Interview with Connie Corchoran Wilson, part 2

On Monday I posted the first few questions I asked Connie and now it’s time for the rest.  The first part of the interview is here.  My review of her book, Laughing Through Life, and a giveaway is here.  Connie’s website is here.  Enjoy!

2. You love movies.  Who are your favorite actors working  today?
Yes, I loves my  movies!  Every year, we have a traveling trophy Oscar-predicting  contest with friends and predict ALL categories.  (I hold the  trophy, this year.)  Ryan Gosling is one of my favorite male actors  working today. I also like George Clooney. “The Ides of March” was wonderful.  [Two for the price of one!] My husband kids me about my Richard Gere  phase—[which, actually, secretly endures today]— where my college  roommate and I rented every film of his with a love scene and watched just the love scenes one summer when we  were vacationing together. However, “King David” was a horrible film of  Richard’s (Sorry, Richard) and we quit after we rented that one. I just saw  Tilda Swinton in “We Need to Talk About Kevin”  at the Chicago Film  Festival, and she turned in a truly powerful performance, with John C. Reilly  starring opposite her in the film. On TV, I like Julianna Margulies in”The  Good Wife” (which I regularly review for Yahoo) and Cate Blanchett in  “Homeland.” I recently met Chicago native John C. Reilly who sat and  watched his own film with us, and he couldn’t have been nicer to me,  as were Colin Hanks and Forrest Whitaker when I met them. I’ve been following  Colin’s story arc on “Dexter.” [I don’t want him to leave the plot!]  
3. I love quotes.  Do you have a favorite?
On the top of my blog (, [on which I often  review film], I have a Shakespeare quote: “There is a tide in the affairs of  men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage  of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” Or, as the Bard  also famously said, “We must take the current when it serves or lose our  ventures.” Those quotes really speak to me, because, even today, I  have risked to get where I am, giving up a tenured 17 and 1/2 year teaching  job to write for a living (in 1985), starting 2 businesses from scratch in  wintry economic climates (in 1986 and 1995, after the writing job pretty  much crashed and burned). Selling two successful businesses while really  too young to retire  to (try to) come full circle  and write “one of everything” before another of my favorite poems  applies (Edna St. Vincent Millay), “Dirge Without Music:” 

“I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard  ground.  So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:  Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned with lilies  and with laurel they go, but I am not resigned. Lovers and thinkers, into the  earth with you.  Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.   A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew, A formula, a phrase  remains,—but the best is lost. The answers quick and keen, the honest look,  the laughter, the love,—They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses.   Elegant and curled is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not  approve.  More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in  the world.  Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave Gently they go,  the beautiful, the tender, the kind; Quietly they go, the intelligent, the  witty, the brave.  I know.  But I do not approve. And I am not  resigned.”
So, now that I’ve cheered everyone up with that poem.
6. You are from Iowa, went to college there and I need  to read a book set in Iowa for a reading challenge.  Can you help me out by  telling us a few of your favorite books set in Iowa?
I’ll give you a couple of “Iowa” book  references/recommendations. The obvious choice (and a good one) would be Jane  Smiley’s “A Thousand Acres,” which is based on King Lear. She’s also  written Ordinary Love and Good Will, which is  also set in Iowa, but I haven’t read it yet, although I hear it is  excellent. There are also references to “Iowa Bob” in one of John Irving’s  books, but the book, itself (The Hotel New  Hampshire), is set in New Hampshire although that   character is based on former University of Iowa football coach Bob Commins, I’m  told (now deceased: see poem above). For fine nonfiction,  try Methland by Nick Reding,  a searing  documentary-style look at Oelwein, Iowa, 12 miles from where I grew up and how  meth labs have destroyed the town. (It’s a quicker read, and a  worthwhile one.)
And, if you want to read something by a struggling genre author trying to  gain a foothold at least in E-books, I will happily send you  The Color of Evil, which is set in Cedar Falls, Iowa absolutely free!  It should be out in 2012. It is the  first book in a trilogy about a boy with paranormal abilities. The second book, Red Is for Rage, will take Tad McGreevy on into his  senior year of high school, just as the first book focuses on his junior  year in high school. [You could tell others that you are “a beta  reader” for a struggling novelist who has just completed her second  novel. It’s strictly genre reading with echoes of Stephen King. And, after  I publish the first one, I’m thinking of writing up my political adventures in  2004 and 2008 (nonfiction) to coincide with the upcoming presidential campaign.  I’m a movie and a political junkie, I guess, and it’s just as addictive as meth,  I fear.
Thanks for the excellent questions!

Author Interview – Connie Corcoran Wilson

I am reading Connie’s book, Laughing Through Life, for a book tour (Premier Virtual Author Book Tours) and I’m still finishing it up so I thought I’d give you part one of the interview with her.  She graciously took the time time to answer 6 questions for me.  Check back tomorrow for my review and giveaway and Wednesday for part two of the interview.
1. You’ve been writing a long time (fiction, reviews, interviews,  etc.) and I’m impressed by the number of big name authors you’ve  interviewed.  Can you tell us who your favorite few were and something  about them we may not know?

Yes, Virginia, I HAVE been writing a long time,” she said, with a smile..56 years, by actual count. But who’s counting, right?

I can share with you some interesting sidelights of interviewing some of those authors you mentioned. I interviewed Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., because I was in college at Iowa at the time, but I had just spent the summer on campus at Berkeley during the “Summer of Love.” [That’s 1965 for you young whippersnappers, and, yes, it was as crazy as you’ve heard! I recently saw a documentary at the Chicago Film Festival and I was the only one in the room that had an actual personal anecdote about seeing Alan Ginsburg come out onstage at Berkeley stoned and have to be carried off by the janitor,— but nevermind about that.] That merely means I was probably one of the oldest people in the room, although cinematographer Haskell Wexler was there, and he’s at least 85, so maybe not.


Anyway, I loved it at Berkeley that summer, especially the trip to the San Francisco Cow Palace, ditching class to go see the Beatles and riding up on the back of then-boyfriend (Colgate’s) Czechoslovakian motorcycle. I wasn’t that happy at Iowa at the time. I wanted to transfer from Iowa to Berkeley, but, as an English major, I usually “sandbagged” and took fewer than 15 hours (and then signed up to make up the difference in hours to bring me up to 15 per semester in summer school on campus), because there was so much reading that it was hard to keep up if you didn’t try something creative to cope. (And I read FAST and later taught Speedreading). You also had to have a “B” average for the semester. I only had 14 hours, so I needed ONE more hour, in order to flee Iowa for the west coast and warm weather. (Although Colgate, whose real name was William Hopkins, didn’t live in California, but was from Philadelphia and merely attended Colgate University).


So I approached my American Humor & Satire teacher and asked if I could be given one hour of “special project” credit for interviewing Kurt Vonnegut, who was teaching on campus at the time. My professor agreed and it was up to me to contact the Great Man and interview him, which I did with great trepidation. I had read everything he had ever written and loved Cat’s Cradle and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine.


It was the dead of winter, and the classes then met in old Army Quonset huts. [Not too glamorous and not too warm.] I schlepped down there in the dead of winter in my snow boots and parka, extremely frightened at the prospect of interviewing someone famous. I didn’t know that Vonnegut hated all little blonde people who looked like they were from Minnesota on sight (until I read about this eccentricity later.)


Vonnegut definitely did me no favors during the interview. He was tired, cranky and monosyllabic. Also chainsmoking like a chimney. I had already interviewed many subjects during my years in high school ( I began working at age 10 for our local paper doing interviews), but Vonnegut was like a bad guest on Letterman. (My first question, “How would you compare your writing to Joseph Heller’s?” Heller had Catch 22 out fairly recently at that point in time) earned a sneer and the comment that they had absolutely nothing in common. My paper—which, at that point I had written and required only that I plug in the appropriate quotes from the Great Man about how and where Mr. Vonnegut fit into the black humorists of the day that we were studying in class—-sank like a rock, taking my mandatory “B” grade and my chances to transfer to the University of California at Berkeley with them.


Perhaps it was for the best, but I’ve always wondered…”What if?” After that, I wasn’t quite as crazy about Kurt Vonnegut. In fact, I have other equally meanspirited Vonnegut stories that I’ve heard over the years, but let me just add that, when I student taught at the University of Iowa Lab Schools (which no longer exist, but, at that time, served the faculty’s children), his daughter, Edie Vonnegut was assigned to my class. (She later went on to marry Geraldo Rivera!) Talk about your moment of zen!


For instance, (skimping here) the “trapped in the life of a fictional character” one: I’m already trapped in the life of a REAL character, if you hadn’t noticed. I’m not about to put down my burdens and take up anybody else’s, because you know what they say about how, if we put our problems in a pile, we’d end up wanting to take back our own. I remember a quote: “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” (Insert your own comment here.) Or maybe the quote was about putting your shoes in a pile and taking back your own?. Now I’m confusing myself. I remember I was always puzzled by that quote as to how the guy was getting around to be met if he didn’t have any feet, but that’s how my mind works (obviously). I’m beginning to think it’s like that old joke about “walking a mile in my shoes.” Then, you’re a mile away and you have that person’s shoes (as long as you have feet, that is.) And, as foreshadowing to the REAL quote question[ which I will answer seriously later. Ahem.], I’ve always enjoyed “Virtue is its own punishment” and “Bliss is ignorance.”


Now, on to other authors I have interviewed:David Morrell was one of the nicest, although that was a phone interview. What I remember about the phone interview is that, in the middle of it, he got a call from his agent telling him that Sylvester Stallone was going to make that last “Rambo” movie, and he had to cut it short to find out how that affected him, because he knew nothing about it. He also was chagrined that I asked him about why ALL his heroines always are described wearing tan, blue and burgundy, because apparently no one else had pointed out this small detail. (“Why didn’t someone tell me that BEFORE!?”)

Anne Perry was one of the scariest (after Vonnegut, that is), since she went to jail for murder in New Zealand when she was a teenager (Kate Winslett played her in the film “Heavenly Creatures” in Winslett’s film debut in that Peter Jackson film). I realize Ms Perry (whose real name is not Perry at all) has paid her debt to society and all that, but it was still “a bit dodgy” interviewing her alone in my hotel room on a Sunday morning.

Frederik Pohl was wonderful and his stuff is really so timely and so “today” that it is hard to believe that nobody is making movies of some of his extremely creative sci-fi story concepts. And my personal, special muse and friend is William F. (Bill) Nolan (“Logan’s Run”), who has written the Introduction(s) to two of my books and is the answer to Question #4. Here’s a guy who is in his 80s and still writing wonderful things and he’s published something like 85 novels, worked for Hallmark as an illustrator, had movies made from his stuff (including the reboot of “Logan’s Run” that’s about to come out with Ryan Gosling). But he’s such a stitch and so nice and real and supportive of newbies, whether old or young. He’s been very supportive of my writing. He thinks I have real talent and told me I’m “a born storyteller” and “The work awaits.” (Morrell, while very nice to me, not so much on the “thinks I have talent,” although he DID say, “Your stuff has fewer errors than most Boot Camp enrollees,”— but I wasn’t IN boot camp at the time, so I had no idea what he was talking about. He also suggested that, since I was stressing out about 24 people coming to my house for the 44th year in a row I might take them out to eat, and all of my St. Louis relatives showed up (the teenagers) without anything but flip-flops and blue jeans, so we couldn’t eat the country club and they ended up in some park! Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) was an interview by computer (questions sent; questions answered), so not as much of the “getting to know you” vibe, although I did meet him again at WorldCon in Austin this past summer, but Vonnegut was definitely the worst ! John Irving and Eric Bogosian were asked the questions onstage by others at AWP things and I was fortunate enough to be in a small group hearing the answers, so I got the better end of that deal. Then, I got bored interviewing other people and decided I wanted to be the one that other people interviewed. Like now. [Thanks for that, she said with a smile.]


I have, at this point, answered Questions 4 and 5 (Who or what inspires you? If you were trapped in the life of a fictional character who would you choose?), so bear with me as I now answer 2, 3 and 6. (See? Multi-tasking: just see if George W. Bush or Rick Perry can do that!)

Come back tomorrow for the rest of the interview.

10 in ’10 with Maria Semple

Maris Semple, author of the fabulous novel This One is Mine, has graciously agreed to answer a few questions.  This is her first novel, although she was a writer for many very good tv shows, like Arrested Development and Ellen.  Why not stop by her website and have a look around?  On to the questions…

1. In your book bio it says you “escaped from Los Angeles” and now live on an island off Seattle. What was it about Los Angeles that made you want to escape?

It’s a company town, and I was done screenwriting.  And in my mind, if you don’t have to be in LA, you really shouldn’t.  The usual gripes… traffic, infrastructure collapsing, people in Porsche’s honking at you.

Plus the sun.  I’m not a fan of the sun.  

2. You wrote for television before writing this book. Which of these shows are you most proud of?

Mad About You, because I think there was the most of me in it than any of the other shows.  

3. The characters in This One is Mine are deeply flawed.  Tell us what Violet saw in Teddy?

Hey, methinks you fall into the category of readers totally puzzled and repulsed by Teddy.  In my mind, Teddy saw a “twinkle” in Violet that she thought had been snuffed out by too many years of being married to David, not working, being a new mother.  And as happens with love, circuits get crossed and Violet thinks that Teddy makes her twinkle.  He makes her feel beautiful, sexy, funny, needed.  So by chasing him, she’s chasing that part of herself she is desperate to keep alive.  

4. Did you have any input on the cover?  The trade paperback cover is deliciously beautiful.

So glad you like the paperback cover.   My friend, the very talented Kimberly Brooks painted the cover for the hardback, which I really loved.  Little, Brown decided to go for something poppier for the paperback and I think they did a great job.  How can you not reach for that book?

5. Who or what inspires you?

Any artist who experiences failure and rejection and keeps going.  I find bouncing back very moving.  

6. What’s the last book you read?

Les Liasions Dangereuses.  I had read it a few times, and always considered it one of my favorite books.  I picked it up again and it thrilled me.  A work of total genius.  It’s the only book that has left me feeling scandalized.   Three hundred years after the book was written!   And you read my book, full of sex and immorality, so that’s saying a lot.

7. What’s your favorite non writing hobby?

Trying to stay off the internet.

8. I love quotes.  Do you have a favorite?

The Gods of Discipline are benevolent.  My boyfriend and I made this up yesterday.  We were remarking that anytime we exercise discipline– with work, exercise, speech, anything where we don’t act impulsively, but show restraint–  it always pays off.   

9. If you were trapped in the life of one fictional character who would you choose?

That’s so hard to say, because most fictional characters go through so many highs and such lows.  I guess I’d like to be any smart heroine who’s vexed and maddened by love, and who doesn’t end up killing herself.  Elizabeth Bennett, Dorthea Casaubon, Jane Eyre, Isabel Archer.  

10. And finally, what are you working on now?

I’m working on my new novel, and it’s finally coming together.  To make an embarrassingly lowbrow analogy– there’s that reality show star named Heidi something who I just read had ten plastic surgeries done to her at once?  I feel like the plastic surgeon who performed that work– I’m sitting at the computer and I have this living thing open in front of me but it needs attending to on ten different fronts… wait I have to stop, this analogy is going to make me sick.  

How’s this:  I’m in the process of figuring out my second novel.  

Thank you, Maria!

10 in ’10 with Susan McBride and a giveaway

I’m on the blog tour for Susan McBride’s latest, The Cougar Club, and you’ll see my review on February 17th.  But today she has agreed to stop by an answer 10 questions for us and to offer an autographed book for one lucky commenter.  Details at the end of the interview.  She was so gracious and sweet that she is offering this book even though I already had one to give away (this second one will be offered when I post my review).  Stop by Susan’s wonderful website and you’ll find information on all of her books and upcoming events, I only wish she was coming a bit closer to Cleveland 🙂  On to the questions…

1. In your YouTube video you say that you wanted to write about women like you. How are the women of The Cougar Club like you and which one is closest to the real Susan?

The women I know in their 40s and 50s are vibrant and funny with rich, full lives.  Some have raised kids, gone back to school, suffered through divorces, or had to pick themselves up after losing a job, and yet they always hold their heads high and move on.  I love that spirit.  It’s inspiring.  That’s what I wanted to infuse into the characters of Kat, Carla, and Elise in The Cougar Club.  I definitely share Kat Maguire’s desire for true happiness and her need to surround herself with people who love her unconditionally.  She’s far braver than I am though when it comes to taking risks in relationships.  Carla Moss is a 45-year-old anchorwoman who’s feeling the pressure to maintain a youthful appearance for her audience.  I don’t think I could ever live in the public eye like that.  I’d hate to be judged by the lines on my face rather than by the quality of my work.  Elise Randolph is much softer than either Kat or Carla.  She’s put her heart and soul into raising her son for 18 years, and now he’s off at college.  She doesn’t realize till he’s gone that there’s a big empty space between herself and her husband. She loves being a dermatologist but doesn’t want to feel married to her work. Hmm, all the women are 45, and I’m 45; but while there may be bits and pieces of me in each woman, none of the three IS me.  Although my husband would like to think that the cute hockey player in the book is him!  So, shhh!  Let’s not tell him anything different.  😉

Probably one of the driving forces behind my writing The Cougar Club was my disgust at how the media depicts women over forty.  We’re either Botoxed-to-death Barbies desperate to stay young or faux-tanned, cleavage-bearing nymphomaniacs.  I have a true Cougar sister who’s 46 and fabulous and has never dated anything but younger men (or so it seems!).  I’m an “accidental Cougar,” having met Ed–who’s nine years my junior–when I was a St. Louis Magazine “Top Single” in 2005.  We were married two years ago on February 24, and we’re incredibly happy.  Age isn’t an issue with us.  My wish would be that readers of The Cougar Club come away with the idea that you’re never too old to follow your heart, whether it be in your personal life or your career. 

2. You’ve written mysteries, young adult, and women’s fiction. Which one interests you the most right now?

I will never say “never” as far as writing in any genre again, whether it’s mysteries or young adult (and I do have one YA book left to write on my Random House contract), but right now I’m in love with women’s fiction.  I had such a blast telling the story of women my age in The Cougar Club that I’m dying to do it again.  I’m working on a proposal now, so we’ll see how things pan out! 

3. I’ve read that you wrote many manuscripts before getting published. Have you gone back and tried to publish them now that you are established or are they safely tucked away in the bottom of a desk drawer?

Oh, gosh, I wrote 10 manuscripts in the 10 years after I graduated from college, and none of those were published.  But they were all great practice for me.  I tried my hand at a variety of genres and different points of view, and it helped me better learn my craft.  I haven’t had a chance to resurrect any of those unpublished manuscripts as I’ve had such tight deadlines these past 10 years.  But you never know!  There are a few I’d like to revise one day if I ever get the chance.

4. Do you have any rituals or routines when writing?

I do like to write in my pajamas or sweats so I’m comfortable.  If it’s gray or rainy outside, all the better!  I concentrate best when it’s kind of dark in my office.  I like to get emails and business other than actually working on a novel done in the morning then do the creative part after lunch.  I used to love to write at night, but that kind of bit the dust once I met Ed.  But I do wake up in the middle of the night fairly frequently when I’m in the middle of a book.  My brain just doesn’t stop.  So I keep a notebook on my desk, at my bed-side, and in my purse.  Like the Boy Scouts, I’m always prepared.

5. Who is your favorite hero in literature?

I have to say that I adore Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.  The girl does whatever she has to in order to survive. She gets her heart broken over and over, but she picks herself up and moves on.  If she screws up, she tells herself, “tomorrow is another day,” something I need to do more often!  She’s a bulldozer disguised as a Southern belle, and I love that!

6. What’s the last book you read?

I’m in the middle of reading According to Jane by Marilyn Brant, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  I’ve recently read The Sugar Queen and Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, which I’m crazy about.  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein had me sniffling back tears at the end.  So many good books out there!  I wish I had more time to read.

7. What is your favorite non writing and reading activity?

Anything I can do with Ed!  We love going to movies, to hockey games, or out to dinner, poking around flea markets, bowling, roaming the Botanical Gardens, or visiting Big Cat Country at the zoo.  We have a lot of fun together, even if we’re watching DVDs at home.

8. I love quotes.  Do you have a favorite?

I’m gazing at a plaque I have hanging over my file cabinet that says, “Well behaved women rarely make history.”  I’m trying to make that my motto!

9. Who would you choose if you were trapped in the life of one fictional character?

Wow, that’s a tough one.  I think I’d want to be Eloise from the Eloise children’s books. She is a cool chick and very smart.

10. And finally, what are you working on now?

I’m finishing up a proposal for my next women’s fiction book, and I’m waiting for word on a few young adult proposals that I turned in awhile back.  So I’m trying to enjoy this brief time when I’m not under the gun of a deadline, because it happens so rarely!  Although I’m equally anxious to get started on something new.  I just love to write!

Okay, now for the giveaway.  Susan will be sending one lucky commenter a free autographed copy of The Cougar Club. The Cougar Club by Susan McBride: Book Cover How easy is it to enter?  Leave a comment with an email address and you are entered.  I’ll randomly select a winner on February 17th when I will start a second giveaway for this book 🙂

10 in ’10 with Shirley Tallman

Last fall I read Murder on Nob Hill and The Russian Hill Murders and fell in love with the independent and spirited Sarah Woolson.  The next  book in this historical mystery series is on its way to me as I type 🙂  So, I was very excited when I contacted author Shirley Tallman and she agreed to answer a few questions. 

I recommend visiting her website where you will find access to her blog, books, and contests.  This month she’s giving away an Amazon gift card and next month she’ll be giving away signed hardcover copy of one of her books EVERY DAY!

On to the questions…

1. I love Sarah Woolson.  She’s smart, independent, and brave.  What or who was the inspiration for this wonderful character or did she just show up on your screen one day?

Actually, Sarah’s character had  been growing and developing in my mind for quite some time before I started MURDER ON NOB HILL, the first book in the Sarah Woolson Historical Mystery Series. To me Sarah embodies all the qualities I most admire in a heroine: intelligence, determination, fair-mindedness, empathy, honesty and, above all, courage. In order for a woman to square up against the chauvinism rampant in 1880’s society, she would have had to possess all of these virtues — in spades! Yet despite her feisty independence, she also possesses a quiet vulnerability and sensitivity that makes us sympathize with the many obstacles she must face, and root for her to come out victorious in the end.

2. Historic San Francisco is such a wonderful setting for this series.  What was it about San Francisco that made you want to explore its history in a series?

Several things led me to choose San Francisco as the setting for my novels. Of course the fact that I was raised in San Francisco was largely responsible. Fortunately, at the time I was growing up it was still fairly safe for a young girl to travel practically anywhere in the city by bus or cable car. My friends and I loved to ride our bikes through Golden Gate Park, visiting museums and the California Academy of Sciences, then continue riding down to the beach where we’d go ice skating, to Playland at the Beach, or to the Cliff House (the setting for book number four in the series). With my family I attended live theater and plays downtown, shopped along brightly decorated Maiden Lane at Christmas, and window shopped on Market Street. I think I fell in love with San Francisco before I even learned to read, and once I could, I would literally bury myself in books to learn more about its fascinating history. I don’t remember considering any other locale for my mysteries.

3. You also write screenplays.  How is that experience different than writing novels?

It’s completely different! For one thing, writing a novel is usually a solitary effort; for better or for worse, the author pretty much controls her story and her characters. Writing a screenplay is anything but a solitary endeavor. In Hollywood everyone seems to want a piece of the pie, and to satisfy their own egos. Perhaps a better way to put it would be to say everyone from the producer(s) (often there’s more than just one producer),  director and even the actors want to have a say in the final product — which frequently forces the screenwriter to veer off into vastly different directions. Of course when the writer attempts to please one of the producers/directors/actors, she’s sure to offend the rest of the players. To put it in a nutshell, the finished screenplay sometimes bears little resemblance to the writer’s first draft!

4. Can you tell us a little about how you were first published?

Once upon a time, my best friend and I (both mothers of small children) decided to write a book. Today we look back on the experience as having proven the old saying that, “Ignorance is bliss!” Having absolutely no idea as to the impossibility of the task, we blithely sent out the completed manuscript to at least fifty publishing houses, papering our laundry-room walls (yes, that’s where we did a good portion of our writing!) with rejection slips. Finally, one brilliant and perceptive publisher (at least that’s how we like to remember him), bought our book, PLEASE STAND BY — YOUR MOTHER’S MISSING, and released it in hardcover to an unsuspecting public. To his surprise, I’m sure, the book sold rather better than he suspected, and our careers were launched. Okay, maybe they weren’t launched right away, but we were certain we were on the right tract. As it turned out, my friend went on to write award-winning stage plays, while I helped feed my growing family by penning Harlequin/Silhouette contemporary romances. Later on, we joined up again to successfully write and sell movies to ABC, NBC and CBS.

5. Who are some of your favorite mystery writers?

There are so many it’s hard to list them. Certainly Agatha Christie introduced me to the magic of mysteries as a child. As a teen, I added science fiction to my favorites, then mystery masters such as Anne Perry, Elizabeth Peters, Ngaio Marsh, Robert Bernard and Ellis Peters.

6. What’s the last book you read?

I just finished reading Maeve Binchey’s novel, HEART AND SOUL, and Dean Koontz’s FOREVER ODD. Plus, of course, a steady stream of research books for my own novels, but I don’t necessarily count those as leisure reading.

7. What is your favorite non-reading and writing hobby?

I’m a Gemini, so I have a lot of hobbies. I love to bike ride and snow ski, do yoga, knit and crochet, and go to the movies. I admit I’m addicted to several TV series, including TRUE BLOOD, THE CLOSER, MONK, CSI (all three), HEROES, PBS MYSTERIES, HOUSE and  THE BIG BANG THEORY.

8. I love quotes.  Do you have a favorite?

I think my favorite quote is: “All things are possible to one who believes.” (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux – letters)

9. If you were trapped in the life of one fictional character who would you choose?

I know I’m prejudiced, but actually I’d choose the life of my own heroine, Sarah Woolson. As I said earlier, she embodies so many qualities that I admire in a woman. Beyond that, her life is never dull!

10. And finally, what are you working on now?

I’m working on book #5 in the Sarah Woolson series, tentatively titled, DEATH ON TELEGRAPH HILL.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Shirley!

10 in ’10 with Beth Hoffman with giveaway

Photo of Beth HoffmanBeth Hoffman is an interior designer turned writer and with her debut novel being chosen as the first book for Sam’s Club book club it seems she made the right choice to turn to writing.  Beth grew up in northeast Ohio, not far from where I live and she is just as sweet in person as a person can be.  Read yesterday’s post about meeting her.  By leaving a comment there or here you will be entered to win a copy of Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt.

And now on to what you are really interested in…

1. You and CeeCee both grew up not far from where I live.  What’s the best thing about growing up in northeast Ohio?

The absolute best thing was the early years of life I spent living on my grandparent’s farm. To this day, there’s nothing that takes me back to fond Ohio memories more than smell of freshly cut hay and the rumbling sound of a tractor’s engine. I loved the change of seasons, too. And as tough as Ohio winters were, they were beautiful. The Metropolitan Park system is outstanding, and I enjoyed exploring the endless hiking trails as a kid. Whenever I go back to Ohio, I try to save some time to visit Squires Castle and walk the paths. Ohio is wonderful horse country too, and there was nothing like saddling up and going for a long ride through the countless trails that are so easily accessible. I miss that so much.

2. I’ve read that Aunt Tootie is based one of your own aunts.  What was it about her that made her such a great character?                  

When I was nine years old, I went to visit my Great Aunt Mildred Caldwell who lived in Danville, Kentucky. And it was culture shock of the best kind. There I was, a shy little farm girl suddenly in the midst of a world I could have never imagined. I was in awestruck by the beautiful old homes, the towering trees, and the lush flower gardens, and, I was enthralled by the Southern dialect. My great aunt was an accomplished, highly educated woman who had strong values and a generous heart. And, oh, was she ever witty.

She was always busy with charity work and was known to step in when someone was in need. My great aunt treated everyone, and I mean everyone, with kindness. Her domestic help adored her, and she them. She was so charming—a true Southern lady. To this day I’ve never met anyone more gracious, and I suspect I never will. I was impressed by how she used and enjoyed the things she had; even her finest heirloom china was used for evening meals. As far as I could tell, nothing in her home was off limits or saved for that one special occasion. To my great aunt’s way of thinking, every day was a celebration, and it was called LIFE. That has been her legacy to me. 

3. I gave this book 5 stars and am impressed that it is your first book.  How much time passed from conception to publication?

I’m so glad you loved CeeCee’s story, thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. So much so that I was really saddened when I typed THE END. The manuscript took four years total—the last nine months of which were spent on intense, and sometimes brutal, editing.

4. You had a successful career as an interior designer before switching to writing.  How has your life changed since making the leap?

I’m calmer and much more grounded. Perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve noticed is that I’m more wide awake to the simple things in life—the things that bring me the greatest joy: my animals, watching the birds, walking in nature, and having the time to really listen to a friend in need. While I loved my design career, I was so buried in work for such a long period of time that I lost the wider vision and appreciation of life that I once had. It might sound strange, but I regained much of my childlike delight in people and everyday life when I threw my briefcase in the trash, kicked of my high-heels, and began to write.

5. What was your favorite childhood book?

Hmmm, that’s a real toss-up. I loved STUART LITTLE and THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS equally.

6. What’s the last book you read?

THIS I BELIEVE – The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women

7. What’s your favorite non-reading and writing hobby?

Animal rescue, gardening (I’m crazy for peonies), and laughing with girlfriends! I’m a stay-at-home kind of person, and I truly enjoy the simpler things. In the warmer months my husband and I will pack a picnic, drive to General James Taylor Park, which overlooks the Ohio River, and play gin rummy while watching the barges go by. To me, that’s living.

8. I love quotes.  Do you have a favorite?

Yes! And it’s from Richard Bach’s book ILLUSIONS: “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.”

9. Who would you choose if you were trapped in the life of one fictional character?

This is going to seem odd, I’m sure, but I’d pick Thelma Rae Goodpepper. I adore her. As eccentric as she is, Thelma Rae succeeded in creating a magical, if offbeat, world for herself—she is a true free spirit.

10. And finally, what are you working on now?

I thought I knew, but it’s dramatically changed over the past few weeks. Though I have ideas, and more characters have stepped from my imagination, I suspect I won’t know for certain what my next novel will be until I complete my book tour. I’ll be traveling quite extensively for the next several months, and I find it hard to do much writing when I’m on the road. I miss it something fierce, and I’m eager to hit the keyboard again.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Beth!  Visit her website for more info and event dates. 


2009 Author Interviews

This year I was able to interview 15 wonderful authors and if you missed any of my 9 on ’09 interviews you can click on the author below and check out the post.  I asked each of them who he or she would choose if trapped in the life of one fictional character.  With 4 1/2 votes (yes, one author chose 2) Elizabeth Bennett was the top vote getter.  Some other choices- Scarlett O’Hara, Tinker Bell, Stephanie Plum, Tintin, and Anne of Green Gables.  I do plan on continuing author interviews next year, even considering the highly creative 10 in ’10 title 🙂

Rachel Hauck

Carla Neggers

Tish Cohen

LaConnie Taylor 

Mary Doria Russell part 1 ,  part 2

 Sherryl Woods 

Laurie Dean

Emilie Richards

Eva Etzioni-Halevy

Nina Vida 

Preetham Grandhi

Linda Palmer 

Carly Phillips 

Barbara Delinsky 

Hallie Ephron 

9 in ’09 with Barbara Delinsky

Barbara Delinsky, NYT bestselling author, has graciously taken some time to answer a few questions.  I reviewed her book, While My Sister Sleeps here and the book is out in paperback just this week. 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and Barbara is a survivor and continues to fund research.  You can visit her website for more information about her books and her wonderful blog. 

Here’s the nine with Barbara…

1. While My Sister Sleeps is the story of a family in crisis and each of the characters travels a personal journey that leads the book full circle.  Which character do you think grew or changed the most?

I’d have to vote for Molly, partly because that’s how I conceived of this book.  I see it as a coming of age story about a 27-year-old who has always lived  in the shadow of her star sister and felt secondary in the eyes of her Type A mother.  Suddenly, with her sister comatose and the rest of the family unable to act, Molly rises to the occasion.  In speaking for her sister, she finds her own voice, helping even her mother grown in the process.

2. When I posted my review of this book, commenter Violet asked if it were a movie.  I know it’s not, but there are so many wonderful characters in this book that it would make a great one.  Who would be your dream cast if While My Sister Sleeps made it to the big screen?

Honestly?  I have no idea.  I’m so not a movie or TV person.  Given that I spend so much time writing, what free time I have is spent knitting, talking with friends, and doing things like laundry.  I’m always curious to know, though, who readers would choose.

3. You have a big presence online with a website, blog that you started in 2005, and many other social outlets.  How has your life as a writer changed over the years since the explosion of online social networking?

Oh my, a loaded question there.  I have to confess that at times I do pine for the old days, when all a writer had to do was write her books!  Today, I spend roughly one-third of my work time maintaining that online presence – website, blog, and now Facebook and Twitter – meaning that I have to work even longer hours to get each book done on time.

The plus side, of course, is that online social networking has given me a vehicle to communicate with my readers, which is – and always has been – hugely important to me.  My readers have put me where I am today.  Their enthusiasm and loyalty keeps me going.  I love communicating with them!

4. You are a breast cancer survivor and wrote the book Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors in 2001.  I love that all the proceeds from the sale of this book go to your own charitable foundation.  Can you tell us a little about the foundation?

From the very beginning, I knew that I didn’t want to personally pocket a single cent from the sales of Uplift, and was able to shamelessly shop it from publisher to publisher for this reason.  The entirety of my proceeds from Uplift go into the charitable foundation, which has, to date, funded four years of a breast research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital.  Each May, I have the joy of meeting the fellow just finishing her year and hearing about the work she’s done.  How awesome is that?

5. Who or what inspires you?

People do.  I take a gesture here, a physical characteristic or manner of speech there, and create characters that interest me.  As for what those characters do?  My plots are almost always inspired by current events.  When I’m in the process of writing a book, I keep a file on my computer for “Next Book Ideas.”  Inevitably, the idea I pick is either the most recent one entered, or an idea based on news occurring since then.  My agent calls me a prescient, in that I write more about things that are about to happen, but it’s truly just being attuned to people’s concerns in the here and now.

6. I love quotes.  Do you have a favorite?

Here’s one from my father.  When faced with different people having different opinions or preferences, he always said, “That’s why there are menus in restaurants.”  I think of this often, when readers say that they loved my latest book but that their favorite is still – and then they name one of my other books.  Another thing my dad always said was, “Taxation is the price of civilization.”  I agree with him there, too.  Some folks don’t – but, hey, that’s why there are menus in restaurants.

7. What are you currently reading?

Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper.  It’s a gem of a book about a blind cat.  Being a cat person, I’m loving every page.

8. If you were trapped in the life of one fictional character who would you choose?

Given that fictional characters have to experience some form of angst to keep the reader turning pages, I’ll opt out of this choice.  I have enough on my own plate, thank you!

9. What are you currently working on?

Just finished, actually.  Not my Daughter – not to be confused with an earlier book of mine, For My Daughters.  This new one, Not My Daughter, tells the story of three high school girls, all good students from good homes, who make a pact to become pregnant.  I know, I know, TV is currently loaded with shows about pregnant teens, but this book is different.  The heart of the story is the fallout of the pact, with accusing fingers pointing to the girls’ mothers.  Here is an exploration of what it takes to be a good mother, whether at 17, 35, or 45.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Barbara!

9 in ’09 with Hallie Ephron

A few weeks  ago I reviewed 1001 Books for Every Mood by Hallie Ephron and really enjoyed it.  Hallie took the time to email me after seeing the review and offered to send me a copy of her newest book The Bibliophiles Devotional: 365 Days of Literary Classics.  I mean how can a list lover like me resist a book from a great list maker?  I couldn’t resist and I’ve been reading about a new book every day and loving it.  Thanks, Hallie! 

Anyway, Hallie is the author of 4 books and you can visit her website here

And now the nine questions…

1. My first question has to be about growing up in a house full of writers.  What was your childhood like with parents who were writers and three other sisters (Nora, Delia,Amy) who are writers too? It must have been wonderful to grow up in such a creative home.

Our house overflowed with books – wall to wall bookcases, bedside tables stacked with books to be read and re-read (cookbooks and children’s books on my mother’s; history and economics on my father’s), and as kids we were read to early and often (the Oz books, Little Women, The Little Princess…).  My mother recited poetry after dinner, and we grew up cherishing words.

2. I loved your book 1001 Books For Every Mood, probably because I love books and lists.  How long did it take for you to decide what books to include and did you have to cut any favorites?

Thank you!  I love books and lists, too.  It took me months to decide which books to include.  I started, of course, with my favorites, and then talked to booksellers and librarians and readers and anyone who had the temerity to cross my path holding a book.  I also cherry-picked from many great lists out there, like Sports Illustrated list of best sports books, Business Week’s list of best business books, TIME’s list of great books, and of course the ones that Oprah has recommended.  If someone mentioned a book I hadn’t heard of I found it to decide if I thought it was gem worthy including.

3. Your new book The Bibliophile’s Devotional is 365 Days of Literary Classics.  Can you tell us what defines a classic for you?

Hmmm…I’d say one that’s stood the test of time.  One that influenced the way we think, like books that were the first of their kind (did you know Oliver Twist was the first book in English with a child protagonist?).

4. You write book reviews for the Boston Globe.  Do you think  blogs and websites devoted to books have changed newspaper reviews or do you think they serve two different purposes?

I think blogs and web sites can give books visibility that is so very hard to garner right now since there are so many books out there and so little is spent on advertising.  They can build buzz and community.  Book reviews serve more of a critical purpose, I thin, to select and highlight quality (good and bad).

5. Have you discovered a favorite new author in the last year or two?

Oh, gosh yes.  Where to begin?  Leonie Swan (“Three Bags Full”); Carolyn Wall (“Sweeping Up Galss”); Josh Bazell (“Beat the Reaper”); Alan Bradley (“The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”); Spencer Quinn (“Dog On It”)…I could go on.

6. I love quotes.  Do you have a favorite?

Not so much a quote as a paragraph…I LOVE Carl Sandburg’s “Rootabaga Stories” – read it to revel in the words and images.  It’s pure joy.  One of my favorite stories in it is “Three Boys with Jugs of Molasses and Secret Ambitions.”  SO FULL of wonderful lines!  Here’s just a sample: “Eeta Peeca Pie grew up with wishes and wishes working inside him.  And for every wish inside him he had a freckle outside on his face.  Whenever he smiled the smile ran way back into the far side of his face and got lost in the wishing freckles.”  Don’t you love that idea of “wishing freckles?”

7. What are you currently reading?

For myself I just read Sheila Wellers’ “Girls Like Us” – it’s a meaty nonfiction about Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon, and the generation they exemplify.  Loved it.

8. If you were trapped in the life of one fictional character who would you choose?

Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables)

9. And finally, what are you working on now?

I’m finishing a novel – psychological suspense like my last one “Never Tell a Lie.”

Thanks so much for stopping by, Hallie!

9 in ’09 with Carly Phillips & Book Giveaway

This week, New York Times bestselling author, Carly Phillips has stopped by to answer a few questions and give away one of her books to a lucky reader.  She is the author of many romances and you can visit her website here to find a list.  She also has a blog with three other romance authors called Plotmonkeys that is fun and runs weekly giveaweays, you can visit it here

Read her interview and then enter the giveaway by leaving a comment.

1. I first saw one of your books on Regis & Kelly and love your Cinderella Story about the whirlwind experience (read about it here), but you wrote ten manuscripts before being published.  Can you tell us a little about your writing life during that time?  I really admire your perseverance!

Thank you! During the time I was trying to sell, my daughter was a baby and also during that time I became pregnant with my second child. My writing was in between my daughter’s schedule, but I was pretty determined and motivated to sell. I lived to check the post office each day … for rejections usually, but as long as the rejection letterasked for something else or mentioned something positive in the story, I held onto hope and kept writing a new book and moving forward. RWA was also a huge part of my life at this point too, going to monthly chapter meetings. I think everyone has to find their own “normal” and schedule, especially when trying to sell and fighting the perception of others that this is a hobby and not a real job. If you want to sell, you have to incorporate the writing into your life as if it IS real. Force everyone around you to respect it as much as you do!

2. You are a lawyer turned roamce writer.  Are there similarities between these two professions or are they polar opposites?

In my opinion and experience lawyer and romance writer are polar opposites. I think the only similarity is that the dedication you need to go to law school, tough it out, study for and pass the bar is like trying to sell a book. You must keep at it and keep going. But the similarities end there. I make my own hours, I answer to myself (mostly) and I love what I do. For me, that’s it in a nutshell. The ability to be creative versus put together a brief based on fact … very different. I never loved law. I love writing Romance!

3. I love a great romance and feel they often get a bad rap.  What are some of your favorite reactions when people find out you write those books?

Well the shock value is always fun because I believe I am thought of as a very “good girl” and I think the perception is naughty girls write about sex. Of course it’s not just about sex it’s about LOVE and relationships and the people who are shocked by it are the ones who don’t get what Romance is.

4. What’s the best advantage of working from home?  For me it might be wearing pajamas to work.

Wearing pajamas to work is a good one. Working from bed is another. Being able to watch television while I write, playing on the Internet, making my own hours … you name it! I’m very very lucky to do what I do!

5. Do you use a Kindle or other electronic reader?

When the first Kindle came out I tried it and hated it. I thought it was because I missed the feel of a book in my hands and couldn’t see what actual page number I was on. When Kindle 2 came out, I didn’t bite. But I had foot surgery a few weeks ago and bought the Kindle and all I can say is I am in LOVE. I don’t like the fact that I don’t go into bookstores, and that concerns me about e-readers, but I have to say I enjoy having whatever I want in my hand when I want it. Kindle’s Whispernet that auto-connects to Amazon is amazing.

6. I love quotes.  Do you have a favorite?

I have a very short term memory on these things. Not really 😦

7. What are you currently reading?

Roxanne St Claire’s Hunt Me Down. Hooked me from the get go!

8. If you were trapped in the life of one fictional character who would you choose?

Wow. Good question! Maybe a heroine in a good romantic sports hero book!

9. And finally, what are you working on now?

Next year I have two new releases out – the start of a new series. Right now I don’t have titles so I haven’t promoted them yet – but the premise will be the idea of the most eligible bachelorspotlighted by a Blog in a major NYC newspaper. The heroes are your every day guy who gets caught in a heroic situation and gets into the Bachelor Blog. Then the women turn out for him … it’s fun and the first story is one of the favorites of my books so far! More at when I have titles! I promise. 🙂  And of course LUCKY BREAK is in stores September 29, 2009 so I’m working on promotion for that book!

Thanks so much for stopping by Carly! 

Carly has graciously agreed to send one lucky commenter either Lucky Charm or Lucky Streak.

Cover Image or Cover Image

To enter, just leave a comment! 

To earn one extra entry you can post about it on your blog and/or Twitter.

How easy is that?  I’ll draw a winner on Sept 25th.