Monday, January 28, 2008


Karen Neches is the author of the just released novel, EARTHLY PLEASURES. Amazingly prolific, she also writes under the name Karin Gillespie and is the nationally bestselling author of The Sweet Potato Queen’s First Big-Ass Novel with Jill Conner Browne and three novels in the critically acclaimed Bottom Dollar Girl series. She’s the founder of the virtual tour The Girlfriend Circuit as well as the grog for Southern authors A Good Blog is Hard to Find. She is a former lifestyle columnist for the Augusta Chronicle.

EARTHLY PLEASURES has been chosen as a Booksense Notable for February and snagged a wonderful review from Publishers’ Weekly. I love the cover and am looking forward to reading this very intriguing-sounding book! (Gotta love that pitch: The Lovely Bones meets Bridget Jones!). Karen was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

What was the inspiration behind the writing of EARTHLY PLEASURES?

I had this sudden thought: Lovely Bones meets Bridget Jones. I was so excited, I felt like I’d discovered how to turn rocks into gold. Then I spoke with a publicist who said, “What a horrific notion.” Too late. I was already 70,000 words in. My agent hated it. My editor wanted to use it for kindling. I almost gave up on it. I cursed the novel many times but now it’s my favorite.

What is the elevator pitch for EARTHLY PLEASURES?

Skye Sebring is a greeter in Heaven who falls hard for a mortal on Earth, named Ryan. She ends up following him to Earth and learning all of my life lessons through five Beatle songs

What is one thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since
getting your first book deal?

The most important thing to a book's success is house enthusiasm. An author needs to do everything he or she can to generate excitement well before the book is published.

Who are the top three writers who have influenced your writing style?

Donna Tartt (she’s a genius. I can barely type her name without wanting to burn incense in homage). Anne Tyler (I would faint if I met her) and Anne Lamott (I’m thinking of getting an Anne Lamott tattoo I adore her so much.)

What are you reading now?

I just finished THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE by Julie Buxbaum. Read it now. Thank me later.

Be sure and check out Karen's Web site. I wish her a big success with EARTHLY PLEASURES!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Brit Brit vs. Xtina

In the late 1990s when I worked as a producer for some children’s Web sites, I was put in charge of the entertainment areas. Not having any kids myself, I was out of the loop when it came to tween music, but I soon found out that the major question of the day was: Britney or Christina? If you liked Britney Spears, who debuted with “...Baby One More Time” in 1998 when she was seventeen, it was because she was America’s sweetheart. More coquettish than sexy, and more about dancing and entertaining than singing. She was a little bit naughty, but downright nice. If your preference was Christina Aquilera, who burst upon the scene a year after Britney with “Genie in a Bottle,” it was because you appreciated someone a little earthier, a little more real, and a girl who could really sing. Although the two had both been on “The New Mickey Mouse Club Show” in their earlier years and were purported to be good friends back in the day, their images couldn’t have been more different.

Several years later the two were still wildly popular, but Christina had somehow found her inner slut. Her videos were often criticized for being close to pornographic and it was as if she couldn’t wait to be taken seriously as an adult star, leaving behind her teen idol days as quickly as possible. She was fond of dressing like a prostitute and changed the spelling of her name to Xtina. I had the chance to write a short biography on Christina for a children’s book publisher and when I told people the subject matter of my project, many often went ballistic. “That girl is a total sleaze!” they’d say, veins bulging from foreheads. “She’s such a horrible influence on young girls!” It reminded me of what people used to say about Madonna. Britney, now in a relationship with another squeaky clean teen idol and former Mickey Mouse Club alum, Justin Timberlake, still seemed to hang on to her unoffensive, Gidget/Barbie doll image.

As I did research on Christina Aguilera I could see more differences between her and Britney. While Christina was obviously influenced by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, she also held singers like Aretha Franklin and Etta James in great esteem. Even at a young age Christina had a feel for what her style should be and honed her skills as a vocalist, feeling a real affinity for blues and soul music from decades earlier. I get the impression that Britney was the type who just wanted attention, and a way to get that was to be an entertainer. She doesn’t seem to have any particular musical influences and, although there are old videos of her as a youngster belting out songs with a surprisingly powerful voice, it has never been evident on any of her recordings, which rely on cutesy or breathy vocals. Britney liked to dance and sing and act, but didn’t seem to take any of it too seriously. It seemed what she really wanted was to be a star.

Fast forward to today and we now see these two women occupying very different places that I doubt anyone would have predicted. Christina, now 27, seems to be happily married to a record executive and just gave birth to her first child. At age 26 Britney’s life seems to be in shambles and it’s not necessary to go into the details of all her trials and tribulations, which everyone must know by now unless they’ve been living in a cave for the past year. Ms. Spears seems to be in desperate need of help and it’s a sad spectacle to see people making fun of and exploiting someone who so obviously is having a serious mental breakdown. We can only hope that she gets the help she needs and can get through this and into a more stable life such as that of her old pal and former slut Xtina.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Is 2008 the Year You'll Get Published?

Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu is one way to say “Happy New Year” in Japanese. Literally it means something like, “Congratulations on the opening of the new year,” and I like to think that at this time we’re all open to new possibilities. For those who want 2008 to be the year they get their novel published, here is some info and resources I hope you’ll find helpful.

Before you send out your queries to agents, you should make sure that your manuscript is ready. In an illuminating series of articles in the latest issue of Poets & Writers magazine (Jan/Feb 2008) one agent says that the biggest mistake a writer can make is submitting a manuscript too soon. Do you have trusted readers who can critique your novel who will give you honest, constructive feedback? Have you considered hiring a manuscript consultant to look at your work? A good place to start might be researching writing teachers at your local colleges and universities who may offer such a service. And, you never know, some of your favorite authors may also do manuscript consultations on the side--check out their Web sites. If plot is one of your weak points, you may want to look into Blockbuster Plots.

As far as finding an agent, there are a couple of sites I recommend. One is, which offers loads of useful information on the process of querying agents. Another feature is the ability to search for agents who represent particular genres and styles of novels.

Publishers Marketplace
is another great site. The first thing to do is to sign up for their Publisher’s Lunch and Deal Lunch e-mail newsletters. These are free and will give you industry news that is useful in finding what types of novels agents are selling. A paid subscription to the Web site will give you even more features, including your own Web page and the ability to search on agents and what they’ve sold over the last several years.

Good luck!