Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Paris Hangover

In looking for pictures of Paris, I came across more photos of Paris Hilton than I needed to ever see. I was looking for something beautiful, like the picture above.

If you offered me a trip to Paris, I would leave tomorrow, maybe even tonight. I have always been interested in visiting this city which is known for its history, fashion, art, beauty, sidewalk cafes, scarves and fancy women wearing red lipstick smoking cigarettes. Forget what they say about French people being rude, I don’t buy it. I want to go.

I let Paris Hangover sit on my bookshelf gathering dust for almost a year. I don’t know why. Maybe it was a case of judging a book by its cover. I wasn’t in the mood for a romance novel which is what I thought Paris Hangover was. I imagined it to be a tawdry bodice ripper, not my style. And by "Hangover", I guessed it was about a lot of partying and drinking. More my style, but still.

I tossed the book in my suitcase during a recent weekend trip hoping to find time to read. I enjoyed every opportunity I had to sit down, sip a cup of coffee and read the book.

Paris Hangover is about a gorgeous, successful, wealthy, extremely fashionable New Yorker named Lauren Klein (Ralph Lauren/Calvin Klein, perhaps?) who hears her biological clock ticking like a drum beat in a Motley Crew song. Trouble is her very wealthy, very good looking very French boyfriend doesn’t want to have a baby. On a whim, she chucks her lavish lifestyle and takes off for the glamour of Paris. She sets out to meet a handsome Frenchman and fall in love and have his baby. Just like that! Easy, right?

Naturally things don’t go smoothly for the beautiful, long legged, blonde haired Klein who has no problem meeting men, just a problem meeting men who don’t cheat or lie, who aren’t crazy, you know the type. She settles into life in Paris landing a dream apartment, making friends, hitting the hot spots, even at one point “entertaining” not one, not two, but three male models. WOW. I wondered how she paid for things since she was basically unemployed but I suppose thats where the "fiction" comes in. This novel is based on author Kirstin Lobe’s real life adventures by the way. 90% of the book is from her own life and I seriously want to know if that part (about the models) of the book was true.

I really liked reading about the places and things she writes of and Klein's foray into painting as a new career. Of course, I’m curious to see if Kristin has settled down with the French man of her dreams and has in fact, had the baby she longed for. Here is a link in case you want a book to transport you to another place, time and persona.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, January 27, 2007

2007 Bloggie Awards

This is me. I wasn't nominated. But see the smile/smirk? I'm still a happy girl!

Hello friends,

Have you voted in the 2007 Bloggie Awards yet? If not, go here to cast your vote.

I was sad that dlisted.com wasn't there and where was Popbytes? But I was so happy to see that Blogging Project Runway was on the ballot and of course, Dooce who is read by everyone I know and many who I don't.

Take a moment from your busy day and vote. Maybe you will find some new blogs that you've never heard of and then you can add another site to your "must read" roster of goodness. It's how I found Post Secret.

Happy Voting!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gayle Brandeis, Self Storage

I am so excited because my friend Gayle's book is out today! Self Storage features many different elements from a mother trying to hold her life together to a woman from Afghanistan. It's about saying YES to the possibility of what could be, it's about an uninspired husband whose greatest contribution is putting a dent in the couch cushion. The backdrop is Riverside County, California a nonglamorous place that can be as dry and dusty as the very boxes held in a self storage facility. And how can I forget Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, a central component to the story!

I think I've given you enough clues to what the book contains, you must read this for yourself to find out more. Gayle's writing is beautifully poetic, I've been a huge fan of hers since reading Fruitflesh a couple of years ago.

I am thrilled to bring you this interview. Yes, I might be a little bit biased because she is a good friend of mine but truly Gayle Brandeis is a talented writer whose book is sure to be a hit. And do you not just love the cover?

What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

I hope people will put the book down with a fresh sense of possibility, with the desire to access the truest source of "yes" in their lives. Maybe a new, or renewed, appreciation for Walt Whitman. A more open heart would be wonderful, too.

If you had an emotional self storage locker, what would you put in it?

Oh my. That locker would be pretty full. I would want to let go of my difficulty expressing (and sometimes even acknowledging) negative emotions. I can handle them in my writing, but not so well in my life. Same goes with my aversion to conflict—it's easy enough for me to put my characters in all sorts of uncomfortable situations, but I shy away from it in the real world. I wouldn't want to let go of all of my shyness, because it's part of who I am, but I would like to get rid of any shyness that keeps me from fully engaging with life.

When I turned 30, I asked everyone at my birthday party to put who they wanted to be—not who they were—on their name tags. I wrote "Loud Bossy Chick"—sort of as a joke, sort of not--because I was pretty much the opposite of that. I am 38 now, and I've definitely gotten louder, if not bossier. It's a slow but steady evolution.

I think that even when we lock those emotional things away in their locker, we still own them. They still make us who we are. So maybe instead of locking those parts of myself up, I would rather open myself to all of them and give them (and myself) room to breathe, to change, to grow.

You are involved in a lot of humanitarian work, tell me about what groups you will be working with in 2007?

My main focus is two women's peace organizations—I am "Communications Goddess" for the group CODEPINK. The title makes me blush, but I am so grateful to do this work. I write the alert that goes out to over 100,000 members around the world each week, and I love being involved with such a creative, fearless group of women. Locally, I am a founding member of the Women Creating Peace Collective—another creative, fearless group—and love finding ways to promote peace in my community through the arts. I want to use Self Storage to raise awareness about two Afghan women's rights organizations, as well—RAWA, and the Afghan Women's Mission. Both are bringing education, healthcare, and other important resources to women and children in Afghanistan.

Does life play out as it’s supposed to with no real coincidences, everything being predetermined? Do you believe in synchronicities?

I am a true believer in synchronicities—most of the major decisions and shifts in my life have come about from mind-blowing coincidences, from unexpectedly being in the right place at the right time. I just try to stay open so I can recognize those moments and see where they take me (sounds like my writing process, actually!)

How do you begin each day- do you have coffee or do yoga or read the online celebrity gossip blogs?

I am not a morning person, so I pretty much begin each day in a stupor. I wake up enough to drive my daughter to school in my pajamas, and then I sit groggily at my computer, checking email, catching up on news, and reading all my blog subscriptions (some of which are, yes, celebrity gossip blogs!) until my eyes focus and I feel ready to start writing. I would love to start the day with yoga—I'm sure it would help shake the cobwebs out and clarify my intention for the day—but I'm more of a night time yoga person (although I'm not that as often as I'd like, either). I wish I could drink coffee—maybe I'd feel more like a grown up if I did—but caffeine makes me feel like my bones are going to shoot through my skin.

If you won a million dollars tomorrow, how would you spend the money?

I would take care of practical things first—pay off our mortgage, set enough aside for the kids' quickly-approaching college years, etc. I'd definitely travel more. And I'd see how I could use the money to make a difference. So many wonderful organizations need funding for their work—the groups I mentioned earlier, of course, plus Mercy Corps, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Food Not Bombs, Heifer International, the Nature Conversancy, etc. I want to support what they're doing, and maybe create some new ways of helping, as well.

Poetry is a huge part of your life. Are you planning on maybe putting together a book of poetry in the near future?

I have a chapbook of poetry out from Pudding House Press—Dictionary Poems, which came about when I gave myself the assignment of finding a new word in the dictionary every day and writing a poem around it. I loved the process, and still do it every once in a while. I have a couple of manuscripts of poetry that are just sitting in my files now—a collection named Lack/Luster, and a memoir in poems, The Sick Girl. I started writing the latter as a traditional memoir, but it kept coming out in short little bursts, and I realized that those wanted to be poems. It's a pretty raw story, about a year when I was sick as a teenager, and the year after, when I pretended to be sick to keep my sick girl identity going, and I'm not sure I'm ready to have it out in the world yet. Maybe I should just put it in that emotional storage locker for the time being! But I should definitely get off my duff and send Lack/Luster around.

How are you feeling about the release of Self Storage, are you nervous? And I want to hear all about the upcoming book tour! Sounds like a lot of fun.

The release of a book is always both exciting and nerve-wracking. I am trying to keep my expectations low, but my hopes high. We'll see what happens. I'll be touring up and down the West Coast--LA, the Bay area, Portland, Seattle, plus my cousin's amazing bookstore in Olympia, WA (http://www.decoloresbooks.com/). I'm also working with Lauren Cerand to put together some events in Chicago and New York. I was so scared before my first book tour in 2002—I was more of a hermit at the time, and the thought of being public with my work was terrifying to me—but I love book tours now. It's a real pleasure to meet with readers, with booksellers, to get out of my cave and connect with the world. Plus I get to stay in hotels and order room service!

Tell me what a perfect day would be for you, where would you go, what would you do?

I'm not sure exactly where I would go—so many possibilities!--but for me, a perfect day would include luscious food, natural (or cultural) beauty, creative inspiration, and lots of dancing. A day to feed all five senses, for sure.

What books are you reading or looking forward to reading?

I just finished reading Necklace of Kisses by Francesca Lia Block. I adore her Weetzie Bat books, so it was a delight to reconnect with Weetzie and her circle of loved ones now that they're all grown up. I'll probably read Mary by Janice Cooke Newman next—I am writing a novel based, in part, on the Lincolns, and am eager to see what she did with Mary Todd's life. I've heard great things about it. I'm also excited to read Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st century, edited by Alex Steffen. I got it for Christmas; it promises to be a very cool compilation of essays about how to create a sustainable future (plus the packaging is gorgeous!)

What's next for Gayle Brandeis?

I hope to finish my Lincoln novel soon. After that, who knows? I am ready for the next synchronicity!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Lauren Lipton interviews Cindy B.

Lauren Lipton is a totally cool chick with a great sense of humor so it's natural that I asked her to do an interview for this blog. I couldn't very well interview myself now could I? I appreciate every single person who has read the book and emailed me or posted a review online, the positive reviews mean a lot. The negative ones crush my soul like a lead weight to the chest. You must keep in mind that the main character is a celebrity obsessed, tabloid reading girl who is at times, unlikable, but aren't we all sometimes? The book is light and humorous, if you are looking for a heavy serious read, please - this isn't the book for you. Try The Old Man and the Sea or something.

If you find yourself paging through US Magazine or sneaking peeks at Star on the checkout line at the grocery store, or if you can't begin your day without looking at celebrity gossip, blogs and websites well, then I think you will enjoy this little story of a woman who can't stop obsessing about Hollywood.

Happy Reading!


I was flattered when Cindy Bokma asked me to be a guest interviewer on her blog, Conversations With Famous Writers. After all, Cindy is one of the wittiest, most creative interviewers I’ve met. She asks questions beyond the typical “Where do you get your ideas?” and takes the time to actually read the book she’s discussing. (You’d be surprised how many interviewers don’t.)

Now it’s Cindy’s turn for the spotlight: She’s written her first novel, A Thousand Dollars For a Kiss. It’s a Hollywood satire with a heroine who’s a lot like Cindy and a villainess who’s a lot like…well, you be the judge. Here are my questions—and Cindy’s thoughts on fame, Phantom Of the Opera, and force-feeding the Olsen twins.

Lauren Lipton

author of It’s About Your Husband

In A Thousand Dollars For a Kiss, heroine Barrett Greer wants to be famous so badly she can taste it. She’s in it for the free stuff and the parties. What aspect of fame most appeals to you?

Besides the big house, the fancy car, the endless designer clothes, worldwide travel and the fact I could send both kids to a fabulous college? Nothing.

Seriously, I would like to never have to worry about money and to be able to do wonderful things for people who need help. Being able to change people’s lives would be better than attending the Oscars while wearing a Valentino gown and being driven around town in a fully loaded stretch Hummer with my best girlfriends.

Why is our society so obsessed with celebrities? Do people really worship these stars and want to be like them? Or do we actually just love to mock them? And where do you fit on this continuum?

They live a charmed life that we may never experience so the best we can do is live vicariously. I can only imagine being Victoria Beckham and shopping for a multimillion-dollar house in Beverly Hills with a circular driveway made of imported Italian stone. Some people probably want to be like the stars, that’s why so many young girls dress like an Olsen twin. Since celebs live such outrageous lives, the best we can do is mock them for their crazy spending and habits and behavior.

You had a lot of authentic-sounding gossip in your book. How much time do you spend on AwfulPlasticSurgery.com and Gawker?

I ran a gossip website for a year and that satire writing comes easily to me; it’s so much fun. I will admit to checking dlisted.com every morning, noon and night to see the latest gossip and photos. And who doesn’t love those “before” photos on Awful Plastic Surgery!?

If it’s true that every woman in Los Angeles has had work done, then perhaps you’ve had a little Botox or teeth-whitening—or a complete body- and face overhaul. Okay, kidding about that last one,
but will you cop to any artificial enhancements?

Yeah, very funny! Since I don’t live exactly in Los Angeles, I didn’t have to have the required plastic surgery to fit in. No enhancements here, although I would be very happy to receive a free boob job. However, I do brush my teeth with a tooth-whitening toothpaste and wear a padded bra.

Oops, Cindy, the paparazzi have just caught you doing something slightly ridiculous. Where are you, and what are you doing?

I am singing my head off to my Phantom Of the Opera soundtrack with the windows of my car down. Or else looking at myself in the reflection of my knife at a restaurant and applying lip gloss. Sorry, I always wear panties and seldom go out at night so I wouldn’t be caught doing anything terribly exciting or Page Six-worthy.

Barrett wants to make over half the women she meets, including her mousy co-worker Arvis and, most of all, the skanky pop star Kat Savage. (Hmm. Whom did you model her after?) Which person—famous or not—would you most like to get your hands on?

I would force-feed the Olsen twins and Nicole Richie, making them eat hero sandwiches and ice cream bars until the scale tipped 105—individually. I would dye Hilary Duff’s hair back to blond and make Nicole Kidman stop with the Botox already!

You’re such a steady and devoted blogger. How has your blogging helped with your book? Do you procrastinate on your novel-writing by working on your blog instead? Because that’s what I’d do.

I should be working on my sequel to A Thousand Dollars for a Kiss, but instead I’ve been updating my blogs this afternoon.

Blogging really has helped with my writing because I am forced to blog—I have to keep updating the sites or I will lose my audience. Writing my gossip site definitely helped me to become more creative and descriptive. Making myself sit down and be disciplined with writing is the key to getting better at it, I hope.

The great thing about the Internet is that anyone can post his or her opinion about your book. What’s the funniest or most edifying comment from a complete stranger you’ve read so far about A Thousand Dollars?

When I hear from people who aren’t friends or relatives telling me how great the book is, that is the best feeling in the world—seriously better than a hot stone massage. The fact that someone stayed up all night reading a book I wrote is a pretty amazing compliment. I love it. Someone wrote to tell me she thought she was the only one addicted to celebrity gossip, and that she totally identified with the character of Barrett. That was awesome to read.

What are you working on now? Tell me we’re going see Arvis in your next book, actually happily settled in Omaha with a handsome husband and two adorable kids.

Arvis doesn’t really figure into this book, but look for her to resurface in book three. The sequel to A Thousand Dollars for a Kiss will heavily feature Marilyn Monroe. I have long been a fan of Marilyn’s and I came up with a plot to write about Barrett and Marilyn. I’m going really slow with this book because I want to do it right.

What’s your dream job? Or are you doing it now?

I would be very content if my author interviews and /or beauty reviews (www.hellodollface.com) were featured in a magazine every month. Besides that, I dream of taking good books and turning them into movies. Working for a production company where I could help cast the movie versions of books, driving my Infiniti FX35 to work every day, would be a dream.

I shouldn’t discount the fact that I can sit at my computer in my relatively clean home every day and write, rather than working at a sewage plant. But I still really want that new car. And a job in the movies. Behind the scenes, of course.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cookie Magazine

I really hate to post a photo of my book cover yet again and I also REALLY don't want to post a photo of myself unless it's been photoshopped into me looking like a supermodel so instead, I'm posting a photo of Britney above. She's a lot like one of the characters in my book and I totally think Cameron Diaz should play her in the movie version. If that happens. Which I hope it does because I've been shopping around for a literary film agent and I don't want my efforts to be in vain. You know? I pray for miracles.

Yesterday I had the worst afternoon and evening that you can imagine. My daughter had morphed into Rosemary's Baby, age 6. Is it me or is it little girls? Her mood downright scared me. I half expected her little head to start whirling around and her eyes to bulge out of her face. It wouldn't have taken much to pull down a bottle of vodka and hide in the closet drinking the whole damn thing. This parenting thing is hard and sometimes I don't like it.

So this morning it was a very welcome surprise to find my interview with the great Caroline Leavitt posted on the Cookie Magazine website. You can view it here. And then please do head over to the forums and leave a message. It's a great place to discuss books and learn about new releases as well as some that you might not be aware of.

I hope you, my dear readers, are having a fabulous day filled with unicorns and rainbows and juicy celebrity gossip! I will be posting soon about some books I've read and of course, more interviews are coming.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Libby Street, Accidental IT Girl

A long time ago, I was going insane trying to run a celebrity gossip site. I had to stay on top of the very latest celeb gossip and post those paparazzi photos of stars outside without makeup and looking all messy and normal, gosh I love those pictures. I was also working on my book which would later turn out to be A Thousand Dollars for a Kiss.

A friend suggested I make the main character into a female paparazzi, an agent told me the same thing. As tempting as it was, I refrained from changing my story but guess what? The Accidental IT Girl by Libby Street (two authors, one name) is about a female paparazzi. Sadie Price has the terrible job of trailing stars and catching them walking down the street or eating dinner or doing something they shouldn't be (Britney, I'm talking to YOU!) doing. Sadie gets a dose of her own medicine when a handsome celeb starts stalking her to show how it feels to move through life with a camera lens in your face, the click click click of the shutter never far behind.

A fun book, Accidental IT Girl gives the reader a glimpse of what it's like to have your photos splashed in the tabloids along with fabricated stories. You will tear through this book quickly, it's the perfect novel to read on a lazy afternoon. It's quick and humorous and those of you who cannot live without your daily dose of celebrity gossip sites will appreciate it.

Who are your favorite celebrities to read about? What do you think was the juiciest gossip of 2006?

Sarah and I both enjoy a good George Clooney story. He seems to live an old Hollywood lifestyle that's particularly attractive to us. He doesn't take himself too seriously, and manages somehow to float through the mayhem of the industry with a wry wink and a smile. Plus, stories about him are few and far between these days, which makes them a real treat to savor when they pop up.

As for the juiciest gossip of 2006. . .that's a tough one. Last year wasn't packed with the "secrets revealed" kind of gossip, which is what I think of when you say "juicy." I would say the story of the year was the TomKat wedding. I found the whole thing fascinating--almost like investigating a bizarre foreign culture. Their lives are so far out of my frame of reference that it ceases to be gossip and enters the realm of anthropological study. You know? At a certain point, some famous people begin living by a whole new set of rules. Literally anything is possible for them. I love to see what they do with that.

Kevin Federline: gangsta rapper or joke? Where do you imagine he will be next year this time?

Well, I hate to put anyone down--gives me the creepy crawlies--but I have to say that Sarah and I both agree on this one. K-Fed is a joke. He seems to be the kind of guy who craves fame at any cost. I don’t get the feeling that rapping is something Kevin has had a passion for all his life, and dreamed about since he was little. I think this time next year K-Fed will probably be knee-deep in litigation over a tell-all book he's peddling to publishing houses.

Sometimes I think the paparazzi go to far, like zooming into someone's backyard or following them to the point they feel threatened. But part of being a celebrity is having your photo taken when you are walking down the street or eating lunch at The Ivy. What do you think?

It's a very fine line that the paparazzi and celebrities walk. They're so symbiotic. Celebs need publicity to succeed, but they need a private life to stay sane. It's a real coup when a celebrity can structure his or her life so that there's a balance.

If you could trade places with a celebrity for a day who would you switch lives with?

Hmmm. That's a toughie. I know I should say someone fabulous and glamorous like Nicole Kidman or Beyonce or something, but really I think I'd like to trade places with J.K. Rowling. Firstly because, well, she's richer than the Queen of England and I do love to shop. And second, because I'm dying to read the next book--even a tatty first draft.

How do you girls write together? What is your writing schedule? Do you ever get in arguments about how a scene should play out or what a character should say or do?

We write back and forth with each of us reading, editing, and adding to the work of the other. I write during the week, while Sarah's at her day job. Sarah works on weekends, holidays and sometimes nights. One or the other of us is always working on it.

Amazingly, we haven't ever really argued about story or character. When we have a difference of opinion on something we'll talk it out, and each lay out or respective case. We always manage to come to a consensus about what should be done. Often times we'll come up with something even better than either of our individual ideas.

Sure, the paparazzi are given a bad rap. But without them, we wouldn't be able to see Angelina shopping with Maddox or Jen on the beach gazing forlornly out into the ocean. Paparazzi: good people or necessary evil?

Well, one of the things Sarah and I came to realize while writing Accidental It Girl is that being a paparazzi is just a job, like any other job. They're working to pay their rent and put their kids through school just like the rest of the world. I mean, they do tend to be adrenaline junkies who don't mind occasionally staying up all night, but other than that, they're just people making a living. And, so are celebrities. It's hard to choose sides. Especially when you realize that all the paparazzi are doing is filling a demand.

If we, the public, didn't want to see pics of Angelina shopping with Maddox, they wouldn't shoot them. By the same token, I understand how bad it must feel to never be allowed to do the simplest thing without someone watching. And then you have to consider that the movie industry is set up to encourage the promotion of stars as a commodity and all actors know this when they sign up for the job. It's a total conundrum. When we began writing Accidental It Girl, Sarah and I thought we could maybe find the answers to some of these puzzles. Sadly, it just made us more confused.

How has life changed since your first book was published?

Very little, to be honest. The only real difference is that when I write something now I'm pretty sure someone will read it. When we wrote Happiness Sold Separately Sarah and I slaved away in our little rooms hoping against hope that someone other than our mothers might look at it. Writing could sometimes feel futile, like "what if I spend four months chained to this computer and then no one even reads this?" It's much less depressing now--good for the sanity. Oh, and I have a lot more friends on MySpace. Ha!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Gayle Brandeis

Gayle Brandeis is a fabulous poet and writer and person and friend. I adore her! She's become a good friend over the past few years and you will love her new novel, Self Storage. It's coming out soon and you can look for her to stop by here and do an interview with me.

Gayle has a very poetic way of writing that is beautiful. Herwords sail across the page, creating a fluid story that touches your heart.

If you haven't read The Book of Dead Birds, then you must add it to your "To Read" list. And if you are a writer or artist or any bit of a creative soul then having Fruitflesh on your bookshelf is a necessity!

Gayle invited me to do an interview on her blog- what fun for me to answer questions instead of coming up with them! You can read our interview here. Feel free to linger a bit and read through Gayle's site, please leave a comment and tell her hello!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Marisa De Los Santos, Love Walked In

What a gem of a book. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos is the perfect book to read if you are looking for a love story- but not necessarily a love story between a man and a woman although yes, there is some of that too. This book alternates between adult Cornelia and eleven year old Clare. What could a grown woman and young girl have in common for them to forge a special, loving friendship? You need to read the book and find out.

The author writes in such poetic prose, it's beautiful. Marisa weaves in a little about those wonderful old movies like the black and whites starring Katharine Hepburn, and she talks of Philadelphia in such detail I could practically smell those genuine Philly cheesesteaks.

I'm not the only one who enjoyed the book- Sarah Jessica Parker liked Love Walked In so much that she is attached to star in the Paramount Pictures version of it. You know how I love when good books are turned into films. Yay Marisa! Charming, heart warming, sweet, beautifully written, that is exactly how I would describe this novel.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Have you ever experienced it?

I think two strangers can have an unaccountably strong instantaneous connection. The first day I met my husband, I thought, “It could definitely happen with this man: marriage, kids, eternal love, the whole shebang.” But if he’d asked me to marry him on the spot, I would have said, “No.” Love means commitment, generosity, and joy on such a deep level that I can’t imagine being sure of it within minutes. Having said that, I also have to say that I fell madly in love with both of my kids before I ever saw them.

What was it like to get the call that Sarah Jessica Parker wanted to star in the movie version of your book? Was there someone that you imagined as Cornelia when you wrote the book?

It was hard enough to get my mind around the fact that she’d read the book, so the fact that she wanted to produce and star in an adaptation was truly mind-blowing, just so very exciting. I still don’t think I’ve completely grasped it. While I was working on the novel, I was so consumed by the writing process that I never really thought about the possibility of its being made into a film, so, although I had a strong sense of Cornelia’s physical appearance, I wasn’t mentally casting the role. After having seen Sarah Jessica transform herself into the taut, sad, brittle character she played in The Family Stone, I think she can do whatever she wants.

Where did you get the name Cornelia from? That’s not a name heard on young women very much.

I’m a fan of weighty, old-fashioned names, and there’s an anachronistic quality to the character Cornelia. The truth is that I’m not sure how the name happened. I never considered any other name; she just sort of arrived with the name.

When you first begin a novel, there you are at the computer and in front of you, stretched out like a never ending road, are countless empty pages. It’s intimidating—how do you dig in and start writing? Do you ever get nervous that you won’t be able to fill the pages with a good story?

When I was writing papers in graduate school, I was terrified of page-count, of not hitting the required length. I did think of it as endless, awful blank space waiting to be filled. But writing fiction is very different. I don’t focus on the length, but on the characters and the story. For me, the major characters come first and I let them develop in my head for a long time before I write anything down; then, I need to have the bare bones of a plot. Once I start writing, I try to put my trust in the characters, in what I know about them, and allow the story to grow out of that knowledge. It’s always a surprising, humbling, exhilirating process.

In the book, you go back and forth from Cornelia’s point of view to third person point of view writing about Clare. Did you write the chapters consecutively? How difficult was it to write in two points of view, especially writing about an eleven-year old?

I did write the chapters consecutively. I’m a very plodding writer in some ways; I don’t leap ahead or put in place holders to go back to later and rework. I don’t write the end first. I write one sentence, then the next, then the one after that. There had to be a bit of gear shifting between Cornelia’s and Clare’s chapters; usually, I couldn’t dive right in. I would take a day or a few days between chapters to get my bearings. I loved writing Clare’s sections. For better or worse, I think I’m very in touch with my inner eleven year old! But it was hard to write the chapters in which Clare suffers a lot or feels afraid; emotionally, that was painful and sometimes exhausting.

What are some frivolous, fun things that you indulge in? Are you a girly-girl who loves cute shoes and make-up and nice clothes?

Despite the fact that I spend an awful lot of time writing in clothes that are just one step up from pajamas, I do love clothes and shoes. Handbags, too. I have an Isabella Fiore bag that makes me happy every time I look at it. I’m not sure I’d describe myself as a girly-girl, though, because apart from exercise, which keeps me sane, I am so lazy about upkeep. I keep my hair long and its natural color and keep make-up to a bare minimum out of sheer laziness. And I don’t like shopping the way I used to; I’m the queen of online ordering. I would rather spend the time I’m not working with my family and friends. I love anything that involves good food and good wine; a small dinner party is my favorite way to spend an evening. I don’t get to watch a whole lot of television, but I love House, The Closer, and The Office. I’m a sucker for complicated, oddball characters.

Where did you go on your favorite vacation? What is your favorite childhood memory?

My favorite vacation was one my family and I took two summers ago to the Philippines. My parents retired to Cebu City a few years back, and it was our first trip to see them. I loved watching my children fall in love with an entirely new place and an entire branch of our family that they’d never met before. We snorkled amazing waters and feasted on fish and mangoes and fresh bread. It was a beautiful time.

It’s so hard to choose a single favorite childhood memory, but I love remembering listening to records with my mother. She had a terrific voice, and, for hours, she, my sister, and I would dance in the living room and sing our heads off to people like Jim Croce, Carly Simon, James Taylor, and John Denver. My dad would lie on the couch, reading the newspaper and listening to us try to hit the high notes.

What is one movie that you could watch over and over again? Is there a film star that you adore from the ‘40s or ‘50s? You mention Katharine Hepburn in the book a few times.

There are so many movies I could watch over and over. It’s a Wonderful Life, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, The Awful Truth, It Happened One Night, Adam’s Rib, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I love Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant, but I love the women best, especially the funny, wicked-smart, fast-talking ones. Katharine Hepburn is perfection, of course. And I adore Irene Dunne. They both have incredible timing and such a gift for using their faces, conveying thoughts or emotions with tiny subtle movements.

Complete the sentence: By this time next year, I want to be well into writing my third novel, which has been developing in my head for months, and I want to be sticking to a weight workout (I have zero upper body strength) and I want to have just a tiny bit more unscheduled time in every day. Other than that, if my life stays pretty much the way it is now, I’ll be happy.

Books of 2006

Last year my choice for "book of the year" was so easy. Hands down it was The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Not only was the book intriguing, intense but it was a page-turner written with such detail that you felt like you were a party of the story. I still think of Jeannette's memoir and what she overcame and how inspiring her life is.

I've read a ton of excellent novels this past year and feel so fortunate to be able to meet all these incredible writers and have them here on this humble little blog. It's been really hard to choose a "Book of the Year."

Gosh, I just loved Queen of the Oddballs by Hillary Carlip. It was fun and a real treat to read about the different decades in this quirky memoir. I also really enjoyed Triangle by Katharine Weber who is brilliant with a capital B. Twins by Marcy Dermansky stood out as being an awesome debut novel. The Untelling by Tayari Jones was written in a powerful, lovely voice. Laura Dave, Amy DeZellar, John Shors, Wendy Blackburn...all amazing writers. Every single author I have interviewed here has written a book that has touched me in one way or the other...made me laugh or cry or think or be inspired.

My choice for 2006 Book of the Year is The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart.
This compelling story of friendship has been enjoyed by every person I've recommended it to.
If you haven't read it then I suggest you get your manicured hands on a copy and dig in. My favorite time to read is after the kids have gone to bed and the house is quiet and the only sound I can hear is that of my dog licking himself. Uh..seriously. But he's downstairs now so its time for me to get back to my current book of the week.

I look forward to another great year of books and authors and you of course, readers who love good books as much as I do.

happy new year to all.