Friday, February 03, 2006

Lani Diane Rich, Ex And The Single Girl

Ex And The Single Girl is about Portia Fallon, a girl who is "four cats and a Reader's Digest subscription away from being totally irredeemable." Portia is called back home to Truly, Georgia, one of those places where everyone knows everyone else.

Portia's family is made up of the Miz Fallons- her mother, aunt and grandma- all who share what Portia calls "Penis Teflon Effect"...okay you're going to have to read the book to figure that one out but I assure you it doesn't have anything to do with cooking. Ex And The Single Girl is about relationships and truth and coming to terms with what you think you know to be true. In short, its a humorous novel and one I would recommend to those of you who are in the mood for something light and quick.

What made you choose Georgia for the setting of the book?

I had a good friend who was working in the Catoosa County, Georgia Chamber of Commerce at the time I was writing EX. She talked about the area a lot, and it really seemed like a fascinating place. I also just loved the sound of it - Catoosa County. And when the Miz Fallons popped into my head, they were Southern, so it seemed like a good fit. Truly is not a real town, though; it’s based a lot on my hometown of Red Hook, New York. The Red Hook upstate in the Hudson Valley, not the one in Brooklyn where, apparently, people get shot at a lot.

I’m sorry. Is that going to get you a lot of angry Red Hook e-mails? I hope not. I’m sure the Red Hook in Brooklyn is a lovely place. (Does that help? Or am I making it worse?)

Who do you most identify with out of the three Miz Fallons?

Oh, Portia. Definitely. When I was writing EX, I was going through my own reconciling of my mother as being a real, fallible human being as opposed to the super hero I’d grown up believing her to be, and I think a lot of people go through this in their early thirties, so it was fun to be able to work some of that out through the Mizzes. (For the record, and so my mother doesn’t call me about this interview, Mags is NOTHING like my mother. My mother is perfect and sublime. Oh, and absolutely a super hero. Just for the record.)

That said, I think all of the Miz Fallons have elements of me, all of which are at war with each other. I’m quirky, like Mags, and I tend to follow my whims which often looks crazy but usually turns out well for me. Like Vera, I see things through a mystical filter, and I can sometimes get overly philosophical about simple things. You know, sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar. Like Bev, I can be really cranky and set in my ways. Makes me sound like a fun person to be around, huh? But I am. Really. A damn hoot.

Those Fallon women are all stubborn, aren't they? Is that a trait you possess?

Yes, they are! To answer your second question, I will just tell you what my husband said as he read this over my shoulder: “The answer to question number three is a resounding YES.” So... we’ll just leave it at that.

(Although I don’t think I’m *that* stubborn. Apparently, though, I do have a problem with having to get in the last word.)

I wanted to know why Portia didn't leave when her mother wouldn't tell her the reason she wanted her back home? Portia seemed okay with staying even though her mom brought her down under false pretenses. I was actually angry with Mags for being so manipulative.

She didn’t leave because she’d just driven fourteen hours and they had gin. Also, she’d already sublet her apartment in Syracuse, and was for all intents and purposes homeless. She’s also pretty used to Mags’s manipulations – you might have noticed how shocked Portia wasn’t when Mags came bounding down the steps despite the alleged acute agony in her back. But the most powerful reason was that deep down, Portia’s a Miz Fallon, and she’d been called home. She wanted to find out why.

And she loved and missed her family, whether she’d ever admit it or not. So it’s a complex weave of reasons, not all of which Portia was even consciously aware.

It seems to me that someone (not mentioning any names) might have a little crush on a certain British actor with the initials CF…? And does Colin Firth show up in any of your other novels?

Wow, Cindy, you really like to pick up on the subtle subtext, don’t you? Heh heh. I actually recently contributed a humor essay to the BenBella Books anthology, Flirting With Pride and Prejudice, in which I delve deeply into my Firth fangirl geekhood. I think between that and EX, I’ve worked out my Colin Firth thing. I feel bad, because while I do adore Colin Firth and am a huge fan, I’ve really made quite the shtick out of this crush, and if he ever reads any of it, he might feel the need for a restraining order. Which is really unnecessary.

Well, mostly unnecessary. He might not want to move to Syracuse any time soon.

Do you imagine actors/actresses in the roles as you are writing about the characters? Who would play Portia? Peter?

Oh, yeah, I always use actors and actresses in my head, at least to start. By the end of the novel, the characters become real people in my head (Should I be scared by that? I should, shouldn’t I?) and they only mildly resemble the actors that inspired them. For Portia, I had Renee Zellweger in mind – probably because of the Colin Firth/Pride and Prejudice/Bridget Jones’s Diary dynamic, but I always thought if EX was made into a movie, they’d be great in those parts. As for Peter, I kind of see him as a Bradley Cooper type. I love Bradley Cooper, too. He’s inspiring the love interest in the novel I’m working on right now, which is about a woman who receives a quilt from a psychic quiltmaker that changes her life.

Yeah, you heard me right. Psychic quiltmaker. Look for it next spring from NAL! (Sorry. Knee jerk self-promotion. The publicists actually put a chip in your head when you sign the first contract, and after that, you simply can’t stop yourself from shameless shilling. Well, that, and I have kids I’m gonna need to put through college someday. My apologies.)

Here are a few questions combined into one...What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? What is the last novel you read and what do you like to do in your downtime?

I’ve discovered that there are good books in every genre, so does it sound really obnoxious to say that I enjoy reading good books? But that’s the case. I will happily read any genre, but women’s fiction is by far my favorite. And by women’s fiction, I’m not talking necessarily just the literary genre description (which would be your Barbara Kingsolver-, Elinor Lippman-style offerings) but all fiction written for women – chick lit, romance, all of it.

I do tend to value tight storytelling over delicately fashioned prose stylings; I’m a story geek, first and foremost. The last novel I read was FASHIONABLY LATE by Beth Kendrick, and I loved it. (Disclaimer: Beth is a friend, and a fellow Literary Chick , but I swear this is unbiased. I would have loved this book if it had been written by anyone.)

The thing I really love about FASHIONABLY LATE is that it’s representative of the kinds of chick lit novels that don’t get quite as much attention – the ones that are smart, funny and which just spin a good yarn. For some reason, when talking about chick lit, many people tend to focus on the sillier books as examples of why the genre is pure fluff, and I don’t think that’s representative of all chick lit books. Or even the majority. (okay Lani, I want to read Fashionably Late now!)

I’m being solicited for quotes on a lot of really good stuff coming up, and I think it’s a new surge of really different, very smart and funny books. I’m also very excited about Brenda Scott Royce’s MONKEY LOVE, which comes out this month. I think it’s another one of this type of book which can really help mold the genre as it evolves.

(Oh, and about the quote-unquote fluff – that has its value as well, and shouldn’t be summarily dismissed, either. I have a kid with asthma and during two hospital stays last year, it was those books that got me through, and I love them. But I’m just saying that to define an entire genre based on a few books is an act that can really make a person miss out on some good stuff. Snobbery harms only the snob. I know this, because for a long time I wouldn’t watch BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and now I’m the biggest Whedon fangeek in the world. So... just speaking from experience. No judgment.)

(Sorry. Should have warned you in the beginning. I do tend to go on. My apologies. Almost done.)

As for what I like to do in my downtime... what is this downtime of which you speak? I have two small children and I teach part-time at Syracuse University in addtion to writing an average of two books a year. But, I have to say, I am a big TV geek, and tend to watch as much as I can fit in. I’m addicted to LOST, GILMORE GIRLS, GREY’S ANATOMY... all very good stuff. And I just got into WONDERFALLS on DVD which is fabulous and only had thirteen episodes and is going to break my heart the way FIREFLY did, I just know it. Since I teach beginning television production, though, I can kinda justify my addiction.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
SOunds like a fun book!

Thanks for the recommendation. @ 9:35 PM  
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I guess I'm kind of a TV geek, too. @ 5:30 PM  
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