Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quick Update!!

Allison's book (see below) just hit THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LIST!!! Whoo-Hoo. That's some rarified air.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Writers in their own words-GCC

So, a week or so ago I'm sitting on my sofa, drinking coffee and watching The Today Show. When they started talking about "Fall Must Read Books" I set the paper down and took notice. But then, when they held up a book by one of my very own GCC buddies, I nearly spewed my coffee. (Not, may I add, that we don't all deserve it, but this is a little bit like Charlie getting the golden ticket.) So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Allison Winn Scotch, author of the acclaimed new novel Time of My Life.

The Tampa Tribune called it, “Funny and frank. A serious comedy that shines light into the darkness.” Now, I don't know about you, but I'd like a little light shining into the darkness. It explores those "what if" moments, that wondering we sometimes do about different paths and choices we could have taken. . . .

Jillian Westfield has the perfect husband, the perfect baby, and the perfect home in the suburbs, but sometimes she finds herself wondering about the life she left behind. A few short years earlier, she was living with her undeniably attractive but unreliable boyfriend Jackson, working a demanding job at an ad agency, partying too much, and living in a less than perfect New York apartment. But those days were full of possibility and free of diaper changes, trips to the grocery store, and endless days fulfilling only the needs of her daughter and husband. Now, discontented in her faltering marriage, Jillian can’t help but think about what her life would have been like if she hadn’t married Henry, quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom, or spurned her mother’s attempts to reconcile after two decades of silence. What if she’d stayed with Jackson in their run-down apartment and tried a little harder to make their relationship work? What if she’d answered her mother’s letter? What would her life be like now? One morning, Jillian gets a chance to find out. She wakes up in her old apartment, right in the middle of her life as it was seven years ago, before she’d left Jackson and her job, and ignored her mother’s letter. With 20/20 hindsight, Jillian has the chance to discover “what if” once and for all – and to decide which life she really wants.

Here's Allison 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?
I knew I wanted to write a book that dealt with time-travel in some way…the last episodes of Felicity were among my favorite hours of television EVER, and I was drawn to doing something like that. But I didn’t know how to sort it out in my mind. In fact, I mentioned something to my agent about “time-travel” for my next book, and I think she thought I was nuts! But then one afternoon while this was on my mind, my best friend called while she was on vacation in a city of her ex-boyfriend, and she said, “I’m so weirded out…I can’t stop thinking about what my life might have been like.” Then we had one of those intimate life conversations that you can only have with your closest friends about her what-ifs and my what-ifs, and how this was all very normal, even though people didn’t really talk about it. We hung up, and I headed out for a run, and bam, the idea, characters and plotlines just presented themselves very clearly. I came home, wrote what are now the first 14 pages, and sent them off to my agent, who flipped for them. I think, as so many of us get older and look back on our younger years with nostalgia, it’s very easy (and normal) to consider what the other possibilities could have been – and I wanted to explore that.

2.) Who's your favorite character in this book and why?
I don’t think I have a favorite character, but I did have favorite scenes. Well, I loved the scenes in the book in which Jillian, my protagonist, ran into her future husband, Henry, only she was now running into him in the past…and she was also now attached to someone else. They were great fun to write because, well, imagine what would be going through your head if you KNEW what was going to happen with this person but had to pretend that he was a stranger? Those scenes gave me the opportunity to have a little fun, infuse some humor, but also have Jillian reassess how she remembered her husband: she sees him through clear eyes before she got used to seeing his face wake up next to her every morning.

3.) What's your writing process/writing environment like?
I write very quickly – purging it all in about two hours a day. Most of the heavy mental lifting comes at hours when I’m NOT writing: when I’m walking my dog, working out, trying to sleep, and then, I sit down in the morning at about 10ish and force myself to get it all out on the page. But because I’ve worked through the scenes so much in my brain, the words and scenes usually come out of me pretty easily. When I’m stuck, I try to throw some conflict my characters’ way, and that usually gets me unstuck.

4.) What's your favorite part of writing?
Can I say finishing a book? Because, yum, yeah, that is! But I guess a more specific answer is when I craft what I just innately know in my bones is a wonderful sentence or scene: to a non-writer, this might sound really weird and arty (like an actor talking about his craft), but as a writer, every once in a while, you pull something out of you that you really can’t believe you wrote…and it’s a heavenly moment, that second when you’re better than you thought you could be. I have a favorite scene in Time of My Life that I occasionally reread and have no recollection of writing…but am pretty proud of myself for that specific scene.

5.) What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about writing?
Hmmm, good question. I guess it was to be patient. A lot of writers want recognition NOW – they want to sign with an agent NOW, the want to get a publishing deal NOW, they want a bigger advance NOW – but becoming a skilled and successful writer takes practice and time. Sort of like becoming a professional sports player: maybe you were born with some skill, but you have to hone them to be ready for the big leagues. Don’t send our your ms to agents unless you are 1000% sure that it’s ready, and then, be more sure that it’s ready. Be okay with not hitting the bestseller list (figuratively speaking) with your first book – that’s what second and third books are for. Etc. For me, at least, this is about having a CAREER, not instant gratification, and while sometimes that’s hard to remember, it’s a very critical part of succeeding in our industry.

Time of My Life is a perfect book as the days drift into November. And you don't have to just take my word for it--The Today Show agrees, too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Swinging in the Heartland

I've lived 35 of my 48 years (including the last 28) in the midwest--Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. Fly-over country to you on the coasts. The Heartland.

I love being a midwesterner . . . it's solid not flashy. Practical not trendy. (Although I do seem to remember that the Crocs craze started here. Sorta defines us, don't you think?).

By no one's definition would I be considered a swinger.

But, man, oh man, am I starting to understand all the excitement in being a swinger. And it's changed my life. My husband's, too. It's crazy. Hot. Exciting. Even, dare I say it, sexy.

For the first time ever I'm living in a swing state. Oh, yeah, baby. Missouri rocks!

For example, on Monday, John McCain, Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton were all within a stone's throw (or short drive) from my front yard. Hubba hubba.

This weekend, Obama drew 100,000 people to a rally in downtown St. Louis. That's 15 miles from my house. I mean, he was practically on my front porch. Plus, in the last week I received calls from Michelle Obama and a bunch of pollsters. After all these years of feeling like my vote didn't really matter and my opinions counted even less, everyone is vying for my vote and complete strangers want to know what I think. (Too bad my kids are less interested in my opinions.)

Seriously, it's pretty cool. Democracy in action. Neighbors--even ones with dueling yard signs--are out talking and walking and participating in this every four-year political experience. Never have I lived in a state getting this much interest during an election. Never has it mattered more.

And, oh baby, does it have me excited. Swing high, swing low, swing all over the place--Missouri is where it's at right now and I'm loving it.

(Also posted on my group blog.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Writers in their own words-GCC

Okay, so I know I haven't been much of a poster lately. I wish I could say it's because I've been jet-setting to exotic places. Or writing up a storm.

But that wouldn't be quite accurate. I have been busy . . . and out of town a bit. But, mostly, my days have been filled with the mundane--grocery store trips, running to the gym, errands, appointments. You know, those everyday things that make up our lives.

I do have a new post up over on Erma where I pledge to slow down and enjoy the hot flashes. Good times.

I also have a bit of escape reading to share with you, courtesy of Nadine Dajani's Cutting Loose, where you'll meet three women who are as different as could be—at least that’s what they think—and the men who’ve turned their lives upside down as their paths collide in sizzling, sexy Miami. . . .Ranya, Zahra, and Rio . . . .In this city of fast cars, sleek clubs, and unapologetic superficiality, Ranya, Zahra, and Rio wrestle with the ties that bind them to their difficult pasts, each wondering if she will ever manage to cut loose . . . .

Let's hear from Nadine 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?

Definitely character. Cutting Loose is a very loosely-based spin-off of my first novel, Fashionably Late, in that Ranya, who was originally a very minor character does something totally wacky at the end of the novel. She runs off to London when she discovers her husband of one month is gay. Not a terribly original departure point, but it’s in how I tried putting together an original story around this character that I had the chance to exercise me creative muscles. Inspiration came from my obsession with Latina magazines and Ugly Betty at the time (Ranya gets her first job working at Sueltate magazine – I used the real life magazine Latina as inspiration for Sueltate) and from a desire to turn certain stereotypes on their heads. For example, I often think about how so many Arabs (Lebanese Arabs especially) living in the US are Christian, not Muslim, and so how do they feel when the “terrorist” label extends to them? I’m Muslim myself, but I would imagine I’d be even more ticked off than I usually am at the American media’s discrimination against Arabs if I were Christian. The Palestinian issue gets some air time in Cutting Loose as well but from an angle you don’t see too often in the States – Zahra’s home town is Bethlehem, as in Bethlehem, Palestinian Occupied Territories, which means she’s descended from some of the oldest Christian families in the world. But that’s not a nuance you’d get from watching cable news…

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

I adored writing the character of Rio. She’s tough as nails and the perfect foil for meek Ranya. I could really see Rio in the eye of my mind, and for some reason, her dialogue came very naturally to me: snarky, unapologetic, critical, and smart. Or smart-mouthed… not too sure on that one!

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

It’s an extremely erratic process – isn’t that terrible? For any writers starting out – please do not take this as license to be erratic… it is NOT the best way to work. Unfortunately, I find that if I don’t get in a ton of “thinking time” up front and don’t work out the characters’ issues from the get go, it’s difficult for me to start. But once I have a few “Ah Ha!” moments under my belt, I get started and zip through the first draft. If I start earlier than I feel comfortable starting, I end up throwing out most of what I’ve written at the beginning. So to answer your question – a whole lot of daydreaming for many months, then a few hours a night to get the broad strokes down, and then cramming as I would for an exam – getting 4 or 5 thousand words out in one sitting, wherever I can squeeze in the time, usually right after work and many hours in a row! It’s a harrowing schedule, but so far it’s worked for me.

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

I love stumbling on that “perfect” scene that just seems like it’s writing itself. I had a few moments like that with Cutting Loose, especially those scenes written in Rio’s POV. When I got to Rio’s turning point scene, I wrote it quickly, with erratic jabs at the keyboard, and when it was done, it was really hard not to smile to myself like a mad woman for the rest of the day. The scene worked on every level, and it’s moments like that that make all the other scenes you had to chain yourself to the desk to write seem worthwhile!

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

Anything Anne Lamott has written in her fantastic Bird by Bird qualifies as the best writing advice out there – let yourself write shitty first drafts, be absolutely honest in what you put on paper (which is so much harder that it seems), and be true to your voice, not someone else’s.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

GCC--and An Opportunity

Here's a quick tour with the Girlfriend Cyber Circuit--just in time for Halloween.

Deborah Leblanc is a master story teller, and never better than in her latest, Water Witch.

Dunny knew from an early age what it meant to be an outsider. Her special abilities earned her many names, like freak and water witch. So she vowed to keep her powers a secret. But now her talents may be the only hope of two missing children. A young boy and girl have vanished, feared lost in the mysterious Louisiana bayous. But they didn’t just disappear, they were taken. And amid the ghosts and spirits of the swamp, there is a danger worse than any other, one with very special plans for the children—and for anyone who dares to interfere.

Check out the book trailer on Water Witch.

Also, a quick public service announcement . . .

The Girlfriend Cyber Circuit is looking for new members. If you're a published female author with an active blog you could be part of a great community of writers who promote each other through their blogs. For more info, please email Karin Gillespie at kgillespie AT knology DOT net

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Warning: Political Link Ahead

My fellow bloggers over at Channeling Erma have dedicated this week to posting about the upcoming election.

I'm up today.

Pop on over and join the conversation . . . .