I became an Ellen Meister fan a couple of years ago when I first read her delightful debut novel Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, so it's a special treat to be part of her Girlfriends Cyber Circuit tour this week for her second novel, The Smart One.
A little about Ellen: She grew up in the heartland of suburban Long Island. She spent her early career in advertising and marketing, and later worked as editor for a literary magazine and published numerous short stories. She now lives in New York with her husband and three children.
Of her new novel, The Smart One, Jane Green, bestselling author of The Beach House, wrote, "Wonderfully funny, irreverent and entirely unexpected. I loved it!" Booklist called it "A perfect beach read!" And the Library Journal said it was "Character-driven ... fast-paced and features great dialog." All fantastic and well-deserved words of praise :).
In your first book, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, three women forge a strong bond when a Hollywood scout announces the local elementary school might be the perfect backdrop for the next George Clooney movie. Marital challenges and societal obstacles result as they try to hold the project together. What's one theme you wanted to explore when you wrote this terrific book? Friendship! I think a lot of people who haven't read the book assume that I "skewer" the PTA, but that's not at all what it's about. I really wanted to explore the layers of pain, passion and joy hidden beneath the perfect mom exterior so many of us show the world. And it was important for me to give each of my three protagonists an arc she couldn't have achieved without her friends.
Lisa Kudrow said your "characters are so funny, smart, and real. I feel like I've made three new friends!" Plus, I believe she read the novel for the audio book, right? Did you talk with her prior to that reading about how to portray the characters' voices? Lisa is brilliant! Yes, she did the audiobook, and no, we didn't chat about voices. She read the book and did her own interpretation of each character. She was full of surprises and did an astounding job. I can't even imagine where she pulled all those voices from!
Your new book also involves three women, can you tell us the basic premise? In THE SMART ONE, three adult sisters find themselves both blessed and cursed by their childhood labels: the smart one, the pretty one and the wild one. They love each other, but can't understand where their differences begin and their own destructive tendencies end. Then they discover a decades-old body stuffed inside an industrial drum, and begin a bold, heartbreaking and often hilarious journey that will either bring them together ... or tear them apart for good.
Since "The Smart One" refers to one of the sisters, will there also be books about "The Pretty One" and "The Wild One" for readers to look forward to? No plans to do a sequel right now. I've fallen in love with another idea I'm working on...but someday? Who knows...
Who was the first person you told when you got The Call announcing you'd sold your debut novel? The first person who found out was my son, Ethan, who was 8 at the time and the only one home when I got the call. Poor kid! I screamed so much I scared the hell out of him. He may still bear the emotional scars. I think I was still squeezing him and jumping up and down when I picked up the phone and called my husband. (LOL! I can totally relate to that. My son, age 9 at the time, was the only one home and the first one I told, too. We were jumping up and down like caged zoo animals--a very happy memory! :-)
What's your Writer Fantasy--i.e., to see your book make into a feature film, to be on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 consecutive weeks, etc.? Can I choose all of the above? Seriously, I'd like to be successful enough to keep my career going. And yeah, being on the New York Time best seller list would be pretty damned sweet.
Would your high school friends be surprised to discover you'd become a novelist? They would not be surprised because I email them constantly. Beware the author who gets ahold of an alumni mailing list! (Ahhh...an excellent marketing/publicity suggestion!!)
What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication? J.D. Salinger, speaking as his character Seymour Glass, said to write the story you most want to read. I can't think of a better approach than that.
Thanks so much for the great interview, Marilyn!
It was absolutely my pleasure, Ellen--glad you could be here!