Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Now Presenting: Malena Lott

author of the delightful novel, Something New.

I was given a sneak-peek of Malena's newest release early in fall, and loved it. (And isn't that a gorgeous cover?!) About the book:
What if you were sure you lived a different life?

Three generations of women. Four secrets. One stage.

When matriarch Maeve Apple receives a letter in the mail that Princess & the Pauper is being remade, she believes she's 25 again and ready to relive her stardom. Meanwhile, her daughter, Bess, is dealing with Maeve's dementia, her own divorce and planning her youngest daughter's wedding, on the Luxe Weddings reality show. Bess' eldest daughter, Kelly, has a secret of her own that could threaten her chance at love again. Curvy Gwen, the youngest, may be the star of Luxe Weddings, but she finds her heart belongs on the stage, attracted by the lights and her co-star, as they search for Maeve's long-lost pauper and the biggest secret of all.

Lott's most romantic tale yet, readers are sure to fall in love with Something New.
And now, a bit about Malena!

Something New features the musical, The Princess and the Pauper—did you grow up performing in musicals and plays? What about this particular musical inspired its inclusion in the novel?

My very favorite movie ever is Mary Poppins - a movie musical, yes, but I didn't get to see stage performances until I was an adult. What drew me to Princess and the Pauper was feeling confined to a life already planned out for you, including being married to the richest knight when the princess was really in love with a pauper so I drew on the original musical plus Maeve's history in 1949 when she starred at Princess and then again in modern day with her granddaughter starring in a luxe weddings reality show. The story is pretty timeless so I think it worked.

Maeve is such a memorable, colorful character; was she inspired by anyone in your life?

When I think of Maeve, I think of my grandmother, her sister, her mother around the table laughing together. They had so much fun. I remember as a child thinking that they were so much more than my label on them. They had opinions and bold personalities. None of them were stage divas, but I think it's great to have a sassafras in the family. 

You did such a great job capturing the unique family dynamic between sisters, and I was especially affected by the fresh vulnerability of Bess, as she undergoes dramatic and unexpected changes in mid-life.  Did you have any special routine or approach to writing in the voice of characters from different generations? 

I'm not sure why, but I did hear each of their voices very clearly in my head, especially as I started the second draft and their individual stories were cemented. As for Bess, yes I felt a special sorrow for both she and Kelly because they were really at opposite ends of the marital spectrum - Kelly swearing she'd stay single forever but wanting a baby and Bess having felt like she was only a mother and wife and caretaker to her mother. I actually think Bess and the gardener Samuel are probably both character studies in my own grandmother, who raised three boys before raising three girls (me and my two sisters.) And she loved to sew and garden, but ever so often she'd say something like, "I always wanted to own a restaurant," and I'd feel panic that she'd leave us for a job and also surprise because I thought she'd be perfectly happy with the household and raising kids. A nice eye opener for me. And as a working mom, I get what she meant. Many women want something outside of the home that they can call their own.

If you could be one character in any book, who would you be?

At this time of the year, I think being Grinch would be pretty cool. Get that gratitude check and have my heart grow ten sizes that day. And I'm dying to meet the Whos down in Whoville.

Cilantro: hate it or love it?

If a chef used it, I'm not gonna kick it off my tastebuds. I do use it occasionally, but I'm a pretty lazy cook so I opt for the already mixed seasonings like "Southwest Spices!" or "5 Fiery Pepper" or "Molasses Bacon" or tonight's seasoning on the pork chops was "Steakhouse Onion." So I don't really know what's inside of all them, I just know it makes stuff taste a bit better.

Thanks so much, Malena; congratulations on the new release!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

There is More Clicking Involved,

but it's worth it.

I'm blogging at the Girlfriends Book Club on Monday. The title of my post?

The Girls’ Guide to a Book Launch, by the Kenny Powers of Publishing

Now doesn't that make you want to click on over there to read it?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Brand Disloyalty

If you’re an entrepreneur—say, you set up your own shop on Etsy, or you just opened a food truck, or you’re an artist, food blogger, musician, comedian, or author—you’ve probably heard that you should be “branding” yourself.

*slips iron branding poker into fire. To stick in my eye because I just used the word “brand” as a jargon-y verb*
Anyway. If you hold a gun to my head and force me to identify my brand, it’s this: commercial women’s fiction that cracks a towel on your behind. That is to say, funny with bite. But what people find funny is very subjective. Two years ago I was approached to ghostwrite a novel for a celebrity—it was to be sweet, cozy, warm, “funny,” maybe with an element of light mystery or magic, and recipes.

After I stopped panicking and throwing up, I sat back and considered this. I can do cozy and warm in real life. In college, a bunch of guys actually nicknamed me “America’s Sweetheart.” I garden, I bake cookies, I rescue bumblebees from spider webs, I never forget a birthday, and I would adopt every unwanted animal within a hundred mile radius if my husband would let me. BUT:  if I actually tried to write something warm and fuzzy, every molecule in my being would mutiny. I’d snap. I’d start out writing about a sweet, hapless woman who dreamed of opening a cupcake bakery and finding Mr. Right, but instead she’d chuck it all to join a gluten-free, transgender biker gang, and there would be way more jokes about skin tags and athletic supporters than should exist in print, period. I just find sarcastic anti-heroes and their journeys to redemption that much more FUN to write.
In other words, I like Jim Gaffigan a lot, but I like Louis C.K. a lot more.

(Speaking of comedy, oh, do I have a great book to tell you about in a few weeks!)
So I guess I’ve got my “brand,” and my next two novels--one complete, one underway--enforce this. However, there is a book I am DYING to write that goes way off my reservation. This is in keeping with a running theme in my life: things going smoothly? Complicate the hell out of them! Anyway, more on that later.

Next week: my favorite Brussels sprouts recipe, and let’s help my friend December Gephart celebrate the release of her debut novel! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Psst: The New Book is Out (And I Have Copies to Give Away!)

Okay, let’s get this party started. I am THRILLED to announce that four years after Driving Sideways hit the shelves, I finally have an answer for everyone who has ever asked when my next novel will be out. That answer is TODAY! All the Lonely People is out today

*faints from excitement...gets back up to finish the post*

So Jess, you may be asking, what’s it about? Glad you asked! Here’s the synopsis:

After losing her beloved mother to cancer, 37-year-old Jaime Collins must confront the ugly fact that she and her siblings don't actually like one another. At all. Fueled by grief and an epic argument at Thanksgiving dinner, Jaime decides to 'divorce' her siblings and posts an ad on Craigslist for a new family for Christmas.

What happens next is a heartwarming, funny, and surprising journey to forgiveness and healing. Is blood really thicker than water? And how far do we have to go to find our way back home again?

Dedicated to anyone who has ever wanted to unfriend a relative on Facebook, ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE is about family: those you make ... and those you make peace with.

What are people saying?

"If your family is perfect and you've never felt lonely, or lost someone, or feared losing someone, or loved someone too much, or not enough ... if your heart is made of stone and you have no sense of humor ... well, even then you might love this book. All the Lonely People is a gorgeous, deep, layered, nuanced, hilarious and fabulously written novel that will suck you in and hold you hostage to the very last page ... and you'll be grateful it did."
--Danielle Younge-Ullman, author of Falling Under

"For every person who wishes they could choose their family, All the Lonely People is a perfect blend of heart and humor. Packed with quirky characters and honest emotions, you won't be able to put this book down until the last page."
--Eileen Cook, author of Unpredictable, Do or Di, and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood

I didn't even have to get them drunk first! Also, a lovely woman in a book club I visited last Thursday told me she liked it even better than Driving Sideways. Check's in the mail, Tracy! Just kidding. But I will buy you a cupcake for being awesome.

It’s available exclusively for Kindle via Amazon for the first three months, mostly because I checked a box online without realizing it was a 180-day contract. This is yet more evidence of my impulsivity (see Exhibit A, my first marriage), but we’re OKAY! We’re okay. We’ll get to Nook and Kobo and other platforms soon. Also! The paperback is in production; a few unexpected kinks to work out, and I’ll let you know the minute it’s available. 

To make up for my impatience in rolling out the e-book first, I am giving away three autographed copies. Leave a comment below, send me an email, or “like” my Facebook author page by December 1, and you’re entered to win! 

The Eleanor Rigby earworm is a free bonus. You’re welcome!

If you don’t want to wait for other formats but don’t have a Kindle, you can easily download the Kindle app for your smart phone, iPad, tablet, or computer. 

And here’s a final teaser: I’ve included the opening chapter for Mandatory Release. Yep, this is the prison book you may have seen me write of, and I've filled it with all kinds of goodies, including a recipe for "seg loaf"--something to wow the book club members!

Over the next few weeks I have all kinds of exciting new books and contests and such to tell you about, so stay tuned. (It's like I have a blog again or something!)

Saturday, November 03, 2012

And Now Presenting: my Mom

My mother told me that she participated in a staff training event* last week that required homework of the attendees: completion of a hand-out that seemed, to me at least, more a fun distraction or an Internet meme than a training activity with substance.  One of the questions stumped her for several days.

“Quick,” she said to me, “what song am I?”

“What do you mean what song?”

“What’s a song that sums up my life?”

For some strange reason the first two songs that came to mind were Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed.”

I know! What the hell is wrong with me? I did fall down a long, hard flight of stairs when I was two, but come on. Gross! Sometimes I want to give my brain a time-out in the corner.

My Dad suggested a Kinky Friedman song, because I know when I think of my sweet Catholic mother, the first thing that comes to mind is a crass Jewish comedian from Texas.  

In the end, she went with “Ode to Joy” and “Highway to Hell.”

Another question on the list was, What is one of your negative traits? (Or something like that. I’m sure I got the question wrong and will be informed of my error after she reads this.)

She wrote, “I’m indecisive. Well, not all the time. Just sometimes.”

*My Mom has worked in a medium-security men’s prison since I was a baby, so…. since before cassette tapes.  Despite having dealt with criminals on a daily basis for many decades, she still maintains a sunny attitude, and is one of the friendliest, most positive, generous, and compassionate people you’d ever met.  I based a character in Mandatory Release on her. Here’s one of my Mom’s actual quotes that ended up in the book—a follow-up to a statement on how awful it can be to work in a prison: “Oh, I’m not talking about the inmates! I’m talking about the staff.”