Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Author Interview and Book Giveaway: Marilyn Brant

Today we've got a fellow GCC'er here to chat-- Marilyn Brant. She's here today to tell us all about her debut novel: According to Jane. And, to make things even better, she's going to be giving away a signed copy! Deets on how to enter are below.

How much do you love this cover?! So, without further ado, let's dig in!!!

1. Tell us about your most recent novel in 25 words or less.

According to Jane is the story of a modern woman who gets dating advice from the spirit of Jane Austen.

2. When did you first begin writing?

I wrote songs and poems and little stories in elementary school, but sixth grade was when the notion of writing professionally first occurred to me. But, aside from being on the newspaper and yearbook staff in high school, I didn’t take writing seriously until I was about 30.

3. Where do you find inspiration for your work?

From conversations I overhear, things my friends tell me, funny stuff that happened in my family, incidents I’ve observed out in public, stories I’ve read in books or seen on TV and those endless “what if?” questions writers always ask themselves.

4. What are you working on right now? 

A few final revisions on my 2nd novel, which is a modern fairytale about three suburban woman who shake up their lives and their marriages.

5. What are you reading right now? 

Some entertaining Austen-inspired fiction: Laurie Viera Rigler’s newest novel Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict and Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life.

6. What tips would you offer to aspiring writers?

I’d say the best advice I could offer is to really understand WHY you write. This is a personal thing, of course, and it’s rare that two writers in a room would share the exact same reason, but what’s YOUR draw? Crafting characters? Plotting something dramatic/suspenseful/funny/heartwarming? The possibility of fame, fortune and lengthy book tours? What brings you back to your notebook or your computer screen, even without a contract nudging you? Cherish that…and remember it.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Marilyn!

To enter to win a copy of According to Jane, just leave a comment below. Winners will be announced on October 13th!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guest blog and book giveaway: Sheila Curran

I'm so thrilled today because we've got a guest blog from the fabulous Sheila Curran. And to make things even more wonderful, she'll be giving away a copy of her breakout novel, EVERYONE SHE LOVED. Deets on how to enter are at the bottom of this post.

Take it away, Sheila!


With all the attention on the lab technician who killed poor Annie Le at Yale being a control freak, I have to point out the rest us us are quite harmless. For one thing, without us, THE CONTAINER STORE would be out of business. We keep planes in the air by listening for ‘off’ sounds, provide continuous entertainment for otherwise bored medical personnel, and lower the carbon footprint by only leaving our house when it’s absolutely necessary. (I myself do this only after three or four trips to check that the stove is off, the iron unplugged and the weather channel hasn’t issued a sudden tornado warning for our area.)

In fact, the chronic worrier who is not also a teensy bit of a control freak is:

a) delusional

b) a saint

c) heavily medicated or

d) a figment of her husband’s imagination.

In EVERYONE SHE LOVED, Penelope Cameron makes no bones about her latest anxiety. Nor does she shy away from pressuring her loving husband and best girfriends to relieve her worry through an outlandish and old-fashioned covenant. It’s politically incorrect, a throw-back to the eighteenth century and yet, so intuitively right. As she sees things, the lives of her two daughters hang in the balance and it’s within the powers of her inner circle to protect them. End of story.

Note to self: Death is inevitable. Wicked Stepmothers, not so much.

For the full story of how I got the idea for this novel, you can go to my website and click on Backstory. But the briefer version is this: in some states, if a parent hasn’t named a guardian in an official will, their children can be taken into foster care if the parents die. I was telling my friend Julianna about how difficult it is to make the choice of who, among my siblings and friends, would be the best replacements for my husband and I.

Suddenly, my Inner Cassandra did a double take. “OMG!. You know what would be worse? What if I was the only one that died and John fell in love with someone who was just awful?”

I thought for a minute more and said, “I know. What if he couldn’t remarry unless my sisters and best friends approved?”

I knew, deep down, that whatever happened, as long as my friends and family approved of the new wife, then she’d be good for my kids.

I began to imagine a character like me, except she’s really rich, has had even more reasons in her life to become a bit of a control freak than I, and she is so charming in her ridiculous catastrophizing that her husband and friends finally say, “Enough, already! You’re not going anywhere, but if it makes you feel better, we’ll sign the damn thing.”

So begins the premise for my novel, the plot of which is set into action by my character’s legal codicil. It’s about motherhood, wifehood, childhood, and most of all, the sisterhood of great friends.

Set in a North Florida beach town where Old Money meets the New South, Everyone She Loved is an unconventional mystery built on romantic confusion, financial intrigue, and the unbreakable bonds among women who’ve come of age together only to discover that life’s little instruction book will always need revising.

What they find, as their properous lives are threatened from within and without, is that no woman is island, nor is her fate ever separate from that of everyone she loves.

Sheila Curran lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband and two children. Her two novels, Diana Lively is Falling Down and Everyone She Loved employ a narrative structure built on suspense, secrets and intricate plot twists that Jodi Picoult called ‘warm, inventive, funny and original’ and kept Joshilyn Jackson ‘up way past … bedtime, unable to stop turning the pages.”

Thanks so much for stopping by, Sheila! And thanks for giving away a copy of your latest book!

To enter to win a signed copy of EVERYONE SHE LOVED, just leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

The lucky winners will be announced on October 6th.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

GCC Author Interview: Hank Phillippi Ryan

Today we've got a member of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit here to chat. Hank Phillippi Ryan's here to discuss her third Charlie McNally mytery, AIR TIME. Sue Grafton called it: “Sassy, fast-paced and appealing. First-class entertainment.”

Sounds fabulous already! Here's what it's about:

Smart and savvy Boston TV reporter Charlotte McNally is back. In AIR TIME she’s taking on the fashion industry, where she learns “When purses are fake – the danger is real.” AIR TIME is the third of the back-to-back-to back Charlie mysteries—the first PRIME TIME won the Agatha Award for best first novel. FACE TIME is a BookSense notable book.

Without further ado, let’s hear from Hank:

1. How did you come up with the idea for this book?

Imagine the research I had to do into the world of designer purses! It was tough, but someone had to dive in….

Actually, Charlie’s investigation into the world of counterfeit couture came straight from been there-done that. In my day job as a TV reporter, my producer (not Franklin!) and I have done several in-depth investigations into the world of knock-offs—not only purses and scarves, but blue jeans and watches and DVDs and videos.

We went undercover and with a hidden camera—like Charlie does—into various back-alley stores where counterfeit merchandise was being sold, and also into some suburban purse parties where women—certainly knowing they were fake and thinking was fine—were scooping up piles of counterfeit Burberrys and Chanels.

You should know— law enforcement tells us, it’s not illegal to buy the purses—unless you’re buying large amounts that are obviously for resale. The illegality is in the copying and manufacture and sale of what’s clearly a trademarked and proprietary item. (As the elegant fashion exec Zuzu Mazny-Latos tells Charlie in AIR TIME—it’s like taking Gone with the Wind—and putting your name on the cover.)

Anyway—lots of AIR TIME is based on research and reality—besides the undercover work, and the research, I’ve done many interviews with the federal agencies in charge of battling counterfeiting, the attorneys who help big companies protest their products, and even the private investigators the designers hire to scout out counterfeits.

2. Are you more driven by plot or by character?

Ah, it’s both. I start with one little germ of a plot twist–and then figure out how Charlie is going to figure it out! So I know what I know–and she knows what she knows. And then she has to solve the mystery–based on what I let her know.

3. What’s your writing process/writing environment like?

I’ve been a television reporter since 19, um, 75. I’m still on the air at Boston’s NBC affiliate, and still at work as an investigative reporter. (And I’m always hoping my best story ever is just around the corner.) So I come to work at Channel 7 every morning—tracking down clues, doing research, hoping for justice and looking for a great story that will change people’s lives. (Hmm..sounds a lot like mystery writing!)

Then at night we go back home—and when I’m in writing mode, I write til about ten pm, in a wonderful study that’s lined with bookshelves. I admit—I have a cluttered desk, and no real filing system, except for “piles.” But I know where everything is. I like it to be quiet.. At the TV station, it’s chaotic and loud, with three TV’s blasting all the time—and I can work fine there! But at home, with the books—quiet.

Because my schedule is so tight, I keep track of my words. If I know I have to write 90,000 words by the deadline, I literally divide that number by the number of days I have—and then set that as a goal. I try to write maybe—two pages a day. And on weekends, more. If I can do that, I’m thrilled.

I push my way through a first draft. I say to myself—just get the story down. Just do it. And you can fix it later.

Then I cook dinner, and my husband and I have a very late dinner together! You can imagine how patient he is!

I used to be a pretty good cook, and diligent about exercise. My husband and I gave dinner parties and went to movies and went on vacation. Sigh. That’s all pretty much over. I have a full time job as reporter, a full time job as a mystery author, and a full time job as a wife (with two step-children and two step-grandchildren!) That doesn’t leave much time for much else.

4. What’s your favorite part of writing?

Revision, no question. I love that. You have this whole first draft, and you get to go back and see what you really have. I often have wonderful revelations when I read over the first draft—there are themes and rhythms and even clues that I didn’t realize were there! It’s always so rewarding.

And after 30 years in TV, I know how valuable editing is—so I look at it as a real treat. To get to polish, and tweak, and rearrange, and make it all shine—oh, it’s great fun.

The other favorite part—when readers love the books. I can’t tell you how often I’m out on a story, for instance, and a stranger will come up to me , and pull the book out of a purse or briefcase, and ask me to sign it. I can barely resist bursting into tears. It somehow completes the writing, you know? when someone reads it.

5. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten about writing?

There’s a plaque on my bulletin board with the question: “What would you attempt to do if you know you could not fail?” That gives me a lot of courage.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A whole new approach to the author bio....

I just have no words for this. I'd just try to write something funny, and there's no way you can out-funny David Cross. So take a peek at his author bio for his new book, I DRINK FOR A REASON.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Big congrats go out to Kristen-- you've won a copy of Joanne Rendell's CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE! Just shoot me an email (brenda[at]brendajanowitz[dot]com) with your contact info, and we'll get a signed copy of the book out to you!

Not a winner this time around? That's okay! Next week, we'll be giving away a signed copy of Sheila Curran's EVERYONE SHE LOVED. So, don't forget to check back here for a chance to win more books!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What could you do in 7 minutes a day?

Galleycat's found a seminar which claims you can write a book in just 7 minutes a day.

Seven minutes?! It takes me that long to sit down at my computer to get ready to write.

There's always emails to check, not to mention facebook, goodreads, myspace and about a hundred other social networking sites that I just "have" to check before I start writing.

And then, there's always laundry to do, dishwashers to be unloaded, and desks to be straightened up. Because, clearly, you can't write the Great American Novel if your dishwasher is full. Can you?

By the time I've checked everything that needs checking on my computer and cleaned my entire house from top to bottom, then, inevitably, the phone rings.

So, basically, what I'm saying is that I really can't do anything in 7 minutes a day. What could you accomplish in just 7?

Monday, September 7, 2009


So, you may have noticed that I wasn't around much this past August. But there was a really good reason for that: I had a baby!

Having a baby has been the most wonderful experience, but there has been one unanticipated side effect that I really didn't see coming. I've heard women complain about long nights, dirty diapers, lack of time for oneself, and crying babies before, but none of that bothers me much. The real problem I've been having with motherhood is this: it's ruined me for reality tv.

Yes, since becoming a mother I can no longer enjoy my reality tv shows. Instead of laughing at the women on Real Chance of Love, all I can think is: this is someone's child. Instead of marveling at the women crying on More to Love, all I can think about is how there's a mother out there who is watching her baby cry on national television.

When will this insanity end?! Will I ever be able to enjoy my reality tv again?? Or am I destined to overthink all of VH1's wonderful low-brow reality offerings?!

Mothers, weigh in!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Oh dear.

We here at Brenda's Blog have been reporting all things Snuggie for some time now, but this is out of control.

I mean, really? Really?!

And if that's not enough for you, apparently there's a whole scandal going on that I didn't even know about. Even the NY Times got in on the action.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

GCC Author interview and book giveaway: Joanne Rendell

Have you missed the Girlfriends as much as I have lately? Well, never fear, because we've got a member of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit here today to chat! Joanne Rendell's Crossing Washington Square can be found in bookstores today (yes, today!) and we're lucky enough to have her here today in honor of the big launch! And the news only gets better from there: Joanne's been kind enough to offer to give away a signed copy of her latest novel! Deets on how to enter below.

So, let's dive in to the questions!

Tell us about your most recent novel in 25 words or less.

Sparks fly when two very different female professors meet head to heart at a prestigious university.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

My life! Crossing Washington Square was completely inspired by own experiences. I have a PhD in English literature and my past academic life is everywhere in this book. Like one of my characters, Professor Diana Monroe, I once taught Sylvia Plath to undergraduates. Like Professor Rachel Grey, my other lead character, I sometimes struggled to ignite a discussion in a room full of tired students. I’ve also seen first hand how vicious, snobbish, and competitive academics can be with each other. Moreover, I know a lot of juicy ivory tower gossip!

Themes within the book are also inspired by discussions I had in grad school. I always loved the debate about “high culture” and “popular culture” – in other words, whether it is more important to study Shakespeare or whether popular writers like Stephen King and Nora Roberts are worthy of study too. This debate is important in the novel. Rachel is a scholar of popular women’s fiction (think Bridget Jones’ Diary), while Diana is a rigorous Plath scholar who thinks that popular fiction is an easy ride for students and worries that the study of the classics and “high” literature

might get pushed aside. Rachel thinks studying popular fiction is vital because, as she says in the book, “popular culture influences who we are, what we think, and what’s going to happen in our world and in our lives.” It was so fun bringing this debate alive in fiction.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on final edits for my third novel which was bought by Penguin last fall. The novel tells the story of a woman who thinks she might be related to the nineteenth century writer, Mary Shelley. On her journey to seek the truth and to discover if there really is a link between her own family and the creator of Frankenstein, Clara unearths surprising facts about people much closer to home – including some shocking secrets about the ambitious scientist she is engaged to. The book is told in alternating points of view between Clara and the young Mary Shelley who is preparing to write Frankenstein.

If your book were to become a movie, who would you cast?

Crossing Washington Square loosely echoes Austen’s Sense and Sensibilty – with one professor being led by her sense, the other by her sensibility. I love the Ang Lee adaptation of Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet playing the two very different Dashwood sisters. Therefore I’d love Emma and Kate to play my professors.

What tips would you offer to aspiring writers?

Join a writer’s group – either on or off line – right away! You can learn so so much from other writers. Not just about the craft itself, but also so much useful stuff about the business. I started off writing fiction without joining a group and I made mistakes which I think I just wouldn’t have made if I had had other writer’s advising me.

Try and write a set amount of words per day. When I was in grad school, I vowed to myself that I had to write 500 words a day. I kept to this pretty religiously and now, even though I write novels instead of academic papers, I do the same. It really works!

Keep reading. Writers must be readers. By reading other people’s books, we see and learn how words can be spun and stories can be told. There is nothing more vital to a writer’s diet!

Thanks so much, Joanne! I totally agree with that advice for writers. And the new book sounds absolutely amazing. (As does book number three!!)

Want to win a signed copy of Joanne's latest? Just leave a comment below and you're entered!

The winner will be announced on September 15th.