The Girlfriends Cyber Circuit is going on its last, high-speed tour for 2008! There are only a couple of GCC book releases slated for the next few months, so it's an extra treat to get to end the year with a visit from Melissa Clark.
Melissa is the creator and executive producer of the award-winning television series, "Braceface," and she's written for shows on the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network and Fox. She received a master's degree from the writing program at U.C. Davis, and currently lives in Los Angeles. Her debut novel is called Swimming Upstream, Slowly (Broadway Books/Random House) and it has--to use an Audrey Hepburn term--a "most unusual" premise.
Tell us about your book and the inspiration behind it.
"Swimming Upstream, Slowly" is a novel about Sasha Salter, who wakes up one day to find she is pregnant. Only problem is she hasn't had sex in over 2 years. The doctor's diagnosis is that Sasha's body has been harboring a 'lazy sperm'. Sasha must now open up the Pandora's box of her past loves to figure out which of her exes is the father - and what the future holds in store. The idea was born because I was having lunch with a friend and overate. I lifted my shirt to expose my bloated belly and the friend said, half joking, "Are you sure you're not pregnant?" and I said, "Yeah, right, from a lazy sperm." I went home that night and started outlining the idea for a movie. I decided, eventually, to write it as a novel instead. (What a fantastic story concept! And I bet it'd be great as a movie, too.)
Could you please tell us a little about your writing background?
My dad is a writer, so I was always playing on his typewriter and writing on legal steno pads. I wrote short stories from the time that I could write. I studied writing and literature in both college and graduate school. In my 20's to mid-30's I worked as a writer in television. I created a kid's show called "Braceface" which ran for 5 seasons. I loved that experience, but really wanted to write a novel, so I quit my own show and set out to write "Swimming Upstream, Slowly." It was the best risk I've ever taken!
What comes most naturally for you to write, dialogue? plot? character? And what's hardest?
I love writing dialogue. I've written a few plays in the past and found it incredibly satisfying. I learn so much about my characters through what they say. I often have the feeling that they speak through me and I'm just listening and transcribing their words. I know a lot of writers feel this way. It's hard for me to slow down and be descriptive - really describe a setting or something. I am very aware of this and tried to do it more consciously in the new book. (I SO can relate to this. I think I'm missing that descriptive-writer gene. :)
What do you love most about this book?
I appreciate this question because I feel a little weird loving it so much. I feel genuinely tender toward my characters and feel very disconnected to the fact that I created them. I appreciate their personalities and foibles. Every time I reread the book, I enjoy going on the journey with them all over again. When I was writing the book I had that swoony feeling of romantic love. I couldn't stop thinking about it, I bumped into things all the time, etc. I've never told anyone this before!
What's the most surprising thing that has happened to you on your publishing journey? Have you learnt things about the industry you never knew before?
I was invited to speak at the Carmel Authors and Ideas Festival. There is a famous food writer named Melissa Clark who writes for the NY Times and I was sure they meant to invite her. I wined and dined with the likes of Frank McCourt and Elizabeth Edwards. I gave a talk during which I explained that I thought they invited the wrong Melissa Clark. The audience thought it was hysterical. They were cracking up, but I was really venting my insecurity. The head of the program came up to me after the reading and said it was great, but never assured me... a few months later a friend, after hearing that story, told me she knew the other Melissa Clark - they had been in a wedding together - and gave me her email. I wrote about that experience and she replied, "That's okay, everyone thinks I wrote the lazy sperm book." (Ha! I love that!!)
Thanks so much for being here, Melissa, and congrats on the release of your first book!
And, to anyone in the Austen World...or to anyone outside of it who needs a reason to celebrate...today is Jane's 233rd birthday. Let's raise a glass of something toasty warm and/or heavily spiked in her honor :).