Sunday, November 15, 2009
The Secret of Joy - by Melissa Senate
My guest today on the Girlfriend’s Cyber Circuit Lit Blog Tour is Melissa Senate, the bestselling author of See Jane Date and Love You To Death. Melissa has a brand new novel from Simon and Schuster, The Secret of Joy.
What would you do if you discovered you had a half-sister you never knew existed?
28-year-old New Yorker Rebecca Strand is shocked when her dying father confesses a devastating secret: he had affair when Rebecca was a toddler—and a baby he turned his back on at birth. Now, his wish is that the daughter he abandoned, Joy Joyhawk, read the unsent letters he wrote to her every year on her birthday. Determined to fulfill her father’s wish, Rebecca drives to a small town in Maine—against the advice of her lawyer boyfriend who’s sure Joy will be a “disappointing, trashy opportunist” and demand half her father’s fortune. But when hopeful Rebecca knocks on her half-sister’s door, Joy—a separated mother who conducts weekend singles tours out of her orange mini-bus—wants nothing to do with Rebecca or the letters her father wrote to her. Determined to forge some kind of relationship with Joy, Rebecca sticks around, finding unexpected support from Joy’s best clients—the Divorced Ladies Club of Wiscasset—and a sexy carpenter named Theo . . . .
"The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate opened my heart, made me laugh, cry, and smile all at the same time. A don't-miss read!" –New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips
"The Secret of Joy is a warm hug of a book. Insightful, wise, and romantic, it's as inviting as the small-town life it depicts." –Claire LaZebnik
"A wonderfully heartfelt story about hope, possibilities and the yearning for real connections. Senate's latest will take you on a much needed vacation, while sneaking vital life lessons in when you're not looking." –Caprice Crane
Melissa Senate lives on the coast of Maine with her son and their menagerie of pets. She’s the author of eight novels (seven women’s fiction and one young adult) with two on the way. She stopped by to answer some questions.
What is the elevator pitch for The Secret of Joy?
A 28-year-old New Yorker with a life that doesn’t feel quite right discovers she has a half-sister she never knew existed. Off she goes to a small Maine town to find her….
What was the inspiration behind the writing of The Secret of Joy?
Several years ago, I received an email out of the blue that said: I think you might be my half-sister. I was. Am. It took me a long time to decide to take that little (huge) nugget and write a novel to help me figure out the answer to some burning questions, such as: if you haven’t seen or heard from your biological father, or any member of his family, since you were little (or, in Joy’s case, never at all), is his child from another relationship really your sibling? Or just a stranger? Does the word father or sister or brother mean anything without back up? I had a ton of questions and set out to uncover how I felt through a fictional character, but it’s interesting to me that I flipped everything on its head in the writing of the story. Nothing but the basic questions that are proposed in the novel are autobiographical. Just the questions! And I surprised myself quite a few times during the writing of this story with how I felt about certain things. Amazing how writing fiction can teach you so much about yourself.
What is one thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since getting your first book deal?
That it’s a business, first and foremost. I try to remember that every day. Business. Business. Business.
How do you approach writing your novel? Do you outline the plot? Start with a character or...?
An idea flits into my heart, mind and soul (if I may be so dramatic!) and I just know. The idea, just a wispy thing, grips me and think about it until the two major characters—my protagonist and the person or thing who “forces” her change—become clear. Then I write out a one page treatment, a bare bones synopsis, then think about that, then revise the storyline into a “pitch” I can share with my agent. If she green-lights it, I’ll then let myself dream it into a full blown synopsis, which is what I usually sell a novel on. The synopsis, in its major plot points, rarely changes, but how the characters get from page one to page 325 is another story.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading so much contemporary women’s fiction. My bedside table is piled so high with these gorgeous books. I’m just starting Elizabeth Berg’s latest, Home Safe. Then will read Kristina Riggle’s Real Life & Liars.
Thanks, Melissa! Visit her website for more information and I know that she’d love it if you became her friend on Facebook and followed her on Twitter.
Posted by Wendy Tokunaga at 8:43 PM