Monday, August 18, 2008

THE SMART ONE - by Ellen Meister

Today's guest on the Girlfriend's Cybercircuit Lit Blog Tour is Ellen Meister, author of the hilarious The Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA returns with THE SMART ONE (Avon A, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; On-Sale Date: August 5, 2008; $13.95; ISBN: 0061129623), a funny and sexy tale of love, family, and transcending the childhood identities that mark us all.

Beverly Bloomrosen has always been the smart one, the middle sister sandwiched between Clare, the beautiful and popular older one, and Joey, the rebellious rock-star younger one. But she’s hit a bit of a slump lately. Now 35, she’s embarking on a new career as an elementary school teacher and not exactly living up to her family’s expectations (“Maybe she can work her way up and eventually teach high school. That wouldn’t be so bad,” her mother helpfully comments). Bev has moved back into her parents' home on Long Island while waiting to see if a job opportunity in Las Vegas materializes, seeing it as her chance to start afresh…but before she knows it, life back at home starts to get very interesting.

Kenny Waxman, Bev’s childhood neighbor—and the boy who almost became her high school boyfriend until she found him in bed with Joey—returns. Now a successful comedy writer in Los Angeles, he can still make her heart pound…and the attraction is still mutual.

Things take a turn for the sinister when a pregnant woman’s body is found in an industrial drum buried in the Waxmans’ backyard. As Bev and her sisters begin to unravel some mysteries of the past, some secrets of the present are revealed: Bev learns that the perfect Clare may not be as perfect as her glamorous, well-coiffed suburban life may suggest, while rebellious Joey is still attempting to exorcise some of the demons that have haunted her for years. In the end, the curse of being the smart one may just turn out to be a blessing.

Writer Ellen Meister grew up in the heartland of suburban Long Island. She spent her early career in advertising and marketing, and later worked as editor for a literary magazine and published numerous short stories. Her first novel was Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA (Morrow/Avon, 2006). Meister lives in New York with her husband and three children. To find out more, visit her website at

Praise for THE SMART ONE:

"Wonderfully funny, irreverent and entirely unexpected. I loved it!"
- Jane Green, bestselling author of The Beach House

"A perfect beach read!"
- Booklist

"Character-driven ... fast-paced and features great dialog."
- Library Journal

Ellen took the time to answer a few questions...

What was the inspiration behind the writing of THE SMART ONE?

The inspiration for THE SMART ONE hit me from several different directions. I always wanted to write a sister story because that relationship intrigues me. This thought was floating around in my head when I got an offer on my first book, SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA. I was thrilled about the offer, but also in a minor panic about what it would mean to become a world-famous author. (I'll wait a few moments while you finish laughing.) Yes, I was terribly naive, and didn't realize I wouldn't even become a celebrity in my own house. Still, the thought passed though my head, and it made me wonder what it was about some people that made them actually covet fame. Was it something from their childhood? Something about the family dynamic? I knew, then, that one of the sisters in my next novel would have to be a character who sought--and achieved--fame. It's not a major focus of the book, but it was a spark that started to make the story gel.

The other big inspiration was a news story that happened right in my home town. A man moving out of his home opened a sealed 55-gallon industrial drum that had been in a crawl space since he moved in ... only to discover a mummified body inside. It was a young woman, nine months pregnant, who had been killed thirty years before. After she was identified as a factory employee of the home's original owner, who had since retired, the detectives went to Florida to question him. They wanted to get a sample of his DNA to test against the fetus's, but before they could serve a warrant for it, the man shot and killed himself.

This happened so close to home that it captured my imagination and wouldn't let go. How could something like this happen in an ordinary suburban home in an ordinary suburban town? How did the killer keep his secret for so long? And how did it affect the people around him?
Of course, I had no intention of writing a true crime story, so I simply used this macabre event as the inspiration for a discovery made by my three adult sister characters ... and it became the catalyst that drives the arc of their relationship.

How do you approach writing your novel? Do you outline the plot? Start with a character or...?

It's about 50-50 for me. I usually have some idea I want to explore about a character or a relationship. But at the same time there are always a few plot ideas rattling around in my skull. The concept for a novel takes shape when a character idea and a plot idea meet and fall in love.

What are you reading now?

I'm reading FATAL, a Michael Palmer medical thriller that was published several years ago. It's brilliant.

What is your writing schedule like?

I'm a morning person, and feel like I can do anything if I get a good jump on the day. So I wake up around 5 am--before the children rise--and get to work. After I send them off to school, I go back to my desk. If I can manage to resist the temptation to surf the 'net, I might actually get some work done.

What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel published?

Keep at it … and remember that almost every successful writer has a long history of rejections.

Thanks for coming by, Ellen, and best of luck with THE SMART ONE!

Monday, August 4, 2008

HOTTER THAN HELL - by Jackie Kessler

Jackie Kessler is my guest today on the Girlfriend's Cybercircuit Lit Blog Tour. I must have led a sheltered life because I have to admit that I was not familiar with the term "incubus." But my trusty Random House Dictionary came to the rescue with this explanation: a demon supposed to descend upon sleeping persons, especially one in male form fabled to have sexual intercourse with women in their sleep. Ah! So that explains who's been visiting me late at night these past years. Ha! Well, enough about me and my incubus...

In HELL’S BELLES and THE ROAD TO HELL, Jackie has brought readers into an unforgettable Underworld populated by alluring demons and sexy devils. Now Daunuan, the most irresistible incubus of all, is facing one Hell of a challenge... So whose soul do you have to damn to get a promotion around here?

Daunuan was never the ambitious type. There's so much to love about his job just the way it is—mind-blowing sexual prowess, the power to seduce any human, excellent dental plan. But now Pan, the King of Lust, has offered to make Daun his right-hand incubus—a position other demons would give their left horn for. All he has to do is entice a soul destined for heaven into a damnable act of lust. Should take, oh, seven minutes, tops.

Then he meets his target, Virginia Reed. She’s cute. Funny. Smart. Unfathomably resistant to his charms. He can’t understand it. But Daun has centuries of seduction to his credit. He’s the best there is. Sooner or later he’ll transform this polar icecap of a female into a pool of molten desire, and every instinct tells him she’ll be worth the effort.

Meanwhile, he has to deal with a plague of rogue demons Hell-bent on taking him down, sent by an unknown enemy with a serious grudge. And one other problem: the dawning realization that he’s falling in love—that unholiest of four-letter words—with the woman he’s about to doom for all eternity...

HOTTER THAN HELL is Book 3 in the Hell on Earth series published byKensington/Zebra Books and debuts on August 5, 2008.

Jackie Kessler is the author of the Hell on Earth series, published by Kensington/Zebra Books. She has two spin-off Hell stories as well: one, “When Hell Comes Calling,” will appear in the LILITH UNBOUND anthology (Popcorn Press, 2008) edited by bestselling author Elaine Cunningham. The other story is an erotic novella, “Hell Is Where the Heart Is,” to appear in the upcoming RED HOT VALENTINE’S DAY anthology (Avon Red, January 2009). Jackie is also the co-author of BLACK & WHITE, a dystopian superhero novel about two superpowered women—once best friends, now on opposite sides of the law—who must join forces to fight the Big Bad Evil (bwahahahahaha). BLACK & WHITE will be published by Bantam Spectra in July 2009.

Jackie was kind enough to answer some questions...

Name three songs that would be perfect for the soundtrack of your book.

“The Diary of Jane,” Breaking Benjamin (acoustic version). This song moved me so much, I nearly named the female lead “Jane” instead of “Virginia.”

“When You’re Evil,” Voltaire. Oh yeah. Hey there, Daun, how’re you doing?

“Waiting for the Night to Fall,” Depeche Mode. The music, the lyrics—a palpable sense of waiting, of building to something bigger than you.

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

You can’t measure your success based on any other author’s experience. (Close runner up: you really need a sense of humor.)

What are you reading now?

Rereading THE DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher. Currently on book four, SUMMER KNIGHT.

What is your writing schedule like?

Usually, I write first thing in the morning, before my day job, and then at night, when my Precious Little Tax Deductions are sleeping. (Yeah, I get very little sleep.)

What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel published?

To paraphrase author Cindy Procter-King (Head Over Heels), there are three things you need to get published: talent, persistence, and timing. While it’s difficult to write to the market, you absolutely can hone your craft and develop a thick skin. Write. No matter what, write. And never be daunted.

Thanks, Jackie, and good luck with the book!