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!

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