Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Earthly Pleasures, Karen Neches

The thing about a good writer is this- they make it look easy. Words flow like water in a stream and the book moves along without stalling. You don't see the seams, you don't sense the hard work that went into crafting the book. Karen Neches does it flawlessly.

When Karen wrote the Bottom Dollar Girls series, she displayed a sense of humor and created fun characters that I really enjoyed. Now Karin Gillespie is writing as Karen Neches and her book, Earthly Pleasures is as sweet and delish as angel food cake. Is that a terribly corny thing to say? But it's true. Its a good book with a happy ending, a few twists along the way and ultimately a satisfying story.

Karen's new book won't be out until February but I wanted to mention it now so you can pre-order and keep an eye out for it. Earthly Pleasures is getting advance praise and I bet it won't be long until we hear movie news. I feel so lucky to have the chance to get an advance copy of the book and do a little q & a with Karen.

Did you let your imagination run wild as you wrote about heaven? You were super creative with so many of the details.

It’s so much fun to create a custom-made Heaven. That’s why my version has Perrier and rose petals coming out of the bath faucets and nonfattening, yet delicious chocolate. I wanted my Heaven to be the place where souls can have the time of their lives. They can watch their dreams on the big screen at Nocturnal Theater, check out past lives in the Reincarnation Archives, or see where new souls come from at the Sacred Creation of Souls. Rather than taking itself seriously, my Heaven is run very much like Disney World. Earth, on the other hand, is where the soul’s hard work is done.

If real heaven is anything like your version, no one would be afraid to die. What is your thoughts on what heaven is really like?

My novel reflects my beliefs somewhat although I exaggerate things for entertainment value. For instance, my God acts and sounds a lot like Bette Miller. I envision a God who is larger than life and has a great sense of humor. Bette seemed to fit the bill.

Also I think of Heaven, not as a place of judgment, but a place of reflection on the last life lived.

You wrote fun southern fiction with the Bottom Dollar Girls, how was it to switch gears with Earthly Pleasures?

I have so many ideas for novels I felt penned in by a series. I did discover that it’s much more difficult to write a novel out of the series. I had to create a new setting and get to know a whole new set of characters. It took me two years to write EARTHLY PLEASURES whereas my series books take just six months. But I really like a challenge so I think I’ll be writing stand alone books from now on.

Did you ever see the movie, Just Like Heaven with Reese Witherspoon? That movie could be the distant cousin of your book. And naturally almost all writers want Reese in the film versions of their books.

I did and I’d already written the first draft of EARTHLY PLEASURES by that time so I was a little nervous to see it. Of course, despite the title, there is no Heaven setting in the Reese Witherspoon movie, which was a relief.

I know every book starts with a seed of an idea. What inspired the writing of Earthly Pleasures?

Two of my favorite books are BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY and LOVELY BONES. One day I had the thought: Bridget Jones meets Lovely Bones. It even rhymed. Boy, I did think I was clever!
Anyway the novel sprung out of that one idea, which is kind of nutty because those two books are nothing alike. I had to fight for this book because both my agent and editor initially disliked it but my critique group was in love with it. I reworked it a half a dozen times and at one point almost gave up on it. But then my agent had read the new version and she said, “You can’t give it up. It made me cry at the end.”

If there was a heaven on earth, what would it be like for you?

Honestly I feel like I’m living Heaven on Earth. I get to make up stories for a living and there’s nothing more satisfying to me than exercising my imagination. Also, after over twenty years of living the single life, I finally met and married the man of my dreams. EARTHLY PLEASURES is dedicated to him. At its core, my novel is a love story between a greeter in Heaven and a mortal on Earth. I wanted to create a story where it was almost impossible to get the two characters together.

What is the last- book you read? Movie you saw? TVshow you watched? Magazine you paged through?

I read YOU’RE NOT YOU by Michelle Wildgen, which is about a college student who cares for a thirty-something ALS patient and the friendship they develop. It sounds depressing but it’s a very unsentimental and entertaining novel. I watched the Simpson Girls story (Jessica and Ashley) on E! I love their True Hollywood Stories. The last movies I saw was Waitress, which was a colorful, feel-good film. My favorite kind!

I’m a devout reader of People magazine although I sometimes have to supplement with In Touch or Star if People isn’t gossipy enough.

I want a Dyson vacuum and Tivo for Christmas. (world peace and an end to global warming of course) What are you asking for?

I’d love to have a GPS because I’m going to the ends of the Earth to promote EARTHLY PLEASURES. Half the fun of writing a book is getting out there and letting people know all about it. I’m really excited because EARTHLY PLEASURES is a Booksense Notable in February, which means most every indie bookstore will be promoting it.

Do you worry about what critics will say when the book comes out? Do you get nervous or anxious when a book is about to hit the shelves?

I remember with my first book I got three bad Amazon reviews in a row and I completely freaked out. I didn’t want to go on tour and promote this loathsome book I’ d written. Luckily I got over that quickly. EARTHLY PLEASURES is my fifth novel. I know there will be people who won’t like it. If you go to Amazon, you can look up any novel in the world and there will be people who say it’s a piece of junk.

I try to remember that whenever I get a less than positive review. Sure it’ll sting for a few minutes and I’ll have a couple of moments of doubt. But then I let go of it and move on and enjoy the positive reviews, which always far outnumber the negatives.

If you could cast the movie version of your book, who would star in the film?

I think Kate Hudson would be fabulous as my main character, Skye. And hey, since they do so well together, why not cast Matthew McConaughey as Ryan?

I had a really nice Publishers Weekly review for EARTHLY PLEASURES and right afterwards I heard from two film producers. Apparently Heaven is a hot topic for Hollywood.

And what is next for you Karen?

I’m putting the finishing touches on a novel about a girl band in the eighties who get back together and start a middle-aged band. I’m also doing a rough outline of another novel that will feature a woman who is half angel.

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