Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Writers in their own words-A Double Dipper!

In keeping with Monday's post about books being the perfect holiday gift, I have a GCC two-fer to offer all of you: Malena Lott (far right)and Jessica Brody!

In Malena's novel, Dating Da Vinci Ramona Elise is in a rut—a 36-year-old widowed mother of two, she can’t seem to find what make her truly happy in life. Making sure her kids are happy isn’t the hard part; Ramona’s looking for the passion she lost two years ago when she lost her husband and her world turned upside down. When a handsome Italian immigrant walks into her English class, Ramona never expects to find la dolce vita (the sweet life) in a younger man—or in her self!

Jessica's novel, The Fidelity Files confronts the thorny issue of infidelity head-on with its controversial main character Jennifer Hunter. Operating under the code name “Ashlyn,” Jennifer leads a double life. Her friends and family all think she’s an investment banker who’s too busy to date. In reality, Jennifer is hired by suspicious wives and girlfriends to test the faithfulness of their partners. Her job has made her pretty cynical about her own love life. But just as she’s ready to swear off men for ever, Jennifer meets sexy, sophisticated Jamie Richards, a man who might just past her fidelity test. However, before she retires her secret agent self forever, she takes on one last assignment – a job which will permanently alter her perceptions of trust, honesty, and love.

Let's hear from each of them in their own words:

First Jessica Brody about Fidelity Files . . .

1) How did you come up with the idea for this book? Are you more driven by plot or by character?

Before I became a full-time writer, I worked in a very corporate environment. And like all corporate jobs, there were a certain number of “alcohol-related” events that I was expected to attend. I would often find myself at work happy hour functions in nearby bars, observing the interactions between single and non-single co-workers as their behaviors gradually declined from professional to something else entirely. Something hardly capable of being described as “appropriate.”

Witnessing these “indiscretions” upset me on a profound level. I secretly wished that someone would tell the “conveniently” absent significant others about what their husbands/wives/boyfriends/ girlfriends/fianc├ęs really did while attending these “obligatory” and supposedly “uneventful” work functions. But I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to do it. I was brave enough to think it…but not exactly brave enough to go knocking on people’s doors with bad news. You know what people tend to do to “the messenger.”

So instead I created a character whose job and purpose in life was to do just that. To reveal the truth to anyone who wanted to know. To knock on all the doors that I never had the courage to knock on. An invincible superhero-esque woman whose quest is to fight against the evils of infidelity. But of course, she soon finds out…she’s not as invincible as she once thought.
I’m definitely more driven by character. I like thinking up interesting characters with intriguing back stories and then forming a world around them. Like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a story about a woman who tests men’s fidelity for a living?” Then I go forward from there. “What would her life be like?” And “What kind of interesting things would happen to someone like that?”
2.) Who's your favorite character in this book and why?

My favorite character is definitely Jen’s gay friend, John. Every scene he’s in was always the most fun to write. And the easiest. He’s definitely the comic relief of the book. I don’t know where some of his lines come from. They just kind of emerge as if I’m channeling a flamboyant and sometimes annoying gay man from another dimension. I would be writing a scene with him and he’d respond with a line that was so him and I would just stare back at it on the page, laugh and say, “Where did that come from?” Needless to say, he was one of my favorite characters to return to in the sequel.

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

The writing process is very random for me. It all depends on the day. Because I tend to be equally right and left brained, sometimes I feel as though the writing process is just a constant struggle (or sometimes clash) between the two sides of my brain to come up with a consistent way to write a novel. I write outlines, because my analytical side tells me it’s the right thing to do, but then halfway through the story, I come to the conclusion that I only write outlines so that I’ll have something to deviate from. I create complicated spreadsheets (a nod back to my days as a strategic analyst) for my storylines and page counts and pacing only to abandon them halfway through. And yet, despite this seemingly random chaos, it all feels perfectly natural to me. As if it was designed specifically for a purpose. So I suppose, my lack of a defined process is a process in itself.

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

My favorite part of writing is definitely the beginning of the story. There’s nothing more exciting and inspiring than a fresh new idea and a blank piece of paper. The possibilities are endless, the promise is huge and the character is brand new. It’s like that first four-hour long conversation with a new guy. So much hope for where it could go!

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

“Finish it.” Okay, I realize some explanation is required here. But when I first started writing my very first book, I had no idea if it was any good or not. I was excited about it but I was so uncertain about my writing. So I showed it to a friend who used to be a literary agent and she said, “This is good. You should finish it.” So I did. Now, mind you, that book never got published. It’s still gathering dust on the proverbial shelf. But it did give me the push I needed to take my writing seriously and keep going. Two years after getting that piece of advice I started on a new book...the one that eventually became The Fidelity Files. And today, I’m a published author. All because of those two words. [Cue the dramatic inspirational music here.]

And now Malena Lott about Dating Da Vinci . . .

1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book? Are you more driven by plot or by character?

I don’t recall the exact a-ha moment when the book idea came to fruition, but I’d just moved into a new house in the ‘burbs, my whole department had just been laid off, and I was in a big transition period as a stay-at-home mom and starting my own consulting business. I was definitely in a place in my life where I was thinking: what’s next? And, what does it mean to truly be happy? So Ramona sprung to life, and since I’ve always been a huge da Vinci fan – there wasn’t anything that guy wasn’t gifted at – it all just came together. I’m driven by character as my journeys are within for my female protagonists.

2.) Who's your favorite character in this book and why?

I change the answer given the day, because I really do think there are so many fun characters in the book. Today I’ll answer Leonardo da Vinci because he’s new to America and so full of life. He’s good at everything he tries, and he falls for Ramona, a woman who desperately needs to feel joy and passion again.

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

I try to write every morning. If I’m not working on something new, then I’m revising or editing or marketing. I like to get that done in the morning while my kids are in school and my toddler is busy with his breakfast and educational videos. (The Simpson is educational, right?) Not really. My writing environment changes based on where my toddler is in the house and the weather outside. I have two patios so I love to take my laptop outside, and inside I either write in my library on a sleek black recliner or upstairs in the playroom on a mod pink 1950s chair.

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

By far, ideas and dialogue, though I’m really not very heavy on dialogue. My favorite part is usually any part that I’ve gone back and read that I think passes the muster.

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

Learn the craft. I’ve written all my life, but you can always improve and with experience you can get better. So read a lot, write a lot works for me.

So, you heard it here first . . . great gift ideas!


Malena Lott said...

Thanks so much! Happy holidays.

debra said...

too tired to read but want to let you know I'm here (o)