience, but the day the book came out, I got an email from an old college buddy I haven't spoken to in years. He sent me a picture of himself holding up my book in front of the Ottawa Parliament building. That one made me smile for days. I also got an email from a girl I went to summer camp with when I was thirteen, saying that I couldn't be the same Diana Peterfreund. Of course, how many of those are there? It's meant so much to me that people are actually interested in reading stuff I made up. And I sound dorky enough here to please anyone, I think.
JJ: Did you always plan for Secret Society Girl to be a series? If not, how did it grow into in, and if so, did you structure the first book differently, knowing another would follow?
DP: When I first queried the book to my agent, I told her I thought it had "series potential" so by the time we were shopping it to publishers, I'd started thinking along those lines. What would the series look like? What other stories could I tell in that world? The first book stands completely alone, but the collegiate lifestyle lends itself to particular character arcs. People grow and change so much during college. I was lucky in that I sold two books in the series straight away so I had the freedom to develop the story in a series manner. Still, there's only one or two minor plotlines that are not wrapped up in the first book.
Yeah, I know, it's more than three. We're WRITERS. We write. We don't...count. *grin*
Whew -- it's four AM. I JUST had a HIDEOUS dream----I saw a towncar outside my house and so I got in and my editor was sitting in it wearing dark glasses, all incognito, and she said, "I AM SO SORRY, I TRIED TO STOP IT!!!!"
She handed me a paperback book called TRAIN GIRL and the cover was VERY pulp fiction-y----half a girl's yelling face and a trainyard and a speedy car behind her. It was cheap looking and awful, the glue already failing along the binding. There was only one blurb on the whole back cover, and it said:
"Yo Quiero Read This Book" ---the Taco Bell Chihuahua
There was a little passport photo of that dog under his quote.
I opened it and it was TGWSS, the book I am working on now, just as it is TODAY, with its guts still hanging out, my edits maybe 25 - 30% done....I woke up in a lather.
I'm going to go edit my book some now....RIGHT now. Happy morning to you.
I keep getting e-mails asking what parts of the jail blogs actually happened. OH, Best Beloved of All My Many Dudes.....ALL the parts are the parts that actually happened. This is a blog, a web diary, a nattering about what is actually going on. When I make stuff up, I generally say "Okay, I made that part up" immediately after.
Who do you think I am? Although, come to think of it, I have now spent almost as much time in jail as the most famous "went to jail for 6 hours and got an entire book out of it" writer actually did. So. If it wasn't for pesky old journalistic integrity, I could maybe even parlay my afternoon in the poky into a TRILOGY. My years behind bars. Chained Heat. Hanging myself with strappy red sandals. Etc.
If it's on the blog, it is not fiction. Except MAYBE I didn't make out with Joyce Carol Oates in an airplane lavatory. Maybe. I'm not going to say definitively, so as to retain the air of dark mystery that becoming a master criminal has lent me. You see it, right? My spanking new dark mystery???
I also have gotten several e-mails and a comment (yes, I am looking at YOU, Charity) reminding me gently that, hey, STUPID PERSON, you might not want to drive the sitter home if you don't have a license. Best Beloveds, thanks for your concern, but I am no Johnny Scofflaw. See, remember the whole part on Wednesday when I got arrested for driving without a valid license? WELL SO DO I. VERY CLEARLY. I'm a little scatterbrained, sure, but so far I managed to remember fire is hot, gravity pulls downward, and being arrested is BAD.
Trust me, I did not INTENTIONALLY break the law on Wednesday, and I am not going to start intentionally breaking it 48 hours after I learn the consequences of having it done been broked. Whew----let me pause here to take an ENORMOUS and calming whiff of cocaine while I go cut off the thumbs of some guys who have fallen behind on the vig and deploy my bevvy of street beauties out onto Piedmont to make daddy a little money for a lawyer.* <----See, now, I made that last part up.
BY THE WAY --- and I am kind of sad about this --- There WAS no bench warrant. My terrified brain put that in, sort of like, if you were walking down a dark and spooky lane in the night time and every twig cracking was racheting up your nerves a few more notches, and SUDDENLY! a terrible ax murderer leapt out at you and began to hack you into chunks, your brain might looks at his mouth and see fangs. He wouldn't actually HAVE fangs, mind you, he would be a regular unfanged ax murderer. Not that the chunks of you would care.
The cop said "tougher anti-terrorism laws" the cop said "have to arrest you" the cop said "handcuffs" the cop said "social security office" and "Driver's license" and "canceled." My brain, soaked in YEARS of Law and Order and NYPD Blue, put in "bench warrant" as if it were fangs. ALSO -- it was the DMV's error, not the SS office.
Who is surprised to find the DMV being evil and sloppy?
On Thursday, Scott took off work to drive me around, collecting documentation from our safety deposit box and the SS office. The dated, notarized paper trail tells a pretty clear tale:
1) In July of 2005, the DMV sent me a letter, telling me I had to go down to social security and fix my name. I had until September 11 to get it done.
2) On August 20th, 2005 I went down to the office and did everything I need to do to get it fixed.
3) On SEPTEMBER 11th, 2005 three weeks AFTER I had complied, the DMV canceled my license anyway. Due to THEIR clerical error.
INSERT: I keep getting emails and comments saying August 20th has not HAPPENED yet, but this was all back in 2005. To clarify:
I was notified in July of 2005.
I FIXED it in August of 2005.
They canceled my licence in SEPTEMBER of 2005.
Yes, I have had no license for a YEAR.
When the cop pulled me over, I was arrested because I was DRIVING. The charge is not "BEING INVALID AND TERRORIST." It is DRIVING with no license. Where anti-terrorism comes in is that it USED to be up to the cop whether or not I would be arrested. Now, because of terrorists, the social security NAME thing is a FLAG, and if you are driving with no license and a FAKE NAME flag from the SS office, it is an immediate and mandatory arrest.
The papers made it SO PLAIN AND CLEAR that this NOT MY FAULT that I managed to have the whole thing CLEARED less than 24 hours after my arrest. I took my NEW license down to Cop Central, and the same officer was there.
Me: Hi, Hot Nice Cop! I need my car please.
Hot Nice Cop: *apologetic tone* I can't do that until you get your license straightened out which may not happen until your court date---
Me: Oh, it's all straightened. Here is my new license, and here are the three notarized dated forms from my records and the SS office showing it was actually the DMV's error. *slaps down papers*
Hot Nice Cop: *boggles*
The SAD thing is, his reaction made it perfectly plain that until I showed up the VERY next day, with ALL the papers and proof, Hot Nice Cop and Regular Nice Cop had pretty much assumed I was a big old Liar Pants. Apparently, EVERYONE who gets arrested has a big woeful tale about how it TRULY is not their fault and they DID NOT KNOW and it must all be a BIG MISTAKE. Stupid Real Criminals --- they ruin it for the rest of us.
ANYWAY, Hot Nice Cop told me that he wasn't sure his Sergeant had actually FILED the charges from he day before yet. He was going to try and get his Sergeant to DROP THEM and NOT EVEN FILE. My lawyer will be calling on Monday and see if charges were already filed. PRAY THEY DID NOT GET FILED. That would be best. Then there would be no need to EXPUNGE...it would truly be as if that bad day never happened...
I am also going to see if we can SUE THE FRICKITTYPOOPOO out of the DMV. Forget pain and suffering. I just want them to pay for my car being towed and any legal fees that will be incurred as I make DARN SURE I don't end up with a police record for THEIR error.
Here is the thing that will LONG continue to upset me. No matter how many times I explain it --- it still LOOKS like I was ... doing crime. I explained the whole thing to my Sunday School teacher, and he said, "SO, what, now you just have to pay a fine?"
UM NO. NO NO NO. I didn't DO ANYTHING WRONG. Because someone at the DMV made a clerical error, I LOOK like I did something that would have made my arrest justified. People think the police overreacted, but that isn't the point. The point is, it was a clerical error. I can prove that. But the fact of my arrest is like this black mark on me, and it looks bad, and I look bad. That can't be fixed. That's there. Forever.
If you missed YESTERDAY'S BLOG scroll down one and read it first so you will know WHY I was in JAIL. Thanks.
I know I sound really BLITHE about this whole PERP WALK JAIL ARREST thing, but I have to say, that's like this huge intellectual distance defense thing I do. I'm completely freaked. If I can't get the people at the Social Security office/DMV to ADMIT it was THEIR screw up, I could end up with a FREAKING CRIMINAL RECORD and that just makes me SICK in the pit of my stomach. That cannot happen. I'm scared and upset. I want my mom. And my lawyer. I hope showing my new card will be enough because I did not get a copy of ANAL RETENTIVE FORM 98423821691B or if I did I forgot or lost it or threw it out.
ALSO? Being carted off to prison was Spooky. It was made better than it COULD have been because there were two nice cops. We'll call them Regular Nice Cop and Hot Nice Cop. Hot Nice Cop let me keep my cell phone, or I think I would have tried to hang myself with my strappy red sandals.
FIRST I had to think of someone who would come get me out of jail. SCOTT was out of town. A LOCAL CLOSE friend would be best, but I didn't have my CHURCH DIRECTORY with me. I called Karen Abbott.
She works from home and didn't have to explain to a BOSS, "SO! My friend is, like, in JAIL. For BAD CRIME DOING. I have to go bail her out."
She does not currently have a little tiny baby who needs to NOT BREATH THE FOUL AIR OF JAIL.
She LOVES MY SORRY BUTT.
She lives 40 minutes away in Mid Town.
She has NO sense of direction.
I called her and I had to tell her like FIVE TIMES that I was in jail before she would believe me.
Me: Dude, I'm in jail. I need you to come get me.
Her: Dude, I know you are feeling pressure with this DEADLINE, but it is NOT jail okay? If you need to step away, come over and we'll have lunch.
Me: DUDE, I AM IN PRISON! If I can't get bailed out within four hours they transfer me to BIG GIRL JAIL. I CANNOT GO TO BIG GIRL JAIL.
Her: Oh poodle, it feels that way NOW, but the work is paying off! I am reading your new chapter four now, and you NAILED the part where----
Me: DUDE! PRISON! ME! COME! GET!
Her: Okay. My editor sent me her notes, so I HAVE to work today. But later I could come out if you are seriously losing it and we can go have a cocktail?
Me: KAREN. *BAD WORD*ing listen to me. In Big Girl Jail I will be cavity searched and they will take my shoes and put me in PAPER SLIPPERS and a JUMPSUIT and NO. Just NO. COME GET ME.
Her: Wait. Are you being metaphorical?
ME: NO. AUSTELL JAIL HOUSE ON JOE JERKINS BLVD. Please do not get lost. Please bring great heaping fistfuls of cash. PLEASE COME GET ME.
Her: I'm on the way. If you are seriously NOT in jail tell me now because you sound like you are actually in jail. ARE YOU IN JAIL?
Me: PLEASE don't get lost.
Once I knew Karen was deployed I calmed down a little and remembered I was missing the TV show taping and my lunch. I called Daren Wang -- he and I were sposed to be on together to talk about The Decatur Book Festival, so I got him to cover for me. I did not have my publicist's or my lunch date's number in my phone. SO I got to call my editor and say, HI CAN YOU CALL MY PUBLICIST AND HAVE HIM CALL THE BOOK EDITOR AND CANCEL MY LUNCH BECAUSE I AM IN PRISON AND DON'T HAVE ANY NUMBERS HERE BUT YOURS, K THANKS.
She went all Renee Zellwigger on me and said, "You had me at "prison." WHAT?"
So I told her the whole thing and she was surprised at how "Not screaming and crying" I was, and I thought about it and was surprised, too.
I waited for Karen to make the LONG drive and meanwhile I BEGAN calling everyone I ever met, but all they wanted to talk about was the fact that I was in jail. I wanted to talk about, like, Project Runway. And NOT jail. I didn't want to think about, you know, JAIL. But the conversations would go like this:
Me: HI THIS IS ME I AM BORED IN JAIL CAN YOU DISTRACT ME? TONIGHT THEY BETTER NOT AUF BRADLEY BECAUSE HE IS SQUIRRELY AND IS MY ESPECIAL PET FAVORITE AND THEY SHOULD AUF VICTOR WHO IS SO BORINGLY REGULAR SCREECHY PLAIN OLD CRAZY. BRADLEY IS INTERESTINGLY CRAZY AND USES SIMILES WELL!
Everyone I called: Wait. What? Wait. Did you say JAIL?
SO then we talked about JAIL. Can't blame them. Had ANY OF MY FRIENDS (except maybe this one girl I know from grad school) called me to say they were in jail, I would have been SO surprised I would have ONLY wanted to talk about why. I stopped calling people because I couldn't talk about Jail anymore. Could. Not. Then I paced and did graffiti on the toilet and paced and got bored and then, it began to resemble my most hateful fear. This is me, from an old blog entry when I answered some questions for LAUME:
I write novels because I have SUCH a horror of being bored. That, to me, seems like the worst part of being buried alive. Yes, the terror and the oxygen slowly fading and the darkness and the aloneness and the possible bugs touching you is ALL VERY BAD. But when I think of being buried alive, it's the sensory deprivation that REALLY gets to me. If I ever DO get buried alive I hope my serial killer puts a penlight and some Flannery O'Connor in the box with me. Or buries me with a good conversationalist.
Jail is BORING. I came close to understanding how genuinely freaked I was, but LUCKILY, just then, an ACTUAL CRIMINAL with a google eye came by in his JAIL 'JAMAS that said "INMATE TRUSTEE" on the chest in HUGE RED LETTERS. He turned on the TV outside my cell. He forcibly turned it on, against my will. DO YOU KNOW what they made me watch in Jail? Gigli. NO I AM NOT KIDDING. Seriously, if this was a scene in one of my novels, my editor would NEVER let me have a google eyed spooky trustee come force me to watch Gigli. I can hear her now, saying, "Gigli might be gilding the lily, Joss." And yet, hand to God, he came, he had a google eye, he put on Gigli. I called everyone I had already called back to talk about Gigli.
"Gigli is cruel and unusual punishment," said Scott.
Jill said, "I know you did CRIME and all...but...Gigli? That's just MEAN."
Still, it was better than the silence. I called Karen to check on her progress, then I paced around. I started to realize once more that this was actually happening and I was IN JAIL and if Karen ran off the road or whatever I would have to go to big girl prison and I got a little upset and so I watched Gigli and Jennifer Lopez talking about popping people's eyes out CORRECTLY calmed me down. Go figure. THANKS GOOGLE EYED SPOOKY TRUSTEE!
Karen arrived. The Hot Nice Cop came back and said my friend was here AND I had been formally charged so bail was set. I could either pay 1,083 dollars (that I get back after court) or pay 200 to a bail bondsman that he just keeps. I said, "I want to do the thousand. I want my moony back."
Hot Nice Cop: You only get it back if you are found innocent.
Me: Dude. I am getting my money back. Can you hand me my checkbook? Thanks! Now give this to my friend outside and um, can you give her directions to my bank so she can cash it? And...um, look, she's not...good at directions. She would tell you that herself. Can you give her really good careful true directions with pictures so she won't get lost. Because I hate jail.
Hot Nice Cop: Okay....
*Nice Hot Cop leaves*
*I watch Gigli*
*Hot Nice Cop pokes his head back in, laughing*
Hot Nice Cop: She made me give her directions from here TO the bank, and then separate directions from the bank BACK HERE.
Me: That's my girl!
Karen had to get FINGERPRINTED at the bank before they would cash my check for 1,083 dollars. We had ink-stained solidarity over that, because of course, I TOO had been fingerprinted that day.
So I got out of jail and they had TAKEN MY DRIVER'S LICENSE so NO ONE would serve me a cocktail. And they call this America....
I'll finish up this miserable saga later-- must take the sitter home!
So. Quite some time ago [looking at the peperwork, I discovered this happened almost a year ago, actually], I got a very stern letter from the social security office. They said, and here I freely paraphrase:
DEAR MRS. MARRIED LADY,
When you got married, Lo! These thirteen years ago, you never filled out ANAL RETENTIVE FORM 98423821691B, indicating your name change. SO! Your DRIVER'S LICENSE says your married name, but your social security number is forever bound to the the name JOSHILYN JACKSON.
Due to terrorists, the state of Georgia can't have you wandering around loose with ONE name on your driver's license and another on your social security card as marriage without name changing has definitely been linked to WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. Good women, you understand, take their husband's name PROPERLY. Via FORMS.
SO! BAD LADY! IF YOU DO NOT COME FILL OUT ANAL RETENTIVE FORM 98423821691B REALLY RIGHT TOOT SWEET SMART, MISSY, WE WILL FREAKING CANCEL YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE AND ISSUE A WARRANT FOR YOUR ARREST.
Don't think for a red second we won't. Because we will. Dude. We mean it.
You cannot mail ANAL RETENTIVE FORM 98423821691B. You cannot fill out ANAL RETENTIVE FORM 98423821691B online. Rest assured, fixing this will take four hours of sitting in a government office that smells like feet. Thank you notes for the pleasurable afternoon you will spend fixing your 13 year old error we never cared two figs about (until we realized the link between maiden names and suicide bombings) may be sent general post to THE PATRIOT ACT, c/o Your Helpful Federal Government.
Man Who WILL Attempt to Ruin Your Life Later
So. What did I do? I'll tell you.
I took my law abiding soccer-momming PTAing attending crabby-about-it but COMPLIANT buttocks down to the social security office and sat for four hours in the Eu de Foot, filled out ANAL RETENTIVE FORM 98423821691B, got my boxes checked and my stamp-needing places stamped, went home, and forgot it. My new cards came and Scott threw them in our safety deposit box and I put it entirely out of my mind and it STAYED out of my mind right up until the moment when they ARRESTED me in the middle of my small town, put me in HANDCUFFS and PERP WALKED me over to a REAL ACTUAL COP CAR and carted me off to prison.
Thanks, Social Security Office, for calling me down there, wasting four hours of my life, then screwing up my paperwork, canceling my driver's license, and issuing a bench warrant for my arrest EVEN THOUGH I CAME DOWN THERE IMMEDIATELY LIKE THE GOOD DOG I AM AND GAVE YOU YOUR STUPID FORM.
I have to say, post perp-walk, after searching my vehicle, the cops became very very nice to me. I think they got a gander at the Sunday School materials and Dasani water bottles that infest the floor of my car and decided they weren't dealing with, like, a master criminal. BUT! being arrested YESTERDAY of all days, was especially neat because
1) I got POPPED on the way to do TV and have lunch with the book editor of the AJC. HEH.
2) Scott is out of town. REPEAT: Scott is out of town.
3) My closest friend here in town, Julie, is in WASHINGTON visiting in-laws.
4) My other friends here in town have JOBS (Pam, and I had no idea of her work number and couldn't remember her company name...) or LITTLE BABIES (Vicki, who is also PREGNANT)
5) My LAWYER is at the beach this week.
I can't go on with this just now----really. I have to stop. I will tell you how I got out of jail tomorrow. BUT! OH! I will tell you what the TOILET is like in jail right NOW.
The toilet in jail is...not a good toilet. I decided I would let my kidneys burst and die before I came NEAR that toilet. It was behind a little HALF wall, so you could, I guess, pee in quasi-privacy, and people had scraped graffiti into the half wall so at least the toilet had its own built in (scatological) reading material.
I thought about scritching out an ad for gods in Alabama, as that book has all sorts of MURDEROUS SHENANIGANS in it that might interest criminals, but then, you know, any half decent policeman would be able to use his deductive reasoning skills and realize I was the gods in Alabama Graffiti perp and come RE-arrest me for defacing public property. Not that it was actual POSSIBLE to DEFACE something as foul as that one piece stainless steel water-fountain-slash-sink-slash-toilet-like-object. That toilet was INTRINSICALLY DEFACED by being a disgusting jail toilet/sink/drinking fountain. ALSO, seriously, if you pressed the water fountain button part (NOT THAT I DRANK OUT OF IT, LORDY, But I was SO BORED that I eventually resorted to playing with the bathroom fixtures) the WATER that went down into the sink hole from the fountain BURBLED into the toilet. SO it was all ONE THING with the drinking water CONNECTING directly to the PEEING WATER. GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
I hated to leave NO graffiti though, so, at the behest of my friend Jill, I settled for a scritching in bit of Momly wisdom. I put it close to the sink. Should you get arrested anytime soon in lovely Austell Georgia, my helpful graffiti will remind you: "Please remember to wash hands!" I add this, although I didn't have room to scritch it with my nail....If you DO use that toilet, don't stop with the hands. Go for the WHOLE BODY BLEACH DIP.
I SO WISH I had thought to use my camera phone to snap a pic of that toilet. ALSO --- I need a copy of my MUG SHOTS, any jail birds out there know how to get that? SMOKING GUN has mug shots all the time so they MUST be gettable. I had my picture taken SO MUCH on this tour that I reflexively did a 1 2 3 Betty style expression for my forward facing mug shot, and I would LOVE to post it here.
ALSO, I feel like having a mug shot gives me some much needed street cred. It's like a license to say "Yo yo yo, Homey-homes," with 30% less irony.
I will tell you how I spent MY TIME IN THE SMALL HOUSE (it was Austell, after all, they don't really HAVE a big house) tomorrow, and how I got out with no Scott around.
OH! I was SUPPOSED to mail off three crates of signed books yesterday, and I had to call Tammy at Seattle Mystery Bookshop and tell her the POLICE had taken her crates of books, my van, my license, AND my final scrap of personal dignity...
She responded by mailing me a sympathetic note that said "Hey Joss,
we found this today, let us know if you need a copy shipped to Jail. Bookstores can send directly to convicts:"
Lord, but I love Booksellers---especially the ones who care enough to handsell, even to bad crime doers like me!
Today I got tagged for a pretty dern cool meme, but oh my best beloveds I have had a DAY. Meme me no memes. YA'LL meme it up in the comments, I could use some good book recs.
Meanwhile, here is a little contest. I will send a PRIZE to whoever guesses where I was ALL STINKING DAY TODAY when I was supposed to be doing a spot on TV and then having a nice lunch with the book editor for the AJC... Seriously.
Hint: It is the LAST place I would ever expect to find me.
No hints from those of you who KNOW. Keep your yaps shut or the whole thing is VOID. She said crabbily. First correct guess only, and the prize pack will be nice! Audible, even, and foxy, and maybe I will throw in an ARC that I have lying around. BE IMAGINATIVE.
Hint: The answer is NOT "Kroger."
OFF TO WATCH PROJECT RUNWAY!
OH! PLEASE HEIDI! PLEASE! AUF VICTOR!
I am guest blogging every Tuesday all month long over at Literary Chicks. Today I finished blogging the tale of a plane with no snakes, unless you count the pilot.
Here is the first part: How to make a 90 Minute Flight Last 13 Hours
Here is the grandless finale: How I saved the lives of Over 20 Babies. And One Dog.
HERE on FTK, for your delectation, I have the multi-talented Martha O'Connor, author of The Bitch Posse. She'll answer my three questions, and then I'll gabble on about the things I liked very best about her book. Fair warning, my friend Martha is NOT a PG kinda girl, but it's an honest and interesting interview for teens and adults.
JJ: As a Southern writer, I think everything is about locationlocationlocation. How did growing up in The Midwest influence your work? A better way to say that might be, could these books be set anywhere else?
MO'C: I think the Midwest has always been the bastard child of fiction. It’s not New York, it’s not either of the coasts, it’s not the charming South… it’s just “the middle of a ****ing cornfield.” And I use that exact phrase in my book.
I can definitely relate to girls growing up in that bleak, endless plain in the center of the center of the country. I mean, I was one of them!
As to your question, could the book be set elsewhere?--Well, of course. But I think to work, it’d have to be a place that’s isolated and provincial. Because you see, the girls in the Bitch Posse were all desperate to get the hell out of there. And that’s a key motivator in the book.
In AA it’s called “the geographic solution,” where you try to physically remove yourself from a situation (moving away, changing jobs, leaving your spouse) in order to solve all your troubles. Of course, “the geographic solution” is no solution at all. But these girls are seventeen; they don’t know that! Hell, lots of adults don’t. That said, writing about people who are trying to take “a geographic” is easier when the place they’re leaving is unappealing to many of us.
It’s also worth saying I understood none of this when I was writing the novel. I’m a very unconscious writer!
JJ: What's the best STUPID LITTLE perk about having your book sell? You must here confess what RIDICULOUS dorky thing has pleased you WELL beyond the scope of it...
MO'C: I saw someone reading my book on an airplane while I was on book tour. A few rows behind me, a man about my age had his nose buried in MY BOOK and was flipping pages so quickly they almost lit fire. Zoiks! I said to myself. The writer’s dream come true. I couldn’t help getting up and walking over.
“Hey, that’s my book,” I said.
He put it down and smiled. God, he looked familiar. I wondered if he was famous or something.
“I know,” he replied. “It’s Emma’s, she let me borrow it.”
Emma’s? Holy crap. This mysterious man on the airplane was none other than my old friend from high school, Paul. I hadn’t seen him in fifteen years! He just happened to be on the same flight as mine, on his way to Australia on business. His wife (and high school sweetheart) Emma had told him that my book was a page-turner and he had decided to take it as his airplane book.
I signed his book, and we spent awhile catching up and sharing kid photos. All in all, it was a terrific experience that got me in two ways: the whole It’s a Small World After All idea and, of course, the Someone is reading my book on a plane! thing. I don’t think anything will ever top that.
JJ: You've overcome some pretty high hurdles in your life....can you tell us how your personal understanding of addiction helped create the layers in your book?
MO'C: In my life, I have learned quite a bit about addiction and compulsive behaviors. As a recovering alcoholic, I have been able to get an inside perspective at the life of an addict.
Much of The Bitch Posse is about addiction and how it is spawned in adolescence and carries through into adulthood. My three girls all come from extremely dysfunctional situations, and addiction plays a role in this dysfunction. First, Cherry’s mother is a cocaine addict. Cherry herself has to play the “mother” role and often mothers her friends. As an adult, Cherry struggles with addictive self-injurious behavior. As for Amy, her parents are alcoholic, and she is relentlessly critical of them for it. However, she is alcoholic herself—perhaps even as a teen, but certainly in her adulthood—and fails to realize it. Finally, Rennie’s life is also torn apart by an adult’s compulsive behavior. (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read the book.) As an adult, Rennie becomes addicted to sex.
Why do addictions carry through generations of a family? Is it a vicious cycle that is unbreakable? I like to think the answer is “no.” I don’t think the solution to mystery of addiction lies solely with genetics. There is hope for the addict. I’m living proof.
Interestingly, I wrote this book without fully understanding how addiction played a role in my own life. I have now learned that I have used my own addictions as a way not to have to feel the feelings. Also, I’ve discovered that one doesn’t have to be addicted to a substance to be an addict. One can be addicted to success, to praise, to work, to violence, to snobbery, to drama, to resentments or to many other abstract things. In the end, they all come from the same source.
Battling addiction is hard work and requires dedication. (But then, so does being an addict!) You can’t just “sort of” want to get better and be successful in the long term. But the first step is admitting you have a problem.
It may be hard work, but recovery is very rewarding. I know I have become a better person through facing addiction and learning how to recover from it. In my novel, I think I created a glimmer of hope that my characters might eventually recover from their own compulsions, too.
JJ: You did. My favorite things about your book were the teeny tiny, shimmering grace notes and the amazing highwire act you did with 6 voices. I remember starting the book and going "Oh, she can't sustain this --- 3 voices speaking from the past, 3 in present, first and third person depending on character and place in time, There is NO WAY to SUSTAIN these voices, keep them seperate and individiual, make, for example, the teen Cherry's voice consistently resonate with the older Cherry's..." But then you did it. Bravo. Okay, that wasn't a question. Just a well deserved compliment. THANKS MARTHA.
I need a one or more special robots to fulfill a multitude of functions. The robot (or robots) should:
1) Get my children's closets cleaned out, so that all the clothes in there are the size that currently fits my children, and are seasonally appropriate.
2) Go into the garage and tote everything that is not a car away to a landfill. Actually, I don't even need the robot to differentiate between CAR and NOT A CAR. The robot should feel free to cart away EVERYTHING indiscriminately, because SO MUCH crap is in my garage that the number of cars that will currently fit in there is ZERO. Zero cars. So. Both of our cars currently perch outside on the driveway, in the rain and in the baking heat alike. I think my van is wondering why he even HAS a garage door opener clipped painfully to his sensitive little sun guard flap since I never punch the button. Opening those doors would reveal the floor to ceiling crap heap to the neighbors, and ANYWAY, if zero cars can currently fit, then the numbers of LARGE VANS that could fit must be a mathematical impossibly. If the robot was good at math, he could probably figure that the garage currently has a capacity of negative 34% of no vans fitting, but I quite frankly don't care if the robot can do math or not. As long as he can....
3) GENTLY take the phone away every time I try to make an incoherent and panicked WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH CHAPTER FOUR AND WHY CAN'T I FIX IT, AM I ON DRUGS??? call to my editor. On a Sunday afternoon. At her home.
NOTE: Should all reasonable attempts at number 3 fail, the robot should make the kind of chocolate martini that is served at Avra, striped black and white with this weird SWEET FOAM on top like a cold and very alcoholic cappuccino, and then the robot should sit on me and force feed them to me, one after another, until I whisper "Compliance" and release the phone.
4) Go down to Sam's school and explain in an introntrovertible mechanical monotone that Sam's mother was too stupid to correctly use the online uniform ordering system, and so her first order did not go through at all, and her second order specified different (and incorrect) sizes on more that 50% of the uniform pieces. The robot should further explain that, due to a massive forced infusion of chocolate martinis, said stupid mother is unable to drive down to the school and fix it, or indeed, to get off the floor where she is currently quivering and whispering the word Compliance to the refrigerator. And then if the school's office staff is not moved to pity and helpfulness culminating in order fixing and uniform procurement, the robot should move to Phase 2, defined as "threatening the custodian with Laser beams" until the office staff is moved to a state of terror induced order fixing and uniform procurement. The robot should bring the uniforms HOME with him, or not come home at all.
5) Make nutritious meals and dispense soothing medication as needed.
That is all. I need the robot or robots NOW, so overnight UPS is best, please. I looked on Amazon, but so far I have only found robots capable of vacuuming my basement and wearing little outfits. I do not need help with either of those things.
HI! I am become a hermit. I am quitting everything I can quit, backing out of everything I can back out of, dodging the phone calls of old friends and refusing to make new friends. Me and my laptop, we will be under the bed for the next three months should you need us.
Last night I went to eat humus and talk writing with Karen and Anna, and they SEPARATELY, one on either side, said almost the exact same thing at the exact same time about my work in progress. (Remember THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING which we are fondly calling TGWSS? Or, to be phonetic, Togwiss?). Anyway---It was like a stereophonic message from the Lord, and A HUGE DANGLING MASS of CRAP that happens in the middle and that made NO sense realigned itself and fell into place in my brain. WOULD THAT it would ALSO spontaneously fall into place in my MANUSCRIPT. ALAS, the paper part must be done manually.
I have been up since four, ripping out great useless hunks of text like it was gelid, floppy meat and replacing it with bones and muscle, some veins and blood and other working bits. Maybe later today I will give Togwiss its first internal organ; Maybe start with something relatively simple. Maybe plop a kidney down in the middle and see how it attaches itself and what it decides to do. Maybe if I extend this surgery metaphor a LEETLE bit farther, it will get so gross I actually throw up in my mouth.
I love revisions.
From INSIDE this process, I am going to be having a high old time. From OUTSIDE... it is going be pretty much a 3 month long a view of a person squatting in front of screen, cackling to themselves. SO. SINCE I HAVE NO LIFE OF MY OWN DISCUSS starting now and up until November at the earliest, let's talk about reality television.
I am not a fan. Hate survivor. Hate Big Brother. Hate Bachelors and Bachelorettes with equal vim. Hate Elimidaters, Moles, Real Worlders and Road Trippers.... I think these kinds of shows bring out the worst in the people on them, and I get such HUGE sympathetic embarrassment as folks make COMPLETE asses of themselves and have only their worst moments edited together so they become a character that works for the show. I always think that SOMEDAY the former participants will attain spiritual enlightenment and when that day comes, they will hardly be able to LIVE with the shame of their immortalized hideous behavior being eternally available on Netflix.
It's that same sympathetic embarrassment that caused me to be a Lamaze Class drop out. When I was pregnant with Sam, we had a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE Lamaze Teacher. She wore no base or powder or lipstick or blush or mascara, NONE, but then, inexplicably, she painted her eyelids with iridescent powders to look like tropical fish. She'd stripe her eyes in turquoise and gold and purple from the lash line up to her eyebrows, and fan the colors out WAY to the side, far beyond the eyelid...Make-up like that should be listed along with hallucinations and cannibalism as a clear sign of mental illness.
At EVERY SINGLE STINKING LAMAZE CLASS! Without Fail! She would show us a birth film. So we could, you know, see some birth.
I hated it. I REALLY don't like to see birth. If you've been reading this blog a while, you know I have odd notions about biological functions and manners and what's proper. I had this horrid feeling that the ladies that agreed to have their births filmed had no idea that they would be rocking around stark naked and moaning like animals and spurting blood and other moist horrors and calling out, "I HATE YOU, YOU _$^^@@&(#)$#^*$$%!*!!" to their husbands when they agreed to let the camera crew in.
Watching the films, I imagined that right before the class, the featured birth mother had CALLED up the Tropical Fish Eyed Lamaze Lady and said, "Please don't show any more people that video. I feel, in retrospect, that I behaved with...impropriety. And I don't want people other than my husband and my doctor and the 45 nurses and interns that were in the room to see me in that primal and extremely private state."
Then the Tropical Fish Eye Lamaze Lady would say, "WELL YOU SIGNED A RELEASE, DUMMY, SO SUCK IT UP. I ESPECIALLY LIKE THE PART WHERE YOU VOMIT INTO A BASIN AND THEN ASK GOD TO KILL YOU! HA HA HA HA HA!"
I talked to Scott about it, and it was making me so UNHAPPY with sympathetic embarrassment that we decided I should not watch any more of them. BUT! I never knew when the films were coming! She sometimes played the film at the beginning, sometimes at the end, sometimes in the middle. THE ONLY consistent thing about the class was that we WOULD be watching a graphic birth. With screaming. And epesotomies. And sometimes poo.
So I went to her privately and calmly and sweetly and asked her to please begin showing the films at a consistent time, either at the beginning or at the end, so I could either come late or come early and NOT see them. I explained my reasoning and my reactions to her just as I have explained it to you, except I left out the part about her make-up causing her to look like an escaped mental patient. She was VERY displeased and was NOT open to me leaving and I started to get a little bit ticked and she got shirty and belligerent and I got defensive and retreated, as I generally do, into humor, and she would NOT hear what I was trying to say.
Her: But you are going to GIVE birth in five months. How can you GIVE birth if you can't even WATCH it?
Me: When the contractions start, I think I'll give birth whether I've watched a bunch of poor women I do do not know cry and scream and bleed and heave or not.
Her: But YOU will be doing it. You NEED to see it.
Me: Okay, but I won't have this "straight up between the legs" sort of ANGLE. Because my head is at the top, see. And I feel very embarrassed watching total strangers from that angle. It seems a little...personal.
Her: But THAT IS HOW WOMEN GIVE BIRTH.
Me: Right....well, I have a pretty good handle on what comes out of where. Can't I please just learn breathing and not watch the films? Think of it like sex. I'm pregnant, so you can guess I don't have any qualms about HAVING some myself, but trust me when I tell you, I have NO desire to watch OTHER people have some. Unless the other people are Johnny Depp and Someone Pretty, and the LIGHTING is good and the director is careful about angles, you know?
She didn't think that was funny. But eventually she agreed to start showing the films at the end of class, and Scott and I would quietly slip out early.
Except that was not how it happened. THAT VERY NIGHT! At the end of the class, she ANNOUNCED in patronizing and mournful tone, "JOSHILYN AND SCOTT ARE LEAVING NOW. We are going to watch our BIRTH FILM, and JOSHILYN is having PROBLEMS with witnessing this completely natural and beautiful act. SO, we will let JOSHILYN leave, and we will all hope she will soon EVOLVE to a place where she accepts the process."
Scott and I got up, took our pillows and left, me fervently hoping that she would soon evolve to a place where her leg was broken in the wilderness and wolves ate her.
We never went back.
Reality shows give me that SAME vibe. I can't bear to WATCH the naked pain and poor ethical choices of strangers, because even the most shameless among them, I suspect, will someday realize how BADLY they have behaved, and feel great gouts and spurting of FUTURE shame. I'm an optimist.
And I say all that to say, for some reason, that makes no sense, I LOVELOVELOVELOVE PROJECT RUNWAY! Project Runway is the best thing that has ever happened on television. I LOVE HEIDI! I LOVE TIM GUNN! The day Vincent gets Auf'ed I am throwing a party, revisions or no revisions. COME SOON! OH LOVELY DAY WHEN VINCENT IS FORCIBLY REMOVED! I ADORE for Uli and Laura and my very most especial favorite THAT BIZARRE GUY WITH THE BEARD, the one who says he is a sea otter bereft of oceans.
If you aren't watching this show, clear your schedule and start. This is the BEST. SEASON. EVER. of the best show ever made.
That is all.
Karen: There is nothing to eat in this house. I am going to have to go to the Midtown Night Against Crime Walk because they have free barbecue.
Me: BAHAHAHHAHAH Oh LORD, no. Go to Kroger.
Karen: I can't face driving. It will be fine. The sheet says I am just supposed to "gather in numbers" with my neighbors and we'll walk down the road arm in arm to protest the hookers.
Me: Down Piedmont?
Karen: Yeah, I know. It's mean and possibly dangerous. But they are having BBQ ribs and Peach Cobbler after. They got the Cobbler from Mary Mac's, so it should be a huge turn out. I doubt the hookers can take us.
Me: Just go to Kroger.
Karen: It RAINED last night. The Running Off the Hookers for Free Dinner Rally did not happen.
Me: Did you break down and go to Kroger?
Karen: No. You know what I had for dinner last night? A tortilla and a pickle.
Me: You folks in town are so glamorous! With your Hooker Spooking Walks and your Mexican-Pickle Fusion Cuisine!
Karen: I love Midtown.
*Maisy Jane bends down and gazes all soulful into the one eye of our cat, Franz Schubert. He gazes back.*
Maisy Jane: Mommy! Look! I'm charming the cat with my loveliness!
Me: That's nice. But you know what? I think maybe you are also charming him with your good heart. And your smart brain.
Maisy: ...No. He says it's my loveliness.
*sigh* But on the other hand...She is ridiculously lovely.
FOUR DAYS AGO
Scott: Maisy loves her cousin Daniel so much. She looks at him like he made the earth....It's a shame she had to execute him.
YESTERDAY NIGHT AGAIN
Me: Tomorrow is Dad's birthday. 66. Can you believe.
Scott: Well you've made one just like him. It's down in the basement right now, playing Sonic Riders.
Lord, he's right though----look, I've practically cloned my father:
Happy Birthday, Daddy.
Today I am guest blogging over at my friend Lani and company's place, LITERARY CHICKS, so you can find PART ONE of the tale of the 90 minute flight that took 13 hours pretty much right here. Part one of SEVERAL, because IT WAS A THIRTEEN HOUR TRIP. Into hell. So.
Here, meanwhile, I am giving up my chair to a rawther extraordinary young woman. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a recent graduate of Yale University, where she studied cognitive science (the study of the brain and thought). Her research on animal and child cognition has been featured on ABC’s World News Tonight, Animal Planet, and The New York Times, and Jennifer will be spending the 2006/2007 school year abroad, doing autism research at the University of Cambridge.
Jennifer wrote her first YA title, Golden at the age of nineteen, and her second book, Tattoo, will be available in January of 2007.
Borders Books and More is recommending Golden, saying "Set at Emory High, Golden glows with the spot-on insights and pitch-perfect prose of someone whose knowledge of adolescence is absolutely fresh. The story's young heroine, Lissy, must learn the rules of a rigidly regulated hierarchy of popularity when she moves from California to Oklahoma. The social challenges she faces will be chillingly familiar to anyone navigating high school, but cliques aren't all Lissy has to deal with. She can see things that the average girl misses, and it looks like there's something truly evil stalking the halls of Emory High. Golden is a captivating mix of everyday teen terrors and supernatural suspense."
I stuck Jennifer in the three questions chair and grilled her:
JJ: What's the best STUPID LITTLE perk about having your book sell? You must here confess what RIDICULOUS dorky thing has pleased you WELL beyond the scope of
JLB: Honestly? The free books. I'm such an avid reader, and no one EVER told me that there would be free books involved in being a professional writer. For the first time in my life, I have more books than I could possibly read, and I'm running out of places to put them, but I can't quite bring myself to get rid of ANY of them, because I form this ridiculous emotional attachment to anything that my publisher gives me.
JJ: As a Southern writer, I think everything is about locationlocationlocation. How did growing up in Oklahoma influence your work?
JLB: I grew up in Oklahoma, but went to college on the East coast. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at my dorm freshman year to discover that all of my roommates mistakenly believed that I lived on a farm, rode horses to school, and personally knew people with hyphenated first names who had married their cousins. In GOLDEN, my narrator is a California girl who is transplanted to Oklahoma and discovers that it isn't all that different from any place else (a lesson I spent a good year and a half teaching all of my East and West coast roommates), and that, contrary to popular belief, being from California
isn't a guarantee of social success in an Oklahoma high school.
JJ: Golden is a book about a girl with an average girl with an extraordinary supernatural power. Tell us about your own supernatural powers.
JLB: I'm trying to figure this one out myself and sadly fear that I might not HAVE any super powers. The best I've been able to come up with is that I'm (a) really good at guessing whether a baby is going to be a boy or a girl, (b) equally good at guessing how many siblings a person has when I first meet them, and (c) supernaturally lucky at getting good parking places at the mall. I also dream in detail (and remember them) every night, and once in a blue moon,
they come true... but that happens to everyone, right?
I'm sure it does...THANKS JENNIFER!