Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Long and Winding Roads...

I'm over at the Girlfriends Book Club tonight and tomorrow talking about the writing journey and how it was/is a tale of many beginnings for me. Please stop by if you have a chance -- I'd love to see you there!

Also, since my husband and son are GLUED to the TV at the moment, watching ice hockey with rapt attention (and bowls of caramel corn), I must say -- for their sake and for all Chicagoans with their fingers crossed tonight -- GO, HAWKS!!! ;)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The King's Speech

The film The King's Speech (2010), starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter and Guy Pearce (with appearances by many other wonderful actors including Jennifer Ehle and, my long-time fave, Anthony Andrews), was just released on DVD yesterday. Last night, after much anticipation -- having missed it when it was in the theater -- I finally got to see it. I'd watched clips and heard many of the award acceptance speeches, but I'm pleased to say that, for me, it was worth every one of those Oscar, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nominations...and wins. I loved it.

The performances were extraordinarily well done and the developing friendship between Firth and Rush was fabulous to watch onscreen. I also enjoyed a few of the extra features afterward, my favorite being Helena with her wild hair and unusual clothing combinations talking about how she got into the mindset of playing the Queen Mother. She is simply stunning in these period roles and, yet, seems so very offbeat and not especially "royal" when just playing, um...herself ;). It's great fun to listen to her being interviewed about almost any topic!

Anyway, did any of you see the film? Like it? Any other movies you've watched recently and would recommend??

Friday, April 15, 2011

Split Personality (+ yay to Maria and Nancy!)

Happy Friday!

First, a HUGE CONGRATS to Maria Geraci and Nancy J. Parra, both fabulous writers and wonderful friends, on their new book sales to Berkley this week!!!!!! I could not be more pleased for you ;). Everybody, please take a moment and do a little happy dance for these two ladies -- we need to help 'em celebrate!

Today, in between happy dancing, you'll find me in two places at once -- well, three, if you count right here. I'm at Austen Authors talking about the art of the snappy comeback in literature and film (particularly in those stories written by our dear Jane). And I'm also at Magical Musings blogging about imagination and anxiety -- flip sides of the same coin, in my opinion.

Hope you'll stop by and visit one or both spots. And here's wishing every one of you a fun and relaxing weekend!! (p.s. In Maria and Nancy's honor, we should make time for some chocolate and champagne, too, right?! :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Winner's Name & the Joys of the Future Progressive

I just heard back from Maureen McGowan on the results of her drawing and, thanks to the magic of Random.org, Robin Kaye is the book winner! Congrats, Robin (I'll email you with the details today ;). And to everyone who left comments about Maureen's books this week, thank you all so much!!

So, I've been working on copy-edits for A Summer in Europe this week, in between dealing with my son, who's been home sick for much of it. And, yesterday, I was feeling reasonably authorly here. I've got a 16-page style-sheet packet the copy editor/CE pulled together with a list of quotes I've used in the book and their page numbers; various style choices (i.e., when to capitalize the first initial after a colon and when not to, when to write out dates and numbers and when not to, etc.); lists of "special terms" and foreign words and the pages they're found on in the manuscript (everything from the Italian word amici to my fleeting reference to the Vigadó Concert Hall in Budapest); and, finally, all the characters in the book (alphabetized by last name) along with their ages, physical descriptions and any unusual background details.

I can't escape my feelings of awe at what these CEs do and, also, my own sense of accomplishment in having written this almost-ready-to-print novel, which required such a lengthy and incredibly well-organized style-sheet packet. But this is my third novel. I know how to do this stuff now. I actually understand what the CE is saying in her notes. I get English -- yes, I do! -- and I was feeling pretty proud and confident in my ability to decode my native language...when my son walks into my workspace yesterday afternoon with a sheet of paper in his hand and a mystified expression on his face. His language arts homework, it turns out. Grammar.

He's in 6th grade, and this sheet was on verb tenses, the lesson on which he'd missed at school because of being home sick. He handed it to me and I stared at it for some time, unblinkingly. Now, I thought I had a fairly strong working knowledge of verb tense. Guess what? NOT SO.

Instead of finishing up my authorly copy-edits last night, I spent the better part of two hours reviewing some technical terms with my son that I'm not sure I ever really learned. I'm still not quite sure I know them. (Who gets this stuff? And will you come over?!) But, for the benefit of all of you, in case a similar scenario arises in your households, here are my crib notes on eight of the seemingly endless verb tenses out there:

Present: I write
Past: I wrote
Future: I will write
Present Perfect: I have written
Past Perfect: I had written
Present Progressive: I am writing
Past Progressive: I was writing
Future Progressive: I will be writing

And, yes, future progressive, here I come! (Have a great weekend, everyone. Anybody have fun plans? Diagramning sentences, maybe? :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Maureen McGowan's Doubly Twisted Launch + Giveaway!!

I've had the pleasure of knowing the kind, talented and always wonderful Maureen McGowan for four years now, ever since we became '007 Bond Sisters. From the very first moment we met online, and through countless conversations (virtual and in person), Maureen has shown graciousness and generosity to every writer I've ever seen her interact with -- and to me personally -- over and over again.

So, it is with great, throw-confetti-in-the-air excitement that I get to have her visit today, just a few days after the double release of her YA "Twisted Tales" books ~ Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer. Welcome, Maureen!!!

Can you tell us the premise of your book? (2 books, in your case!)
Both books are re-imaginings of the original fairy tales—keeping a few key story elements, but changing most and adding lots of fun and adventure. In Cinderella: Ninja Warrior, Cinderella is more than a servant girl waiting for her prince—she's a tough, fearless girl who is capable of taking charge of a dangerous situation. Seeking to escape the clutches of her evil stepmother, Cinderella perfects her ninja skills and magic talents in secret, waiting for the day when she can break free and live happily ever after. Cinderella has no intention of waiting around for a prince to save her.

In Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, Lucette (Sleeping Beauty), has been cursed to wake only at night, while everyone else in her kingdom has the opposite curse and falls asleep as she’s waking each evening. Isolated from her family and friends at sixteen, she’s the only one to defend the kingdom from vampires at night. Fighting evil vampires—and getting to know some good ones—she must find a way to break the spell before it’s too late.

In both books, the reader can make choices at key points that affect how the story unfolds. (What a fabulous idea -- so cool and creative!!)

How closely do the books follow the original fairy tales?
One of my aims was to “fix” some of the story elements that bothered me in the traditional versions of these classic tales. Both of my stories have the tried and true fairy tale themes of finding true love and good triumphing over evil, but there are twists, too.

The traditional Cinderella character was too much of a victim for my taste, and I never liked the idea that the prince needed a shoe to recognize her the day after supposedly falling in love. Plus, he falls in love at first sight—presumably because of her beauty—but then doesn’t recognize her the next day when she’s out of her fancy dress? What kind of message does that send to modern young readers about love or their self-worth? (That's a great point. I know these changes you made are something I'm going to especially love about Cinderella: Ninja Warrior.)

Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer probably has fewer similarities to the traditional tale. (There were no vampires in the original? An oversight, I’m sure.) When I first started the book, I thought it was about prejudice—humans’ misconceptions about vampires and vice versa. But as soon as I started writing, it became more of a child of divorce story. Sleeping Beauty has to learn that her parents’ and kingdom’s problems aren’t her fault—even if she’s cursed. This theme popped out at me as soon as I started thinking about how parents might react if they knew their daughter carried a curse. And what it would feel like to grow up with this huge weight hanging over you.

But, although I think the stories do have positive messages for girls and an overall theme of empowerment, they are by no means “issue books”. They’re meant to be fun, fast-paced, exciting and most of all—entertaining.

What drew you to writing YA after having written some terrific women's fiction stories? What is appealing about each genre?
I still love women’s fiction and enjoy, reading and writing in that genre, but I have to say, I wish I’d discovered the YA market sooner. I thought that YA books were “women’s fiction light” or “romance light” or “paranormal light” and therefore figured writing for a younger age group wouldn’t suit my voice, since I tend to love the darker, edgier aspects of most genres.

Then I discovered books like The Hunger Games and Forest of Hands and Teeth, to name just two, and soon realized that some of the edgiest, most daring, most imaginative storytelling was being produced by YA authors. I was hooked.

That said, the Twisted Tales series isn’t that dark and edgy—closer to fun and silly—and they’re suitable for readers as young as pre-teens, but the books don’t pull punches, either. The villains are evil, really evil, and the heroines have to save themselves from some seriously dangerous situations. I think this is consistent with the way storytellers used to write for children, (say, when the traditional fairy tales were first told), but it seems to me as if, during the last century, the publishing industry started to coddle kids and as a result books for teen readers became somewhat marginalized. Most teens found them too childish and read adult fiction instead. (Disclaimer: This is just my impression.)

I love that the industry has re-discovered this book-loving age group and how so many of the most popular books right now were written for kids. Now the crossover is happening the other direction—with adults reading teen books—and I love it. Some of the very best books I’ve read in the past two years were written for teens. (I've read some excellent ones as well -- the genre has just blossomed, and I love how many choices there are out there for teen readers today.)

Do you have a favorite kind of food? Anything you really won't eat?
I love just about anything that’s not good for me. As for things I won’t eat… I haven’t run into many, but do have a strong dislike for liver. **Shudders at the thought** (Agreed!! Bleh!)

Who was the first person you told when you got The Call announcing you'd sold your first novel?
I think I e-mailed my critique partners. In hindsight, I can’t believe I didn’t pick up the phone to call someone. It was a fairly surreal moment and not at all like I’d pictured it. The news actually came in an e-mail and I’m not sure I really believed it. Also, because neither book was written yet and I knew my deadlines would be tight, it was as terrifying as it was thrilling.

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.?
Yes, yes, and yes. But realistically, it’s just so fabulous to make things up for a living and have other people read and enjoy what I do. Can’t beat that.

Would your high school friends be surprised to discover you'd become a novelist?
This is a good one! I think a few years ago I would have answered yes—they would be shocked—because my first career was in finance. But I’ve since run into a few people from high school and/or University who weren’t shocked at all. One even said, “You finally figured out what you were supposed to do.” It was gratifying to hear.

Do your neighbors/hometown acquaintances know you're a published author or did you just choose to tell those closest to you?
I always assumed that as soon as I sold a book I’d shout it out to anyone and everyone I ever met—even people I hadn’t met. I also fantasized about things like going into bookstores and introducing myself to the manager, and sending out press releases, etc. In fact, during my first few years of taking writing seriously, I probably spent almost as much time learning about promotion and publicity as I did the craft of writing.

But it’s odd. Now that I have actual books out I’m feeling shy about it. Sure, I’m talking about it on Facebook and Twitter and Blogs :), but as far as deliberately seeking out old friends to spread the word? Not so much. What’s that about? I once attended a workshop given by Eloisa James who advised newly published authors to emulate Paris Hilton. Clearly I need to find and embrace my inner Paris. (LOL! No, I think you're terrific just the way you are. ;)

Maureen, thanks so much for being here and for offering to give away one of your new books (winner gets to choose which story) to one commenter on today's post!! The winner's name will be drawn randomly and posted on Friday. For more info on these books and, also, on Maureen's other writing, please check out her website and blogs: her personal one, Drunk Writer Talk and Get Lost in a Story. Good luck, everybody!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Copy-Edits & Cover Art

Spring break had us out of the house and on the road for much of this past week...but I came home to two very exciting things: the copy-edits for A Summer in Europe were at my door and the book's brand-new cover art was in my inbox. SQUEEE!!!

I just want to throw myself into the picture and meander around that lake in the sunshine...sigh. The Kensington catalogue for September - December 2011 is also out now, and it was included in the packet with my copy-edits. Here's how the wonderful marketing team described my book:

Marilyn Brant, author of the acclaimed ACCORDING TO JANE, transports readers across the pond on a grand journey of self-awakening amidst the classic architecture and stunning vistas of Europe -- and a young woman discovers that the ancient wonders around her are nothing compared to the renaissance unfolding within...

On her 30th birthday, Gwendolyn Reese is given an unusual gift by her eccentric aunt: a summer grand European tour arranged through her aunt's Sudoku and Mahjongg Club. Gwen reluctantly leaves her "almost fiancé" and heads to Europe with her aunt and a collection of offbeat club members.

Abroad, Gwen is slowly but surely transformed. She has conversations she'd never expected, is spellbound by London theater, touches a glacier, races through the Louvre, and shares a passionate kiss with a wild young physics professor. And when her old life comes calling again, she must choose between the practical choices she's always made, and a world open to infinite possibilities...

I am so, so excited about this story... Thanks for letting me share a little about it with all of you. *g*