Tuesday, July 22, 2008

GCC and Road Tripping

How appropriate that the book I'll be "touring" this week for you (as part of the Girlfriend Cyber Circuit) is Driving Sideways by Jess Riley and it's about a roadtrip of sorts and through the magic of "post options" on blogger, you're reading this while I'm on a roadtrip of my own as my son, his girlfriend and I drive a 17 foot U-Haul, towing her car behind us, from St. Louis to Seattle. They've each got spanking new college diplomas and dream jobs in their fields waiting for them--I have a hunch I'll garner some material for future posts (and maybe books!) along the way, but enough about me.

Back to Jess and her book, which tells the story of Leigh Fielding, a twenty-eight year-old kidney transplant recipient who—six years, hundreds of dialysis sessions, and a million bad poems after being diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease—finally feels strong enough to pursue a few lofty goals she’s been mulling for years: find herself, her kidney donor’s family, and the mother that abandoned her over twenty years ago.

And what better way to do just that than a solitary road trip across the country? Well, maybe not entirely solitary, because Leigh suspects she may have inherited more than just an organ from her deceased donor. It’s this sneaking suspicion that takes her trip down some unexpected detours—and the juvenile delinquent who blackmails Leigh into giving her a ride is only the beginning.

Booklist calls it “Smart and funny without being forced, sentimental without being maudlin" and it's currently hailed as a BREAKOUT BOOK for Target!

It sounds like exactly the kind of read that'll keep me occupied (when I'm not driving, of course!) driving through South Dakota. Here's Jess in her own words:

1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book? Are you more driven by plot or by character?
For Driving Sideways, I began with a premise and very basic plot, but once the main character was born, she took the story in her own direction entirely! I think for commercial fiction, you need a healthy balance between plot and character. Things need to happen to hold a reader’s interest—and you need a bang-up beginning, solid middle, and satisfying conclusion, with believable character development along the way. So it’s really a mix.

2.) Who's your favorite character in this book and why?
Oh, I adore Leigh. But most people find Denise the most entertaining, repulsive, hilarious, dangerous, and wicked character. They either love her or hate her, because she’s larger than life, missing many of the internal censors the rest of us have due to familial, financial, and societal mores and constraints. I wanted to create a character I could egg on, someone who would say or do the things most of us are unable or unwilling to. Someone you wanted to slap and embrace, sometimes in the same hour. Someone you might suspect as lacking a conscience, but ultimately you conclude she’s a good-hearted sociopath. She was a blast to create!

3.) What's your writing process/writing environment like?
I have a little corner office I hunker down in: it’s so cozy, with just enough space for me and my dog. I wrote Driving Sideways in the mornings, during my summer months off, every day until I felt like stopping. Now, because I’m juggling first-book promotion activities while simultaneously trying to finish book #2, I find myself writing fiction late at night. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance the two. (And it’s a good problem—one I never thought I’d have!!)

4.) What's your favorite part of writing?
I love when my characters take on a life of their own and run away with the story. When you actually lose yourself and tap into the collective subconscious. That’s where the magic happens, and it’s the drug that has me hooked.

5.) What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about writing?
I think different bits of advice are appropriate during different phases of the writing process. As a struggling writer with no agent, what I connected with was “Never give up” and “You always have room to improve your craft.” After I had a book contract, that shifted to “Writing is a craft, publishing is a casino” and “You will be the biggest advocate for your own book (so get off your butt and self-promote).” The advice I would give any aspiring writer is to connect with other writers for support, growth, and community. The same applies to newbie novelists—it’s a lonely profession, and I’d be lost without the friendship and assistance I’ve found from other writers at the same stage in their careers.

So, until next week, when I'll have more book recommendations, happy reading and safe motoring!


Joanne said...

Hey Judy, Summer's a great time for a road trip, isnt' it, with the open highway, breezes, scenery? Sounds fun! And as a writer, there's always that radar tuned to intriguing story ideas. Enjoy! Btw, Driving Sideways sounds like a perfect summer read.

Jess Riley said...

Thanks Judy! You had some great questions. Drive safely on your trip, and if you stop at Wall Drug, tell them 'hello' from me. ;)

Larramie said...

DRIVING SIDEWAYS is such fun as Jess takes the reader for a great ride/read!

Daisy said...

This sounds wonderful! I just got back from a road trip, albeit short, with my daughter. This book sounds like a winner. I'll order it as soon as I empty the bookstack on top of my dresser...

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

I was wondering when this trip was happening...coincidentally, a week from today I'll be moving my oldest into his first apartment.

We'll have to cry on the phone together sometime soon, Judy!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Joanne, I'm just back and it was fun--amazing scenery!

Jess, So glad I could tour you--we skipped Wall Drig but did stop at the Corn Palace!

Larramie, You always know a great book!

Daisy, Road trips with nearly-adult kids are such fun!

Melanie, Good luck with your move--and, you know, maybe it was the fatigue after 4 days on the road, but I don't feel sad--he's in the absolute right place for him.