When did you know writing was for you?
Hi Samantha, hi Samantha’s fans, *waves to everyone*. Thanks for having me on the blog today! For me, becoming an author started out as a practical decision… I wanted someone to pay me for what’s inside my head without having to go into an office (or, on some days, change out of my pyjamas). We’ll ignore the fact that, given how hard it is to write books, and get them published, this wasn’t actually a practical decision at all!
So since writing wasn’t a lifelong dream, I didn’t know that it was for me until after I’d written my first book. I still cringe at the conversation I had with a writer friend, who asked about my first book, “What will you do if you don’t publish this one?” Arrogantly, I responded, “Well if I don’t, I wouldn’t bother to write another one.” How wrong I was (both about the quality of that book, and my intentions). When I got to the end, it didn’t occur to me not to write another. So I guess that’s when I knew.
How would you describe your books?
They are solidly chick lit, funny and easy to read, with characters that I’d like to be best friends with (and hopefully readers will too).
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
I think it’s that difficult middle bit, where, after the initial elation of developing the characters and storylines, and starting the book, you think, “This book stinks.” Lots of other authors I’ve talked to assure me that this happens all the time. Of course the book doesn’t really stink. The problem is that it’s nearly impossible to write a book that’s as good as the idea in your head. So I always suffer a crisis of confidence around 40,000 words. I have to silence the uncertainty and write on.
I like lots of authors, from John Irving to Talli Roland, Maya Angelou to David Nichols, Haruki Murakami to Matt Rudd and Nick Hornby. I also like non-fiction when it involves a place or a time that I know little about. So I guess I don’t really have favourite genres – I like books in which I marvel at the writing and get immersed in the story. I also love well-written, subtle humour, often with a dark twist (hence my love of John Irving).
What do you want readers to take away from your story?
Warm fuzziness, a feeling that all’s right with the world, and a lot of laughter. As a chick lit writer, I don’t think I’ll ever write an unhappy ending. The story may not turn out the way you expect, but it will always make the characters happy.
How important do you think social media is for authors these days?
That’s an interesting question. I think that lots of authors misunderstand the point of social media, which is to be social. The “buy my book” tweeters, for instance, make me grind my teeth. Before they hit that send button, they should apply this little test. If your only followers were your friends and family, would you send those tweets? No? Then why would someone with no relationship with you at all be happy to get bombarded by your hard-sell?
Having said that, social media is a very fun procrastination tool for me. I love chatting with people on twitter and facebook and I’ve made several real-life friends with people who started out as facebook friends or twitter followers. If you’d like to help me procrastinate, do follow @expatdiaries or get in touch on www.facebook.com/MicheleGormanBooks
What would be your advice to aspiring writers?
I’d encourage anyone who wants to write to sit down and do it. I remember the very scary feeling when contemplating my first book (and still get a bit scared whenever I start a new one). It seems so daunting to think about writing 80,000+ words. And it IS daunting! So I break the process down into little chunks. First I come up with a one-sentence synopsis. For example, Bella Summer Takes a Chance is about a 30-something woman who is settled in her life, but realises she wants more, so she ends her decade-long relationship to follow her dreams. Then I flesh it out into a full paragraph, and that gives me the core of the story. Then I think about the characters and make sure I know how they’ll behave in different situations (because they do tend to have minds of their own and will go off in unexpected directions if I don’t know them well enough). Then I think about the main story line, then the minor storylines. Then I put it all together into a chapter by chapter synopsis. That gives me the framework to start writing. I think of completing each chapter as a goal in itself (complete with congratulatory baked goods), and since I have an outline I know I won’t get to the middle of the book and run out of ideas. Anyway, thinking about writing in little compartments like that keeps me from running screaming into the night J
What are you currently reading?
I almost always have a couple books on the go. Right now I’m reading Haruki Murakami’s book of short stories, The Elephant Vanishes, and Matt Dunn’s excellent A Day At The Office. It’s not that well-known yet in the US but is a best-seller (for very good reason!) in the UK.
Do you experience writers block? Any tips on overcoming it?
I don’t know if it’s writer’s block so much as writer’s malaise. There are days (okay, weeks) when I just don’t feel like writing. This is a problem since it is my full-time profession, so I have to make myself write. And I guess that’s my tip: you won’t always be inspired to write, but it’s important to get words on the page. You can always edit/delete them later as necessary, and often there’s at least a grain of goodness in what you’ve written. I also find that napping and jogging help me work through plot problems (not at the same time, obviously).
Where do you complete most of your writing? Any certain time of day that you prefer?
I tend to write on my sofa, so when you see photos of me in a few years, and I’m shaped like a question mark, you’ll know why.
I’ve tried lots of different writing schedules. The thing I’ve never been able to do is write in the evening. I’m a morning person, so when I’m completing a manuscript I try to write before lunch and leave the afternoon open for admin and marketing (there’s always a lot of admin and marketing). It doesn’t always work out this way, but it gives me a bit of a routine, which makes me feel better.
Are you currently working on another novel?
Bella Summer Takes a Chance just published in February so a lot of time is taken up right now with the marketing for that, but I’ve got a few ideas percolating. I’m incredibly excited about one, which might actually top Bella (and I didn’t think that could happen, since Bella is hands-down my favourite book). I’ll meet with my agent and favourite commissioning editor in a few weeks to talk through some ideas, and will then kick off a new book. I’ll also write a Christmas novella this year. I wrote my first one last year and absolutely loved doing it. It was so much fun getting to grips with the different writing style necessary for novellas, and lots of lovely author friends also write them, so we all get to be excited by their launches together. Hopefully everyone else will be as excited as we are!
Thanks so much, Samantha, for having me on the blog today, and if anyone fancies an inscribed eBook copy of Bella Summer Takes a Chance, I can sign it through http://www.authorgraph.com/authors/expatdiaries. The inscription can go straight to your eReader or email. Genius, eh?
See my reviews for the following books by Michele Gorman!
Chick Lit Lovers’ Labor of Love!
For four days over the US Labor Day weekend, 7 of your favorite chick lit writers are offering their books for $.99 to say a huge thank you to all the readers who’ve supported them over the years. Elle Lothlorien, who has coordinated the chick lit lovelies, says, “We’ve had such amazing support from readers over the years. They’ve posted reviews, friended us on Facebook, helped us procrastinate on twitter and sent emails telling us how much they appreciate our work. As a little thank you for all that love, we wanted to give something back to them.”
From Friday, August 31st through Monday, September 3rd, all of these books are $.99 on Amazon.com. You can also spread the love to your friends through Amazon’s ‘give as a gift’ button.
THE FROG PRINCE BY ELLE LOTHLORIEN
It was his pheromones that did it. With one sniff, sex researcher Leigh Fromm recognizes that any offspring she might have with the mysterious stranger would have a better-than-average chance of surviving any number of impending pandemics.
But when Leigh finds out that the handsome “someone” at her great aunt’s wake is Prince Roman Habsburg von Lorraine of Austria, she suddenly doubts her instincts—not that she was intending to sleep with the guy. The royal house of Habsburg was once completely inbred, insanity and impotency among the highlights of their genetic pedigree. (The extreme “bulldog underbite” that plagued them wasn’t called the Habsburg Jaw for nothing.)
It doesn’t matter that his family hasn’t sat on a throne (other than the ones in their Toilette) since 1918, or that Austria is now a parliamentary democracy. Their lives couldn’t be more different: Roman is routinely mobbed by paparazzi in Europe. Leigh is regularly mocked for having the social skills of a potted plant. Even if she suddenly developed grace, charm and a pedigree that would withstand the scrutiny of the press and his family, what exactly is she supposed to do with this would-have-been king of Austria who is in self-imposed exile in Denver, Colorado?
ONE PINK LINE BY DINA SILVER
Can the love of a lifetime be forever changed by one pink line? Dina Silver’s tender, absorbing novel, One Pink Line, is the warmhearted, wry story of love, loss and family, as seen through the prism of one singular, spirited young couple who find themselves in a predicament that changes the course of their lives, and those closest to them.
Sydney Shephard, a sweet-tempered, strong-natured college senior is young, in love with an exceptional man, and unexpectedly pregnant. Faced with a child she never planned for, she is forced to relay this news to her neurotic mother, relinquish her youth, and risk losing the love of her life. Then there’s Grace, a daughter, who believed she was a product of this great love, grows to realize her existence is not what she assumed, and is left with profound and puzzling questions about who she really is.
Spanning generations and every imaginable emotion, One Pink Line reveals how two points of view can be dramatically at odds, and perhaps ultimately reconciled.
Slave to the rich and the rude, cosmetic surgery receptionist Serenity Holland longs for the day she’s a high-flying tabloid reporter. When she meets Jeremy Ritchie — the hang-dog man determined to be Britain’s Most Eligible Bachelor by making himself over from head to toe and everything in between — Serenity knows she’s got a story no editor could resist.
With London’s biggest tabloid on board and her very own column tracking Jeremy’s progress from dud to dude, Serenity is determined to be a success. But when Jeremy’s surgery goes drastically wrong and she’s ordered to cover all the car-crash goriness, Serenity must decide how far she really will go for her dream job.
SINGLE IN THE CITY BY MICHELE GORMAN
Take one twenty six year old American, add to a two thousand year old city, add a big dose of culture clash and stir.
To think Hannah ever believed that Americans differed from Brits mainly in pronunciation, sophistication and dentistry. That’s been the understatement of a lifetime. She lands upon England’s gentle shores with no job, no friends and no idea how she’s supposed to build the life she’s dreaming of. Armed with little more than her enthusiasm, she charges headlong into London, baffling the locals in her pursuit of a new life, new love and sense of herself.
ROMANTICALLY CHALLENGED BY BETH ORSOFF
Being single is tough enough without constantly being asked, “When are you getting married?” Julie Burns, a 32-year-old Hollywood entertainment attorney weary of being asked about her marital status and informed of the dismal statistical reality regarding the matrimonial chances for a single woman of her age, decides to put more effort into her search for a decent man. She is willing to try just about everything, except giving up her standards (for more than one date). The results are disastrous and hilarious. Urged by her friends, she gives a schlemiel she meets on an airplane a chance as well as trying dating services, blind dates, and speed dating. How can a cute, intelligent woman with a great career fail to meet the man of her dreams? Her friends claim she is just too picky, but Julie is just looking for a man with a future.
WENDY AND THE LOST BOYS BY BARBARA SILKSTONE
When a deathbed promise to a friend leaves Wendy Darlin, feisty Miami real estate broker for billionaires, trapped on a super-yacht with Ponzi-king, Charlie Hook, she’s forced to join him on a quest to recover his hidden treasure. Along for the danger-filled adventure are an undercover SEC Investigator, who kindles a spark in Wendy with his ‘Johnny Depp’ eyes and Hook’s young female helicopter pilot who befriends Wendy as they sail the high seas, one step ahead of modern day ruthless pirates.
When Lauren divorces her husband, she has one thought on her mind…stepping off the merry-go-round. However, her life quickly turns into a three-ring circus: her hypochondriac father moves in, her ex is using her shower when she’s not home, and her perky assistant is pushing her out into the fearsome dating world. She also has to decide if the dilapidated barn and vintage merry-go-round she was awarded in the divorce settlement is a blessing or a bane. As if Lauren’s personal life isn’t chaotic enough, this slightly jaded attorney is overrun with a cast of quirky characters who can’t stay on the right side of the law. What’s a woman to do? She can allow life to spin her in circles forever. Or she can reach out and grab the brass ring.
KISSED IN PARIS BY JULIETTE SOBANET
“You are in Paris, the City of Love. You must not be so controlled. Here, have another glass. I promise you, it will not hurt.”
When 29-year-old event planner Chloe Turner wakes up penniless and without a passport in the Plaza Athénée Hotel in Paris, she only has a few fleeting memories of Claude, the suave French man who convinced her to have that extra glass of wine before taking all of her possessions and slipping out the door. As the overly organized, go-to gal for her three drama queen younger sisters, her anxiety-ridden father, and her needy clients, Chloe is normally prepared for every disaster that comes her way. But with her wedding to her straight-laced, lawyer fiancé back in DC only days away and a French con-man on the loose with her engagement ring, this is one catastrophe she never could have planned for.
As Chloe tries to figure out a way home, she runs into an even bigger problem—the police are after her due to suspicious activity now tied to her bank account. Chloe’s only hope at retrieving her passport and clearing her name lies in the hands of a rugged, undercover agent named Julien who has a few secrets of his own. As Chloe follows this mysterious, and—although she doesn’t want to admit it—sexy French man on a wild chase through the sun-kissed countryside of France, she discovers a magical world she never knew existed and has to decide if the perfectly ordered life she’s built for herself back home is really what she wants after all.
And writers from other genres have joined us to offer their fantastic books for $.99 too through September 3rd. Click here for the full list.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an indecisive glutton. In bookshops I stand paralyzed before the walls and tables of delightful tomes. When I see a tray full of cupcakes, I want one of each, please. I risk meltdowns at sample sales, my head spinning at the sight of so many lovely clothes to choose from. In short, I suffer from too-many-optionsitis.
So I’m in big trouble when it comes to designing book covers.
It was lucky for me that when Single in the City (my debut) was published, Penguin UK took care of all the details. My editor asked me for ideas, and I bombarded her with them. Then I waited and wondered and waited some more, until the day I received the cover draft from the designers. The decision was out of my hands. I could love or hate the end result, but I couldn’t influence it. Luckily I loved it.
The process was very different for Single in the City’s sequel, Misfortune Cookie. I was in the driving seat. When I thought about all the decisions I’d have to make, I really wanted to hand the keys over to a designated driver. But there were no volunteers. I was behind the wheel.
For me, publishing independently doesn’t mean doing it on my own. I surround myself with the finest professionals I can. My agent does the content edits. I use a copy editor for line-edits. So it made sense to hire a superb designer for the cover. Nellie Ryan was the genius who illustrated Single in the City’s cover, and she accepted the commission for Misfortune Cookie. Rather than terrify her with a rambling mind dump when she asked for the brief, I enlisted the help of my agent, Caroline to discuss some ideas. We knew that a few things would be critical: setting, subject and tone. This was the brief.
Subject: A girl’s figure that reflects the story
Tone: Chick lit/women’s fiction
We gave Nellie our ideas and after several rough sketches and tweaks, this was the result. It was my idea, the Hong Kong cityscape, the table, the cookie and the thoughtful girl.
It ticked the boxes, and was elegant and beautiful, but a little thought niggled. Misfortune Cookie is a fun book, the kind you take on holiday or read on your commute to take your mind off the real world. It’s a fish-out-of-water adventure in high heels, with a sassy heroine, light and funny.
The cover just didn’t reflect that. So we started to change it. We pinkified it. We shaved down the mountain to highlight the title more clearly (apologies to Hong Kongers for making a molehill out of your mountain).
It was better, but something still bothered me. It hit me as I scanned the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” list of books that sits on every book’s Amazon page. I’d forgotten the cardinal rule when selling on Amazon. Book covers have to be clear and eye-catching when very very small. And those covers are teeny.
Looking at the books listed with Misfortune Cookie in this section, dear reader, I was struck with envy. Cover envy. Mine didn’t look like all the others. It didn’t sing, “I’m a fun book. Go on, give me a chance.” And it didn’t look anything like it’s sister, Single in the City.
So we went back to the drawing board.
I’d made a very common cover design mistake. The cover was too busy. It drew the eye to several parts of the illustration without highlighting any of them clearly. “Don’t be afraid of white space”, someone way cleverer than me once said. “Less is more”, my mother always admonished (usually when assessing my teenage makeup attempts, but the advice applied here too). So I started with white space, and carefully layered in setting and subject. I toyed with three design options: just the girl, girl with cityscape, or girl with cityscape and Star Ferry (an icon in Hong Kong).
The first font looked a big wonky, and dark because of its bevelled effect. The second was a bit too magic-marker-y, and the third was too skinny, but I liked the flow of that one best. I figured I could probably fatten it up.
The boat was too domineering but I liked the idea, and I also liked the idea of including a tag line (i.e. a snappy one-liner). We just needed to figure out how to get both in there without cluttering things up. We also changed the font on my name to soften it.
Almost, but still not quite fun enough. So I asked for readers’ opinions, and a few suggested making the cover look more Chinese. Hand-held fans or chopsticks-in-the-hair were out, because they couldn’t be seen clearly in the little thumbnail image. So I tried this.
And by George, I think we finally got it! I loved the sweep of the tag line that draws your eye in, and the umbrella that caps the figure, making it work really well in the foreground. The cityscape is light enough not to clutter up the middle of the page, and it’s easy to see in a small thumbnail. I fattened up the title font, and the cover perfectly fulfils our brief: Hong Kong-y, girly, chick lit-y fun. I love it. I hope you do too.
It was a long process but it taught me a few very important lessons. First, the cover has to reflect the tone of the book as much as its content. That’s as true of the fonts (which I still have nightmares about) as it is of the illustrations. Second, clutter is as unhealthy for your book cover as it is for your closets. Mom was right: less is more. And third, each cover competes with thousands of others for readers’ attention. It has to say, with a cheeky nod and a wink, “Come on over and have a look”. That’s its purpose, it’s raison d’etre, to give the book a chance to be read. If the cover doesn’t engage and excite curiosity, readers won’t even click on it to see what it’s about, or read the first few chapters for free.
I’d love to know what you think of the cover. Does it make you want to know more, and click Look Inside on the Amazon page to start reading? And how do you sift through the thousands of options out there to choose your next book?
Misfortune Cookie the follow-up novel of Single in the City by Michele Gorman, and I actually liked it better than the first! Once again we become BFF’s with Hannah, who decides to take a second leap of fate and move from London to Hong Kong to be with boyfriend Sam. It’s a fortune cookie that helped her make the decision. Following your heart will pay off in the near future. Hannah is thrilled that her own best friend Stacy is also making the move with her. Hannah manages to secure a job in fashion that she loves with a totally cool boss, despite the little issue of her not having a work permit. She and Stacy make quick friends, and Hannah is blissfully happy with Sam. Kind of. At least, when he’s not constantly traveling for his job and possibly cheating on her with a co-worker. Sam wouldn’t do that to her, would he? He wanted her to move with him to Hong Kong – but he doesn’t seem to be making any sort of commitment to Hannah. Did she really get this wrong? Did she move to Hong Kong only to fail at her relationship?
I had such a fun time reading Misfortune Cookie. It was great to catch up with Hannah again, and she is such a fun heroine. Enthusiastic about life, not afraid to take a chance, and always with a great attitude. The story moved along quickly, and actually finished this book in a day. The ending kind of had me like, “wait, what?” but I can tell it’s definitely set up for a next book, so I understand the cliff-hanger. There was just one little thing that I want to point out – the use of characters calling Hannah “Han.” It just happened a lot. I think half of them could have been cut out. But I think this book should go on your to-read list. Even if you haven’t read the first, I think readers would still enjoy it, but I also suggest checking out Single in the City as well. I’ll look forward to the next installment!
Why self-publishing in the US
I thought long and hard before deciding to self-publish Single in the City in the US as an eBook. After all, the book was published by Penguin in the UK and many other countries in 2010. Penguin’s team helped make it a best-seller. Surely it’s better to go with a big publisher than to go it alone? If I’m not doing so, does it mean that I’m rejecting the big publishers, as many writers have recently done?
Not really. At least, not all of them. I loved working with Penguin UK. My editor Lydia Newhouse quickly became a friend (still is), listening to my suggestions and making sure the publication went smoothly. The sales team got the book into the major retailers and my PR Helen was superb, getting us widespread publicity.
I’m self-publishing because sometimes publishers have less faith in the books, and the readers, than we, the writers, do.
You see, when Caroline and I sold book rights to Penguin (UK), we held back the US rights. We did this because I wanted a US-based publisher for Single in the City’s American launch. After all the main character, Hannah, is American. There’s a strong theme about seeing London through rather baffled American eyes. Caroline and I thought that surely it was a great fit for the US market.
The US publishers we approached had a different point of view. They were all very nice about it but said that the book isn’t right for the American chick lit market. It’s set in London. Readers won’t identify with it, they concluded.
I disagree. Isn’t it a bit dismissive, and wrong, to suggest that American women can only be interested in books that literally reflect their own lives? If that were true then only mothers of homicidal children would buy We Need To Talk About Kevin, and nobody living outside the 19th Century would bother with Jane Eyre. These books gain wide readership because they deal with universal themes (nature versus nurture, the effects of parenting, family, belonging, love). Single in the City is about taking a chance and establishing a new life. More than 5 million young American women do that every year when they move cities. It’s a fish-out-of-water story. And it’s about finding your feet in life and love. These, too, are universal themes. Those US publishers sold chick lit fans short.
And that’s why I’m self-publishing. I believe it’s the right decision for this book in this market. Like Hannah, I’m taking a leap of faith.
Michele loves to connect with her readers! Find her:
I was really looking forward to reading Single in the City by Michele Gorman, but actually found myself a bit disappointed. The main character is Hannah Cumming, a 26 year old American who decides she needs an adventure, to really live life, and one drunken night buys a plane ticket to London. Heading across the Pond without a job lined up or a place to live, Hannah experiences multiple difficulties while trying to adjust. Along the way, she sleeps with her married boss, finds a roommate solution with some half-naked Aussies, almost destroys her up and coming career as a party planner, and finally falls in love. The situations Hannah finds herself in are quite funny, and the one liners did make me smile throughout. Sounds like a fun and engaging chick lit novel.
So why was I disappointed? For starters, I like fast-paced books. I like the plot moving along and characters going from point A to point L in just a few pages. But with Single in the City, I think the plot was just a tad too fast. Multiple times I had to flip back pages to understand why the characters were doing and saying what they were doing and saying. The skipping around gave me a headache. Another aspect I didn’t like was when Hannah finally finds love, she almost seems to lose her own identity, and is willing to drop her new life she has created for this guy. The sense of individuality and confidence that I saw the heroine creating throughout the story suddenly vanishes. I did appreciate the humor and the descriptions of seeing London through an American’s eyes, but this is definitely not a favorite of mine. I would still recommend Single in the City for the humor and hopefully some can take an independent can-do attitude away from the Hannah’s story.
**Note: This book has also been rewritten for the US launch. Please read Michele’s thought below.**
I’m very lucky to have had a year of reviews from so many readers, which allowed me to see what they liked and didn’t like about the book. For example several readers would have liked to see less drinking … since that wasn’t an important feature of the story I toned it down (though we do like a tipple over here!). Hannah is also a bit more of a rounded character now, and I’ve deepened the scene settings to give a stronger sense of place – it’s a bit more descriptive. The other change I made has to do with my evolution as a writer. I like an episodic style but that can sometimes go a bit fast. The book I wrote after Single in the City was less episodic, so I applied the adapted style to the rewrite too. I also took out the footnotes that explained American/British differences (they were aimed at British readers to explain some of our more peculiar habits).
Finally, I ‘translated’ it into American. This may sound easy but having written in English now for nearly 10 years, it was as slow process. Spelling was fairly straightforward thanks to spell check but the different words for things sometimes tripped me up. Luckily kind American friends helped me when I got stuck! English and American are definitely different dialects, something I only realised (the hard way!) when I moved to London.
Author Name: Michele Gorman
Bio: Michele Gorman grew up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in rural northeastern USA. Trying to go the useful direction in college, she pursued accounting and went on to work as an auditor. Gorman then moved to Chicago, and while working for the bank realized she was not in the field she desired. So she went back to school, receiving a master’s degree in sociology, and met a great man- who then moved to London. For three years they continued a long long distance relationship, until Gorman eventually crossed the Pond to be with him. In early 2006, Gorman became an official citizen of Britain, and currently lives in London.
Titles: Single in the City
Bio Retrieved from www.michelegorman.co.uk
In My Mailbox: Week of August 29th
Title: Single in the City
Author: Michele Gorman
Received: From Michele Gorman
Synopsis: It’s official. Hannah has left her friends and family in the US behind and is following her dream. To live in London. She’s going to find:
1. Her dream guy. A prince or Hugh Grant would be nice. Or does she have to settle for her half-naked Australian housemate or an “English gentleman” with terrible hygiene habits?
2. Her dream job. Something fantastic in fashion. So how has she ended up being the mini-me for an evil party planner who doesn’t even trust her to arrange the paperclips?
3. Her dream friends. But everyone in London seems to have known each other for years and Hannah doesn’t know the rules of engagement. Who’s she going to have fun with?
Dream life? Should Hannah just dream on? She wanted a big change but maybe it would have been simpler and cheaper to just get a new haircut. Was she mad to move 3,000 miles away from everyone she knows? Will she ever find love and her perfect life in England?
Title: Chronicles of a Midlife Crisis
Author: Robyn Harding
Received: From Robyn Harding
Synopsis: Lucy had no clue that her husband of sixteen years was about to bolt. Now she’s dealing with shock, loneliness, and girlfriends who alternately pity her and provoke her. She also-unbelievably-is apparently competing with her own teenage daughter for a new man’s attention.
Trent pictured freedom, self-discovery…and maybe some sex with actual passion. So far, he’s mostly watching hockey in a hotel room and wondering what’s next. Being middle-aged and married isn’t easy. The jury’s still out on being middle-aged and single…
There are two sides to every breakup. In this witty, heartfelt novel, Robyn Harding explores them both-and takes us on a journey through the end of a marriage and the beginning of something new…which may or may not be something old too.
Title: Slim to None
Author: Jenny Gardiner
Received: From Jenny Gardiner
Synopsis: Abbie Jennings is Manhattan’s top food critic until her expanding waistline makes staying incognito at restaurants impossible. Her cover blown on Page Six of the New York Post, her editor has no choice but to bench her—and suggest she use the time off to bench-press her way back to anonymity. Abbie’s life has been built around her career, and therefore around celebrating food. Forced to drop the pounds if she wants her primo gig back, Abbie must peel back the layers of her past and confront the fears that have led to her current life.
Title: Little Miss Straight Lace
Author: Maria E. Romana
Received: From Maria E. Romana
Synopsis: When a brilliant biostatistician learns too much about her pharmaceutical client’s research, her life begins to spin out of control, and a dashing computer security expert from South America seems the perfect antidote. But is his arrival really just the happy coincidence it appears to be? Find out in this complex tale of suspense, humor, and romance.
Q: You studied accounting and sociology in college. When and why did you decide to try writing?
I didn’t dream about being a chick-lit writer as a little girl. I didn’t even dream about being a writer. As you rightly point out, I studied accounting at university, but never really got the hang of debits and credits, to the dismay of several managers. One day, sitting in my office, I thought “Why won’t someone pay me for what’s inside my head, without me having to come to an office?” I hit upon writing as an option. But with no practical knowledge or writerly training, it was a rather long road to publication.
I started out writing literary fiction, amassing stacks of rave rejections from agents and publishers that said ‘so close’, but still not publishable. Then one day I stumbled upon my first chick-lit book, in an airport on my way to a holiday in Italy. It was an international best-seller. It was a terrible book. Incensed at having just had my third novel rejected when this book seemed to be in every bookshop on the planet, I decided to change genres. As an American who’d followed my boyfriend to the UK several years earlier, I had plenty of first-hand experience to draw upon, and it seemed natural to write a fictional account about building a new life in London despite constant cultural misunderstandings. Single in the City was born.
Q: How long did it take for you to write Single in the City?
It took 6 weeks to write (spite is a great motivator), and two years to edit so that it was good enough to publish. Generally my books take around a year to write and edit.
Q: Do you have plans for a second novel?
I do. I’m writing 2 in fact. First, my agent and I are going to see if publishers are interested in a sequel to Single in the City. I’m also working on chick-lit for an older target market. There isn’t a genre for this yet, so I’d like to propose: NOT sell-by date chick-lit. Most of the books for thirty-somethings seem to involve cheating spouses, body issues, date-hindering children or deafening biological clocks. But there are a lot of women out there who are happy, well-adjusted and independent, in their 30s, who may not have married yet, or have come out of a relationship, and are optimistic and enthusiastic about their future. There doesn’t really seem to be much out there that reflects that kind of character. So I’m writing one.
Q: What was the hardest part about writing?
The edits. It’s wonderful to write, and see the story develop and the characters become real. Editing is a necessary evil.
Q: Do you have a regular writing routine? Same place you write in, set number of words or hours you write a day, etc.?
I have a ‘day job’ on Mondays through Wednesdays, so Thursdays and Fridays are writing days. I’m cursed with the inability to sleep late, so am usually up by 7.30 or so. Coffee first, then a jog if I’m feeling energetic, or have a plot problem to work out (I do some of my best thinking while plodding through the park). I generally write for 3 or so hours before lunch, then have a break, and carry on for a few more hours in the afternoon. There’s usually a nap in there somewhere. I like to think it’s necessary for creativity. I don’t have a specific word count that I try to stick to (mainly because I don’t want to beat myself up if I don’t hit it), but am thrilled if I write a couple thousand words in a day. My flat is tiny, but I like to write in different places (even though these places are all about an arm’s-length away from each other). So I might start on the sofa, laptop on lap, then shift to a comfy reading chair, then the dining table. And I often write on my bed if it’s sunny because the light is lovely there in the afternoon.
Q: Why did you choose to write in the chick lit genre?
Spite. See answer above. It turns out that I love writing in this genre. It’s style suits my natural writing voice.
Q: What do you say to people that say chick lit is dead?
Tell that to the millions of women who love to read it! I think chick lit gets a lot of unfair criticism. I did a blog post for The Guardian newspaper a few weeks back (the Huffington Post picked it up too), in defence of chick lit. So I’d like to say to those critics that there’s no need to fret over the malleable minds of chick-lit fans. Our poor little female brains aren’t going to turn to mush because we read light and breezy books. We don’t all sitting on the sofa eating cakes and waiting for the next reality TV show. In fact, many of us even have quite intellectually challenging jobs. Is it any wonder we crave a little escapism? And it’s not as if women who read chick-lit read it exclusively. Most of us enjoy chocolate cake, but we don’t eat it every night for dinner.
Q: You were born in America but have since become a citizen in Britain. Was the citizenship test difficult to pass?
It wasn’t really difficult, but you wouldn’t pass without studying! I imagine it would be the same for someone taking an American citizenship test – without cramming, how many of us know the number of congressmen in the House of Representatives?!
Q: You maintained a long distance relationship for many years, which can be very uncommon. How were you able to make it work?
I think the key was not to over-think, or constantly wonder where things are going. We took the approach that we were enjoying each other so we didn’t put any pressure on ourselves or on the relationship. It evolved naturally.
Q: What is your best advice for aspiring writers?
Find your story. My books always spring from a question. What if? Single in the City began with the question: What happens when you take a hapless young American girl and move her to a city where she’s completely ill-equipped to live? Find your voice. We’re tempted to write in a style that we like to read, but like covers of songs, the copy is never as good as the original. It took me three books to find my voice, so experiment and see where you’re most comfortable, what seems most natural. If you want to publish, then find a ‘new’ agent. When you’ve written the book and are searching for an agent, think about this. A new agent is just starting out. She’s hungry, she’s building her writer list and her career. She will have much more time for a new writer. Also, and this is key, she is going to have contacts in the publishing houses who are also starting out, and looking to build their writer lists and careers. It’s very tempting to think that an experienced agent is best, but for a new writer I’d advise a new agent any day.
Q: Where would be your dream vacation?
I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of incredible travelling over the past dozen years, from African safaris to trekking in the Himalayas, from beach resorts to incredible cities, so my dream would be low-key and closer to home. It would be Autumn, holed up in a gorgeous country inn, where I could take long walks, find delicious food at cosy pubs or restaurants, and spend hours sitting snuggled next to a fire reading, playing board games and drinking wine.
You can follow Michele on Twitter (@expatdiaries) or contact her through www.michelegorman.co.uk. Single in the City is available through most bookshops and online, including Amazon (UK, US, Canada, Germany, France, Japan)