Saturday, September 29, 2007

West Hollywood Book Fair

The WEST HOLLYWOOD BOOK FAIR will be taking place tomorrow. If you live in the southern California area, please check it out. I'm sure the event will be fantastic and the weather will be perfect so hopefully my hair will turn out nicely and not frizz.
The panel I am on is at 1pm, I hope you can stop by and say hello. I will be signing books after the panel and would love to meet some of my readers!

There will be tons of authors, book signings, poetry, readings and workshops. Go here for more information. I hope to see you there!


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Marta Acosta, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula

I was nervous about reading this book because I’m not a fan of things like folklore, mythological creatures, bats or witches although I get drawn into shows about ghosts.

I’m so glad that author Marta Acosta didn’t make Happy Hour At Casa Dracula a big cliché about vampires with dark flowing capes, cartoonish fangs and oily black hair. Marta’s engaging characters and snappy writing style make this book a page turner and towards the end, I couldn’t wait to see what happened to the characters! This book is part chick-lit, part mystery and total entertainment.

Milagro de los Santos is a spicy Latina with a saucy personality who falls for a handsome man named Oswald… trouble ensues after an accidental exchange of blood…

Marta, I'm thinking this book might have been greatly inspired by the 1987 film The Lost Boys starring the unparalleled Corey Haim. What impact did The Lost Boys have on you?

I enjoyed "The Lost Boys" and have a vague memory of shameless mullets and leather jackets with huge shoulder pads. However, I never even thought of it when I wrote my novel, and I wouldn't pay attention to Corey Haim in a movie with Jason Patric. You should be asking me what impact Jason Patric's movies had on me.

Happy Hour at Casa Dracula is a comedy of manners: Milagro, a poor, but smart girl is forced to stay with wealthy people at their country home. I was playing against the romanticization of vampires as emotionally tortured, gorgeous, rich, creatures. My vamps are rich, but also snobby, snide and self-satisfied. They treat Milagro like something the cat dragged in. She more than holds her own against their biases and overcomes some of her own. I was able to have fun addressing issues of social/economic class and ethnicity by using the vampires' interactions with Milagro.

My writing is influenced by the writers I love, including Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse. They were always happy to throw disparate people in a country house and let misunderstandings run amuck. Their snobs are second to none. Austen and Wodehouse lovingly crafted the eccentrics and nuts that populate their stories.

Do you find yourself sizing up people's eye teeth, craving a Bloody Mary or staying out of the sun...

I sometimes get the question, "How long have you been obsessed by vampires, and the answer is that I'm not. I like all sorts of books and movies. There's no way I could limit myself just one genre. I grew up a feral reader. My parents knew the value of books and education, but weren't educated themselves. They took us to the library all the time, and I went through the stacks exploring all sorts of books. I found out that all the really fascinating information was to be had in the adult fiction section.

My paranormal entertainment is generally from television shows. I'm a fan of Joss Whedon's work, but I think that's because his shows are character driven and language is so important to him. I've always liked shows that combine humor with paranormal elements, like Bryan Fuller's "Wonderfalls" and "Dead Like Me." Many episodes of "The X-Files" were often funny and spooky.

I love that combo. Enough creepiness to make you uncomfortable, then the sweet release of humor. It's like drinking a lot of espresso and then having a couple of martinis and repeating that cycle over and over, except that you don't spend all night babbling stupidly and running to the ladies' room

I guess with a book like this, you can really let your imagination go and be as creative as possible. So what kind of research did you do?

I use the internet to learn about vampire mythology, pre-Christian beliefs and language, rituals and celebrations. I have doctor pals who give me medical explanations for vampire-type symptoms. I'm always asking them questions like, "What would cause someone to behave like a mythical incubus?" I never understand their explanations, but I include them anyway.

I think your heroine Milagro could be friends with my character Barrett. They are both sarcastic and witty. Because I know you read my novel, I can ask what might happen if the two women got together?

Barrett and Milagro would absolutely be friends. Barrett is more fashion obsessed, and she might be horrified with some of Milagro's thrift-store boho ensembles. Milagro would be horrified by Barrett's obsession with celebrity. They'd both love to go to old movie houses and see the classics. At home they'd drink cocktails, do make-overs, and plot their road to success as writers. Milagro's more of a flirt, and she'd probably drag Barrett to clubs with lots of good-looking underachievers. Barrett would convince Milagro to try to sneak into fancy soirees with her.

Did you have a happy childhood? What were your teen years like, were you a sullen and grumpy teenager? I was often sad and found solace in books.

It wasn't sad, but it wasn't full of delight either. As a child, it didn't even occur to me that childhood was supposed to be happy. (My mother was pleased if they had enough money to afford a chicken foot in the dinner soup.) I was an odd kid, someone who never fit in with the crowd. For some reason, my best friends were always really popular and I clashed with their crowds. Part of the problem was probably cultural; I didn't know how I was supposed to behave. Another part was simply my own idiosyncrasy. I didn't want to pretend to think and be like everyone else. I was the only girl in a pack of boys, so at home I was isolated and I sought companionship in books. As a cynical and bitter teenager, I listened to a lot of rock, read a lot of books, and planned my escape from sub-urbia. Guess where I am now? Back in sub-urbia.

What is the last movie you saw in the theater? What is the last book you read?

The last movie I saw was "Two Days in Paris," and I thought it was clever and entertaining. I enjoyed the concept that we are different people in different places, or when speaking another language. The last book I read was Armistead Maupin's Michael Tolliver Lives!, which he claims is not a sequel to his famous (and infamous) Tales of the City series. He may be right. I suspect it's an autobiographical tale in disguise.

If you could go back in time, at what date would you set your time machine?

I'm pretty damn happy right now. I married the man I love, have a kid I'm crazy about, and I've published two novels with a third to be released next year. I've got no urge to go back to a time when I didn't have one or more of those things. I also have a nice new rescue dog, Professor Baxter Magee, who keeps me company while I write.

What is the best gift you have ever received?

My husband's last gift to me was a professional quality cleaver than can cut through bone. He said, "Maybe this wasn't a good idea," as I was cheerfully hacking away at something.

I had a friend in college who was a geology major and he gave me a big hunk of petrified tree fern after spring break during my freshman year. He was a handsome, terribly popular, rich kid and it meant a lot to me that he'd remembered me over break and lugged this big rock around for me. It was the first of many presents he gave me. Some were very expensive, but just as often he'd give me a rock that he liked. I usually got a geology lesson with the gift. We were good friends until he died many years later, and I have that one rock in a special place in my garden.

Do you plan on continuing to write about vampires or might you switch it up and write about something else sinister and scary?

I'm continuing the series and The Bride of Casa Dracula will be published in September 2008. If today's insane extravagance on weddings isn't scary, I don't know what is. The commercialization of this ceremony and celebration is quite sinister. I've been forcing myself to watch those wedding shows on television. The horror! The horror!

I've working on a few other things including a gothic YA novel and a romantic comedy. One day I hope to write a book set in San Francisco in the '80s when the epidemic of AIDS first rampaged. Every time I mention my intention to write a book about that plague, people try to dissuade me. I've never been very good at following advice, though. If I was, I never would have become a writer because people told me that it was impractical and unachievable.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

More book to film news!

Katherine Heigl has optioned film rights to the bestselling dramatic novel "Lost & Found" for her new production banner and will produce it with her mother and producing partner Nancy Heigl.
Jacqueline Sheehan's novel, published by HarperCollins imprint Avon A, focuses on a widowed psychologist who moves to a remote Maine island and works in an animal hospital after her husband dies. Book is in its eighth printing.

Heigl is said to have contacted the author's agent after reading the book. It's not yet known if she may star in the pic.
Congratulations to Ms. Sheehan! This is wonderful, exciting news for an author. Now I must read the book, it looks like a terrific read!

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Holly Shumas, Five Things I Can't Live Without

If someone asked me what five things I couldn't live without I'd have to say friends-family-pets (although these aren't "things") my many lipglosses, books, hot showers and eight hours of sleep a night. Or coffee. Cheese omelets. Internet. People magazine. It's hard to choose only five!
But its an eye-catching title for a book, no?

Five Things I Cant Live Without by Holly Shumas is about Nora, a woman who helps her lovelorn friends with their online dating profiles - by having them write out five things they can't live without. Five things can be very telling. But what about Nora? She can't stop living in her "meta life" which is her way of going over every little detail in her own life. She needs to learn to let go, go with the flow, stop trying to listen to the commentary in her own head that's taking over her life.

Holly Shumas has written a thoughtful and fun novel, one that you will enjoy and pass along to your friends.

What do you want readers to walk away from the novel thinking or feeling?

If they walk away amused and touched and reflective about their own lives, that'd make me pretty proud.

Who are your favorite writers?

Amy Bloom (we therapist/writers have to stick together, and she's just an immense talent), Steve Almond, Carolyn Parkhurst, Kazuo Ishiguro, Megan Daum, Amanda Eyre Ward, Joshua Ferris (he only has one book so far, "Then We Came to the End", but oh, what a book.)

Who is your favorite fictional hero?

I find that a lot of the books I like have protagonists, not heroes; I'm really drawn to flawed characters. But for outright hero worship, I guess it'd have to be Stargirl, from the book of the same name by Jerry Spinelli. The sequel just came out, and I'm afraid to read it; I want to keep Stargirl pure, in some weird way.

What is your motto?

"It was good in theory." You'd be amazed how many things can be explained away with that one simple phrase.

What are you good at? What are you bad at?

I'm good at reading people, bad at any math more complicated than multiplication.

What will we find you doing on a Friday night?

I wish I had a more glamorous answer, but usually it's just decompressing on my own or hanging out with my boyfriend (also decompressing.) I work as a therapist part-time, and it's wonderful, rewarding work but damned if it doesn't make me want to cloister in my pajamas and eat ice cream at week's end. Just a brief, shameless plug: My therapy and writing come together over on my website, where I have an advice column on relationships.

What's the last movie you saw? What do you think of books being made into films?

I saw "Once", which stars Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard. It's a modern day, utterly uncheesy musical. I love it beyond words. As for books being made into films, I'm all for it. Option away!

Can you tell me what your next book is about?

Tentatively titled "It's Not What It Looks Like," it's about a woman who finds out that her seemingly devoted husband has been having an emotional affair for the past year. It deals with the question of whether the lack of sex makes it better or worse, and if their particular marriage can survive the betrayal.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Book to movie news!

Isla Fisher will play Becky Bloomwood!

Isla Fisher is ready to go on a shopping spree. The actress has signed on to star in "Confessions of a Shopaholic," Touchstone's comedy based on the novels by Sophie Kinsella. Jerry Bruckheimer is producing, while P.J. Hogan is on board to direct.

The script, whose most recent draft was written by Tim Firth, centers on a compulsive shopper in Manhattan up to her neck in debt who ironically becomes a financial advice columnist. "Shopaholic" is the first title of the book series, of which five have been published. In the U.K., where the series originated, the first novel was titled "The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic." Kinsella is the pen name for Madeleine Wickham, a U.K.-based financial journalist. The production is scheduled to start filming in January. source

This is fabulous news, I'm sure Sophie Kinsella is thrilled with the casting of Isla Fisher who is the right combination of gorgeous and funny. I heard rumors that Kate Hudson was going to play Becky Bloomwood but this casting news frees her up to play Barrett Greer in the movie adaptation of A Thousand Dollars for a Kiss. Let's offer the role to Kate and see what happens shall we? I wish!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Five Minutes With Maggie, Early Bird

Less than a decade into his high-stress job as television writer, Rodney Rothman loses his job. But he wasn't upset. The late nights, seventy-hour weeks, and lukewarm coffee took their toll, so rather than search for a new job, he retired to Florida. At age 28. His memoir of this experience, Early Bird, chronicles his move to Boca Raton. He arranges to share an apartment with Margaret, an eccentric retiree with an odd assortment of pets. He struggles to acclimate to retired life, but soon learns that the most successful retirees are the ones who remain active. So Rodney begins joining clubs and groups, takes up shuffleboard, befriends an aging comedian, and a retired drug dealer. All the while, retirement allows Rodney to relax and to evaluate his own life's path.

Sarcastic and self-deprecating, the tone of the book reflects Rothman's cynicism, though it's his sincerity and loneliness shine through. Over the course of his attempt at retirement, Rothman early bird specials, plays in a shuffleboard tournament, assists his elderly friends in online dating, and wages a constant battle with his roommate's pet parrot. Though his experiences are well-told and extremely humorous, Rothman's story has a well-researched underlying message: We need to truly think about how the elderly in this country are treated because we're all headed that way... though not all of us get there as early as Rodney!
by Maggie Marton

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Phillipa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl

After reading this novel, I became nearly obsessed with the release of the film coming out this winter. Natalie Portman is one of my favorite actress, I want to see how she plays the scheming Mary. I didn't read the book at first because it was so huge. I was nervous that it would be over the top, something I couldn't really get into. I was afraid I would lose interest half way through or that the authors writing would be too hard to relate to.

Let me tell you this- I devoured the book! Why wasn't I more interested in history when I was learning it in school? I am anxious to learn more. I thought Phillipa Gregory did an amazing job of writing a very detailed book about Anne and Mary Boleyn. I came across this interview and thought I would share it with you.

I know fans around the globe are looking forward to the live web event. What prompted you to put this event together?
I was very keen to find a way to connect to the millions of readers who have loved The Other Boleyn Girl and the other Tudor novels. I wanted to find something like a world-wide readers group where we could all talk together, and I hope this technology will give us a sense of a seminar – albeit one which goes all around the world.

What will you be discussing at the live web event?
I am prepared to answer any questions that come up! But I know that we will be talking about the current novel The Boleyn Inheritance, and about the next novel; The Other Queen. I will also talk about the process of research, of writing and of inspiration.

What do you hope your readers will take away from the webcast? How do you hope they’ll be involved?
For me, the event will have been a success if readers come away with a sense of connection. When I do a live event in a bookstore or library we often feel that we have genuinely exchanged opinions and connected, sometimes the readers have questions for me that they really want an honest answer. I like to feel that since we all love the history and the stories we can share information.

In your last novel, The Boleyn Inheritance, you depict the life of King Henry VIII and his court through the eyes of three very different characters. Why did you choose to narrate this story through multiple voices and why these three women in particular?
I have a great liking for the first person narrative because I think it gets the reader into the head of the character; it’s a very immediate style. I realized that I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the three women who were so intimately involved in the perils of being Queen of England at this time. Anne of Cleves, the wife that Henry chooses and rejects, Katherine Howard the girl he adores but who is too young to keep herself safe, and the woman who advises them both to their great danger: Lady Rochford, Jane Boleyn.

In The Boleyn Inheritance you reintroduce Mary Boleyn and her daughter to the plot. Can you tell us what ultimately happened to them?
These are the Boleyn heirs who really break the curse. Mary Boleyn died of natural causes, an Essex landowner, wife and mother. Her daughter Catherine was a close friend of her cousin (or half-sister) Elizabeth, and went into exile with her protestant husband Francis Knollys during the years of Queen Mary. Catherine and her husband and beautiful daughter Laetitia returned to court in triumph when Elizabeth 1 came to the throne. I describe the scene in The Virgin’s Lover. One of the descendants of Mary Carey, the Other Boleyn Girl, is coming to the webcast event, so readers can see Mary’s children in the present day. His research into his family history is posted on my webpage.

The Other Boleyn Girl is being made into a film. What is it like as an author to have the words you wrote on a piece of paper translated into scenes on a cinema screen? What part do you play in the process of adapting your novel into a film?
I have been employed as consultant on the film and so I have been closely in touch with the development of the script. Making a film is such a different process from writing a novel that I have learned to leave it to the film-makers. When I first saw the actors on location there was a haunting moment when it almost seemed as if they were real, really in Tudor England, and we in modern clothes were the illusion. It is extraordinary to see something that I have imagined suddenly become solid and real. To see them in costume, performing a scene, in an ancient setting is almost more powerful than to see them filmed on the screen. It is a magical moment.

What inspires you to write historical fiction?
I love history. In almost any circumstances I always ask ‘but how did it get like this? How did it start?’ These are questions which come naturally and automatically to an historian and that is what, by instinct and training, I am. The more I write, the more deeply interested I become in the time and in the process of recreating it. read more, please visit the Blog Critics website here.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

How To Talk To A Widower

How To Talk To A Widower by Jonathan Tropper is about a guy named Doug Parker. He says this throughout the book, "I had a wife. Her name was Hailey. Now she’s gone. And so am I.

His beloved wife died in a plane crash and he's not ready to move on. He is having a tough time and complicating things is Hailey's teenage son Russ, a sexy married neighbor who brings more than meatloaf to the widower, Doug's bossy sister Claire and his dramatic mother. An interesting cast of characters in a quirky, well written book. Click here for a Readers Guide.

This book has received all kinds of praise and I noticed it first in People Magazine. When Caprice Crane mentioned the book, I knew I would enjoy it. How To Talk To A Widower has been optioned by Paramount and his other novel, Everything Changes, will also be turned into a major motion picture. He is living my dream. Congrats on all the success, Jonathan!

You can read more about his books at his website here.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

All my love...

...and best wishes, prayers and thoughts going out to those who lost loved ones, those who were there, those people who helped those is need during 9/11.
Love & Peace,


Tish Cohen, Town House

You know what makes me happier than riding a magical pony through a land of rainbows and gum drops? A good book. Town House brought me to my happy place and naturally I was sad to see it end.

I am so excited for Tish Cohen and I don’t really know her. I read about the book on one of my favorite sites, Modern Girl and knew the book was for me. I read it quickly and then googled Tish to learn more about her and the book. I know, I can be obsessive sometimes. Her great success with Town House is a wonderfully inspiring story. Town House was optioned for film before the book was even published. That is a writers dream come true.

Town House is the story of Jack Madigan, a thirty six year old man who is also an agoraphobiac. He is the son of shock rocker Baz, now decreased. Jack lives with his son Harlan, an eccentric teen, in the very house Jack grew up in, complete with walls smashed in by Baz. When the house is about to be foreclosed, Dorrie Allsop, a loveable real estate agent enters the scene. So does ice skating nine year old Lucinda, a waif- like child who lives next door and has easy access to Jack’s house thanks to a large hole in the wall between the two homes.

I've been mentally casting the roles with Jeremy Piven playing Jack. He has to be Jack, there is no other way around it! This is going to be a must-see film because its a must-read novel. Congrats to Tish on the great reviews and the success!

What is your favorite childhood memory?

When my best friend, Chris, and I played "Mansion." She had a beautiful dollhouse filled with furniture, but we never bothered with the house itself. We ran straight to the linen closet to scoop up an array of hand towels, then set them up across her bedroom floor as "carpets" for the various rooms in the dolls' mansion. Then we ransacked the dollhouse, took every last piece of furniture and set it all out on the towels. The beauty of the game was that every day we had a completely different mansion to explore.

Even way back then, I was obsessed with houses.

I totally agree that Jeremy Piven could play the character of Jack. I also applaud your suggestion of Elle Fanning as Lucinda. But I think Kyra Sedgwick must play Dorrie. She has the curly hair and could pull off Dorrie’s sweet personality. What do you think? Have any actors been approached yet?

I've always adored Kyra Sedgewick. She has such unique beauty and is a terrific actor. Another actor people suggest for Dorrie is Kristen Chenowith. But Dorrie is a fair bit younger than these ladies. I'm not certain whether any actors have been approached yet, but my mother keeps volunteering herself...

Speaking of Town Houses, do you remember the big plastic Barbie Town House? Complete with an elevator that moved up and down via a piece of string? Oh how I longed for it. Did you have one? What were your favorite toys as a child?

Yes! I don't recall wanting anything more (except a puppy!). A friend had it and it was the only thing I wanted to play with at her place. I did have, however, Barbie's Country Cottage, country camper and airplane. I also had this fantastic inflatable set of Barbie outdoor lounge furniture and pool which I used to set up in the grass. Unfortunately, my Barbies never looked too chic lounging by the pool because my sister was going through her "hair stylist" phase and cut their hair into crooked and choppy little French bobs.

My favorite toy as a child was--this is truly pathetic--my Pet Rock. I wasn't allowed to have a real pet, so Willie became my rather unexpressive puppy. He lived in the cubby of my nightstand with a hand towel (naturally) as a carpet and a small box with shredded paper as a bed. I actually tried to train him.

Were there any books that helped you with writing or outlining the novel? I read a lot of books on structure and plot etc. Books others might find boring but I enjoy.

I, too, read every writing book I can get my hands on. Stephen King's On Writing has probably helped and inspired me the most. It was a Jewish Christmas gift and I believe I read it right before writing Town House. There's one line in it that I particularly love--I'll paraphrase, "When you find something you love to do, you do it until your fingers bleed." I should hunt down the book and get the line right, but the book is deep in my son's room. Anyway, I love that phrase.

Tell me five little known facts about Tish Cohen.

-When I was born, my parents named me Patricia, nicknamed me Tish, then proceeded to call me Monie for eight years.
-When we were in high school, my friend and I bought a vintage pair of Levi's on Melrose in Hollywood. We saved them for ten years, then dressed our six collective babies in them, mailing them back and forth between California and Toronto as each child was born.
-I once had a horse who loved coffee.
-In high school, I worked for the first pet insurance agency. Lassie was our first client--I typed out her (his) certificate.
-I can't tolerate the sound of dry paper towel rubbing against a dry wall.

How would a sequel to Town House play out?

It might open with Jack's doorbell ringing. He goes to open it and finds his mother standing there. It would turn out that the fire he thought she perished in did not kill her. She'd force her way into his life, inadvertently making him miserable, moving in, maybe ruining his life with Dorrie. But, hey, at least he'd have a great reason to leave the house.

Your young adult book will come out soon; do you think your adult fans (like me) will enjoy a book geared towards teens?

The Invisible Rules of the Zoe Lama is in bookstores now and recently appeared on the Canadian Booksellers Association Bestseller list for 3 weeks. It is geared for kids aged 8-12, but I've heard from many parents of Zoe fans who've gotten a kick out of reading it themselves. Watch for The One and Only Zoe Lama in bookstores next July; as well as Inside Out Girl, my next adult novel, which is forthcoming in August 2008.

What were you like as a teenager? Did you like to be alone? Were you an observer rather than an attention seeker?

I was a rather wild California teenager, actually. But I never lost sight of the fact that while I was having great fun misbehaving, I had a future to think about. Even though the other kids accepted me, I cultivated a little social position for myself on the fringe. I could be dancing at a Hollywood after-hours club, surrounded by friends, but I'd always be aware that I was actually alone. I still feel that way.

How can you top a fabulous novel plus a movie deal? Tish, how can it get any better?

Hmm...maybe Brad Pitt signing on as Jack and insisting upon meeting me?

In your wildest dreams did you expect this to be your life?

I started out life just hoping to turn into a dog. But this is okay too.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

West Hollywood Book Fair

I'm very excited! Last week I was added to the roster of authors appearing at the West Hollywood Book Fair on September 30th!

I will be on a panel called, OUR LIPS UNSEALED: HOLLYWOOD GOSSIP PAST & PRESENT with Janet Charlton, Samuel Bernstein, John Gilmore (who wrote a book about Marilyn Monroe, hello! My newest book is about Marilyn!) and some guy named Perez Hilton.

My book A Thousand Dollars for a Kiss features a Hollywood crazed, celebrity obsessed heroine who becomes friends with a pop star (Britney Spears, anyone?). Prior to writing the book I ran a gossip site. Why have I always been intrigued with Hollywood? I don't know but I suspect it has something to do with people finding the lives of the rich and famous so much more exciting and glamorous than our own day to day routines.

The Hollywood Gossip panel should be a lot of fun, I'm looking forward to it and hope that many of you will be able to stop by and say hello! For more information and a complete list of authors who will be appearing, please click here.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Five Minutes with Maggie...

The relationship between sisters, especially if you're close in age, is one of the greatest and toughest relationships a woman will ever have. My sister and I can be best friends some days and argue on others, but the best is knowing that we will always be there to support and love one another.

In her book A Tale of Two Sisters, Anna Maxted tells the story of sisters Lizbet and Cassie. Lizbet, the happy-go-lucky older sister, and Cassie, the professionally successful younger sister, are extremely close. Over the years they learned to rely on and support each other to make up for the lack of attention from their distracted parents. But when tragedy befalls one sister and an old family secret threatens to tear them apart, the sisters struggle to maintain their love for each other while repairing their tattered lives.

Alternating chapters tell the stories through the eyes of each sister. Maxted's technique of using two perspectives expertly illustrates the complicated relationship formed and tested between sisters, and it certainly made me think about imagining life through the eyes of my own fabulous sister! - Maggie Marton

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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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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Trying to find a great book...

This post isn't exactly about Town House by Tish Cohen. I mean, if I didn't enjoy Town House so much, maybe I wouldn't be experiencing this problem. More on Town House in another post. My problem is this- I can't seem to find a fabulous book to really sink my teeth into.

Don't get me wrong, I have a whole shelf with books that are screaming out to be read. Really great books by talented authors. Humorous books and riveting non fiction and historical dramas and mysteries. I'm just in the mood for something...and I can't figure out what. I can be so fickle at times! I've put down no less than three books in two days because they weren't resonating with me.

I went to the library and checked out a book that I hoped would be quirky and funny and touching. This book was praised by literary magazines, major newspapers, reviewed in magazines with four stars. I know you've heard of it. I was so excited, I came home to open it up and ...nothing. I didn't like it. Which makes me wonder how such a blah book (and trust me, it was blah but maybe not to those corduroy jacket wearing, pipe smoking lit critics) can be so highly regarded and other books which are funnier and better written slip through the cracks.

Today I am going to try another book. A book which was recommended to me by a few different people whose styles are similar to mine. And I have had The Kite Runner for over a year, gathering dust on my shelf, I must get to that one. I have books here by MJ Rose, Marta Costa, Brenda Scott Royce, Karen Joy Fowler, Jonathan Tropper.

See the problem with a book like Town House is that is was so good, I hated for it to end and now I'm going to be measuring every other book against it. Thank goodness there are many authors and books to chose from. I know one of those novels is bound to suit my picky mood.

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