Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me - by Jenny Gardiner

My guest today on the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit Lit Blog Tour is Jenny Gardiner, author of the new memoir, Winging It, which is out today from Gallery Books.

Like many new bird owners, Jenny and Scott Gardiner hoped for a smart, talkative, friendly companion. Instead, as they took on the unexpected task of raising a curmudgeonly wild African grey parrot and a newborn, they learned an important lesson: parrothood is way harder than parenthood. Winging It is a hilarious and poignant cautionary tale about two very different types of creatures, thrown together by fate, who learn to make the best of a challenging situation.

A gift from Scott’s brother who was living in Zaire, Graycie arrived scrawny, pissed-off, and missing a lot of her feathers. Every day became a constant game of chicken with a bird that would do anything to ruffle the couple's feathers.

The old adage about not biting the hand that feeds you—literally—never applied to Graycie.

But Jenny and Scott learned to adapt as the family grew to three children, a menagerie of dogs and cats, and, of course, Graycie. Winging It is a laugh-out- loud funny and touching memoir, as Jenny vividly shares the many hazards of parrot ownership, from the endless avian latrine duty and the joyful day the bird learned to mimic the sound of the smoke detector, to multiple ways a beak can pierce human flesh.

Jenny Gardiner first appeared on the GCC tour as the author of the award-winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, and the Washington Post. She writes a column of humorous essays for Charlottesville, Virginia’s newspaper, the Daily Progress.

Jenny lives in central Virginia with her family and took some time out from her busy schedule to answer a few questions...

What was the inspiration behind the writing of Winging It?

Winging It came about because people were always so darned amused at stories about our parrot. We could host a dinner party and spend half the night with people cracking up about the things she says and does. I have a column in our local paper and wrote a piece about her a while back. Readers were so interested in more and that grew into this book!

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

You have to be really strong and true to yourself to tough it out in this business. And be your own biggest advocate. Publishing is not for the faint of heart. I think any creative venture is subject to the vagaries of subjectivity, so regardless of your ability it takes much more than just that to succeed. Sure, most often, you need to have writing chops (well, not that Pamela Anderson did, but still...). But you must have an unyielding faith in yourself and a whole lot of intestinal fortitude to withstand the rejections and to not take them personally. Because it happens to everyone. And there was a time when once you'd published your first book that meant all of your books got published. Those days are gone now, and most authors need to be content with slight incremental improvements in their career while the publishing industry weathers this economy and the really core-of-the-earth types of paradigm shifts that are happening in the business right now.

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

Gene Shepherd (In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash); JD Salinger (Catcher in the Rye); Meg Cabot (just about anything--I love her voice)

What is the elevator pitch for Winging It?

Think David Sedaris meets Marley & Me, with a deadly beak

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

Learn the business. Network, meet people, understand how it all works so that you can figure out how to make sure you can advance. Read what is selling in the market and try to glean what trends are out there. Although don't write to a trend--write what's in your gut, and make it the best it can be. Remember those who are ahead of you in the business who take the time to help you out and remember to be that person when you become successful. It's a very tough business and it's really wonderful to have the kindnesses of others to usher you along as you navigate choppy waters. And believe in yourself. Don't let rejection get you down (easier said that done). If you start to feel your confidence waning, go back and read your best work, and remember that you're doing this because you love to write. And then write as if you love to write.

Get more info at Jenny's website HERE.

And be sure to check out Graycie the Parrot on YouTube and Jenny's video interview.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

My guest today on the Girlfirend's CyberCircuit Lit Blog Tour is Hank Phillippi, author of the brand new mystery DRIVE TIME from MIRA Books.

Investigative reporter Charlotte McNally is an expert at keeping things confidential, but suddenly everyone has a secret, and it turns out it may be possible to know too much. Charlie's latest TV scoop--an expose of a dangerous recalled car scam complete with stakeouts, high-speed chases and hidden-camera footage--is ratings gold. But soon that leads her to a brand new and diabolical scheme (incredibly timely!) that could put every driver in danger.

Charlie's personal and professional lives are on a collision course, too. Her fiancé is privy to information about threats at an elite private school that have suddenly turned deadly.

Charlie has never counted on happy endings. But now, just as she's finally starting to believe in second chances, she realizes revenge, extortion and murder might leave her alone again. Or even dead. When everyone has a secret, the real mystery is knowing when to tell.

Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution. Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank has won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine working with Hunter S. Thompson.

Her first mystery, the best-selling PRIME TIME, won the Agatha for Best First Novel. It was also was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel, and a Reviewers' Choice Award Winner. FACE TIME and AIR TIME are IMBA bestsellers and the latter has just been nominated for an AGATHA award for Best Novel of 2009. DRIVE TIME earned a starred review from Library Journal. Hank is on the national board of Mystery Writers of America.

Hank stopped by to answer a few questions...

Growing up, did you ever think you’d be an investigative reporter?

Definitely—not. You know, I have a funny juxtaposition of desire to be in the spotlight—and sheer terror of being in the spotlight. I love my job in TV—and have to go live and unrehearsed all the time. Confession: I’m still terrified every time. I want to be perfect, and when you’re on live, you can’t possibly be. That’s one reason why I love investigative reporting—there’s more time to work, and dig, and polish, and produce, It’s like making a little movie, and I can make it as perfect as possible.

Anyway, my sisters and I used to create musical shows when we were all young, and perform for our parents in our backyard. I did acting in high school and college. I wanted to be a DJ on the radio for a long time! But I thought I would be an English teacher, or a lawyer for the Mine Workers union, or for awhile, a political activist.

(My mother, though, says she always knew I would be a television reporter—but I think that was just her way of rationalizing that all I did as a pre-teen and teenager was read books and watch TV.)

I knew from my first Nancy Drew that I loved mysteries. Nancy was my first best friend—I was a geeky unpopular kid, and it was such a relief to go home and hang out with Nancy. She was smart, and made it be okay to be smart. She was confident and inquisitive and resourceful. I loved that. But being a TV reporter was not in my sights. Little did I know!

How did the character of Charlotte ‘Charlie’ McNally come about?

I have NO idea. She was born when I got a weird spam in my email. It was what looked like lines from a play by Shakespeare. I thought--why would someone send a spam like that? And it crossed my mind--maybe it's a secret message.

I still get goose bumps when I think about it. And I knew, after all those years of wanting to write a mystery, that was my plot. And that turned out to be the Agatha-winning PRIME TIME. But Charlie? Well, I knew I had a good story, but who would tell it? A television reporter, of course. And she just instantly popped into my head. Named, fully formed. I knew her perfectly.

The other characters were more difficult to get to know. But now, Charlie surprises me a lot! And I love when that happens.

Is she anything like you? Has she ever done anything you wouldn’t do to get your story?

When my husband talks about Charlie, he calls her “you.” As in—when “you” are held at gunpoint, when you track down the bad guys, when you solve the mystery… and I have to remind him, “Sweetheart, it’s fiction. It didn’t really happen.”

 But a couple of things: I’ve been a TV reporter for more than 30 years, and so it would be silly in writing a mystery about TV not to use my own experiences. Think about it—as a TV reporter, you can never be wrong! Never be one minute late. Never choose the wrong word or miscalculate. You can never have a bad hair day, because it’ll be seen by millions of people! It’s high-stakes and high-stress—literally, people’s lives at stake--and I really wanted to convey that in the books.

 And everything that TV people do and say in the books is authentic and genuine. (Of course, Charlie can say things I can’t say, and reveal things I can’t reveal.) We’re both devoted journalists, and over-focused on our jobs.

But Charlotte McNally is different, too. She’s single—I’m happily married. She’s ten years younger than I am, and so is facing different choices and dilemmas. She’s braver than I am, certainly. Funnier. And a much better driver.

What is your advice to fledgling writers and journalists?

For journalists: Don’t be afraid. Be very afraid. Be scrupulously careful. Think. And think again. Never give up.

For writers? On my bulletin board there are two quotes. One is a Zen saying: “Leap and the net will appear.” To me, that means: Just do it. The other says “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” And I think that’s so wonderful—just have the confidence to carry on. Writing is tough, arduous, not always rewarding in the moment—but no successful author has ever had an easy path. When you hit an obstacle, pat yourself on the back. You’re a writer!

Thanks, Hank, and we wish you continued success with your novels!