Tuesday, September 29, 2009

According to Jane - by Marilyn Brant

My guest on the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit Lit Blog Tour today is Marilyn Brant, author of the smart and clever debut novel According to Jane, from Kensington Books.

The story begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett's teacher is assigning Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet "tsk" of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who's teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author's ghost has taken up residence in Ellie's mind, and seems determined to stay there.

Jane's wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go--sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane's counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.

Still, everyone has something to learn about love--perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie's head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending. . .

"A warm, witty and charmingly original story." --Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"An engaging read for all who have been through the long, dark, dating wars, and still believe there's sunshine, and a Mr. Darcy, at the end of the tunnel." --Cathy Lamb, author of Henry's

As a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer for Romantic Times, Marilyn has spent much of her life lost in literature. She received her M.A. in educational psychology from Loyola University Chicago, dabbled in both fiction and art at Northwestern University, studied the works of Austen at Oxford University and is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her debut novel won RWA's prestigious Golden Heart Award® in 2007. 

Marilyn lives in the northern Chicago suburbs with her family, but she also hangs out online at her blog "Brant Flakes." When she isn't rereading Jane's books or enjoying the latest releases by her writer friends, she's working on her next novel, eating chocolate indiscriminately and hiding from the laundry. (I hear you, Marilyn).

Marilyn stopped by to answer a few questions... (more than three, which seems to be my favorite number).

Name three songs that would be perfect for the soundtrack of your book.
I can only name three?? I use an ‘80s soundtrack through the entire novel and songs of that era play a significant role in the story so I'd choose “True” by Spandau Ballet, “Make Me Lose Control” by Eric Carmen and “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi, but there are so many.

What was the inspiration behind the writing of According to Jane?
It was the answer to a long-standing “what if?” question: What if I could get romantic advice from the author I most admired and the one who had, in my opinion, the greatest ability to understand human behavior? (It didn’t hurt that she’d written one of the most memorable love stories of all time, either!)

Who are the top three writers who have influenced your writing style?
I can only name three?? Wendy, what is it with you and this three thing?! There are, like, 25 of them, at least! (exasperated sigh) Well, Jane Austen, of course, Sue Miller and Elizabeth Berg (and E.M. Forster, Hugh Prather, Douglas Adams, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Erich Segal and…)

What are you reading now?
Some entertaining Austen-inspired fiction, like Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life, and the amazing Shaffer/Barrows book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Listening to and playing music, traveling, spending time with my husband, son and our extended family, having long conversations with friends over coffee, watching old movies and reading late at night.

Describe how you got your first book deal.
According to Jane had won the 2007 Golden Heart Award for “Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements,” but the chronological story structure had thrown off a few editors because they weren’t sure how to market the book--as YA or women’s fiction. I restructured the novel to make it clear that it was women’s fiction, and my agent submitted it to John Scognamiglio at Kensington in April of 2008. He read it and made us a 2-book offer 12 days later. I will always adore him for that (!!) but, also, he’s proven to be an excellent editor.

What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel published?
Don’t follow trends just because you think it’ll be an easier sell. And write the books that fit your voice. If what you love writing happens to be a hot-selling genre, great. If your writing voice happens to be perfect for the genre you want to write in and love to read, that’s awesome, too. But--if not--write long and hard enough to find what DOES fit you and your style best. Because then, even if it takes longer to make that first sale than you expect, you’re writing the kinds of stories you most enjoy, and that passion has a way of working itself into the projects you’re creating.

Thanks for the great advice, Marilyn! Be sure and visit Marilyn's Web site here. And be sure and keep a look-out for her second forthcoming novel about three suburban moms who shake up their lives and their marriages (October 2010), also from Kensington Books. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Air Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

My guest today on the Girlfriend's CyberCircuit Lit Blog Tour is Hank Phillippi Ryan, an Emmy-winning Boston television reporter and award winning mystery writer has a funny, smart group blog and a series that you'll love. Air Time is the third installment.

Some would say, It's Prime Time for Air Time! Here's what else is being said:

“Sassy, fast-paced and appealing. First-class entertainment.” Sue Grafton

“I love this series!” Suzanne Brockmann

“AIR TIME is a fun, fast read with a heroine who's sexy, stylish, and smart. I loved it." Nancy Pickard

Smart and savvy Boston TV reporter Charlotte McNally is back. In AIR TIME she’s taking on the fashion industry, where she learns “When purses are fake – the danger is real.” AIR TIME is the third of the back-to-back-to back Charlie mysteries—the first PRIME TIME (also in bookstores now) won the Agatha Award for best first novel. FACE TIME (also in bookstores now) is a BookSense notable book.

Hank took some time from her very busy schedule to answer a few questions...

1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book?

Imagine the research I had to do into the world of designer purses! It was tough, but someone had to dive in…

Actually, Charlie’s investigation into the world of counterfeit couture came s straight from been there-done that. In my day job as a TV reporter, my producer (not Franklin!) and I have done several in-depth investigations into the world of knock-offs—not only purses and scarves, but blue jeans and watches and DVDs and videos.

We went undercover and with a hidden camera—like Charlie does—into various back-alley stores where counterfeit merchandise was being sold, and also into some suburban purse parties where women—certainly knowing they were fake and thinking was fine—were scooping up piles of counterfeit Burberrys and Chanels.

You should know— law enforcement tells us, it’s not illegal to buy the purses—unless you’re buying large amounts that are obviously for resale. The illegality is in the copying and manufacture and sale of what’s clearly a trademarked and proprietary item. (As the elegant fashion exec Zuzu Mazny-Latos tells Charlie in AIR TIME—it’s like taking Gone with the Wind—and putting your name on the cover.)

Anyway—lots of AIR TIME is based on research and reality—besides the undercover work, and the research, I’ve done many interviews with the federal agencies in charge of battling counterfeiting, the attorneys who help big companies protest their products, and even the private investigators the designers hire to scout out counterfeits.

2.)Are you more driven by plot or by character?

Ah, it's both. I start with one little germ of a plot twist--and then figure out how Charlie is going to figure it out! So I know what I know--and she knows what she knows. And then she has to solve the mystery--based on what I let her know.

3.) Who's your favorite character in this book and why?

Oh, I can't possibly answer that. Charlie McNally is dear to my heart of course. When my husband talks about Charlie, he calls her “you.” As in: when “you” get chased by the bad guys, or when “you” get held at gunpoint. And I have to remind him, “Sweetheart, it’s fiction.” But Charlie can say things I can’t say about the reality of television, and because she’s fictional, she can go places I can’t go. And say things I can’t say!

And the very sweet 8-year-old Penny, I must say, touches me every time I write about her And I get so many letters from readers, concerned about her, and asking about her, and who I based her on. But really? She’s right out of my imagination. (She’s the character who sometimes makes readers cry...along with Charlie’s mother. I guess family relationships are sometimes—universal.)

And in AIR TIME there’s a new character . a gorgeous FBI agent named Keresey Stone. She’s amazing. And unpredictable. But I wonder what you’ll think about her?

3.) What's your writing process/writing environment like?

I’ve been a television reporter since 19, um, 75. I’m still on the air at Boston’s NBC affiliate, and still at work as an investigative reporter. (And I’m always hoping my best story ever is just around the corner.) So I come to work at Channel 7 every morning—tracking down clues, doing research, hoping for justice and looking for a great story that will change people’s lives. (Hmm..sounds a lot like mystery writing!)

Then at night we go back home—and when I’m in writing mode, I write til about ten pm, in a wonderful study that’s lined with bookshelves. I admit—I have a cluttered desk, and no real filing system, except for “piles.” But I know where everything is. I like it to be quiet.. At the TV station, it’s chaotic and loud, with three TV’s blasting all the time—and I can work fine there! But at home, with the books—quiet.

Because my schedule is so tight, I keep track of my words. If I know I have to write 90,000 words by the deadline, I literally divide that number by the number of days I have—and then set that as a goal. I try to write maybe—to pages a day. And on weekends, more. If I can do that, I’m thrilled.

I push my way through a first draft. I say to myself—just get the story down. Just do it. And you can fix it later.

Then I cook dinner, and my husband and I have a very late dinner together! You can imagine how patient he is!

I used to be a pretty good cook, and diligent about exercise. My husband and I gave dinner parties and went to movies and went on vacation. Sigh. That’s all pretty much over. I have a full time job as reporter, a full time job as a mystery author, and a full time job as a wife (with two step-children and two step-grandchildren!) That doesn’t leave much time for much else.

4.) What's your favorite part of writing?

Revision, no question. I love that. You have this whole first draft, and you get to go back and see what you really have. I often have wonderful revelations when I read over the first draft—there are themes and rhythms and even clues that I didn’t realize were there! It’s always so rewarding.

And after 30 years in TV, I know how valuable editing is—so I look at it as a real treat. To get to polish, and tweak, and rearrange, and make it all shine—oh, it’s great fun.

The other favorite part—when readers love the books. I can’t tell you how often I’m out on a story, for instance, and a stranger will come up to me , and pull the book out of a purse or briefcase, and ask me to sign it. I can barely resist bursting into tears. It somehow completes the writing, you know? when someone reads it.

5.) What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about writing?

There’s a plaque on my bulletin board with the question: “What would you attempt to do if you know you could not fail?” That gives me a lot of courage.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Crossing Washington Square - by Joanne Rendell

My guest today on the Girlfriend’s Cyber Circuit Literary Blog Tour is Joanne Rendell, author of The Professors’ Wives’ Club, and now the new novel, Crossing Washington Square, published by NAL.

Across Washington Square live two very different women …with their very different love of books.

Some women follow their hearts; others follow their minds. In this “charming, witty, and cerebral” second novel from the acclaimed author of The Professors’ Wives’ Club, we return to Manhattan University, where two strong-willed women are compelled to unite their senses and sensibilities.

Professor Diana Monroe is a highly respected scholar of Sylvia Plath. Serious and aloof, she steadfastly keeps her mind on track. Professor Rachel Grey is young and impulsive, with a penchant for teaching popular women’s fiction like Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Devil Wears Prada, and for wearing her heart on her sleeve.

The two conflicting personalities meet head to heart when Carson McEvoy, a handsome and brilliant professor visiting from Harvard, sets his eyes on both women and creates even more tension between them. Now Diana and Rachel are slated to accompany an undergraduate trip to London, where an almost life-threatening experience with a student celebrity will force them to change their minds and heal their hearts…together.


“As readers spend time with these bright and engaging women, Rendell offers an interesting debate about the merits of studying popular fiction in an academic setting.” The Romantic Times

“Rendell’s second novel is thoughtful and open, with plenty of interesting academic debate for truly bookish readers.” Booklist

Joanne was born and raised in the UK. After completing her PhD in English Literature, she moved to the U.S, to be with her husband, a professor at NYU. She now lives in faculty housing in New York City with her family.

Joanne stopped by to answer a few questions.

What is the elevator pitch for Crossing Washington Square?

Sparks fly when two very different female professors meet head to heart at a prestigious Manhattan university (and when a handsome visiting professor from Harvard shows up, even more trouble is in store).

And what was the inspiration behind the writing of Crossing Washington Square?
The idea for this book evolved over a few years. As someone who has lived the academic life (I have a PhD in literature and now I’m married to a professor at NYU), I’ve always loved books about the university – books like Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim and Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys. But what I noticed about such campus fiction was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Even the female authors like Francine Prose and Zadie Smith, who’ve written campus novels, focus on male professors. Furthermore, most of these male professors are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students! I wanted to write a novel with women professors taking the lead and I wanted these women to be strong and smart and interesting – instead of drunk, disillusioned, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons!

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

It’s not all fireworks and champagne. Being a published author is a job that you have to keep working at and, like any job, it comes with its highs and lows.

What are you reading now?

The Elegance of a Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery and also Simone de Beauvoir’s, A Very Easy Death. It’s a coincidence that they are both books by French philosophers. I’m reading both as research for a new book idea, although the book isn’t about France or philosophy. Are you now intrigued?! I hope so.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I have a six year old son who is homeschooled, so that’s what I’m mostly doing when I’m not writing. Although, “homeschool” is somewhat a misnomer as we spend a relatively small amount of time schooling at “home.” We live in New York so are lucky enough to have an amazing array of fun and educational places on our doorstep. Benny and I, together with his homeschooled friends, are always out on trips to the Met, the Natural History Museum, aquariums, zoos, galleries, libraries, and parks. When we’re not out and about, Benny and I love to read – either together or separately. I’m so thankful he loves books like I do!

I think it’s great that Joanne decided to turn the tables and write about women professors. And, yes, I am intrigued about that new book! Wishing Joanne the best of luck with Crossing Washington Square. Be sure and visit her at her Web site here.