Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, ever since I was a kid, when one of my favorite things to do was to sit in my bedroom and write books on three-ring binder paper. A few years ago, my niece borrowed one of my old Nancy Drew books and discovered a letter tucked inside – I’d written it on Raggedy Ann stationery (oh so professional!) and it was addressed to a publisher, asking when my book, titled, “Miscellaneous Tales and Poems” would be in stores. Now I carry that faded old letter with me every time I go to New York to meet with my publisher, as a reminder that dreams really do come true.
Q: Your debut novel, The Opposite of Me, was a hit! Where did the inspiration for Lindsey’s story come from?
Thank you! I’ve always been intrigued by the complex relationships my friends have with their sisters – and I always wanted a sister of my own. Since my parents didn’t cooperate (though they gave me two terrific brothers) I imagined what it would be like to be a sister – a twin, no less – and I tried to make the relationship of my main characters, Lindsey and Alex, as juicy and competitive and loving and tangled as possible. I’ve heard about twins who are so close that they create their own language, and can feel each other’s pain from miles away – but I wondered what would happen to twins who were completely different. What if two sisters had nothing in common, but were constantly being compared? How would that shape their relationship?
Q: Do you plan on writing another novel continuing the story of these two sisters?
I don’t have plans for a sequel at the moment, but definitely wouldn’t rule one out! My second book, which is scheduled to be published next spring, tells the story of a 32-year-old woman named Julia Dunhill who discovers her husband has woken from a dramatic and sudden medical trauma as a completely transformed man. It’s similar in voice and genre to The Opposite of Me, so I hope readers who liked my first book will enjoy it every bit as much.
Q: You had the opportunity to work with Jennifer Weiner when your book was set to be released. How great was it having her to help promote your work, and how flattered were you that you had her on your side?
Oh, my gosh, it was beyond any story I could ever dream up! Jen Weiner is simply the most amazing, generous woman in publishing. Perhaps even in the world! We have the same editor, and Jen read an early copy of my manuscript – then she endorsed it in an incredible way. She actually gave away hundreds of copies of her books to people who pre-ordered The Opposite of Me a week before it was published. I’ve never even met Jen in person, but she sponsored this huge giveaway – which prompted USAToday to interview me – because she remembered what it was like to be a debut author (excited and anxious and overjoyed!) and she wanted to help out another female author. I’m in awe of her kindness and I can only hope to pay it forward some day. And I’m dying to meet her in person, even though I’m such a fangirl I’m sure I’ll embarrass myself by getting all weepy, or I’ll spill a drink on her in my excitement.
Q: How were you able to break into the writing industry?
I didn’t have any real connections, so I just wrote my book, then I wandered around bookstores reading the acknowledgement sections of books I liked to find out the names of agents (authors usually thank their agents in the acknowledgements section – and if they don’t, you probably don’t want that agent). I complied a list of names, came home and Googled the agents to get their addresses, then sent off a one-page query letter which described my book to the agents. Most agents have public websites that tell you, step by step, how to submit a query letter for a book. They’re not in hiding; they really want to discover new writers and if you write a good query letter, you’ll get a good response.
Q: What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Book titles! I’m not kidding – I am horrible at coming up with titles for my novels. I turned in my latest one and actually called it “Book 4.” My editor usually spends hours coming up with titles for my books – she picked them for my first three novels – because I seem to have a mental block about it! But I never get blocked when I write. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think that I need to fill 300 pages, and I get a little scared about whether I’ll pull it off, but putting down words on the page has never been a problem for me. Maybe that’s because I worked as a journalist for almost a decade, and I learned to write on deadline.
Q: I saw on your website that you have a humiliating story of how you got a literary agent. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to open the page, but I am quite curious to hear this story! Can you give us a little background?
One author I admire is Karin Slaughter, and in her book she thanked her agent Victoria Sanders. So, I sent a query letter to Victoria and a week or so later, she emailed me back and requested my manuscript. Then I thought, “I’d just better check out this Victoria Sanders.” So I wrote a note to Karin via the address on her website, introducing myself and asking if Victoria still represented her. Literally two minutes later, I got an email back that began, “This is Victoria Sanders. I check Karin’s email when she is on her European tour….” I literally froze and even stopped breathing, but thankfully the next line said, “Don’t worry, I’m checking you out, too!” I ended up signing with Victoria – and we still laugh about it!
Q: How long did it take you to write The Opposite of Me?
Nine months – but I had long stretches of time because my two older kids were in elementary school. Now I have a baby, and the writing is coming more slowly because my schedule is so much busier! Still, I squeeze it in whenever I can.
Q: You now have three books out. How would you describe your novels?
All of my books have a common theme: they focus on the important relationships in a woman’s life. My first book was about sisterhood, my second about marriage, and my third about friendship. I’m fascinated by female relationships, and find them so textured and complicated and lovely. Most people call my books beach reads. I try to wrap important messages, like the power of friendship and how friends can become the family we never had, into books that are compulsively readable.
Q: What are your favorite genres to read?
I read much more fiction than non-fiction, and other than commercial women’s fiction, I devour thrillers. I love the pacing and tension in thriller, and I try to learn from the techniques displayed by great thriller writers so I can infuse my own pages with that sense of urgency.
Q: What do you want readers to take away from your story?
I’d love it if readers turned the final page of These Girls, then felt like reaching out to the women in their lives because they felt a sense of appreciation for their friends.
Q: Where would your dream vacation be?
Any place that can provide a sunny beach, an unending stream of fruity frozen drinks with little umbrellas, a stack of books, and David Beckham to rub oil into my back! My husband can come along, but he is not allowed to complain about David Beckham. If he does, he’ll be sent back home (the husband, not the Beckham).
Q: Can you give us the scoop on your third novel, THESE GIRLS?
Sure – THESE GIRLS is the story of Cate, Renee, and Abby, who have come to New York for very different reasons. In a bustling city of millions, they are linked together through circumstance and chance. Cate has just been named the features editor of Gloss, a high-end lifestyle magazine. It’s a professional coup, but her new job comes with more complications than Cate ever anticipated. Cate’s roommate Renee will do anything to nab the plum job of beauty editor at Gloss. But snide comments about Renee’s weight send her into an emotional tailspin. Soon she is taking black market diet pills—despite the racing heartbeat and trembling hands that signal she’s heading for real danger. Then there’s Abby, whom they take in as a third roommate. Once a joyful graduate student working as a nanny part time, she abruptly fled a seemingly happy life in the D.C. suburbs. No one knows what shattered Abby – or why she left everything she once loved behind.
At first, I was a bit nervous to put myself into the heads of three very different characters, and let each of them narrate different chapters of These Girls. So I plotted out this novel carefully before writing a single word. I bought index cards in different colors – yellow for Renee, rose-colored for Cate, and blue for Abby, because for me, each of those colors conjured up something essential I wanted to convey for my characters. I detailed my scenes on the cards before spreading them out on my dining room table. By the time my table was completely covered, I had the bones of my book in place, and I felt a lot more confident about writing!
Q: How important do you think social media is for authors these days?
Incredibly important – and getting more so all the time. We’re seeing newspapers and magazines fold these days, and it’s harder and harder to get the word out about books, especially for new authors. Bloggers have stepped into that breach and helped support the publishing industry in a huge way – simply because bloggers adore books and get excited about discovering new authors. Facebook and twitter also let authors interact directly with readers, which is always fun. I personally love it when I go on Facebook, which I do every day, and readers help me name a character or weigh in on which author photo I should use. If you haven’t already found me on Facebook, please do so!
Q: What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Write one page a day. You’ll finish your book in a year! Sometimes it’s hard to write because the self-doubt sets in – the voices in our heads can be really cruel, can’t they? – but the main thing is to get those raw words down on the page. Once you’ve got a draft, you can reshape it into something special – but just getting the words down in the first place is the key.
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