Friday, September 07, 2007

Jennifer Oko, GLOSS

How can you not love a book with the title GLOSS? I'm a lip gloss addict (MAC and Dior are my favorites) so of course I was interested in diving into this novel by Jennifer Oko. Actually, the book isn't quite about lipstick colors and glossy textures. It's about a morning television producer named Annabelle who gets deep into the midst of a Middle Eastern beauty company scandal. Mix in a little romance with a handsome Washington DC speech writer, a collection of mysterious telephone calls, time in jail and you have chick-lit- meets- mystery, written in a most entertaining and page turning style.

Jennifer Oko is getting lots of praise for GLOSS. I read the book quickly, getting to the end as fast as I could so I could figure everything out! It's a fun novel and definitely something you can sink your teeth into. Just don't bite into that gloss....

Since GLOSS is about a girl who works an early morning television show, I have to ask what kind of early morning shows you watch? Are you loyal to The Early Show? Oh wait- you have two small children. Your day might start with something from PBS or Disney.

LOL. Actually, our day usually starts with reading a picture book to our toddler while trying to give a bottle to the baby while trying to catch whatever news I can from NPR’s Morning Edition. It’s hard for me to watch morning television when I am at home (I am on maternity leave right now), but I am lucky that we get The Early Show’s west coast feed in the office, so when I am at work I can watch my own show. From time to time, I record the other shows and try to scan through them, just to stay fresh on what’s happening around the dial.

What kind of music do you listen to when you want to relax? How about when you want let loose and dance?

Oh, the memories. Not much in the way of relaxing around here these days, and my two-year old has figured out how to turn on the iPod, so we are mostly stuck listening to his favorite song over and over (The Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell – he likes dancing around to the “paved paradise and put up a parking lot” verse. He has no idea what it means, but it’s a great beat to jump up and down to).

Gloss was a real page turner. Did you have a particular genre in mind when you began to write- mystery or chick lit or commercial fiction?

Thank you! I really didn’t write with any genre in mind. I just wanted to write something that I would find fun and entertaining, while still being smart.

My memoir (“Lying Together: My Russian Affair”—written under my maiden name, Jennifer Beth Cohen - was about to be published, and that whole experience, while rewarding, was extremely heady and difficult, writing-wise, and I just wanted to cut loose and have fun. GLOSS just came to me very naturally, at least at the beginning.

In real life you are a producer for The Early Show . Which story are you most proud of producing?

That’s a difficult question. There are stories that I have done that were better produced than others, but I suppose in the end the ones that have stayed with me the most are the ones about specific people who had just impressed me a lot. Not famous people necessarily (though Tina Turner just blew me away in person), but people who had either done amazing things or who had amazing attitudes about life. When I am having a dark day, I try to think about some of those folks.

Since you lived in Moscow, I want to hear about that experience! What was it like? Do you want to go back?

I suppose it would be nice to visit again someday, but I am definitely over what I call “my Russian period.” Given the opportunity for a vacation, I’d rather go someplace warm. Or go skiing. But, oh, the experience. Needless to say, it was interesting enough (I thought) to write about it—as mentioned above. Forgive my laziness (the clock is ticking before Laila wakes up from her nap), but I am going to cut and paste something from the original release about my memoir to help explain:

In 1998, while working at Inside Edition's investigative unit, Cohen produced a story about the trafficking of Russian sex slaves into the United States. This story launched the chain of events she chronicles in her memoir LYING TOGETHER: My Russian Affair. After completing the sex slave story, Cohen spent a year working as a journalist in Moscow, ultimately becoming a bureau producer for a major U.S. television network.

When she wasn't covering Russia's collapsing economy and disintegrating social structure, she hosted and helped produce a bilingual entertainment program called “Moscow Nights.”
Russia was and is a fascinating country. And for the most part, I enjoyed the surreal, one-step removed experience of being an expat. But it wasn’t easy.

I just love the title of your work in progress, Thank You, Eli Lilly. There’s a phrase I have often muttered. Well that and “Thank You, Jose Cuervo”. Can you give me a hint of what the book is about?

Oh, I might have to steal that phrase from you! Thank You, Eli Lilly is a dark comedy about that mixes one part pharmaceutical chic with one part mad scientist and one part international organized crime. It is (hopefully) a mad caper about a dangerous drug manufacturing scheme that takes one young and fashionable but very impressionable New Yorker and sends her on a descent into the dark world of the global mafia and high-end designer pharmaceuticals. At least that is what I am aiming for.

What is your writing schedule?

Right now I am on hiatus because of the new baby (she was born at the end of June and I don’t have childcare help for her yet), but generally I work at CBS three days a week and have two days plus a little weekend time to write.

The writing days looks something like this:
9:30 Drop kids off at daycare
10:00 Spend an hour or so contemplating going to a yoga class, which on rare occasions I actually do. Mostly, I spend an hour or so feeling bad about not getting to yoga class.
11:00 Stare at computer. Scroll through whatever I wrote the previous writing day.
11: 15 Contemplate deleting everything I wrote the previous writing day, than continue staring at the screen.
Noon Start thinking about lunch.
1:00 Accept the fact that it is impossible to work at home and hoof it up a big hill to Starbucks, where I will eat a cookie, drink a coffee, and actually get to work.
5:00 Pick up kids from daycare
6:00 Make small talk with other moms at the playground while ruminating about what I had or had not written that day.

What is the best part about being a published author?

I recently stumbled across a funny anecdote on some blog somewhere that went something like this: Two writers are sitting at their computers, typing away. The scene seems to be identical in every way, except that one writer is in heaven and one writer is in hell. How can you tell which is which? The writer in hell has been published. Honestly, some of it is really hard. Getting publicity is insanely difficult and trying not to get dispirited about your Amazon ranking is even harder.

But the plus side is that there is no better feeling (short of seeing your child smile) than having someone tell you that they appreciated your writing, that it affected them in some positive way, be it that it was entertaining, or that they related to it on an emotional level, or that it taught them something important that they didn’t know. That feels great. It feels fantastic.

Recently, the most amazing thing happened to me. A while back, I was on a plane and I met an army nurse who was heading off to Afghanistan to help set up a field hospital. I gave her the galley for GLOSS (the book wasn’t out yet) because I figured she had a long flight ahead of her. Anyway, she emailed me a couple of weeks ago and told me that she had read GLOSS and really enjoyed it and that it was circulating among her friends out there. It made me so happy to think that these people who are so far from home, who are living in such a dangerous and stressful place, are getting pleasure (and a little escape) out of reading GLOSS.

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