Win $$$ – Kinda…

Sign up for Ellen Meister’s mailing list and you could win a $25 gift card!

Ellen Meister has an exciting new book coming out next year and she wants to keep you abreast of the news. So she has a special offer … sign up for her mailing list now and you will  automatically be entered in a drawing for a $25 amazon.com gift card.

Just click here, fill out the form, and remember to click through when you get the confirmation email. That’s it. Ellen only sends out a few updates a year, so you won’t be bombarded. Besides, I think you’ll want to hear about her breakthrough novel, THE OTHER LIFE (Putnam/2011), which is already getting great early buzz.
Pitched as “Jodi Picoult meets THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE,” THE OTHER LIFE tells the story of a suburban mom expecting her second child who discovers that she might be able to slip through a portal to the life she would have had if she never got married. When a routine sonogram reveals unexpected problems, her grief lures her to escape to the life that might have been …  in which she discovers that she stayed with her neurotic ex-boyfriend, and that her mother, who committed suicide several years before, is very much alive.

“Gripping! A truly fascinating story of love, loss, and a magical place in between.”
Beth Harbison, New York Times bestselling author of HOPE IN A JAR


“Intriguing, stimulating, original, unpredictable, frightening, utterly engaging–THE OTHER LIFE reminded me why I love to read. Ellen Meister is a writer with a limitless future.”
Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author of THE SECOND OPINION and THE LAST SURGEON


“In her riveting breakthrough novel, THE OTHER LIFE, gifted storyteller Ellen Meister doesn’t just peek in on a young mother who straddles between love and doubt, she blows it open with a story of one who straddles two parallel universes, each with its own perilous decisions. It is a brave and honest exploration of the precarious limits of motherhood that will make readers wonder if Meister followed them with a probe and felt their racing hearts and hopes. If you have ever second guessed the biggest decisions of your life (and who hasn’t), THE OTHER LIFE is a captivating homage to the question, does love conquer all?”
Saralee Rosenberg, author of DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD and FATE AND MS. FORTUNE


“Ellen Meister makes a big leap toward the literary in THE OTHER LIFE, a book where “What if” becomes the most powerful question in the world. This is the thinking woman’s beach read, a love story to the modern family, written with a deep and lovely understanding of mothers and daughters and the sacrifices they’ll make for each other.”
Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING


“THE OTHER LIFE is a provocative and unique tale of the road not taken. Ellen Meister puts a magical, masterful spin on one of my favorite questions: “What if?” What if you took both roads? You won’t want to miss this one!”

Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON


“I loved this emotional powerhouse of a novel that asks a daring “what if…” and manages to be as charming and funny as it is thoughtful and moving. Brava, Ellen Meister!”
Melissa Senate, author of SEE JANE DATE and THE SECRET OF JOY


Everyone She Loved -and You’ll Love This, Too

EVERYONE SHE LOVED By Sheila Curran Published by Atria Books ISBN: 1-4165-9066-8 Price: $25.00 On Sale Date: June 2009 http://www.simonandschuster.com

As many of you know, I am a part of a wonderful group of women who blog about each others’ books. We call ourselves the Girlfriends CyberCircuit. Today, I have Sheila Curran on to talk about her latest book, Everyone She Loved. The cover is right up my alley (beach!), and the press release is below.

But the REAL story is on Sheila’s blog and I encourage you all to take a jump over and read this.

http://sheilacurran.typepad.com/falling_down_the_blog/2010/03/the-olde-sod-sort-of.html

EVERYONE SHE LOVED,
by Sheila Curran, Author of Diana Lively Is Falling Down

Praise for Diana Lively Is Falling Down
“A gem.” –Booklist (starred review)
“Filled with characters who make you laugh out loud even as they break
your heart,this is a funny, warm, inventive, original book.”
–Jodi Picoult, author of Change of Heart

Books are born in strange places.  Sheila Curran’s latest was conceived in the front seat of a car while her friend drove and their daughters chatted in the backseat.  The women were discussing an article Curran had written about two young girls whose parents had died within months of each other.

While talking about the tragedy, Curran realized that choosing the perfect guardian for her kids—one that would raise them as she would–would be next to impossible.  Even tougher to swallow would be the possibility that if she died first, her husband might marry someone awful, and then she’d have no control at all.  Unless, she mused, she could get him to agree that if he remarried, her sisters and friends would have to agree to his choice of bride, just to prevent some wicked stepmother from moving in.

And thus was hatched the idea for EVERYONE SHE LOVED: A Novel (Atria Books; June 2009; Price: $25.00; ISBN: 978-1-4165-9066-8), an utterly engaging tale that 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 can confound and confuse even the most determined of planners.

With wit and wisdom, EVERYONE SHE LOVED weaves a poignant tale about the abiding strength of friendship and the profound effect one person can have on another’s life.  Most important, it delivers a message about growing up and moving on while still embracing a transcendent legacy of love.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The author of Diana Lively Is Falling Down, Sheila Curran lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with her husband and children.

www.sheilacurran.com

Winging It – You Won’t Want to Miss This One!

I first “met” Jenny Gardiner when she emailed me after seeing my GoLions87 persona online – “Is that Penn State?” she asked in an email. It was and she graduated from PSU and thus a friendship was born

Then, both of our manuscripts (Sleeping With Ward Cleaver for her, Beauty and The Best for me) were chosen for the third American Title Contest sponsored by Romantic Times Magazine and Dorchester Publishing. Jenny, the marketing queen, won the contest and I have to say, if you haven’t yet read Sleeping With Ward Cleaver, get thee to a bookstore and buy it. Laugh-out-loud funny and very poignant.

And now her second book is out and it’s just as laugh-out-loud funny; I was lucky enough to be one of her early readers and knew she’d sell this to some lucky publishing house. Well, Simon & Schuster is that lucky house and Winging It releases today.

Like many new bird owners, Jenny and Scott Gardiner hoped for a smart, talkative, friendly companion. Instead, as they took on the unexpected task of raising a curmudgeonly wild African grey parrot and a newborn, they learned an important lesson: parrothood is way harder than parenthood. WINGING IT: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me (Gallery Books; on sale March 16, 2010; Hardcover; $23.00), is a hilarious and poignant cautionary tale about two very different types of creatures, thrown together by fate, who learn to make the best of a challenging situation.

A gift from Scott’s brother who was living in Zaire, Graycie arrived scrawny, pissed – off, and missing a lot of her feathers. Every day became a constant game of chicken with a bird that would do anything to ruffle their feathers.

The old adage about not biting the hand that feeds you—literally—never applied to Graycie.

But Jenny and Scott learned to adapt as the family grew to three children, a menagerie of dogs and cats, and, of course, Graycie. WINGING IT is a laugh-out- loud funny and touching memoir, Jenny vividly shares many hazards of parrot ownership, from the endless avian latrine duty and the joyful day the bird learned to mimic the sound of the smoke detector, to multiple ways a beak can pierce human flesh.

Graycie is a court jester, a karaoke partner, an unusual audio record of their family history, and at times, a nemesis. But most of all, she has taught the family volumes about tolerance, going with the flow, and realizing that you can no sooner make your child fit into a mold than you can turn a wild parrot into a docile house pet.

WINGING IT reminds us of the importance of patience, loyalty, and humor when it comes to dealing with even the most unpleasant members of the family.

###

Here’s what people are saying:

“As sweet as a song and sharp as a beak, Winging It really soars as a memoir about family–children and husbands, feathers and fur–and our capacity to keep loving though life may occasionally bite.”
–Wade Rouse, bestselling author of At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream, and Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler

“Jenny Gardiner’s hilarious memoir will have you alternately laughing and crying, and watching the skies for winged pets out for your blood.”

–Kristy Kiernan, Award-winning author of Catching Genius

“With her right-on humor, Jenny Gardiner manages to make owning a vengeful parrot sound like fun! You don’t even have to like pets to like this book.”

–Eve Brown-Waite
Author of FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA

“This funny, smart book is much more than a story about life with a challenging parrot. Jenny Gardiner writes with humor and grace about the challenges and joys and stresses of parenthood, too. I loved it.”

–Sarah Pekkanen
author of The Opposite of Me

Jenny and I are part of the Girfriends CyberCircuit, a group of 24 women who blog about each others’ books, and this week it’s her turn in the hot seat with the interview questions. Here goes:

Tell us about the inspiration behind Winging It.

This time around my book is a memoir, titled WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO’S DETERMINED TO KILL ME (Gallery Books). Think of it as David Sedaris meets Marley & Me, with a deadly beak. It’s about an African gray parrot with an attitude who arrived as a surprise Christmas gift the year we had our new baby. Life has never been the same.

The idea grew over many years. We got this parrot as a gift–my brother-in-law came back from Africa one Christmas with parrots for the family, and we ended up with the ornery one. And over the years, stories about her have become so legendary, she is such an entertaining thing (when she’s not being vicious). I have written about her for my newspaper column before and people were so interested in her. At dinner parties, she becomes the focus of everyone’s interest–we’ve had her now for almost 2 decades and people are always so entertained by her and stories about her, so I thought it would be fun to do a book. My sort of funny backstory is YEARS ago, I was sitting in a bat mitzvah, and I get really antsy when I’m a captive audience, especially when everything isn’t in a language I can remotely understand. So when I was sitting there for like 3-1/2 arduous hours (it was a high holiday so they had a huge service with it), I pulled out a notebook and pen and HANDWROTE four chapters of what would eventually become this book…

What is your author fantasy?

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to be optioned and produced by Drew Barrymore and Nancy Juvonen’s Flower Films. Or how about Nora Ephron.  Either of those would (sorry, I just have to say it) um, er, make my day...

(snork! Yeah, that’s so you.)

What is one of the nicest compliments that you have ever received about your book(s)?

For my novel, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, I received so many emails from women who were grateful that I put into words what they feel in their lives. I think the circumstances of my protagonist in that novel were so universal, yet it’s not something that’s often spoken about in such a truthful–or blatant–way. I loved that not only did they enjoy the book as a book, but they enjoyed the content and it helped them to think “Hey, I’m normal, this is just like other people!”

Oh, and the other fabulous compliment I received several times was reviewers and readers saying they peed their pants laughing when reading my book. That, to me, is high praise LOL

(Judi’s note: yeah, I was pretty close to doing that, too, and I was reading it in the same room as you – remember?)

Do you have a vice that you’ve given up, but long to continue?

Currently I’ve given up Mint M&Ms for Lent. And while I know I can go back to them (while the limited supply lasts!) in a few weeks, I’m disinclined to because it was a habit I needed to break. I did that last year with Peanut M&Ms and it seemed to stick. Though I think I just end up trading one bad habit for another.

What’s the promo machine looking like for this book?  Any upcoming signings/tours?

When my first novel, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, won a publishing contract in the American Title III contest (sort of an American Idol for books), I won that by surviving a 6-month period of online voting. What was wonderful about that was it really gave me a leg-up on marketing–particularly online marketing–a product that at the time wasn’t even a tangible book one could buy. But I guess you’d call me an “early adapter” LOL to capitalizing on the internet as a marketing tool. So I do try to maximize my online presence as much as possible, especially because with a family it’s hard to technically “tour” when  book comes out. I do do plenty of appearances and signings, try to do as many book festivals as I can afford, and do whatever media appearances as possible.

I’m appearing on a panel and signing at the Virginia Festival of the Book, in fact, March 21. I’ve got a signing at Fountain Books in Richmond, VA, on April 8, and at the Barnes & Noble, Tyson’s Corner, VA, on April 16. I’m also at the PennWriters Conference in Lancaster, PA in mid-May. We’re setting up other events still.

For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?

The time it takes to market and publicize oneself. I don’t mind marketing and publicizing, but I’d way rather be just focusing on writing books, and rue the day that this became so much more the onus of the author. I understand why it is that way, but wasn’t it a beautiful thing in this country when those with an area of expertise were able to take care of that end of things, rather than nowadays when it seems that everyone is expected to do everything themselves? There was a time when people didn’t pump their own gas–remember that? And you hired someone to come fix things, rather than trying to patch it together yourself. Ah, but I digress…

What’s next for you?

Writing, writing writing. I’ve got a proposal to put together for my next non-fiction book, I’ve got an agent and editor awaiting a book I’m writing right now, and so many other ideas I’d love to start writing.

Thanks, Jenny! My copy of Winging It just arrived yesterday so now all I need is some free time (what’s that?) to get to reading it! Can’t wait!

Here’s a link to Gracie  – you can hear her in all her glory. And I can attest to what a great mimic she is – she really has Jenny’s laugh and voice down pat!

Graycie video:
and raw footage of Graycie talking:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vq1yurbbcqY

and Jenny talking about the book:

and relevant links: http://www.jennygardiner.net/
blog: http://jennygardiner.net/blog/

Find the book here:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Winging-Memoir-Caring-Vengeful-Determined/dp/1439157618/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268078846&sr=8-1
Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Winging-It/Jenny-Gardiner/e/9781439157619
IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781439157619

Jenny Gardiner is also the author of the award – winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, and the Washington Post. She writes a column of humorous essays for Charlottesville, Virginia’s newspaper, the Daily Progress. She lives in central Virginia with her family.

Are you Everyone Else’s Girl? Or your own person?

Meredith does things for other people. She irons clothes for her boyfriend, she attends her ex-best friend’s horrendous hen party for her brother (who’s about to marry the girl) and she moves back to her parents’ house to look after her dad when his leg is broken. She’s a good girl and that matters. But when she gets back home, all is not as Meredith remembered. Especially Scott, that geeky teenager from her old class at school. He’s definitely different now. And so, it seems, is she. One by one, her family and old friends start to tell her some home truths and Meredith begins to realise she’s not so perfect after all. Maybe it is time she stopped being everyone else’s girl and started living for herself…

Praise for Everyone Else’s Girl:

“Megan Crane rules! Cancel your evening plans: You won’t want to stop reading until you’ve devoured every delicious word.”
—Meg Cabot

“Amusing, heartfelt and emotionally sophisticated chick-lit.” —Kirkus

“Crane prevails with refreshingly real human emotions and reactions. In this book, actions have consequences, and no one gets off easy, despite appearances.” —RT BookClub

“I suspect a lot of readers were like me – desperately seeking fiction with a romantic edge, realistic stories, and smart writing (oh, for more smart writing).

I suspect a lot of readers were like me and dropped out of chicklit game because finding the good was damn hard work. I dedicate this review to those readers. There is hope…Everyone Else’s Girl is a good book.” —Kassia Krozser at paperbackreader.com

About Megan Crane:

USA Today bestselling author Megan Crane has written five women’s fiction novels, many work-for-hire young adult novels, and five category romances (under the name Caitlin Crews) since publishing her first book in 2004. Her novel, Frenemies, was a BookSense Notable in July 2007. She teaches various creative writing classes both online at mediabistro.com and offline at UCLA Extension’s prestigious Writers’ Program, where she finally utilizes her MA and PhD in English Literature.  Megan lives in Los Angeles with her comic book artist/animator husband and too many pets. For more info visit her at www.megancrane.com or http://www.caitlincrews.com.

You can find Megan on Twitter: http://twitter.com/megancrane

At her journal: http://megancrane.livejournal.com/

On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/megan.crane

An excerpt from Everyone Else’s Girl is here: http://www.megancrane.com/eeg.html

You can buy the book here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Everyone-Elses-Girl-Megan-Crane/dp/1849162123/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266772251&sr=8-4

Tell me a little about your book.

Everyone Else’s Girl is the story of Meredith, who must learn to grow up while stuck in her childhood home.

What got you writing in the genre in which you write?

I started writing chick lit/women’s fiction because I was living in England at the time and had discovered Anna Maxted and Marian Keyes, and I thought: yes.  And then: I wonder if I could do something like that?  I’d grown up on romance novels and the first person, confessional tone was like a light being switched on for me.  I had to try.

Favorite thing about being a writer?
I get to make up stories in my head, and then tell them, and make my living that way.  It’s more than a dream come true.  And I don’t, in fact, need algebra, as I told my math teacher in high school long ago!

Least favorite thing about being a writer?
The blank page is usually filled with all my doubts and fears, and that’s not a whole lot of fun to sift through to get to the words I need to write.  And you can never really take a vacation, because the work is always in your head.  And I become a little bit of a crazy person as a deadline approaches.  But I wouldn’t give any of it up.

Which comes easier for you – beginnings or endings?
Definitely beginnings.  I like to launch myself into the beginning and write until I hit a wall, then go back and figure out what I’m doing.

How many drafts until the final draft?
I am one of those desperately linear writers, who can’t go forward if I know what’s behind me is a big mess.  So I usually write the day’s words, then set it aside to pick up and read the next morning.  I revise it before starting the next day’s writing.  So when I have a full draft, it’s usually pretty tight, and then I go over that at least once or twice.  So…  three?

What is one thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since getting your first book deal?
There is writing, and then there is publishing, and there is only one part of that I can control: the writing.

What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel  published?
Just write.  No one can tell your story the way you can, and no one will get to read it until you write it.

What’s your favorite food?
Chocolate.  Seriously.  I’m a complete addict.  I like it dark, rich, and life-altering.

Do you have a muse, good luck charm, writing vice?
I am pretty sure my extremely fat and ill-behaved cats feel that they are both muses and charms; they are not.  I don’t really have either, I don’t think.  Though I have written every single one of my books on this very same desk, and I’m kind of attached to it, if that counts.

What’s your writing process/writing environment like?
I’m pretty fierce about my daily word quotas, which are really the only way I can write as much as I do.  (I wrote five books last year and will write at least four this year.) I usually write 2,000 words a day–although at a certain point last fall I had to write 3000 a day to hit a particular deadline, and I found that dizzyingly difficult.  The internet is my greatest time-waster.  I’m starting to use Mac Freedom to turn it off for stretches here and there, because I can’t be trusted–and I will often look up to see that hours have passed and there I am reading Jezebel and hitting refresh on Twitter…  Not good.

I have written all my books (I’m on number 15!) on the same desk, which I’m a little superstitious about these days.  It’s currently located in the office I share with my husband, overlooking a pretty sweep of trees and mountains and the Hollywood sign here in Los Angeles.  It’s filled with books and pictures, and somehow, helps the words come.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten about writing?
Just do it.  Just write.  Everything else is smoke and mirrors.
Thanks, Megan, for stopping by! Best of luck on all your hard work! And don’t ever think of getting rid of that desk!

Wanna Go For a Drive?

Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is on the air at Boston’s NBC affiliate. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution. Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank’s won dozens of other journalism honors. She’s been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine working with Hunter S. Thompson.

Her first mystery, the best-selling PRIME TIME, won the Agatha for Best First Novel. It was also was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel, and a Reviewers’ Choice Award Winner. FACE TIME and the new AIR TIME are IMBA bestsellers. DRIVE TIME, February 2010 from MIRA Books, just earned a starred review from Library Journal. Hank is on the national board of Mystery Writers of America.

AIR TIME was just nominated for an AGATHA for Best Novel of 2009  http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com and my short story “On the House” was also nominated–for the AGATHA for Best Short Story of 2009!

Her website is http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com

“Sassy, fast-paced and appealing. First-class entertainment.”   **Sue Grafton

“I love this series!”

**Suzanne Brockmann

Hank Phillippi Ryan knows the television business entirely, she understands plotting and she writes beautifully. No wonder I loved Drive Time. Anyone would.”

**Robert B. Parker  author of Spenser for Hire

Hank is giving away two books to two lucky commenters. Leave a comment here by February 25 and win your choice!

DRIVE TIME

Investigative reporter Charlotte McNally is an expert at keeping things confidential, but suddenly everyone has a secret, and it turns out it may be possible to know too much. Charlie’s latest TV scoop–an expose of a dangerous recalled car scam complete with stakeouts, high-speed chases and hidden-camera footage–is ratings gold. But soon that leads her to a brand new and diabolical scheme (incredibly timely!) that could put every driver in danger.

Charlie’s personal and professional lives are on a collision course, too. Her fiancé is privy to information about threats at an elite private school that have suddenly turned deadly.

Charlie has never counted on happy endings. But now, just as she’s finally starting to believe in second chances, she realizes revenge, extortion and murder might leave her alone again. Or even dead. Emmy and Agatha award winning reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan proves that when everyone has a secret, the real mystery is knowing when to tell.

Tell us about Drive Time.

DRIVE TIME is about secrets.  TV reporter Charlie McNally’s working on a story about a dangerous  scheme that could absolutely happen…and let me just say, if you own a car, or rent a car, you’ll never look at your vehicle the same way after reading DRIVE TIME. In fact, after writing the book, I now get a bit creeped out when I go into a parking garage. That’s all I‘ll say.

Charlie’s also drawn into another frightening situation—this one at the prep school where her fiancé is an English professor. When Charlie learns a secret that might put her step-daughter-to-be in danger, and might also be an blockbuster investigative story—how does she balance her loyalty to her husband-to-be—with her need to protect the public?

So this is a tough one for Charlie. And she must make many life-changing decisions. Just when she begins to think she might be able to have it all—a terrific career and a new husband and a new life–revenge, extortion and murder may bring it all to a crashing halt.

DRIVE TIME just got a fabulous starred review from Library Journal. Just a snippet of the rave: “Placing Ryan in the same league as Lisa Scottoline…her latest book catapults the reader into the fast lane and doesn’t relent until the story careens to a stop. New readers will speed to get her earlier books, and diehard fans will hope for another installment.”

And dear Robert B. Parker’s quote is on the cover—he says “I loved DRIVE TIME!”

Growing up, did you ever think you’d be an investigative reporter?

Definitely—not. You know, I have a funny juxtaposition of desire to be in the spotlight—and sheer terror of being in the spotlight. I love my job in TV—and have to go live and unrehearsed al the time. Confession: I’m still terrified every time. I want to be perfect, and when you’re on live, you can’t possibly be. That’s one reason why I love investigative reporting—there’s more time to work, and dig, and polish, and produce, It’s like making a little movie, and I can make it as perfect as possible.

Anyway, my sisters and I used to create musical shows when we were all young, and perform for our parents in our back yard. I did acting in high school and college. I wanted to be a DJ on the radio for a long time!  But I thought I would be an English teacher, or a lawyer for the Mine Workers union, or for awhile, a political activist.

(My mother, though, says she always knew I would be a television reporter—but I think that was just her way of rationalizing that all I did as a pre-teen and teenager was read books and watch TV.)

I knew from my first Nancy Drew that I loved mysteries. Nancy was my first best friend—I was a geeky unpopular kid, and it was such a relief to go home and hang out with Nancy. She was smart, and made it be okay to be smart. She was confident and inquisitive and resourceful. I loved that.  But being a TV reporter was not in my sights. Little did I know!

2.      How did you get started in that type of journalism?

I got into TV by chance. I had worked as a radio reporter (hired because, as I informed the radio station, they didn’t have any women working at the station! Hey. It was the seventies.)  But after a few years working in Washington DC (on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide and then for Rolling Stone Magazine,) Rolling Stone closed its Washington office and I needed a new job.

I went back home to Indianapolis, and applied for a job as a TV reporter. It was 1975. I had covered politics in Washington, and the news director of the station figured he could teach me to be a TV reporter. (This was incredibly risky—I had never taken journalism and didn’t know one thing about TV. But I wasn’t afraid and I knew I could do it.)

Problem was, I should have been afraid! I quickly learned I had no idea what I was doing. I went home every night for the first two weeks, sobbing. Because I thought I would never understand it. Soon after—it hit me–oh, I get it! And I have adored it ever since. I took a chance, and found my calling.

I started as the political reporter (and was also the movie reviewer, of all things! At age 26.)  At various times I’ve been the medical reporter, a weekend anchor, and an on the road feature reporter.  When I came to Boston, I was the funny feature reporter–cat shows, sports features, poems, and anything quirky or funny. They used to call me “something out of nothing productions,” because I could find a story in anything.

But starting in 1988, I covered the presidential election, doing long elaborate think pieces. It was terrific. And then I told my news director I didn’t want to be the funny one anymore. I wanted to be the serious one. And from that day on, I’ve been the investigative reporter.

And I love it every day.

3.      When I was reading about all the things you’ve done as a reporter… like being chased by criminals, confronting corrupt politicians, etc, it’s almost like immersing myself in a nail biting novel. Have any of these experiences found their way into your books?

There’s a huge been-there-done-that element to the books—I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras, confronted corrupt politicians, chased down criminals…been in disguise, been stalked, and threatened and had many a door slammed in my face. I’ve had people confess to murder, and others, from prison, insist they were innocent.  So when that happens to Charlie, it’s fair to imagine me. Although the plots are completely from my imagination, those are real-life experiences!

4.      How did the character of Charlotte ‘Charlie’ McNally come about?

What a great question. I have NO idea. She was born when I got a weird spam in my email. It was what looked like lines from a play by Shakespeare.  I thought–why would someone send a spam like that?  And it crossed my mind–maybe it’s a secret message.

I still get goose bumps telling you about it. And I knew, after all those years of wanting to write a mystery, that was my plot. And that turned out to be the Agatha-winning PRIME TIME. But Charlie? Well, I knew I had a good story, but who would tell it? A television reporter, of course. And she just instantly popped into my head. Named, fully formed. I knew her perfectly.

The other characters were more difficult to get to know. But now, Charlie surprises me a lot! And I love when that happens.

5.      Is she anything like you? Has she ever done anything you wouldn’t do to get your story?

When my husband talks about Charlie, he calls her “you.” As in—when “you” are held at gunpoint, when you track down the bad guys, when you solve the mystery… and I have to remind him, “Sweetheart, it’s fiction. It didn’t really happen.”

But a couple of things: I’ve been a TV reporter for more than 30 years. (Yes, really.) And so it would be silly, in writing a mystery about TV, not to use my own experiences. Think about it—as a TV reporter, you can never be wrong! Never be one minute late. Never choose the wrong word or miscalculate. You can never have a bad hair day, because it’ll be seen by millions of people! It’s high-stakes and high-stress—literally, people’s lives at stake–and I really wanted to convey that in the books.

And everything that TV people do and say in the books is authentic and genuine. (Of course, Charlie can say things I can’t say, and reveal things I can’t reveal.) We’re both devoted journalists, and over-focused on our jobs.

But Charlotte McNally is different, too. She’s single—I’m happily married. She’s ten years younger than I am, and so is facing different choices and dilemmas. She’s braver than I am, certainly. Funnier. And a much better driver.

6.      You’ve got four books under your belt, you’ve won an Agatha, and been compared to Lisa Scottoline. Will there come a time when you say goodbye to journalism to focus full time on your fiction?

Ain’t that the question! I still smile in delight every time I see my Agatha teapot. And when the starred review in Library Journal for DRIVE TIME compared me to Lisa Scottoline, well, I burst into tears. But I still love my job in TV. So–you could ask me that question every day, and every day I’d have a different answer. And I guess the bottom line is: who knows?

7.      Any plans to write a non Charlotte McNally novel?

Yup. Absolutely. It’s in the works. You heard it here first.

8.      Any other genre you want to tackle?

Yup.  :-)  It’s in the works. You heard it here first.

9.      Your husband’s a criminal defense attorney. Does he read your work or give you any tips or even ideas for plots?

He’s the most patient man on the planet. Yes, he’s really the only person who reads my pages while they’re in process. When I first started writing PRIME TIME, I’d give hi my five pages or so a day, and I’d hear him laughing and I was so delighted!  And he would tell me every day how terrific it was. Then, about fifty pages in, I went in for my daily pat on the back. And he had a funny look on his face.  “Honey?” he asked. “Is something going to happen soon?”  So I knew I had some work to do.

Ideas for plots? Ah, no, not really. I’m always running ideas by him, to see if he thinks they’re plausible and believable.  And sometimes he’ll come up with just the perfect little thing I need to pull something together. But we think very differently. He’s much more–wedded to reality.

11.   You’ve won accolades from some of the top writers in the business including some of my favorite authors like Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton. Any tips you can offer for writing top notch mysteries and creating a great character like Charlie?

Well, thank you! Yes, it’s great, and Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton are my idols. (They’re also wonderfully generous, and truly authentic. I have three little talismans on my desk that Sue Grafton gave me, and I look at them every day.)

Tips? Well, I read an interview with the poet Anne Sexton some time ago–and she was asked, “What, truly, can a creative writing teacher give her students?” And her answer was:” Courage.”  I think that’s so wonderful. And I think my advice would be similar–just don’t be afraid. Fear is a waste of time. Write your book. One page at a time. You can do it.

12.   Any mistakes you’ve made along the way, have you learned anything from them?

Hah. That’s another long blog for another day. Mistakes? Ah, on a huge level, people always yell at me for working all the time. ALL the time. Is that a mistake? None of this would have happened without that. Would I change it? I have to say no. So is that a mistake? I’m not sure.  On a tiny level, I should have put together a mailing list of bookstores. Still haven’t done that. Wish I had.

13.   What’s next for you?

Exactly what I’m trying to figure out. DRIVE TIME came out February 1, with fantastic blurbs from the much-missed and iconic Robert B. Parker and Suzanne Brockmann and Margaret Maron and Carla Neggers and a rave starred review from Library Journal. So I’m hoping people love it. (And I’ll be visiting lots of places across the US–hope some of our readers come visit!) And then…we’ll see. I can’t tell you how excited I am.

Thanks so much, Hank, for parking it here for a few minutes.

Check out Hank’s other books:

The Secret of Joy

Introducing THE SECRET OF JOY (Simon & Schuster trade paperback) by Melissa Senate, the “warm, winning” new novel from the bestselling author of See Jane Date and Love You To Death.

COVER.SecretofJoy

What would you do if you discovered you had a half-sister you never knew existed?

28-year-old New Yorker Rebecca Strand is shocked when her dying father confesses a devastating secret: he had affair when Rebecca was a toddler—and a baby he turned his back on at birth. Now, his wish is that the daughter he abandoned, Joy Joyhawk, read the unsent letters he wrote to her every year on her birthday. Determined to fulfill her father’s wish, Rebecca drives to a small town in Maine—against the advice of her lawyer boyfriend who’s sure Joy will be a “disappointing, trashy opportunist” and demand half her father’s fortune. But when hopeful Rebecca knocks on her half-sister’s door, Joy—a separated mother who conducts weekend singles tours out of her orange mini-bus—wants nothing to do with Rebecca or the letters her father wrote to her. Determined to forge some kind of relationship with Joy, Rebecca sticks around, finding unexpected support from Joy’s best clients—the Divorced Ladies Club of Wiscasset—and a sexy carpenter named Theo . . . .

The Secret of Joy is a Simon & Schuster Book Club Pick! For more information, check out the Reading Group Guide:

http://books.simonandschuster.com/Secret-of-Joy/Melissa-Senate/9781439107171/reading_group_guide

Praise:

“The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate opened my heart, made me laugh, cry, and smile all at the same time. A don’t-miss read!” –New York Times bestselling author  Carly Phillips

“The Secret of Joy is a warm hug of a book. Insightful, wise, and romantic, it’s as inviting as the small-town life it depicts.”  –Claire LaZebnik

“A wonderfully heartfelt story about hope, possibilities and the yearning for real connections. Senate’s latest will take you on a much needed vacation, while sneaking vital life lessons in when you’re not looking.”  –Caprice Crane

new.photo.Melissa.SenateAuthor’s Bio:

Melissa Senate lives on the coast of Maine with her son and their menagerie of pets. She’s the author of eight novels (seven women’s fiction and one young adult) with two on the way. Visit her website (http://www.melissasenate.com) for more information and she’d love if you became her friend Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/MelissaSenate) and followed her on Twitter (http://twitter.com/melissasenate).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa, thanks so much for stopping by on your blog tour. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind The Secret of Joy?

     

    Several years ago, I received an email out of the blue that said: I think you might be my half-sister. I was. Am. It took me a long time to decide to take that little (huge) nugget and write a novel to help me figure out the answer to some burning questions, such as: if you haven’t seen or heard from your biological father, or any member of his family, since you were little (or, in Joy’s case, never at all), is his child from another relationship really your sibling? Or just a stranger? Does the word father or sister or brother mean anything without back up? I had a ton of questions and set out to uncover how I felt through a fictional character, but it’s interesting to me that I flipped everything on its head in the writing of the story. Nothing but the basic questions that are proposed in the novel are autobiographical. Just the questions! And I surprised myself quite a few times during the writing of this story with how I felt about certain things. Amazing how writing fiction can teach you so much about yourself.

    Who do you picture in your mind when you write?:

      Sometimes I picture a lone woman reading my book on a bus or on her sofa or in a coffee shop, and I imagine what she’s responding to, relating to, thinking about as she reads. Would this scene make her smile? Would she relate? But most of the time, I picture my characters’ faces with their personalities etched into their features. I rarely base my characters physically on celebs (except for my first book—Jane from See Jane Date looked just like Ann Marie from “That Girl” (a young Marlo Thomas). She did not look like Charisma Carpenter, who perfectly played her in the TV movie, but now when I think of Jane, I think of Charisma only. Which makes me think of hot David Boreanaz, which is a good thing.

      What was the inspiration for your hero?  An actor, a picture you saw, some random guy in the coffee shop?:

        I have long been drawn to guys with dark eyes and dark hair, starting with my very first serious crush in 7th grade. But Theo, Rebecca’s love interest, has sandy-blond hair and pale brown eyes because that’s just the way he came out of the keyboard—he sort of created himself. I never base the guys on anyone. They’re always inspired by the guy I wish I were dating. (Yes, I’m single!) Right now, as a single mother, I’d love a guy who, like hot, wise Theo, works with his hands and made things, like porch swings and tree houses for my son. A guy who’s smart and honest and romantic and always seems to say the right thing at the right time. Oh and hot, too.

        Writing a letter can be daunting. How do you even begin the process of writing a novel? Does it start with a title? A character? A plot? All or none of the above?

          An idea flits into my heart, mind and soul (if I may be so dramatic!) and I just know. The idea, just a wispy thing, grips me and I think about it until the two major characters—my protagonist and the person or thing who “forces” her change—become clear. Then I write out a one page treatment, a bare bones synopsis, then think about that, then revise the storyline into a “pitch” I can share with my agent. If she green-lights it, I’ll then let myself dream it into a full blown synopsis, which is what I usually sell a novel on.  The synopsis, in its major plot points, rarely changes, but how the characters get from page one to page 325 is another story.

          What’s one piece of writing advice you’ve found valuable on your journey to publication?

            Trust yourself. Your gut knows. You know.

            If your book were to be made into a movie, who could you see playing the lead role?:

              For the main character, Rebecca, I see Rachel McAdams. She has such sweetness and hope in her eyes, and such a lovely face. For half-sister Joy, Kristin Bell, with all that “Veronica Mars” intensity. For delicious Theo, Rebecca’s love interest, the very attractive Aaron Eckhart. Love his face.

              Writers are usually big readers too. How do you make time for reading and what are you reading at the moment?

                The moment my seven-year-old son closes those eyes for the night, I stretch out on my little sofa with a good book, hot chocolate (it’s getting cooold here in Maine) and my two black cats at my feet. I’m reading Elizabeth Berg’s Home Safe right now. I love how she manages to write so honestly and elegantly at the same time. She’s able to call someone a shit in the loveliest way. Next up: the seven or so books that came from Amazon, staring with Kristina Riggle’s Real Life & Liars. I love women’s fiction—all these interesting storylines and gorgeous covers.

                What’s next for you?

                  Next up is my second novel for teens, The Mosts, which will be published by Random House in June 2010. Then, my next women’s fiction novel from Simon & Schuster, The Love Goddess’s Cooking School, about five people in an Italian cooking class, will be published November 2010. I’m staring down a 1/1 deadline (the worst deadline to have!) And I’m being poked at by a new idea . . . .

                   

                  Thanks, again, Melissa, and wishing you all the best with ALL your projects.

                   

                  If you’d like to order The Secret of Joy, check out the Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Joy-Melissa-Senate/dp/1439107173/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258292510&sr=8-1

                  Love Under Cover

                  Many thanks to Jessica Brody, one of my “Girlfriends” from my GirlfriendCyber Circuit, for stopping by on her wildwind book tour for her latest book, Love Under Cover. It’s currently in development as a TV series by the executive producer of Crash!

                  About LOVE UNDER COVER:

                  Love Under Cover - FINALIn her job, she’s an expert on men…

                  In her own relationship, she doesn’t have a clue.

                  Boyfriend behaving badly? Suspect your husband of straying? Jennifer Hunter can supply the ultimate test. She runs a company which specializes in conducting fidelity inspections for those who suspect their loved ones are capable of infidelity.

                  An expert on men, Jennifer can usually tell if they’re single, married or lying… Unfortunately, her new boyfriend, Jamie, is one of the few men that she’s never been able to ‘read.’ Has she finally found the perfect man or is he too good to be true?

                  A captivating new novel from the bestselling author of The Fidelity Files.

                  Available November 10, wherever books are sold.

                  Praise:

                  “With a complicated, sympathetic protagonist, worthy stakes and a clever twist on the standard chick lit narrative, Brody will pull readers in from the first page.”

                  – Publisher’s Weekly

                  “Those who enjoyed Brody’s debut will be eager to catch up with Jennifer, but newcomers will be intrigued, too…an honest, witty portrayal of modern love.”

                  - Booklist

                  “With her usual smart, deft, and witty prose, Brody delves deep into the psychology of a woman who tests the fidelity of strangers for a living but struggles with commitment in her own life.”

                  -          Joanne Rendell, author of Crossing Washington Square and The Professors’ Wives’ Club

                  So, Jessica, what was your inspiration behind Love Under Cover?

                  As soon as I finished writing my first novel, The Fidelity Files¸ I knew that Jennifer’s journey wasn’t over yet. Although she had seemed to find her happy ending there was so much more fun stuff I had in mind for another book. Setting Jennifer up with an entire agency of fidelity inspectors was definitely the first and foremost on my mind for the next instalment.

                  Plus, I really wanted to explore what a fidelity inspector would be like in a committed relationship. After everything she’s seen—all the cheating, dishonesty, and betrayal—would she really be capable of settling down herself? So that’s what I set out to focus on in this book.

                  Which scene (or scenes) in your novel did you love writing? Why?

                  I love writing any of the scenes with Jennifer’s friends. They’re all fun in their own way. Zoë  has a terrible road rage problem and she has a habit of talking on the phone while driving so those conversations with Jen and Zoë on the phone are always really entertaining for me. I get to channel my inner turrets patient. Sophie is totally neurotic. I love going over the top with her.

                  And John is the flamboyant gay boy from West Hollywood who is always quick with his sarcasm and wit. Sometimes I don’t know where his remarks come from. I must be channelling my inner gay man because I’ll write something that he says and think, “That’s really funny. Where the hell did that come from?”

                  Since becoming a writer, what’s the most glamorous thing you’ve ever done?

                  When my first book, The Fidelity Files, came out in France last year, my French publisher actually flew me out to Paris to promote it! It was a dream come true! I speak French almost fluently so I was able to conduct all my interviews in French, which was both nerve wrecking and exciting at the same time. Paris has always held a special place in my heart. I was a French major in college and I lived in Paris my junior abroad. Plus, I spent a month in Paris in 2005 finishing the novel so it was all very magical and kismet to be back there to see it in French book stores!

                  (Judi says: I’m not even going to mention how utterly jealous in a totally good way I am over THIS little tidbit!)

                  What’s the main thing you hope people take away from your book?

                  Entertainment. That’s all I seek to do. Entertain people. The reason I started writing was because of Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding. I read that book in college whenever I would go to the gym and I remember looking down at the elliptical and thinking, “Seriously? I’ve already been exercising for thirty minutes!?” The time would FLY by. I was so inspired and awed by the fact that a book could take me away from my life like that. I knew from that day on that I wanted to be a writer so I could attempt to do the same. So if my book can help pass the time of a long flight or a boring workout then I’ve accomplished my goal. And if some of the issues about relationships and love and trust that I’ve delved into get people thinking, than that’s just icing on the cupcake.

                  What’s next for you?

                  Although I strive to live in the moment, I can’t help but be excited about the future! I’ve got three young adult books scheduled to come out in the next three years from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. The first, THE KARMA CLUB, releases on April 27 and I simply can’t wait! It’s about three teen girls who are tired of waiting for Karma to get off its butt and do its job, so they decide to give Karma a helping hand by getting revenge on their evil ex-boyfriends. But they soon discover that when you mess with Karma, Karma messes back. It’s a story I wanted to tell for years and I’m so glad it’s finally going to be put out to the world. The teen voice feels very natural to me (not sure what that says about my inherent maturity level, but whatever!) and the YA novels are such a blast to write. I think the teenage years resonate with everyone in some way. For me, my teen years were very painful so it’s somewhat therapeutic to be able to “go back” and relive them with all the knowledge and wisdom that I have now!

                  What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?

                  I’m a total techno junkie. I love technology and gadgets. Ipods, digital cameras, computers, Tivos, Sling Boxes…those are my weaknesses. My toys. I would die without my blackberry and my Kindle. Unlike most women, I hate shopping for clothes and shoes. To me it feels like a huge waste of time. In a perfect world, I would just wear my sweat pants and Ugg knock-offs all day, every day (okay, maybe I already do that), but set me loose in a Fry’s Electronics or a Best Buy and you probably won’t see me for a week.

                  (Judi notes: I’m soooo with you on the Hating shopping thing. And the gadget thing, although, sadly, I can’t indulge that passion yet.)

                  To see an excerpt of Love Under Cover, check out Jessica’s website: www.jessicabrody.com/loveundercover_excerpt.html

                  Jessica Brody - Author PhotoAbout the Author:

                  Jessica Brody graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts with degrees in economics and French. In 2005, she left her job at MGM Studios in Los Angeles to become a full-time freelance writer and producer. Jessica currently lives in Los Angeles, where she is working on her next novel. Visit Jessica’s website at: www.JessicaBrody.com

                  And for her booktrailer:

                  According to Jane… and Marilyn

                  In Marilyn Brant’s smart, wildly inventive debut, one woman in search of herself receives advice from the ultimate expert in matters of the heart. . .

                  It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Elliaccordingtojane[1]e Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet “tsk” of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.

                  Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go–sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.

                  Still, everyone has something to learn about love–perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending. . .

                  Praise for ACCORDING TO JANE:

                  “A warm, witty and charmingly original story.” –Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author

                  “An engaging read for all who have been through the long, dark, dating wars, and still believe there’s sunshine, and a Mr. Darcy, at the end of the tunnel.” –Cathy Lamb, author of Henry’s Sisters

                  “This is a must-read for Austen lovers as well as for all who believe in the possibility of a happily-ever-after ending.” –Holly Chamberlin, author of One Week In December

                  An October “Fresh Pick” from Fresh Fiction!!

                  “Jane Austen fans will revel in this modern day unique twist on a classic, as well as learning interesting facts about Jane herself. There is just enough mystery of ‘why’ to keep you guessing, and the ending is thoroughly satisfying. This was a truly, irrevocably inspiring novel.”~Kelly Moran, Bookpleasures (5 stars)

                  “Just when you think Jane Austen could not appear in anything new, a refreshing reincarnation occurs as Marilyn Brant provides an engaging modern day take on the writer. Ellie is a terrific lead character as she adapts to the voice in her head while Sam is her nemesis…readers will thoroughly enjoy this fun contemporary romance that also provides insight into Jane Austen and her characters.”~Harriet Klausner (4 stars)

                  “According To Jane is a delight from beginning to end…a definite keeper that I can see myself returning to time and again, just for the happy pick me up feeling it gives me. I’m eagerly looking forward to Ms. Brant’s next book.”~Manic Readers (4.5 stars)

                  “All I can say is, again without any spoilers is that Marilyn Brant you have a new super fan and I am singing your praises…5 STARS–LOVED IT! COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN.”~Book Junkie (5 stars)

                  “According to Jane is an intriguing, appealing story full of warmth and wit…a fast read, perfect for the busy woman and the author has a definite gift for keeping you turning those pages. This is a book you don’t want to miss if you’re a fan of Austen, romance, coming of age, women’s fiction, or if you’re just looking for a highly entertaining story from an author with superb style and fresh voice.”~Working Girl Reviews (5 shoes/best book)

                   Marilyn Brant is the award-winning women’s fiction author of ACCORDING TO JANE, the story of a modern woman who receives

                  MarilynBrant[1]

                  dating advice from the spirit of Jane Austen (October 2009), and her second forthcoming novel about three suburban moms who shake up their lives and their marriages (October 2010), both from Kensington Books.

                  As a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer for Romantic Times, Marilyn has spent much of her life lost in literature. She received her M.A. in educational psychology from Loyola University Chicago, dabbled in both fiction and art at Northwestern University, studied the works of Austen at Oxford University and is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her debut novel won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart Award® in 2007.

                  Marilyn lives in the northern Chicago suburbs with her family, but she also hangs out online at her blog “Brant Flakes.” When she isn’t rereading Jane’s books or enjoying the latest releases by her writer friends, she’s working on her next novel, eating chocolate indiscriminately and hiding from the laundry.

                  Her website: http://www.marilynbrant.com

                  Hi Marilyn and welcome to my Journey! Can you tell us about your latest release and the inspiration behind it?

                  Hi Judi! Thanks for having me! My debut novel, According to Jane, is the story of a modern woman who–for almost two decades–has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice. I first read Pride & Prejudice as a high-school freshman. Like my heroine Ellie, I raced through the novel way ahead of the reading assignments. I loved both the story and Austen’s writing style immediately. Her books changed the way I perceived the behavior of everyone around me, and I spent the rest of freshman year trying to figure out which Austen character each of my friends and family members most resembled! Also like Ellie, I had a few (okay, a lot) of less-than-wonderful boyfriends, and I would have loved to have been given romantic advice from the author I most respected and the one who’d written one of my all-time favorite love stories.

                  *Any great fan/fan mail stories you care to share?

                  The book was just released on September 29th, so first impressions are still coming in, but I’ve gotten some truly wonderful emails from people who read the ARCs this summer. One of my favorites is from a woman who won a copy of the book in a contest and emailed me to say that she’d finished the book in a day and was on an emotional high from reading it. She added, “Sometimes I go through phase where I’m so blase about reading fiction and focus mainly on non-fiction (my usual staple), but once in a blue moon, a book grips me and makes me fall in love with fiction again. Thank you. A very grateful reader.” I will always, always love that message!

                  *Which scene in your novel did you love writing and why?

                  One scene I had a lot of fun with was the bar scene in the first chapter where my main character runs into her ex-high-school boyfriend for the first time in four years. It was a situation I had never experienced personally, but I could imagine the comical possibilities so clearly and feel and the frustration of my heroine as if I’d been the one standing there, facing the jerk and his latest girlfriend, while Jane Austen ranted about how “insufferable” he was.

                  *What were some of your favorite books as a kid?

                  In junior high and early high school, I loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Love Story by Erich Segal, Illusions by Richard Bach and, of course, everything by Austen. When I was an elementary schooler, I also loved Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key and all the Nancy Drew mysteries.

                  *Which ‘craft’ book has inspired or helped you the most throughout your writing career?

                  I’m a BIG fan of craft books, so I have more than one! I used Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT! almost religiously in the plotting of my past several books. I’m still very sad that he’s no longer with us. As far as a great reference guide, Robert McKee’s STORY is incredible. It has more information about writing craft than I can ever internalize. Also, whenever I need a more emotional pick-me-up, I grab the Ralph Keyes book THE COURAGE TO WRITE. I recommend it to everyone.

                  *If you could ask one author (in all of history) for one piece of advice, who would you ask and what you would want to know from them?

                  Oooh, getting to be like my main character here! If I could have asked Jane Austen for advice before I was married, it would have definitely revolved around which type of man was the right one for me. (She would intuitively know the answer, I’m sure.) However, even without Jane’s help, I was fortunate to find “my Darcy.”   Now, I would ask her for her thoughts on the crafting of a perfect novel. What were the qualities she felt a great piece of fiction should possess? What was she consciously trying to achieve with her novels?

                  *Do you have a sample chapter posted?

                  Yes! On my website I have a segment of Chapter One available for anyone interested in reading. It’s here: http://www.marilynbrant.com/extras.html Also, if you go to the Amazon page for According to Jane (here: http://www.amazon.com/According-Jane-Marilyn-Brant/dp/0758234619/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238387155&sr=1-1), there’s a “Search Inside This Book” feature, and people can read samples from scenes throughout the novel.

                  *What is your author fantasy?

                  I’m secretly, unrelentingly ambitious, even when I have no right to be. Of course I want to hit the NYT bestseller list and get a movie deal. Also, I’d like an Oprah invitation and a few RITAs. However, these are not quite enough to satisfy every daydream I’ve ever had. I’d greatly enjoy winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, a Tony and an Olympic gold medal (in both ice skating and gymnastics). The fact that I’m pathetic on skates and terrified of the uneven bars is, in no way, a deterrent from these unrealistic fantasies. My simple ability to *imagine* them, makes them almost real. Furthermore, I like shiny things (although I don’t like to dust them), so I hereby promise that if I win ANY heavy golden statuettes–ever–I will dust faithfully. Especially that Grammy award. Really.

                  *What’s next for you?

                  I get to visit a number of book clubs that chose my debut novel, According to Jane, as their monthly book pick–wildly fun!–while also starting the production/promotion process all over again for my next women’s fiction project. That second book is done, but we’re still working on finding the right title. It’s a modern fairytale about three suburban moms who shake up their marriages and their lives when one woman asks her friends a somewhat shocking question… That comes out in October 2010. 

                  *What’s one piece of writing advice you’ve found valuable on your journey to publication?

                  Don’t follow trends just because you think it’ll be an easier sell. And write the books that fit your voice. If what you love writing happens to be a hot-selling genre, great. If your writing voice happens to be perfect for the genre you want to write in and love to read, that’s awesome, too. But–if not–write long and hard enough to find what DOES fit you and your style best. Because then, even if it takes longer to make that first sale than you expect, you’re writing the kinds of stories you most enjoy, and that passion has a way of working itself into the projects you’re creating.

                  *Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?

                  I was asked for input on the cover by my editor, and I sent Kensington pages of possible scene ideas, plus a plot summary and descriptions of the main characters. In the end, I have no idea whether or not my notes were helpful, but the cover didn’t look anything like I’d imagined it–it looked far, far better! I couldn’t be more pleased with the way our cover designer, Kristine Mills-Noble, envisioned the look of the book. I’m really excited to see what she’ll come up with for my second novel.

                  *What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?

                  This has absolutely nothing to do with writing (which is, perhaps, why it’ll be surprising), but I was a member of a touring dance group in college and spent six weeks dancing through Europe the summer I was 19. We performed at festivals in France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy, and I met some absolutely fascinating people. That experience solidified both my love of travel and my lifelong adoration of the jitterbug. It also greatly aided in my appreciation of European men…

                  *Where do you write? Describe your writing space – is it a cluttered mess or minimalist heaven?!

                  I write in my home office–a messy, absolutely cluttered place–I won’t deny it! There are stacks of paper and towers of books everywhere, but also a very nice window overlooking our backyard. Sometimes I’ll write at a local coffee shop (either with my laptop or, most often, just with pen and notebook paper), and that location has the advantage of endless cups of coffee and occasional snacks.

                  *What are you reading at the moment?

                  Some entertaining Austen-inspired fiction, like Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life, and the amazing Shaffer/Barrows novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

                  *Are you a member of a writer’s group? If so, how has it helped your writing?

                  I’m a member of Chicago-North RWA, and it’s an incredibly strong critique chapter. Every month, three members have the opportunity to have up to 20 pages of their work critiqued by those attending the meetings (usually between 25-30 published/aspiring authors). The feedback is excellent, and it really helped me when I was a newbie to hear what more experienced writers were saying about some of my earlier work. Not only what confused them or what they thought was structurally unsound, but also what they felt were some of my writing strengths. That’s priceless insight when you’re just starting out. I can contrast this experience with semester-long university-level fiction workshops, which I personally didn’t find to be nearly as constructive. In my opinion, if a new writer ever finds herself surrounded by people whose main objective is to show off how clever they are or to alter a piece of writing in a way that messes with her author voice, she should sprint, not merely run, to the nearest exit. It worth hunting for a group that will help you build upon your writing talents while, at the same time, assisting you in strengthening your weaknesses.

                  *Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale (including the title and publisher)?

                  Aside from being on the newspaper and yearbook staff in high school and publishing some academic work in college, I didn’t take writing seriously until I was about 30. I was a stay-at-home mom with a baby and desperately in need of a creative outlet, so I began writing poems, essays on being a parent and educational articles for family magazines. I wrote my first book having never taken a creative-writing class or even having read a book on the craft of fiction. (The lack of craft is very evident when I reread chapters from that first book, btw! I don’t recommend this level of ignorance…)  I got some feedback though–mostly negative–from a prominent literary agency, which led me to study fiction formally, delve into craft books and, eventually, go to my first writing conference. It was there that I heard about RWA. I joined, wrote three more unpublished manuscripts and, then, came up with the idea for According to Jane. My agent signed me on this book and submitted it to editors, but it needed to be significantly restructured before it sold. Nine months after it won the Golden Heart and was revised (again), it finally did sell–to John Scognamiglio at Kensington–on a sunny and surrealistic day in April 2008.

                  Thanks so much for stopping by, Marilyn, and I wish you much success!

                  Book information:

                  Title: According to Jane
                  Author: Marilyn Brant
                  Publisher: Kensington Books (trade paperback)
                  Price: $14.00 U.S./$16.95 Canada
                  Release Date: October 1, 2009 (on-shelf date: Sept. 29, 2009)
                  ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-3461-2
                  Pages: 288
                  Links to my page on Kensington: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/catalog.cfm?dest=itempg&itemid=14890&secid=258&linkon=section&linkid=258
                  And to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/According-Jane-Marilyn-Brant/dp/0758234619/ref=ed_oe_p

                  An Author Getting Some “Air Time”

                  HPRairtime72med

                  Some would say, It’s Prime Time for Air Time! Here’s what else is being said:

                  “Sassy, fast-paced and appealing. First-class entertainment.” Sue Grafton

                  “I love this series!” Suzanne Brockmann

                  “AIR TIME is a fun, fast read with a heroine who’s sexy, stylish, and smart. I loved it.” Nancy Pickard

                  Smart and savvy Boston TV reporter Charlotte McNally is back. In AIR TIME she’s taking on the fashion industry, where she learns “When purses are fake – the danger is real.” AIR TIME is the third of the back-to-back-to back Charlie mysteries—the first PRIME TIME (also in bookstores now) won the Agatha Award for best first novel. FACE TIME (also in bookstores now) is a BookSense notable book.
                  HPR-stoolvertCROPPED2MUG-300lg
                  Let’s hear from Hank in her own words:

                  1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book?

                  Imagine the research I had to do into the world of designer purses! It was tough, but someone had to dive in…

                  Actually, Charlie’s investigation into the world of counterfeit couture came straight from been there-done that. In my day job as a TV reporter, my producer (not Franklin!) and I have done several in-depth investigations into the world of knock-offs—not only purses and scarves, but blue jeans and watches and DVDs and videos.

                  We went undercover and with a hidden camera—like Charlie does—into various back-alley stores where counterfeit merchandise was being sold, and also into some suburban purse parties where women—certainly knowing they were fake and thinking it was fine—were scooping up piles of counterfeit Burberrys and Chanels.

                  You should know— law enforcement tells us, it’s not illegal to buy the purses—unless you’re buying large amounts that are obviously for resale. The illegality is in the copying and manufacture and sale of what’s clearly a trademarked and proprietary item. (As the elegant fashion exec Zuzu Mazny-Latos tells Charlie in AIR TIME—it’s like taking Gone with the Wind—and putting your name on the cover.)

                  Anyway—lots of AIR TIME is based on research and reality—besides the undercover work, and the research, I’ve done many interviews with the federal agencies in charge of battling counterfeiting, the attorneys who help big companies protest their products, and even the private investigators the designers hire to scout out counterfeits.

                  2.)Are you more driven by plot or by character?

                  Ah, it’s both. I start with one little germ of a plot twist–and then figure out how Charlie is going to figure it out! So I know what I know–and she knows what she knows. And then she has to solve the mystery–based on what I let her know.

                  3.) Who’s your favorite character in this book and why?

                  Oh, I can’t possibly answer that. Charlie McNally is dear to my heart of course. When my husband talks about Charlie, he calls her “you.” As in: when “you” get chased by the bad guys, or when “you” get held at gunpoint. And I have to remind him, “Sweetheart, it’s fiction.” But Charlie can say things I can’t say about the reality of television, and because she’s fictional, she can go places I can’t go. And say things I can’t say!

                  And the very sweet 8-year-old Penny, I must say, touches me every time I write about her And I get so many letters from readers, concerned about her, and asking about her, and who I based her on. But really? She’s right out of my imagination. (She’s the character who sometimes makes readers cry…along with Charlie’s mother. I guess family relationships are sometimes—universal.)

                  And in AIR TIME there’s a new character, a gorgeous FBI agent named Keresey Stone. She’s amazing. And unpredictable. But I wonder what you’ll think about her?

                  3.) What’s your writing process/writing environment like?

                  I’ve been a television reporter since 19, um, 75. I’m still on the air at Boston’s NBC affiliate, and still at work as an investigative reporter. (And I’m always hoping my best story ever is just around the corner.) So I come to work at Channel 7 every morning—tracking down clues, doing research, hoping for justice and looking for a great story that will change people’s lives. (Hmm..sounds a lot like mystery writing!)

                  Then at night we go back home—and when I’m in writing mode, I write til about ten pm, in a wonderful study that’s lined with bookshelves. I admit—I have a cluttered desk, and no real filing system, except for “piles.” But I know where everything is. I like it to be quiet.. At the TV station, it’s chaotic and loud, with three TV’s blasting all the time—and I can work fine there! But at home, with the books—quiet.

                  Because my schedule is so tight, I keep track of my words. If I know I have to write 90,000 words by the deadline, I literally divide that number by the number of days I have—and then set that as a goal. If I can do that, I’m thrilled.

                  I push my way through a first draft. I say to myself—just get the story down. Just do it. And you can fix it later.

                  Then I cook dinner, and my husband and I have a very late dinner together! You can imagine how patient he is!

                  I used to be a pretty good cook, and diligent about exercise. My husband and I gave dinner parties and went to movies and went on vacation. Sigh. That’s all pretty much over. I have a full time job as reporter, a full time job as a mystery author, and a full time job as a wife (with two step-children and two step-grandchildren!) That doesn’t leave much time for much else.

                  4.) What’s your favorite part of writing?

                  Revision, no question. I love that. You have this whole first draft, and you get to go back and see what you really have. I often have wonderful revelations when I read over the first draft—there are themes and rhythms and even clues that I didn’t realize were there! It’s always so rewarding.

                  And after 30 years in TV, I know how valuable editing is—so I look at it as a real treat. To get to polish, and tweak, and rearrange, and make it all shine—oh, it’s great fun.

                  The other favorite part—when readers love the books. I can’t tell you how often I’m out on a story, for instance, and a stranger will come up to me , and pull the book out of a purse or briefcase, and ask me to sign it. I can barely resist bursting into tears. It somehow completes the writing, you know? when someone reads it.

                  5.) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten about writing?

                  There’s a plaque on my bulletin board with the question: “What would you attempt to do if you know you could not fail?” That gives me a lot of courage.

                  Hank’s giving away five ARC’s of PRIME TIME to readers…to enter the drawing contact her through her website and put ‘PRIME TIME ARC’ in the subject line!

                  Other books by Hank:

                  HPRfacetime72med   HPRprimetime72med

                  Crossing Washington Square – A Novel

                  crossing wash sq.indd

                   

                  Across Washington Square live two very different women …with their very different love of books.

                  Some women follow their hearts; others follow their minds. In this “charming, witty, and cerebral” second novel from the acclaimed author of The Professors’ Wives’ Club, we return to Manhattan University, where two strong-willed women are compelled to unite their senses and sensibilities.

                  Professor Diana Monroe is a highly respected scholar of Sylvia Plath. Serious and aloof, she steadfastly keeps her mind on track. Professor Rachel Grey is young and impulsive, with a penchant for teaching popular women’s fiction like Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Devil Wears Prada, and for wearing her heart on her sleeve.

                  The two conflicting personalities meet head to heart when Carson McEvoy, a handsome and brilliant professor visiting from Harvard, sets his eyes on both women and creates even more tension between them. Now Diana and Rachel are slated to accompany an undergraduate trip to London, where an almost life-threatening experience with a student celebrity will force them to change their minds and heal their hearts…together.

                   Advance Praise for CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE

                   “As readers spend time with these bright and engaging women, Rendell offers an interesting debate about the merits of studying popular fiction in an academic setting.” The Romantic Times

                   “Rendell’s second novel is thoughtful and open, with plenty of interesting academic debate for truly bookish readers.” Booklist 

                   “For every reader who has ever wondered why nineteenth century novels about women are called ‘the canon’, but contemporary novels about women are called ‘chick-lit’ comes a charming, witty and cerebral novel about Rachel Grey, an Austen-worth heroine fighting for love and respect in the academic shark tank.” Nicola Kraus, New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Nanny Diaries

                   “Joanne Rendell has done it again! Crossing Washington Square is a book that will stay with you long after you turn that final page. Curl up on a park bench somewhere, watch the leaves fall, and spend some much beloved time with Rachel and Diana.” Jessica Brody, bestselling author of The Fidelity Files and Love Under Cover

                   “Joanne Rendell admirably reveals the hypocrisy of an academic culture that claims to want to understand people and the world they live in, but refuses to take seriously the forms of culture that matter to them.” Professor Lawrence Grossberg, Morris Davis Distinguished Professor of Communication Studies and Cultural Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

                   Praise for THE PROFESSORS’ WIVES’ CLUB 

                   “Alternately amusing and serious, with a little literary mystery thrown in for good measure, Rendell’s smart and pleasing tale of friendship and self-actualization has broad appeal.” Booklist 

                   “[A] fun read about a wonderful group of friends.” Kate Jacobs, NYT’s bestselling author of The Friday Night Knitting Club

                   “charming…a delight.” Christina Baker Kline, author of The Way Life Should Be

                   

                  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

                  DSC_0091_edited-1small

                   

                   

                  Joanne Rendell was born and raised in the UK. After completing her PhD in English Literature, she moved to the States to be with her husband, a professor at NYU. She now lives in faculty housing in New York City with her family. Visit Joanne’s website at www.joannerendell.com.

                   

                   

                  Links:

                  Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Crossing-Washington-Square-Joanne-Rendell/dp/0451227840/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239050663&sr=1-3

                  Borders http://www.borders.com/online/store/TitleDetail?sku=0451227840

                  B&N http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Crossing-Washington-Square/Joanne-Rendell/e/9780451227843/?itm=3

                  Powells http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9780451227843-0

                  Penguin http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780451227843,00.html?Crossing_Washington_Square_Joanne_Rendell

                   

                   Hi Joanne and thanks so much for stopping by. A few questions for you:

                  1. Any fan/fan mail stories you care to share?

                  Thanks for having me, Judi! My first novel was The Professors’ Wives Club. A couple of months after its release, a woman contacted me and said she’d read and enjoyed the book. She told me she was a professor’s wife and after a few emails, she revealed that she was the wife of a very distinguished professor of cultural studies whose work I’d read, who I’d seen giving keynotes talks at conferences, and whose work greatly influenced the writing of Crossing Washington Square. Not really a “rock star” moment, but still exciting to know the wives of influential professors (professors I really dig!) read my book.

                   2. I find it easiest to write when I’m completely secluded from everything, be it at Borders with my earphones in, or in my office, also with my earphones in. Where do you write? 

                  I write at my desk at the front of our apartment. We live on a very busy street in Manhattan so my writing is lulled by taxis honking, firetrucks hooting, and jackhammers pounding. With all this practice, I could probably keep writing through a asteroid shower!

                  3. What was your inspiration behind your latest novel?

                  The idea for Crossing Washington Square evolved over a few years. As someone who has lived the academic life (I have a PhD in literature and now I’m married to a professor at NYU), I’ve always loved books about the university – novels like Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, Richard Russo’s The Straight Man, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and Francine Prose’s Blue Angel. But what I noticed about such campus fiction was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Even the female authors like Francine Prose and Zadie Smith’s novels focus on male professors. Furthermore, most of these male professors are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students! I wanted to write a novel with women professors taking the lead and I wanted these women to be strong and smart and interesting  instead of drunk, despondent, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons!

                  4. What line or section of your novel are you most proud of?

                  Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds. Rachel is young, emotional, and impulsive. She wrote a book about women’s book groups which got her a slot on Oprah and she uses chick lit in her classes. Diana is aloof, icy, and controlled. She’s also a scholar of Sylvia Plath who thinks “beach” fiction is an easy ride for students. My favorite scene is where these two women face-off in a department meeting. Neither of the professors is a shrinking violet and thus sparks really fly! The scene was such fun to write.

                  5. If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of your book, who gets the call?

                  Crossing Washington Square loosely echoes Austen’s Sense and Sensibilty with one professor being led by her sense, the other by her sensibility. I love the Ang Lee adaptation of Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet playing the two very different Dashwood sisters. I’d love Emma and Kate to play my professors too!

                  6. Is writing your main job?  If not, what do you do for your real source of income and how does it impact your writing?

                  When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my six year old son who is homeschooled. Although, “homeschool” is somewhat of a misnomer as we spend a relatively small amount of time schooling at “home.” We live in New York so are lucky enough to have an amazing array of fun and educational places on our doorstep. Benny and I, together with his homeschooled friends, are always out on trips to the Met, the Natural History Museum, aquariums, zoos, galleries, libraries, and parks. When we’re not out and about, Benny and I love to read either together or separately. I’m so thankful he loves books like I do!

                  7. What is one of the nicest compliments that you have ever received about your book(s)?

                  One of the nicest compliments I’ve gotten for Crossing Washington Square (so far – I hope there are more to come!) was from Lawrence Grossberg who is a distinguished professor at The University of North Carolina. He is a very big deal in the world of academia and I was so excited that he not only read it, but also said the book “admirably reveals the hypocrisy of an academic culture that claims to want to understand people and the world they live in, but refuses to take seriously the forms of culture that matter to them.” The book is not just for “high fallutin’ ” professors, of course! But it was exciting for me that a distinguished professor liked it.

                  8. What’s next for you?  

                  I’m working on final edits for my third novel (which was bought by Penguin last fall). The novel tells the story of a woman who thinks she might be related to the nineteenth century writer, Mary Shelley. On her journey to seek the truth and to discover if there really is a link between her own family and the creator of Frankenstein, Clara unearths surprising facts about people much closer to home – including some shocking secrets about the ambitious scientist she is engaged to. The book is told in alternating points of view between Clara and the young Mary Shelley who is preparing to write Frankenstein.

                  9. New readers want to know about your book! In 2-3 sentences, can you tell us the basic premise?

                  Crossing Washington Square is a story of two very different women and their very different love of books. Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds and when a brilliant and handsome professor from Harvard comes to town and sets his sights on both women, sparks really fly!

                  10. Who’s your favorite character and why?

                   That’s a tough one! My knee jerk response is to say Professor Rachel Grey because, out of the two female leads, I identify most with her. Rachel teaches chick lit in her classes and has to defend her work and the genre to her stuffy colleagues who think only the classics and literary fiction should be studied. As a grad student, I would be reading classical literature and poetry by day, but then secretly read popular women’s fiction at night (Bridget Jones’ Diary, I have to say, is one of my all time favorite books!).  Rachel is also flawed and emotional, yet good and honest and brave. I like that about her.

                  Every time I revisit the book, however, I like Professor Diana Monroe more too. She’s super smart and has great poise and grace as a teacher. She’s the kind of uber-professor that every academic secretly wants to be. She’s also pretty darn scary in her austerity and brilliance. But she has a vulnerability too and her life started out pretty tough and therefore, every time I revisit the book, I like her more. 

                  11.  For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?

                  Settling down to write. Once I get going, I love it. But there’s just that hurdle of getting going which is so hard — especially these days when there are so many demands on authors to go online and promote our books. It is wonderful to meet people and connect and learn through the internet, but the web is also a huge procrastination vortex! I sometimes kid myself I’m doing promo work, but really I’m just wasting time snooping around on Facebook or reading other people’s tweets about what they ate for breakfast!

                  Ha! I can so relate to that!

                  Thanks so much for stopping by and all the best with Crossing Washington Square- and the final edits on the third book!

                  Follow

                  Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.