Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Marilyn Brant is the author of According to Jane and a member of the GCC blog group. Here is my interview with her about her new book with the Jane Austen undertones!

Which came first, the title or the novel?

Definitely the novel!
I started out by calling the book “My Best Friend Jane” before finally, about a third of the way into it, thinking of the title According to Jane.

What other art form inspires you as much as writing?

Music, hands down.
Playing and listening to music remains one of my most enjoyable and inspirational pastimes. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Music is the favorite passion of my soul,” and I agree with him.

Which comes easier for you - beginnings or endings?

Endings, also hands down. I tend to struggle with those opening 2-3 chapters--there’s so much that needs to be set up early in every book--but once the story is rolling, it’s much easier for me to continue onward. And, by the time I’m ready to wrap up a novel, I’m usually racing toward the end.

How many drafts until the final draft?

Too many!
According to Jane took more drafts than I can remember. I think I lost count somewhere after the 7th or 8th. But, that book was unusual in that it needed to be completely restructured before selling--all the same parts, but the chronology had to be scrambled! So, it took an extraordinary amount of revision. My second novel required much less. I wrote it, revised some scenes after a couple of CPs read it, tweaked a bit more after my agent read it and made the final few changes my editor requested. I greatly prefer that process.

What are you reading right now?

Some fun 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.

What's next for you?

I’m getting to promote my debut novel
According to Jane--the last leg of a very long publishing journey--while also starting the process all over again for my next women’s fiction project. The 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.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

If The Suit Fits...

After the breakdown of red Target striped bikini '09, I was stuck with a mish mash of ghosts of bathing suits past. I had brown polka dot bottoms but that top had disintigrated so I was wearing a saggy top from blue Target bikini '05. I had loaned my 1-piece to a friend and then actually recommended she keep it, since that particular bathing suit was none too flattering in the belly area on me. Finally, after a day or two of running around LA looking for suitable suits, I got online and ordered three bikinis from the Target website. As it is technically end of season, the bathing suits were beyond reasonable and I ordered three for under 60 bucks.

Yes, I know, it's risky buying bathing suits in the store, let alone online, but after perusing over 100 suits, I narrowed my choices and settled on the final three. They arrived by UPS this morning (free shipping for orders over 50!) and I ripped the bag open. Each part was individually wrapped in plastic so I dumped them out and started unwrapping. First I tried on the rainbow stripes... didn't notice the metallic tinge to this suit online, but happily it fit. Next I tried on the coral colored one - again, not having noticed the black beading in the top online - but it, too fit.
And finally, the most expensive one - at 30 dollars, the black and white striped bikini... it fit! And the person who put the package together? Well he/she threw in an extra bottom of that one!
I should probably return it, but perhaps it was just the universe looking out for me, knowing that I'm swimming at the pool three times a week and that any bathing suit I wear consistently is going to take a beating.

I've been swimming laps regularly since May and I have no intention of stopping. If I can fit into three bikinis at age fortysomething better than I could at age thirtysomething then I know the pool, despite the crowds, the splashers, the chlorine, is doing me good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Red Light, Green Light

Yesterday I had a very frustrating, yet very L.A. experience. On my way to a doctor's appointment I hit every red light in the city. I'd drive thirty seconds and boom - a red light. Another minute and - bam - a red light. Clearly, the timing was just off on my route so I negotiated off that street and headed toward a parallel street, and wouldn't you know it... a red light! This wouldn't have felt so strange if the exact same thing hadn't happened on my way back home. I was driving down Wilshire and hit every single red light. I finally made my way over to Olympic. Same thing. It took me forever to get back home - red light, red light, red light.

I am all too familiar with red lights - and I don't only mean the literal traffic lights. I have hit many in my life - projects that have stalled, relationships that have ended, a house hunt during the rising housing market, flashing red lights greeting me at every outbid offer. But the beauty of the red light is that it's going to turn green, eventually. Lately I've been seeing glimpses of that green - the recent completion of my new novel, a foreign sale of "Swimming Upstream, Slowly," some potential possibilities in the animated television world, and a teaching gig in 2010 at Esalen.

Some days are just like that, red, red, red.

And other days are full of green.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Air Time

Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is currently on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate, where she's broken big stories for the past 22 years. Her stories have resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for consumers.

“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

Q: Charlotte (Charlie) McNally is an investigative TV reporter, and so are you! What qualities do you share with Charlie, and how are you different?

A: 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.

Q: Your job sounds very demanding. How (and when) do you find the time to write? Do you ever take a vacation, and, if so, what do you do with your time off?

Short answer—no. I don’t take vacations anymore. We used to! We love Nevis, a tiny island n the Caribbean with empty white beaches and nothing to do. We love to go to western Massachusetts, to Tanglewood, to go to plays and the symphony and museums. We love to go to Cape Cod, to Truro, to sit on the beach with pals and read, then go out to wonderful dinners. All in the past. Now, I write. And Jonathan lounges in the back yard. Luckily, we have a lovely yard, with a pool and beautiful gardens.

Q: Tell us about your writing process. Are you a plotter, or do you wing it when writing? Do you work on one book at a time or more?

A: Such a great question. In PRIME TIME, I totally winged it. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, so I just blithely typed away. I typed The End, and then took it to be printed. It was 723 pages long! I had to cut half of it. Yikes.

It was a real editing education but also taught me I needed to be a bit more organized. And a lot tougher as a self-editor. (Now, I outline. Like crazy. My outlines are 60 pages long. I loathe writing them, but I adore it when I’m finished.)

I must say, though, that in writing PRIME TIME with no plan, I surprised even myself. I got about half-way through the book, and realized I’d chosen the wrong bad guy! I literally (as I remember it) sat up in bed, and thought—wait! The person who I thought did it—didn’t!—and it just dawned on me who the real culprit was. It as all I could do not to run downstairs to the computer and see if I was right. The next morning, as I read over my 40,000 words—I barely had to make a change.

The real killer had been lurking in my very own pages—I just hadn’t realized it! Talk about a surprise ending.

And yes, I only work on one book at a time. Well, no, not really. The next book is always forming in my head and just pushing to come out. Sometimes I have to hold it back!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Crossing Washington Square

I am so excited about Joanne Rendell's new novel! Joanne was instrumental in helping me pick books and movies for my Literature of Madness course this semester, and with her new novel's Sylvia Plath subplot, now I know why. Here is my little interview with her:

MC: Which came first, the title or the novel?

JR: Definitely the novel. The title was really, really hard and we – me, my editor, my agent, my husband, and anyone else who cared to take part in discussions - went through hundreds of suggestions. My husband actually came up with the final title and when he said it, I just knew it was perfect (and so, thankfully, did my editor). The two professors in the novel live on either side of WashingtonSquare Park in New York. They’re also very different women. Professor Rachel Grey is an enthusiastic young scholar of popular women’s fiction (think Bridget Jones’ Diary), while Professor Diana Monroe is an esteemed and rigorous Sylvia Plath scholar who thinks that popular fiction is an easy ride for students. They have big disagreements at the beginning of the novel and really don’t like each other much. But through the novel they have to learn to overcome these differences and thus, in metaphorical and literal ways, they must cross the Square to meet each other!

What other art form inspires you as much as writing?

Hollywood is a great storyteller and I’ve learnt some great plot tricks and character arcs from watching movies.

Which comes easier for you - beginnings or endings?

Endings, without a doubt. Although sometimes it is a little harder to let go of the characters you’ve lived with for so long.

How many drafts until the final draft?

Maybe 3 or 4. I always start with a pretty worked out plot, although it often changes as I go along. Then I work from chapter one and go chapter by chapter. I’m not the kind of writer who writes a scenes here and then one there. I’m very systematic, although I do love editing and happily go back into the manuscript and change things once I’m done.

What are you reading right now?

The Elegance of a Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery and also Simone de Beauvoir’s, A Very Easy Death. It’s a coincidence that they are both books by French philosophers. I’m reading both as research for a new book idea (the book isn’t about France or philosophy though!?)

What's next for you?

I’m currently 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.