Thursday, January 29, 2009

Author Interview and Book Giveaway: Leslie Lehr

Today, we've got award-winning writer, Leslie Lehr, here to answer all of our deep dark questions!

Leslie has generously offered to give away one copy of her novel, WIFE GOES ON. To enter, just post a comment in the comment section below. But for now, let's get to the questions!

Tell us about your most recent novel in 25 words or less.
Wife Goes On is the story of four women who have nothing in common besides being in various stages of divorce who find this to be the basis of true friendship. After all, husbands may come and go, but friends are forever. The story has been described as a modern mix of First Wives Club and Sex and the City, with that combination of heartbreak and humor and fun.

When did you first begin writing?
I always wrote, had a silly poem published in a magazine during elementary school, but I never considered writing as a career. I was interested in TV and film and left Ohio for California to go to film school. After the hormones hit, when I proposed to my now ex-husband and had our first child, I realized that having it all was one thing; doing it all was quite another. The travel and long hours of film production weren’t conducive to motherhood – or creativity, for that matter. I kept pages in the drawer when I was on staff as the West Coast manager of a commercial and video production company, then when I went freelance to work on movies, I wrote between projects. Then I read a novel that was a hit and thought that I would have done that story differently, and better. So I gave myself the summer to try it before heading back to the film business, traded a neighbor for babysitting a few days a week, and gave it a shot.

How do you fight writer’s block?
My biggest challenge, as a single mom, is finding those uninterrupted hours to write, so I'm always excited to be writing. That said, when I sit down most days, I backtrack to get into the story mood. I can start in by doing research or working on a different part of the story or someone’s dialogue. Monday’s are almost completely a matter of getting back to where I was Friday. Between my kids and my boyfriend, I’ve given up working on the weekend, so that’s the price you pay to have a good life. ☺ But if I’m really stuck on the story and my outline isn’t giving me the enough direction for the scene, I found it’s waste of time to just sit there and force out bad stuff. If I can get around the guilt of playing hooky and go to the beach or the movies - anything but more family errands - I usually wake up in the middle of the night inspired.

If your book were to become a movie, whom would you cast?
Diane Lane as Diane, Viveca Fox as Annette, Gwyneth Paltrow as Lana and Jessica Simpson as Bonnie.

What is your favorite part of writing?
Being inspired when I least expect it, when my brain does the work for me or when my characters do things that surprise me - but it’s logical and heightens for the story.

What tips would you offer to aspiring writers?
Read!! And remember, you can never fail until you quit.

How do you usually begin your stories—with a character or with a plot?
A character who has a burning question. That drives the plot.

Do a quick character study on yourself: don’t forget to add in the fun stuff, like favorite foods and things you love/hate!
My favorite place, aside from the real ocean, is my office, which is periwinkle blue with a custom made antique white desk with giant files for my work and photographs of my daughters under the table top glass. I have an old couch covered with blue and pink rose fabrics and my French doors look out onto the pool. It’s small, but perfect, with my palm tree drawings and pictures of mermaids. I was a swimmer and grew up in Ohio, so being in California close to the beach is like heaven. And I start with coffee and lots of healthy stuff, but have to have Diet Pepsi and Popcorn to really work. I love frozen yogurt when I watch TV in bed at night. I wear white skirts in the summer and black in the winter and a few bright colors between. I hate Steven King saying that a writer has to write every day. He has someone to do his laundry and grocery shopping. Plus, thinking is even more important than the writing part. Writing is the fun part.

Lana says that when you wear a jacket, you immediately elevate yourself above the crowd. Is this advice that you follow?
Not to be above the crowd, that was Lana talking – she’s a performer. But jackets do add polish and look more professional, so I feel more confident wearing one and have more authority if I’m teaching or speaking. I love a black jacket over a silky blouse and nice jeans and heels. If there were more jackets out there that are good for everyday, I would get them. I actually love to dress up, in dresses since they are more comfy for me than pants, but it’s hard to find casual dresses after summer. To write, I usually I wear soft sweaters and stretchy pants. But my panties have to match or I can’t concentrate at all!

Want to win a free copy of WIFE GOES ON? Just leave a comment below and you're entered!
Want extra entries? That can be arranged.... Blog about it for another entry. Become of follower of this blog for another entry, too.

The winner will be announced on February 11th.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Big congrats go out to and Liane66-- they've both won a signed copy of MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga! Ladies, just shoot me an email at and give me your address. We'll get the books out to you asap!

Not a winner this time around? That's okay! Tomorrow, we'll be giving away a copy of Leslie Lehr's WIFE GOES ON, and then in February, we'll be giving away Mindy Klasky's MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL. So, don't forget to check back here for a chance to win more books!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reading is fundamental....

We caught this little cutie indulging in a guilty pleasure-- JACK WITH A TWIST! But let's not disturb her. Looks like she's getting to a good part!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Scenes from my kitchen

So, you all know that I love to write. Duh. I mean, that would be pretty bad if I were a writer who hated writing. (Although, at one time, I was a lawyer who hated law. Hmmm. But, I digress....)

One thing that most people don't know about me is that I also love to cook. So, my hubby and I had our nephews over and I was cooking breakfast. One of my nephews was with me in the kitchen and was watching me make pancakes.

"Aunt Brenda," he asked. "How come everything you cook tastes so good?"

(Insert "aaawwww!" sound here.)

I was thrilled. It's always nice when someone appreciates the fact that you cook. And it's even better when the people you cook for really enjoy your food. But the fact that my five year old nephew thought that *everything* I cooked tasted so good was really just so wonderful for me. And now he wanted to know my secret ingredient. I thought for a second, and then told him my secret:

"Oh, sweetie," I said. "That's because I cook everything with love!"

"No, Aunt Brenda," he said. "That's because you cook everything with BUTTER!"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Greatest. Thing. Ever.

We've heard grumblings of a Gossip Girl spin-off for a while now, but I refused to let myself believe, lest my heart break when the plans inevitably get canceled.

But the New York Times is reporting that there are, in fact, plans for a Gossip Girl spin-off in the works. (And if the New York Times says it, well, then, you know it's, like, totally true.)

And the news just gets more fabulous from there. Not only is it a spin-off, but, better yet, it's a PRE-quel to Gossip Girl!

Be still my heart....

According to the Times, the pre-quel will focus on Lily Van der Woodsen, nee Rhodes, and is set to take place in LA in the 80s. Apparently, the first episode with young Lily will air on May 11, so set those DVRs now! (Okay, yes, I know that you can't actually set your DVR for five months in the future, but you get the general point I'm trying to make. Screw your cousin's best friend's dog's wedding-- Save this date NOW!!!)

This is clearly the Greatest. Thing. Ever. Well, besides the fact that the CW has now got an actual real live Gossip Girl blog! So, yes, now you can watch the show, obsess with friends about it, read the NY Mag recaps, and ALSO read the actual Gossip Girl blog!

Christmas comes early this year!!!

Now for the important questions: who will they cast as the lovely young Lily? And more importantly, who will they cast as crazy hot Rufus?!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Author interview and book giveaway: Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

Today, we've got the wonderful Wendy Nelson Tokunaga here to chat. She's going to tell us all about her novel, MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT, and even give away two copies! Yes, TWO!!!

Enter a comment below to enter to win a copy! But now, without further ado, let's chat with Wendy!

Tell us about MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT in 25 words or less.

Ignoring her mother’s prophetic words, “Running off with a foreigner will bring you nothing but trouble,” a Japanese woman follows her fiance to the U.S. (I think that’s 26 words!)

When did you first begin writing?

From a young age I was always drawn to words and reading, but my real dream was to be a singer-songwriter, ideally fronting an all-girl rock band. After many adventures in the world of rock and roll, but without much to show for it, I found myself working as a technical writer at a database company in Silicon Valley. Every other tech writer seemed to be a closeted fiction writer, and I too became interested in writing fiction. I took a couple of creative writing classes at a local community college and eventually got a few short stories published in some small literary journals. From there I went on to writing long fiction. After receiving hundreds and hundreds of rejections on my first four novels, I finally landed a publishing deal with my fifth, MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT.

What is your favorite part of writing? Least favorite?

My favorite part of writing is revision—I can spend hours tweaking a chapter. I read out loud to make sure I’ve gotten the right rhythm down, and look for places where I can improve the prose, dictionary and thesaurus at arm’s reach. On the other hand, I find it very difficult to write new material. I hold my nose and persevere, all the while my inner critic imploring, “This really stinks, you know.” But once I slog through it, then I can revise, and I’m happy again.

Give us a quick character study on yourself...

I’m a late bloomer and a Gemini who is always multitasking, dealing with multiple people and situations at the same time, whether in- person or via email, Facebook, MySpace, blogging, etc. My current favorite TV show is “30 Rock,” and my favorite hobby is eating out—I’m always researching new restaurants with Zagat, Chowhound, Yelp, etc. I like all kinds of music, but especially electronica, dance, and J-pop.

My husband surfs almost daily, but I am the most unathletic person I know. I have to force myself to get on the treadmill and I so do not do bicycles. The only exercise I don’t mind is yoga because my body actually feels good while I’m doing it, though not as good as when I get a massage, which is another favorite activity (and one I wish was less expensive!). I also enjoy clothes shopping and cannot pass up trips to Anthropologie or H&M. I love to travel and have been to Japan at least thirty times, but the ideal would be to have a trans-oceanic highway spanning from San Francisco to Tokyo so I could drive my Scion instead of taking a plane ride.

What’s next for you?

My second novel comes out in Fall 2009. It’s called LOVE IN TRANSLATION and is about an American woman who finds herself unexpectedly in Japan tracking down a long, lost relative who may hold a clue to the identity of the father she never knew.

Want to win a copy of MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT? Write a comment below and you're entered!  Want extra entries?  That can be arranged....  Blog about it for another entry.  Become of follower of this blog for another entry, too.  

Winners (two, yes, TWO winners!) will be announced on January 28th.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What did you just finish?

I recently discovered a new fabulous site that's dedicated to my favorite thing: books! It's called and on it, readers and writers talk about what they've just finished reading!

I'm thrilled to tell you that I'm this week's featured author, so hop on over and ask me anything! I'll be answering questions over there all week long.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Up on my Soapbox....

I'm so thrilled to announce that I've got a piece in this week's Publisher Weekly.  Yes, it's the publication that everyone who's anyone in publishing reads, and the back page has got a column by little old me!

So, in lieu of the blog today, just hop on over to the Soapbox column and check it out!  I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Another day, a LOT more touring!

I'm all over the blogosphere today, and I'm loving it!

Check me out of over at Roberta Isleib's blog, as well as Jessica Brody's The Writer's Life. Hank Phillipe Ryan's also got me on her site, and the interview will get you humming! If you recall a few weeks ago, I interviewed Melissa Clark, and now she's returning the favor on her blog. I'm also featured on Saralee Rosenberg's blog. Last but not least, check out Ellen Meister's Side Dish for a tasty interview!

Think that's a lot? Yes, it is-- I know. But wait, there's more!!!

Judy Larsen's not only running an interview on her blog, but she's also giving away a copy of JACK! You think that's good? Well, she's not the only one giving it away: Marilyn Brant's giving away a copy, too! Hop on over to Joanne Rendell's site for yet another interview and giveaway! Or, if you like reading in your pajamas, head over to Carleen Brice's The Pajama Gardener to enter to win.

So many interviews and giveaways, so little time!!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Karma chameleon

Those of you who read my blog know that I absolutely LOVE to give away free books! I give away boxes upon boxes of books, and it really is such a pleasure for me to make other bibliophiles so happy (speaking of which, our next giveaway will be next week, when we give away two-- yes, two!-- copies of Wendy Nelson Tokunaga's MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT).

Well, karma has a funny way of working, because I recently found four boxes of books! Four glorious boxes, filled to the brim with lovely books-- many of which were on my to-be-read list!

Let me explain: my father is a real estate developer. Right now, he's building a beautiful project out on Long Island called Stone Hill at Muttontown. To sell these fabulous houses, he always builds a model home, which is fully furnished and fully decorated. The interior decorator buys books by the foot from the famous Strand Bookstore in Manhattan in order to fill the library and the various bookshelves around the house. (Gotta make this model home look smart!)

The other day, my brother found some extra books that the decorator never got around to using. Four boxes of books, to be exact. FOUR BOXES OF BOOKS!!! So, needless to say, he offered the boxes to me, and I just about passed out.

I love books. The smell of them, the feel of them. There's nothing quite like cracking open a new book and being transported to another place and time. I immediately picked up Alice Hoffman's PRACTICAL MAGIC, a book that's long been on my to-be-read list, and started reading! (And, yes, needless to say, it's nothing short of amazing.)

Doncha' just love karma?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More touring!

I'm so thrilled to be on Wendy Nelson Tokunaga's blog today, talking about JACK and the writing life in general.

Also, check me out on Karin Gillespie's blog (which I'm now nominating as the blog with the Funniest. Name. Ever!).

And last, but certainly not least, I'm over on Jenny Gardiner's blog (and I'm totally nominating her book title, SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, as Best. Title. Ever!).

Cyber-touring officially rocks! So much better than the Rock of Love Bus. (And less chance at catching an STD!)

Monday, January 5, 2009

I'm on tour!

Yes, I'm on tour!  All this week!  And I'm so thrilled about it.  

But, I won't be traveling from town to town (sorry, Rock of Love Tour Bus), I'll be all over the internet!  It's my first tour on the fabulous Girlfriends Cyber Circuit for JACK WITH A TWIST! So, be sure to check back here to find out which blogs I'm on each day.  There will even be a bunch of giveaways, so stay tuned!

The fabulous Judi Fennell has already posted our interview, so check it out!  The wonderful Malena Lott's also got the interview up, too, so be sure to visit their sites!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

GUEST BLOG: Leslie Lehr on inspiration

What better way to start out the New Year than with a blog post about inspiration! So, I invited a very inspiring woman, award-winning writer, Leslie Lehr, to guest blog all about where she finds inspiration.

Leslie will be back on my blog soon to give away copies of her novel, WIFE GOES ON. But the best things come to those who wait, so we'll be doing that later this month, along with an interview with Leslie. But for now, without further ado, I present to you: Guest blogger Leslie Lehr!

There is nothing more inspiring than real life. That’s why I tell my students (in the Writers Program at UCLA) that the most important thing a writer can do is read, but you also need to put down your books and experience life so that you have something to write about. No need to go bullfighting like Hemingway, but just being aware of the world and the people around you can offer great inspiration. Novel writing is a lot different than nonfiction, when you are essentially researching and reporting on something with a particular point of view – even history books get rewritten when new information comes up or the prevailing point of view has changed. But with fiction, you are responsible for creating an entire world, so every single detail, every word, must work together to create the story and the emotional truth that you want to explore. While life is surely stranger than fiction, I think that’s because it’s more arbitrary, whereas fiction can’t be. Even a short story is intensely precise. And essays are an organized expression of thought – so it’s often the first way I write about a subject makes me angry or confused or thrilled. I have to feel passionate enough to plop my tush in the chair and do this thing that no one may appreciate as much as I do. So when I take on an entire novel, it’s because something has been on my mind so much that I know I can sustain the passion necessary to explore the “what-ifs” of the situation. There a question I want to answer. I feel so lucky to get to do that - to say what I think is important and to have a voice in this world - that I am inspired to work really hard and do the very best I can.

Just as it’s a lot more fun to go to the movies when there is a woman in the story, I enjoy writing about contemporary women because that’s who I am. There is so much to explore in both the dark and the light sides of our culture, so many choices we make as women and as mothers, that my stories usually starts with something personal. Something that bothers me or something that I want. For instance, when I was a struggling young career woman dreaming of the glamorous life, I wrote my first produced screenplay, “Heartless," a romantic thriller about a young woman who becomes dangerously obsessed with the murdered donor. My boyfriend at the time heard I was writing a murder mystery and immediately suggested I make it sort of caper story with a diamond heist. As much as I like diamonds, the identity issue is what made me want to write it as a love story – and it’s been playing in Europe for 6 years now, so I’m glad I stuck with what I wanted to see. Not long after that, married and frustrated at the changes in my life after my first baby was born, I vented in humorous essays that became my first book, Welcome to Club Mom: The End of Life as You Know it. The publisher changed the subtitle to : The Adventure Begins.

A year or so later during a toddler playdate, my former boss’s wife, a pretty model, pointed out my first gray hair. We were standing there on the driveway in my front yard - and I wanted to slap her. The anger stayed with me and I wondered what would happen if I was the kind of person who actually would do that. At the same time, a young, single production assistant kept calling my husband for work or for help with her car, etc. He was gone all hours working on location, so I wondered what that same person would do if she didn’t trust her husband. That inspired my first novel, 66 Laps, which won the Pirates Alley Faulkner Prize.

On the heels of Club Mom, my mother kept wanting to tell her side, so I worked up a proposal and sold Club Grandma, which has had many incarnations and is now excerpted on But it was mostly inspired by money – nonfiction is easier to sell, but it feels a lot like homework. And I did Nesting, a coffee table book about a nursery designer, for the same reason, then the designer on Oprah, so the publicity helped my other projects. By then I had given up on the long hours and travel of the film business completely and committed to redecorating an extra bedroom into an office and was officially a writer. I was teaching and starting to meet other writers, not many of them moms, and it was very frustrating not having housekeeping help like many of the working moms and time to watch Oprah like many of the stay-at-home moms. So, I was invited to vent my frustration for the book Mommy Wars. Katie Couric laughed about it on the Today show, because of the title: “I Hate Everybody.” The real mommy war is in our heads of course; it certainly was in mine. Which brings us back to all the choices we make in life, how each little one impacts the next one, which is what keeps me writing.

In fact, I was working on a literary novel about a Mom who worked in Hollywood trying to protect her daughter in this crazy culture, when I had a long overdue but excruciating divorce and was asked to write about the difficult decision for anthology called The Honeymoon's Over. By the time I turned it in, I had emerged from the darkness into such blinding happiness, that I was inspired to write this novel, Wife Goes On. I found such camaraderie with other single women or women who had been there, that I created the four characters in Wife Goes On and sold it from the outline. I put my other novel aside and wrote as fast as I could and published it in paperback so more women who needed it could afford it. (Plus paperbacks are an easy gift to give to friends who would enjoy it and it’s lighter to carry in your purse.) These characters are all made up, but many of their experiences and all of their emotions are very real. Plus, the sex is good. And the jokes are fun.

Now of course, I’m returning to the literary novel and since my life is different, so is the book. I’ve changed the structure to be less dark, and more of an a detective type mystery where the mom has already lost her daughter and has to find her. Obviously, having two daughters still inspires the question that I want to answer, but the events are not real and the themes are universal to motherhood. I am always very careful to protect everyone who has no choice in the matter. And now that this Wife had gone on, so to speak, I’ve been in a happy relationship for a few years, so I’m inspired to add a stronger romantic subplot. I try not to question inspiration, just to keep my eyes and ears and heart open for the next book. Meanwhile, I enjoy, every little detail that inspires me, from the way the sun shimmers on the ocean, to the blessing of having readers and writers like you, Brenda, who are so committed to the written word. That’s truly inspiring.

Want to win a free copy of Leslie's latest novel, WIFE GOES ON? Check back later this month for a giveaway!