April 11, 2010

3Q with Bernice L. McFadden (And a Contest!)

Bernice L. McFadden is the author of six critically acclaimed novels, including the classic Sugar and Nowhere Is a Place, which was a Washington Post best fiction title for 2006. She is a two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of two fiction honors from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA).

I remember reading SUGAR soon after it came out and being so caught up in its aching, bittersweet web---I loved it. She has new book out now. It’s called Glorious, and Publisher’s Weekly gave it a standing rave, calling it “powerful” and “triumphant.” I can also tell you that if you use the LOOK INSIDE THIS BOOK feature on Amazon and read the first chapter's string of tantalizing What Ifs, you are going to be hooked. I certainly am.

I nabbed her for a 3Q interview, and she graciously agreed to provide two signed copies for those who dare to tread the Cruel Waters of the Random Number Generator. All you have to do to enter is leave a single comment, and let math do the rest. I’ll unleash the generator on you brave optimists who comment before Tuesday at Midnight, EST. Full rules, perma-stolen from Mir, are over on Want Not.

JJ: Tell us about Glorious.

BLM: Glorious is an extraordinary historical novel set against the backdrops of the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights era.

The story opens on a hot, steamy July 4th in 1910 as “The Fight of the Century” comes to an end and Jack Johnson becomes the first ever African-American Heavy Weight Champion of the World. This event sets off a series of violent, racial eruptions around the country and in the small town of Waycross, Georgia, the life of a young Easter Venetta Bartlett is forever changed.

Glorious follows the life of Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer whose tumultuous path to success, ruin, and revival offers a candid portrait of the American experience in all its beauty and cruelty.

It is a tale woven with historical events and figures of the time. Langston Hughes, Carl Van Vechten, A’Lelia Walker, Nancy Cunard, Marcus Garvey, Horace Liveright and many other historical figures make appearances throughout the story. In many ways, Glorious mirrors my own journey from an unknown writer to published author. The story is as relevant today as it was fifty years ago.

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JJ: Your main character, Easter Bartlett seems to have a lot in common with you. You are both female authors. How are you different/alike?

BLM: Our differences are few. Easter was born in the late 1800's and in Waycross, Georgia. I was born in 1965 in Brooklyn, New York. What we both strive for is happiness. We're driven by the idea that art and love should transcend race, religion and gender.

JJ: I know you are an an "organic writer,” ---someone who writes their way into a book instead of working from an outline. Can you talk a little bit about your process and what you thought the book would be versus what it became?

BLM: My stories, Glorious included, come to me in phases and in phrases. I might be washing the dishes and all of sudden a monologue will start up in my head. This often goes on day and night for days. This is when I know a new story has found me. I have never had to search for a story or an interesting character - they always find me. With Glorious, I was sitting in my kitchen having a cup of tea when, I suddenly felt the presence of two women who I will contend until the day I die, were the spirits of The Harlem Renaissance Writers, Zora Neale Hurston and Nella Larsen. By the time I finished my tea, I had twenty pages of information that would become the prologue for Glorious.

THANKS, BERNICE. And good luck Best Beloveds...I can tell you cryptically, and while wearing pink socks, that this will be the last 3Q and RNG contest ever to be seen on this website, so. Make it count!

Posted by joshilyn at 5:08 PM | Comments (62)

March 4, 2010

In Which my Children Fan-Pester Julianna Baggott

My blog is being taken over by the very bestest of all my best beloveds, aka my loinspawns. They are QUITE EXCITED to see how this is received when they get home this evening after ballet and piano, so it would be delightful of you if you had time to comment, and, should you choose to comment, this would also be an excellent time to restrain yourself from explaining how the eff word is SO fantastic because it can be every part of speech, EVEN A GERUND. (And here we all turn together and fix Karen Abbott with a steely gaze.)

If you have kids in the proper age range and you read my friend Lydia’s review of Julianna Baggott’s latest release for young readers, you probably have already gotten your kids a copy of The Ever Breath.

I, of course, got it for mine. Sam read it in a day and then passed it down, his highest praise for a book, to try and make everyone in the house read it. Maisy was so taken with it she has renamed her American Girl Bitty Baby doll after one of the main characters, Camille. However she is convinced you pronounce the name like “CAH-mih-lay.” I told her how to say Camille, but Maisy is not interested. Her way is better, she says, so we all bowed to it. The upshot is, when I interact with my pretend granddaughter, I have to call HER CAH-mih-lay, and MEANWHILE she is running around calling ME Mee-Maw. Yes. Mee-maw. I am unamused.

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Sam: I love your book, the way it combines some real world elements, like how Camille is focused on survival, with mythical ones, such as the dragons and giant spiders. I particularly enjoyed how you scattered the clues to who the villain was around the story.

Maisy: Hello. I wanted to tell you I loved your book very much, and it was one of the first books that was really Sam’s book that I read all by myself!

Sam: My favorite part is how you left it open for another book. Did you base any characters off of real life people?

JB: My characters are always conglomerations of people I know. I take notes all the time. I'll jot down one person's weird snore, another's dithering (danseyheadedness), another's badly knit hat, another's sad expression, another's queasy car-sickness. This way, I never have to invent a character from nothingness. I try to pay close attention to the world all around me while jotting all my little notes -- how one of my uncles always gets cheeze doodle fuzz in all of the buttons of the remote control, like an orange exoskeleton, for example -- and when I write, I lay out all my notes and see how I might stitch them together to make a good story with cool characters. So yes, my characters are based on little bits of people, taken apart, and then made into someone new.

Sam: How long did it take you to write it?

JB: THE EVER BREATH was originally called Truman and the Great Vootery. It was an idea that I pitched to an editor along with 25 pages. She loved the pages and bought the book and its sequel just on those pages alone. But then I realized that the pages didn't make as much sense as I'd hoped. For one thing, I really didn't know what the Great Vootery was. So I rewrote those pages and then a whole draft of the book. And then THAT wasn't quite right either ... and so I rewrote the book one more time! It took about a year to write a draft that really buzzed. Writing this book often felt like bear wrestling. And sometimes the bear seemed gigantic and big-toothed and large-of-claw. Eventually, the bear and I came to an agreement. We ate cookies in a civilized fashion and decided how the book should go ...

I'm at work on the sequel now -- THE EVER CURE -- and that bear is back and acting surly!

Maisy Jane: Do you have any kids and if so are they named Truman and Cah-mill-ay?

JB: I have four kids. Their names are Phoebe, Finneas, Theo, and Otis. The oldest is fifteen and the youngest is two. For Theo we had three names picked out and one of them was Truman. But it got out-voted. And if Otis had been a girl, Camille was in the running. So both of these names are ones I've loved.

My daughter Phoebe once demanded to have her name in one of my books -- tricky business because you wouldn't want to be Milta in this book, would you? So, if you ever get into THE ANYBODIES series (written under my pen name N.E. Bode), you'll find a Phoebe in Book Two. She's one of the good guys!

Maisy Jane: What is the being whose breath is in the Ever Breath?

JB: See! This is the kind of question an interviewer should ask! I can't wait for you all to grow up and start making the world smarter.

Listen, inside the amber orb called the Ever Breath, there is an actual breath -- a living, breathing breath. This is what makes the Ever Breath mysterious and sacred, what gives it the power to keep a balance between our world and the world that belongs to all the magical creatures. My characters don't even really know what to call the Being whose breath is in this amber orb. They try. Swelda goes back centuries and uses a really ancient term: A Being than which nothing greater can be conceived. I never use the word God. But this is the term that ancient philosophers used for God. And, well, I believe in God. I know not all my readers do, so I didn't come out and say God. But hopefully I talk about the breath within the amber orb in a way that people who do believe in God can think of it as the breath of God. And what I like about the being than which nothing greater can be conceived is that it's not just a dusty God, no, but one who breathes, who lives.

And this isn't an answer to a question, but, Maisy, I totally love YOUR pronunciation of Camille! From now on, I'll think of her as such!

Me: Fine. As long as you do not think of me as Mee-maw.

Posted by joshilyn at 11:22 AM | Comments (34)

September 29, 2009

3Q with Lily James

Not Normal, Illinois is a collection of stories about the Midwest. We all know there’s clipped intelligence in the Northeast, flashy thrills in California, and gothic romance in the South, but what kind of writing comes from the Midwest? Mashed potato recipes (You smash a potato.)? Descriptions of how the corn grows up (Vertically.)? Or is there something weirder, something more profound, in the flyover space between New York and LA, outside Chicago and around those Great Lakes we keep hearing about? Something “Not Normal”? Lily James, who has a story in the collection and is one of my favorite writers, would say yes.

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She is the author of High Drama in Fabulous Toledo, and she is an amazing talent. I met her years before either of us ever published a word and I fell in love with her writing---she has such brio combined with boundless imagination and wicked humor. She has been my writing/crit partner and hero for murmble-murmble years now, and here murmble mumble is represents a VERY LARGE NUMBER, so largeI can’t remember exactly what it is, like 17 or 25 or 20? Anyway, large. So large it gives away too much about exactly how dern old I am. (Which is 41. BUT STILL. )

I asked Lily to drop by and answer three questions.

Joshilyn: Your story in the collection, “Round,” is set in Toledo. Your novel is also set in Toledo. What is the deal with you and Toledo?

Lily: Well, when the authors of our time were all choosing favorite cities, I felt safe in picking Toledo, because I knew I’d never be challenged.

No, seriously, there’s something belligerently grandiose about Toledo that has always captivated me. I was born in Detroit, but I went to school in Northwest Ohio, and experienced firsthand the excruciating winters, the relentless flatness, the cultural vacuum. I know why people who are born in this region are instantly desperate to get out. They go to Chicago, go to New York, even go to Cinncinnati or Columbus, anything to get out of Northwest Ohio and everything barren that’s there.

No one aspires to someday be in Toledo. No one yearns to go there, and live there, establish a dynasty there, put down roots. And yet, impossibly, there’s still a city there, the city of Toledo. Impossibly, there it is. There’s a daily paper that calls itself “one of the nation’s best.” There’s a zoo, and a university, and an art museum. There’s even a skyscraper. Toledo, stuck firmly in the rust belt, with a stalled economy and a failed manufacturing industry lying in tatters around it, still calls itself the Glass City, as if an inherent optimism and ethereal beauty could be impressed on the beholder by a trick of the light, by a celestial name. It’s just so absurd, you have to love it. Toledo makes no sense; it is pride in the face of obscurity, a poignant ruin oblivious to its decay, it’s a gorilla in a tutu, a string quartet out of tune on a sinking freighter carrying rubber balls. Cleveland has always been a joke of a town, but Toledo, built on a battle ground, lost in a swamp, and home of the Glass City Rollers, is so absurd as to be sublime.

Joshilyn: What is your story about?

Lily: The story is about a Toledo that has been destroyed by tornadoes. The female main character tries to keep her family together on the outskirts of town, scavenging from the rubble, forging protective connections with other survivors, and trying to stay positive. It’s one of those stories where you might give birth to a sea turtle, or be okay with living in a ditch for a while. Kind of like the three little pigs, if Toledo were the straw house, and the pigs were your family, and in the end your husband got eaten by a harpy.

Joshilyn: What is your favorite other story in the collection?

Lily: There are so many good ones, I can’t choose. Let me give you a few titles. Mine has the shortest title; it’s called “Round.” Other much longer ones: “Talking to My Old Science Teacher about Drawings in which I Killed Him,” “Metaphysics of the Midwest,” “Some Notes on the Cold War in Kansas,” “A History of Indiana,” “River Dead of Minneapolis Scavenged by Teenagers.” And among the authors represented are Robert Coover, George Saunders, Rikki Ducornet, and Louise Erdrich. Hers is called “F*** with Kayla and You Die.” Now how can you not want to read that?

I think that when Michael Martone was looking for stories to include, he was not specifically seeking formal experimentation, but a uniquely Midwestern viewpoint expressed in a voice that was defiantly “not normal.” So the result is actually a fair representation of the literary avant garde of the moment, but not from New York, or Boulder, Austin, or LA. From the Midwest, with all its belligerent, absurd grandeur.

Posted by joshilyn at 5:40 PM | Comments (20)

August 28, 2009

In Which No Winners Are Eaten

OH best beloveds, I am devastated to report that you did not all win the single copy of THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE that I have in my possession.

ALAS. Perhaps I should be like the hideously dishonest, vicious, and pathologically jealous lady who came with her roommate before King Solomon. They each had a son, and one child had died in the night. Solomon offered to cut the baby in half for them. The real mother declined, natch, but the vicious one said, “Sure, cut up the baby. But I want the top half.”

Perhaps I SHOULD hack the book into 106 equal pieces and mail you each a chunk. But then the ones who got cover bits and no sex scenes would say I played favorites. SO. I will roll the bones instead.

Only one of you won the book, and one got the pin and tats, and two got tats and magnets. As for the rest of you, I AM SORRY! SO SORRY! To see you so bereft hurts me in my teeny pink internal puffy rabbit. (Yes. I have one. He has taken up residence in the soul-spot where most people keep their love of beautiful mountain vistas and the ability to be emotionally effected/moved by music. The rabbit is a squatter. He sidled in because the space was mostly empty; I had only a wizened, bored raisin taking rattling about in there. I think he ate it.)

ANYWAY, it HURTS me in my rabbit to have only one winner, but the GOOD news is the first book is paperback. Mass market. Not at all spendy!

Due to rabbit pain and in the interests of fairness, I cannot PICK a winner. I have known many of you for a long long long time. I leave the cruel business of winner-picking up to the gods of Random They are vicious, number-y mathy sorts with long supercilious noses and cold stares, not really our kind, but what else can I do? If you did not win, I feel for you---those exacting bastages hate me too.
I never win anything.

I think I never win anything because of the Candy Bucket Incident that happened when I was in first grade. My scumbag brother, a fifth grader, was asked by his school to sell ten raffle tickets. The winner of the raffle would get a pumpkin ---a BIG pumpkin, mind you---hollowed out and carved and chock full of candy. My brother, who did not wish to go door to door and who was told by his teacher in NO uncertain terms that he must unload TEN of these handmade tickets at a BARE MINIMUM, finagled me into ravaging my piggybank, denuding it of all its monies, and leaving me with the tickets.

My mom and dad tried to UNDO his dastardly deal, but I was adamant. I believed my tickets would win. I believed with all my rabbit. I believed so hard and so truly with my WHOLE pink rabbit that my LIFETIME STORE OF LUCKINESS stepped in and squandered itself on a punkin fulla Bit-O-Honeys and mini Milky Ways.

Add that to the trick-or-treat loot I garnered, and for WEEKS I was able to eat candy til I was sick-sick-sick, beginning a lifelong tradition of gluttony that has ended with me needing to do the American Heart Associations BETTER U Program. HEH. And now the Lotto is over 300 mil, and that candy is long gone, and I need to go get on the elliptical and continue candy penance and not plan to buy an ISLAND any time soon.

My point is only this: you didn’t want those grapes anyway, I am sure they were sour and HAD you won , you have tripped on the book, greatly harming your toe. You might even have fallen into a door and concussed yourself and lay for hours in a near coma before finally dying, at which point your cats would have eaten you.

It is better this way.

Unless of course you are Anne Marie, in which case, the number gods like you, I am SURE you will not be eaten by cats, and in any case, you won.

The gods of random have done spaken:

Comment 71 wins the book (posted by Anna Marie at August 26, 2009 1:37 PM)

Comment 11 wins the pin and Tats (Posted by cheryl at August 21, 2009 9:39 AM)

Comment 48 wins tats and a magnet. Heather of target="_blank">Based on a True Story (Posted by Heather at August 26, 2009 10:56 AM)

100 wins tats and a magnet. Ginger, who is BETTER Uing. Huzzah!
Posted by Ginger at August 27, 2009 3:17 PM

If any of these people are you, email your snail addy to Joshilyn at Joshilyn Jackson dot com, and Lo! Your lootage shall be mailed to you.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:16 AM | Comments (9)

August 25, 2009

The Girl Who Was Selfishly Sorry (CONTEST) (edited)

YAY the blog is back. ALL the parts of the website SHOULD be working now. I actually posted this Friday, but it did not show up, and now BOTH times I posted have showed up. With comments and everything. HEH. SO! I removed the old one, and now I am putting the 5 comments up from there onto here and...oh my. I am glad the BORK part is over.

Edit: I fixed the date. This SHOULD have ended on Tuesday, but since it just now went up, that seems...ridiculous, to end before it ever posted. Only time travelers and advanced mathematicians would be able to enter. SO.

Edit 2: Betterness will happen THURSDAY, as Tuesday was about making my computer better.

I am so, so sorry that Stieg Larsson died. SO Sorry. Most importantly because he left behind a woman who loved him and lived with him for thirty years and a some family as well. Also because he was an idealist and a rampant feminist and into Social Justice and because he was very young, only 50, when a massive surprise heart attack took him out. I am sorry for all these reasons.

I am also sorry for ME, and for readers like me, because he died with only 3 of his planned 10 Lisbeth Salander novels finished. Larsson said that Salander was based, in his head, on a grown up version of Pippi Longstocking, and I LOVE that. I can COMPLETELY see that.

This is a Pippi who grew up in a harsh world indeed, and she is the most interesting character to come along in series fiction in forever, joining Jack Reacher, Tess Monaghan and Harry Bosch as one of the few made-up people I will follow from book to book to book. I almost always prefer Stand Alone books to series, but Lisbeth Salander is just as unendingly fascinating as Jack, Tess and Harry, and I would follow her ten books and beyond.

(Hm! I just realized that in a few key ways, Salandar is LIKE Reacher. If Reacher was a teeny little Swedish girl, I mean. They both step INTO a punch instead of away and move forward, unflinchingly, toward approaching trouble, instead of away. Away is where *I* like to go in relation to trouble, so maybe that’s one reason I find both characters so compelling.)

Lisbeth’s freakin’ crazy. She has a rigorous ethical compass and NO morals. And Lord help the misogynist who blips even faintly on her radar. OH! STIEG! Combine this fresh and fascinating mess of a character with intricate plots and a moral foil of a journalist named Mikael Blomkvist, and I am yours yours yours yours yours.

Knopf offered me a give-away copy of the second book, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and some very cool THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO temporary tattoos. I think the publicist found me because I had mentioned Larsson’s book in glowing terms on my blog before. I just finished the second one, and I think I liked it even more than the first. Maybe. Hard to tell yet. Too fresh.

I usually do not do this kind of promo. I like to do author interviews here and give away books that way, but I generally delete e-mails that say, HERE IS A PRODUCT, PLS SAY A NICE THING AND HURL A FREE ONE!

I agreed to this for two reasons. 1) I LOVE these books and I unselfishly wish to share the pleasure. And then – not so selflessly---2) the first ten people to agree would get ARCs of the third book. AND I NEED THE THIRD BOOK IN MY HANDS RIGHT NOW. NOW I SAY. Alas, I was not one of the first ten to sign up. No GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST for me til next year, when it comes out. *curses and fumes*

If I wasn;t so diffident and ridiculous, I’d be hunting down whatever editor has the book and asking if they would find an early blurb from me even slightly useful. Or, what about a kidney? If anyone at the pub house needs a kidney I seem to have an extra and I am not doing much with it....

SO! The contest: you leave a comment, I will enter you for a drawing to win a hardback copy of THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and a couple of these snazzy temporary Dragon Tattoos so you can pretend to be a lone psychotic 4 foot 11 inch ball of rage against injustice. I will send a couple of runner ups the other temporary tattoos and a magnet and one will get a snazzy BETTER U pin. I steal the rules from my bargain hunting friend-site, Want Not, as per usual. Contest closes Thursday, August 27th, at midnight EST, so comment early, but only ONCE pls.

Meanwhile, just in case you DO win, go get a copy of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO because these books should not be read out of order. You need to read the first one. First. Really.

(I listened to it, unabridged, and I highly recommend the audio version. The reader was very very good, except he had a funny way of saying “condom” that drove me mad. “Con-DOM,” he would say. And there are, cough, several condoms and a heaping scoop rampant violence in both these books, so do not enter if you are a kid. If you are a kid, go read Pippi Longstocking instead. It’s awesome, too.)

Posted by joshilyn at 5:15 PM | Comments (108)

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?

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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 8:32 AM | Comments (110)

June 18, 2009

3Q with Bridget Asher (and a contest!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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JJ: Did the novel require a lot of research?

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by joshilyn at 7:01 AM | Comments (115)

June 11, 2009

3Q with Tess Callahan (and a contest)

We will once again steal Mir’sContest Rules but the SHORT version is, leave a single comment by midnight EST on Friday, and three of you will win a first edition copy of Tess Callahan’s dark and lovely debut novel, April and Oliver.

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I just finished this a couple of weeks ago, and I really, really, really liked it. It’s the story of two childhood friends whose lives are re-entangled after the death of April’s brother, Buddy. Intense April chooses self-destructive relationships while Oliver, a happily engaged law student, seems to have it all together. I found it to be…sexually fraught with a tricky undertow to it, so it was constantly pulling me to places that I didn’t see it going. It’s beautifully written and ultimately hopeful, and I put it on my reread shelf because it’s so nicely layered, and yet I had to know what would happen so I read through the first time very quickly.

Library Journal says, “Callahan spins a dark, gritty tale of love, yearning and choices while presenting engaging characters and substantial action that packs more than a few punches. Wise beyond words."

JJ: Your main character, April, seems to be nothing like you. After all, you are a mother and teacher with a stable life, and she is a bartender who gravitates toward dangerous men. What DO you have in common or, if nothing, how did you manage to inhabit shoes so different from your own?

TC: True, April is impulsive and I am cautious. She fills up a room with her presence and I have a tendency to disappear. She provokes conflict and I avoid it. Nevertheless, we have things in common. Our fathers both tended bar, although the fictional Bede, April’s father, did it for a living, whereas my dad did it as a second job on Saturday mornings at an old-timers’ neighborhood pub. Unlike April’s father, mine was gentle, kindhearted, and together with my mother, gave my siblings and me a stable upbringing. Like April, I spent time with my dad at the bar, just hanging out with my Shirley Temple. I spent more time in bars under the age of ten than I have since.

Also, I share April’s appetite for reading. Many of the books strewn around her apartment are ones I myself have taken an interest in.

Lastly, I understand that kind of bottomed-out self esteem that says: Any guy who is too nice to me must have something wrong with him. Fortunately, I got over that. There’s hope for April, too.

Oliver is closer to my personality. He so wants to do the right thing, but sometimes is out of touch with his inner compass. I loved art and writing as a kid, but never considered them as career choices. On the surface, they just seemed too impractical. Deep down, I think the prospect of harnessing my own creative power was too terrifying. Who knew where it might lead me? Instead, I got a master’s degree in education and taught English abroad. It wasn’t a bad decision, since it allowed me to travel. But even then, I couldn’t keep myself from writing and sketching in my journals. Thank God for that, because disowning your own power doesn’t mean it goes away, it just means it exists without a driver, like a runaway car. Oliver repressed his intuitive, nonlinear self, which made catastrophe not only inevitable, but necessary for him.

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JJ: A lot of writers read this blog. How did you sell your book?

TC: I have collected enough rejection letters to make a bonfire. To boot, I never handled them well. They are always so disappointing. But the truth is that over the years I sent many things out before they were ready, and it took me time to hone my skills. I don’t really regret that, because failure can be an enormous teacher. I gave up on the idea of publishing, and discovered that I am a good teacher and could draw a great deal of satisfaction from that.

Nevertheless, I kept writing because it is what I do. I worked on April & Oliver on and off for years, periodically stuffing it in a drawer for long stretches. It was my good friend, novelist Sasha Troyan, who encouraged me to haul the manuscript out one more time. Having been away from it for so long, I reread the manuscript with a blend of satisfaction and horror. Because so much time had passed, and because I myself had changed, (the stretching effect of parenthood), I could clearly see what rang true and what did not. It was as if I was reading someone else’s manuscript, and knew precisely what to fix. When I was satisfied, I sent it to agent Anne Edelstein, who sold it in two days. In short, I sold my book thanks to the badgering of my writing group, as well as a good deal of luck, and a lot of stubborn persistence.


JJ: What is the relationship between writing and motherhood like for you?

TC: On the surface, it appears that the huge demands of parenting compete with writing. Certainly, I would have more time to write if I were not a mother. I thrive on having chunks of time in which to immerse myself in a manuscript, but as all parents know, dealing with interruption is part of the job description.

Nevertheless, I feel that parenthood has made me a better writer. My children keep me grounded in the here and now. If I ever start veering toward fluff or dishonesty in my stories, I only need to hear my daughter talk about her school day, or watch my son feed his turtle, to know what is real and true. Parenthood pushes and pulls you through a wide range of human experience, which can only deepen your well as a writer.

JJ: That's interesting to me... Motherhood changed my writing. I think my work was somewhat colder, less connected, less empathetic and certainly less hopeful before I had kids. But you are correct, I had a lot more time to WRITE then...Thanks for a great book, and for stopping by FTK. I look forward to reading whatever you do next.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:48 AM | Comments (82)

June 6, 2009

Three Q with Me and You

Finally, The CONTEST I promised, what? 2 weeks ago. You can win pink socks! Ok, not really. But you can win an autographed copy of the poppin-fresh The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.

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There are two ways to win. The first way is the standard…we will steal all the official rules directly from my bargain-queen friend Mir over at Want Not, but the basics are, you leave a comment on this entry before midnight, Tuesday June 9th and you are automatically entered in a random drawing to win one of three signed copies. If you already bought The Girl Who Stopped Swimming then
A) You are so pretty. I LOVE your hair. Let’s hold hands and skip through this meadow together, singing.
B) You can give that one away and have a signed one for your own sassy self, or
C) You ask for your signed one to be made out to someone else for a birthday or thank you gift, or signed plain for an emergency OH CRAP I FORGOT TO GET A GIFT gift.

There is also a second way to win. (This is an EXPERIMENT, and we will see how it goes.) If you help Spread the Word that TGWSS is out in paperback to your Internetsian Peeps via your blog or Facebook or MySpace, you can be entered in a second drawing. It’s easy. You tell folks about the book and link to an online book vendor (You can find links to IndieBound, Amazon. BAM and B and N in my sidebar) or heck, you could link back HERE. Then send me an e-mail ( Joshilyn at Joshilyn Jackson dot com ) with a link to your blog entry , and I will enter you in the second drawing for two more signed copies. This pool, I imagine, will be much smaller.

The questions came from YOU guys----from e-mails that I cleverly saved in my in-box. So here is a little bit about the book, and then 3Q with, er, me, and I SWEAR I won’t get cutesy and welcome myself to the blog or, you know, thank myself.

Quilt artist Laurel, her game programmer husband, David, and their 13-year-old daughter, Shelby, lead a seemingly charmed life in a serene Florida suburb. But when the ghost of a drowned girl awakens Laurel, the veneer of that life seems ready to crack beyond repair. Can Laurel trust her flamboyant, outspoken sister, Thalia, to help as old family secrets emerge with dizzying speed? With the appearance of a ghost on the first page, you'll feel compelled to race to the end, but slow down for Jackson's great descriptions-you'll be rewarded for the effort. Jackson illuminates not just the complexities of family love as a source of safety and support but also the complexities of danger and death. The life-affirming epilog provides satisfying closure – Library Journal

"...a great tale [that] builds to an exciting and violent ending, one that surprises and yet seems to fit."
-USA Today

"A ghost story, family psychodrama, and murder mystery all in one. Jackson's latest is a wild, smartly calibrated achievement. A-."
-Entertainment Weekly

You: Are your characters strictly drawn from your imagination or are they based on characters that you know?

Oh, they are all made up – but bits and flashes of many of my friends and relatives sneak in there. No character is a definite version of, say, my Aunt Niner but I can think of four characters that have one or two of Niner’s quirks, and probably a few other characters owe a little something to Niner and I don’t even realize it. That’s always the way – I see little bits of folks I know peeping out of characters who are also wholly themselves. The exception to this rule is CHILDREN. I can’t make up KIDS… they are too weird. I also can’t use my own kids because I am too close to them to see them objectively----either that or they actually ARE the cutest best smartest kids in the universe.

Shelby (the pre-teen in GIRL) is heavily based on my niece, Erin, when she was that age. Erin-at-five was also the basis for Fisher in Between, Georgia. Erin is fifteen now, and a track star, and the book I am working on now has a fifteen year old track star in it…hmmm. Coincidence? Absolutely. *cough*


You: What is your Pet Peeve?

Me: People who correct me when I am not wrong. My children, for example, love to correct me by getting more or less specific. This is a TYPICAL type of conversation we have 3 – 10 times a day.

Me: Aw, look at that cute dog!
Either child---or both in patronizing tandem---in patronizing tones, looking down their patronizing noses: Um, Mom? That is a JACK RUSSEL TERRIER.
Me: WHICH IS A KIND OF DOG, YOU LITTLE BUTT HEADS, GET OFF MY LAWN.

Except I stop, with great effort, after the word dog.

You: Oh. Um, I meant as a WRITER.

Me: OH! My bad. People who think adverbs are evil. Adverbs are NOT evil. Should they be used sparingly? Yes. But see how sparingly changes the meaning (and the answer) to the question? Well. Sometimes, they are the most expedient and correct way to say the thing you are trying to say. It isn’t just ADVERBS, I guess, it’s any sort of dogmatic treading along the virtuous path of rules-for-writing. You hear people say, “You can’t write a readable book in the second person,” and then Tayari Jones comes along and does it perfectly. Or they say, “If you do not write every day at the same time you will never finish a novel,” except I am incapable of brushing my freakin’ teeth at the same time every day , and yet I write novels for a living.

That said? I think I am going to TRY scheduled writing hours and word counts for the next two weeks, mostly just to see if I can do it. For fun, and also because one of my rules is WRITING SCHEDULES ARE NOT GOOD and I don’t even want to be dogmatic about my OWN rules for writing. If it works, do it, no matter what the rules say.

You: When will the next book be released and is it a mystery?

ME: The new book is called BACKSEAT SAINTS and it will release in spring of 2010.

I don’t consider myself a “plot-driven” writer. I think of my books as character driven, but I do LIKE plot, so I use a commercial engine for most books. I would say THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING uses a murder mystery engine, as does gods in Alabama. BETWEEN, GEORGIA is built like a family dramedy. Backseat Saints is my first run at using a thriller for an engine. It’s a high tension book, but not a murder mystery. Plenty of murder though---I have yet to write a book where someone doesn’t get killed in Alabama. *grin*

Good luck guys, and thanks for reading!

Posted by joshilyn at 8:45 AM | Comments (96)

May 18, 2009

3 Questions with Michelle Richmond (and a Contest!)

No One You Know was one of my favorite reads last year, and “anything by Michelle Richmond” is one of my most frequent answers when I call or visit book clubs and they ask for a recommendation for their next pick. Her books are so smart, and so beautifully written, and SO hooky.

I invited Richmond to do 3Q, and she graciously offered to throw in two signed copies of the poppin-fresh new paperback. Just leave a comment before MIDNIGHT EST on Wednesday, May 20th, and you are entered in the drawing – HOW EASY IS THAT? Just one comment per human being, please! And no comments by dogs.

BOOKLIST, in a starred review, describes NO ONE YOU KNOW like this: As in her previous two novels, Dream of the Blue Room (2003) and the best-selling Year of Fog (2007), Richmond turns a family crisis into heartbreaking and compelling reading. Ellie Enderlin has never recovered from the unsolved murder of her sister, Lila, a Stanford math prodigy, some 20 years earlier. The day her sister went missing has become “the touchstone from which all other events unfurled.” Compounding the tragedy is the fact that her English professor, the person to whom she confided some of her most intimate feelings about her shy, private sister, has turned the tragedy into a best-selling true-crime book. To have those moments turned into fodder for the public’s voyeuristic appetite has felt like another violation. When Ellie, a world traveler and coffee buyer, meets up unexpectedly with the brilliant mathematician implicated in her sister’s murder, she sees it as a way to wrest back control of her own narrative and solve the crime. Richmond gracefully weaves in fascinating background material on the coffee culture and the field of mathematics as she thoughtfully explores family dynamics, the ripple effects of tragedy, and the importance of the stories we tell. Combine all that with perfect pacing and depth of insight, and you have a thoroughly riveting literary thriller.

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JJ: What's the significance of the title and how did you come up with it?

MR: Early in the book. Ellie recalls a conversation she had with her sister Lila twenty years before, when Ellie was a college freshman and Lila was a promising graduate student in mathematics at Stanford. Ellie asked Lila whom she had been seeing, and Lila, always private, answered, "No one you know." Weeks after this conversation, Lila was murdered.

Two decades later, in a cafe in a foreign country, Ellie encounters the man who was accused of the crime but never charged. This meeting convinces Ellie that the story she has always believed about her sister's death--a story made famous by a bestselling true crime book--is false. Ellie sets out to uncover the truth about Lila's death, and in the process she discovers that she never really knew her sister. The title is meant to evoke the sense that it is difficult to truly know anyone, and that even the people with whom we are most intimate--siblings, lovers--have secrets they keep from us.

JJ: Who did you dedicate this book to and why?

MR: I dedicated No One You Know to my sisters, Monica and Misty. It is, at heart, a novel about sisters, and while neither of my sisters is similar to the women in the book, the intricacies of the sisterly bond that I've experienced in my own life very much inform the book. The paperback contains supplementary materials--a playlist, a reading group guide, and a Q&A.

Given the subject matter, my editor suggested that my two sisters conduct the Q&A. They did, and I love the questions they come up with, because their perspective on the novel is naturally informed by our childhood. My younger sister is a photographer, and she always takes my author photo; she also helped me with the photography aspects of my previous novel, The Year of Fog.

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JJ: Your main character seems to have a lot in common with you. How is she different from you?

MR: Like me, Ellie is a coffee addict. But she takes it one step further; she's a coffee buyer. Researching the life of a coffee buyer was a tremendous pleasure for me! I spent a lot of time at cafes, toured a local coffee company, attended tastings, and drank more coffee than anyone ought to! We're both in our thirties (I won't say exactly where I am in my thirties), and we both live in San Francisco.

But I think I'm somewhat more content than Ellie, who is always searching for something, never quite able to settle down. I have a husband and a young son, while Ellie is single. Ellie's life has been deeply influenced by a tragedy that happened when she was still young--the death of her sister--a tragedy that altered the course of her life. I had a pretty happy childhood, and the tragedy is an imagined thing. I was interested in exploring how the death of a very close loved one would reverberate in a person's life through the years.

Posted by joshilyn at 5:01 AM | Comments (98)

May 5, 2009

3 Questions with River Jordan

I met River Jordan more than twenty years ago. (Eep.) Obviously, I was still a fetus. Okay, fine. I was a teenager. Same thing, in a lot of ways. We were in a playwriting class together at the University of West Florida, one of the many Southeastern colleges I passed through on my loop-de-looping path to getting both a piece of paper and an actual education. Back then, I thought she was both a brilliant writer and an excellent human being. My opinion has yet to shift on either front.

I have not read her new book, Saints in Limbo, as it is just now out. In fact, it releases TODAY. But I can tell you that I will be getting it the very next time I am in a bookstore, and that I TRULY loved her first novel, The Gin Girl to distraction. I loved her second, The Messenger of Magnolia Street enough to blurb it.

When a mysterious stranger appears at her door on her birthday and presents Velma with a special gift, she is rattled by the object’s ability to move her in time–back to a place where Joe still lives, her son Rudy is still young, unaffected by the world’s hardness, and the beginning is closer than the end. Secrets old and new come to light in a book Publisher’s Weekly calls, “a thrilling, often touching gothic tale about conquering fear and regret with a stubborn, Southern love.”

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

RJ: Usually when I’m writing I’m so lost in the story I forget it’s going to be in a book. I mean, to me, it’s a very real place that I’m visiting or more like – living in at the movement. When the final cover came through it astounded me. I mean it. It captured so much of my childhood in a moment that I could barely breathe. White clothes on a clothesline being as much a part of the south to me as sweet tea and cornbread. And yes, most of the clothes always seem to be white in my memory. Whites and work jeans. And right there is that green grass that my barefoot toes could run through. And my Granddaddy’s barn in the background. I mean, just look at it! It’s all southern, off-center, part shadow, and part light. It’s captured the story perfectly!

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JJ: I hate writing sex scenes. I get embarrassed, even when I KNOW the way the sex plays out is thematically important.....I hear you have trouble with your sex scenes, as well. How do you approach writing about sex?

I never thought I have a sex scene in a book because I hate writing them, too. I used to joke with people who said that sex sells that I was going to start my next book with a sex scene just for that reason. But dang if I almost didn’t do that – unintentional of course. You often ask people about their being an organic writer or outlined writer and to describe that process. Well, I’m an organic writer and follow the story and next thing I know - there’s a sex scene in the first chapter of Saints In Limbo.

Velma, though the power of this mighty surprising gift she has been given, travels back in time and the next thing you know she is young again and living mightily in the moment to the fullest with her husband right there in that barn on the cover. I ain’t lying. If anybody has a problem with that, they will just have to take it up with Velma. I didn’t have nothing to do with it.

JJ:Tell us about the place your story is set in called, Echo.

It’s the very place my daddy grew up in. Seven Swampy acres on a creek full of all manner of fish good to eat and alligators sunning on long, dead logs. Cypress trees and long-legged birds nested at the waters edge right alongside the chicken coop, the barn, the pigs, and a horse named Maude that does not make her way into this story. This is the part of north Florida they call L.A. meaning lower Alabama because the beaches feel a thousand hot, sticky hours away.

It was Daddy’s spot of heaven on earth and that is very evident in the story. It was his touchstone to all that was good when he was away in the Army and his healing balm when he came back from Vietnam. It’s still in the family in spite of a cloud of vultures that descended immediately following his death and tried to talk/trick Momma into selling. Next thing I knew I was channeling that spoiled, sassy Scarlet when one lady caught me in mourning in the front yard. I remember saying something out of my mind like – “As long as I have breath in my body this land will belong to my children and my children’s, children’s, children . . .”

I must have scared her because she put her witchy hands on that steering wheel and left a trail down that dirt road I can see to this day. So that land is very sacred to me - full of magic, and memories that echo far back before my time. I fully intend in my most stubborn, southern way for them to continue echoing long after I’m gone.

Thanks, River. HA! I grew up in L.A., too.

Meanwhile, soon, VERY SOON, this week, possibly tomorrow, I can tell you about THE MYSTERIOUS DOINGS in Dallas. I am not Pink Socking you, Beloveds, really. I am only waiting on my friend to e-mail the pictures of me in full on bondage gear that I need to tell the story PROPERLY. And in your hearts, don’t you think the story would be better WITH bondage gear pictures? Most stories are.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:30 AM | Comments (6)

August 20, 2008

3 Questions with Bridget Asher

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JJ … sell that first book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by joshilyn at 11:42 AM | Comments (11)

April 10, 2008

4Q with Rebecca Flowers (Yes. Four.)

Rebecca Flowers can’t count, but Lord knows she can write. I unabashedly LOVED her debut novel, NICE TO COME HOME TO,, enough to say so on the cover, on this blog, and recently in a bookstore to a browsing stranger.

Rebecca very sweetly came out to an event while I was touring for THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING, and she was as delightful in person as her prose is on the page. Look, this is us:
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JJ: What writers influenced your work and how and why?
RF: When I first decided to write a novel, I read something that saved my life. Some big important writer, like John Irving or someone like that, said, Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, with your first novel. Just take a book you love and follow its plot. Don’t worry, your book will be your book. But you need a sort of road map to follow, your first time up at bat.
THIS IS GOOD ADVICE.
I decided to try my hand at updating Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, mostly because Pride and Prejudice had been done to death.
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I was interested in how two sisters with different approaches to life – she of the head and she of the heart – fall in love. Whereas the Dashwood sisters become “unmarriageable” when they lose their dowry, the Whistler sisters are up against comparable modern-day forces: Pru is entering her late 30’s, and Patsy is the single parent of a young daughter. The men they fall in love with both seem too good to be true – and with good reason. The book follows the sisters as they try to put their lives together again, after true love wreaks its usual havoc.
Although I went in different directions with my ending for both of the sisters, I have to say, as I slogged my way through that sloggity first draft, thank HEAVENS I had such an excellent road map.
Austen is just a master at creating likeable, complex characters. I admire that incredibly.
Also, I kept a copy of Nick Hornby’s About A Boy always in reach, while I wrote this book. I also very much love Elinor Lipman, Melissa Bank, and Larry McMurtry.
JJ: Tell us about your own experience with LOVE… TWOO LOVE!

RF: My earliest readers had a hard time with Pru. One of them, a determinedly-single gal herself, had a violent reaction to Pru’s desire to settle down and get married, even if it meant forsaking some kind of great love. It really took me off-guard, I must say. I wondered if there was something wrong with me, that by the time I reached 35 I was in a similar frame of mind.

A writer named Lori Gottleib wrote about “settling” in the March issue of the Atlantic Monthly. She actually encourages women to do it, while they’re in their early thirties and optimally attractive. She thinks too many women wait for “true love,” which, according to Gottleib, doesn’t exist.

By the time I was 35 I knew I wanted to marry and have children. I’d been working my keister off, and I was ready to do something that seemed like it would give me something back. I wanted to be nestled safe and secure in the bosom of my family.

But I was with a guy I did not love. I didn’t know what to do – marry him, because at least he loved me, and would happily father some children? Or hold out for quote-unquote true love? Which I hadn’t experienced since the fourth grade? (Oh Danny Oliveri, you heartbreaker you!)

Well, the decision was made for me. I was dumped by my “safety”! I mean, what the?

It was the best thing he ever did for me. I owe that man like a case of Lowenbraus. Because that was when -- humbled, ashamed -- I met my husband. We were set up on a date by his brother, a good friend of mine.

We were supposed to meet for afternoon coffee; I didn’t get home until after one in the morning. I smashed into a table umbrella while walking toward him at dinner; he didn’t get the critical plot point of The Matrix. And – this will sound familiar – he wasn’t exactly available to me. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t, because I was totally in love with him by the end of the first date, when he asked me why Neo had to be resuscitated after being pulled out of that gooey human pod thingy.

Luckily, he made a decision that let us be together. I wrote NICE TO COME HOME TO about what would have happened if he hadn’t.

For the record, say I: hold out for true love. ‘Cause it’s just too hard to live with someone, under any other circumstance. And because yes, yes, YES!, it exists. It’s not what Lori Gottleib seems to think it is, however. True love is NOT the thing that gets you what you want out of life – a house, a baby, a family, perfect and unerring happiness. True love is the thing that complicates life, that makes it messy. And wonderful. And joyous. And profound. But will it get you what you’ve always wanted? Certainly not. Certainly, certainly not. It’s just like prayer, you know.


JJ: Tell us about YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE WITH A BAD, NASTY CAT.

RF: In NICE TO COME HOME TO, our heroine, Pru, finds herself responsible for her ex-boyfriend’s very bad, very nasty cat, Big Whoop. Whoop seems intent on destroying the things Pru most cares about. But she’s stuck with him. (My husband likes to say that Big Whoop represents Pru’s libido. Hmm…)

I, too, was the victim of a bad, nasty cat who came to live with me. It’s a good story, but starts out sad.

I was introduced to my husband by his younger brother, Gil, who ran the writing workshop I belonged to in D.C. Andrew was going through a divorce at the time, and I had just been dumped in a manner readers of my book will find familiar. Gil set us up on a date, saying not to expect anything of each other.

Well, we had to go and fall in love with each other. Then, about six weeks after Andrew and I started dating, a shocking thing happened -- Gil was diagnosed with primary liver cancer. It’s the kind of cancer old men get, after lives of hard drinking. It was totally random and unfair and horrible, and six months later, shortly after his daughter’s first birthday, Gil died. I think he was about 35.

At the time of his diagnosis, Gil and Andrew and I were all living a few blocks from each other in Washington, DC. So when this all went down Andrew and I decided we would essentially live together, to make his apartment available to their parents, who lived in western Massachusetts, during Gil’s illness

So, a mere two months after our first date, Andrew moved in with me, bringing his two cats along with him. Although I’d only recently vowed to myself never to live with someone again until I was married, I was secretly thrilled. Like I said, I dug this guy. In a big way. It didn’t seem like much of a sacrifice, I must confess. And it felt good to be able to do something useful for the family.

But Zoe the cat was not a happy boy. He didn’t understand why he was in this lady’s apartment. He didn’t understand why she was feeding him, instead of Andrew. Furthermore, it smelled like other cats, even though other cats weren’t living there. It needed to be marked as Zoe the cat’s territory. It needed sprayed, and sprayed good.

I won’t go until too much detail here, but read the book. It’s all in there. Just like Pru, I was driven to take the boy to therapy. And guess what? It worked. Within, I don’t know, two weeks, he was a different cat. Less “anxious”. Happier. NOT SPRAYING MY THINGS. It was exactly as I’ve written it in the book – this therapist stood there telling me everything I was doing was wrong. I was to give Zoe everything a big fat old cat could ever want: space. Games. Petting. Food on demand. His choice of litter. And it worked! I had to swallow every bit of animosity I’d built up for that cat and learn to ACCEPT THE CAT FOR WHO HE WAS. I had to stop fighting, and start loving. It was very enlightening. Very Zen.

Zoe and I were never achieved pet-owner Nirvana, but we did manage to live together for a long time. Zoe taught me great lessons in tolerance, and opening to that which we think we can’t accept, and enzymatic cat urine removers. We shall never forget him.

JJ: I know you are a blogger, too. Why do you blog and does it feed you or take energy from you?

RF: I blog for a lot of reasons, but mainly because I need the contact with people. Okay, make that FEEDBACK. VALIDATION. LOVE . Whatever you want to call it, I need it, baby!

Writing – like bathing – is a lonely business. It’s a lot of hours sitting there thinking up thoughts inside your head. The blog lets me get things out quickly and get back some o’ the love – or whatever it happens to be that day – just as fast.

I have to laugh -- many, many times a day -- and I find the blog great for that. My friends are some of the funniest people in the world, I do believe. So when I find something that sets me off, I have to share it, immediately.

I love to check in there while I’m working. Sometimes someone will have left a comment while I wasn’t looking. It’s like getting a note passed to you in Social Studies class.

Posted by joshilyn at 6:43 PM | Comments (51)

July 30, 2007

3Q with Deborah Leblanc (we were neither of us math majors…)

Hey guys – I am in Birmingham with a minor family emergency so will be out of pocket for a few days. Allow Deborah LeBlanc to entertain you in my absence; her latest release is Morbid Curiousity, and tra la la there is a BOOK TRAILER for it! I love watching those dern things---YouTube for Lit Junkies. You watch it by hitting the PLAY button on the very front page of her webpage.

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

DL: I think the cover is perfect for the book. It’s dramatic, certainly eye-catching, and depicts the contrast between assumption and reality.

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JJ: Your main character seems to be nothing like you. After all, your protagonist is a dewy 16, and you are the slightest bit older than that…What DO you guys have in common or, if nothing, how'd you manage to inhabit shoes so different from your own?

DL: Although I am way beyond 16, I still remember that horrid age .The societal issues that were relevant then haven’t changed over the years. My biggest challenge was getting the rhythm of the girls’ language and interaction with friends to ring true. To make that happen, I drilled my three daughters for details. 

JJ: A lot of writers read this blog how did you…find an agent?

DL: I found mine by querying 52 agents in the Guide to Literary Agents and Publishers

… sell that first book?

DL: Let the agent sweat those details. 

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

DL: I do all three, so it’s all good!

JJ: What's a day in your life like?

DL: Out of bed by 5 a.m—inhale coffee—at the office usually by 6—go through emails, check to-do list, take care of the priorities for the day—and write/research in between.—back home around 6, slam dunk dinner, talk to my daughters on the phone to check in…write until 9 or ten—then collapse in a heap.

JJ: You write page turners with a supernatural edge, and action is your specialty…I hear you have trouble with your Joe-Schmoe-makes-breakfast scenes. How do you approach writing about the every day dull stuff that happens between action?

DL: To me, the hardest thing to write is about every day folks because lives can truly be boring. I just have to make sure that average Joe winds up in a not-so-average situation to keep things moving at a good, fast pace.

JJ: As a Southern writer, I think everything is about locationlocationlocation. How did growing up in Louisiana influence your work?'

DL: My Cajun heritage and the culture are so filled with unique folklore and special quirks, it’s easy to make the setting and the people in it colorful.

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?

DL: My books will probably always have a Cajun flair to them. I might be able to set the story in Chicago, but the main character will probably revolve around a Cajun visiting that city.

JJ: What writers influenced your work and how and why?

DL: I enjoy Jodie Picoult’s work because she’s remarkable at characterization—James Lee Burke because his depiction of ‘Southern” is spot on—and Dean Koontz simply because, to me, he knows how to tell a good story.

JJ: Good choices….I just went on a Picoult backlist marathon--- she had several I had not read and I tore through three in a row. I know you blog both on your own website and on Murder She Writes. Why do you blog and does it feed you or take energy from you?

DL: I’ve been told that readers enjoy insight into the lives of the writers they read….so I blog…but it does sap a lot of energy out of me. Besides, I prefer telling a story over talking about myself any day.

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

DL: The title of my books always come to me before the story is fleshed out in my head. In fact, the titles usually help mold the story. We all carry some form of morbid curiosity, (if we didn’t, we’d never have to worry about rubber-neckers at accident scenes!) so I thought it would make for a catchy title.

JJ: What's the weirdest thing you have ever done to try to promote your work or get the word out about a specific book?

DL: Was interviewed in a voodoo bar, cameras, lights, makeup, the whole ball of wax, by a television host.

JJ: How did you research the magical systems in your latest release? Books and google? Or did you get hands on?

DL: Most of my research on Chaos Magic and sigils was done over the internet, which in turn led me to people who actually practice it, and I was able to interview them in depth.
JJ: Do you think of yourself as a Southern writer, and what does that MEAN to you?

DL: I think of myself as a Louisiana writer, which is a bit different than being a Southern writer. Cajuns have a different rhythm to their language and lifestyle, in my opinion, than a typical Southerner. You know, now that I think about it, though, I don’t know that there really is a typical Southerner. Folks from Mississippi are certainly different from those in Georgia, and those from Georgia different from folks in Alabama….You’ve gotta love that great hodge-podge of nuances!

Posted by joshilyn at 8:36 AM | Comments (6)

July 20, 2007

Updates, 3Q with Julie Kenner, and Shocking(!) News

Man, I have enjoyed reading the *&^@&^!(^#@ ing comments. You guys are fart and sunny, as my California homegirls say to mean Smart and Funny. Note to rereaders: If you search gods in Alabama for bathroom lovin’ you are doomed to disappointment. That happens in Between.

HEY! Did you see on WOOT.com
they are having a WOOT OFF? -if you do not know what this means then you do not know Scott’s SECOND favorite blog. *cough* Every day a new DEAL is up. We got a BLUE tooth from them and a portable 2 screened DVD thing that we use to keep from eating the children on long car trips. Good deals, there on the woot. A WOOT off is where they put up a FEW of something for very little money, and as soon as they all sell, they put up a few of something else.

LAST NIGHT!....Did you see that one the deals was a refurbed DYSON for 259 bucks + 5 bucks shipping? Did you see that by the time I finished waffling and said YES YES DO IT I WANT ONE and Scott clicked the “I want one” button that they were ALL GONE and that I missed a half price Dyson by about 4 seconds? Did you then see me STOMP AROUND and USE many of Very Bad Words we discussed on Wednesday? If the answer to all these questions is YES, then A) you are creepy and b) please come get all the hidden cameras out of my house.

The goodish-bad news is NOW I can NEVER buy a Dyson for MORE than 265 bucks, or I will feel CHEATED. SO! Perhaps that will abate my avarice. A little.

BUT WAIT! Julie Kenner is back to talk about the latest in her Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series? YAY. I am pleased about that because I think she’s fart and sunny, just like you. I took one of her books in my BAG OF READING PLEASURES to the beach last year and QUITE enjoyed it. It’s Bufferiffic fun, this series, and the third one, DEMONS ARE FOREVER just launched.
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JJ: What's a day in your life like?

JK: My schedule has changed dramatically over the years. At first, I was practicing law while writing and my husband was in grad school. We would both come home from work/school and write/study. Worked great :)

Then I had a baby, and life got hectic. I wrote in the evenings after she went to sleep until I could afford to quit and write full time. Then I had her in day care and would write during the day.

She has turned 5 and is in school now, but since we homeschool, she’s home with me during the day, and so is her sister, who we adopted at age three last October. So now I have two kids at home with me doing school (or preK play) during what used to be my writing time. So I’m back to writing in the evenings and squeezing it in.

Right now, a day might be:

7:30 — get up and veg in the recliner while the girls watch Curious George.

8:00 – noonish — school with the oldest while the littlest does “play school” and some speech and sign language games.

noon-1 — lunch, and I’ll usually answer emails while they eat

1-2 – any school we haven’t finished

2-5 – they play, sometimes by themselves, sometimes with me. I try to do non-writing writing stuff (emails, mailings, etc.). Or errands.

5-6 – daddy time. I write

Family time until their bedtime.

9-whenever. My writing time.

When I’m on a crazy deadline (like last week) going to bed at 2-3 is common. And I often will beg my mom to come over around lunch time once or twice a week to play with the girls so those afternoon hours can be writing time.

During those weeks we squeeze in karate, piano and speech therapy for the little one!

It’s insane, but I’m loving it.

JJ: What writers influenced your work and how and why?

JK: Stephen King — for his amazing stories, intricate plotting, and oh-so-real characters
Edward Eager — for showing magic in the “real” world
Madeline L’Engle — for strong characters in amazing realities that made me think


JJ: Your demon series is shelved as fantasy , but it has elements of mommy lit and romance and mystery. Can you explain how having a sort of HYBRID of genres helped or hurt you as you tried to market your book?

JK: Actually, I was extremely nervous when I learned it was going to be sold in as fantasy rather than as fiction. I called my editor in a panic, and was terrified that my readers wouldn’t find me. As it turns out, it was a brilliant marketing plan because the book has done well and found its audience, which keeps on growing. The romance readers have found the series (the 2nd book is currently up for a RITA award, the highest award in romance publishing) and I have gained a ton of readers (including many men) who might not have given the book a chance. The book has more of a chance to stand out (fewer “fantasy” books each month than “fiction”) and that bodes well for hitting lists, etc. So rather than a limitation, I think the placement has been beneficial. Marketing knows what they’re doing!! Also, I’ve done a few mystery cons, romance cons, and fantasy cons. The hybrid nature of the book has opened up the ways I can get my name out there. All good :)

Thanks Julie – always a pleasure to have you!


Lastly, AND BRACE YOURSELVES oh Best of my Best Beloveds, those regs who know me well, because I am about to say something you will find shocking…

I like a song.
Yes. A song.
It is a song made primarily up of MUSIC, and I LIKE it.

It is called FLATHEAD and it is by this band called something like The Fratellis that sounds like what would happen if the Pogues and the Clash had an angry baby.

Here, go watch them yodel it on You Tube.

Also by them, I like a song called the Gutterati? That there is no decent video to and which I can’t find a listen link to, but it is AWESOME.

So, dude, PUNKISHNESS is back? And no one TOLD me?
Discovering FLATHEAD led me to listen to more repunkers, and NOW….I like a WHOLE BAND. YES! AN ENTIRE BAND THAT IS CHOCK FULL OF SONGS!

They are called The White Stripes.
I like ALL their songs and I like how they SOUND and when I hear a song BY them I go, “Is that the White Stripes?” because I like them enough to recognize what they sound like. This is not UNprecedented, but it is ONE-precedented. I have not liked a whole band and all their songs and their sound since the late 80’s when I found Indigo Girls.

I a terrified that I may be experiencing personal growth.
I will work hard to bud nip it, never fear.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:26 AM | Comments (23)

May 30, 2007

A Thought Provoking 3Q with Joni Rodgers


GOOD MORNING --- I am about to go grab Karen and head for New York. I told her I was going to show up a good half hour before I actually plan to be there, in the hopes that when I arrive, I will not find her standing around in her underpants with wet hair, looking helplessly down into a TOTALLY empty suitcase and saying, “Do you think I need to bring my wooden cloggy foot-bind looking shoes? Or just these toe flower things?”

Once there, we will meet up with Sara and Renee and do our very level best to get arrested. YAY!

While I sit on a plane, I leave you to be entertained by Joni Rodgers, who has joined me here to talk a little about the paperback release of her latest book.

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In THE SECRET SISTERS, Pia feels the walls of her life closing in around her, until she discovers a strangely sensual world that leads her to a new existence. Lily, Pia's brash, tough-talking sister, makes a tragic mistake that leaves her incarcerated, body and soul, but in the prison library discovers a key that will unlock her mind and open her heart. Beth, married to Pia and Lily's brother, has never been able to admit her own failure as a mother. Finally forced to confront a tragedy of her own making, she discovers that the truth can set her free.

"Honesty, humor, and fearlessness...(Rodgers) illuminates the internal landscapes all women navigate." Houston Chronicle
JJ: Can you talk a little about the significance of your title and how you came up with it?

JR: Easter is a big deal in THE SECRET SISTERS, because the book is about resurrection more than anything else. There's even a character named Easter, a little girl killed by a drunk driver -- her aunt Lily. Someone with the best of intentions, but tragically bad judgment. After Easter’s death, her mother Beth is trapped in the past and must find a way past her grief and anger. Sentenced to seven years in prison, Lily loses her husband and everything else she loved about her life, but the prison library frees her mind and prepares her for a new life – and new love. For Lily’s sister Pia, the disintegration of the family brings on a powerful panic disorder that almost kills her. Her journey is the one most fraught with danger, as her fears leave her vulnerable to a seductive con artist, who leads her to an exhilarating new dawn, but at a terrible price.

The title refers to the three women (Mary, Joanna, and Magdalene, often called “The Secret Sisters”) who went to Jesus’ tomb at dawn on Easter morning -- the third day after the crucifixion. They found the tomb empty and were confronted by angels who said, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen."

Two thousand years later, I often wonder the same thing, and I wanted to ask that question with this book. Are we looking for God in all the wrong places? Too many people of all religions -- many with the best of intentions but very bad judgment -- seek God among dead teachings that spout God's name, but were designed by men who use religion to divide and control. God is not there. He is among the living. The loving. The open-minded. The practitioners of daily loving-kindness. He rises up with the peace-makers and the forgivers and the healers.

We are the living. Ancient hatreds, past failures, fear we can’t see around, guilt we can’t give up—those are the dead. Like the Biblical Secret Sisters, the three women in this book journey from grief to wholeness, from fear to freedom. Each of the sisters dies and rises again in a different way, learning that redemption is tragedy cross-pollinated by grace.


JJ: What is the relationship between writing and motherhood? I mean this in a personal way -- for you. Does one feed the other, are they similar for you, does doing one make doing the other harder, do these things compete or come from the same place or? What?

JR: Watching the intimate daily evolution of two people from infancy to young adulthood has been an amazing gift, which deeply affects the way I think about people in general. When it comes to developing characters, it’s impossible for me to see one-dimensionally. I know now how every tiny moment of a person’s life weaves its way into who they are. And I know that there are no perfect heroes or perfectly evil villains. Everybody is somebody’s baby, and even if I don’t go into a detailed backstory for every character in every novel, I’d like to think that the perspective brings a certain depth to the people who populate my books.

My kids are also an unending fount of great dialogue and fresh ideas. And they definitely keep me grounded in real life any time I’m on a bus toward Diva Town. While the art of writing is something I do for myself, the craft and business is compelled by my desire to set a strong, successful example for them – and my need to pay their college tuition!

On the flipside, having a rich, vital writing life made it a lot easier for me when they both left home last year. The “empty nest” has been a lot easier to face than I thought it was going to be, because I’ve been able to throw myself into one great project after another without feeling guilty about the travel schedule or the crazy workaholic nose-to-the-grindstone hours I put in.


JJ:Tell us about your cancer experience and how it affected this book in particular and your writing career in general.

JR: I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1994. Chemo sidelined me from my acting career (such as it was), and I used the downtime to write my first two novels. Maybe it was the drugs, but it was like a whole new part of my brain came alive. (Picture me slapping my bald head like one of the Three Stooges. “Oh! So THIS is what I’m supposed to do with my life! How did I not know that?”) Chemo gave me the time and quiet to focus on writing for the first time, and in turn, writing gave me a way to process that devastating experience. After my first two novels were published by small presses and received generous reviews, BALD IN THE LAND OF BIG HAIR, my memoir about my cancer experience, was published by Harper Collins, which took my career to the next level.

I guess I’m still processing the cancer experience in some ways. Fear of recurrence is a huge issue for most cancer survivors. In the wake of 9/11, our country was left wounded and terrorized, and it was eerily reminiscent of my own fragile state in the aftermath of cancer. THE SECRET SISTERS is my response to that. It’s a parable about how vulnerable we become when we embrace fear as a lifestyle. It’s also an examination of the way tragedy can – and should! – change us. Survivorship is about accountability, courage, and hope. As we emerge from life’s refining fires, we have to learn from our mistakes, celebrate our strengths, and seize hold of every new day with joy.

Thanks Joni!

In Closing, allow me to share the PHONE PIC which finally came---Please note TOES OF DOG in the corner -- he is DYING for me to take those sandals off so he can EAT them. Stinker.

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Posted by joshilyn at 5:42 AM | Comments (14)

May 24, 2007

3Q with Becky Motew! (more contest entries below)

Today my guest is (the very funny) Becky Motew, here to talk about her new novel, COUPON GIRL

Booklist says, “Welcome to the not so glamorous but often hilarious worlds of mail-order marketing and community theater...Motew writes about every day life: work, family, relationships...there's plenty to love about this quirky novel.”

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

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BM: I love the cover of CG. I had no idea what to expect. Because the book is half about coupons and half about theatre, specifically The Sound of Music, I had been sort of picturing a chorus line of nuns. Or something from a play. But with the title, that wouldn’t have worked. The cover I have is very Thelma and Louise, except the girl is by herself, so I guess it’s very Thelma. A girl is going someplace by herself and having a good time getting there. I LOVE that message.

JJ: I know you blog yourself over at COUPONS FROM THE EDGE. Why do you blog and does it feed you or take energy from you?

BM: It does both sometimes. I use it as practice. It’s open mike night for me. I try things out and see how they sound. Also, now that I have my digital camera, it’s way fun to show pictures from the inside of my kitchen cabinet and the high school track where I walk and personal things like that. I’m an instructor at two colleges and recently I photographed some of my students for the blog. They loved it.

Tell us about your experiences in community theatre, ya big secret actress, and how that helped you write the book.

Jeanie, my character, is a chorus member, though, and in real life I was fortunate to get lead parts . Well, secondary lead parts—the comic role, you know, the sidekick. That was me. Ado Annie, Rosalie, Miss Hannigan. But I had my share of stage romances, drama off the set, and cast parties that lasted two days.

Once in the early years, I was helping the house manager set up coffee and cookies in the lobby with another woman, who said she was in the Garden Club. My friend and I said oh, we should join that so we could get away from group politics. The lady looked very seriously at us and said, “Listen. If you’re trying to avoid politics, don’t join the Garden Club.”
I never did.

THANKS, BECKY.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:43 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2007

10Q with, um, Me

THERE WILL BE A CONTEST ON MONDAY!!!! I thought of one, finally!

But for now, FTK reg Casey wanted me to do 3Q. Then she cheated and asked a bunch more. More proof that writers can’t count for squat…

CM: There are a billion books out there about how to BECOME a writer and get published and look pretty for an agent, etc. What I want to know is, what's it like to BE an author. I mean, do you finally get to stop living paycheck to paycheck?

JJ: Well, that depends on sales... I know working novelists who are regularly making book deals but who must work a day job to keep themselves in milk and Skittles. I know others who subsist bravely from advance to royalty check (our version of paycheck to paycheck), others who are comfortable and secure, others who have homes in different cities and a private jet to take them from one to the other.

The first kind is a LOT more common than the last kind. *grin*

CM: Do people recognize you on the street like they do with actors?

JJ: No.

It has happened a couple of times when I have been in bookstores, though, just shopping. After, I get to make “damn paparazzi” jokes, so I like it, even though it is a little…weird.

CM: Do you read books differently now that you know how they're made (kind of like sausages)?

JJ: In some ways, but this has less to do with behind the scenes stuff and more to do with MONEY. I am, shall we say, FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE… in the background you can hear my husband going, “*cough* tight wad *cough*” so BEFORE when I bought a books, I read them cover to cover. Period. If I spent my TEENY HORDE OF PRECIOUS MONEY on a book, I would wring every possible bit of pleasure out of the thing, even if the pleasures were scant and separated by MANY pages.

I once listened to THE WORST BOOK EVER PERPETRATED on audio. It was SO OVERBLOWN and melodramatic and the main character was such a WHINEY NARCISIST and all All ALL! the female characters just loooooooooved to sexy up to his deep tortured deep whiney depths, and UGH! Did I mention it was unabridged? ELEVEN hours of this guy. I listened to every bleeding minute, groaning and enraged, calling everyone I knew to scream about the horrid lines I had endured while driving to Kroger, and my friends would say, “TAKE IT OUT! GET A NEW AUDIO BOOK! WE BEG YOU! NO GOOD CAN COME OF THIS! YOU ARE GOING TO BURST A BLOOD VESSEL IN YOUR BRAIN.” And I would say, “Dude. I payed 40 bucks for that…” I couldn’t; bear to throw 40 bucks in the fire, even though in some ways, I ALREADY HAD.

And I have always been a book buyer…even back in the day when we were just married and I was a grad student and then a SAHM who made us grocery money by babysitting and he was in his starter job making twenty something thou a year which is NOT A LOT when you live IN Chicago…Even then, I bought books.

I reread, that’s part of why I need to OWN books, but another part is, if I like an author, I want them to get another book deal, and that means they need the sale. I thought of the books I BOUGHT new (as opposed to ones I bought used, or borrowed, or checked out of the library) as VOTES for a writer to keep going. I knew I could not afford to buy every book I read, but I bought my favorites. I understood buying-as-votes about the industry before I ever broke into it. Buying a debut novel or a novel by an author I had never read before was a little sexy---it felt like GAMBLING; I LOVED it when those gambles paid off and was BITTER when I lost---OH I was so bitter about that audio book. I am STILL bitter.

But now, because I am IN this industry, I have SO MANY BOOKS! Reps and trade shows folks and booksellers give me galleys and ARCs, people send me books for blurbs, both my American publisher and my UK publisher send me books, authors I am friends with mail me signed copies of their latest, and I buy books regularly by authors I like and new authors I think I might like and I am in a Signed First Editions Club. (BY THE WAY!!!! The LATEST first ed from that club is the new MICHAEL CHABON. I cannot WAIT to get my claws on THAT puppy. He DELIGHTS me, every word, every time.)


... So now, my TO READ pile is LUXURIOUS and HUGE, and if I don’t LIKE a book, I toss it aside and never re-open it. I not only believe that, “Life is to short to read bad books,” I also think life is probably too short to read good books that just don’t happen to speak to me.

CM: Are you more or less (or have you not changed at all) judgmental of other authors and their styles/writing abilities/getting-published abilities?

JJ: Same. I always read “like a writer.” There are things that get me every time and make me fall in love, and other things that I cannot forgive.

CM: Do you travel more?

JJ: Yes. Now, when I have time off, I want to be at home. *grin*

CM: Do you actually have an ENTIRE DAY to write?

JJ: HAHAHHAHAHAHA! No. Instead, I have children.

No no, actually I DO get whole days to write. But I wrote for years before I sold gods in Alabama ---short stories, many one act and two full length plays, two unpublished novels--- and I ALWAYS had whole days to write. My husband would take my kids out of town and GIVE me long weekends with just me, the cat, and the computer. He took my career seriously LONG before anyone in NYC did. *grin*

To finish TGWSS, I went to a hotel for a week and LIVED in sweatpants, fed only on Twix bars and Shiraz. So. I guess the answer is YES, but that’s not NEW.

CM: Do you see your family less/more/the same?

JJ: A little less. Because of the travel. But when I am at home, my schedule is the same. I am a mom and wife first, novelist second. I write when my kids are at school and have a mother’s helper three mornings a week in summer, and Scott gives me those weekends 4 or 5 times a book. Next year, Maisy goes to Kindergarten instead of a 3 hour little preschool thing---WOW. I wonder if I will WRITE more or SLEEP more? Probably neither. Probably I will play World of Warcraft more…

CM: Do you get to be Real Life Friends with other authors (other than ones you might already know from your normal Outside Your Publisher life), or do you just see them at publishing house parties?

Both. Some writers you meet and you click and are friends. Others you meet and like and then you are always happy to see them at conferences and whatnot, but you don’t call them when you are passing through their town and ask to sleep on their couch, you know? Others are very shy, introverted people who hole up in their rooms, and I try not to inflict my rowdy self upon them, even if (especially if) they are my heroes.

I am generally found in the bar at these sorts of things. (I don’t get drunk---if I drink too much, I have to go to sleep and miss the fun parts, plus too many times I have seen the people who DO get drunk kinda…inadvertently BECOME the fun parts. *grin*) But I stay down in the bar and I nurse my pretty cocktails along and enjoy being with ACTUAL ALIVE PEOPLE. In my work at home, I mostly only get to play with IMAGINARY people. After the bar closes, I am with the last lingering die hards, hanging out like derelicts in Sonny Brewer’s room. The only writers I have ever met who have consistently beaten me at LAST AT THE PARTY are Lee Child, Tommy Franklin, and Beth Ann Fennelly. Those three are secretly made of robot parts. They do not sleep.

CM: Are other people ( i.e., family and friends) more or less critical of your writing as you continue with your career?

JJ: My family has always been and remains WILDLY supportive and crazy about my stuff. I worried there would be this post publishing reaction where my writing group and crit partners would start to go SOFTER on me, but, um, not MY crit partners. LORD they hit me in the face with BRICKS when I get off the track…I love them for that.

CM: Is it different than you thought it would be?

JJ: Yes.

Isn’t everything?

Posted by joshilyn at 7:31 AM | Comments (47)

May 17, 2007

3Q with Kelly Parra (Now with Bonus Undead Cannibal Readers!)

This week, my 3Q guest is YA author Kelly Parra whose hip new title Graffitti Girl tells the story of Angel Rodriguez, a headstrong, independent youngartist. When her entry for a community mural loses to Nathan Ramos--a senior track star and Angel's secret crush--she's angry and hurt.
That's when Miguel Badalin--from the notorious graffiti crew Reyes Del Norte--opens her eyes to an underground world of graf tags and turf wars. Soon she's running with Miguel's crew, pushing her skills to the limit and beginning to emerge as the artist she always dreamed she could be. But Nathan and Miguel are bitter enemies with a shared past, and choosing between them and their wildly different approaches to life and art means that Angel must decide what matters most before the artist inside of her can truly break free.

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

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KP: I'm very pleased with my cover. It conveys Graffiti Girl exceptionally well with the girl holding the messy spray can. haha! The only aspect that was different from what I thought might be included was a graffiti filled wall somewhere in the background. I think with the can the main focus and the lovely purple, the cover is eye-catching.

JJ: Your main character seems to have a lot in common with you. You both _are Mexican American and were teen artists . How is she different from you?

KP: What is different about my heroine Angel and myself is that she grasps onto her art as her self-worth and the only way she can communicate her inner feelings. In high school, I loved my art but I didn't need to take action with it. I was content with creating just for myself and I also would communicate a lot with my close friends, where Angel has a tougher time doing so.

JJ: Was graffiti part of your life as a teen?

KP: I loved art since the fifth grade. I was always drawing or painting at school or on my own. When I reached high school, my group of friends were into graffiti art and I became fascinated with the bold style. I tried my hand at graffiti designs on paper, however I was never really any good at it. After years past and I started to focus on writing, I thought I could connect with teen readers. A story line about graffiti was the first idea to pop in my head and I began to research more about the method. Luckily my agent and MTV Books thought I had an interesting story with Graffiti Girl too. :)

Thanks Kelly!

In other news, BETWEEN, GEORGIA debuted on the SIBA bestsellers list at number 11 last week, so THANK YOU to all you DARLING DARLINGS in the comments and the equally darling but non-commenting darlings who gave it to their moms for Mother’s Day or picked up a copy for a sister or husband or brother or friend, just because.

Lastly, Amy (the webmaster at the Huntsville library) picked up a signed HB copy when I was over there last week, and she sent me the following mail:

I thought you'd get a kick out of a photo from my weekend. I was in
Loganville for a dragoncon*tv photo shoot (we film lots of spoof commercials that air during dragon*con).

So here's what we've begun to lovingly refer to as the Zombrarian photo – a librarian in full zombie makeup, reading your novel between takes while standing in front of a green screen.

As my friends pointed out this weekend, "Amy, as zombies go, clearly you're a messy eater."

I had to work pretty hard not to get the stage blood on my newly-signed
book. I've always suspected that authors find it fascinating to know what happens to their books once they're purchased and go out on their own, but somehow I doubt you pictured 'zombie photo shoot.'

zombrarian.jpg

Posted by joshilyn at 3:53 PM | Comments (9)

April 25, 2007

3Q with Lauren Barnholdt (and Then Maisy Jane Explains The Nature of God. You're Welcome)

FTK reg Nienke sent me this ---

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Man! I have been “cat busy” all week, doing absolutely NOTHING really, feeling about as productive as if I had scheduled an hour for waving a pink sock flag off my toes. Every second it seems like I am doing something and yet…nothing gets done.

While I try to ACTUALLY get a few things off my TO DO LIST --- which has grown so green and mossy and unwieldy and vast I suspect it is gearing up to become sentient---- I will let Lauren Barnholdt
talk to you about THE SECRET IDENTITY OF DEVON DELANEY! which us launching MIX! Simon and Schuster’s new imprint for tweens. Tweens, for those not in the know, is what they call “pre-teens” these days. Devon, the heroine, is thirteen…

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

While Devon Delaney was living with her grandmother for the summer, she told her "summer friend," Lexi, that she was really popular back home and dating Jared Bentley, only the most popular guy at school. Harmless lies, right? Wrong. Not when Lexi is standing at the front of Devon's class, having just moved to Devon's town. Uh-oh. Devon knows there's only one way to handle this -- she'll just have to become popular! But it seems the more Devon tries to keep up her "image," the more things go wrong. It all has Devon wondering -- who is the real Devon Delaney?

JJ: What writers influenced your work and how and why?

LB: Honestly, I feel like every writer influences my work. There’s nothing that inspires me more than going into a bookstore and just seeing all the books, and thinking about how someone sat down to write that book. It motivates me to get back to the computer.

JJ: I know you blog, too. Why do you blog, and does it feed you or take energy from you?

LB: I think it feeds me, definitely. I love blogging. I like the chance it gives me to interact with other writers and readers, since sometimes it gets lonely being a writer. Plus, when embarrassing and humiliating things happen to me (kind of a lot), I’m always like, at least I can blog about this!

JJ: Have you ever lied about something like you character does in THE SECRET IDENTITY OF DEVON DELANEY?

LB: Okay, fine. Time to come clean. When my friends and I were in junior high, we were dating this group of guys from another school. So we made it seem like we were super popular at our school, and that all the boys wanted us. Which wasn’t even close to being true. One night some of the guys we lied to played basketball against some of the boys from our school who supposedly wanted us, and I just kept thinking, God, I hope none of them talk. And that was the inspiration for THE SECRET IDENTITY OF DEVON DELANEY. Only, unlike in my situation, poor Devon’s lies catch up with her.

Thanks, Lauren!

Lastly, I must stop making pink sock puppets and recount a conversation Himself had with Maisy yesterday. Miss Mais-O-May thinks her life is a musical... At any moment, if something of note occurs, Maisy will burst into narrative song while arabesque-ing and pirouetting about. It’s VERY gypsy.

Like just today she crept into my office and drooped by my chair and sang this dirge-like hymn:

OH IT IS A TERRIBLE DAY!
MY MOTHER WILL NOT GIVE ME A POPSICLE!
OH IT IS VERY SAD AND THE SUN IS NOT OUT TODAY FOR ME!” <--- actual transcribed lyrics.

Sometimes she sings about pretends she is having, like the other day she sang,

“I AM WALKING!
IN THE MISTY FOREST!
BUT I CAN’T SEE TOO GOOD!
BECAUSE IT IS A MISTY!

So anyway. Scott was driving her about and Maisy was singing to herself about the nature of God:

Maisy: GOD IS MY FAVORITE BOY! HE IS THE BOY WITH THE MOST IMAGINATION!
Scott: Maisy? How do you know God is a boy?
Maisy: *in the tone of a person explaining something very simple to a creature who is clearly not too bright* Because DAD! At the end of our prayers, we say aMEN. We don’t say aWOMEN!

HA! Scott had no way to rebut this bit of pre-K wisdom, so it is official. God is a boy. With a good imagination.

Posted by joshilyn at 2:13 PM | Comments (17)

April 19, 2007

3 Questions with Paula Hyman (and more Psychic Amazon Jackson Books)

In So Not The Drama, Paula Hyman introduces readers ages 11+ to bright-eyed optimist Mina Mooney, a high school freshman with nothing more on her mind than climbing the popularity ladder, until a sociology experiment to rid the world – or at least Del Rio Bay High School – of prejudice backfires. The project causes a rift between Mina and her best friend, Lizzie and sends Mina on a journey of exploration that’s both funny and eye-opening.

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Booklist calls it a “Contemporary friendship story, which revels in rich diversity of race, color and class,” and Publisher;s Weekly says, “Readers will like the genuine dialogue.”

JJ: Who did you dedicate this book to and why?

PH: I dedicated So Not The Drama to three people, my two daughters and one of my best friends, Eddie Sellman. I dedicated it to my girls because this series is my gift to them. I grew up without a series depicting African American suburbanites. And though that never ever stopped me from reading voraciously, as a mom it bothered me that the void still existed some twenty years later. So this is for my girls, may the void in teen lit I experienced be dead and buried forever and ever amen.

I dedicated it to Big Ed because he and I rolled in the same clique in high school. We were a core of best friends who had some of the greatest times – good, bad, ugly. Right around the time my final mss was due, Big Ed passed away. It was the first time I’d lost one of my closest friends. Since the book is about a close-knit group of friends, it was fitting that I honor one of my own dear friendships by dedicating it to him. After all, our high school years was an inspiration for the Del Rio Bay Clique.

JJ: This book is the start of a series… How do you keep timeline/world you have built straight and characters fresh, growing and yet still themselves from book to book? Did you always plan for it to be a series, and if so, did you structure the first book differently, knowing another would follow?

PH: I’d always planned for So Not The Drama to be part of a series. I actually wrote the second in the series, directly after the first. I had two other storylines in mind, as well. But I didn’t flesh them out because my focus was on getting the first book sold.

Right now, there are a total of five books planned for the series. I don’t want this to be an open-ended series. Right before I go to write book #5 I’m going to look at the series’ future and decide on a number. I don’t want my characters to overstay their welcome. Unofficially, I’d like to take them through their senior year. So there’s the possibility of having two books per year – you know, to cover fall and spring semesters. So if that’s the case, there would be nine books total.

Hey, I think I just kind of committed myself to a close-ended series of nine books! Let’s see if my publisher will go along for the ride.

I was at the SCBWI Mid-winter in ’06 and Francine Pascal mentioned there was a Sweet Valley High reunion of sorts planned, showing her characters as adults. That sounded interesting. But…not sure my mind is going there. I’ve been asked if I’d consider doing something like that. But it’s way too early to know if that’s in the cards.

When it comes to keeping the timeline and world straight and fresh, I’ll admit, it’s a challenge for me. For being such a planner, I am horrible with wrangling paperwork. It’s why I don’t outline stuff. I get too excited and want to jump right in!

I have an author’s wish list. It consists of all the things that would make my life as a writer easier. At the top is a comprehensive binder detailing the world I’ve created. Man, that would make my life sweet! But when I sit down to start it, I immediately grow bored with it. Writing is so much more fun than book housekeeping. So I use the guide provided by my Copy Editor. It’s a big help. What’s missing are those little details about a character that are hard to retain when you’re writing about so many people. My cast is six-strong. And even though everyone isn’t the focal point each book, they’re all playing some part each time. It’s exhausting trying to remember who looks like what, or their mannerisms.

Seriously, I need an intern. If anyone would like to intern with an author who is a bit scatter-brained, please look me up!

JJ: You were popular in high school. So. Um. What was THAT like?

You know, I endure a lot of “cheerleader/popularity” bashing. I’ve been in countless conversations with other adults and when the conversation gets around to high school experience it seems that someone always utters this, with a roll of their eyes “well, I wasn’t a cheerleader or in the popular crowd.” And of course popular has air quotes around it.
I always feel like sticking my head in the sand since I was a cheerleader and was popular. It’s like if you were either of these things you were automatically a huge, rhymes with witch. And that wasn’t the case, for me. I look back on my high school years fondly. Being popular wasn’t necessarily who I was or what I labeled myself. It was just the way other people viewed me.
I had a group of very close friends and my world revolved around them. But I was also very active in high school – so my life was full and I was well-known because I was so active. I guess that’s what popularity is, being well-known. So that’s why I can say I was popular. But I wasn’t a mean girl type and being popular wasn’t a priority.

What I’ve tried to do with my main character in So Not the Drama is make her a very involved student, which puts her in the mix of a lot of people. So by sheer volume of people she interacts with through cheerleading, track, writing for the school paper etc…she’s “popular.” But she’s also quite obsessed with being more popular.

I’m trying to show that popularity is relative and that for those people who are “ultra” popular they’re nothing more than slaves to that status – very fake, always on stage people. My MC, on the other hand, isn’t like that. Despite realizing others are like that, she still wants that ultra pop status.

Contrary to popular belief (even my mom thinks so), So Not The Drama is NOT autobiographical. I just wrote what I thought would be fun, a peek inside the various high school circles. For every similarity I share with my MC, we’re also quite different. And most of the experiences in the book are things I wished I could have done as a teen.

THANKS PAULA!

IN OTHER NEWS, The fantastical DEB R has “found” another book Psychic Amazon has decided I should write…

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Okay, look, this is a long standing FTK in joke… here is the thing about the pink socks---first you have to read the entry where the WHOLE PINK SOCKS THING BEGAN.

Quite a cliff hanger ending, eh? Aren’t you breathless, I mean BREATHLESS!!! to know what happened next? No? Me neither. So the next day I had a 3 questions interview, and I said, “I am not going to finish my highly anticipated thrilling sock epic today -- PUT DOWN THE KNIFE! IT IS OKAY! THERE ARE OTHER PERFECTLY GOOD REASONS TO LIVE! I shall defer the rest of the story about my SOCKS (what is WRONG with me???) because a Merciful God has declared it is time for 3 questions…” etc etc. Upshot: I didn’t finish the sock story.

The NEXT day, my blog turned one year old, and I forgot about the socks as I did a birthday post, and the next post I had links and general housekeeping to do, and then gods was about to come out and I had to panic and flail, THEN I got stomach flu (and who wouldn’t pause to blog THAT?) and then I took an interesting trip to Nashville and Maisy fell in love with a 3 year old boy she called AYEX (all more blogworthy topics than SOCKS, fer cryin’ cats) and and and and life kept happening, life AFTER pink socks, until I FORGOT what happened with the socks that made me want to write an entry. All I remember is, I wore pink socks skating. Which, really, I had covered that already.

The regs here do not accept that. The Pink Socks have become the Shangri-La of blog entries, a lovely and coveted thing, transcendent but never attainable, the theoretical perfect blog entry that would end all blogging forever should its Socratic Cave perfections ever become manifest in the world. Now ANY time I say “Oh I have to go, I will finish this tomorrow,” the unforgiving Cult of Sock rises and says YOU WILL SO TOTALLY SHAFT US ON THIS! WE KNOW IT!

Okay, first of all, SINCE the socks, I have MULTIPLE times told stories in halves and always (um, almost) remembered to finish. SECOND! I suspect Sock Part Deux was something dumb, just me planning to make a molehill out of a lumpy pebble, and thirdiferously, I WOULD blog it, I REALLY WOULD, I swear because you KNOW you are my Best Beloveds and I would not deny you… but I have NO IDEA what happened.

Still, let’s look at the close-up. I like how Deb, no doubt feeling vengeful about the never-to-be-told sock story, is letting me set my own hair on fire...Grace in motion, I am, even in FICTION.

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Posted by joshilyn at 8:09 AM | Comments (14)

April 12, 2007

Three Questions with Sara Rossett

Welcome back Sara Rossett,
writer of a series of cozy mysteries about a military wife who can’t seem to stay out of trouble of the dead-bodies-popping-up variety. I spent the first half of my childhood on military bases---Daddy was Army---so I’ve got a special interest in this series and am delighted to welcome Sara back to talk about the second book. I interviewed her about Moving is Murderlast year.


The latest, StayingHome is a Killer follows Ellie Avery as she strives to balance motherhood, marriage, and her professional organizing business, but her ordered world is thrown into disarray when a fellow military spouse’s death looks more like murder than suicide. Toss in her husband’s deployment and her daughter’s separation anxiety, and Ellie has to keep the home fires burning as she sort clues from chaos and proves that home is not for killers.

Publisher’s Weekly says, “The author, also the wife of an air force pilot, includes practical tips for organizing closets, but the novel's most valuable insight is its window into women's lives on a military base.”

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JJ: So, you've weathered the release of your debut novel with grace and aplomb---How is the publication of a second novel different?

SR: I was writing the third book and going down to the deadline with it, so I didn’t have nearly the same amount of time to promote the second book before its release. The deadline for book # 3 fell three days before the release date of my second book, so I felt way behind the power curve for Staying Home is a Killer.

Fortunately, I was able to do a lot of promoting with the first book, so a good bit of the promotion stuff was already in place. I only had to update press releases instead of writing them from scratch. I did feel more comfortable because it was my second time through the process. I knew what to expect for copyedits and uncorrected proofs. There wasn’t quite that same level of giddiness that came with the first book, but I’m still very excited to have another book out and I actually think the second book is stronger than the first.

JJ: How do you keep timeline/world you have built straight and characters fresh, growing and yet still themselves from book to book?

SR: I have to write down a timeline to keep all the dates straight. Last summer I had to work up outlines for the next three books in the series and I would have gone crazy without the long timeline that noted when people were born, when they married, and when certain books are set. I also rough out a calendar for each book so that I know what happens on each day. The first book, Moving is Murder, took place over about four weeks. Staying Home is a Killer, the second book, was a bit shorter, but I still needed a calendar for the three week storyline. I’ve just completed the third book, Getting Away is Dangerous, and it clocked in at one week.

Since my characters move every so often (Ellie is a military spouse) that helps to keep the story fresh with new settings. The fact that Ellie’s a mom helps, too, because no matter what stage of life your kids are in there are always new challenges to face and that means Ellie has to keep growing and changing as her family changes. It’s a fine line. I want to welcome a reader back into a world they love, but I can’t let that world get stagnant or boring because then the reader would lose interest. I’m still working on that balance!


JJ: Tell us about your experiences with military deployments.

SR: A large part of Staying Home is a Killer explores what Ellie’s life is like when her husband is unexpectedly deployed. I’ve been in that situation many times. The unknown is tough to deal with. Staying home when your spouse deploys really is a killer. You have to deal with loneliness and worry. Then there’s the added responsibility. Overnight you go from being a couple to handling everything on your own—the kids, the bills, and the house. Everything falls on you. Even though it’s a fictional story, I tried to accurately portray the emotional roller coaster of a deployment in Staying Home is a Killer and show that the loneliness, the frustration, and the worry are all normal.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:32 AM | Comments (4)

November 9, 2006

Answer Comment Questions Day

BUT FIRST! THE HOLIDAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They are coming, you know. And with them comes present shopping in the dread malls of America. I personally finish my Christmas shopping BEFORE Thanksgiving or I get barn sour. I hate crowds and it brings my happy show down if I see mean people snapping at each other over the last BRATZ doll while a piped in Muzac version of Little Drummer Boy plays. I LOVE to shop for my family and friends though, but…malls? NO! NO! and NO AGAIN! This is why Al Gore invented the internet. So I can shop from home.

May I humbly suggest a signed, personalized first edition of gods in Alabama or Between Georgia? Or perhaps BOTH, if you RILLY like someone. I’m doing a Holiday Edition of the Virtual Book Signings I do with Alabama Booksmith…You have until the WEDNESDAY before Thanksgiving (That’s November 22nd) to get your orders in, and I’ll go by the BookSmith and sign em that day.

You can order here
or you can just CALL them at (205) 870-4242 and put your order in over the phone.

You’ll be supporting a ROCKIN’ independent bookstore, AND you’ll be supporting my novel writing, which allows me to buy little frivolities like food and medicine that make my life such a pleasure, AND you’ll get a portion of your holiday shopping done AND!!! You’ll have something personal and unusual to give Mom or your friend or your especial pet best auntie or your cousin Jack. Dude, we all win.

ONWARDS... In the spirit of Ze Frank ( Suh-Suh-Suh-Sumthin’ from the comments) I better answer some of the questions accumulating in the comments. It's like we're doing three questions, and you get to be me and ask, and I get to be the special guest answerer.

Speaking of my vastly overweight Walrus-Poodle, Jas said: Heck, he's a chunky kind of cat. My vet told me cats rarely overeat. Perhaps he is bored?

You know, perhaps he is. But he’s very world weary and jaded, and he cannot leave the house because he FIGHTS and he only has one eye. So. I’ve gone the cat toy route with him: Feather on a stick. Catnip mouse. Bell balls. I flail the stick around him and trail it along in front of him and hide it behind cushions and have it peek out at him, and he cocks the three-sprout of whiskers he calls an eyebrow and looks fondly down his nose at me, as if he thinks I am a very cute sort of disturbed person, and he hopes I am having a good time playing with my stupid feather thing.

He also has shown no interest in cooking classes, reading Proust, helping with the Domestic Engineering portion of my day, or watching Dexter on Showtime On Demand. The cat is clearly dead inside.

His favorite activity, when he DOES any sort of activity, is beyond my control. There’s this prissy little yaller cat with white feet, goes by Ginger, and Ginger likes to sit on our porch and sometimes our deck. When she does, Schubert’s one eye takes on a maniacal and murderous gleam, and he begins hurling his MASSIVE body at the closest window again and again and again, until the wall is shuddering, and all the while he releases this low pitched gravelly keening noise which I strongly suspect is the FIRST sound you hear should you be so unfortunate as to die and go to hell, the sound a TRULY happy deamon releases as it spots fresh meat.

I suppose I COULD get some sort of YALLER CAT DECOY and set it down on the porch as Trying To Bust Through The Wall and Murder Ginger is his aerobic activity of choice, but I’m not sure my windows could withstand a regular regime of such treatment.

Thus Sagt Edgy Mama: We need a shot of the ridiculous poodle tail up in the air, please?

I TRIED! Alas! He won’t HOLD it up in the air without LASHING IT ANGRILY. When he is at peace, the tail is at peace, and I have 30 pictures of an UPRIGHT LASHING POODLEY blur to prove it.

Desi, enchanted by the idea of HUGE FLOPPY FANTASY PANTS, asked, “by the way...where do you get those pants?”

First, you have to get my friend Amy pregnant. That’s key. Amy does pregnancy RIGHT, which means she gains as much weight as HUMANLY POSSIBLY without bursting her skin. Me too, by the way. I feel that pregnancy REQUIRES me to eat entire bags of revolting Palmer’s chocolate flavored wax, one after another.

ANYWAY. You get her pregnant. Then after she has the baby, she FINDS AND AQUIRES the pants to contain her post partum body. Then YOU have to get pregnant and gain as much weight as humanly possible. After Amy has returned to her normal size, you will have the baby, and she will GIVE you the fantasy pants. Three pairs in various Indian prints. It will make you feel good to wear them because even though they are large enough to contain the city of Amarillo, Texas, the tag staunchly proclaims them to be size “Medium.”

After you lose MOST of your baby weight (retaining 5 extra pounds forever PER baby, apparently) you do NOT pass the pants on to the next pregnant friend like you promised to do when the pants were gifted you. Instead, you decide to pretty much live in them whenever you are working. You can invite other people to come live in them too, whole crowds, but it might be distracting.

Good luck with the getting Amy pregnant, by the way. She already has three little rowdy boys. Also, her husband might not like you trying.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:23 AM | Comments (29)

Answer Comment Questions Day

BUT FIRST! THE HOLIDAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They are coming, you know. And with them comes present shopping in the dread malls of America. I personally finish my Christmas shopping BEFORE Thanksgiving or I get barn sour. I hate crowds and it brings my happy show down if I see mean people snapping at each other over the last BRATZ doll while a piped in Muzac version of Little Drummer Boy plays. I LOVE to shop for my family and friends though, but…malls? NO! NO! and NO AGAIN! This is why Al Gore invented the internet. So I can shop from home.

May I humbly suggest a signed, personalized first edition of gods in Alabama or Between Georgia? Or perhaps BOTH, if you RILLY like someone. I’m doing a Holiday Edition of the Virtual Book Signings I do with Alabama Booksmith…You have until the WEDNESDAY before Thanksgiving (That’s November 22nd) to get your orders in, and I’ll go by the BookSmith and sign em that day.

You can order here
or you can just CALL them at (205) 870-4242 and put your order in over the phone.

You’ll be supporting a ROCKIN’ independent bookstore, AND you’ll be supporting my novel writing, which allows me to buy little frivolities like food and medicine that make my life such a pleasure, AND you’ll get a portion of your holiday shopping done AND!!! You’ll have something personal and unusual to give Mom or your friend or your especial pet best auntie or your cousin Jack. Dude, we all win.

ONWARDS... In the spirit of Ze Frank ( Suh-Suh-Suh-Sumthin’ from the comments) I better answer some of the questions accumulating in the comments. It's like we're doing three questions, and you get to be me and ask, and I get to be the special guest answerer.

Speaking of my vastly overweight Walrus-Poodle, Jas said: Heck, he's a chunky kind of cat. My vet told me cats rarely overeat. Perhaps he is bored?

You know, perhaps he is. But he’s very world weary and jaded, and he cannot leave the house because he FIGHTS and he only has one eye. So. I’ve gone the cat toy route with him: Feather on a stick. Catnip mouse. Bell balls. I flail the stick around him and trail it along in front of him and hide it behind cushions and have it peek out at him, and he cocks the three-sprout of whiskers he calls an eyebrow and looks fondly down his nose at me, as if he thinks I am a very cute sort of disturbed person, and he hopes I am having a good time playing with my stupid feather thing.

He also has shown no interest in cooking classes, reading Proust, helping with the Domestic Engineering portion of my day, or watching Dexter on Showtime On Demand. The cat is clearly dead inside.

His favorite activity, when he DOES any sort of activity, is beyond my control. There’s this prissy little yaller cat with white feet, goes by Ginger, and Ginger likes to sit on our porch and sometimes our deck. When she does, Schubert’s one eye takes on a maniacal and murderous gleam, and he begins hurling his MASSIVE body at the closest window again and again and again, until the wall is shuddering, and all the while he releases this low pitched gravelly keening noise which I strongly suspect is the FIRST sound you hear should you be so unfortunate as to die and go to hell, the sound a TRULY happy deamon releases as it spots fresh meat.

I suppose I COULD get some sort of YALLER CAT DECOY and set it down on the porch as Trying To Bust Through The Wall and Murder Ginger is his aerobic activity of choice, but I’m not sure my windows could withstand a regular regime of such treatment.

Thus Sagt Edgy Mama: We need a shot of the ridiculous poodle tail up in the air, please?

I TRIED! Alas! He won’t HOLD it up in the air without LASHING IT ANGRILY. When he is at peace, the tail is at peace, and I have 30 pictures of an UPRIGHT LASHING POODLEY blur to prove it.

Desi, enchanted by the idea of HUGE FLOPPY FANTASY PANTS, asked, “by the way...where do you get those pants?”

First, you have to get my friend Amy pregnant. That’s key. Amy does pregnancy RIGHT, which means she gains as much weight as HUMANLY POSSIBLY without bursting her skin. Me too, by the way. I feel that pregnancy REQUIRES me to eat entire bags of revolting Palmer’s chocolate flavored wax, one after another.

ANYWAY. You get her pregnant. Then after she has the baby, she FINDS AND AQUIRES the pants to contain her post partum body. Then YOU have to get pregnant and gain as much weight as humanly possible. After Amy has returned to her normal size, you will have the baby, and she will GIVE you the fantasy pants. Three pairs in various Indian prints. It will make you feel good to wear them because even though they are large enough to contain the city of Amarillo, Texas, the tag staunchly proclaims them to be size “Medium.”

After you lose MOST of your baby weight (retaining 5 extra pounds forever PER baby, apparently) you do NOT pass the pants on to the next pregnant friend like you promised to do when the pants were gifted you. Instead, you decide to pretty much live in them whenever you are working. You can invite other people to come live in them too, whole crowds, but it might be distracting.

Good luck with the getting Amy pregnant, by the way. She already has three little rowdy boys. Also, her husband might not like you trying.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:23 AM | Comments (29)

September 26, 2006

3Q with Karin Gillespie

Karin Gillespie
cracks me up --- this is a chick who gives good interview. And she has new book out called Dollar Daze.
It’s the third in her beloved Bottom Dollar girls series, and it’s a privilege to have her here.

dollardaze.jpeg

JJ: What's the most interesting/funniest/weirdest thing you have ever done to try to promote your work or get the word out about a specific book?

KG: When my first novel Bet Your Bottom Dollar came out, I heard scads of horror stories about book signings and how often the only people who speak to you are those who are looking for the restroom. Bad book signings are so common there’s even a book about them, aptly titled Mortification: Writers’ Stories of Their Public Shame.

I decided I didn’t want to be mortified all by myself so I came up with the idea of touring with three other authors. I’d heard about the Deadly Divas, a group of mystery writers who toured together. Since my novel was Southern I thought it would make sense to invite three other Southern novels and call ourselves the Dixie Divas. I dubbed myself the Dollar Store Diva (because my series revolves around a former dollar store called the Bottom Dollar Emporium).

The Divas and I dress in boas and tiaras and put on a lively show and reading with jokes and anecdotes. We’ve traveled together for over two years now and have received tons of press. When traveling all four of us pile into one car and one hotel room. I like to call us Thelma and Louise squared. (Sadly we don’t have our very own Brad Pitt but we’ll willing to consider any potential candidates.)

We haven’t been completely spared moments of mortification. Once, on a tour of Florida, the Cocoa Library hosted us. Our audience wasn’t large and most were retirees. The librarian apologized for the small turn out and one of the patrons overheard her.

“You should have been here last week,” the patron said. “There was an author here who had them lined outside the door. They were packed in like sardines.”

“Who was the author?” I asked, imaging Grisham, Pat Conroy or even Paula Deen.

“Well, I don’t recollect the name of the author,” the patron said. “But I do remember the name of his book. It was called Overcoming Incontinence.”

So there you have it. Despite all our glamour and pizzazz, the Divas were upstaged by incontinence. Who knows? Next trip it might be hemorrhoids.

JJ: You recently remarried --- Gratz! Tell us about yer fella?

I was in what I call “the hospice” stage of being single. I was in my mid-40s and after years of being divorced I honestly never thought I’d ever get married again.

There was this fellow named David I’d run into now and again but he could never remember my name and seemed utterly indifferent toward me.

I checked out this fabulous book from the library called The Crimson Petal and the White. I devoured the 800-word novel post haste and when I got to the end, I discovered a receipt with the name of the last person who checked it out. It was Mr. Indifference himself!

I ran into him again and mentioned that we’d checked out the same book. For the first time, ever, he finally took notice of me. We chatted enthusiastically, started dating, and yes, dear reader, I married him.

While our courtship was going on I was writing Dollar Daze: Bottom Dollar Girls in Love. My personal life kept bleeding into the manuscript. Everyone in the book was falling in love. It was like Cupid spiked the water of Cayboo Creek S.C. the setting for Dollar Daze. One of my characters, a proper Southern widow named Gracie Tobias, hooks up with the love-of-her-life via a library book.

JJ: Do you think of yourself as a Southern writer, and what does that MEAN to you?

I’ve lived in Augusta, Georgia for thirty plus years but I wasn’t really getting the true Southern experience. Yes, the dirt is red, the tea is sweet, and the Publix stocks Glory Pole Beans but with so many people coming in from other places, Augusta’s southern flavor is somewhat diluted.

Several years ago I dated a fellow from Swainsboro, Georgia and as soon as we visited his hometown I was slapped silly with the glorious Southerness of it all. People still said things like, “I swanee it’s hot out.” (Swanee mean ‘swear” but properly reared Southerners in small towns do NOT swear.) The cook at the diner got up at the crack of dawn to make slow-cooked grits and golly Moses, you have never tasted such wickedly good grits.

I flat out fell in love (not with the fellow, but with the town) and. I couldn't get a enough of small towns and their full-strength Southernesss. I went to Catfish Stomps, Chitlin Struts and Fire ant Festivals. Anytime I saw a meat-and-three diner on the road I’d pull over, order some country-fried steak and eavesdrop.

I’d copy down the signs I’d see in front of churches (Stop, Drop and Roll Doesn’t Work in Hell) and take note of the businesses I’d see (Tuff Luck Tavern, Bud’s Bait Shoppe and Tanning Salon, Dazzling Dos) I’d listen to the small-town chatter of the local radio station in between country songs like “There’s a Tear in My Beer.”

So the simple answer is, yes I am a Southern writer. The South, in fact, promoted me to write. I wanted to share what I saw. I wanted to preserve in my mind a culture that's disappearing.

Posted by joshilyn at 3:37 PM | Comments (12)

August 31, 2006

Logo-a-Gogo

3Qmeister.jpg

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:

applewood.jpeg

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.

Posted by joshilyn at 12:36 PM | Comments (11)

August 17, 2006

3 Questions with Diana Peterfreund

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.

dianecover.jpeg

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*

Posted by joshilyn at 6:49 PM | Comments (9)

August 1, 2006

3 Questions: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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.

golden.gif

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
it...

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!

Posted by joshilyn at 6:42 AM | Comments (5)

July 25, 2006

Three B's: Barnholdt, BAD CAT BOO, and B4B

OMG the typos, even for me were out of control. FINALLY In St. Louis after missed connections and airport delays and looked at all the typos and OH WOW AM I ASHAMED OF THIS ENTRY! SHAME! SHAME!

B1--- 3 Questions with Lauren Barnholdt

How lucky is it that Lauren's last name starts with a B, thematically speaking? So lucky. She's the author of Reality Chick, the story of sweet and normal Ally Cavanaugh -- one of five freshpeople shacking up on In the House, a reality show filmed on her college campus. As if school isn't panic-inducing enough...

Sarah Mlynowski, author of Milkrun and As Seen on TV calls Lauren, "Hilarious... a fresh new voice in teen fiction." I bet she's SICK of hearing this, but I DO think it's worth noting that Lauren is only 26 years old---pretty young to have her first book out. I tend to tell people in their twenties who ask me about the BUSINESS part of a writing career that I spent my twenties alternately learning how to mix a decent cocktail and writing TERRIBLE short stories and I didn't make a serious run at writing a book to PUBLISH until I was in my thirties. Maybe I should eat those FIND YOUR VOICE words with no Green Goddess dressing. Having her first book out at 26...She's done something remarkable, I think, plus she gives SUCH good interview:

JJ: Tell us about the time you tried out for THE REAL WORLD?

LB: Oh, God. Yes, I tried out for THE REAL WORLD. It wasn't just me! There were literally hundreds of people in line for the audition, so I'm not the only dork. Trying out for REAL WORLD was fun, and was the inspiration for Ally's audition scene in REALITY CHICK. A lot of what happens to Ally during that scene actually happened to me. (I won't tell you what, except that it's entirely possible that I, like Ally, also made an inappropriate comment to the casting director. Which is probably why I'm now a writer and not a reality tv star...)

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

realitychick.jpg

LB: I LOVE my cover. It's weird, but I never had an actual picture in my head of what my cover would look like. I'm hopelessly unartistic when it comes to stuff like that. Plus I was trying not to get an actual picture in my head, because I knew it would probably turn out to be nothing like I imagined. (Kind of like going on blind dates -- the guys never look like what you thought they would.)

The day my editor emailed me the cover, I was almost afraid to open it. I was all set to hate it. And when I saw it, I thought it was perfect. I couldn't stop looking at it. I hope I'm as lucky with all my covers!

JJ: A lot of writers read this blog -- how did you find an agent and sell that first book?

LB: The first book I ever wrote, JOSH PARKER HAS A BIG HEAD.. AND OTHER THINGS I LEARNED THIS SUMMER was
rejected by every single publishing house in New York (and some publishing houses in Boston, Chicago, etc.).

My then-agent was so-so about my work, and there was a really small period
of time (like maybe fifteen minutes) where I wanted to give up.
I told my friend that I couldn't do it anymore, that I couldn't
imagine writing ANOTHER whole book, and besides, WHY WASN'T ANYONE
BUYING JOSH PARKER BECAUSE IT WAS GOOD AND FUNNY AND HOW COULD I WRITE
SOMETHING BETTER THAN THAT AND WHAT DID THESE PUBLISHING PEOPLE WANT
ANYWAY???

He tried to calm me down, but I just laughed maniacally and
read him my latest batch of rejection letters.

"See!" I said gleefully. "My character's emotional journey is thin!"
Then, a few weeks later, while moving files to a new computer, I found a
few pages of a book idea I had written a while ago. It was about a girl
with a long-distance boyfriend that goes on a reality TV show that
broadcasts her first semester of college. For some ridiculous reason, I
started writing it. Two months later, I left my previous agent and
signed with my current agent, Nadia Cornier. Three weeks later, I had a two-book deal with Simon
and Schuster.

All this stuff happened over a period of four years -- writing the first book, querying agents, writing the second book, etc. Writing is HARD, not giving up is HARD. But it's all part of the process, and you just have to do it.

THANKS LAUREN!

B2 -- Remember BOO THE DEVILCAT? I am not going to LINK because I am SHORT ON TIME -- must catch a flight---and he's in the entry RIGHT below this one. I think we all have opposable thumbs here and are capabe of scrolling down, except for Boo herself, and it's pretty dern clear that Boo can use the Forces of Darkness to scroll. Well. I posted Boo's photo and Boo was NOT pleased. Boo felt that the picture I posted did NT realy capture the TRUE BOONESS. SO. I agreed to give it another shot.

Say 1 2 3 Betty and HIT THIS to see Boo's second try...I'm not going to SPOIL it by trying to describe it. Let's just say, Brace Yourself, Bridget.


B3 (or B4, really...) Lastly but CERTAINLY not leastly. I have some B4B Winners from you, Courtesy of The Bloggess who pens Her Green Figs. Next month, remember, B4B will be over at The Zero Boss. THUS SAGT HER FIGLINESS:

Somewhere, sometime, I remember reading that Faulkner said *there's
something about jumping a fence that makes you feel good* (if I were a
responsible librarian or English teacher I'd go look this up, but I am
not a responsible anything). As these stories demonstrate, crossing
boundaries feels good because you get out of BETWEEN. In between, we
are uncomfortable, unsure, and undecided. Sometimes we are just "un."
Aimee calls these "dull gray moment[s]" in her submission and we've
all been there, though we may not all be so equipped to define
"between." What each of this month's winners has in common, and has in
common with Between, Georgia, is that it defines "between," in part by
looking at the two sides of the fence, and in part by saying how
pointy the fence feels beneath them.

And so, my selections for this month's winners are:

1) Hypergraffiti

2) but i digress...

3) Keepin' the Faith

Congratulations to the winners, the finalists, and the entrants!

I GO HOME FROM TOUR ON FRIDAY and will get the appropriate prizes out to ALL THREE OF YOUSE GUYS! GRATZ! MUST RUN FOR PLANE NO TIME TO PROOF BIG SORRY SORRY NESS FOR ALL TYPOS!

Posted by joshilyn at 7:45 AM | Comments (14)

July 10, 2006

Blogging for Books LIVES!

BLOGGING FOR BOOKS is on the road in its ENORMOUS tour bus, and all the roadies are hot for it. Screaming Girlenes in poodley skirts are waiting to rip its clothes away and run off with a shred or a button. B4B was at the top of the charts last month, and we want to keep it there. OH YES WE DO!

Otherwise, I imagine the tour bus will go around a dead man's curve just a shade too fast, and B4B will join Jim Morrisson's new band, in hell.

If you blog, I BEG you to remind you reading/blogging audience that it is B4B time, and ask other bloggers who read your blog to blog it, and then it will be JUST like Ricky Martin, if Ricky MArtin had ever released another song. PLEASE help get the word out.

We lift a glass in honor of The Zero Boss, because he made it up.

How to play: You blog on a chosen topic. You post a link to your blog entry in the comments below this entry. B4B closes next Monday when the comments close on this entry, EXACTLY seven days from the very second this posted. <----note the slight rule change.

If you have no blog, you write the essay and cut and paste it (no attachments please) into an email to Ann Fitten (the Bloggess behind Edgy Mama) and ask her sweetly to host it for you.

Your special guest blogger this month is Kim Wilson of Wilson World She won earlier and so, alas, she can never enter again, but she is eligible to judge. AND JUDGE SHE WILL.

If you are one of the seven finalists, your entry will be read by OTHER Special Guest Bloggess who pens HER GREEN FIGS. Her Figliness will greenly choose first, second and third place.
THERE IS NO SPECIAL GUEST AUTHOR. Because I am providing the loot for this round. And I live here. SO, I can't judge because I know too many of you too well to be impartial, plus ARE YOU ON CRACK? I'm on book tour and am thus sleep deprived and totally INSANE. BUT there are MANY fine prizes to be had.
First Place: Signed First Edition of Between, Georgia AND a copy of Between on CD. I READ IT!
Second Place: Signed First Edition of Between
Third Place: Signed Paperback of gods in Alabama

And now, THE TOPIC! As usual your topic relates to the book...

Between, Georgia tells the story of Nonny Frett, who understands the meaning of the phrase "in between a rock and a hard place" better than any woman alive. She's got two mothers, "one deaf-blind and the other four baby steps from flat crazy." She's got two men: a husband who's easing out the back door; and a best friend, who's laying siege to her heart in her front yard. And she has two families: the Fretts, who stole her and raised her right; and the Crabtrees, who lost her and won't forget how they were done wrong. Now, in Between, Georgia, population 90, a feud that began the night Nonny was born is escalating, and a random act of violence is about to ignite a stash of family secrets. Ironically, it might be just what the town needs...if only Nonny weren't stuck in between.
So this time, write about being BETWEEN. In any context. OH COME ON YOU HAD TO SEE THAT COMING!

GO!

Posted by joshilyn at 6:47 PM | Comments (43)

July 5, 2006

3 Questions: Kyra Davis (creepy coffee for afters)

I JUST finished running the full draft of Togwiss off my printer, and now I am going to go give his choppy, sloppy buttocks to KINKOS to copy him and send him to my editor/agent/readers. TOMORROW I am going to FORGET HE EXISTS FOR A MONTH and go tour. When I come back, I will be ready to perform radical surgery upon his quailing personage, a surgery of many months duration, slicing and dicing and stuffing in new bits.

I am by turns relieved to be mailing him AWAY to not think about and then horrified that ANYONE, most especially my editor, is going to see him all FETUSY with his GIANT NOSELESS ALIEN HEAD and his little lungs as dense as lima beans. I am having a terrible urge to call her right now and say YOU KNOW HE IS A FETUS RIGHT??? And he IS, he IS---he is currently completely non-viable outside the womb, and yet I am stuffing him in a box and posting him to NYC. What's WRONG with me?

Since my metaphors are about to run off the road and kill people, we better talk to someone with a brain cell left. That would NOT be me. That would be Kyra Davis, who actually has BILLIONS of the dern things, and has turned them all toward penning a series of hip chick mysteries starring Sophie Katz, her San Francisco living, coffee loving heroine. Check it out:

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JJ: A lot of writers read this blog----how did you come to realize you wanted to pursue writing as a career instead of a personal passion or a hobby?

KD: I didn’t realize I wanted to become a writer until I was a writer. I began writing Sex, Murder And A Double Latte (the first Sophie Katz mystery) when I was in the early stages of my divorce. I was a newly single mom on the verge of bankruptcy and at the time it felt like everything I had worked for had been completely destroyed. I needed an emotional outlet. So at night, when I couldn’t sleep (which was pretty much every night back then) I sat down at my computer and created a parallel universe in which I could lose myself in. One that allowed me to laugh and…well…legally kill people. Fifty or so pages into the manuscript I realized that this wasn’t just an escape for me, it was a dream. Once again I had a goal to work toward and unlike everything else in my life at that time, this was totally under my control. I decided what to and not to write and if I succeeded or failed it was because of what I did, not because of what my ex or my lawyer did to/for me. I hadn’t written anything that would qualify as creative fiction since it had been assigned to me back in high school so I went to the bookstore and got a few how-to-write-a-novel books. I also joined a writing group and started reaching out to every published author who was willing to offer me advice. It took me two years and God only knows how many drafts and sleepless nights but I finished that book and less than three months after doing so scored myself an agent and five months after that I was offered a four book deal with Red Dress Ink. I know how many incredibly talented unpublished writers are out there. I know I got lucky. All I can say is that I did pay my dues, just in a different area of my life.

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?

KD: Neither of the last two Sophie Katz books could have taken place anywhere other than San Francisco. San Francisco's the only city know where a person could realistically meet a Russian, a psychotic and a debutante all in the space of an hour. Then add to the mix Marcus, Sophie’s friend and hairstylist who periodically gives the reader a peek into the city’s gay social scene (which is like no other), the cosmopolitan restaurants and night life my characters always indulge in, the extreme-to-the-point-of-being-silly political correctness of the people they regularly interact with and…well I could go on and on. The point is that no matter where I move San Francisco will always be my home and these books are my way of both honoring and mocking that home.

JJ: Can you tell us about some of your experiences as a biracial Jewish woman and how they helped shape your main character?

KD: Early on in Sex, Murder And A Double Latte a stranger approaches Sophie in Starbucks and tells her how much she respects her “Native American culture.” Sophie of course is not Native American. She is, like me, a biracial (half black, half Jewish of Eastern European descent) woman and she’s not in the mood to explain her ethnicity to anyone at that moment so she says, “Actually I’m Irish. I just wear a lot of bronzer.”

I’ve delivered similar lines in my day to day life. It’s amazing, but if your appearance is on the ethnically-ambiguous side total strangers will come up to you and ask, “Where are you from?” or better yet, “What are you?” I don’t mind when people ask me about my heritage, I’d just prefer that they take the time to at least ask my name first. If they are rude in their questioning I’ll do something just to mess with them. For instance there have been times when I’ve invented a South American country or Pacific Island and claimed to be from there. Then when the person asking confesses that they’ve never heard of it I pretend to be incredibly offended and hurt. It’s evil, I know. But it’s fun.

Thanks, Kyra. I hope you guys enjoy her books, and SINCE the first one features UPSCALE coffee, I throw in for free a link, courtesy of my friend Mr. Growlf, to the THE CREEPIEST COFFEE THEMED THING YOU WILL EVER SEE.

Posted by joshilyn at 11:06 AM | Comments (15)

June 15, 2006

B4B Finalists (Followed by Repugnant Prancings)

That Buffy-Lovin' Groove Thang we like to call Our Special! Guest! Blogger! Angel!
has come through with b4b finalists in a month that was jam-packed with entries. Trala.

Remember, the winner will receive the adoration of the masses™, a link from my site, the right to be a Special! Guest! Blogger! and, last but MOST, autographed copes of BOTH of Shanna Swendson's MAGICAL novels, Enchanted, Inc and the sequel, Once Upon Stilettos.

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Here's Angel:

Hi Joshilyn! There were THIRTY entries; I guess there was something magical about this topic ;)
Here are my top 7—I’m just glad the tropical storm didn’t come too close and hamper my judging duties. This was so incredibly difficult to narrow down!

Sandra Taylor
Daddy Tales
Cheeky Lotus
Her Green Figs
Cynical Optimism
Embroider the Silence
In Full Bloom

THANKS, ANGEL. I see some returning finalists on this list, as well as a blog that is sneakily trying to weasel its way into being one of my daily reads...this is going to be tough for Shanna.

I am going to quietly under the B4B foo-fa-rol whisper two of the other good newses I got because some of y'all asked in comments, and if I act as SMUG as a cat with a buttered canary feather still stuck to his lips, then blame Diane and Angel and DebR and Martha and Dara and Dee and Liz. I will try to sprinkle the last one in unobtrusively over the next week..

AOL's Book Maven, Bethanne Patrick, is currently touring the country giving her recommended summer reads, INCLUDING BETWEEN, GEORGIA (!!!) to television stations all across the nation. She read gods in Alabama right when it came out and really liked it and did an interview with me and stuff, so I was SO hoping she woudl like Between, too...here is what she said:

Between, Georgia'
By Joshilyn Jackson
Jackson's 2005 'gods in Alabama' (the small "g" is on purpose) seemed like another sunny-side-up Southern-fried novel -- only it wasn't. Same here -- eccentric and family-bound characters are where Jackson's similarities with others ends. Here, the story of the conflicted yet determined Nonny Frett will charm and disturb in equal measures.

I love that part about "charm and disturb in equal measures." I feel like she GETS me. *grin* If you want to see Bethanne's OTHER recs, you can go here or just sit down now and start channel surfing until you find her on her TV tour . And you should because CLEARLY she has EXQUISITE taste in novels. *cough*

ALSO, as desi and Susan pointed out in Comments, I was on Atlanta and Company, Co-hosted by Ryan Cameron and HOLLY! FIRFER! who lights up my mornings on Dave FM with this funny guy named Barnes that I secretly think has a sexy voice and did I say the quiet part out loud again? I don't really like SONGS, (you know, I am dead inside, etc etc) but Dave is my default kid-free radio station as they play mostly songs I know all the words to, and I like words. ANYWAY. Holly Firfer's book club read gods in Alabama, and she was all SPONTANEOUSLY talking about it on her TV show, LIKE THREE TIMES she brought up my book, saying how some months she didn't finish her book club's selections but how with gods in Alabama, she couldn't put it down. Can we pause here? I have to step away from the computer and do a speck of unendurable preening...

*preenpreenpreen*

Ahem. I'm back. ANYWAY. A friend who works there heard her talking about my book and gave me both a heads up and the producer's phone number, SO, I boldly called the producer and said, "HEY! Holly Firfer was JUST talking about how she liked my book and PS did you know I am local and coming out in paperback in a MONTH and then I have a NEW book in July and I would LOVE to come on if you want to have me." The producer, Mary, was SO NICE! And BOOKED ME!

IF YOU MUST, you can see the interview here, but I hope you don't go watch it because I am SPOOKY. If you DO go watch it, just keep your eyes on Holly, who is certified adorable. I think I will go watch it myself though, because NOTHING stops my unendurable preening like being reminded that I look like a googly-eyed insane monster on television. Seriously. Every time I see me on TV, I want to spoon feed me liquid lithium or maybe dart me and tag my ear and release me to the island Where the Wild Things Are.

Posted by joshilyn at 1:51 PM | Comments (20)

June 12, 2006

3 Questions with Deborah LeBlanc

Before we talk to Deborah LeBlanc, I have to just take a quick second and tell you, DO NOT CLICK THIS LINK. It will take you to Want Not Dot Net, a site all about living better for less, and I went, and if I had not gone, I wouldn't have known about the sale going on at Hanna Andersson, and I wouldn't have accidentally whipped out my Amex spent a bunch of money there. Of course, I got two Hanna Andersson dresses for about what one usually costs, and can you IMAGINE the blinding adorableness of Maisy in this thing?

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No. You can't imagine it. The oceanic depths of her adorableness in this is not fathomable by the human imagination. I can't find my digicam, but even if I COULD...I don't think it could capture her ridiculous DELIGHT to be wearing this thing she picked out HER OWN SELF. It is called HER MAGIC PURPLE DRESS and Maisy calls it that, keeping the her, as in, "I want to wear my her magic purple dress!" I am DYING of it. THANKS Want Not!

Meanwhile, in less cute news, Deborah LeBlanc freakin' sees dead people. She's a Louisiana horror writer with a huge cult following, and her latest is called A House Divided. You know what -- I'm not going to tell you what it is about. Go watch the TRAILER! I'm always so INTERESTED in these, and this one is different from the other BOOK TRAILERS I've linked to in the past. It's not animated or an excerpt read aloud with still shot images to go with, nor is it like a music video. It's live action, with actors doing actual scenes from the book. GO SEE IT!

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There's a thirty second version and a long one---I'd love to hear what you think, especially if you've watched the other kinds before.

Deborah agreed to play three questions, so I'll let her talk now.

JJ: Who did you dedicate this book to and why?

DL: I dedicated A House Divided to my dad. Ever since I can remember, he's been an inspiration to me, teaching me that all things are possible if I believe, work hard, and stay committed to a daily course of action that takes me closer to my goal. His wisdom and the open-minded way in which he approaches most things in life taught me how to fearlessly face the unknown. To give you an idea of what he's like, here’s a little conversation we had after Christmas dinner last year...

“Dad, where did 2005 go? I swear it’s like I went to bed on Christmas night, 2004 and woke to Christmas day 2005. I don’t know where all the days in between went.”

He nods, smiles, and watches my three-year-old nephew run by with a Christmas bow on his head.

“I mean nothing is slow anymore. Why is that? Is the earth moving faster now or something? What about all our so-called technological advancements? Weren’t they supposed to save us time? It seems like the more ‘advanced’ we get, the faster time flies by. Why is that?”

He sips his coffee. There’s a twinkle in his eye.

“Think about, Dad. Right now you can look back and remember easier, slower times, so can I. Hell, even my kids can. But what will slower times look like for my grandkids? For my great-grandkids? Can you imagine what the world will be like when they have to look back at today, 2005, and say this was their slower time?”

Dad waits a beat before putting a weather-beaten hand over mine on the table. “Close your eyes,” he says.

“Huh?”

“Just close ‘em.”

I did.

“Remember when William ran by here a minute ago?”

“Yeah.”

“What color was the bow on his head?”

“Blue.”

“It was red.”

I frowned.

“What kind of shoes did he have on?”

Frown deepening. “Sneakers.”

“He was barefoot.”

I open my eyes and look around for William. Sure enough, he’s pattering around the kitchen without shoes.

“There were twenty-four hours in a day when I was twenty,” Dad says. “And now that I’m ninety, there are still twenty-four hours in a day. Time hasn’t changed, Punkin’, we have. It only seems to be moving faster because we’re not paying attention to the ‘slow’ things anymore.”

***How right he was.

JJ: Do you think of yourself as a Southern writer, and what does that MEAN to you?

DL: Although I was born, raised, and still live in the South, I’m Cajun by heritage. Our culture is a bit different than most Southerners’. So are our traditions. I try to incorporate that uniqueness into my writing so the rest of the world will know what being a Cajun truly means. The largess of the people, their strength and determination to survive against all odds, their joie de vivre and belief in family—this and so much more is what gives me a heritage larger than life. To leave it out of my writing would be like clipping the wings off an eagle, then still expecting her to fly.

JJ: Tell us about your own experience with a haunted house and how that relates to your book.

DL: The story for AHD came to me while visiting with a friend who claimed to have lived in a haunted house, not too far from my own home, when he was a kid. Always fascinated with a good ghost story, I was even more thrilled knowing the house was nearby. He took me to see it, and while visiting the small, abandoned home, I found out the structure was only half of a larger home.

As the story goes, an oil company who purchased the property the home was originally built upon years ago gave a local contractor the home. The contractor, knowing he would not be able to get the rent he needed for such a large house, decided to cut the house in half, remodel the halves, then rent each structure separately. He accomplished his goal, for both halves were rented the moment the remodeling was complete. However, strange things began to happen to the families who moved into each structure. According to my friend, cabinet doors opened and closed on their own, utensil drawers flew open, lights in the kitchen turned on and off, the sound of children and a woman crying late at night. Chairs rocking on their own.

I didn't see or feel anything in the abandoned home of my friend and took his accountings of the paranormal events with a grain of salt. Still curious, however, I searched out the other half of the home, found it across town, and had the opportunity to speak to the single mother who lived there with her three children. When I told her why I was there, she actually seemed relieved and invited me inside. For over an hour, she recounted all the weird things that had been happening in the house since she'd moved in a year ago. Many of those events mirrored the ones my friend had told me about.

Although I didn't experience any phenomenon in either half of the house first hand, the stories generated enough fuel to set my imagination in motion, which eventually led to my latest novel.

Posted by joshilyn at 1:10 AM | Comments (8)

May 22, 2006

Winners! B4B!

Here's Kim:

Okay Joshilyn,

I have the winners for you...sorry to have taken so long. I wanted to read them all and let them settle, and then read them again. It was a tough choice, but here they are:

winner: Give Me Something to Sing About. I LOVED this story about a little girl cheating death.

2nd place: Random Outpourings. This was a wrenching piece about a moment between a little girl and her father.

3rd place: Inside My Head. A story about a little incident that echoed of larger consequences.

They were great entries. It was a challenge to judge them!

Best,
Kim

Thanks Kim!
And BIG congrats to ANGEL! Angel, e-mail me a snail addy and I will have Kim ship out to you POST HASTE your copy of her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Art of Uncontrolled Flight

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Posted by joshilyn at 9:02 PM | Comments (4)

May 19, 2006

PRETTY PRIZES TODAY!

So you want an ARC of BETWEEN, GEORGIA? Signed, natch.

Remember how Al Gore invented the internet? Right. Well, soon after he did, my dearest friend Lydia and I invented blogging! I bet you didn't know that, did you? AND YET IT IS ALL VERY COMPLETELY TRUE. This was before blogging was even a WORD, much less a phenom, and Lydia and I ran a web magazine called The Playground that got something like half a million unique visitors a year. We thought we were hot shtuffs.

By far the most popular feature on this PRE-BLOG mag was The Daily Dirt, a online diary where every day, either Lydia or I would post ramblings, musings, links, stories, reviews, whatever wandered through our brains. She was recently digging through all her old files, cleaning hard-drive-house, and found some of the Dirts, including one where she had talked about the difficulty of explaining what your JOB is when your job is writing. There are so many WORDS for it, and people have preconceived notions about what those words imply flying out of their ying-yangs so regularly it's like the NYC-Boston Shuttle. She articulated those notions --- here's what she wrote:

What you say: I'm a writer.

What they hear: I sit at a typewriter with my hair pushed back and my glasses low on my nose and tappity tap into the night. I crabbily repel all humans who attempt to contact me, forgetting what time it is, eating take-out, showing up at engagements absent-minded and preoccupied and late. I may smell. I may have a cat or a basset hound. I live "on the bluff" in a dramatically shaped house. My family finds my habits alternately endearing and infuriating. I have complicated relationships. I frequently pull one last page out of my typewriter and slam it down on top of a pile of other pages and say, "Finished!"

What you say: I'm a novelist.

What they hear: I’m a psychiatrist. I understand people. I tell Stories. I understand YOU. I may put you in one of my Stories. I live in a fantastic world of my own creation, and yet my characters are always fantastic versions of my own family. Go ahead. Say something witty. Tonight I will graft you into my epic. I have an Imagination. I am Imaginative. I also have Morals and there are Issues that I care about. My Novels focus on these Moral Issues and make Serious Points about the Issues that I care about, driven by the fantastic characters which are all based on you.

What you say: I'm a fiction writer.

What they hear: I buy and read magazines no one has ever heard of because they are technically literary journals (even though I call them magazines) and the reason I buy and read them is either because I am published in them or I want to be published in them. I write things no one can understand, largely because I was influenced by my endless and unprofitable stint in graduate school, which I enjoyed so much that I became a professor. If you attempt to read my work you will be stymied immediately by my nontraditional punctuation, my reference to obscure middle eastern politicians, and my insistence on using the format of a musical sonatina. If you aren’t stymied, I may become irritated.

What you say: I'm an author.

What they hear: I write books with titles like "How to Improve Your Community in Five Easy Steps" and I appear on Oprah and I wear coordinated suits and I am very VERY WISE. My signature is worth money. My friends speak to me deferentially and my family has a giant portrait of me in the living room. In the portrait I am wearing Chanel. I have never written a lick of fiction and I think it's frivolous and exasperating when people do. What matters is truth, and I have the truth. Ask me anything. I am well read and I probably have a degree in sociology or communications.

What you say: I'm a poet.

What they hear: I sit for long periods of time in my back yard in the fetal position. I have a deep and personal relationship with several astral bodies. In fact, I have my own star. It's right there. Its name is Amphetamines. I used to have an outfit that included primary colors, but I burned it in a ceremony with my friends where we also shot up a lot of heroin. I hate my parents because they ritually and constantly molested me, both of them at the same time, from the time I was born until yesterday, when I started Dealing With It. I am a bisexual and I worship the goddess Diana. I haven't pierced by ankle yet, but I have an appointment.


HA! That still kills me. And makes me wish I was poet, lo these many years later, JUST so people would think all those things about me.

SO, your mission, should you CHOOSE to accept it, is to say your job, or a job you have had, or a job you think people misconstrue, and do exactly what Lydia has done above. You say what you call yourself, and then you say what you think people assume about you based on the job. Put your entry in the comments and be sure to include an e-mail addy so I can TELL you if you win. *grin*

LYDIA, the originator of this contest, will herself pick the winners, since I have too many friends who stop by this blog to be objective. Since I am not judging, this contest is open to all. Except Lydia's sister and husband and, of course, Lydia.

First prize is the pre-read ARC copy of BETWEEN, GEORGIA, and I will throw in one of my brother's amazing Little Nonny Foxes.

Second prize gets their choice of a signed ARC of gods in Alabama OR a signed edition of the BRAND! SPANKIN! NEW! PAPERBACK! versions of gods in Alabama. The PBs are SO hot off the presses you could cook an egg on the cover. SO hot and fresh are these that I don't even HAVE my author copies yet -- just the promise that they are coming and my editor's delighted opinion that they are SO pretty they practically look lickable.

Third Prize is a Bag of Schwag, like maybe some signed bookplates, some magnets, and I will throw in some whatnotty something I find on my vile mess of a desk, maybe even a MINT!

readysetGO!

Posted by joshilyn at 8:25 AM | Comments (38)

May 17, 2006

3 Questions: Allison Pace

It's a GCC day, and today, hot off the griddle, we are serving Allison Pace. I like Allison Pace. I just do. She wrote If Andy Warhol had a Girlfriend, which was hip and slick and funny, and if it was your cup of tea, I think you are going to like her sweetheart of a follow-up novel, Pug Hill.
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JJ: Where did the idea for the book come from?
AP: I really wanted to write a book about someone whose life had been very affected by dogs and who spent some time reflecting on that. Pug Hill in Central Park is a place I always got a tremendous kick out of, and loved very much. So that combined with my fascination with pugs, helped form the scheme of the novel. And, I was giving readings for my first novel at the time, and contemplating my fear of public speaking.

JJ:Tell us about the best dog you have ever owned.
AP: It's a tie between Max, an Irish Wolfhound / Sheepdog mix, the most brilliant dog ever, and my Spanky, a Chinese shar-pei, the sweetest dog to ever walk the earth. Spanky makes a guest appearance (as himself!) in Pug Hill.

JJ: What's next for you?
AP: I'm working on a third novel. I can't believe I'm actually on a third novel. It's called Through Thick And Thin, and I'm very, very excited about it. It's about two sisters at very different life stages who attempt to re-bond with each other with a weight loss quest.

The best dog I ever owned was a poodle named Louis. His whole name was King Louis of the Colony Estates, but everyone called him Loo-ey. My parents had Louis before they had me, but he lived a longlonglong time, so I remember him well.He wasn't one of those little nervous yappy poodles. He was a big old poodle, very handsome, mostly because my father refused to give him that stupid puffy ankled haircut. He kept him clipped short for comfort, but never gave him that puff head with a bow on the ear ---he wanted to protect Louis' masculinity. In several ways. And this was the 70's, before Bob Barker started staring earnestly into cameras and talking about the evils of unchecked dog testicles, so Louis would sometimes disappear for days at a time and come filthy and burr-covered and stinking of French Bulldog Perfume. I am sure we left a zillion little Louis throughout the southern states as we moved around a good deal.

My dad used to blame stray gaseous emissions on Louis. We'd be driving along, and suddenly the unmistakeable smell of SILENT BUT DEADLY gas passing would fill the car, and my dad would say, LOUIS!!! in a thundering voice of disapproval, and Louis would look suitably chastened. My brother and I would giggle like maniacs and say LOUIS YOU ARE SO GROSS.

My mother would fix my father with a gimlet eye and say, not looking at the dog at all, "Indeed, Louis. Please try to control yourself. Louis."

Later Louis got his revenge. In his old age, he became the GASSIEST dog who ever LIVED.

Anyway I have digressed hideously, but talking about Allison's book got me thinking again of all the dogs I've loved before. SNIFF.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:32 AM | Comments (6)

May 8, 2006

Down With The D Word / Three Questions with Alana Morales

OH BEST BELOVEDS, soon you will no longer be my internets, my peeps or even my best beloveds. Soon, I will begin blog entries by just saying, YO! DUDES!

I know you will be shocked to hear that last night while I was sleeping the entire cast of the O.C. DID NOT creep in and anoint my head with a massive ladle full of Hipster-cool. Nor has your new status as DUDES been conferred upon you because Snoop Dogg decided to lend me a modicum of street cred. (I applied, but His Poundliness regretfully informed me that I had no street cred collateral. I cant even say BLING with conviction.)

The true explanation is very simple: I have a nine year old son. He says DUDE a lot.

My son is causing the DUDE, because DUDE, it turns out, is infectious. You can totally catch dude. Now even MIR, who used to say "Um, wait. Did you just call me...dude?" whenever I called her dude, is calling ME dude back. It's an earworm. I think I called my MOTHER dude today.

DUDES, I will have you know that I am writing a long DISH-FILLED thing about the CONFERENCE I attended this weekend, but I am out of time, so I will have to finish spooning the dish out tomorrow. SO, for TODAY, I better let someone else talk. How about....ALANA MORALES, a fellow mom and a fellow writer who is much cooler than me, and who can probably get through a fifteen minute phone conversation with her agent without calling him DUDE. I completely failed to do that today. Did you catch that? My agent, by the way, is 70 year old Connecticut old world gentlemanly charmer whose ancestry makes him a Belgian Viscount. But I just like to call him, you know....DUDE.

ANYWAY, Alana decided to give up her teaching career so she could stay at home and raise babies, and she realized it was one HECK of a transition....so she wrote Domestically Challenged. Written as a humorous guidebook, this book shows new stay at home moms how to:

~ Get over the myth of the Super Mom
~ Keep the kids entertained without hiring a circus
~ Find ways to keep up with housework, short of hiring a housekeeper (though we'd like to!)
~ Deal with the emotional aspects of her new job (including boredom and every mom's favorite - guilt)
~ And do things as outlandish as finding time for herself

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JJ: So where did the idea for the book come from?

AM: Well, after my daughter was born I decided that there was no way I could go back to work, which was shocking since I never had a desire to be an at home mom. So I began staying home and I was completely lost! I had no idea what I was doing and was really surprised at how difficult it was.

So, being the dork that I am, I went to the library and checked out every book I could find about being an at home mom. I was very disappointed in what I found because many of the books were either out dated or they were very spiritual. I didn’t need to know about my spiritual journey through motherhood, I needed to know how to get my house clean around my kids and get dinner on the table.

One night I was sitting at the computer complaining about the books I found and my husband said “Why don’t you write your own?” So I did.

JJ: You also write a column called Fanily Business. Tell us a little about it, and tell us how writing a column differs from writing a book.

AM: The column began with me talking about all the craziness that surrounded my family since both my husband and I worked from home. As the kids grew older and I had more mishaps, the column morphed into more of a humorous mom column that recounts some of the calamities from my experiences. I plan to continue with the column and currently have it placed at about 20 different places online, as well as my local paper. It has also appeared on Club Mom and MomsTown.

Writing a book is vastly different from writing a column. Even if you are an article writer, writing a book is so much different, because you have to carry a topic for so long and be able to tie a group of topics together with a common theme. With the column, I can just think about the latest mishap from my life and run with it. With the book, there is much more thought involved - making sure the tone is the same throughout, making sure it all makes sense when put together, etc.


JJ: We have some writers on the list....you've gone with a non-traditional publisher that opperates as a co-op. Can you explain what that is and how things work at Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing?

AM: Well, the basic premise of the co-op is strength in numbers. It focuses on mom authors and their needs. Only so many mom authors are allowed into the co-op per year and as a bonus, we not only get our own royalties, but we share royalties off of the other members sales.

It's actually kind of funny, but I didn't realize that it was a co-op at first. Once I received the contract I noticed that there was a membership fee. Now, this was a HUGE sticking point with me (still is a little) but here is why I did it. I think I needed a little more leeway and flexibility with writing my book. For example, the pub date for my book was pushed back 3 times because I kept getting busy with work and the kids. I also had confidence issues with the book. These are not things that would have been tolerated by a bigger house, but since I was with the co-op, I had that option (though the third time may have been pushing it a bit!). I also didn't want to wait even longer to try and land an agent and/or publisher. If you have a book ready to go, the book can be published within 6 months. I like that there was less lag time. I could have been more patient and kept going the traditional route, but I didn't.

Signing with the co-op also forced me to write a book. With fiction writers, they have usually written at least one book before their first one is published, but this isn't the case with non-fictions writers. I had to learn how to write a book. Now, do I think I could have gotten a deal with a traditional publisher? Yes, but not with the proposal I had. I didn't have enough of my own personality in it and I didn't know how to get that in there. Writing the book has taught me how to do that. I also know how to go about writing a book and know what I would do differently. My writing has improved remarkably since I first began the book.

One point I would like to make clear - the co-op is not self publishing - distribution is handled through CDS books (who sells to Ingram) and our titles end up in major bookstores across the country. We are responsible for the editing and proofreading, then we get all the design work, including a branding package that includes business cards, letterhead, postcards, bookmarks, etc.

The responsibility of publicity for the book lies with the author. Initially I was ok with this, but after a few months of trying to drum up my own pub, I can see how a bigger name would help with publicity. We are currently working hard to build a reputation as THE publisher for mom authors, but I think there are still skeptics out there. It is still traditional publishing, but with more of a small town feel.

JJ: THANKS DUDE! I mean, Alana.

Posted by joshilyn at 6:50 PM | Comments (9)

May 1, 2006

B4B is Ready for Rehab!

BLOGGING FOR BOOKS is stretching its skinny little track marked arms! We need to peel it out of the gutter and give it a new and beautiful life in the suburbs where it can have the same lovely haircut as everybody else and find fulfilment in Wal-Mart's homogenizing embrace. WE WANT B4B TO BECOME UBIQUITOUS, OH YES WE DO!

If you blog, I BEG you to remind you reading/blogging audience that it is B4B time, and ask other bloggers who read your blog to blog it, and then it will be JUST like that shampoo commercial about the telling of two friends....what WAS that? Prell? Breck? NOT JUST BLOGGING! If you list serve, or if you belong to a writers group which contains bloggers, PLEASE help get the word out.

I've committed to three more months of B4B, lined up guest authors and such, so let's make it hard on them by giving them a slew of hella superlative entries. Also, from a purely selfish standpoint, I like to have a coupla blogs to read each morning with my coffee. HOOK ME UP.

*We remember with fondness The Zero Boss, because he made it up. Where is he now? I do not know!*

How to play: You blog on a chosen topic. You post a link to your blog entry in the comments below this entry. B4B closes next Monday when the comments close on this entry, EXACTLY seven days from the very second this posted. <----note the slight rule change.

If you have no blog, you write the essay and cut and paste it (no attachments please) into an email to Ann Fitten (the Bloggess behind Edgy Mama) and ask her sweetly to host it for you.

Your special guest blogger this month is ClutterMom of The Clutter Museum. I keep finding myself back at this blog, poking around the archives. I like her style. ANYWAY. She won last month and so, alas, she can never enter again, but she is eligible to judge. AND JUDGE SHE WILL. She will narrow the entries down to seven.

If you are one of the seven finalists, your entry will be read by author Kim Ponders, who penned the critically acclaimed novel The Art of Uncontrolled Flight. Publisher's Weekly says, "This carefully crafted war story and romance marks an ambitious debut," and the L.A. Times calls it, "a horrowing off-course flight in the skies over Iraq." And Ms. Ponders knows her stuff---She was one of the first female pilots to ever fly in a war zone.

Kim Ponders will choose first, second and third place, and she shall send the winner a copy of her new book, signed of course. The winner will ALSO go up on the new B4B links section and will become eligible to be a special guest blogger and choose finalists.

And now, THE TOPIC! As usual your topic relates to the book...

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The Art of Uncontrolled Flight (As Booklist says) " traces the trajectory of Annie Shaw as she follows the flight path of her philandering fighter-pilot father so closely that she nearly flames out. Annie deeply resents her dad even as she self--consciously emulates him by enrolling in the Air Force Academy, flying in the first Iraq war, and, yes, cheating on her spouse." So this time, blog about cheating. Any old kind of cheating will do. Games, Lovers, Tests, it's all fair game until you admit in writing that you've cheated on the ever-faithful IRS....

GO!

Posted by joshilyn at 8:29 AM | Comments (20)

April 24, 2006

Three Questions with Natalie R. Collins

In the comments on my last entry about the GODS IN ALABAMA WORLD TOUR, where the book, but not the stinkin' author, got to be all international and smoke opium and make out with ex-pats that look like a young Jim Morrison, Edgy Mama notes, "Hurrah for gods international tour! How is it in Dublin and Nairobi, but NOT on the bookshelf in my local bookstore in Asheville, NC? Which I complained about."

Because! The Paperback comes out right at the front of June here in America, so fewer and fewer stores will still have copies of the hardback, as they won't reorder the hardback when they sell out. I humbly suggest you get your first editions NOW. In fact, get two, they are small, and they make great presents, or doorstoppers, or decorative shelf fillers because Anne Twomey's cover is SO DARN GORGEOUS, and I also humbly suggest that they are nice to read. You can click any of those bookstore links under the picture of the cover to your right to get your very own copy, OR there is always that YELLOW BUTTON that takes you the The Alabama Booksmith's telephone number if you want a signed copy, you know. I'M JUST SAYING.

MEANWHILE speaking of paperbacks that are already completely available everywhere from B&N to Walmart to your fave indie to BAM, Natalie R. Collins' smokin' hot suspense novel, Wives and Sisters has busted out in mass market paperback.

HELLO! For under 7 bucks, you ask, agog.

I assure that it is indeed so. What ELSE could you desire to be fulfilled here in your earthly life? I ask.

Why an interview with Natalie herself, you say, and you look so DARN CUTE when you say it that I rush right out and grill the heck out of Natalie:

JJ: HOLA PAPERBACK WRITER! GRATZ on the paperback release of a novel that I know did RAWWWWWWther well in hardback...I also know that while completely fictional, the idea for WIVES AND SISTERS grew out of an event from your own childhood. Can you tell that story?

NC: When I was six-years-old, I was playing with some good friends and my older sister on some remote property high in the hills of Farmington, Utah, where the book is set, when we heard a gunshot. We thought it was my friend's brother, messing around, but when we finally located where the shot came from, we knew we were in trouble. Hiding behind some trees was a man with a rifle pointed at us.

He told us to take off our clothes, and if we wouldn't, he was going to kill us. My sister stood up to him, and said we would not take our clothes off. He shot up in the air several times, to show us how serious he was. We stood our ground, and he finally told us to run, or he would kill us. As we ran, I lost my shoes, and he fired several shots and I remember thinking how angry my parents would be about the lost shoes. We had to run about a mile, and we went to my house and told my dad what had happened. He didn't really believe us, and rather than call the police, he loaded us in the car, no matter how terrified we were, and then made us go back up there. A guy was walking out of the woods just as we got there, and my dad confronted him. He claimed innocence, but was carrying a gun. At that point, my dad finally did call the police. They questioned us, and told us we would have to go to court.

Then my parents were pressured to drop the charges, by the neighbors and church authorities, because the man had just "put his life back together" after some problems and gotten married. Anyway, that event really affected me. I can remember parts of it like it happened yesterday. It really colored how I looked at life and the people around me in my community as I was growing up. And it played a big part in my writing this book, as I heard story after story about how pressures from local religious leaders swayed justice.

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JJ: You self-pubbed a novel before selling Wives and Sisters, and yet still managed to break into tradtional publishing, so you've kinda become the poster child for self- publishing, even though you're now with St. Martin's. Would you recommend self-publishing to writers who are serious about having a career? Why or why not?

NC: I'm not thrilled with my POD Poster Child status, to be honest, because the book I first sold to St. Martin's was NOT the one I self-pubbed. I had people say, "Well, she did it, so we can, too. Yea, POD! This is a POD success story." But they weren't looking at the specifics. My book, SISTERWIFE, hit the market right before Elizabeth Smart was recovered. I first published it with Booklocker, and then sold the rights to Zumaya, so it was no longer self-pubbed, but it WAS with a small POD publisher. Both books were published using POD technology, and YES, POD groupies, I am aware it is JUST a technology. My editor saw a press release about SISTERWIFE, and its similarities to the Smart case, and she asked to read something else of mine. This book, WIVES AND SISTERS, was one I'd refused to let go to the POD market. I just knew it had bigger possibilities, and so I was not willing to do it. That's the book she bought, and to this day, NO ONE will touch SISTERWIFE. In fact, I just sold its sequel, TWISTED SISTER, to Five Star, but still no one wants the original. I think it's a good, if not great, book, but it's out of print. And that's not really all that big of a success story. HOWEVER, I do have to admit that having the book out gave me an in to a publisher who was interested in something set in the Mormon world. I can't say I regret it, but I wouldn't repeat it.


JJ: Tell us about your new book---I hear that BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is excerpted in the back of the paperback of WIVES AND SISTERS----what's it about and when is it due out?

NC: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is excerpted in the back of WIVES AND SISTERS, and it's getting good responses from readers. It's a very different story than W&S, although still set in the Mormon arena. Jannie Fox has always been a little jealous of the regular, everyday, Mormon life her good friend Melissa leads, especially since Jannie has a secret that she is keeping from everyone around her. She is basically hiding from reality, because of something that happened to her years before, and yet she isn't hesitant to tilt at windmills for other people in her job as a domestic violence counselor. When Melissa disappears one sunny summer morning, everything changes for Jannie, as she, and a Salt Lake City police detective, unravel the few clues that are found regarding Melissa. Detective Colt Singer convinces Jannie it's time to live again, and face her demons, but she might not get the chance, because the real danger is lurking closer than she ever could have guessed.

And that's a brief summary.
Thanks for having me here, today, Joshilyn!

THANKS NAT for coming by to talk about the book. I should add that while Natalie's book got AWESOME reviews (I don't think she got a bad or even lukewarm review anywhere) I found several of them to be SPOILERY----very free with the plot points, some of these reviews. Yish! If i had read them BEFORE I read the book, I woudl have been TICKED. If you, like me, HATE even mild spoilers, I would stick to just the book itself until after you finish reading it. Here, I'll quote a non-spoiling bit of Kirkus here: "...it's a white-knuckles ride all the way. Expert depiction of a young woman's struggle with the oppressive "family values" of one kind of fundamentalism. Newcomer Collins is a talent to watch." All the reviews I have read have been WARM like that, except with a few spoilers. You have been warned!

OH Lastly I should tell you she got one of those MOVIE TRAILER book commercials done -- You can see it on her site but make sure you have the speakers on. The music makes it. Still TOYING with having one made or not. Not for Between, I fussed aroudn too long and blew my bankroll on foxes, but next book, maybe. What do you think of this one???

Posted by joshilyn at 6:47 PM | Comments (10)

April 21, 2006

B4B Winners!

O my lovely Internets -- I have neglected you this week. I have been in and out of town and have many other good but boring excuses, and one good but not boring excuse which is this: I cut off a snake's head and had an epiphanym, SO I have been UNable to pull my nose out of my WIP for long enough to blog. Next week, I am sure I will be a better person who manages her time more frugally. Hey, it could happen.

MEANWHILE, E. Lockhart, author of Fly on the Wall : How One Girl Saw Everything and this months Blogging for Books judge has come through! Here's E:

I loved reading these entries. Blogging is so amazing. As Through These Glasses wrote, it's really fascinating to read a snippet of someone else's life. I was also so impressed by the range of responses to your prompt! Me, I hear "Fly on the Wall" and immediately zoom into the locker room. These guys were highly emotional, nostalgic, thought-provoking and funny -- but never ever dirty. They all must be emotional adults or something.

So THANK YOU for asking me to be a judge.

Anyway, the winner is:

The Clutter Museum for her stingingly accurate descriptions of human frailties and the way they can transform into virtues. And it's a very satisfying romance into the bargain. Woohoo Clutter!

The runner-ups are Cynical Optimism, who just made me laugh and whose writing was so full of ACTION. I love that she shot him in the butt!

And Inside My Head , whose entry was unstructured but hung together through the powerful force of family connections, and really made me think about our relationship to the past.


I will be thrilled to send Ms. Clutter Museum a copy of Fly on the Wall, with only the caveat that I am on a book tour! I am writing this from a messy hotel room in Dayton Ohio, and before the day is out I will be in Cleveland and Washington DC. So my mailing abilities are severely impeded until the 28th, but I have written it in my calendar for that day -- Mail out Fly on the Wall for Blogging for Books. And so it will officially happen as soon as I get home.

Best,
E

PEE! ESS! CLUTTER -- Your blog does not allow me to comment and you have not posted an e-mail addy i can find anywhere. Please e-mail me a snail addy so I can get your prize to you. TYHANKS and BIG CONGRATS! Joshilyn

Posted by joshilyn at 8:01 PM | Comments (7)

April 15, 2006

B4B Finalists, A Heartfelt Apology-Slash-Threat, and a Crouton Left Over from Picture Salad

I have heard from your special guest blogger, Autumn (a former B4B finalist who pens Perfection on a Curve.) Here is what she had to say:

"There were so many good entries. It was a joy to read them. Picking just seven was hard!!!

In no particular order:

Micki Peluso, guest blogging on Edgy Mama
Inside My Head
Crunchy Granola
The Clutter Museum
Through These Glasses
RandomOutpourings from my Mixed Up Mind
Cynical Optimism


Thanks for letting participate!! It was a blast reading all the entries, and I can't wait to see who wins!"

Thanks Autumn.

The APOLOGY: I haven't come up with a contest yet for my brother's YET TO BE REVEALED supah secret delightful artwork. I am at my mom and dad's house for Easter----I will KNOW on MONDAY, swearsies. Maybe something with HAIKU? I am threatening you with HAIKU unless you come up with a better idea in the comments. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

The CROUTON: Oh Internets! LOOKIT! Publisher's Weekly puts out a daily e-news-letter called PW Daily, and they have a feature called PIC OF THE DAY. Yesterday, It was me. I just about fell back in it, I was so tickled. It is sad that I have no ARMS in this photo, but at least I have hands that jut out of my body from strange and wonderful places. AH THE PERILS OF A BLACK SWEATER! Never the less it spawned one of those "GEPETTO! I am a REAL BOY!" waves of thrilled disbelief that this is my life, and it is the very exact one I wanted when I stood pressing my nose against the windows of the Life Store.

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Caption from PWD: Georgia on Her Mind
Novelist Joshilyn Jackson dropped by Bookspan's Manhattan offices to tape a video interview and discuss her new novel, Between, Georgia (Warner). Pictured (l. to r.) are Beth Goehring, editor-in-chief of the Literary Guild; Jackson; and Sharon Fantera, editorial director, Doubleday Book Club.

PS: They were SO cool to me there at Bookspan. Put me so at ease I got through a 20 minute long ON CAMERA interview without even once puking. SO! We like them. YAY, THEM! GO YE FORTH and join a book club in celebration! Me, I'll be hunting eggs and rabbitses with my little Easter people.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:06 AM | Comments (13)

April 3, 2006

Blogging for Books is ALIVE! And also LIVE (UPDATED RULES)

Okay ---it is time for BLOGGING FOR BOOKS contest! If you blog, PLEASE I beg of thee, remind your reading/blogging audience it's B4B time, or if you list serve, or if you belong to a writers group which contains bloggers, PLEASE help get the word out. I've committed to three more months of B4B, lined up guest authors and such, so let's make it hard on them by giving them a slew of hella superlative entries. Also, from a purely selfish standpoint, I like to have a coupla blogs to read each morning with my coffee. HOOK ME UP.

Blogging 4 Books is LIVE NOW. We remember with fondness The Zero Boss, because he made it up. Where is he now? I do not know! If you knpw, tell me. I'll link to him.

How to play: You blog on a chosen topic. You post a link to your blog entry in the comments below this entry. B4B closes at MIDNIGHT your time next Monday.

If you have no blog, you write the essay and cut and paste it (no attachments please) into an email to Ann Fitten (the Bloggess behind Edgy Mama) and ask her sweetly to host it for you.

Your special guest blogger this month is Autumn, a former B4B finalist who pens Perfection on a Curve. She will narrow the entries down to seven.

If you are one of the seven finalists, your entry will be read by author E. Lockhart, whose new YA book, Fly on the Wall : How One Girl Saw Everything is Kafka for the middle school set...In her own words, E. says the book is "about a girl called Gretchen Kaufman Yee who goes to a wacked-out art school in New York City. She's a collector of plastic Chinese food and odd figurines, a passionate comic-book artist, and a crazy Spider-man fanatic. She's also completely freaked out by the opposite sex -- in particular, the Art Rats, a group of guys in her drawing concentration. One day, she wishes she could be "a fly on the wall of the boys' locker room," just to find out what the heck guys really talk about.
And the next thing she knows... she is.
A fly.
On the wall of the locker room.

FLY ON THE WALL is a Junior Library Guild selection, which ROCK ON with your bad self, Ms. Lockhart.

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E. Lockhart will choose first, second and third place, and she shall send the winnha a copy of her new book, signed of course. The winner will ALSO go up on the new B4B links section I am going to get my husband to fix ANY SECOND NOW, and if you win, you are eligible to be a special guest blogger and choose finalists.

And now, THE TOPIC! As usual your topic relates to the book...

I want you to use the book's title as a jumping off place. You can use the words "a fly on the wall" in your essay, you can use the words to jump to writing about homilies or cliches or Kafka or transformation, you can write about eavesdropping or being eavesdropped upon or a time when you haved like to be a fly on the wall---There are a THOUSAND ways to go with this, so don't be afraid to think outside the box.

GO!

Rules Update: To answer the questions in the comments, yes, if you have won second or third place, you are STILL eligible to enter. Only first place winners will go in the B4B winners links, although I may make it so that anyone who wins first, second OR third can be special guest blogger, depending on availability of the first place winner to do the job.

Posted by joshilyn at 2:08 PM | Comments (31)

March 28, 2006

B4B Winners (A Letter from Sarah Smiley)

Let's let Sarah talk--- I'll tell you a coupla things at the end:

Dear Bloggers:

My husband just came home from a morning flight and found me sitting at the computer like this: hunched over, a hand to my mouth, and laughing with dried-up tears on my face.

"What happened to you?" he asked.

I had just finished reading the seven finalists for B4B, and in a matter of thirty minutes had gone from laughing to crying to laughing again.

Are you people trying to kill me?

The submissions were fantastic, making my job that much more difficult. I read and re-read them several times over, convinced I'd never narrow it down to just three.

But Joshilyn told me the rules, and I'm not one to break the rules (ahem, stop laughing if you've already read GOING OVERBOARD), so here goes --

THIRD PLACE:
"The Military" by Excruciating Minutiae

An exquisite look at a sister's farewell to her soldier brother. I love how this author puts us right into the action. A true snippet of life. Brilliant. I was hooked from the very first paragraph. The vision of the author's mom standing on the driveway, watching the car drive away, made me tear up. And then, when the sister says her "goodbye" in the parking lot, the water droplets finally spilled over my lids and onto my cheeks.

The author's use of dialogue makes this piece stand out. Her pacing and tempo truly set the mood and make the reader feel a part of the scene.

So much is written about husbands and wives and mothers and fathers saying goodbye to their service-member loved ones. I was intrigued by the fresh angle to those painful farewells.

SECOND PLACE
"Field Marshall Mom" by Cynical Optimism


Oh, my boys will not like that I've read this little gem. Great advice for "single moms" who juggle all the balls while their husbands are deployed. The satire on "Field Marshall" as Mom had me giggling several times. Great use of humor without being too cynical. Ah, cynical optimism!

Sometimes it is hard to "complain" with humor without making the reader think, "Oh get over it!" Field Marshall Mom walks that delicate balance of poking fun at ourselves without irritating others.

I especially love Rule #2 and its consequence. I can just see my boys getting down to their Superman skivvies before realizing I wasn't joking. But then, on second thought, they might actually like that. Oh well.

FIRST PLACE
"Grandpa Gilles" by Wilson World

OK, this piece took me from tears to chills. I honestly had goosebumps at the end. As a columnist myself, I appreciate the author's full-circle ending and the powerful message it makes.

Beyond the beauty of this prose, however, is the very important message about war and life and death. Too often we overlook the risks our loved ones make when they commit themselves to the armed services. Thank you for the reminder.

"Grandpa Gilles" has beauty all throughout, but the power punch is the ending, with its reflections on "luck." Oh, and the picture is obviously a nice added touch. Good for you, Wilson World, for keeping all your loved one's sacrifices alive.

So there you have it, my tortuous selection. And I only say tortuous because all of them were good.

For those of you who did not win, hopefully you will check out my book Going Overboard or my column (www.sarahsmiley.com) anyway. Overboard is not just for military wives. Far from it. In fact, I wrote it for civilians because my soapbox is this: your husband doesn't have to be physically deployed to go through the things I did in my memoir. There are plenty of men who are mentally checked out of their marriages. And that's what Overboard is about -- surviving marriage.

Happy writings!
Sarah Smiley,

THANKS SARA!
Congrats to all of you entered and saved B4B----this was an amazining month. Wilson World will get a new Perma Link in the B4B Winner's section of my links page (which won't be done until Scott gets back in town....look for it over the weekend.) Also a signed copy of Sarah's book:

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Let me just say this --- I think the LINKS section should be retroactive as far as FtKudzu is concerned, but maybe not extend back into Zero Boss territory as his archives are down. SO, If you won first place in B4B HERE and want to be included on the links, then shoot me an e-mail. This qualifies you also to be a B4B special guest blogger... BUT you have to retire from B4B and let some other glory hound soak up the rays of the massive fame and immense wealth that invariably follow a B4B win.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:35 AM | Comments (7)

March 23, 2006

Blogging for Books Finalists (Alternate Title: Sucks to be Deb)

Dear Pretty Internets...

Wow. So all I have to do is get all snitty and threaten to close down B4B, and look how you rally. You are awesome. Way to positively reinforce my temper tantrums!!! If I hurl myself down and kick my little boots, I bet you would give me Turkish Delight. I KID, I KID. Seriously, THANK YOU for the great reading with my morning coffee every day.

I am sorry for DebR. She had the unenviable task of choosing finalists, and she managed it. Now these seven will be sent on to Sarah Smiley, and she will choose first second and third place. First place gets a signed copy of her very funny and warm hearted book GOING OVERBOARD.

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After next month, which will be Special Guest Blogged and Guest Authored by Autumn and E. Lockhart respectively, I think it's time to change up the rules and add incentives and such. I think if you win first place, you should retire from B4B, get a permanent link on my site to your blog, and be eligible to be a B4B special guest blogger. What do you think? Now, Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's DEB!


You know how they (you know...the "They" everyone always talks about!) say "be careful what you wish for because you might get it"? I suppose I should listen.

When I posted an entry on my blog encouraging people to enter B4B this month, I said, " I want lots and LOTS of entries to choose from this month. I want to weep from joy at how hard it is to narrow down so many wonderful entries, not weep in despair at how little there is to choose from!" and that's exactly what I got.

There were nearly 40 entries. (YAY, pretty internets!!) On my first read-through I narrowed it down to 18 that I wanted to read again. After reading those 18 a second time, and occasionally even a third time, I narrowed the field to 10. Then the task got hard...really, REALLY hard.

I read those final 10 entries again, and again, and again...I lost count of how many times. Some made me laugh. Some made me get weepy. I can't tell you how much I wish I was choosing 10 finalists instead of 7. It was hard to narrow all the entries down to 10, but heartbreaking to narrow down my 10 favorites to only 7. But in the end, I did it. After all, it's what I asked for.

So here they are, the seven finalists, (in the order in which they posted their entries to the B4B comments):

Wilson World
For What It's Worth
Cynical Optimism
Diary of a Crazed Mommy
Pith, Marrow, and Coffee Spoons
Excruciating Minutiae
Figure Skating Blog


I hope everyone who entered this month will try again other months. Some of you will never know how close you came to seeing your entry on that list!

DebR

THANKS, DEBR!

Posted by joshilyn at 8:06 PM | Comments (10)

March 9, 2006

GUEST AUTHOR: Cindy Cruciger

I'm going to let Cindy Cruciger talk today, so that I can get a shovel and begin hurling things out of my house...There is no other way to catch up in the POST FLU APOCAPLYPSE in which I find myself stranded....Here's Cindy, and after she talks some, I will ask her three questions:

I believe that some people are just plain haunted. I think that certain people are lightning rods for ghosts. I think they grow up with it, learn to live with it and ignore it – to the point where they one day find themselves in serious trouble. That is the crux of my heroine’s character in the Revenge Gifts chronicles.

Revenge Gifts takes place over thirteen days spanning a full moon. Tara Cole is an extremely powerful attractant to ghosts, specifically ghosts seeking revenge. One spirit attracted to Tara in particular is the voodoo loa Erzulie, goddess of love, envy, jealousy and revenge. In thirteen days Tara’s life is turned upside down by a Reversal of Fortune curse placed on her by an angry recipient of one of her revenge gifts. The weird wasteland that was Tara’s life turns around with a vengeance and he ten year dating dry spell? Over. But with all things good in a garden of evil a price must be paid.

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This is not your typical romance. This is not a romance for normal people. Revenge Gifts is a romance for the lunatic fringe.

JJ: You say you believe some people are "just plain haunted." Have you ever had an encounter with a ghost?

CC: I think every place I’ve lived was haunted. The most haunted was the house on Kilgore Road in Orlando, Fl. The Amityville house had nothing on us. Except our ghost was a ghost and not the devil. ;-)

JJ: You say you write romance "for the lunatic fringe." Hmm, interesting...Who is your audience?

CC: I wrote Revenge Gifts for my sister Kimmy. She’s in her early thirties and just plain strange. Essentially I wrote it for anyone who was bored with the traditional romance.

JJ: What's next for you?

CC: I am finishing the sequel to Revenge Gifts. Envy.exe. I just blogged it in fact.

Thanks Cindy. I apprecate you taking over for today, as I am looking at an ocean of crap that needs to be cleaned up here in Flu-Land....I am going to need a bigger boat.

Posted by joshilyn at 1:46 PM | Comments (2)

March 2, 2006

3 Questions with Michelle Richmond, Coming to You LIVE and Germ Soaked from The House of Plague

We will never be well here again. Ever not never. POOR Maisy Jane wins Illest Little Pill of All, and I spent a goodly portion of yesterday taking her to the vet, where she sat around soaking in the germs of 1,000 other little sick puppies, and hacking and coughing hers out all over them in return.

Sam was given the all clear to return to school, and he sat on the exam table forcing air out in huge dramatic barks and saying, "Are you POSITIVE? Because I still have a quite a COUGH here!" He went for the Oscar, but since he didn't manage to produce any actual chunks of diseased lung, he was just now shoved out the door, into the cruel cold world toward school --- a dreadful place where you can't wear pajamas and play Game Cube Pokemon all day.

Maisy Jane, meanwhile, had the doctor head-scratching. They gagged her with a Q-tip and then said, "Hrm. Not strep." So they poked a hole in her and sucked out a pippette full of blood. (She was Very Angry Indeed. Looked up at me with eyes like damp and trampled pansies, and said, "But WHY? Why would she DO that?" and then stared with moist accusation at the nurse.) Her blood's white count was only slightly elevated, BORDERLINE indicative of pnuemonia. They put that little Oxygen Blood Level Reader Guy on a NON poked finger, and it hovered around 95/96. It should be 99 or 100, but you really need it to say 92 or 93 to clearly say "LOOK! PNUEMONIA!" SO. There was nothoing to be done except send her over to the hospital for a chest X-ray.

I immediately gave up ANY hope of getting home when Scott did and cooking us a nice supper. Three hours, minimum, I figured, and decided to run the kids through the Taco Bell drive through...but the doctor looked around furtively (in retrospect he was no doubt checking to make sure no Actual Rich People were hiding under the exam table ready to demand my income tax statements for the last three years before allowing his next move), and whispered, "I am not going to send you to the hospital. Go on over to the NEW IMAGING CENTER near Target Road."

I wondered, "Why the Rich People's Police Check?" but only until I GOT there. HOLY CROWS! It smelled like orange blossoms and Eue de New Building, the chairs were fat with cushions, the carpet as lush and sproingy as monkey grass, it was well lit by pretty lamps, attractive ladies with well manicured hands and shining, clean faces processed us immediately, took us back, and I had a cappucino and a foot massage from Sven while they snapped Maisy's chest. OKAY the Sven thing might be a SLIGHT exaggeration, but I swan, I want to be a multi-millionaire before I am sick again, so all my medical procedure stories can be like this. Of course, we don't have a Rich People's Pediatrician, so no one ever called me with the results and I sat up half the night and worried about how to keep her ELEVATED and PROPPED so her lungs would not fill up and drown her, but also not so propped that she wouldn't sleep, and without so many pillows that she would smother while sleeping deeply under the influence of her meds.

I say all this to say, I cannot tell you the FLAMING PINEAPPLE COCKTAIL thing today---and once again it is NOT THAT BIG A DEAL just an amusing story I wanted to tell and now it's going to get built up into MYTHOLOGICAL PINK SOCK EXPECTATIONS and disappoint everyone, but no help for it. Flaming cocktails tomorrow. Right now, while Maisy still sleeps, I need to go lie down and watch my tape of PROJECT RUNWAY and sulk. SO, I am going to let someone else talk, and I LIKE her. You will like her, too, betcha. She grew up along the Gulf Coast (my stomping grounds!) and, based on this interview, I can't wait to read her book. She hooked me.

Her name is Michelle Richmond, and she is a big smarty, and her first novel, Dream of the Blue Room, is just now coming out in paperback...She talks better than I could about the meat of the novel in the interview, so I won't say what it's about here-----just that I want to read it.

JJ: Tell me how you came to write this particular book?

MR: A trip to China in 1998 inspired me to write Dream of the Blue Room. I've always been drawn to water, and this novel is set on two rivers--the Yangtze in China, and a small river town in Alabama (based on a town near where I grew up). Three Gorges Dam, which was under construction at the time and which resulted in the inundation of thousands of villages along the Yangtze, was very much part of the inspiration for the book. I was also interested in prejudice and its often brutal consequences. The protagonist, Jenny, travels to China to spread the ashes of her best friend from high school, a Chinese American girl named Amanda Ruth who was murdered in Alabama twelve years before the novel begins.

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JJ: Dream of the Blue Room takes place in part aboard a cruise chip in China, but is greatly concerened with events in a small Alabama town and has been called a Southern Gothic novel... Do you think of yourself as a Southern writer? Why or why not?

MR: The emotional heart of Dream of the Blue Room is in a small river town in Alabama. I grew up in Mobile, spent a lot of time at Gulf Shores, so my identity was formed on the Gulf Coast; the bulk of my memory is grounded there. I certainly think of myself as a Southern writer in terms of subject matter. My first book, a collection of linked stories titled The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress, centers on four sisters growing up in Alabama, and follows them as they move off to forge their separate identities. My work might also be classified as Southern in that it is very much defined by place, as so much of Southern literature is. Dream of the Blue Room wouldn't work, in my opinion, if it were only a story of the Yangtze River. The back story, which takes up roughly half of the novel, explores the protagonist's teenage years in Alabama, and it is the events of her adolescence that conjure the story into existence. Without Amanda Ruth, and the intense friendship that Jenny shared with her in Alabama, there would be no novel. The "blue room" of the title is actually a room in the boathouse on the fictional Demopolis River--the blueness comes from the way light filters through the walls onto the water beneath the boat.

JJ: In a related follow-up --- You're an ex-pat who grew up in Alabama but has refugeed to San Francisco. What makes a writer a "Southern" and how do you fall in and/or fall outside of that definition?

MR: I now live in San Francisco, and before this I lived in New York. Though I always enjoy visiting family in Alabama, and have had such a warm reception from readers there (especially in Fairhope, home of the excellent book store Over the Transom), I must say that I feel very much at home in San Francisco. My forthcoming novel, Ocean Beach, is set partially in San Francisco and, again, partially in Alabama. Perhaps what makes me a Southern writer is that, even when I set out to write a novel about China or San Francisco, Alabama is all over it! You know, you can take the girl out of Alabama, but...

My favorite novel of all time is Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, which is about a "Southern" a novel as one can find. That said, I'm also very interested in Eastern European writers, and in the Swedish writer Lars Gustafsson, as well as the New York novelist and short story writer Richard Yates (Yates, of course, did his own time in the South--I was a student at the University of Alabama during the final years of his life, when he was teaching there).

I suppose what makes a writer Southern is an attention to landscape, perhaps an affinity for the often lyrical rhythms of ordinary speech, and, above all, a certain feel for the natural language of storytelling. Let's face it: Southerners have storytelling in their bones! No one in my family is a writer, but supper at my grandparents' house in Brookhaven, Mississippi, was always an occastion for fabulous, rich, and often tall tales, which were passed around among aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins and the like, as generously as the okra, butter beans, and cornbread. Even today, when I sit around with a bunch of friends in some oyster shack on Mobile Bay, with the sun shining and the beer flowing, I can always count on hearing a great story.

THANKS, MICHELLE.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:29 AM | Comments (7)

February 28, 2006

The B4 Winners, and Then a Too-Earnest Talk About ART, and THEN... A Flaming Pineapple Cocktail

AND THE WINNERS ARE...

First Place: Beach Treasure: Clubs
Second Place: You're my favorite: We Are LUPEC
Third Place: 3rd Cynical Optimism: Welcome to the club

I am totally joining LUPEC.

CONGRATS WINNERS -- The lovely Laume, she of first place, needs to send me a mailing address so I can have MJ send her the PRIZE, a signed first edition of The Delilah Complex, the second in her internationally best selling suspense novels about sex Therapist Dr. Morgan Snow. ALSO..

MEGAN needs to send me an address so I can mail her HER Find the Straretto contest prizes!

Now TO PONTIFICATE OBNOXIOUSLY ABOUT ART...

Scott made a good comment about the SPACE CAT versus BLUE HAT CHICK smackdown that is raging in the comments. I started to answer him in comments and it turned into a BIG LONG THING, so I decided to move the whole thread up HERE.

Scott Sagt (and I am fixing his typos--cut the boy some slack he posted this from work in 30 seconds)
"I do like space cat. Truly I do, but for those that didn't take to blue hat lady, I have to say this:

At first I didn't like blue hat lady much either. We were looking at two paintings and I was staunchly for the non-blue hat painting. Joshilyn had to run back to her room and while I waited I sat down and looked at BHL for a long while. I was struck by the power of the planes that are established in this work. The flat plane of the painting, the plane as BHL looks directly out at you, the plane of the cats gaze at the bird and the plane of the birds gaze at the little tree. I saw that the [depth and dimension of the composition was perfect] and when Joshilyn got back I told her we had to buy it.

At a glance, BHL isn't as catching as Space Cat, but after looking at it for a while I might actually like that one better. It's a tough call. I love them both for different reasons, but they are both fabulous.

Let me chime in on this -- you can see POP UP Images of BOTH paintings under discussion in the previous entry, by the way.

Now...I LOVE Blue Hat Chick. The depths in that picture created by the GAZES....Scott has pegged it. I saw it and immediately had to have it, loved it best, etc, but he originally was much more taken by these elongated horses coming out of a mountainous ampitheatre in FREAKED OUT CREEPY NEO-ROME. and we both were somewhat intrigued by another painting that clearly should have been titled Space Cat's Boat Meets Venus in the Garden of Eyeball Flowers. Scott was torn ---We both love almost all of Van Den Neste's work, but I loved Blue Hat Chick best. Immediately. Forever. She's my favorite.

And yes, I like her a a small amount BETTER than Space Cat, but my issue was with which painting went into the more public room, not which to buy. If we could only have had one, I would have lobbied for BHC, but cheerfully taken Space Cat if Scott's heart was set. The ROOM choice was strictly a matter of NOT wanting to defend my tastes every time a cable guy came in to repair the den TV.

Blue Hat Chick is more... unobtrusive. Some folks do not even notice her (though with the way I have her LIT I can't imagine HOW) and most that DO notice her think "Oh. Pretty." or "Wow. Big Hat." Either way, most people who notice her either ENJOY her or AT LEAST are not disturbed by her enough to wrinkle up their noses and ask what I was thinking. BHC is more conventional-living-room-painting looking, and I never have to stand in my den and explain why she is great as I have to do with Space Cat with over half the people who see him --- He IS an odd looking thing, and people want me to explain him. Why does the ship have boobs?? WTH is that melted half-kitten on the prow???

I DO NOT KNOW. I only know that I LIKE SPACE CAT. I like the amazing DEPTH of the landscape, the richness of the muted colors, how the universe goes on eternally behind him, and Space Cat's phlegmatic peace with his odd journey...I love the slow grace of the MOVEMENT you can feel in that picture.

I loved BOTH paintings enough to spend what was for us a large number of dollars to have them forever, and both continue to provide me with extreme pleasure every time I look at them, both make me think, both make me feel things, both entertain me. And that's what art is for. Thats' why we buy it, instead of letting all artists and writers and musicians go be actually useful and grow crops or hammer nails to make barns. Art is for pleasure and entertainment and to keep the brain alive and churning---it;s worth something.

Here is the website if you want to see more amazing Van Den Neste, and WHY WOULDN'T YOU, and PS, forget signed limited editions... this original work right here is what I would buy if I had 25K lolling about on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing. Or maybe this. Choice two is more practical, but would give me in the long run considerably less pleasure.

GAH OUT OF TIME.
Flaming Pineapple Cocktail TOMORROW. Swearsies.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:57 AM | Comments (8)

February 9, 2006

Notes From my Bed of Pain (And 3 Questions with Melissa Senate)

Dear friends, *sniffle* as I wrote about taping Between the other day, I thought to myself, self, I thought, I hope I don't SICK while I am supposed to be taping and have grunty voice all thick with mucus, puncuated by a hacking death rattle. Immediately, my throat started to tickle, and by yesterday, I was in full blown raging flu. I AM SUFFERING.

Good news is, I will be well before the taping and my own voice back. Right now, I sound like if Jimmy Durante and "Froggy" from the Little Rascals had a baby, except possibly less sexy. ha CHA! Other good news, Santino did NOT get cut from Project Runway last night, so...in spite of the fact that I feel like a bobble-head doll (and am about that pretty), I have decided to live.

Since I am incapable of doing anything other than lying the bed making soft moaning noises and sucking feebly at juice box straws, I am going to let Melissa Senate talk. But, who is Melissa Senate, you ask. Well...her debut novel, See Jane Date launched the Red Dress Ink imprint in 2001, has been translated into over ten languages, is an answer to a question in the 20th Anniversary Edition of Trivial Pursuit, and was made into a television movie for ABC Family. Her fourth novel is called The Breakup Club, and BookPage magazine calls it "a delightful slice of life of the newly single trying to make it in Manhattan. A treat!"

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I lifted my swollen eyelids and peered owlishly at her just long enough to hack out three questions...

JJ: Where did the idea for The Breakup Club come from?

MS: The inspiration was something a good friend said in passing: "Thank God I have my breakup club tonight or I'd spontaneously combust" (or something like that). She'd had the courage to leave a bad marriage and start over, and it turned out quite a few of her coworker friends, male and female, were also going through breakups. Their breakup club was formed, and so was mine! Theirs would get together for lunch, drinks, dinner, cigarette breaks in front of their office building to commiserate, cry, and cheer each other on. Mine was stuck working on a high-profile celebrity biography about perfect love, so they decided to talk personal lives instead of work.

JJ: Your first novel launched an imprint (!!!) and was made into a TV movie starring FREAKIN' Charisma Carpenter who I (geekily) adore (because she was CORDELIA on Buffy/Angel). ANYWAY, can you talk a little about the experience of watching a movie version of your book and was it close to how you imagined it and what did you think of the casting and, oh COME ON, share the dish.

MS: I LOVED the movie so much. I now can't even envision my Jane without seeing Charisma Carpenter, who I adore too. I thought everyone was perfectly cast, including my own personal heartthrob, Antonio Sabato Jr., whose Calvin Klein underwear poster graced my college dorm wall. The entire experience was great. I had nothing to do with any of it (wasn't even invited--sniff--to watch it being filmed), and a lot of the book was changed or omitted, but the screenwriter and director/producer completely captured the spirit of the book. Every time I watch the movie, and I've seen it at least ten times, I feel like I'm watching my book, watching my Jane. A fun p.s.: the movie will be shown Sunday, February 12th at 6pm on ABC Family.

JJ: We were JUST talking about writing good sex scenes here at FTK. How did you approach sex scenes in The Break Up Club?

MS: Hmmm...IS there a sex scene in the entire book? I don't even think there is! There's a scene in which one of the main characters is trying to seduce her husband (who she knows is going to leave her), but he's actually more interested in watching a Stupid Pet Tricks segment on Letterman than in her roaming hand, which clues her in that the marriage is ovah. My characters rarely have sex, but they talk a lot about it and spend a lot of time prepping for it, and if there IS a sex scene (and I just realized there is a mini-one), it always seems to be sex gone wrong! I'll have to ponder that.

THANKS MELISSA.
Did you catch the thing about the movie being run on ABC family at 6PM this coming Sunday? If I live, I am watching it.

Ansd remember....Blogging for Books is aliver than I am----get your entries in befoer Monday at Midnight!

Posted by joshilyn at 8:46 AM | Comments (10)

January 26, 2006

3 Questions: Laurie Faria Stolarz

The American Library Association loves them some Laurie Faria Stolarz. Stolarz is the brain power behind a popular series of YA books about a young witch who faces danger and solves mysteries to protect her friends. Think Buffy meets A Great and Terrible Beauty. The ALA has nominated three of the books in her series for Quick Picks for Reluctant readers. The first book, Blue is for Nightmares, was both a Quick Pick and a Top Ten Books for Teens Pick. The third book in the series, Silver is for Secrets was a Quill awards nominee, and in August the fourth book, Red is for Remembrance launched.

Stolarz inked a deal last year with Hyperion/Disney for her first book outside the series. It's called Bleed, and it explores chance and coincidence and the way people's decisions influence each other's lives. It starts out with one girl's decision to betray her best friend by going after her best friend's boyfriend while the friend is away. Bleed will be out spring 2006


JJ: I haven't had many chances to do 3 Questions with an author who writes a series. How do you keep timeline/world you have built straight and characters fresh, growing and yet still themselves from book to book? This is a stretch to call this ONE question, I realize. OOPS! I will continue this thread in Q2, though, as I am so interested...

LS: This is a challenge, but I try to think of each book in terms of one novel. Each novel poses a series of challenges for the main character. Stacey, my main character, continues to grow and learn something new in each book. The thing that she learns - be it self esteem, forgiveness, or otherwise - enables her to accomplish her goal. My readers have really grown close to Stacey because they've see her learn and figure things out. They know her character well. They feel for her and root for her when she needs to overcome some obstacle.

JJ: I saw on your website you just sold a book to Hyperion/Disney called BLEED. This is your first outside the series -- can you talk a little bit about that transition and how this book is different?

LS: While I was trying to sell Blue is for Nightmares, the first novel in the series, I started to write Bleed. I wanted to do something completely different, pushing the YA/adult envelope, exploring edgy material without really thinking about an audience. I experimented with voice, with tense and POV. It was almost like a self-initiated writing exercise that turned into an entire manuscript. It was very refreshing to do something new. I had just spent over two years writing Blue is for Nightmares and another two years editing and rewriting it. I was ready for something fresh.

JJ: As a Southern writer, I think everything is about locationlocationlocation. How did growing up in witch-famous Salem influence your work?

LS: Oddly enough, growing up in Salem, I ignored all of the tourist traps. I'd walk past the Witch House on my way to school and think nothing of it. I'd pass the Witch Dungeon, the cemetary where Giles Cory was crushed to death, walk through Gallow's Hill (the site where the witches were hung) and not give any of it a second thought. For most who live in Salem, Witches are considered everyday people who work, go to school, have families. It isn't anything extraordinary. I never thought I'd explore Witchcraft in my work and it actually happened by accident. I had my main character meditating in front of a candle, not really knowing what she was going to do. Like me, she lived in Salem. People in my writers group linked the candle with the city and encouraged me to go the Wiccan route, which I did. I ended up going back to my roots, learning about passed down home remedies within my family. I also researched the formal practices of Witchcraft and Wicca. It was very rewarding to be able to go back to my roots - go back to Salem - and portray Wicca and Witchcraft the way it was intended, to show the peaceful nature of these ways of life/r

Thanks Laurie!

Posted by joshilyn at 8:31 AM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2006

3 Questions: Sheila Curran

It is my unadulterated and screaming pleasure to introduce you to Sheila Curran today. I loved her debut novel, Dinaa Lively is Falling Down. Loved. It. Unadulteratedly and screamingly. I may have even loved it with more adverbs than that. It was one of those impulse buy books. I had heard absolutely nothing about it, didn't know the author from Adam's off-ox. I was nibbling at the edges of new books at I THINK the Anniston, Alabama Books-A-Million, browsing like the little deers browse bark in winter, and I came across hers. The cover was nice, but it was the TITLE that really got me. I bought it. I stuck it in a pile, forgot it existed, then one day maybe a month later was digging through my TO READS and picked it for next. Did I mention I loved it?

When she showed up as a new member of the GCC I hopped up and down and then ran at her sideways and hurled myself at her feet. There may have been a little teeny bit of slavering. Because, did I mention, I DUG the book? I said something to her about how she and Rachel Cusk reminded me of each other, except Cusk has a blacker heart, like if Sheila decided to become a pirate, she might be Rachel Cusk. Anyway. She was quite nice about being called "Cusk if Cusk was somehow NOT a pirate" (which since Cusk to my knowledge is NOT a pirate makes about ZERO sense, but I get nervous when trying to talk to writers whose work I admire...) and simply wiped the spittle off her boot and invited me out for a drink sometime. Clearly I needed a drink.

SO, good writer AND good manners.

Also, she has a rockin' author picture that you can only see on the book. I could not find it on her site to show you, but it cracked me up.

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To tell you what it's about, I am just going to quote Shelley Mosely's perfectly accurate and glowing review for Booklist: \

Diana Lively's family has lived in England forever, but now her brilliant but abusive husband, Ted, an expert on Arthurian legends, is being sent to Arizona by Oxford University. Diana doesn't want to go. She is certain that Phoenix is a place where scorpions run wild in the streets, black-widow spiders dangle from every ceiling, and rattlesnakes wait around every corner. She is devoted to the marriage, however, so she packs up the children and heads for what she believes is the primitive Arizona wilderness. Ted has been summoned to the desert by Wally Gold, the "Ammo King," who has decided to honor his late wife by building the King Arthur Theme Park and Museum. Wally allows Diana's family to stay on his property free of charge, and soon everyone has bonded, except Ted. Beautifully detailed and rich in exceptional characterization, from the Betty Crocker-esque teenage son to the four-year-old kleptomaniac, Curran's novel gently reminds readers that fantasy has a place in everyone's life, and dreams can come true. Uniquely uplifting and never didactic, this is a gem."

JJ: What's a "Comedy of Manners?" I DO know, I promise, *PREEN* but it;s fallenout of general use, so what is it, and do you like your book being labeled that way and what would you call it?

SC: Now that is a good question because if I had to define a comedy of manners, I’m not sure I could. I think of plays like The Importance of Being Earnest, but also old Doris Day movies and maybe even books like The Jane Austen Book Club or Le Divorce. I think comedy of manners are about nothing and yet everything. They poke fun at sacred social cows in a way that’s not too mean-spirited but sticks with you. Besides, I had trouble figuring out which genre I would fit in. If Diana Lively is Falling Down were a movie, it would be a romantic comedy, but that label somehow changes when it’s applied to books. Sigh.

(OKAY LOOK, I have to interrupt here. I know she's the author and all, so she gets to say what her book is. BUT! I am the reader, so I get to disagree. I think if it was movie it would STILL be a comedy of manners. I think we should call more movies that get called Romantic Comedies "Comedies of Manners" which, wow. I was all the way through that sentence before I realized I had NO idea how one might pluralize "Comedy of Manners." I think the term has fallen from use and no one knows what it MEANS anymore, which is a shame because I LOVE a good C of M and if more things were marketed as such I would buy them. Other things that are clearly COMEDIESES OF MANNERSES, would be, Everything she listed above and, oh, Much Ado ABout Nothing. Some of Saki. NOEL COWARD! That TV show, Seinfeld. you like that sort of thing, you will SURELY like this book.)

JJ: What writers influenced your work and how and why?

SC: Wow, well I’m such a slut when it comes to reading that it may be difficult to prove paternity. If I have to choose, I’d say I’ve been influenced more by the messy school of novel writing than by the sleek and taut perfectionists. Flaubert just made me yawn (okay, I can’t remember reading Madame Bovary, but I think of him as a stylist) while Balzac and Dostoyevski and Doris Lessing and Virigina Woolf would keep me up nights, getting lost in their stories. My favorite grad school course was on the Victorian Novelists, George Elliott and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte. I think that’s because they provide the reader with the illusion of a contained little universe which is comforting and predictable and yet rich and intricate too. There are modern day novelists who aren’t considered literary who I adore, including John Le Carre, John Fowles, Pat Conroy, Dennis Lehane, Ken Follett, Elizabeth George and Mary Doria Russell. If I’ve had an ax to grind, it’s with the point of view that story shouldn’t matter, that entertainment is somehow less than, and that escapism is the opposite of literary merit. I love to read for entertainment and my fondest wish as a writer has been to offer readers a brief respite from reality.

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

SC: I wish I could say I did come up with it. Kathy Kleidermacher, who works with my editor at Penguin, suggested it during one of their first meetings. I liked it right away, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. The title alludes to the London Bridge, which is, of course, where the Ammo King wants to site his theme park, near Lake Havasu city. The rhythm of the words is from a nursery rhyme, which lends a sense of the domestic never-never land of raising small children, and also of the way in which a circle of hands holding together can support a person who is falling down. Since fantasy and fairy tales are central to the story, allowing the characters to find and lose their way, I loved that. Also, of course, the fact that London Bridge was falling down was the reason it got sold to an American entrepreneur in the first place, referring back to the wonderful contrasts between the rich history of England and the brash confidence with which we as Americans will just make ours up as we go along. Who cares if it doesn’t actually belong to us? We like it! Let’s build the damn thing and pretend! Then, in terms of the plot, there are so many ways in which the falling down image is important, including the climax which we cannot discuss further without giving away some important bits.

GO FORTH and buy this book.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:31 AM | Comments (6)

January 17, 2006

BLOGGING FOR BOOKS WINNERS

Rita winning novelist Lani Diane Rich has come through with the winners. Normally, ONLY first place would get a signed first edition of her hip and delightful Chick-Lit novel, Ex and the Single Girl which Booklist says is a "funny, sweet novel ... full of quirky, likable characters and the charms of small-town life"

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But Since Lani is SWELL, and since she had a VERY difficult time narrowing the field, she decided that all three places will get a copy. SO. Without further ado, here they stand revealed in all their pink-socked, exotic robot sex tea'd glory:

First Place: Imagine-Create-Become
Second Place: The Rambling Begins (aka I'm Not Cheap, but I'm on Special This Week)
THird Place: Edgy Mama

GRATZ, and all three prizebound placers need to contact me to see about getting their swag!

Posted by joshilyn at 7:18 PM | Comments (7)

January 13, 2006

B4B Finalists!

Sheryl over at Papernapkin---January's SPECIAL! GUEST! BLOGGER! and a former B4B winner herself---has the seven finlists for your delectation approvification.

They are, in NO particular order:

Edgy Mama
The Rambling Begins (aka I'm Not Cheap, but I'm on Special This Week)
Oh Joy! It's Me
Sometimes Funny Is All I Have
Imagine-Create-Become
Cynical Optimism
Fuzzybutchkins

All seven of these entries will be read by lovely authoress, RITA winner, and exceptionally cool friend Lani Diane Rich who will pick first, second and third place.

First place gets a signed first edition of her very funny Chick-Lit novel, Ex and the Single Girl which Booklist says is a "funny, sweet novel ... full of quirky, likable characters and the charms of small-town life". Enterfreakintainment Weekly gave it a B+, and I myself blurbed the living...liver out of it because I liked it just. that. much.

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If you want to know what the book is about... Portia Fallon calls it PTE--or the Penis Teflon Effect. It's the way all the women in her family deflect men like ping pong balls. No man has ever "stuck" with a Fallon woman for more than two years, and Portia has nearly surpassed that record. Until her live-in boyfriend dumps her and she realizes she's "four cats and a Reader's Digest subscription away from being totally irredeemable." Now, everyone from her mother Mags to Auntie Vera and Grandma Bev is convinced that Portia needs to find a "Flyer"—a fling—to take her mind off her ex. Enter Ian Beckett, a sexy, smart, and unsuspecting British novelist, who's visiting her small town of Truly, Georgia, for the summer. Then enter once again Portia's ex-beau, who's decided to fight to win her back. Now Portia faces a slippery decision: Which of these men has the right stuff to make a commitment stick?

Lani will have the winners to us next week, so if you wish to begin your illegal off-track-betting-style crime empire by laying odds on B4B, you'd best be getting on with it...

Posted by joshilyn at 2:33 PM | Comments (7)

January 12, 2006

Three Questions with Andi Buchanan (and SEVERAL Contest Results)

LiteraryMama.com is a website that is practically synonymous with "Smart writing about all facets of motherhood." Now its creators have edited an anthology of LM's best writing. I sat down with co-editor Andi Buchanan to talk about all the irons she has heating in her fire...

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JJ: What is the relationship between writing and motherhood? (I mean this in a personal way -- for you. Does one feed the other, are they similar for you, does doing one make doing the other harder --- or easier or...

AB: For me, becoming a mother helped me become a real writer -- before I had my first child, I was writing, and had been working as an editor for eight years, but I was terrified of sending my own stuff out and facing rejection. But after having my daughter, I realized the pain of a possible rejection letter was nothing compared to the pain of giving birth without an epidural, so I got over myself. (Also, once my daughter was born, I had something very compelling to write about: the huge identity shift that happens when a woman becomes a mother.)

JJ: Where did the idea for Literary Mama (the website) come from and how did you develop it from an idea into the kind of website that can spawn a published book?

AB: Amy Hudock, who's Literary Mama's editor-in-chief, ran a real-time writing group for women writing about motherhood in California. She and I met after the publication of my first book, "Mother Shock," in 2003, and she was interested in trying to get published a collection of the work these women were doing in her group. However, it seemed like a collection of that nature would need a bigger framework -- not just women from the Bay Area writing about motherhood, but women all over writing about motherhood. Literary Mama emerged from that notion. We launched the site in November 2003, and in January 2005 I pitched the idea of an anthology featuring the best stuff from the site to my editor at Seal. She went for it, we worked with the 20-plus editors all over the country to choose the pieces we felt best exemplified the magazine, and just a little over two years after launching, we have our first collection -- "Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined."

JJ: What's up next for you?

AB: In April, the companion book to my anthology that came out last December, "It's a Boy," is due out: "It's a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters," featuring essays by Joyce Maynard, Katharine Weber, and other fantastic writers. It's an intense collection, and I'm excited for it to be published, especially because I think it makes such a nice set with the "Boy" book. I'm also working on a novel, and working with writer Miriam Peskowitz on "Mother Talk," which is a series of literary salons organized around mother-writers (both visiting and local) taking place all across the country. (We've had them in Philadelphia, PA; New York, NY; Charleston, SC; Portland, Ashland, and Bend, OR; Seattle, WA; and Los Angeles, CA.) I'm in Seattle right now on a book tour, and I'll be doing a Mother Talk here, one in San Francisco, and one in Sacramento.

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THANKS ANDI! By the way, the contributor list for It's a Girl is awesome, including Amy Bloom, Joyce Maynard, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and Katharine Weber....Can't wait.

And now some quick contest results...

I think the serious crazies where you are a danger to oneself and others begins at around 75, and I peaked out at about 70 that day, but that was around noon.... BUT THEN! My friend Karen drove all the way out here from the city to little kudzu coated my house, and she brought me smoked salmon salad from Whole Foods and sat on the sofa with me and looked at my wedding album and SHE IS PRETTY. SO, yeah, while, while I peaked at 70, when the cable repairman arrived, my MI# was a relatively collected 33, and I was only sniffly and puling, not foaming. There was no way to predict, of course, that Karen would be so lovely, but there it is. 33 is the answer.

WINNERS: Ailema, who guessed 33 right on the button, and then EVERYONE else was over except Cele, who guessed 5, but since this is Price is Right style scoring where you have to come closest without going over, Cele takes the silver. Could you two please e-mail me snail addies and I will get your SEKRUT PRIZES out to you, probably at the end of next week in the Great Mailing. If you lost, FEAR NOT! I have a few more of these SEKRUT PRIZES that will be up for grabs in later contests, and by THEN I may even be able to tell you what the prize IS!

I will have B4B Finalists list up TOMORROW. Pinky swear.

Posted by joshilyn at 10:14 AM | Comments (8)

December 23, 2005

B4B Winners and Holiday Hijinks Etc.

OH FRABJOUS DAY! We have heard back from Lara Zeises, and we have B4B winners:

"1st. place - Travels in Booland (and not just because someone named Skaterboy figures prominently in the story). I like the writing style - very Francesca Lia Block/Rachel Cohn - but also love the selflessness Skaterboy has shown this couple.

2nd place - Perfection on a Curve - everyone needs at least one girlfriend like that.

3rd place - You're My Favorite - because I'm a "big sister" to my parents' two fur children and I just became the mama of a fur child of my own."

CONGRATS winners -- as always, I thought it would be hard to pick from the seven finalists, we have some DERN FINE writers regging it up here -- but I admit, this time I did think Booland was the horse to beat. Awesome entry, above and beyond the call of duty and all that.

The winner shall receive a signed first edition of Lara's new YA novel, Anyone But You which was a Teen People Top Ten Pick.

As for me, I am AFK -- blogging live to you from my fathers house and completely unable to answer any email til after Christmas. SO.
Ahhhhhhhhhh Christmas at the Jackson homestead, which of course, as always, includes a poitive SLEW of rousing Holiday Wimbletonian AIM BALL tourney madness.

If you do not remember AIM BALL it is the version of Tennis that Scott and I play because while I LIKE tennis, I lack some of the things Scott has, like hand eye co-ordination and athletic ability, so that if we play by the standard rules, it is a simply a slaughter. We play AIM BALL instead. We trotted a half mail down the road to the tennis courts to warm up, and I mean that literally. It's like 30 degrees out there. When we got to the courts, we refreshed our memories about AIM BALL, and I shall now refresh yours...

Me: THE FIRST RULE OF AIM BALL IS...
Him: YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT AIM BALL.
Me: The second rule of aim ball is...
Him: I must hit the ball directly to you.
Me The third rule of aim ball is...
Him: You do not have to hit the ball directly to me, in bounds is nice, but I must return it if I can even if it will be out.
Me: The fifth rule of Aim Ball is...
Him: THERE IS NO FIFTH RULE OF AIM BALL
Me; Yes, there is. And it is this. *adopts a hideously sugar syrup squishy sweet voice* No matter what the FINAL SCORE is, with us, it always LOVE! LOVE!
Him: *puking noises* The sixth rule of Aim Ball is SHUT. UP.
Me: CORRECT! And we are ready to play!

Svetlinka Muppineska (that would be my Aim Ball name, by the way) won the first Set handily, 4 - 3. At one point, during the HOTLY CONTESTED last game of that set, The score was 30 / 15 (advantage ME), and then I scored again but I objected to 45. I realized Ididn't want to be 45 -- in fact I am not even ready to be 40. I felt like a better score would be 15 / 35, but then he said that 35 / 15 would still lead to jail time in most states, and I should just suck it up and be 45. So I was getting crabby about then and KICKED HIS BUTTOCKS. BUT! I the second match, I ran into some trouble with the YETI factor.

THE YETI FACTOR is very hard to explain, but I am going to TRY. See, I recently noticed that there are these cars that have REALLY stupid names. They are named after LANDSCAPE, of all things, and And here I point you to the GMC YUKON or, worse, the Toyota TUNDRA which is named after a frozen wasteland. The only name ever stupider the TUNDRA for a car is the NOVA, which was released in Mexico under that name, and which in Spanish literally translates to "Will not go." In the same way, A TUNDRA is an icy, inhospitable wasteland, and the frozen Tundras are practically FAMOUS for not going anywhere at all. Ever. If you LEAVE the frozen tundra, when you come back, it is very likely to be right in the same place, unless you want to count continental drift. I do not know about you, but I do not want to drive to Kroger at the "speed of continental drift."

SO this has been really bugging me. I have decided that Toyota should change the name of their great big truck to "THE TOYATO YETI" which still implies huge size AND ruggedness, but also, you know, MOVES. Moves SO quickly, in fact, that you only ever see very blurry photos of them. Scott, however, contends that this would lead inevitably to slogans like "THE TOYOTA YETI... Just LIKE a Yeti, except it won't eat your head!" He felt this was poor marketing. I responded that Yeti have never been actually PROVEN to eat people, and are probably actually vegetarians. SO then he got affronted and said, NO REAL MAN WANTS A VEGETARIAN TRUCK, and he was very unreasonable about the whole thing, I feel.

SO anyway, we are playing AIM BALL, and I keep doing my YETI STANCE as a psychological intimidation effect. If you and I were playing, you would be SO intimidated you would probably just put down your racket and concede and maybe even cry, it's THAT spooky, but Scott is of hearty peasant stock and somehow managed to withstand it. Although no description can do the fearsomeness of YETI STANCE justice, it's a little like this: I stand feet apart, racket cocked and loaded, and bounce back from one foot to the other very fast and say, "YOU ARE DOOMED! I AM QUICK, LIKE A YETI!" He says it IS disconcerting, and I admit it gives me a certain psychological advantage.

So anyway, after I handed him his BUTT for the first set, and I was COMPLETELY already winning the first game of the NEXT set, (The score, was, I believe, 15/30 again) and I felt kinda bad for him, so right before he served, I said, "Go like a yeti," meaning, he could do the STANCE if he wanted to. But instead of doing the Yeti Stance he tipped his HEAD back and kind of...ululated. It was this huge bellowing, haunting cry that was VERY high pitched and shrieky and sounded a little like YIKI YIKI YIKI YIKI but also very GARGLE-Y sounding and way down deep in the throat, and RIGHT AFTER he....ululated, he SERVED, like, in the next instant. And of course I failed to return because I was laughing so hard I had LITERALLY fallen to the ground and was trying desperately not to wet myself.

The ball sailed away over me and Scott bellowed, "ADVANTAGE! A YETI!" And I just lost it. It took me like three minutes before I could stand up and not pee, and then I had to hobble quick to the clubhouse and avail myself of the ladies room. It broke my concentration and he won the next set 4 - 0. Pathetic. I should have invoked the sixth rule of aim ball. Sigh.

AH WELL, We will play the Match Set tomorrow. Because Christmas without the Aim Ball tourney isn't Christmas at all.
And this, my best beloveds, will be my last post until after the holiday. May you have a lovely Christmas, if that's what you celebrate, and if you are celebrating Chanukah or Kwanzaa or some other celebratory something I do not know the name of, may you have a pitch perfect and delightful that, and if you are NOT celebrating, then have yourself a gosh-dern NICE DAY.

Posted by joshilyn at 1:22 PM | Comments (14)

December 20, 2005

3 Questions: Tamara Siler Jones

Tamara Siler Jones knows how hard it is to break into traditional publishing probably better than anyone---heck, she created her own genre. Hey, it's harder and harder to get a debut novel picked up by a publisher, so sometimes a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do. Threads of Malice, the second in her series of "Forensic Fantasy" novels featuring Dubric Byerly, is still warm from the presses, and Jones, who won the Compton Crook Award for the first book in the series has a growing fan base as more and more folks decide to give her "forensic fantasies" a try. I sat virtually down with Tamara and asked the obvious question, and then I asked two more.

JJ: What on earth is a forensic fantasy?

TSJ: It’s a forensic murder mystery that just happens to be in a fantasy setting. Unlike most traditional fantasy novels, the mystery’s the main focus, not the fantastical elements. There is some magic, but it’s essentially illegal and not very common. There are no dragons or elves or great epic battles, just a rather gruesome murder mystery with a paranormal bent – the main sleuth, Dubric Byerly sees ghosts – in a pre industrialized world.

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JJ: What authors (forensic or fantastical or both or blended) influenced you to head off into this rather uncharted direction?

TSJ: With my first novel, Ghosts in the Snow, I just wrote the story I wanted to tell and let it find its own home. There really weren’t any influences in either arena, let alone a combination. Many people, including established writers, told me that to set out to sell a fantasy-murder mystery-thriller was impossible. There’s a lot of established history that the way to go is with a single-genre base. I find that too restrictive, and breaking my own path seems to work for me. In Threads of Malice the same group of investigators return to solve a new-and-separate crime and that, too, is evidently unique under the fantasy umbrella. Many fantasy series follow one right after the other to tell a single tale (like Lord of the Rings, for example). There are some story threads that continue through my books, but each mystery and the story around it stand alone so you can read them in any order. Sort of like an Agatha Christie mystery, only Miss Marple changes a bit each time someone dies. And they’re a lot gorier. And scarier. Off the top of my head, I don’t know of any other speculative fiction writers who are doing stand alone serial fiction like that. Lots of mystery and thriller writers do, though, so I have the best of both worlds.

JJ: A lot of writers read this blog, for them, can you explain how having a sort of HYBRID of genres helped or hurt you as you tried to market your book.

TSJ: Starting out, I think it hurt. I mentioned the cross-genre nature of the book in my agent queries and, with the established niche-marketing premise firmly in place, I believe that made it a tougher sell, made it more difficult to be taken seriously because everybody knows you’re supposed to pick a niche and write to fit it. One agent asked for a peek, and he signed me less than a week later. He only approached top-tier publishers and some of them, too, expressed concern about the hybrid nature of the story, but we soon found a very happy home at Bantam.

Bantam has been behind the books 110%. From the very beginning they’ve touted it as something new, a blend of mystery, fantasy and horror with a splash of romance, and I’ve had an amazing amount of advertising and marketing push for a brand new author. I’ve also had pretty decent sales and a rapidly growing fan base. So, now that the books are out, I think that the hybrid genre concept is a plus. It’s unique, and can appeal to a lot of different readers. Regular mystery readers (who wouldn’t touch fantasy with a 10-foot cattle prod) enjoy them, traditional fantasy readers enjoy them, paranormal readers, even some folks who prefer literary. They’re good stories with heart and depth and they’re accessible to anyone.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:15 AM | Comments (4)

December 14, 2005

B4B

Tis the last day to enter B4B. You must get 'er done by Midnight your time tonight. I will have to hand approve the comments, so if your entry does not show up right away, relax. I am sure it is there. You enter by leaving the url in the comments of THIS ENTRY...

FTK friend and beloved fellow bloggette Ann Fitten (the Bloggess behind aka Edgy Mama) is our SPECIAL! GUEST! BLOGGER! She will narrow the entries down to seven.

If you are one of the seven finalists, your entry will be read by author Lara M. Zeises. She will pick first, second and third place. First place gets a signed first edition of her new YA novel, Anyone But You which was a Teen People Top Ten Pick.

I have not blogged today because I realized I am too stupid to live; my brain is SO faulty, I cannot trust my autonomic functions to it. I am having to concentrate VERY hard on turning oxygen into carbon dioxide right now. I will tell you HOW I came to discover I am too stupid to live tomorrow. For now, I have to keep manually pumping my heart since my brain cannopt be trusted to reliably do such chores.

Posted by joshilyn at 3:39 PM | Comments (3)

December 6, 2005

Blogging 4 Books!

Blogging 4 Books is LIVE NOW.

I am clinically insane, and this is LATE. Scott returns tonight. Sorry I forgot B4B. I will get better.

Welcome to Blogging 4 Books. The Original Rules and the FAQ are hosted on The Zero Boss, because he made it up.

The short version: You blog on a chosen topic. You post a link to your blog entry in the comments below this entry. B4B closes at MIDNIGHT your time on Wednesday, December 14.

If you have no blog, you write the essay and cut and paste it (no attachments please) into an email to Ann Fitten (the Bloggess behind Edgy Mama) and ask her sweetly to host it for you. She is also this months SPECIAL! GUEST! BLOGGER! She will narrow the entries down to seven.

If you are one of the seven finalists, your entry will be read by author Lara M. Zeises. She will pick first, second and third place. First place gets a signed first edition of her new YA novel, Anyone But You which was a Teen People Top Ten Pick.

If you want to knopw what the book is about...Critter and Jesse have been close to Seattle since her dad moved in with their mother. Closer still since he took off six years ago and Layla decided to raise Sea as one of her own. It’s a decision none of them regrets, especially not Critter. He’s more than a brother–he’s Seattle’s best friend.
Now it’s vacation, and Seattle and Critter are stoop sitters, at least until summer school starts in July. It beats working like Jesse, or worse, studying like Layla wants them to. It’s too hot for Seattle to be on her skateboard–too hot, even, for Critter to be scamming on girls. But Sea comes up with a plan for them to bluff their way into the ritzy swimming pool the next town over. Big mistake.
Soon Critter’s got his heart set on a Penn Acres princess, while Seattle’s trying hard not to fall for a skater boy on the rebound. For the first time in a long while, they can talk to anyone but each other. Then Seattle’s dad shows up unexpectedly, and the way of life Critter and Seattle have always known begins to change even more. . .

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And now, THE TOPIC!

In ANYONE BUT YOU, Seattle notes that "family, it turned out, was something you really could choose for yourself." Write about someone you've chosen to be a part of your family (biological, spiritual, vocational, etc.) and what that person has brought to your life.

GO!

Posted by joshilyn at 5:17 PM | Comments (13)

November 20, 2005

Megan Crane Hath Spoken: B4B Winnahzzzz

Thus Sagt the fantabulous guest author Megan Crane:

"Wow! Great reading!

Here are my picks:

First place: THE WRITE START by Karen McQuestion

2nd: HOMECOMING. TWICE. at MAKE ME

3rd: TRILINGUAL at TALKING TO MYSELF: POEMS FROM NOW AND THEN

This was so much fun, Joshilyn! Thank you!

Megan"

Oh no, thank YOU, Megan.
Ms. McQuestion wins a copy of Megan Crane's latest book, Everyone Else's Girl

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And a heads up for you out there in B4B land. December is our last B4B here at FTK...It is movign back to THE ZERO BOSS. SO.

I think we need a new, fun, once a month kinda contest where you can win books and get all INTERACTIVE and stuff. Any ideas? I think random drawings are boring and I don't know how to code quizzes. SO WHAT CAN WE DO?

Although perhaps I should not be ALLOWED to run contests---A woman named Aimee won TRUE OR FALSE and i just found her PRIZE in the BACK OF MY CAR under 5 bags of of Target and Dollar Store stuff I got for Operation Christmas Child. OOPS! It is packaged and addressed and everything, but never QUITE got to the mailbox. I am a BAD HUMAN. It will go out Monday, I PINKY SWEAR.

Posted by joshilyn at 10:59 AM | Comments (6)

November 17, 2005

Blogging 4 Books, the 7 Finalists

Here they are, and many thanks to Heather of Madame Rubies who narrowed what i thought was a particularly unnarrowable field this time..

Dating the Toothfairy

Karen McQuestion

Edgy Mama

Tiny Kingdom

Talking to Myself: Poems From Now and Then

Make Me

Pattie's Place

Guest author Megan Crane will be along in a little bit to pick the three winners, and gift first place with a signed copy of her latest,Everyone Else's Girl.

Posted by joshilyn at 10:26 AM | Comments (5)

November 16, 2005

3 Questions with Gayle Brandeis

I promised you Gayle Brandeis, winner of the 2002 Bellweather Prize, and by GUM, I finally got enough of my crap together to actually give her to you. Read this interview for the dead bird story (I got the shivers), then read the The Book of Dead Birds for the rich language and compelling characters. If you liked Snow Falling on Cedars or Prodigal Summer, then trust me, this story of a young woman trying to come to terms with her mother's dark past while searching for her own identity is your book.

JJ: You linked on your blog to "everyone has a dead bird story." What's yours, though? Not Ava Sing Lo's. Yours.

GB: My dead bird story (and I have a few, but this is the defining dead bird story for me; *the* dead bird story) is actually what led me to write The Book of Dead Birds. When I was walking home from school one day with my friend Sonja, we came upon a dead baby bird. I had never seen anything dead before—I was six years old—and it stopped me in my tracks. The bird was newly hatched; it had no feathers yet. Its skin was translucent. Its eyes had never opened. I felt like I had to do something to honor its short life. I was too squeamish to consider touching it, burying it, but I dragged Sonja to my house, and we created a little ritual around the bird. I had a diorama from Chinatown in Chicago that I had begged my parents to buy for me—two yellow birds under glass. I dragged it out of my cabinet, and put it on my desk. Sonja and I stared at the fake birds with real feathers and talked about all the things the bird didn't get to do—it didn't get to fly; it didn't get to build a nest, didn't get to lay an egg. It didn't get to see the world. I remember saying "Now is the time when we cry", and we wailed and sobbed for the poor little bird. It was very cathartic.

That moment stayed with me over the years. I started to write a poem about it in 1996, but the poem kept getting longer and stranger, and eventually it turned into a novel that had nothing to do with me. When the book was about to come out, a reporter and photographer from the local paper came to my house to do a story about me. The photographer, who had been scouting out places to take a picture, asked if I had a broom. She said she wanted to take a picture of me on the bench on my front porch, but there was a dead bird on it. I ran outside--there, on the bench, was a dead baby bird, just like the one I found when I was six years old, the one that launched the poem that launched the novel. Talk about your full circles. It still gives me chills, thinking about it.

JJ: I think, quite frankly, that you are amazing. How do you balance writing and teaching and motherhood/marriage and still have time to process oxygen into carbon dioxide for the plants?

GB: You are so sweet, Joshilyn (not to mention amazing, yourself!)

*... here the interview stopped briefly so Gayle and I could hug and shriek "You're pretty," and "No, YOU!" Back and forth at each other...eventually I started listening again. I do that sometimes.*

I don't feel amazing at all—I just do what I do. And sometimes I don't feel like I'm balancing things very well—I've added a lot to my plate (especially this year, when I've become more busy as an activist) and it can get a little overwhelming. But it's all stuff I love, and I'm very grateful to be writing, to be teaching, to be sharing my life with the people I love, and using my voice to try to make the world a better place. I let a lot of insignificant things go—I let the laundry pile up, let the cobwebs accumulate in the corners. We get take out burritos more often than I'd like to admit (the rice, bean and cheese ones at Tina's, with extra onions and cilantro, are the best.) I get a little self-conscious about the clutter sometimes, but I know where my priorities are, and housework is nowhere near the top of the list.

JJ: You wrote a book of writing advice and exercises called Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write, and you teach writing, as I said, AND quite a few writers hang out at this blog. So. What's one bit of advice you want to offer them as they pursue this maddening and delightful craft?

GB: My favorite bit of advice is this: stay open. Keep your senses open—as writers, we so often live in our heads, but when we drop down into our senses and remember to take in the sights and smells and sounds and tastes and textures of the world, it gives us so much more juicy stuff to write about. It makes our writing really come to life. Keep your mind open—you never know where the next story will come from, and you should be ready for it. Inspiration often strikes from unexpected places. Be open to change—don't get too attached to any of your words; be prepared to slash them all, to start from scratch if need be (but at the same time, of course, be sure to stay true to your own personal vision and voice.) Read widely, live deeply, and dive into your work unafraid.

Posted by joshilyn at 12:33 PM | Comments (2)

November 7, 2005

Blogging 4 Book is LIVE! And then A SHORT list of Happinesses

Welcome to Blogging 4 Books. The Original Rules and the FAQ are hosted on The Zero Boss, because he made it up.

The short version: You blog on a chosen topic. You post a link to your blog entry in the comments below this entry. B4B closes at MIDNIGHT your time next Monday.

If you have no blog, you write the essay and cut and paste it (no attachments please) into an email to Ann Fitten (the Bloggess behind Edgy Mama) and ask her sweetly to host it for you.

Your special guest blogger this month is Heather Truett, a young minister's wife and mother who who charmingly blogs about her family, her faith and her lipgloss addiction at Madame Rubies. She will narrow the entries down to seven.

If you are one of the seven finalists, your entry will be read by author and former three question guest Megan Crane. You remember MEGAN, right? From Three Questions? She will pick first, second and third place. First place gets a signed first edition of her new book, Everyone Else's Girl in which a quintessential "good girl" discovers she may not be so good...

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And now, THE TOPIC!

Since Everyone Else's Girl is all about choices (in the same way that I am all about Darkside M&Ms OH and those LIMITED EDITITION Hershey Kisses with the cherry filling which I am absolutely not eating even though SOON you will never be able to get them anymore and WHY do I keep falling in love with weird, temporary candies that will all LEAVE ME heartbroken and betrayed with nothing between me and utter madness but stupid Halloween Mini-Twixes which I am heartily sick of but in this chocolate deprived state would probably still, yes, kill for....DEEP BREATH, and someone please pass me the Viactive Chews. THANKS.) Megan wanted you to have at LEAST two topics to choose from. SO. This month....

1) In the book, Meredith has to go back home and live with her parents again. Um, allow me to say, Yikes! So this month. spit in the face of Thomas Wolfe and write a blog entry about "going home." You can be as literal or figurative about that as you need to be.

OR

2) Meredith thinks she has to be the good girl, the good daughter, because she thinks that's how others see her-- only to learn that maybe she's the only one who sees herself that way. Write about the gap between the way people see themselves versus the way they actually are.

GO!

And now, Since I am not drinking or eating anything worth putting in a mouth (yesterday I had a LONG car trip and I like to eat in the car, so I brought and consumed and ENTIRE BAG of organic baby spinach leaves. THE WHOLE BAG. You can't really do salad dressign and DRIVE, so I made the snack more lively by adding a handful of CRAISINS. I sat in the car listening to a book on tape ate the whole ten ounce bag. That's just....insane. BUT OKAY. ANYWAY, since I am bitter about my current diet, I decided to make a short list of beautiful things have happened recently, that are making me happy!

1) I was buying wine...LOOK, just because I am not DRINKING wine doesn't mean I am not BUYING it. I am buying tons of it in a pathetic I MISS WINE retail therapy splurge. When the ban is lifted I will have so much wine in the house I will probably die of alcohol poisoning as I tear through all the bottles of Italian and Californian Pinot Grigio and Australian Shiraz blends I am amassing...ANYWAY. so I was buying some wine at this liquor store, and the guy ringing me up (Digression: His name, as GOD IS MY WITNESS, was Saint Louis -- I read his tag. And then to be SURE I asked him how he pronounced it. Just like the city. HOW COOL IS THAT? I wish MY name was Saint Louis. But it is kind of a boy name, so instead I could be named Seattle. Or Boston. SO cool. I want to be Seattle Jackson. But not Gross Pointe.) Anyway, he asked for my ID for the wine which was not notable as this place has a CHECK EVERYONE policy and ask people my MOTHER'S age for an ID. SO he asked for my ID, and then.... HE REFUSED TO BELIEVE IT WAS ME!!! He acted like I was TWENTY and trying to PULL A FAST ONE (although SHOW me a twenty year old who spends 26 bucks on a single small bottle of a RATHER decent Shiraz when they could get SO MUCH BEERS(!!!!) for the same money, and I will show you a twenty year old who has a trust fund AND is in love AND the object of affection is present at the wine buying) BUT ANYWAY. He did not believe it was me!

NOW, one of two things was going on.
1) He really thought it was a fake ID, in which case, I must have looked NICE and DEWEY that day, and I will say here a somewhat incredulous YAY because I don't think that even on my VERY BEST DAYS OF ALL I look 20. Which leaves...
2) He was PRETENDING to not believe it was me because he was MACKING on me, in which case, I STILL must have looked NICE and DEWEY (if not 20) that day, and YAY!

I should mention that Saint Louis was MAYBE 25, and a cutie. So. EITHER WAY, I will TAKE it.

2) Yesterday I drove over to Hawkinsville to do a literay even called The Write Stuff. Jackie Cooper invited me, so I went, and after a HIDEOUS beginning in which there was construction on Hwy 20 that slowed me to a crawl for fifteen miles and then some sort of accident on 75, and I ended up going 9.5 miles in an hour and fifteen minutes, NO REALLY, I had the mile counter on and I TIMED IT, I went 9.5 miles from 11 - 12:15, nervously consuming great cud-like mouthfuls of raw spinach and craisins, and that bad accident upped my drive from 2 hours and change to FOUR hours and change, (still I had a better time then whoever was in the accident. It looked very bad indeed...) but then I knew I would be LATE, and being late makes me hyperventilate and panic AND I had wanted to leave early so I rushed out and I realized in the car I had forgotten to put on deoderant and I was worried I was going to SWEAT because of the LATENESS PANIC so I was driving with the AC set so high it was 15 degrees below zero on the car etc etc etc, but, and here is the part where it all turns beautiful, thanks to a merciful God and the kindly inattention of several State Troopers that I blew by at 200 million miles an hour, I got there 4 minutes before the TALKING PART of the event started, and went out in spite of being in a state on nervous prostration and had what I felt was a good presentation, and then the bookstore that was at the event SOLD OUT OF GODS IN ALABAMA! ANd that makes two events in a row where every copy sold and the booksellers said to me OH I WISH WE HAD MORE! WE WILL GO RIGHT HOME AND ORDER MORE FOR THE STORE ANYWAY!

BAH There are at least three more HAPPY things, but I am out of time. More Joy tomorrow.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:21 AM | Comments (24)

October 27, 2005

GCC: 3 Questions with Megan Crane (PLUS! Return of the Truly Humongous Lizard)

Looking at the cover of Everyone Else's Girl the REALquestion I wanted to ask Megan Crane was "Don't you just get poisonously HAPPY every time you see that AUTHOR OF tag under your name, indicating that this your SECOND book?"

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I wonder if it makes her feel really for truly like a grown up, or an actual novelist, now that she has TWO books out? Because, see, I get poisonously happy looking at the BETWEEN, GEORGIA cover...that "author of gods in Alabama" tag line makes me feel SO... legitimate. But I didn't ask, mostly because I suspect Megan Crane of being cooler than me. Heck, after my last four blog entries, I kinda suspect Madeleine Alrbright of being cooler than me. HEY, say what you like about Ms. Albright's illustrious career, YOU KNOW she can't carry off really slick rock star sunglasses. You and me both, Madeleine, but at least YOU don't sleep with a Ken Doll with a hand carved laser gun duct taped to one hand and wearing nothing but kilt made out of a "HELLO! my name is..." sticker with "Joss Whedon" and some little hearts and sparkles drawn on by hand in purple marker. NOT THAT I SLEEP WITH ONE OF THOSE OR ANYTHING. I swear that doll is SCOTT's.

Oops, sorry honey. I meant to say, "action figure."

ANYWAY, I sat virtually down with the very cool Ms Crane and plied her with three less offensive questions about her second book. Everyone Else's Girl is the story of Meredith Mckay, who proves that, while you CAN go home again, it may suck once you get there. Library Journal really liked it -- they said, "In her second novel (after English as a Second Language), Crane shows a growing depth. Her characters are human and flawed, and Meredith sees some unflattering aspects of herself. This makes the novel work-there is warmth without being smarmy and hope but no perfect solutions. And the humor we enjoyed in Crane's debut bubbles up here, too."

JJ: I find the title intriguing -- how did you come up with it?

MC: The title comes from the Tori Amos song, "Girl," from her album Little Earthquakes which is, in my opinion, one of the greatest albums of all time. "She's been everybody else's girl," Tori sings: "maybe one day she'll be her own." This pretty much sums up Meredith's journey!

JJ: Heh. See, a COOL person would have gotten the reference. Let's change the subject! Your cover is really, really striking, and I am assuming the image is somehow thematically important (jumping through other people's hoops...?) and not literal, which makes it my favorite kind of cover. Can you talk a little bit about how the cover relates to the book?

MC: The cover seems to be all about the theme of the book-- jumping through hoops, trying to be perfect, aiming to please. I think women are particularly likely to contort themselves into some image of what they think women are supposed to be. Meredith certainly does, and I love that the cover suggests all these things in such a whimsical way!

JJ: I know you are an an "organic writer," (someone who writes their way into a book instead of working from an outline) Can you talk a little bit about your process and what you thought the book would be versus what it became?

MC: This book went all over the place. There were extra siblings at one point. Adultery. Violence. I wrote about two hundred pages in first person, then decided it should be in third person, so I went back in and changed everything. I wrote about three more scenes and decided that no, it belonged in first person, so I had to change it all back. I thought it would be much, much darker than it turned out to be. This was one time the organic process was more hindrance than help-- the current version is thanks entirely to my brilliant editor!

THANKS MEGAN.

Meanwhile, in other NOT TO BE MISSED NEWS, the truly HUMONGOUS LIZARD reappeared, and I mean the WHOLE thing, not just PIECES. He was peeping out (cheerful and un-cat-vivisected) from behind my orange chair, having been living all wily in the den for DAYS now. I snatched up my handy tranq gun that I keep on hand to control rowdy children and darted him, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom Style. After a long crashing chase through the underbrush, the sedative worked and he went down. I scooped him up in a tupperware.

Lizard1.jpg

LOOK, here he is by my ten pound barbell, so you can get an idea of how TRULY HUMONGOUS he was. (Scott outlined him because he is hard to see through the lid.)

Then we tagged his ear, and released him into his natural habitat: Aka my azalea bush:

Lizard2.jpg

Posted by joshilyn at 10:15 AM | Comments (14)

October 25, 2005

B4B WINNERS!

Guest Author Jennifer O'Connell actually sent B4B winners DAYS AND DAYS ago, but sadly, due to Hurricanes and server issues, it never made it to my inbox. SO! She re-sent. The grand prize winner shall walk away with a signed copy of Jennifer's book OFF THE RECORD which was the inspiration for this month's theme.

Here's Jennifer:

First of all, this was not easy! Really, I didn’t expect the entries to be so wonderfully diverse and interesting. I wish they could all win, because it was obvious that they all put a tremendous amount of thought and heart into their blogs. Everyone did an amazing job linking songs to our lives, and their stories were so honest, I was just blown away. But, because I have to pick, here are my top three:

1. Just a Normal Day

2. Red Shoe Ramblings

3. Milliner's Dream

Thanks, and please let all of the entrants know how amazing I thought they were. Really.

Jennifer

Posted by joshilyn at 9:15 AM | Comments (5)

October 12, 2005

B4B Finalists? Meet my Friend, Cranberry Lime Flirtini on the Rocks...

Who is speedy? Kira of KiWords, that's who. She picked out the seven finalist in October's Blogging 4 Books contest, which challenged bloggers to tackle the subject of a a personal relationship they feel they had with a song, because they are mentally ill. HEY! MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE! SONGS ARE NOT KITTENS. A SONG CAN'T LOVE YOU BACK, OKAY? A SONG HAS NO EYEBALLS! But whatever, apparently most people like this "music" stuff. I thought it was a fad and would pass---I was shocked it got so much play in the first place. SO, since I am completely dead inside, I obviously was not qualified to judge this round. And Kira stepped up...

KIRA: Oh my LORD IN HEAVEN ABOVE, why did I ever agree to do this? As I said to my mom the other night, "My life is SO HARD, you have NO IDEA." Now, it was midnight at the time, and she was pulling on her boots to go out through the snow to take care of her elderly parents, so she did give me something of...a look. Still.

I read and read and read. I have snippets of seven thousand songs from the 70's or 80's, mad-cycling through my head. I want you to know I took this VERY SERIOUSLY. I made a little rubric by which to score the entries. I kept charts and notes. It has seriously cut into my engagement ring admiring time. DID I MENTION I GOT ENGAGED THIS WEEKEND? Oh, right. I did. Anyhow.

After much agonizing and rereading (my fancy-pants rubric left me with several very close scores, leaving me to writhe and moan and question my rubrickable ability. Shut up, totally a word.), I have culled the entries to the following seven: had a hard time! In no particular order:

Madame Rubies

Through These Glasses

Just a Normal Day

Write Out Loud

Red Shoe Ramblings

Talking To Myself: Poems From Now & Then

Milliner's Dream


Guest Author Jennifer O'Connell has the DAUNTING task of picking the winners, including the grand prize winner, who shall walk away with a hot, fresh (and here hot means "signed" and fresh means "first edition") copy of Jennifer's book OFF THE RECORD which was the inspiration for this month's theme.

Since I had no B4B responsibilities (other than coding 7 THOUSAND links and standing around in a virtual hostess caftan saying, "Oh thanks for coming. Thanks! Thanks!") Last night I took 10 hot, fresh pages from my new novel to my writing group. The pages were so---say it with me--- HOT AND FRESH! that they were practically steaming, but since it was a DRAFT and a brand spanking new one, they steamed more in the manner of cow patties than delicious cinnamon rolls. I was hopiong my writing group would help me FIX that. But...

I was supposed to meet up with my friend Jill for a vegetable plate at the OK Cafe BEFORE writing group. BUT I had to run some errands in unfamiliar parts of town while I was there, and so I built in all this extra time to my schedule. I gave myself a LOT of extra time because whenever I go to an unfamiliar part of town I probably am going to get hopelessly lost, then drive in panicked circles, weeping, until I accidentally stumble across some Atlanta landmark I recognize (for example, The Big Chicken) and then I start over, and then get hopelessly lost a AGAIN, this time in a dangerous area, and then I crash into something, and then I get stabbed in pancreas by roving packs of criminals who will take my purse so that when the ambulance comes no one can find my insurance info so of COURSE no self-respecting surgeon will begin the life-saving but PRICEY pancreatic reconstruction until Scott shows up waving a policy number and a fistful of cash, and then I have to recover from the surgery, and then wait at the boduy shop for my smashed car to be fixed, and then go back to The Big Chicken and start looking for the unfamiliar area of town and get promptly lost again.

You do not need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that errands in an unfamiliar area can take QUITE. SOME. TIME.

But then this weird miracle happened where EVEN THOUGH I DO NOT HAVE ONSTAR I went directly from point A (my house) to point B (some nebulous area of Atlanta that I would not recognize again if it came up to me on the street claiming an aquaintance and greeting me in the European double kiss manner. I'd have to look at it and feign surprise and delight and say things like, "OH! It is, um, YOU! How nice to see, um, YOU!) I DID NOT GET LOST EVEN ONCE! It was UNPRECEDENTED. So, instead of going to OK Cafe I went across the street to this upscale swankified Buckhead Bar because I was in Scott's car and it is CLEAN. I dug around in the glovebox even, and all I found was the pink sheet title thingy and a MAP and some Altoids. If I get somewhere too early in MY car, I have 5,000 books strewn all over the van's floor, a veritable stomped upon library to choose from, and so much trash and flotsam that, if I didn't feel like reading, I could probably dig around and unearth a nice family of refugees living undetected there, or maybe Jimmy Hoffa, to keep me company.

SO. I knew this bar had a shelf of books for drinkers (i.e. a tattered copy of the 7th Stephanie Plum novel, but not one through six, so if you haven't read them, you just have to kinda do a shot and GO with it).

I went in, and was being charmed by Miss Plum, when this writer named Karen walked in. I met her at a gods signing at the Decatur library and remembered her because she's working on a very cool sounding non-fic book for Random House. APPARENTLY, Jill had invited her to join us for dinner, and she has this HORROR of being lost because she always is, and she's a midtown girl so she doesn't know Buckhead, so she left FIVE HUNDRED years early, and arrived at the OK with a clean car and a solid hour to kill, and ended up in the SAME bar trying to choose between the 37th in the Kay Scarpetta series and a yellow hardback of dubious and stained origin.

And I said, "KAREN?" And she said, "JOSHILYN?" And then we figured out the Jill/OK Cafe/Vegetable Plate connection and the Lost/Early/Bored/Proceed To Closest Bar connection. And then -- and when I say this, I say it in the grand epic storytelling sense, like, if Frodo was about to set off to hurl the One Ring into the fiery pit of Mount Doom, you might say "And so his journey began," but you would mean AND SO BEGAN HIS EPIC JOURNEY TO ALMOST DIE A BUNCH OF TIMES AND SAVE MIDDLE EARTH AND LOSE A FINGER. Like that, see? -- It is in that spirit that I tell you:

We began drinking.

An hour later Jill joined us. (We alerted her by cell that we were not at the OK). Karen wisely STOPPED drinking, but Jill took over for her. An hour later my writing group began. I was busy though. We had just decided that we needed some food to soak up the alcohol, and had cleverly ordered a HUGE platter of wood-grilled pepper balsamic asparagus, because, you know, NOTHING soaks up alchol like, um, crunchy vegetables. Half a drink after THAT I called my writing group from the bathroom of the bar and screamed something about being in a loud bathroom and oops, not really in any solid condition for the working of motor vehicles, THANKS, and did they want to come down and help me and Jill with some drinking we were having trouble finishing on our own, or would they rather stay there and, you know, work and stuff? They elected to work, and they offered to come get me and I cackled like a hyena and said, I AM NOT SURE HOW USEFUL I WOULD BE TO THE GROUP and hung up. Then I went back to the bar and drank off the tiny bit of liquor we had saved for them.

Karen took us to Jill's because Jill was also NOT okay to drive, and Jill and I lay around on her sofa eating FISTFULS of CAKE because (and yes, I know you will find this SHOCKING) the wood-grilled asparagus hadn't done a very good job of alcohol soaking. (I KNOW! It defies SCIENCE!) and I crashed there until the wee hours of the still dark morning or so when I was so sober I could have served on the supreme court. I went back and collected my lonely car and went home.

I wonder if I still have a writing group. That'll be interesting to find out.

DEAR MY CHILDREN WHO MAY ONE DAY READ THIS: In the above story, rest assured mommy is exagerating a little bit for comic effect. Mommy actually had three drinks. BUT, you see, Mommy is a light weight. And her stomach was empty and three drinks affect person more than you would think. You can easily become too hooty to safely drive on three drinks, even if you drink them over the course of three hours. Part of the reason the law says people can't drink until they are over 21 is because adults can REALIZE they have had one (or three) too many. Here's a tip that might help with that: If you find yourself clutching a Stephanie Plum novel in one hand and a cell phone in the other, screaming in a crowded bathroom that your writing group should "chuck it and come have martinis"....that's a HINT that yes, you might NOT BE OKAY TO DRIVE! Once you have even the TINIEST suspicion that this might be so, THEN YOU DO NOT DRIVE. No matter what. You have a designated driver, or you pay the money for a cab NO MATTER HOW BROKE YOU ARE (and belive me, if that's an issue, I will HAPPILY reimburse you) or you call a friend to come get you, or you call Mommy. Mommy will ALWAYS drop everything and come get you, even if you are 1,000 miles away at Stanford. Solemn Promise.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:43 AM | Comments (12)

October 3, 2005

Blogging for Books is LIVE! Guest Author Jennifer O'Connell

Welcome to Blogging 4 Books. The Original Rules and the FAQ are hosted on The Zero Boss, because he made it up.

The short version: You blog on a chosen topic. You post a link to your blog entry in the comments below this entry. B4B closes at MIDNIGHT your time next Monday.

If you have no blog, you write the essay and cut and paste it (no attachments please) into an email to Anne Fitten (the Blog-ess behind Edgy Mama) and ask her sweetly to host it for you. Then Anne Fitten sends you a link to your essay and you post the link here in comments.

Your special guest blogger is KIRA of KIWORDS. If you have not read her blog, you should. It has a big, big heart and an equally large sense of humor. Kira will narrow all the entries down to seven finalists.

If you are a finalist, your entry will be read by author and all around cool chick Jennifer O'Connell She will pick first, second and third place. First place gets a signed first edition of her new book, Off The Record

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And now, THE TOPIC!

Since Off The Record is about a plain, predictable, responsible woman named Jane Marlow who discovers that a one-hit wonder 12 years ago was written about HER, this month's topic should be about your close personal relationship, real or imagined, with a song. If you, like me, are dead inside and have no close personal relationships with songs, I suggest you lie. You could, for example, write about your close, personal relationship with your childhood dog, and substitute "Tainted Love by Soft Cell" for her name. This will inevitably lead to sentences like, "Ah those halcyon days running through the meadows with Soft Cell's Tainted Love gamboling innocently beside me..." and "Tainted Love by Soft Cell brought back the stick no matter how many times I threw it." But that's what you get for being dead inside.

GO!

Posted by joshilyn at 1:24 PM | Comments (34)

August 29, 2005

GCC: 3 Questions with Julie Kenner

Meet Julie Kenner. She is having a good day.

Her novel, Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom is a BookSense Top Ten Summer Paperback Pick for 2005. The book was also selected as a Target "Breakout Book" and has held the Number One slot on Barnes & Noble's SF/Fantasy trade overall bestseller list for seven weeks and counting. CARPE DEMON has also been optioned for film, and is currently in development at Warner Brothers, with 1492 Pictures (you know, the folks that did Harry Potter) producing.

That, my friends, is a pertty dern good day.

I picked it up last week when I was on a book run, but I am kinda saving it and a couple of others I snagged for the PLANE. The flight to London is 8 hours and change, and I am a veteran insomniac, so I imagine I am going to need atleast three highly diverting books to avoid hanging myself in that tiny little foul smelling toilet cubicle. I liked what Publisher's Weekly had to say about the book...

"What would happen if Buffy the Vampire Slayer got married, moved to the suburbs and became a stay-at-home mom? She'd be a lot like Kate Connor, once a demon/vampire/zombie killer and now "a glorified chauffeur for drill-team practice and Gymboree play dates" in San Diablo, Calif., that's what. But in Kenner's sprightly, fast-paced ode to kick-ass housewives, Kate finds herself battling evil once again..."

I sat virtually down with Julie and yacked with her for a little about her latest brain-child...

JJ: This book is I believe your twentieth? And it has really taken off -- bigtime Cristopher Columbus-y movie deals, best seller lists --- did you know when you were writing it this was your break out book?

JK: I knew it had potential (the movie deal happened on 3 chapters and a synopsis, so that not only gave me insight into the marketability, but also added a nice little level of performance anxiety, LOL). I also knew that it had a nice, solid hook, and I knew (thought/hoped) that it would have broad appeal to women, especially moms. But at the same time, I have written a lot of books, and the learning curve in this biz is steep. Nothing is a sure thing. (Still, I was certainly hopeful that the book would make a splash!!!)

JJ: This book keeps getting compared to a grown-up Buffy, and, um, I worship at the perfume-scented feet of Joss Whedon. In other words, you had me at Hello. Tell me, is Whedon an influence?

JK: Yes, and no. I love, love, love the first 3 seasons of Buffy, so I know I've absorbed Whedonisms, just as I've absorbed Bewitchedisms and Jeannieisms. (I fell out of love with the series when the college years started, and have seen only a scattered few from seasons 4-7. I know! Slap me around! -- but I have them on DVD and plan to watch!). And as far as I know, Whedon was the first to put vampires (and demons) into suburbia. So there are definitely influences. (And I don't mention Buffy in the book on purpose, even though the book has a lot of pop culture references. I don't want the reader "jumping" b/w the worlds, if that makes sense.)

The truth is I (being somewhat tunnel-visioned at time) while realizing the *concept* was marketable, didn't actually realize the *Buffy grown up* marketing hook until I'd already finished the book, or was pretty close (I don't exactly remember when the V-8 moment came). And it never occurred to me to use that as a marketing tool (duh) until Charlaine Harris said essentially that in her cover quote (That was a wonderful surprise, getting that quote! I adore her Sookie books!). There is a reason I didn't choose a career in marketing, no?


CarpeDemonMedium.jpg

JJ: I FREAKING LOVE YOUR COVER---Did you have any input or how did that cover come about?

JK: It's fabulous, isn't it? And the one for the sequel sounds awesome too (haven't seen it though ...). But to answer your question, the extent of my input was: "Julie, have you got any ideas for the cover?" and me responding, "Um, no." (Sigh. They ask. And I have nothing to say ... How pathetic is that?). My editor told the art department she wanted something completely different. And they totally delivered!

Posted by joshilyn at 3:44 PM | Comments (4)

August 12, 2005

GCC: Three Questions with Martha O'Connor

When Martha O'Connor's debut novel,The Bitch Posse, launched, I was on tour and crazy, and while I blogged her, I never sent her 3 Questions. DREADFUL! OVERSITE! Because she's interesting. And because this was a book that got a lot of pre-pub buzz, so much so that I read it in ARC form (sent in by Alert Reader David). It was hard-edged and sad and lovely, and the level of craft blew me away in that she sustains 6 separate voices and it WORKS. So I tracked her down and made her do them NOW, figuring, better late than never...

JJ: Well. Martha! At last we have 3 questions... I've written a novel with a somewhat hard-edged protagonist who engages in, shall we say, "questionable behavior," what with all the beating heads in with liquor bottles and the sex with every boy in her high school sophomore class. And then here you come with three even HARDER edged girls who are big druggy-cutters who perpetrate some felonies of their own. When I was on the road, talking about gods in Alabama, I found myself feeling very defensive, trying to make it PERFECTLY clear that I was not Arlene and Arlene was not me. I can only imagine it must have been even more difficult for you. How did you handle it?

MO'C: At times I have sensed that people (reporters mainly) have really, REALLY wanted me to say that the book is based on actual events. I suppose it makes a better story~Writer Excorsises Own Demons Via Edgy Novel. But personally I feel my deep dark secrets are really no one's business, and besides, I really really REALLY want it to be about the book, not me.

For awhile when I was discussing this novel with my family, they felt
the need to point out inconsistencies between the book in my life, as
if to prove to me it was fiction. (!) My dad said, "But THAT'S not
why you were kicked out of the National Honor Society! It was because you..." and then he proceeded to explain the REAL reason I was kicked out of the Honor Society. Of which I was already well aware. Et cetera.

One thing I will promise: I do not have a deep, dark crime in my past that has haunted me for fifteen years!

JJ: I WANT MORE BOOKS BY YOU. What are you working on now?

MO'C: I am so supersitious about talking about unfinished work! It's like dancing in the kitchen when you have a souffle in the oven. But I am working on a novel. The novel I am working on is dark. That's all I'm sayin'!

JJ: I think your cover is fantastic...tell me how you ended up with it.

MO'C: St. Martin's involved me and my agent in cover art and wanting to know what we thought, if it was OK, etc. Several concepts floated by us and then they hired Rodrigo Corrall's freelance firm for this one. I think they did a great job. To me it looks like Amy whispering into Rennie's ear. The only problem is that people who've never met me want to know whether it is me on the cover. I have to tell them NO.

I wasn't sure about the checkerboard pattern on the spine at first and fought it a bit but now I see it in person and I think it is absolutely brilliant. It really stands out.

I'm happy with this cover and you're not the first person to compliment it.

Thank you so much for hosting me, Joshilyn!

Posted by joshilyn at 5:56 AM | Comments (11)

August 5, 2005

GCC: 3 Questions with Karin Gillespie

Meet Karin Gillespie, fellow Southern writer, funny lady, and known smarty-pants, who is also yet another in the Pantheon of Authors Whose Names Are Not Prounounced the Way They Look. Karin, in this case, is pronounced like "Anistasia." KIDDING! Ha ha! Say the word "Car" and then add an "in." Now you got it. Before coming a novelist, Karin was a special education teacher at an inner-city school and an editor of a regional parenting magazine. She’s also a bi-monthly columnist for the Augusta Chronicle. Her first novel, Bet Your Bottom Dollar, is in the process of being optioned by James Woods for film. (WOO!) Her second Novel in the Bottom Dollar Girls series isA Dollar Short, and it's out this month. Booklist says it's a "…Raucous southern spoof. Never a dull moment… this fast-paced screamer of a romance begs a giggle, if not a guffaw."

Now I will hush mah mouth and let Karin talk....

JJ: Did you always plan for the Bottom Dollar Girls 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.

KG: This is the conversation I had with my agent when I got “the call.”

Agent: Good news! Simon and Schuster wants to buy your novel.
Me: Shriek! Shriek!
Agent; They think it should be a series. Do you have an idea for a second book?
Me: (Lying through my teeth) Of course, I have an idea for another book! I have ideas for gazillions of books.

So, no, I didn’t have a clue. But at that point I was willing to write a pop-up versions of the book if they wanted it. However I’ve found that writing a series is easier because you don’t have to re-create an entire universe with every book. I just wrote a book out of series and it was like cutting the grass with pinking shears when I'd gotten used to a riding lawn mower.

JJ: I read an interesting interview with you once where you talked about the difference between real life and (your) books, and how you want your characters to be larger than life----Can you talk a little but more about this here?

KG: I think every novelist has the task of making their characters seem realistic without being too realistic, i.e. boring. My Bottom Dollar Girls novels are humorous so characters in funny novels always tend to be a bit more colorful than say, the characters in a literary novel.

But yes, I think all characters in novels have to be somewhat large than life in order to be entertaining. I could write a book about my neighbor whose biggest passion in life is to rid his grass of weeds but I don’t think too many people would want to read it.

JJ: A lot of writers read this blog. You run a blog called Diary of a Hype Hag that looks at innovative ways to get the word out about your book. In fact, the GCC is your brainchild, and I think all of the authors involved in it have gotten a lot of of it. Give us an idea of how involved you think a writer needs to be in the promotion of their books?

KG: Authors have to be utterly involved because nobody cares about their book as much as they do. Sometimes I feel like I’m filling a swimming pool with an eye-dropper. Am I really making a difference? But doing promotion for your book is like writing a novel, if you do a little every day, suddenly you’ve made a discernible difference in your sales.

Promotion also has to be smart. I hear about authors wasting away in bookstores for hours, selling one book. That’s a poor use of their time. Learn what works and concentrate your efforts. There’s a lot of trial and error associated with the process. I, of course, believe in girl power to promote books that’s why I started the GCC.I also travel with three other Southern authors called the Dixie Divas. We’ve been touring together now for almost a year and it’s been a hoot. (I call us Thelma and Louise squared.)

We wear costumes and just turn the typical book-signing on its head. Nowadays, I get an invitation almost every day for the DDs to appear one place or the other. It’s just been the best way to promote books, and if an event is a dud we can commiserate with each other.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:09 AM | Comments (7)

July 12, 2005

GCC: 3 Questions with M.J. Rose

Okay...this is just cool and I am excited. We have an EXTREMELY nifty guest today, so YOU PEOPLE! Put on your nice clothes and slick your hair back. Tell that guy in the back to get his finger OUT OF HIS NOSE, and I will do my part by not pouring my drink down my front. Hopefully.

Meet MJ Rose -- the mind behind Buzz, Balls and Hype; a must read blog for those in the industry. She's also a successful novelist, and I don't know anyone smarter or savvier when it comes to getting the word out about your own books. I have THE HALO EFFECT, the first book in the Butterfield Institute series featuring sex therapist, Dr. Morgan Snow, in a stack of books I am taking to the beach next week. It's on top, in fact. It's a thriller about a therapist who goes undercover as a prostitute when one of her clients, a high priced call girl, goes missing. Publisher's Weekly LIKED it. In a KISSING way. I am very much looking forward to it.

ALSO, long about question 2, you will see a link to a VIDLIT, and I want you to go WATCH IT... unless you have dial up. It is SUCH a a neat concept and the execution is SPOT ON in this one and I am wondering from a READER perspective how effective it is....I kinda WANT one.

OH! OH! SHE IS COMING! SIT UP STRAIGHT! *spills drink down front* Dernit.

JJ: I just read your Backstory for Halo Effect. I would be interested to know if your "Dr. M" has read Halo Effect or knows of it and realizes its genesis and what she thinks of it?

MJR: Of course I sent her a book and she was thrilled with it. It's interesting because one of the criticism of the book is that no therapist would compare what she does to what a high class girl does. And that no therapist has as many personal conflicts as Morgan Snow (my heroine) has. It makes me laugh because the book was vetted by four therapists who all not only signed off but said it was a totally realistic representation of a therapist.

JJ: The VIDLIT for HALO EFFECT is Awesome----and I think the female voice is yours? This question is a two-parter---is it odd hearing yourself speaking as your character in what is a very visual medium? It;s as if you are playing her in a short film....and how do you intend to use the Vidlit to help Halo Effect find readers?

MJR: It is me:) And when I see the vidlit I don't hear her as me. I guess because I wrote the book she was talking in my head for so long it makes sense that she's talking on the vid lit.

What I'm doing to promote the vid lit is all here, but basically asking blogs to link to it and for every blog that does $5 will be contributed to Reading is Fundamental - a terrific charity that gets books to kids and encourages them to start reading early - when it matters.

It's the beginning of something I'm going to keep going called Good Books/Good Cause.

JJ: A lot of writers read this blog, and you have a reputation for being a great big smarty-pants about author-involved book promo. In fact you teach a class about it. Can you tell us one simple thing most authors ought to be doing to help get the word out about their books?

MJR: I do teach a class - Buzz your Book
One thing - the first thing - is to have a marketing meeting with your publisher and find out what they are doing for you - six month prior to when the book comes out.

I recommend you say something like this:

I am thrilled you are publishing my book. And I totally understand that you are going to do everything you can for it. But I know that my book is just one book of hundreds you are publishing. So I would love to know what you aren't doing so that I can come up with a plan of what I can do to supplement your efforts and work with you.

Polite, interested, non judgmental, understanding. It works.

This will give you a good sense of what you are going to need to do. I also would recommend reading Jaqueline Deval's Publicize Your Book. We have to be marketing partners with our publishers and do on our end whatever we can. And there's a lot we can do that our publishers can't. It does make a difference to get involved even though none of us got into this to do marketing. (Esp me. I actually left advertising to write fiction.)

Posted by joshilyn at 8:53 AM | Comments (2)

July 5, 2005

GCC: Three Questions with Deborah LeBlanc

Tomorrow I shall tell you the story of THE BLACK M&M (cue ominous music). It is a horror story. You will be shocked and amazed and a little bit grossed out. Perhaps you will feel sorry for me and be moved by all I have endured. Perhaps you will send me some delicious medication! But TODAY, in preparation for tomorrow's fright fest, we have an appropriately spooky guest...

Deborah LeBlanc's new book is called Grave Intent and it's set in a funeral home...here, have a scoop of jacket copy for the 411:

Janet and Michael Savoy had never seen anything like the viewing for nineteen-year-old Thalia Stevenson. That's because they had never witnessed a Gypsy funeral before, complete with rituals, incantations, and a very special gold coin placed beneath the dead girl's hands...

When that coin is stolen, a horror is unleashed. If the Savoys don't find the coin and return it to Thalia's grave before the rising of the second sun, someone in their family--perhaps their little daughter--will die a merciless death. The ticking away of each hour brings the Savoy family closer to a gruesome, inescapable nightmare. Only one thing is certain--Gypsies always have their revenge . . . even the dead ones.

"Iconic writers like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Peter Straub who have sold millions penning psychological thrillers designed to scare the living daylights out of readers had better beware—they’ve all just met their match and her name is Deborah LeBlanc. An irresistible blend of horror, mystery and dark fantasy, Grave Intent is like a wild roller coaster ride through the seven levels of Hell that doesn’t stop until readers are all suitably slack jawed in shock and delirious with all-consuming fear. In a word: Awesome!"
--Paul Goat Allen- Ransom Notes- B&N.Com

AND NOW! Three questions...

JJ: I find your books appealing in part because of the setting---I'm a southern girl myself. But your slice of the south is more mysterious and swampy than mine...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?

DL: I don't believe Family Inheritance could have been written in another location because so much of it deals with Cajun folklore and culture. The same can probably be said about Grave Intent, I suppose. Though it's not as atmospheric and based around Cajun culture as Family Inheritance, the story is dependant on 'southern' topography--above ground tombs, heat and humidity, the way a funeral home operates in a southern state. Location is important to me as a writer due to comfort level. I know the south, understand it's people, history, and traditions. Although I can certainly establish a story in Chicago or Baltimore, it would still probably revolve around a southern character who may be visiting these locations. (As I often do.) What's important to me as a writer is that the story ring true to the reader. I know what it's like to be southerner visiting Chicago. And although I may be allowed some creative license as an author, I wouldn't do justice to the people born and raised in Chicago by trying to create a character who was.

JJ: Who did you dedicate your books to and why?

DL: My books are dedicated to the people who've made the biggest impact on my life. My family.

JJ: A lot of writers read this blog---I find it interesting that you have worked in so many "male dominated industries" and now you are writing horror which is a somewhat male dominated genre. And I know some of your work has crept into your writing because Grave Intent is set in a funeral home and you used to work in a funeral home---can you talk a little bit about how your work and your writing are connected?

DL: I never set out to specifically write horror. The industry gave me that genre title. My books
have been called psychological suspense, thrillers, dark fantasy, mystery/suspense, just about everything but romance and western. I'm an avid reader, so I believe I write what I love to read, anything that will keep me turning the pages and on the edge of my seat.

Working in male dominated industries gave me, and still does, a different persepective on life. And that is--if you can play and win in these industries, you can play and win anywhere. My hobbies are 'different' as well, which gives me an unlimited well from which to draw stories. I'm an avid ghost hunter, a licensed death scene investigator, still work in morgues and funeral homes as a management consultant, and ride a Harley Davidson named Alberta whenever I little spare extra time. :)

Posted by joshilyn at 8:25 AM | Comments (3)

June 22, 2005

Three Questions: Alison Kent

It's a GCC day!

Alison Kent sold her first book to Harlequin on national television. The sale was a featured segment on the “Isn’t It Romantic” episode of CBS 48 Hours. Since then, she has sold eighteen series romances, eight novellas, one non-fiction pop culture essay, and four single title trade releases to four different publishers. Alison is a 2005 Quill Award nominee for her February 2005 release, THE BEACH ALIBI.

Reviews of her SG-5 releases from Kensington Brava have compared the series to Mission: Impossible, James Bond, I Spy, Alias, and Die Hard, and the latest in the series, LARGER THAN LIFE, hit bookstores on June 5th.

Alison lives in Texas with her husband, four vagabond kids, and a dog named Smith. And she actually manages to write in the midst of all that madness. And she gives good interview!

JJ: Can you talk about selling your first novel on national
television? Were you surprised? How did they pick you? When did you find out this
would happen? Tell it like a story!

AK: I was such a pup when this happened! There had been a lot of buzz in
the romance community about authors being contacted by a producer at
CBS. No one knew exactly what it was for, and there was mucho fear that
they planned to do a tabloid style slam of the genre. I was seriously a
nobody, so imagine my surprise when I picked up my phone at work one
day, and it was this same producer. (Don Dahler, who can be seen now on
ABC.) He wanted to arrange to meet with me and film me as an aspiring
author working to sell to Harlequin. This, of course, resulted in a
panic attack and days spent cleaning baseboards and the inside of my
toaster. The crew came down for the requisite forty-eight hours and
followed me around. They arrived at my home before I drove to work and
wired me for sound. At this time, I was doing a lot of my writing by
dictating in the car. (Yes, it was quite the site, driving down the
tollway with an open van beside me, camera crew hanging out the door.)
We did an offical interview during my lunch hour, and then they came
that first night to my critique group. The second day, they met me
after work and followed me home, set up their cameras in the house to
talk about my process, etc. The interviewer was Susan Spencer, who
still works for CBS. Halfway into that interview my phone rang. I
picked it up, and it was the senior editor for the Harlequin Temptation
line offering to by my book, CALL ME. (Apropos, no?) What the final
edit didn't show was me asking her to hold on, turning to Don and Susan
and saying, "Y'all set this up, didn't you?" Truly, until that moment,
I was clueless that they had another crew in Toronto with Birgit
Davis-Todd filming her side of the phone call. What I learned later is
that they'd gone to Harlequin first looking for an author who had
submitted to the house to profile. I lucked out by having a manuscript
in the right place at the right time!


JJ: Books about SPIES are traditionally manly man reading material
written by men for men with lots of grunting and hairy scratching and
GADGETS---and yet your SG-5 series appeals to women. How are
you bending the genre to your readership?


AK: Honestly? I'm following ground broken by a couple of fabulous romance
authors who have written series featuring Navy SEALS and covert
anti-terrorist operatives. I've always been a big fan of adventure
movies, and consider what I'm writing to be similar - with the added
appeal of having women tame these big bad men. *g* I employ a lot of
gadgets, some manly man language, a bit of grunting - but no scratching
that I can recall. And the women are not just arm candy. They're quite
capable of wielding their own semi-automatic if necessary! Actually, I
was told long ago with my first book that I had a voice that would lend
itself to detective fiction - and this was before I'd sold a thing. Now
I'm having a ball combining my love for romance with my love for
adventure.

JJ: A lot of writers read this blog---How do you balance X-treme
motherhood with a full time writing career?

AK: I'm very lucky and in a situation that's fairly unique. My husband also
works at home, and what kids we still have here are twenty-somethings
going to college and working. They come and go and fend for themselves
and make the motherhood part of my job almost redundant. *g* I so
admire authors who write amidst the demands of babies and toddlers and
kids in school. I remember sitting at my daughter's volleyball games or
my son's football games with a pencil in hand as I either edited or
jotted notes! My family has grown up used to writing being my job and
as much as they may grouse when I can't pop up and head to the movies or
the mall, they know where their bread is buttered. *g* That said, I
make sure - even at their age - to "play" with the kids daily, even if
it's no more than teasing and joking in the kitchen while we're all
futzing around on one of the nights we actually make dinner as a family!
Also, I don't clean. Seriously. I gave it up for writing. Our house
is now a home happy in its clutter!

Posted by joshilyn at 6:51 AM | Comments (4)

June 13, 2005

3 Questions: Mindy Friddle

I AM SO PLEASED to get have Mindy Friddle here talking about her debut novel, THE GARDEN ANGEL which came out in hardback last year and is poppin' fresh delicious now out in paperback. You know how I can't read good southern fiction when I am working? I've mentioned it before---it can screw with my voice, and if it is both exceptional and dealing thematically with the sorts of things that interest me, I find myself wondering why I even bother to TRY to write when ____ already exists. I call it Haven Kimmel syndrome. Well.
Friddle's book gave me this complex in spades.

excerptF.jpg

I found THE GARDEN ANGEL because my agent is a friend of Mindy's editor, and my agent asked her editor to ask her to read my upcoming debut novel, and, if she liked it, to say a few kind words about it. Finding blurbers sometimes feels like MIDDLE SCHOOL, it's all very, "This girl asked her friend to ask me to ask you if you like her? DO YOU? Please check one! ___ yes ___ no ___maybe but (circle one) a) I am too busy and important to find out just now so BACK OFF I HAVE A DEADLINE for the love of God, foam foam, B) I am currently not doing blurbs because it said on the bathroom wall I was a blurb whore and my agent said I had to stop putting out blurbs this year, or C) I don't do blurbs because it is a terrible system of author oppression and I hate the very thought of them and PS I think less of you for asking, or D) My mental illness number is very high just now. Outlook Not good. Try Again later."
Anyway, she did agree to read the book and she did like it, and she wrote a fantastic blurb for it. My agent sent me the blurb and said some VERY admiring things about Friddle's work, and that's how THE GARDEN ANGEL got on my radar.

My immediate response was to go out and try to buy it because if someone is going to be kind enough to read me and blurb me, the least I can do is read her back. I had a hard time finding it. The first two stores I went to had sold out (the book went into 4 printings so demand exceeded supply). I finally clued in that I should call The Alabama Booksmith (Jake has stores and hidden pockets of the very best EVERYTHING southern) and sure enough they came through for me. (HUZZAH!) SO I got it home. I KNEW it was southern, and I was working to deadline, but I started to read it ANYWAY, like a moron. I was maybe 30 pages in when I threw it across the room. I was SO DEVASTATED by its perfect pitch. BUT it was so GOOD and ENGAGING I kept going back and picking it UP again. LIKE A MORON. THREE TIMES I started this book, once getting as far as 75 pages in before I would hurl it away and go chew the carpet, stiffening into a rictus of agony because it was so. very. perfect.

It was the first book I read the MOMENT the draft of Beween, Georgia was finished, and it's one of the best books I read last year. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. These people, these funny quirky hapless adorable real people...Especially Elizabeth. I WEPT three times reading this book and giggled out loud more times than I can count, and when I finished it the first time, I immediately went back and reread the last three chapters just for the grace notes and the way Friddle doesn't let everything work out all glossy and plastic, but how the end leaves you bouyant and hopeful ANYWAY, and it's perched right now on my REREAD shelf, sandwiched by THE BITCH POSSE and TRUTH AND BEAUTY (a very nice seat indeed) and it's on my list of books I give as gifts because if you do not like this book you very possibly have NO soul and are, in fact, a golem.

In SHORT, I highly recommend it. I ended up getting to meet her while on tour (I had a stop in Greenville) and she's ALSO a nice person, which always makes me happy. You so want the writers you admire to turn out to be decent human beings, you know?

So I have said all this without saying what the book is about, but...honestly the book itself is MUCH better than a quick flap perusal would lead you to believe. I think this is NOT the jacket copy writer's fault---it's a hard book to sum up in a few sentences. It is pitched like this: "In Sans Souci, South Carolina, talk is cheap, real estate even more so. No one knows this better than Cutter Johanson, a gruff tomboy who waits tables, writes obits, and makes every effort, however comical and in the face of her mercenary relatives, to avert the sale of the dilapidated ancestral home. And despite her plucky resolve, all appears to be lost---until she strikes up an unlikely friendship with Elizabeth, a shy and fragile academic who puts both their fates on the mend." Only 5,000 times better and funnier and huge-souled and engaging than that little blip of whats-it-all-about would indicate. And if you waded through all this adoration-filled babbling, you WIN, because now Mindy Friddle gets to talk;

JJ: To whom did you dedicate the book, and, if we may be so bold and intrusive, why?

MF: I dedicated my book to my parents. They're both huge readers...my dad still reads, like, three books a week. As a family, we used to hit to bookstore every Sunday after a big lunch. It was part of our family ritual. They spent a fortune in books for us. I figured they earned the dedication.

JJ: One of the book's many strengths is it's strong sense of place---your characters are intimately connected with it and the writing itself is grounded in place. This reads as...personal. Can you talk a little about your own "sense of place?"

MF: Well, that's a great question. I'm fascinated with how cities gradually swallow towns and communities. It happens everywhere, of course, not just the South. But there's something elegaic and melancholy about an abandoned once-grand homestead, especially when it's betweeen a Hot Spot and a Wal-Mart. You wonder, hey, what happened? That family, that community, used to have high hopes. And is there anything more forlorn than a shuttered textile mill? Or the burned remnants of one?

As for my own "sense of place"-- I'm an Army Brat whose also a South Carolina native. Both my grandmothers stll live on the same street in Sans Souci, South Carolina ( a milltown where I set the Garden Angel).
So I had the advantage, as a child, of being steeped in southern tradition and also seeing a bit of the world. I now live in a historic neighborhood in Greenville, South Carolina--in a bungalow with squeeky floorboards and glass door knobs.

JJ: The publication of THE GARDEN ANGEL is a bit of a Cinderella story in that it launched quietly and became a true word-of-mouth success. I believe you went into four printings in hardback? You told me "It's good to be under-estimated." There are a lot of writers who read this blog ---can you talk a little bit about the value of being underestimated in this indistry?

MF: Hmmm. I must have slipped some burbon in my iced tea that time we were having lunch. Seriously, though, yep, there is value in being under-estimated in this publishing business. And, okay, I've got on my rose-colored glasses on here, but here goes: It's been my understanding that when your novel is published, when it launches out of the starting gate, there will be those who will believe in its success (the
shortlist: your mother, your editor, and your agent). And if you're lucky, there will be others as well: publicist(s), bloggers, booksellers (Booksense, B&N Discover, Borders New Voices, etc.), reviewers, librarians. Some authors will have huge advertising budgets behind them, many won't. But it's important to remember that as an author there's a LOT you can do to reach more and more readers (which is the point, after
all) and to give your book "legs" to help it gallop around the track.
You can expand or plan your own tour, send out press kits and postcards, start your own blog, tap into the book club circuit, build relationships with booksellers. And speaking from experience here, I rarely turn down a gig. From the business side, hopefully the book will go into more printings and you will earn out your advance quickly and even receive some royalty checks. That means you are not only meeting but exceeding your publisher's expectations, and that's a great feeling, certainly, and hopefully good for your writing career, as well.

Posted by joshilyn at 12:04 PM | Comments (3)

June 1, 2005

GCC: 3 Questions with Shanna Swendson (and the first VIRTUE REPORT|)

Okay, today is a GCC day, when a guest author in my club of lady writers pops by. Let me say, I have 500 errands to run today, but I after I read Shanna Swendson's answers to my traditional 3 QUESTIONS, I added "go buy, ENCHANTED, INC" to my to do list. It's an AWESOME interview. She's funny and smart, and I want to read this book.

If you follow this blog, you know I read VERY eclectically. I would say maybe half of what I read is contemporary literary/commercial fiction by people living and writing right now: I like Michael Chabon and Haven Kimmel and Christina Schwarz and Cassandra King and Pat Conroy--that kinda thing. The other half of my reading breaks down like this: Maybe 20% of my reading is re-reading, classics by dead people I love and some contemporary authors I read over and over, 10% thrillers/mysteries (usually involving cops or lawyers), 10% sci-fi and fantasy, 5% Experimental fiction, and 5% Chick-Lit. I read 100 books a year, easy, so all told I probably buy/borrow/beg/steal/read 5 Chick-Lit books a year. This will be one of them. ANYWAY, here she is---bet she hooks you, too:

JJ: If you could have a magic power (just the one, mind) what would it be? Why?


SS: I thought about a number of things that would make my life a lot easier, but
I think the one that sounds most appealing to me would be to be able to
clean house magically. I'd love to be able to wave my wand or say the right
words and have all the dust disappear, everything rush back to where it
belongs, the floors to be clean, the dishes to wash themselves and the
clothes to clean themselves and put themselves away.

I'd love to live in a clean and organized house, but housework is so low on
my list of priorities that it never gets done. It would free up time and
energy if I could do it magically. (And, yes, I hear there are these things
called maids who will come to your house and clean it for you, but I'm the
weird kind of person who would feel compelled to clean the house before the
maid got there, so it wouldn't save me any time.)

JJ: Sci Fi and fantasy have historically been seen as something for
menfolks---You think about The Sword of Shannara, and you picture a
read-to-tatters copy of it sitting on the table of some gamer-geek guy
who spent his college years crouched in a basement, missing the Sigma
Poo Delta winter formal to roll 12 sided dice with his equally be-geeked
buddies, trying to make his saving throw against that dern balrog. (I
was probably down there with them, by the way, reading the back cover
and saying, "Hey, can I borrow this???") Chick-Lit, on the other hand,
is for what seems to be an entirely different species: women who almost
universally went to the winter formal, and in VERY nice shoes. So it
seems to me this hybrid you've written might have a very braod base of
appeal. You get the smarty-princess Chick-Lit readers, and you also hook
goobers like me, who play WarCraft and yet are still brought to tears at
the site of a pair of strappy Jimmy Choo's. Where do you fall on the
scale of Princess-to-Goober? I can only assume YOU must be some sort of
hybrid yourself?


SS: I like to think of myself as what I call a stealth geek. I generally look
like a Chick Lit kind of gal, with my extensive shoe collection and cute
clothes, but I'm a geek at heart. I do own a read-to-tatters copy of The
Sword of Shannara. I spent three hours last week waiting in line just for a
good seat (I already had tickets) for a sneak preview screening of
"Serenity," the movie spin-off of the Firefly TV series. I've flown across
the country to meet in person with people I met on the Internet while
discussing TV shows. I've even gone in costume to a Renaissance festival.

I suspect in my teen years I was more an outright geek, with no Princess at
all in me. I didn't date. My only date in high school was a mutual mercy
date to the senior prom (I hung out with a bunch of guys who were planning a
big group excursion to the prom, and there was one guy in the group who had
asked several sophomore girls, only to be rejected, so the other guys
convinced him to ask me so the whole group could go together). I spent my
weekends at home reading and attempting to write. When I went to college, I
was in geek heaven because I found a bunch of people just like me! We all
crammed into someone's dorm room to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation (it
was brand-new then, and we were so excited to have new Star Trek!). We went
to the movies repeatedly to see The Princess Bride, and could quote all the
lines. We had Star Wars marathons. I was still just one of the guys, though.

I think I started the gradual transformation to external princess/internal
goober while I was in college. I was majoring in broadcast journalism and
interning at a TV station, and all the reporters were chic and stylish. I
knew I'd have to look like that to get a TV job. Then I went to work in
public relations, where you also have to look pretty stylish. I cringe at
what some of my earlier attempts at style must have looked like. It's taken
about fifteen years of subscribing to Glamour to get to the point where I
don't feel like a fraud when wearing stilettos and a pencil skirt, and I
doubt I'll ever be a true fashionista.

The downside is that now I sometimes feel like I don't fit in anywhere. I
went to a science fiction convention earlier this year, and I looked like I
was in the wrong place with my high-heeled boots and low-waisted boot-cut
jeans and stylish sweater. But I still feel like the geeky girl with braces
and glasses when I'm in other settings. That's the plight of the stealth
geek, the person who looks normal on the outside but who's still a geek at
heart.

Oh, and my social life hasn't really improved much since high school. It
seems like all the nice, geeky guys were taken when I wasn't looking, and if
I ever meet a guy I'm interested in, I freeze, turn red and can't manage to
form a coherent sentence, so I end up playing it totally cool and pointedly
ignoring him, which isn't all that effective for conveying my attraction.

I'm not sure that the fantasy readership and the chick lit readership are
really that far apart. The real chicks are too busy out there having a
social life to read all that much. It's the goober girls who are sitting at
home, reading, and they usually read widely. The chick-lit lifestyle is as
much a fantasy to a lot of us as anything involving elves. I do think I'll
have a larger male readership than most chick lit novels. I've had favorable
reviews in fantasy and science fiction publications, including one by a male
fantasy writer, Charles de Lint, who reviewed the book as a fantasy novel
but mentioned that maybe there was a hint of Bridget Jones to it. (Ha!
Little did he know that he was reading chick lit!)

JJ: You sold your first novel two years out of college? HOLY CATS. Well
done, you. And now you are writing for Ballentine, one of the mighty
dozen in NYC. Quite a few emerging writers read this blog, so can you
talk a little about the process of building a career the way you have
chosen to do it?


SS: I don't know that I'd recommend that anyone else build a career patterned
after mine. I've had so many fits and starts along the way. When I sold that
first novel, I had no clue what I was doing. I'm now almost afraid to look
at that book. I should have bought up every copy offered used on Amazon or
eBay before this book came out so no one could find it and read it after I
became a little better known. I was so naïve, I felt like all you had to do
was write a book and send it in, and someone would publish it. I sold five
books relatively easily, and I'm sure I'd find most of them terribly trite
and sappy if I tried to read them now.

So it came as a rude awakening when I hit a big, ugly brick wall. My editor
left New York to go back to Colorado and become a park ranger (true story).
The line I was writing for folded. Suddenly, I couldn't seem to sell
anything. I went eight years without selling a book before I broke through
again and sold Enchanted, Inc. to Ballantine.

I think maybe if I could go back in time and do things over again, I might
have waited to try to sell that first book. I'd have tried to learn more
about the craft and about the business before trying to break in so that I
could have had a more consistent career path.

On the other hand, that first phase of my career was a good training ground
for this phase. I was able to learn how the publishing process works ahead
of time. None of those earlier books were that widely available, so this is
kind of like a first book for me. I'm getting the first book experience, but
with some knowledge behind me. I know now just how difficult it is, just
what the dangers are. This "first" book is so much more meaningful to me
than that real first book was.

My main advice to emerging writers would be to write your book -- that book
no one else can write -- even if it seems to be crazy. I almost didn't write
Enchanted, Inc. because I didn't think there was a market for it. I got so
caught up in the market idea and writing what it seemed like people were
buying, and none of those books sold. It was when I wrote something for fun
that I broke through. You also have to be persistent if this is really what
you want to do. Even though it got very difficult during all those years
without a sale, when I was flinging projects out left and right and racking
up all those rejections, I couldn't make myself stop. I felt like the next
one could be THE one, so I kept trying. It eventually paid off.

THANKS SHANNA.

I like her. And Now...

I started to say, A LIVE REPORT FROM THE TRENCHES, but....ew. Considering we are talking about BUTT SIZE, that was just, ugh. It came out FILTHY somehow. So I will instead say, HERE IS THE VIRTUE REPORT:

Day one SUCKED! SUCKED, I tell you. But I was SO virtuous---you better shield your eyes lest my holy light blind you with its sweaty, sugar-free glow. I have a HEADACHE from no sugar. AND 1 day = 5% done! HUZZAH! And I already got up and worked out and ate a meagre and nutritive breakfast. Also, I would already like a Key Lime Martini, rim the glass with BEAUTIFUL SUGAR, K Thanx. HEH. And it is 9:17.

My first BIG CHALLENGE will happen THURSDAY, when I have 5 other couples over for POTLUCK and my vicious friend Pam brings her WORLD FAMOUS ECLAIR CAKE.

How did you do, oh my little tribe of the virtuous? TELL!

DISCLAIMER...I am NOT DOCTOR PHIL, out to save the collective big butt of Amerrica. Who is this about? Me. What is this about? MY JEANS! But I do want to say to anyone who blew day one, SO WHAT. Do better on day two. You do NOT have to start over, there is no penalty, you STILL get to wear the shoes you already bought. Just shrug it off and say, SO WHAT! You are pretty, you are human, you are going to try to do better today! RIGHT??? RIGHT! SO! We soldier on!

Posted by joshilyn at 10:01 AM | Comments (11)

May 10, 2005

GCC: Absolutely NO Questions with Martha O'Connor

I started reading The Bitch Posse on a long flight, and was 50 pages from the end when the pilot landed us. I was SO mad. I knew right when I got off the plane I had to go do some media and then hurl my bags into a hotel room and run to a signing and then out to dinner so I would not be able to get back to the book for HOURS. Gahhhhhhhh! I said to my (somewhat literal) seatmate, "WOULD IT HAVE KILLED HIM TO CIRCLE MEMPHIS A COUPLE OF TIMES SO I COULD FINISH THIS BOOK?"

Somewhat Literal Seatmate: Well, yes. Because you see, the air traffic controllers cleared a space and they expect this plane to land right now. It WOULD have killed him. And us.

Me: ....Okay! By the way? You should read this book. *holds up The Bitch Posse*

I am SO pleased that today's GCC tour focuses on Martha O'Connor and her visceral, intense novel about three friends who share a violent history and who are living not WITH the fall-out, but IN it. I am so NOT pleased that I forgot to send Martha my traditional three questions. I am NOT OKAY in my brain pan yet. Really. I slept for eleven hours last night. BUT. YOU KNOW WHAT. I will just send them to her tomorrow and post them next week so I can talk about this book twice. BECAUSE IT DESERVES IT.

This is NOT a book for the faint of heart. It doesn't pull punches and it serves no chicken soup for any type of soul. It's a breathless, burning, shockwave of a read. IT IS ALSO R RATED, so if you are my 14 year old nephew, no clicky-clicky the linky. You got me, kemo sabe? If you are NOT my 14 year old nephew, go give it a little taste and see if it suits you...We'll do three questions with Martha later AND if you have a questiojn you want asked, shoot me an e-mail. I will e her later today and grovel because I was an incompetent and possibly blue-footed booby who didn't get them to her.

IN OTHER NEWS:

MT Blacklist just caught and stopped a spammer whose spiders were posting links to something called BUSINESS FARTS. Which...my inner 8 year old boy thinks that is HYSTERICAL and almost wishes that MT Blacklist was a LEETLE less effective.

ALSO, one of my FAVE handsellers has come up with a new marketing strategy for gods in Alabama. He just sent me a letter about it that KILLS me, so I am shamelessly quoting him here:

I also wanted to congratulate you on god's official step into the world of
BEST-SELLER! I have read few books in recent memory that deserve it more.
You have quite a devoted following here at the store, and we're daily
placing it in customers' hands with pitches such as "You're a filthy pig if
you don't read this book."

HEHEHEHE! GO DAVIS-KIDD!

Posted by joshilyn at 7:57 AM | Comments (4)

April 29, 2005

In Which I Am ELSEWHERE

OKAY -- The GCC is still touring me, so I am GUEST BLOGGING in a lot of places!

MY BACKSTORY IS UP! If you've spent any time with my LINKS section, then you know MJ Rose's Buzz Balls and Hype as well as her other blog, BACKSTORY---it's one of my FAVORITE BLOGS. So many cool authors have come there and told the story of their books' origins -- so go read mine and then LOOK ABOUT because folks like ELLEN SUSSMAN and JANE GUILL have doen them too.

I am secretly very very tickled with this ridiculous (and SADLY TRUE!!!!) guest blog I wrote for E Lockhart's site (She wrote that YA book THE BOYFRIEND LIST that I SO wish I had read when I was 14...I gave it to to several young teen girls because I think its funny and chamring and also VERY smart.) My Gradeschool Impossible Crush Boyfriend List is posted there under her review of gods in Alabama.


AND---gah running out of time -- let me just tell you this: I have some BOOK RECS up at Allison Pace's blog.

A lot of the other GCC lovelies have posted the press release and amazon links and whatnot---this is a very cool, this GCC.

MEANWHILE. I am HOME for two WHOLE DAYS!! I have to go sniff Maisy's head some more and stand on my porch and dance antsily waiting for SAM'S BUS TO COME. I AM SO HAPPY TO BE HOME!

Posted by joshilyn at 11:50 AM | Comments (3)

April 19, 2005

QUIZ! And 3 Questions with Ann Marie Michaels

It's a GCC day, and the book is...NON FICTION. *gasp* It's a cookbook...it's a cookbook that can get you DATES. This has to be the smartest concept book pitched since the "_______ for Dummies" series because it COMBINES two things EVERYONE likes...good food and making out. Now, there are BAD ways to combine food and making out---remember that Seinfeld episode where George had a GIANT HOAGIE SANDWICH secreted in the comforter of his girlfriend's bed? OH! THAT GEORGE! That's BAD. But then remember Mickey Rourke feeding a blindfolded Kim Bassinger delicious mystery foods on the floor of the kitchen, back before Mickey Rourke got SO SO SPOOKY LOOKING? That was GOOD. It was ESPECIALLY good because in a sense, Mickey Rourke FIXED THE DINNER, and speaking as a married lady with two little kids, the ONLY thing hotter than a man who cooks for you is a man who does LAUNDRY.

Perhaps the sequel to COOKING TO HOOK UP can be PROPERLY BLEACHING WHITES TO GET ENGAGED...ANYWAY, the book works like this. You figure out what TYPE of girl she is, and then the book tells you the perfect date, beginning to end, WITH RECIPES. With DELICIOUS but not IMPOSSIBLE menus. The recipes do not require a tart pan, a blow-torch, and the direct intervention of the hand of God to come out decent. These are more like, DO-ABLE recipes produce dishes that taste wonderful and look sophisticated (or homey, or daring, or macrobiotic, depending on the girl's type.) It's a GREAT gift book, I think.

BUT, you ask, how do you know a girl's type. Elementary, dearest Watson. You take a QUIZ. They have two versions, one a girl can take to find her own type, and one for a guy to take with a potential date in mind. ANYWAY go take it. I DID!!!!!!! I love quizzes, I really do. I remember this new women's magazine came out about ten years ago, and I ADORED it because it was (of course) mostly articles about lip gloss and fornication, BUT! It had like 4 quizzes an issue. What kind of kisser are you? Are you too needy? Are you ready to settle down? I took 'em all, and then the mag changed its format and started interspersing its lip gloss and fornication articles with LONG starry-eyed pieces about civil rights in third world countries WHICH, okay, good, I am FOR civil rights, I DO realize there is OPPRESSION and horror in the world, and it's good to be educated and and put your money and time into making the world a better place...but. I do not wish to see pictures of the ravages of leprosy between an article entitled DARE TO GO BARE: THE NEW SPRING SANDALS and another called MAKE HIM GO CRAZY: TEN NEW LOVE TRICKS FROM ACTUAL WHORES.

SO ANYWAY, take the quiz! And then come back here to see what Ann Marie Michaels has to say about the book...also, if you are a guy, take it with a specific girl in mind. AND, if you are a girl, YOU MUST tell me what kind of girl it SAID you were, and if that is a accurate assessment, and what kind you WISH you were, and how many times you had to take the quiz before it would say you ARE the kind you wanted to be. NOT THAT I DID THAT OR ANYTHING. But I bet YOU did.

Me: No matter how many times I took the test trying to make it say I was an Academic (read: big smarty-pants) girl or at least an Indie (read: cool) girl, the dern thing insists I am The Girl Next Door. AND OKAY, yeah, I can see that. DERNIT. What kind of girl are you? And would the menu/date recomended for YOUR type work on you? In fact...has it? *wicked grin*

AMM: I'm a Gourmet/Indie hybrid. So for me, it's all about the food. If a guy is really into food and wine -- or at least goes to the trouble to learn about it, that is very impressive to me. Since I'm also Indie, I judge people on the music they listen to, the movies they watch, etc. Kinda like that guy in High Fidelity. (It's not that we are snobs, we just care more.) So if a guy plays Galaxie 500 while we are eating dinner -- or netflixes an indie film, something with subtitles -- that's big points. And yes, it has worked before. More than once. ;-)

Me: There's a section on making a bachelor pad "date-ready," including a list of things you need to GET. OUT. OF. THE. HOUSE. What about this book? Is a copy of this book "Date Safe?"

AMM: Absolutely. This book has made it's way around the blogs -- it's mostly women taking the quiz. And the feedback I've gotten from women is that they love it (mostly -- I've gotten some hatemail of course).

Me: You write this book with your ex-husband? Wow -- can you tell us about the experience of writing a book that is essentially about staging the perfect date with an ex?

AMM: Oh, we're good friends so it wasn't a problem. We had an amicable break-up. We got on each other's nerves every once in a while -- we had a 5-hour working limit. And most of the book was written independently -- we split it up and worked on our parts separately.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:22 AM | Comments (18)

April 4, 2005

Three Questions: Kathleen O'Reilly (with a side of Angst)

YAY! It is GCC day! Which means we can talk to Kathleen O’Reilly (who is funny! and possibly even MENTALLY WELL!) instead of talking about HOW TO MAKE 22 CHAPTERS all saved carefully in separate files with different numbering systems and headers and footers and etc into a SINGLE, COHESIVE DOCUMENT. Yep, I am back in edits for BETWEEN, GEORGIA and soon is the time on Shprockets where Warner needs the whole book in ONE .doc. I did it absolutely incorrectly in every possible way with gods in Alabama. My gods doc was the electronic equivelent of trying to bind paper using toad spittle because the workings of the stapler elude you, even though you have a stapler and a 50 page YOUR FRIEND, THE STAPLER instruction manual sitting RIGHT THERE BESIDE YOU.

A VERY nice man I know offered to make the whole thing into a single, cohesive doc file FOR me, but I said no. I told him, "Thanks, but I have to do it myself because my mother said that all-pervasive fishing metaphor to me one too many times as I was squandering my childhood." You know the one. Goes something like: If you give a girl a perfectly formatted Word doc, she will turn in one MS on time, but if you teach her to MAKE a perfectly formatted Word doc, she can always get a job in the secreterial pool of a heartless conglomerate if no one but her mother buys her book.

Not that I am still puking into my soup with nerves OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. Not that I would willingly hand over half my soul and change to the devil to see into the future and KNOW that one way or another everything is going to be okay.

AND SPEAKING OF THE DEVIL...I got to sit down and chat with Kathleen O’Reilly about her brand spankin' new just-released 20 seconds ago novel. I like the premise:

What would you sacrifice to be a size zero? For more than a few women, the promise of thin thighs in 30 seconds might just convince them to deal with the devil. Award-winning author Kathleen O'Reilly's The Diva’s Guide to Selling Your Soul (Apr., Downtown Press) is a story for every woman who knows that getting celebrity-style skinny involves a pact with Lucifer, or in this case, the silver-tongued Lucy. She's the trashiest gossip columnist in the city and she's working a pyramid scheme that's truly evil. The more clients our "innocent" heroine V recruits for her "Life Enrichment Program," the more of V's decadent desires will come true. Unfortunately, V soon discovers there maybe something worth saving in her after all, which means when she made the deal with the devil she may have truly damned herself -- unless she can figure a way out.

Me: Lit blogs have been abuzz defining Pink Ladies and Gray Ladies. Your book cover seems to make you a "Green Lady." How do you define yourself as a writer?

divacover.jpg

K'OR: I have to say that I'm not a big fan of definitions because once we do that,
we start creating a box around what we write. I think I'll just say that
I write stories . Or maybe I should call myself a "Green Lady". It
sounds different enough. Seriously though, mainly I write stories about
people who undervalue themselves and then discover their true worth,
hopefully by the end of the book

Me: In your bio, you mention your first "book" was a Romance
you wrote at age 11 that ended up being read aloud to your
class---How did THAT happen. Tell it like a story. And was
the hero embarrasingly similar to any boy in your
class---extra points for salacious details!

KO'R: I still have that story. It'll never see the light of day, though. We had
an assignment to write a short story. The teacher was Mrs. Witt. My story
was about a new girl at school, who was crushing on the popular guy, and
there was a dance coming up. She thought he had asked the popular girl, and
at the end of the story, as she realizes that he wants to take her, his lips
covered her in the kiss that was heard around every classroom in Mark Twain
Elementary. I don't remember being teased, only the abject mortification
that came from not only having my words read aloud, but also, the
realization that no one was going to buy my "boys have cooties" defense
anymore. I grew up that day. It was a lesson I believe every writer should
endure.

Me: The book has such an interesting premise--- If you were
going to sell your soul, what's your list? Is it Similar to V's or?

KO'R: My list is pretty similar to V's. Size Two, Check. Great bag, check.
Media attention that rival's Paris, or in my case, JK Rowling. Check.
Money's a big driver for me, but it's not an ambition, more a measuring
stick, so I'm not one of those people who wishes for a million dollars. I
want to earn my million dollars. Also, I'd really love to have people do my
bidding when I choose. I think it'd be very cool, and quite handy when
dealing with for example, the IRS.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:46 AM | Comments (1)

March 21, 2005

Three Questions: E. Lockhart

I talk about a LOT of books on this site, because, you know, I READ. All the freaking time. Sometimes I talk about books I LOVED, sometimes I talk about books I LOATHED, and sometimes I talk about books that aren't even out yet or that I haven't read or even ones that I probably will not read because, I don't know, they have SPIES in them. Spies leave me so cold I get practically clammy. I hate gadgets and international intrigue and I think the FILTHIEST word in the English language is POLITICS.

If a book or writer is getting buzz, I may link to it so you can scope it out and see if it is your cuppa, but I won't say I READ THIS AND LOVED IT, unless, you know, I've read it. And loved it. THAT SAID:

E. Lockhart was kind enough to send me a copy of her YA book, The Boyfriend List.

the boyfriend list.jpg


This is not a book I ever would have danced out and purchased on my own initiative because, you know, I am not fourteen. I am reading a lot of YA these days because my son is a voracious book-eater who reads WAY above grade level. I SCREEN some of the more advanced books that pique his interest---Sam may be capable of READING the HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy, but I don't think he is philosophically ready to take on what is essentially the secular humanist answer to Narnia. I've also tucked TITHE by Holly Black and CORALINE by Neil Gaimon away for a few years---both are ASTOUNDING books but the CREEP and CRUELTY factors would cause nightmares like you've never seen. Sam is, like me, an excrutiatingly VIVID dreamer. BUT ANYWAY, Sam is a manling, so most of the books I screen for him are about TIME TRAVEL and NINJAS and TALKING ROACHES and TRICKSY HOBBITSES.

The Boyfriend List skews older than Sam, and it's way GIRL-er than Sam. So, like I said, it's not a book I would have ever run across in my daily prancings. It is, however, a book I wish *I* had had when I was 13 or so...Seriously. It's funny and clever and an entertaining read -- BUT. It's also a SMART book to give a girl who is on the CUSP of that moment when the world SHIFTS and suddenly BOYS, those nasty, scab-encrusted creatures, become VIABLE HUMANS and our female friendships get completely rearranged. There's nothing easy-solution ala After-School-Special or pat about it, but it does VERY SUBTLEY and in a PREACH-FREE way offer girls ways to THINK about their choices. I'm giving my copy to my niece and buying another copy for Beautiful Caroline, a friend's fast-blossoming daughter.

After I finished the book, I snagged Miss E. and hit her up with my usual three questions:

Me: I usually ask how the author came up with the title, but given back jacket copy, I think that's a no brainer. SO I'll ask this instead: How did you come with the idea of having Roo (your main character) make a Boyfriend List? Did you ever have to make one?

E.: I had a list. I've lost it now. It was a list of every boy I had ever kissed, though. Not every boy I "ever had any little any kind of anything with" -- which is what Roo's is, in the book. And Roo's list is an assignment given to her by her shrink, as a way of getting her to talk about her life. Mine was just the a little personal record, kept in a pretty notebook.

Me: This is a funny, funny book that reads lightly---just a pleasure---but it's not an EASY book. I loved that there was no pure villian in this book, that Roo is flawed, that not every relationship gets healed and not every problem gets resolved, and that Roo asks more questions about her own behavior than she answers in the footnotes. Sometimes she has no idea if she made the right choices or not, and she asks the reader what they think, directly, and asks what they would do in her place. Did you start out with the idea of this book as a dialogue with the reader, or did that grow as you wrote?

E.: Thank you! There is a sequel -- The Boy Book -- which will come out in Spring 2006. But it'll be just as messy as the first one, no doubt (I'm in the middle of it, now). Life is messy.
And romance in high school -- well, the happy endings are nearly always short-lived.

I think the dialog with the reader came about organically when I wrote a passage near the beginning in which Roo decides not to explain what she looks like. It pisses her off (as it pisses me off) that heroines so often exhibit either radiant beauty (Bergdorf Blondes, for example) or self-loathing (She's Come Undone), with little in between. I had written descriptions of Roo's friends, but I balked at having her describe herself. So instead I wrote this whole footnote about all the reasons she refused to do it -- and before I knew it I was writing a whole 'nother footnote saying, Okay, if you're really jonesing for a description, I don't want to deprive you: I have waxy ears and cute teeth and long eyelashes and my tummy sticks out after I eat. Happy, now?

And once that kind of forum was open, it was natural to continue it into more important moments in her life.

Me: Part of what this book does is take a good, hard look at what happens to female friendships when young women reach the age where BOYS become a huge factor. Did you ever lose a friend over a boy?

E.: I most certainly did lose a friend over a boy. More than once.

All the circumstances in The Boyfriend List -- in particular, what happens between Roo and her friend Kim, and the reverberations of that through the rest of their high school -- all those are imaginary and escalated to extremes for comic effect. But I was writing about emotions and situations that I'm sad to say I continued to feel all the way through my twenties. The problem of friends dating ex-boyfriends, or boyfriends flirting with friends, or ex-girlfriends calling up my boyfriends and wanting to go to coffee.
All that painful weirdness-- that's what I was trying to write about in The Boyfriend List.

You can order The Boyfriend List at Amazon, B and N, Books-A-Million, or from your favorite Indy store via Book Sense. And you should.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:28 AM | Comments (9)

March 7, 2005

A Sock Deferred: Three Questions with Johanna Edwards (and the Dish on Dennis)

I am not going to finish my breathlessly anticipated thrilling sock epic today -- PUT DOWN THE KNIFE! IT IS OKAY! THERE ARE OTHER PERFECTLY GOOD REASONS TO LIVE! --- As I was saying, I shall defer the rest of the story about my SOCKS (what is WRONG with me???) because a Merciful God has declared it is time for 3 questions with Johanna Edwards. You may thank either the Merciful God or Karin Gillespie, fellow novelist and blogger, marketing whiz-bang-smarty-pants, and brain-mother of the GCC, for saving you from having Sock-Fest 2006 become a TWO DAY EVENT.

THIS is a pretty cool three questions I have to say because Johanna is just...neat. From where I sit (which is smack-dab in the middle of quasi-rural Georgia writing LONG LONG MULTI-PART ANECDOTAL ESSAYS ABOUT MY FREAKING SOCKS --and what is WRONG with me???--with masticated-toddler-breakfast stuck to my pajamas) she looks like one of those people who bounce around doing thrilling things with glamorous people and having all manner of dream careers, one after another after another. She's worked as an award-winning journalist, covering arts and entertainment, so she got to hang out with all manner of TV and Music and Movie celebs, and now she is in Radio and meeting ALL MY FREAKING FAVORITE AUTHORS and PRODUCING SHOWS WHERE THEY GET INTERVIEWED and TOUCHING THE HEMS OF THEIR GARMENTS. Which should SO CLEARLY be MY job if there was any justice in the universe and if I had, like, any SKILLS in that area or even enough understanding of what "producing" means to be able to make a LIST of skills one would need.

So ANYWAY, one day, Johanna got a WILD HAIR and decided to frisk over to her computer and write a novel which was so good she sold it -- A FIRST NOVEL -- before it was even FINISHED, just on the strength of the first chapters and the rest of the outline. That does not happen unless you have something pretty amazing going on. The novel is called THE NEXT BIG THING and now by all accounts she is going to BE it. So. NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT. I either want to DROWN her or be her when I grow up, except, oh wait, she is YEARS younger than me. (Did the guy in the back row who was offing himself because the sock story was deferred get finished with that big KNIFE? Could someone sitting near him who is still living pass it to me? K, thanx.)

Me: How did you come up with the title?

JE: I went through a lot of titles. I was so stumped. Initially, I had narrowed it down to three titles: SUCH A PRETTY FACE, HEIGHT/WEIGHT DISPROPORTIONATE, and BIG GIRLS DO CRY (yeah, I know how bad that last one is). None of them seemed quite right. I supposed I liked SUCH A PRETTY FACE the best, but I didn't feel like it fit the overall tone of my novel. I wanted something a bit more upbeat and fun. So I settled on THE NEXT BIG THING. I figured it would work since it was catchy and since it had a double meaning.

Me: Your book is set in part on a reality TV show---What RTV show would you like to be on (if any) and why? Would you win?

JE: I would LOVE to go on The Amazing Race because I'm a total travel junkie. I think it would be so fun to travel with my best friend, or boyfriend, or sister, or dad around the world. I probably wouldn't win, but I'd have one heck of a good time.

Me: You work in radio, so tell us a little about your job. I know you've met some pretty famous authors---got any dish?

JE: My radio job is awesome. I produce a nationally syndicated show called "Book Talk" and every week we have a different author in studio. I've met so many amazing people, from Walter Mosley to Billie Letts to Mitch Albom. Here's some fun dish -- Dennis Lehane is very sexy in person.

You DON'T say! Good to know, because as you may remember, I have a little Dennis Lehane problem.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:48 AM | Comments (1)

February 23, 2005

1 Anniversary, 2 Euphemisms, and 3 Questions

1) I just realized that FASTER THAN KUDZU will turn ONE! on March 6th. I have to think of something exciting to do for the ANNIVERSARY. It's really grown! That first month, not quite 500 unique users stopped by. Now the blog gets more than that every day!

2) I did something my friend Jill K. liked, and she said to me: YOU ARE THE JUNGLE-FIERCE AND RUTHLESS BLOODCURDLING TANGLE-FREE CATBOMB!

Which SOUNDS fabulous at first listen, but a closer investigation reveals that this is probably a euphemism for a poo. It's a little like being told, "You are the prettiest cat doot EVER!"

Free bonus euphemism: Back when Dear Old Toby Dog was still alive, we used to keep the litterbox locked up in the garage behind a TEENY CAT DOOR, and Lord help us if Toby finagled his wily way out into the garage. At that time, we called the litterbox The Salad Bar.

3) IT'S TIME FOR THREE QUESTIONS! This time with author Jennifer O’Connell. She has a HOT web design, by the way. It's seamless and she uses this really fun MAP thing, so if you go to her site, pick THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, and then pick a book, you get a MAP of the book and each stop is a little fun factoid...it's a very smarty-pants website.

Jennifer's NEW book, Dress Rehearsal, is an US Weekly HOT PICK (!!!) about a wedding cake boutique owner who can predict whether or not a marriage will last based on the cake the couple chooses. (PS Right now, if you act SUPER FAST because you only five more days, you can WIN the main character's DREAM CAKE via a contest on the website.)You can order the book through your local indy via Book Sense, and of course it's available from all the usual suspects: Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or Books-A-Million.

Me: How'd you come up with the title?

JC: I had the title very early on - the original idea was that four friends come together in Boston to help their friend find a wedding dress. The idea behind the book was how women can tend to look at life before 'the man' as a dress rehearsal - they don't buy the good china, silver, vacations, homes because they figure they'll wait until they meet the guy they're supposed to share all that with. Although the plot of the book changed, the idea remaned the same.

Me: So, you've weathered the release of your debut novel with grace, aplomb, and no small measure of success---How was the publication of a second novel different?

JC: Publication of the second novel was fun, but different. The first time around you wonder if you're going to be an overnight success or if nobody will ever buy your book. This time around it was less nerve wracking, I knew what to expect, wasn't nervous about doing readings/signings, etc. I have a third book coming out in September, whereas when Bachelorette #1 was published, I didn't know if I had another book in me or if I'd be a one hit wonder.

3) How did you research THE RUNNING OF THE BRIDES? Did you go to Filene's and give it a try or...?

I lived in Boston, and anyone who lives in Boston knows about the running of the brides at Filene's. I never "ran" with the brides, but there are always articles written about it and it's something of an annual event in Boston. It's not Pamploma, there aren't any gorings on the street, but it's pretty damn close.

Thanks, Jennifer!

PS Ya'll, shhhh, don't tell anyone. but I am SECRETLY NOT A JOURNALIST! I am winging this. Right now, I am doing three questions like THIS: I ask about the title, because I always like to know about the title, so that's just me. Then I try to ask one question about writing or the author's experience in the world of publishing, then one question about the book. If you have suggestions for the SECOND catagory especially, HIT ME WITH THEM in Comments. I'll try to remember to tell you at the END of three questions who the NEXT 3Q Author will be, so you can make specific question suggestions if there are things you want to know. Next up: Johanna Edwards.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:06 AM | Comments (2)

February 11, 2005

Three Questions with Alison Pace

SO! We're up to BOSTON, but we interrupt this redux to pull a Monty Python. In other words, I am sending John Cleese out to a cow field to sit behind his desk and say, AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. He will be wearing a tuxedo, naturlich!

I'm doing this blog-exchange thing called GCC---which means I am going to have ACCESS to the TREMBLING PINK BRAINS of about 20 other novelists. These brave but foolish souls will patiently grant me a three question interview. Huzzah! I feel like I need a snazzy hat, a 40's girl-reporter suit, and a PRESS PASS! If you don't like my questions, leave me some suggestions for NEXT TIME in comments---I want to be sure I best exploit my TINY SLICE OF NEW-FOUND POWER!

First up is ALISON PACE, and her debut novel has a REALLY good title: If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend.

It Chick Pam Houston (Glorious She of Cowboys Are My Weakness fame) calls it, "A funny, feel-good fairy tale set improbably in the high-powered international art world."

I sat down with my computer over coffee, and Alison sat down with hers while presumably drinking something different, and here is what came of this meeting of...wires:

Me: Great title! How'd you come up with it?

AP: Thank you! There’s a scene in my book where a young girl asks, “Did Andy Warhol have a Girlfriend?” This question gets my narrator, Jane, thinking about how some things just aren’t meant to be. I think that ability to accept that certain things simply won’t work out is a pretty big theme of my book, or at least I planned for it to be. So as soon as I wrote a sentence that began, “If Andy Warhol had a girlfriend…” I just knew that was my title.

Me: 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...

AP: I quite like having a website. I dork-out sometimes and just get it up on my screen and stare at it.

Me: Ha! Me too. I DO that. Okay, I only get one more...OH! To whom did you dedicate the book, and, if we may be so bold and intrusive, why?

AP: My parents. Because they’re awesome.

Thanks, Alison! You can get her fresh, funny, and Pam-Houston-approved book at
Amazon
B and N dot com
Books-A-Million
Or you can order it through your local Indie over at Book Sense.

OH! If you go to Book Sense PLEASE NOTE that Cassandra King's new novel, The Same Sweet Girls is the NUMBER ONE Book Sense pick for the month of February. Cassandra King is an excruciatingly talented novelist who read and liked gods in Alabama and wrote a lovely blurb for it even though she didn't know me from Adam's off-ox, which obviously makes her a fantastic HUMAN BEING, and WE LIKES HER, MY PRESHUS, YES WE DO.

Lord, I have rambled on, so I will BRIEFLY revisit Boston and then SHUT UP for the nonce. I had a free afternoon, so I walked out of my hotel (which was in Cambridge) and hiked around, googling at History. Atlanta BURNED DOWN as you may recall, so we don't HAVE anything like what I was seeing. The whole place appears to made out of ancient, mellowed red bricks that have been aesthetically coated with good-taste-committee-approved vines. I saw some GORGEOUS homes and school halls and libraries, and I can now say TWO things with absolute veracity:

1) I went to Harvard.
and
2) I have a masters degree.

The fact that these two things are WHOLLY unrelated is not a topic of conversation I am terribly interested in pursuing just now...

Posted by joshilyn at 7:31 AM | Comments (5)