I've been having a busy life lately. Besides taking a screenwriting class so I can turn books (mine and others) into movies, I went up to Hollywood for a night of pre-Oscar clubbing (see www.hellodollface.com) and it took me days to recover. I'm trying to update my websites and stay on top of all the happenings in Hollywood, plus work on a new Victorious Girls book and read every day. I read something whether it's a magazine, self help book (usually something on positive thinking) or a novel. My latest passion is reading screenplays which might seem dry and boring but I am loving it.
I started Bringing Home the Birkin which is a funny, true tale of one man's Birkin brokering. I also have Oscar Season next to my bed, I thought it was the perfect book for this time of year. Two books I'm anxious to dive into are Leslie Lehr'sWife Goes On and Alison Larkin'sThe English American. For my book club, we are reading Jane Austen's Persuasion which is accruing overdue fines from the library this minute. Into The Wild by John Krakauer is high on my list of books to read and Four Queens by Nancy Gladstone will go perfectly with my quest to dig into intriguing historical novels.
I was sad about the Writers Strike but that did give me more time to read because I spent less time in front of the television. Then my husband decided to upgrade our cable TV package and I was suddenly obsessed with the healthy living channel, Veria. And now I get the Style Network! And more movie channels! And we have a DVR now too. I really need an extra couple of hours in my day to sit down and read books.
We are leaving for vacation soon and vacation to me means time to read because I don't have to be cooking and cleaning like a modern day Cinderlla in Chuck Taylors and Lucky jeans. I can't wait to see how many novels I can get through while I'm sitting in the shade with a huge hat, oversized sunglasses and my SPF 60, drinking exotic drinks like...water with lemon. Happy Reading!
I was looking for author Julie Buxbaum's website when I ran across this little article with the title of Harvard Hottie. Hmmm, I don't know what to make of that.
Harvard Law School grad Julie left the world of law to write a fabulous debut novel called The Opposite of Love. I began reading the day the book arrived on my doorstep and didn't put it down until I was finished. It's the kind of well written, modern and thoughtful book I was in the mood for. If you have ever been in love and have lost that love and wanted it back so badly that it's all you can think of, then you MUST READ THIS. So you can bypass any other Harvard Hottie references, Julie's website is here.
Its really interesting that someone so smart like Julie can be a lawyer and then turn around and write a brilliant debut novel. Some people just have bucket loads of talent!
I like to know where titles of books come from. How did you settle on The Opposite of Love?
As soon as the phrase popped into my head I knew it was the perfect title for the novel. I was writing an important scene where my main character hits bottom; Emily is stuck in what she calls a “couch vortex,” and in the midst of a week-long soap opera marathon. And as she sits alone in her apartment, it occurs to her that what she is feeling is the opposite of love: a complete emptiness and numbness of self. As soon as I formulated the thought for Emily, I realized that the expression not only speaks to how she feels at that moment, but how she has felt for much of the fifteen years since her mother’s death. Emily’s journey is about what happens when we delay grief, and the numbness that denial can leave in its wake.
It's a love story, isn't it? Are you a big romantic?
I’ve always been a sucker for a good love story. With Emily, though, I created a character who isn’t a big romantic, and who is her own worst enemy when it comes to love. I wanted to explore the idea that it takes courage to love someone, and that though we’ve all been indoctrinated with a million novels and movies that suggest that love is simple and straightforward and obvious, it doesn’t seem to happen that way in real life. Emily is forced to tackle the complexities of all sorts of love, and its attendant ambiguities. I think that is something a lot of us can relate to.
You were a lawyer and now you're a novelist. That's not uncommon, I know many writers with law experience. Is law and writing connected somehow?
I think in order to be a lawyer or a writer you have to be in love with the written word. Much of my time as a lawyer was spent spinning language and making arguments. As a writer, I get to do much the same thing, but with full creative license. As a lawyer, sadly, (and contrary to the reputation of the profession) I never got the pleasure of making stuff up.
How would you describe the main character of your book? Tell me about her in five words.
Five words! I am a novelist; I need about three hundred pages to answer that one. Okay, here goes: Confused about love, loss, life.
Imagine that you have an unlimited credit card to use in any one store you please but you only get two hours to shop. Where would you go and what would you buy? I'd totally head to Nordstrom.(although after reading your answer I'll change mine to the Apple store too- we all need new computers in this house!)
Since I am a terribly indecisive clothing shopper, and with only two hours I’d be lucky to pick out a pair of socks, I’d have to say the Apple store. Dorky, I know, but it’s the truth. I’d grab a backup laptop (maybe one of the cool new Macbook Airs), a flat screen monitor, extra batteries, music for my ipod, an iphone, and the list goes on and on. No doubt about it, I’d clean the place out with twenty minutes to spare.
What are you most proud of in your life?
I feel incredible pride every time I see THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE in a bookstore. It is nothing short of a dream come true. A cliché yes, but I’m not sure there is a better way to say it.
What's on your ipod? If you have one.
Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of folk tunes and more moody pop. Right now, I’m enjoying the goofy soundtrack to Dan in Real Life, followed by the mournful longing of the music from Once, both for some reason, on endless repeat.
Do you listen to music while you write? I need complete silence or else I cannot concentrate but a lot of people like music to inspire them.
Since I live and work in a small one-bedroom apartment, and write at my dining room table, I use music as a way to delineate my space. As soon as I put on classical music in the background, I know it’s time to sit down and start writing. Unfortunately, I can’t concentrate when the music playing has lyrics. My brain can’t hear my own sentences.
What genres do you like to read?
I read anything I can get my hands on, and like to juggle a bunch of different genres at once. Right now I am in the middle of three novels (one commercial, one more literary, the third a blending of the two) and two non-fiction. I do find that I tend to read much more fiction than non-fiction; the latter ends up sitting on my nightstand longer, and gets started much more often than it gets finished.
I think the writing community is so supportive and wonderful. Have you found this to be true?
Absolutely! I had trouble keeping the acknowledgements section of my book under control because of all the generous people who lent help and advice while I wrote THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE. I couldn’t be more grateful for the support I’ve received from the writing community.
I'm sure you've started on another book - tell me what it's about?
I am currently working through the rough draft of my next novel. Unfortunately, I’m not quite ready to talk about it yet. I feel like if I say too much I may jinx it! I am a bizarrely superstitious that way.
I saw my friend Gayle Brandeis today. Its always a treat to see her. Gayle has been a wonderful mentor and friend and if you don't have a Gayle in your life, someone who cheers you on and believes in you, then you must get one.
She told me about the video she created for Self Storage and I wanted to share it with my readers. The whole video- for- books thing is new to me. I was reading about a book on Amazon and there was a video to accompany the synopsis! Wow, I'm so late to the game here.
If you haven't read Self Storage, you absolutely have to, it's brilliant as is her novel, The Book of Dead Birds. I love Gayle's writing. Also it's rumored to be a Target Breakout Book soon so consider yourself in the know. Enjoy her video!
I will be the first to admit it: I'm obsessed with my dogs. They are two of the smartest, funniest, most loving creatures I have ever known. Every single day is a delight as they snuggle me and entertain me. While many of my friends tease me about my puppy obsession, in Merle's Door, it's clear that Ted Kerasote knows how I feel. In the opening chapter of the book, Kerasote is out camping with friends when a young stray wanders over to their group and makes camp with them. Kerasote names the young dog Merle, and that is the beginning of their friendship. Like most dog owners, Kerasote delights in Merle's accomplishments and tries to teach him good behavior. Unlike many dog owners, Kerasote also allows Merle many freedoms. He installs a dog door so that Merle can come and go as he pleases. He allows Merle to roam the town during the day and explore the great outdoors. It's a unique, trusting, and very loving relationship full of ups and downs.
Kerasote's writing is entertaining and engaging. The book is fascinating because he incorporates the science behind what causes a dog to be a dog. He uses anecdotes about Merle to illustrate many findings in animal behavior. The scientific research that makes up the meat of this book helped me to understand why my dogs behave the way they do, and it made me really see the importance of the bond I have with the two of them. This book is a must-read for animal lovers of all kinds – though many of the moments are so touching and so heartbreaking that you need to have a full box of Kleenex on hand. --Maggie Marton
A long time ago, Wendy Nelson Tokunaga and I were email buddies. I read a chapter of one of her books and there was no doubt in my mind that this talented writer would one day be published. We were both working on our stories and looking for agents and we lost touch. So imagine how excited I was when Wendy emailed me to say that her novel, Midori By Moonlightwas coming out!
Midori By Moonlight is a thoughtful, fun story about Midori, a young Japanese woman who comes to the United States with her American fiancee, only to have him break up with her before the wedding! This sets in motion the call to adventure for Midori who is determined not to go back to Japan. Midori must navigate through the cultural maze and figure out how to succeed on her own. You will devour this book as quickly as Midori eats the sweet treats she loves to bake!
Wendy- there are so many aspiring writers out there. What is the best piece of advice you can give to someone who wants to see their book published?
Keep improving your craft by reading and studying other authors, and find trusted readers who know what they’re talking about who can give you the best possible feedback on your work.
Tell me about your search for an agent. Its like finding a needle in a haystack while blindfolded with your hands tied behind your back. At least, that's been my experience!
MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT is the fifth novel I’ve written, but the first to get published (unless you count my self-pubbed novel, NO KIDDING, which came out in 2000). After hundreds and hundreds of rejections I managed to find an agent for my third novel, but he couldn’t sell it. Couldn’t sell the fourth either. He ended up rejecting me. I was still rejected by a number of agents for MIDORI before signing with my wonderful current agent Marly Rusoff. Finding an agent for a non-fiction project is hard enough, but for fiction these days it is even more difficult. This is a tough business and you have to have a tough skin to survive. Not recommended for the faint of heart. :-)
Clearly you love the Japanese culture, what is so intriguing to you about it?
Early on I was struck by the beauty of the Japanese language and how different it is from English (completely different word order, a writing system that is pictographic and virtually unpronounceable). I like how the culture is built into the language and vice-versa and how different language is used for different situations and people, such as levels of politeness. There is a politeness code that is generally adhered to that is very fascinating to me.
Are you a fan of Midori liquer? I'm not such a fan of melon flavor but I dig the green.
I have never had Midori liquer. I did name the character Midori because, yes, it does mean green and she is a bit naive and “green,” if you know what I mean. :-)
Has the writers strike affected you?
No, but I think what they’re striking for is very important.
What do you want to be doing in ten years from right now?
Continuing to write books.
What's the last cd you bought? What is your musical taste?
I just bought a CD by Booty Luv, a British girl pop group. I love all kinds of music; my tastes are quite eclectic. On my XM Satellite Radio you’ll hear me listening to anything from heavy metal to electronica to international pop to traditional country. I also like J-pop and enka, two types of Japanese music.
What is the last book you read?
Run River by Joan Didion.
What's next for you?
Very soon my agent will be handing in my second novel for St. Martin’s, part of the two-book deal I received. I hope they’ll be pleased with it. Here’s a blurb I wrote for it:
After receiving a puzzling phone call and a box full of mysteries, 33-year-old fledgling singer Celeste Duncan is off to Japan to search for a long, lost relative who could hold the key to the identity of the father she never knew. Lost in translation, she stumbles head first into a weird, wonderful world where nothing is quite as it seems; a land of gaijin worshippers, karaoke boxes, sushi fortune tellers, and unbearably perky TV stars. But when she learns to sing a Japanese song called “The Wishing Star” Celeste finds herself on a path to finding real love, understanding the true meaning of family and, most of all, discovering her own voice.
I've been totally sucked into the vortex that is Diablo Cody mania and I can't help it. I am wishing and hoping for a career trajectory similar to hers- I've done the blogs, published the book, am working on a screenplay. Sure I lack the lapdancing and phone sex experience she has under her belt but at the same time, I've birthed two babies, have been a military wife, I've lived in Hawaii and have been married for twelve years. Certainly that counts for something?
She began with a blog which turned into a book and then there was Juno. Now she's lunching with movie legends and as I write this, she's being fitted for her Oscar gown, something to show off her newly purchased boobs.
Why do I care so much about this girl? Because Diablo shows us, the writers and dreamers, that a person can be shot into the stratosphere of fame seemingly overnight. That once in a while, a person gets a huge break and its possible that the next time might be you or me. Writers go unnoticed most of the time but there's Diablo, right next to Ellen Page doing the press junkets and flying around the world to promote the movie. I want to fly around the world too.
I read the articles that come up on Diablo Cody because I find her story inspiring and exciting. I found this one on FourFour. Check it out. What do you think?
I have FOUR COPIES of Oil! by Upton Sinclair to give away to some fabulous readers! As you know, the book is the basis for the Academy award nominated movie, There Will Be Blood. All you have to do is email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject line OIL for your chance to win a copy of the classic book.
I also have a reader giveaway on Hello Dollface so please check out my contest for a Valentine Gift from Linden Leaves, a body care company from New Zealand. All these giveaways and its my birthday next week! Im turning..uh, twenty nine. Again.
I am just swamped lately! Between working on a screenplay, taking a screenwriting class, rewritting the sequel to my book, running Hello Dollface, working on Victorious Girls, trying to keep up with my reading, taking care of my family, I don't have enough time in my day to do everything I want to do!
I don't want these books to slip through the cracks and not get the attention they deserve from me! All the above books will be read in the future but they are hot on the shelves right now. There are four star books, written by amazingly talented women. If you're looking for a good book to read, give one of these a try.
I have this book sitting next to my bed, as well as this one. And I always have a yoga, positive thinking books and a writing book somewhere around the house.
How Do You Become a Writer? By Amanda Eyre Ward, author of Forgive Me
I remember going to hear Joyce Carol Oates read when I was in college. I wanted desperately to be a writer, and I hung on her every word. When she mentioned that she wrote by a window, I noted write by a window. When she said she drank tea, I wrote tea. Whenever I met a real writer, I asked them where they wrote, how they wrote, and when. I wanted to know the rules, how to organize my life in order to succeed.
I know now that every writer makes his or her own rules. The advice I give to beginning writers is to have faith, love the process, and to value writing, to put it in the center of their lives. Having faith is hard as rejection letters and bills come regularly in the mail. But of my friends and colleagues who studied fiction writing with me at the University of Montana a decade ago, the only ones who have not published yet are the ones who gave up. The rest of us make a living now by writing. (Or writing and teaching.)
Valuing writing is the fun part. Set aside a desk for writing, set aside a day. Spend some money on your favorite tea, an important pen, a book you want to read. Play music, and feel proud when you’ve written a page. Take a walk if you need to. Get a sitter. Surround yourself with objects that inspire you. The rest of the writing life is difficult, and can be heartbreaking. This is what you get: a solitary morning, a cup of coffee, the luxury of bringing words into the world, the joy of a perfect sentence.
Putting writing in the center of your life is also challenging, when so many other important things beckon. Oprah and everyone else tells me I can make time for an exercise routine, but I can’t seem to do it. But living as a writer doesn’t always mean being alone. You can take care of children, or a job, or a spouse while you think about writing. When you see a movie, ask yourself why it is working or not. If you lose interest in a friend’s story, ask yourself what she could have done to hold you. What magazines are you reading, and why? What could be going on with the bank teller and her strange expression? Living your life as a writer is a way of participating fully, but also taking notes as an observer. It’s something that takes practice, but I have found it to be essential. I have been completely stuck in a novel, left it for the day, and then found my answer on the playground or at the library. I am always thinking about my novels.
And, thanks to Joyce Carol Oates, I always sit by the window.
AUTHOR Amanda Eyre Ward is the award-winning author of How to Be Lost and Sleep Toward Heaven. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.