Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Conversations With Famous Writers is looking for a person who loves to read and write. I have so many novels coming in and not enough time to read everything. I would love to find someone to share the reading with me and write up a review here and there. If you are interested, please shoot me an email here (distressedbluejeans@gmail.com) and we can discuss.


Sara Voorhees, The Lumiere Affair

I would love to take a trip to the Cannes Film Festival. What could be more fun than viewing lots of movies and seeing gorgeous celebrities? Plus the sun-drenched beaches, fine wines and all the history and culture makes it a vacation I would take in a heartbeat.

In Sara Voorhees novel, The Lumiere Affair, we get to see Cannes up close and personal. Sara knows all about Cannes as she has been a film critic and celebrity interviewer for years. I read that Sara has written over four thousand movie reviews. WOW. I’d love to have coffee with Sara and talk endlessly about her experiences. Did she giggle while watching Blades of Glory? And wasn’t Joaquin Phoenix robbed of an Oscar for his role in Walk the Line?

The Lumiere Affair is about a woman named Natalie Conway who like Sara, is a film critic. She travels to Europe to cover the Cannes Film Festival but isn’t sure how she feels about being in France. An accident in Paris as a child has haunted her all her life. While in Cannes, she uncovers a huge secret about her mother and we are taken on a whirlwind literary adventure with a stunning conclusion.

This is a well written book, a fabulous debut novel. It’s a mystery, but is also about family and the ties we have to those we love and have left but not forgotten. It’s surprising and interesting and fun. Highly recommended!

It must be really thrilling to meet so many celebrities. What is not glamorous about interviewing famous people?

The first celebrities I ever spoke to were Debra Winger and Nick Nolte, at a movie junket for Canary Row. I was so nervous when I met Nick Nolte, he took pity on me and asked himself the questions I'd written for him. I thought it was all glamorous beyond my wildest dreams, but a couple of the veteran film critics I met on that junket, who'd been doing junkets for years, predicted that it would take six months of regular every week-end flying to LA or New York to talk to celebrities before I became jaded -- before it was no longer glamorous to me and it started to feel like a job. I lasted about a year before I started wishing I could stay home and go to a soccer game or have friends over for dinner on Saturday night instead of flying off to talk to another movie star about his movie.

You don't get a lot of sympathy for that, however. Because everyone assumes that sitting down for an interview with Brad Pitt or Charlize Theron is ultra-glam. But even though they are every bit as gorgeous and glowing and gifted as you think they're going to be, they are just people -- better looking and luckier than most of the people we spend our days with, but just people like us. And the reality is that every interview they have is just part of their job, as it is for us. Actors make movies knowing they'll have to talk to the press at junkets, which means dozens of interviews per day. So no matter how many times you talk to her, it's hard to strike up a special bond with Cameron Diaz when you're one of a seventy-five journalists.

And during the interview itself, there are cameras and technicians and publicists and other star handlers in the room watching the interview. For print, there are maybe six journalists sitting around a table asking the star questions. So there's no illusion that they're there to meet you.

After you've been doing interviews for a long time, you reach a point where Brad or Cameron or Charlize recognize you, But for both of you it's a job, which has the potential of being interesting and satisfying, but not exactly glamorous.

In the book Natalie had a stressful schedule while in Cannes. What have your own experiences been like? Have you ever gone as an observer not a member of the press?

Have you ever been body surfing? Cannes is a little like the first few attempts to ride a wave. Until you get the hang of it, you get pounded head first into the sand, over and over. Every time you go again, you get pounded a few times before your body remembers how. I've covered the festival five times, for print and for television, and my schedule has always been as frenetic as Nattie's, with three or four movies a day, press conferences for at least two of them, roundtable interviews with actors and directors, and maybe a party late at night where stuffed mushrooms and cheeseballs serve as lunch and dinner. So many interviews, so many movies, so many parties, so little sleep.

The only time I've gone as an observer was this year, when I was there during the first few days of the festival for a booksigning of The Lumiere Affair. This year was the 60th anniversary, so there were even more journalists and moviemakers and studio people than I've seen there before. It's a marketplace, after all. People are there to sell and buy movies. But I wished I were there as part of the press. It was odd to see my fellow journalists shoving and elbowing for a place in line to see a movie and not be shoving and elbowing along with them. I had Survivor's Guilt.

Have you ever met Angelina Jolie? *sigh* Id love to meet her. Who are your favorite celebs?

You're right about Angelina -- she's a phenomenon, and she's come a long way from those early years of wearing a vial of Billy Bob's blood around her neck or painting her first husband Jonny Lee Miller's name in her own blood on the back of her wedding shirt. Now she seems to be trying to live a noble life, which can't be easy in the midst of the almost irresistible seduction of staying shallow and self-absorbed in Hollywood. I've talked to her several times, and I've always been impressed by her intensity and intelligence, especially after she and Brad Pitt gave a million dollars to charity and she said, "We make a stupid amount of money for what we do." Have you ever heard a movie star admit that?

My favorite celebs are all people with the qualities I also like in my friends: humor, intelligence, the ability to take their work seriously but not to take themselves too seriously, a sense of their responsibility to others. The flashy star quality that you'd think would make a favorite interview fades almost immediately when you're face to face with the reality. I have an endless number of favorites . . . Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp, Robin Williams, Will Smith, William H Macy ... people whose company I've genuinely enjoyed.

I don't think I've ever read a novel where someone gets struck by lightening. What was your inspiration for that unusual accident?

A high school friend of mine was struck by lightning in the mountains of Colorado when she was 20 and on a picnic with a new boyfriend. The lightning hit her zipper and bounced into her boyfriend's watch. When she woke up, she was in the hospital, and she had a horrible burn on her stomach. There was an article about them in the paper, saying she was 20 (she was) and he was 30 (he was). They had told each other they were 25. Oops. They were each affected by the lightning in different ways, and I became sort of obsessed with various kinds of lightning and the massive power it has, to interrupt our lives in 3 milliseconds. It's a wonderful natural metaphor for what Shakespeare called Outrageous Fortune. Who knows when it's going to find you? What shape will it take? How it will leave you?

If you could spend the rest of your life doing one job, what would it be and why? Would it be traveling to Cannes every year and rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous?

I'd be writing fiction. Creating it is even more fun than watching it or reading it. You get up every morning and there's always the chance that something you don't know about yet is going to happen to one of your characters. I once wrote an angry letter to John Irving, when he suddenly had an entire family of characters I'd come to love (including the dog) die in a plane crash in The Hotel New Hampshire. I was furious. He wrote me back and said he was truly sorry, but he didn't know they were going to die until they were on their way to Europe and the plane just crashed: it was an accident. I didn't understand then that sometimes your own characters do things, or fate does things to them that you have no control over.

I probably wouldn't be traveling to Cannes every year, but I'd definitely be seeing movies and writing about them. I have a French friend who maintains that she could never live in America because we have no bidets. "La vie sans bidet n'est pas la vie," she says: Life without a bidet is not life. I feel that way about movies -- life without movies would not be life.

What are your favorite all- time movies, the ones you could watch over and over and never get tired of?

Ooh-la-la. Big question. I have new favorites every year, and I can watch almost anything over and over as long as I'm awake. Musicals, comedies, animated features, action movies, foreign language films, documentaries. you name it.

A question I can answer, which I always ask actors and directors when there's a lull in the interview, is this: what movie had the greatest impact on you? You'd be surprised at the kind of movies that have changed peoples' lives. Nicole Kidman's movie was The Wizard of Oz. Kevin Costner's was Ben Hur, which he read on the marquis when he was something like seven. I have a friend who decided to get a divorce when he saw All That Jazz .. another friend who decided to leave her husband when she saw Prince of Tides. Movies expand us in odd directions.

The movie that had the greatest impact on me was El Cid, with Charleton Heston and Sophia Loren. I saw it when I was just trying to figure out for myself what it meant to love another person, what loyalty and courage were, what it meant to be a woman. I saw it again when Martin Scorsese had it refurbished and released it in the '90s. It was still powerful, but I realized I haven't made much headway in my efforts to become Sophia Loren.

Have you gone back and read the novel since it's been published? How long did it take from start to finish to write?

Authors are always talking about how long it took them to write their books. When Steven King heard that William Styron maintained it took ten years to write Sophie's Choice, and Charles Frazier said it took that long to write Cold Mountain, he said, "Those guys were just dickin' around." I don't know about that. The Lumiere Affair took at least five years, from the day I wrote the first line to the day it was published -- including the first draft, rewrites, editing, and then the long wait for publication once Simon and Schuster bought it. People like Steven King and Tony Hillerman, who also writes about a mystery per year, are heroic to me.

How do you unwind after a long day of writing?

In descending order of mental challenge:
A long bike ride.
A short bike ride.
A walk with the dog.
Dinner with my husband, somewhere I don't have to cook.
Anything I've TIVO'ed
DVDs of past TV shows (eg. Star Trek SNG, Grey's Anatomy, Six Feet Under)
Coffee ice cream

With all the details you include in the book, its obvious you've been to France. What would be your recommendations on what to see and do there? So many little cafes, so little time.

First, "do" Paris. That's a big order, and if you haven't been there, you'll have lots of famous places you'll already want to see in Paris. You can't go wrong with any restaurant in the city. Eat as much and see as many sights as you have time for.

Then, happily, the rest of France awaits you, and there is something for everyone somewhere in the country: the Alps if you like to ski or hike, the Riviera if you like to swim and eat fish, the Loire Valley if you like wine, the Bordeaux Region if you like prehistoric sights (the Lascaux caves). When I was in school in Tours during college, I made friends with some people in the Kayak-Canoe Club of France, and traveled from one end of the country to the other, following the rivers. It's one of the most magnificent countries on earth, but most tourists stay in Paris.

What is your favorite treat when you want to indulge in something?

Besides coffee ice cream and the "Movies" section on DirecTV? I managed to resist getting cable for many years, but The Daily Show and Steven Colbert pushed us over the edge. We had to watch them. That was a year ago. Since then I've indulged in so much coffee ice cream in front of so many late-night movie marathons I can't even count the number of bleary-eyed mornings after 4 hours of sleep I've stumbled into consciousness. Note to self: never eat Starbuck's Classic Coffee ice cream after 8 pm.

Are you currently working on another novel?

The Korean woman Nattie meets at Cannes thought that a happy ending depends on where you stop the story. Maybe I stopped The Lumiere Affair too soon, because Nattie still has some things she needs to face. I'm working on a continuation of her story.

I think it was Balzac who said that every real writer has at least two drawers filled with first chapters. I'm still on my first drawer.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Starter Wife on USA Network

I am so excited for author Gigi Levangie Grazer. Her novel, The Starter Wife has been turned into a movie on the USA Network starring Debra Messing and I can't wait to watch it. Imagine getting the phone call that a studio wants to make your book into a movie starring a well known actress. That would be the proverbial icing on the cake!

The Starter Wife is about Gracie, a Hollywood wife married to a studio executive. Gracie has everything at her fingertips - the best restaurants, shops and people waiting on her for every need. A few months short of their ten year anniversary, her husband dumps her-via cell phone- for a younger woman, a pop star whose face is everywhere Gracie looks.

Gracie must pick up the pieces of her fractured life and put everything back together in the midst of the whole glamorous Hollywood scene. From the video clips on the USA Network site, the movie looks fabulous and you can watch an interview with Gigi here.

I think its every author's dream of having their book turned into a movie, I know it's mine. So congrats to Gigi and I will be watching next Thursday night!

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A Model Summer

The first assumption would be that this novel is a fluffy, frilly book about what it's like to be a super model- days and nights full of gorgeous clothes and exciting parties. After all, it's written by Paulina Porizkova who was on the cover of every major fashion magazine back in the 80's, so she knows of what she writes. Pick up any Vogue from back in the day and you will see her in the glossy pages staring out at you with her big blue eyes. A Model Summer is very well written and while Paulina has a sense of humor, the book is not silly or light.

A Model Summer is about a poor teenage girl who is tall and skinny and is made fun of by her classmates. She gets a major opportunity to become a model in Paris and leaves all that she knows to live and work on her own. But it's much more than a simple story of a model. Paulina has surprised the critics with her writing talent. She describes her scenes so well that it's easy to imagine you are in the room with Jirina, the heroine of the book.

Of course as I was reading, I wondered how much of this book Paulina experienced herself as a young model in Europe. I recall Paulina never smiling in her pictures because she had bad teeth, just like the character of Jirina. A Model Summer is worth your time to read, scooping you up into the world of modeling and shocking you with the seedy details and gritty experiences of a young fashion model.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gwen Cooper, Diary of a South Beach Party Girl

My earliest memories of being in Miami is playing hide and seek with another little girl, eating sugar cane and being encouraged to great everyone with "Hola!" But there is nothing so innocent or sweet about this book which takes place in South Beach.

Gwen Cooper is a fourth generation Miami Beach native so it was likely that the book would take place in a setting she knows well. I think Gwen might have had a few wild nights on the South Beach party scene in order to write such a intriguing expose on what goes on behind the velvet ropes of the hippest, hottest clubs. Diary of A South Beach Party Girl reminds me of hearing wild stories from a saucy friend: you can't help but want to know more- especially the sordid details. Secretly you can't believe you have a friend that's so....bad!

Diary of a South Beach Party Girl is a fun summer read, a book to bring to the beach. Don't forget the sunscreen, vodka optional!

I couldn’t help but think about the song “White Lines” by Grandmaster Flash as I was reading the book. What song or songs do you think of when you imagine the South Beach party scene?

That’s a really uncanny coincidence—because I swear the song I think of is “White Lines” too! I remember the day when I sat down and wrote the first chapter of DIARY OF A SOUTH BEACH PARTY GIRL; that night, I went to a party in New York for the 20th anniversary of the movie Scarface. The first song I heard as I walked in was “White Lines,” and I remember thinking: “If my novel had a theme song, this would be it!”

And it’s still the song I play when I’m psyching myself up for something related to the book, like right before I do interviews or readings.

But there’s so much great music that was played in South Beach clubs and bars during the era covered by the book—techno, house, trance, electro pop, salsa, merengue, disco, standards. Some of the best DJs in the world—people like Fatboy Slim, Victor Calderone, and Paul van Dyk—were spinning on South Beach back then, and still are. There’s actually a lot of music referenced and quoted in the book. I always say that it’s a book with a soundtrack.

The main character Rachel surely does her share of cocaine and drinking. Do you worry that the book glamorizes the use of drugs?

I tend to be a contrarian by nature, so there was definitely a part of me that wanted to avoid the typical path you see in books or movies that feature drug use, where the minute a character comes into contact with drugs, they become a hopeless junkie.

Don’t get me wrong—addiction is obviously very real and a very real part of the club scene, and there are characters in DIARY who end up in rehab or worse. But it sometimes seems to me that the only story being told about drug use is that story we’ve all seen a million times, where the main character spirals out of control and has to slowly, painfully rebuild his or her life.
The most important thing to me was to keep DIARY fun, and if I’d taken Rachel too far down a dark path, I think the book would have lost a lot of its fun. I also wanted to show the reality of drug use—the people who go too far and also the people who don’t.

So you’ll see, in DIARY, that sometimes Rachel goes on a bender and has a great time, and other times she goes a little wild and gets into trouble. (Actually, Rachel gets into a lot of trouble!) The drug use is mostly there to create the craziness, drama, and occasional bad luck in the character’s life that keep you turning the pages to see what happens to her next.

I’ve read lots of books that take place in New York City and lots that take place in Los Angeles but not many that take place in South Beach. Why do you think that is? What is the appeal of the South Beach party scene?

It’s an interesting question, why there haven’t been more novels written about South Beach, and I’ve heard it asked quite frequently. It’s tough for me to answer, because South Beach provides such rich source material for a writer that it’s hard for me to imagine other writers not being inspired by it.

I think part of it is that there used to be an unwritten code on SoBe that none of the “insiders” would write about what was happening on the scene, because doing so might jeopardize the scene’s existence. But so much of that has changed in the last few years with the rise of 24-hour celebrity news coverage—and so much of the grittiness you used to find on South Beach has been cleaned up anyway. So I think we’ll see more South Beach novels fairly soon.

There are a lot of reasons why South Beach is such an appealing place, but I think the primary one is that it’s just so incredibly beautiful—both the place itself and the people who live and party there. Sheer, physical beauty will always be seductive. And it’s a place that both encourages and forgives a lot of excess. I always say that one of the most alluring things about partying on South Beach is that you can have a constant tan there; so you can drink until sunrise, do an eight-ball, indulge in every vice you can think of…and the next day, you can look at yourself in the mirror and think, “Well, I’ve got a tan—I must be healthy!”

Would you like to spend a wild weekend in Rachel’s stilettos if there would be no repercussions?

Hell—I’d spend two wild weekends in Rachel’s shoes if I could get off consequence-free!
Rachel is such a party girl that all the hip clubs and places in South Beach know her and whisk her through the velvet ropes.

Would you like to have your pictures taken wherever you go or be written about in every local magazine for your wild ways and daring cleavage?

Wow—that’s a tough question to answer honestly, but I’ll try! On the one hand, it’s undeniably exhilarating to put on a glamorous gown, walk down a red carpet, and have a slew of photographers take your picture. I was talking about drug addiction earlier, but that particular rush can become it’s own kind of addiction, where you end up being obsessed with where and how often you see your picture in print.

A law of diminishing returns sets in, and you have to get more and more attention to achieve the same “high.” At least in the context of a small town like South Beach, though, you realize eventually that having everybody know where you were and what you were doing there can become somewhat claustrophobic.

What are your fondest memories of growing up in South Beach?

I think what I love most about the South Beach of my childhood is that three generations of my family lived there before I did. I’d drive around with them and they’d show me the apartment building my mother grew up in, or the bakery where my grandfather would get bagels and kugel on Sundays, or the place where my great-grandfather’s store used to be.

South Beach has always been beautiful, but it was so run-down and abandoned back then that it was more about the beauty of possibilities—you could close your eyes and imagine how glamorous it must have been when people like Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor were there all the time. That’s part of what’s been so miraculous for me, as a native, in watching South Beach’s rebirth of the past two decades. Everything that I thought South Beach could be when I was a child has been so far surpassed by what it’s become.

Five words to describe South Beach…

Sexy, seedy, glamorous, exotic, and way over-the-top (okay, so that last one was more of a phrase…)

Everyone thinks this book is your semi-autobiography. How different are you really from Rachel Baum and how are your similar?

Rachel and I come from very similar backgrounds and follow very similar trajectories in our lives. But I’d say that Rachel starts out being a little bit more sheltered than I was, and consequently becomes a tad more reckless than I used to be back in my own South Beach party girl days.

What are you planning to shock and amaze us with next?

I plan to indulge in a shocking amount of celebrating and sleeping once I’m done promoting this book! But I’ve already started on the next one—and while it’s at an early enough stage that I don’t want to say too much about it, I think that people who like DIARY OF A SOUTH BEACH PARTY GIRL will love what I’m working on next…

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Alison Winn Scotch, The Department of Lost and Found

I heard the buzz about The Department of Lost and Found many months before it was out. I eagerly awaited my advanced reading copy and began it as soon as it arrived on my doorstep. It's a quick read because Allison Winn Scotch keeps the reader engaged and the book moves along without getting too technical or sad as the character of Natalie struggles with breast cancer.

Natalie Miller is a political senior aide to a New York senator. She is career driven and focused, but when she is diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, life takes an unexpected turn. To make matters worse her boyfriend dumps her and her chemo treatment forces her to stay home. The only thing that makes her the slightest bit happy is watching The Price is Right. Natalie writes in her journal, develops a crush on a kind gynecologist and wonders exactly why her ex-rocker boyfriend is coming around to take care of her.

Allison is getting rave reviews for her debut novel and with good reason. It's a terrific debut about a serious subject. The Department of Lost and Found is written with such skill that you will eagerly await Allison's next novel as soon as you close this one.

How long did it take you to write the book? How did you find your agent?

I wrote the book very quickly – the first draft took me about three months. I was fueled by the grief of just having lost one of my closest friends to breast cancer, and writing was really a way for me to exorcise my pain.

Once I’d completed the first draft, I spent another month or so revising it with my then-agent. Once I felt like it was ready to be sent out into the world, my agent decided she didn’t think it was “good enough,” and she wanted me to start a new project instead, so… after a frank discussion, we amicably agreed to go our separate ways.

It was a really terrifying moment for me – after all, as any writer can tell you, finding an agent is a really arduous process, and once you have one, the last thing you want to do is walk away from her. But I knew that this book was worthy of landing with someone who felt as passionately about it as I did, so taking that leap was really necessary. Fortunately, I received several new offers of representation within a few weeks of querying, and I signed with my current agent, whom I couldn’t love more and who couldn’t love this book more. I feel really lucky to have found her and think it will be a career-long partnership.

Writers are a kind group- we all sort of assist each other out when we can. You are a huge help to people, answering tons of questions on your blog. How did you get so knowledgeable about all things in the publishing industry?

I fully believe in the concept of paying it forward, especially because, as I made my way up the rungs of the publishing industry, there were certainly plenty of people who offered me a hand. I also believe that there is always more than enough work to go around, and just because you land a story at Glamour doesn’t mean that I won’t also land one.

It’s a silly concept: the one of cut-throat competition among writers, because if you’re good and you make yourself valuable, you’ll nearly always find that editors are eager to work with you. But I’ve digressed from your question. I’ve been a freelance magazine writer for about six or seven years (wow! I can’t believe it’s been that long!!), and really, the knowledge that I share is just information that I’ve learned along the way. I had a lot of basic questions when I started out, and there weren’t always resources for quick and easy answers. So I’m happy to be able to be one of those resources now.

The book deals with breast cancer. I imagine the research was pretty intense. How did you learn about the different aspects of the disease?

Actually, the research wasn’t as intense as the real-life situation that I’d lived through. Because I’m a health writer, I actually already knew a good deal about the disease. In fact, when my friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, I’d just completed a story on it, which involved interviewing survivors, so again, I was pretty well-versed in terms of the science and medicine behind it. But watching my friend go through her battle really taught me about the emotional nuances that survivors and patients, as well as their friends and families, have to deal with. I think that might be the harder thing to pinpoint.

I mean, anyone can interview doctors, which I also did, or google breast cancer, and learn the ins and out of the disease. But writing about the disease from the viewpoint of someone who was battling it, when I hadn’t actually battled it myself, well, that was much harder. I very, very much wanted to honor what survivors go through without getting overly maudlin or sappy, and my one grave concern was that survivors would write it off as inauthentic or silly or just flat-out wrong.

Fortunately, however, we’ve received a lot of early praise from breast cancer groups and women who have been touched by the disease, and nothing makes me feel more satisfied – knowing that for the most part (hopefully!) I got the emotional journey right. (Of course, it’s a different journey for everyone, so I do want to clarify that I’m not trying to make sweeping judgments about what survivors go through!)

Did you see the Lifetime movie, Why I Wore Lipstick to My Masectomy? It also dealt with a young woman getting breast cancer.

Argh, I’d meant to Tivo it and totally spaced out. But I’ve heard that it was great, and that Sarah Chalke was really moving. I’m a big fan of Scrubs, so I’m happy to watch her do anything! Actually, I’ve interviewed Geralyn Lucas, the author of the book, before, and she’s really the epitome of a strong, thriving survivor. I love her story, and even more so, I admire her spirit.

The Price is Right was Natalie's favorite game show in the book, what is your favorite gameshow in real life?

Ooh, well, when I was a kid, it was definitely The Price is Right. Seriously, I dreamed up this whole scenario about how I would spend my 18th birthday on the show, because that’s how old you have to be to go on it. I just loooooved it. Plinko was my favorite, but they only did it every few weeks, so I’d wait with baited breath each show, hoping today would be the day for Plinko! These days, I don’t have too much time for game shows – I have two small kids and am working on my next novel and am still doing magazine articles – but every now and then, I’ll catch Wheel of Fortune.

I used to be a complete crossword puzzle junkie, so Wheel kind of nabs my interest. I pride myself on being able to decipher the puzzle long before the contestants and then rolling my eyes and saying, “That was soooooo easy, morons!” (Yeah, I’m a little competitive. So what?)

Oh, I also like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which is often on when I’m in the gym in the middle of the day. The contestants tend to be either freakishly smart or incredibly idiotic. Just yesterday, a guy didn’t know the answer to the question, “What children’s song says ‘you’ll be working all the live-long day?” I mean, maybe it’s because I have kids, but how could you not know that? Of course, on the flip side, some of these people can answer the most obscure questions. Once they answer them correctly, I always sort of pretend that I would have responded the same way, though, between you and me, I never would have!

What was the last novel you read? What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?

I just finished Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to an End, and I feel like I want to tell every person I’ve ever met that they must read this book. It’s especially perfect for any fan of The Office, which is one of my can’t-miss shows each week. Anyway, I took TWCTAE on vacation with me to Mexico, and literally, I was lying in the spa, getting this decadent massage, and all I’m thinking about is when I can get back to my room to read the book! Every time my husband tore me away from it, I’d set it down, and say, “This book is so freaking good, I can’t get over it.” (Note: I have a toddler, so I probably really did say “freaking.” Because the substitute word would be too risky since he’s our virtual echo these days.)

I must have repeated that mantra like, 1007 times that week. I am in awe of Ferris’s intellectual creativity because there’s just no way I could ever, ever write something like this or come up with this concept. As far as books I enjoy reading, I tend to gravitate towards semi-dark but still entertaining women’s fiction. Lolly Winston’s Good Grief, Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, and Ann Packer’s Dive From Clausen’s Pier, are three classics that I always recommend.

If you had a day all to yourself, how would you spend it?

Are we talking dream day, here? Ooh, wow, I can’t even imagine. Well, to begin with, I’d definitely sleep in. I have a 2 ½ year old and a four-month old, both of whom are very good sleepers, but I still feel like I’m continually enacting a part from Night of the Living Dead. It doesn’t help that my upstairs neighbors have the grace of elephants and are constantly dropping bowling balls or cement blocks or something similar at about midnight. So after a leisurely night’s sleep, I’d get up and take a walk (on the beach, since we’re talking dream day).

For some reason, I really like to get outside first thing in the morning…most mornings, I walk my dog, but since this is a day spent by myself, I’d just bask in the warm weather, stretch my legs and sip my very, very necessary latte. From there, I’d have some cereal (I’m an addict…even on my dream day, I’d eat cereal), work out, and then probably treat myself to a movie marathon.

As any parent of young kids can tell you, it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of new movie releases. And it’s such a bummer for me because I’m a total pop culture junkie, and I hate not being able to get to the movie theater. I mean, I’m even willing to watch that show on E! that unveils the trailers, I think it’s called Coming Attractions or something, just to get my fix. After a mega-movie session, I’d probably end the day with a massage, some take out, and a gossip magazine to put me to sleep. Yes, I’m a writer, but hey, I’ll cop to subscribing to US Weekly, People, and my own personal bible, Entertainment Weekly.

What is your best/worst childhood memory?

Well, this is going to sound really lame, but most of my childhood is a happy memory. I came from a very normal, well-balanced family, and I think, if I do say so myself, that my parents did a really kick-ass job. So I don’t know that there’s one thing that I can pinpoint.

You know, singing along to Annie, winning swim meets, getting into water balloon fights, playing spin the bottle…I did all of those wholesome things. But the worst? I’d probably say that in junior high, there was a really a-holish guy one year ahead of me, and for reasons still unknown to me (er, well, no, as an adult, I’m sure he was ragingly insecure and just liked to pick on younger girls), he was just so, so mean to my friends and me.

At one point, I distinctly recall him chasing us around the play field with an aluminum bat, and I’m certain if he’d caught us, he would have used it. Anyway, for some reason, whenever I think of negative childhood experiences, the memory of this guy leaps out at me. I talked back to him and stood up to him, but still, he must be haunting part of my psyche because that’s the first thing that comes to mind. Years later, it turned out that he needed help from a family member of mine, and to quote Alanis, all I could think was, “Isn’t it ironic.” Coupled with a few swear words for good measure.

What is your daily required reading? I start my day off with dlisted.com for the latest celeb gossip. (I also love Oh No They Didn't and Popbytes) And of course the news.

Oh geez, well, this is where it could get really embarrassing. I’m glad to hear that you read dlisted because my tastes don’t run much higher. Okay, to be fair, I start my day with CNN to make sure that the world hasn’t imploded while I was sleeping. And from there, I hit a few writer’s websites and update my blog. But it’s all downhill after that: Television Without Pity, PerezHilton, People, TV Guide, EW, Just Jared or dlisted if Perez isn’t yet updated…do I have to go on and further embarrass myself?

I was also a huge fan of Fametracker and mourned the closing of their forums the way a mother might her child. Thus, I’ve found a few substitute forums where I go to unscramble celebrity blind items (my favorite!) and read any other salacious tidbits on the stars.

What do you see yourself doing in the next two years?

Ideally, I’ll be focusing almost exclusively on fiction, with the occasional really cool magazine story thrown in. My second book is half-done, and it’s been a labor of love, but right now, I’m really happy with it. (As is my agent, more importantly.) And while I’ve loved all of the magazine writing I’ve done for the past half-decade, I do feel like I need to flex a different muscle, just like anyone might after working at the same job for so long. And having longer deadlines that come with writing novels, rather than the harried pace of the mag world, affords me more time to hang with my kids…and feed my celeb gossip addiction on the side.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tonights the night!

I will be at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena tonight at 7 pm and would love for you to meet me there!

Here's what you need to know:

Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd
CA 91101
Tel: 626-449-5320

I hope to see you at the bookstore where we can chat about books and celebrities and anything and everything else. It will be awesome and you can still get home in time for the two hour Grey's Anatomy!!

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Eva Rice, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

I come across the novels featured on my site a few different ways. Sometimes I email a publicist and ask for them to send me a review copy. Other times I contact an author directly or the author sends me an email. And then there are books, like The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice, which find their way to my house totally unexpected, a surprise gift for no special occasion. Every night I snuggled into my bed, late at night, and was transported to a whole other world via this terrific novel.

Mother-daughter relationships, ‘coming of age’, post- war England, teenagers, early rock n’ roll, friendship, secrets; it all figures into this book. I didn’t want The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets to end and was so sad to leave behind the characters of Penelope and Charlotte and Harry.

Eva is the daughter of famous lyricist Tim Rice but will now be known from writing this amazing novel that takes us to post war England. I know you will love it like I did!

Since your dad’s career was music, did you grow up singing show tunes? My favorite of his is Beauty and the Beast, I love belting out the music from the movie although I seriously can’t carry a tune.

Yes, I grew up with show tunes, but more than that with pop music. At the end of the day, my Dad would rather be listening to the Rolling Stones than sitting through a show... I was obsessed by Gigi and Mary Poppins, then Hair and Guys and Dolls. Oh, and South Pacific. All the greats. You can't beat them.
Have you ever bumped into Elton John when he was working with your father?
I have met Elton on a couple of occasions and he was very lovely and friendly. All that tantrum stuff must be just the rumour mill! Ha ha!

Who is more like you- fun loving Charlotte or reserved Penelope? How would you describe yourself?

I think that I am probably a bit of a mix of both Charlotte and Penelope, although I don't like to write myself into my characters really. I don't think that Penelope is that reserved, just naive and unsure of herself, and Charlotte brings her out of herself. Charlotte is braver and cooler than me, but I'd like to think that I am a bit more street wise than Penelope!

The girls in the book positively swoon over singer Johnny Ray. Who was your teenage crush?

I was obsessed with several pop stars when I was growing up, in order: Marti Pellow from Wet Wet Wet, Jason Donovan, and all of Take That. More recently, I grew alarmingly transfixed by the Strokes.

I imagined Magna as being like this enormous mansion like The Biltmore. What was your inspiration for the massive house where Penelope lived?

I combined a number of great houses to make Milton Magna, taking a room from one and a garden from another. I think that writing about places is just as fascinating as writing about people, and I hope that Milton Magna came over as a character, just as much as the people within it. It's tragic that so many of the great country houses in England were destroyed mid way through the last century- normally due to the fact that the owners simply could not afford to keep them going.

What is the last book you read and what genre is your favorite?

The last book I read was Madam Depardieu and the Beautiful Strangers by Antonia Quirke. It was brilliantly written, enviable style. I am a massive fan od D H Lawrence, the Rainbow is one of my favourite books ever. I love his total over the top-ness. I also adore Jilly Cooper and I collect children's books about horses. Strange, but true.

You’re a young mom; what do you think is the most difficult aspect of motherhood?
I find being a mother and a writer pretty hard. I am writing this while my daughter is on a visit to the park with a friend and my mum is wheeling my son out after his feed. It's hard to combine anything with motherhood, and anyone who disagrees with that is lying!

What is the last movie you saw?

The last movie I saw was Factory Girl. It wasn't great but Sienna Miller was good. My best films ever are Back to the Future, O Brother Where Art Thou? and Local Hero.

What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have an ipod?
listen to a great deal of pop music, and always have done. I am music obsessed really. I am currently into the Kaiser Cheifs who are just amazing. Their lyric "All I need is a ball and a wall, a sledge and a hill and heavy weather" is brilliant.

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

In ten years time, I see myself living in Cornwall, where part of my next book is set. It is about five hours from London, and utterly beautiful. I think I would still need my fix of the big smoke, though. London is addictive, irritatingly enough.

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