Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cutting Loose Contest!!

Along with the crisp scent of autumn and the aroma of pumpkin muffins, there are exciting "firsts" in the air for this coming year, starting with something I've long wanted to do: My first blog contest!

Being a member of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, I've had a chance to host virtual book tours for many wonderful authors over the past six months, and I look forward to many more. However, Nadine Dajani has an extra-special place in my heart because she was a friend prior to my joining the ranks of the "pubbed," she's the one who paved the way for me to join the GCC in the first place and she's simply a fantastic person whose women's fiction stories are funny, well-narrated and insightful. And because I think everyone out there should have a chance to read one of her books, I'm giving away a signed ARC of Nadine's newest release Cutting Loose (Forge, October 2008) to one lucky person who leaves a comment on this post. And, because fall is my favorite season and because I'm a fan of the seasonal treat, caramel apples...I'll include a Victoria's Secret Beauty Rush swirl lip gloss--flavor: "The Big Caramapple"--too!

A little about Nadine: Born in Beirut, Lebanon to Palestinian parents, she spent the first nine years of her life in Saudi Arabia before settling in Montreal. While Nadine could definitely think of better ways of spending a year than devoting it to mastering the French language, the experience (and all that duty-free terminal shopping) would turn Nadine onto the wonders of world travel and the quirky, unexpected (and usually hilarious) ways cultures meshed (or stubbornly refused to). As an adult she moved to the Cayman Islands to pursue a career in, what else – offshore banking. And while Nadine has yet to see her “golden parachute,” she did get to reap the rewards of Caribbean relocation by island-hopping to nearby Cuba, Jamaica, Honduras and Miami whenever the travel bug bites. Nadine’s travel articles have been published in Atmosphere magazine, and her first novel, Fashionably Late, was released by Forge in 2007.

Welcome, Nadine!!!

*I know Cutting Loose is the story of Ranya, Rio and Zahra--three very different women, or at least that's what they think!--whose paths and romantic relationships collide in sizzling, sexy Miami. What's one scene from this story you loved writing and why did it excite you?

There were two chapters in this book that were just so much fun to write, they made every this-is-such-utter-crap-why-do-I-do-this-to-myself moment totally worth it.

Interestingly, they’re both from Rio’s POV, the Honduran-American editor-in-chief of Sueltate magazine, who has a… how shall I put this… booty call relationship with her boss. Her voice is just so snarky and cynical and in your face, the complete foil to Ranya’s sickly-sweet innocence. The first scene I loved writing is when we first meet Rio – she’s just had a roll in the hay with Joe, the boss, and it was amazing as always, but now he’s getting up to go and leaving Rio totally alone and empty. What I love about this scene is how Rio comes off strong and completely jaded to the reader as though this treatment could never affect a tough chick like her, and yet, we still sense the vulnerability and despair underneath.

I know you said just one, but there’s another chapter I can’t say too much about for fear of giving too much away, taking place much later in the book where Rio is at her lowest point, desperate, and looking for trouble… and life throws her a life line in a way Rio would have never expected. This is the scene in the book I am constantly reading over and over again. It’s so hopeful, yet manages to stay true to the grit and realism of Rio’s outlook. I will tell you this little bit of a spoiler… they’re both love scenes! I never in a million years thought I could pull off so many different, plot-advancing sex scenes!

*Name some of your favorite musical artists/groups. Did you use any musical references in your novel? If so, do they play a significant role?

I can read a lot of heavy books and I’ll enjoy them, but when it comes to music, it has to be upbeat and catchy. There is nothing that will lift my spirits better and faster than pop tunes or dance music, salsa, hip hop, etc. Music snobs hate people like me probably because they blame me for all the “crappy” music that’s produced (at least I make up for my bubblegum music tastes in more refined choices in film and literature… sometimes).

Since I’ve discovered Spanish music, I haven’t gone back. There are a lot of things that Spanish and Arabic cultures have in common, and music is one of them (actually, they share some common roots). Seeing as this book takes place in Miami, there’s a whole lot of reggaeton happening. It’s basically a unique Caribbean-Spanish hip-hop style that I totally adore and can’t get enough of.

(Oh, you know what a music lover I am, too! And, yes, though it's often criticized, I agree that there's nothing like a fast-paced, toe-tapping poppish tune to brighten my mood!! You'll have to recommend a few Caribbean-Spanish hip-hop artists for me to listen to next. :)

*Would your high school friends be surprised to discover you'd become a novelist?

No – I always did better in “word” heavy subjects like literature and history and, while most of my high school friends would probably rather lick the bed sheets aboard the Motley Crew tour bus that write a composition, I liked it when the topic was inspiring (which, unfortunately, it hardly ever was. And in senior high, I voluntarily elected “Creative Writing” as my English requirement, which elicited quite a few “what the heck is the matter with you”s from friends. So no, those people would not be surprised, but I’ll bet my fellow accountancy classmates in University would be!

*Do your neighbors/hometown acquaintances know you're a published author or did you just choose to tell those closest to you?

In Montreal, only my friends and family know (and their friends and families…) but Cayman is such a small place that I often get that do-I-know-you-from-somewhere stare, and so I’ll say, “I’m the one who wrote a book,” and their face will light up in recognition. It’s amazing! I also do a lot of client meetings for my current job, and every once in a while, someone will squint their eyes at me and say: “Aren’t you the one who wrote a book?”

I love it.

(After all the hard work of learning the craft of writing and finally getting a novel published, this kind of recognition must be frosting!)

*What's a personality trait you love about one of the characters in your novel and why?

Good question! Hmm… this is a trait that both Rio and Zahra share throughout the novel, and that Ranya struggles with – resiliency. Rio and Zahra take a lot of serious punches, both throughout the plot development and behind the scenes, and they keep rolling with them one way or another. They may not always respond in ways we like, but when we meet them, we can imagine they’re already done some serious growing up which has left them scarred: Zahra is the only daughter out of five offspring who had the chance to escape a life of destitution in Bethlehem, in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. She’s now carrying the burden of supporting this family she left behind, which is the fate of so many immigrants in this world. Rio hasn’t had it much easier – taunted with the label of ‘illegal’ just because of the way she looks and the language she speaks, and this in spite of being a perfectly legal citizen of the United States. I find a recent study about the decrease of illegal immigration to the US very interesting – the stats did not go down because of better detection or deportation methods, but because the US is no longer an attractive beacon for employment. Hoarding doesn’t pay in the long run folks – sharing and empathy has a way of paying dividends while xenophobia does just the opposite.

Resiliency is just another way of saying “growing up” for me, and I admire both Rio and Zahra for it, and so does Ranya, as a matter of fact!

As always, Nadine, thank you for your thoughtful and detailed answers to my questions. It was a delight to have you here and to celebrate the release of your second novel! And to anyone out there who posts a comment, I'll draw the name of the winner at 10pm (Central Time) on Tuesday, October 21st.

Happy fall, everyone!


Debra St. John said...

Hi Nadine and Marilyn! Great interview, ladies. I agree about music, it really can get you going and get you out of a funk. It can even spur you out of a stuck spot while writing. Nadine, your book sounds fabulous. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today.

Simone Elkeles said...

First of all, I love great love scenes and I love when authors get excited about their work!

Great post and any friend of Marilyn's is a friend of mine!

Sara Daniel said...

Hi Marilyn and Nadine from a fellow accountancy major who turned her back on all those numbers for something . . . shall we say . . . a bit more creative and sexy! Can't wait to read your book, Nadine. I'm very intrigued.

Sara Daniel

June said...

Hi Nadine, Hi Marilyn,
Wonderful interview ladies! I enjoyed it very much.



Pamala Knight said...

Wonderful interview Marilyn. It's so refreshing to hear an author talk about how stoked she is about her characters and I loved that she made the dominant trait in two of the women, their resiliency. Bend but don't break--isn't that the way?

Thanks to Nadine for sharing also. Happy Fall!

Jennifer Stevenson said...

Nadine, loved what you said about hoarding and sharing.

Can you recommend some of that Caribbean Spanish hip hop music? I need some!

Maureen McGowan said...

Great interview!

And how fun to find out two of my writer-friends are friends. It's such a small world. :-)

Can't wait to read the new book, Nadine.

Marilyn Brant said...

Debra and Jennifer~we three are going to need to get ahold of some of Nadine's music, eh?

Simone~you know I feel the same way... :-)

Sara~that's right! You two share that unique and intriguing combination of accountant and author!!

June~I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview! Stop by anytime.

Pamala~you and Nadine are both helping me to remember "bend but don't break," and I had a situation today in which I could've used a bit more resiliency myself... I feel I need to practice it on the small scale (like, oh, when my DSL connection mysteriously goes out for 2 hours--argh!) so I'm better able to tap into it during a time of real difficulty.

Maureen~it IS a small world! Glad my writer friends are connected, too :).

Gina Robinson said...

Hi Marilyn! Great interview. Nadine, the book sounds terrific.

Nadine said...

Thanks so much for everyone who stopped by with your kind comments!!! And an extra special, massive THANK YOU to an amazing cheerleader and fabulous cyber-friend (they need to invent teleporters soon so I can say this to my friends' faces and NOT through a screen) - Marylin. Shukran, babe.

Maureen - I was so sure you knew Marilyn and I were friends! Seriously... I don't link or comment on blogs nearly as much as I should, please credit my lack of time management skills, not will for this..

Sara... there's a lot of us former numbers-people-turned-word-people out there... Maureen is one too!

Great latin hip hop... this is very valuable info here, ladies, you do not know the lengths I went to to get actual names of songs and artists I could look up on itunes or limewire... until I started dating my boyfriend (he's honduran and knows his Latin music), I basically had to go up to DJs and any latino people I knew and HUM popular songs to them so I had a chance of getting them on my iPod. Pathetic? Not strong enough a word, I'm afraid...

Juanes is a great pop-folk grammy-winning artist (the folk comes from the guitar rifts) who is as famous for his music as his activism.His most famous song is "Tengo La Camisa Negra". I also love "A Dios le Pido" and "Y es por ti"

For reggeaton, look up Wisin y Yandel (a hip hop duo), and their songs "Rakata" and "Sexy Movimiento".

Orishas and Calle 13 are more hard core Spanish rap than hip-hop.

Daddy Yankee is probably the biggest name in reggaeton (he's American-PRican) and his latest is "Ella me levanto". He also sings the song you've probably heard a million times, "Gasolina". He's very commercial.

David Bisbal from Spain is SUPER pop, so those who don't like "bubblegum" music might want to stay away, but I like him... his most famous are "Ave Maria", "Digale", "Corazon Latino" and a few others I can't remember...

And the kings of Spanish rock are Mana (Vivir sin Aire, Rayando el sol, Labios Compartidos..). They are huge, even in the States.

And of course, Shakira. Her "Tortura" and "Hips Don't Lie" and great cross-over songs, but her Spanish language albums sound like Alanis Morrisette but in Spanish... very powerful.

There's your intro kit to Latin music so you don't have to sink to the same levels of degradation as I had to!

Pam said...

Echoing what everybody else said about the excellent interview. Nadine, you sound like you have such a rich history that it would automatically translate to your writing. How exciting!

L.A. Mitchell said...

Great interview! Loved the part about the music, too.

Marilyn Brant said...

Gina, Pam and L.A.~I'm SO glad you ladies stopped by--thank you!!!

Nadine~what a pleasure to get to celebrate your book release with you! And thanks for the Latin music update :). I was already a Shakira fan but most of the others are new to me. Off to You Tube to listen to samples of their songs...

Robin said...

Hi Marilyn and Nadine! This was a wonderful interview! Thanks for the introduction, Marilyn, and Nadine, the book sounds great! I'm putting it at the top of my to buy list!

I also like "crappy" music. :)

Marilyn Brant said...

Robin~I'm with you on the "crappy" music!

EVERYONE~the contest is officially closed...thanks so much to ALL of you for entering!! I'm off to draw the winning name and will post the winner tonight (if my DSL lets me) or tomorrow morning (if I continue to have problems with it--argh!).