Random Q & A from yours truly…
From an interview I did for the Blog Pieces of Whimsy on my breakout novel (best selling), This Much Is True…
Tell us a bit about your book, This Much Is True.
Both on the verge of fame. A ballerina who lies. A baseball player who believes her. Well, the truth changes everything.
This Much Is True is the story of Tally Landon, a gifted ballerina, and Lincoln Presley, an up-and-coming baseball player intent on pleasing the world. Fate brings them together through tragic circumstances the first time, and the second time they both experience this powerful connection. But the lies Tally tells and the truth Linc withholds and even the fame that eventually sweeps them up tears them apart.
Maybe, it’s the age difference. Maybe, it’s Tally’s unwillingness to trust anyone else other than her best friend Marla because of what she’s been through. Perhaps, it’s the people and the hidden pain these two carry that have a way of keeping them away from each other, even if they do seem destined to be together. Maybe, that seems cliché. But, in this case? It’s hyper realism.
This isn’t a sugar-coated love story with a bad boy covered in tattoos and a good girl waiting to be rescued. Um…no. This is an emotional read full of angst about a heroine, who is both selfish and self-destructive, and a hero, who has his own set of baggage preventing him from being there for her when she needs him the most.
Are they destructive? To each other? Yes, at times.
Salvable? Most definitely.
Did you find This Much is True harder or easier to write than your other novels?
This Much Is True was definitely the hardest book to write. Part of it was me, as a writer. I had some success with my other novels, so I had a bit of a fan base anxiously awaiting this novel. The added pressure (high expectations) combined with a convoluted writing process, where I, literally, just didn’t seem to know what I was doing and was constantly second-guessing where the story was going made This Much Is True a challenge to write. And then, it was going long. So really? It’s two or three books in one. It IS long and I debated many times whether to cut it up into three books but in the end, I kept it as one long story.
What was your favourite book/author when you were growing up?
I read a lot of books as a teen. I read all of Steven King’s, all of Tom Clancy’s, anything Harlequin (I used to get my grandmother’s stack of those), Colleen McCullough, Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, William Shakespeare… You can see where this is going; can’t you?
My current writerly crush is Gillian Flynn because of Gone Girl.
My lifetime writerly crush is Audrey Niffenegger with The Time Traveler’s Wife.
My forever writerly crush is Tess Callahan, who wrote April & Oliver, because I’ve read that book again and again for the past five years.
I am aware that I have not answered your question directly.
As a teen.
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I am Scarlet, in many ways; I fear.
Where did you get the idea for This Much Is True?
My inspiration behind This Much I True came from a writing assignment from one of my advanced fiction classes with The Writer’s Studio a few years ago, and that is when Tally Landon first came into being.
In early drafts, she was an artist. In early drafts, she was innocent and naïve.
In later drafts, she became the edgy, broken soul readers have come to know and, hopefully, love in This Much Is True.
The opening scene gives readers an ever so brief glimpse of the old Tally. Promiscuous. Selfish. Self-serving. Talented. Tally Landon is a protégé on her way up in the world with no interest in anyone besides herself. And yet, the last line of that particular scene tells readers pretty much everything about Tally. “There is no God, Elvis.” Readers instantly know more about where Tally is coming from and where this story might take them with that one simple tragic line more than any other.
Readers learn straight away that ‘Elvis’ aka Lincoln Presley will be important. And is he ever. It is not easy to be tasked with saving Tally Landon, especially when it appears, she doesn’t want to be saved. One reviewer put it this way; and I have yet to find anyone who describes it better:
“…Linc is a great guy who kept on drawing the short stick all throughout the story since he meets Tally. He is caring, sensitive and occasionally a coward. He definitely is an American sweetheart, and his funny and witty side comes at some of the most inopportune moments. However, this gives him the power to diffuse the bomb that is Tally Landon….” Lit Jungle Blog
Back to the question. What inspired me? I have a tendency to write dark love stories. They are angsty reads. All of them. For this one? Tally came to me. I lived with her for a year and a half in my head, and I came to know her. That sounds weird. The writing process is weird. People who write are part weird, part soulful. I can live with that. I do.
Another blogger recently asked: Do you think Tally was a tough character to write about? Why?
And I answered this way.
Tough? Hmmm…Tally was an absolutely awesome character to write. She appears tough on the outside but is mostly vulnerable on the inside in ways she doesn’t even comprehend. Her life situation is tough. Her response to it is somewhat tragic. She was a challenge to write in the sense that I really felt her awesomeness from a long way off and wanted to ensure I did her true justice with this storyline. The character of Lincoln Presley was set early on and never wavered. I gave him some challenges that his character would have to rise up to, and I feel pretty successful with those.
I just saw that these two coming together would be as explosive as fireworks. That was certainly part of the inspiration I felt for writing Tally and Linc’s story.
What made you decide to write darker books and have you ever felt like a change?
Everyone has a style. Whimsical isn’t really me. At all. Don’t get me wrong. I love whimsical; it’s just not me. So, it’s not surprising that I would write the darker stuff. Why? I am that best friend, who knows the other best friend’s darkest secret that nobody else knows. I’m that girl. I feel things at an empathetic level, so writing the darker, angsty love story comes naturally to me.
And no, I never hanker to change my writing up.
My dad died about twelve years ago, and that had a profound impact on me for, like, ever. His death taught me that bad things happen to good people for no reason at all, and you best get with the program and do what you want to do in life because, “baby, it’s short; and this is all you get.”
And there again, a little dark, I know. Love me? Leave me. You choose.
Do you have a favourite character that you’ve written (from any of your books)?
There’s probably a tie between Jordan Holloway in When I See You and Tally Landon in This Much Is True.
Jordan is capable, prepared, realistic about what happens in life; and she is a survivor. And I like all those things about her.
Tally is not quite at Jordan’s level yet. Granted, she is ten years younger. Tally is unseasoned, untested, but she is resilient; and she will survive. Both characters are wicked smart and somewhat intent on an implicit, self-preservation quest. These would be my favourites.
If you could, what three book characters would you invite to a dinner party and why?
Henry DeTramble from The Time Traveler’s Wife, Alexander Belov from The Bronze Horseman, and Oliver Night from April & Oliver would be invited to my dinner party. And yes, the conversation would be lively and genuine, proving chivalry is not dead, and the champagne would be flowing.
If you had the chance to do it again, is there anything you’d change about your book?
It would be three books instead of one long novel.
What do you have planned for the future?
I am working on another book featuring Linc and Tally that will be released later this year titled The Truth About Air & Water. Sign up for my newsletter and hear from me about once a year with a new novel release. Do that here. I have another book called Saving Valentines that will follow that one, if all goes according to plan.
Q & A’s from my most controversial novel to date…Not To Us
Everything I’ve been writing before this had me in Paris or New York or Chicago. I was constantly doing a ton of research to get it just right. Then, I read a book that was based in Seattle; and I thought the next story I write is going to be around here, so it’s easy to describe, and then I won’t have to look everything up all the time and slow the writing process down. And, that is why Not To Us is based on Bainbridge Island (a place I’ve been to, like twice). Ha!
The title for this novel was easy enough because the premise is all about people/characters who have led fairly normal lives in suburbia America. They drive nice cars, live in nice houses, and lead nice lives. The trick is underneath the surface, when one bad thing happens to our main character “Ellie” and then another that affects them all. The title Not To Us serves as kind of a double entendre (love that phrase). These characters believe nothing bad ever happens in the world; they have that “not to us” kind of attitude; and then something bad does happen. That’s where the title came from. I came up with it fairly early on and never questioned whether it was right or not. It is.
Is Ellie based upon a real person? Is Carrie?
Short answers: No. And, no.
Long answers: Ellie is a figment of my imagination. she is the personification of so many women today that strive to have it all–she’s attractive, funny, smart, and accomplished in her own right, but is eclipsed somewhat by the others in her life. She’s not perfect and the reader quickly discovers this early on in the book, but she’s lovable and we want to root for her.
Carrie. Carrie. Carrie. She was so much fun to write. She’s smart, selfish, attractive–a taker, in the extreme. Carries runs her world and she gets what she wants no matter what and/or who she hurts in the process. On the one hand, Carrie appears very giving with Ellie, taking charge in reaching out to Dr. Lisa Chatham, for example. But, on the other hand, she’s Carrie; and she takes what she needs when she needs to, regardless of who she hurts or destroys by doing so. In Carrie’s view, the world rotates around her. That’s it. She was a complex character to write about. Frankly, I like her on a lot of levels., but I dislike what she does to Ellie and Michael in the story.
They (Ellie and Carrie and Michael) are all fictitious characters that I made up…really.
What made you think of this story?
I was washing dishes and looking out the window and thinking about a friend of mine who was dealing with breast cancer. I started asking the question: what would you do if you were confronted with a life threatening disease? Would you change your life up? Make different choices?
That’s where the book started, so I wrote out the first draft and it was about 70,000 words. I thought, hmm, not bad. But then, I started thinking: what if you were focused on yourself and fighting cancer and something else happened that rocked your world in a completely different way? That’s where the story went.
What made you base it in Seattle?
Everything I’ve been writing before this had me in Paris or New York or Chicago. I was constantly doing a ton of research to get it just right. Then, I read a book that was based in Seattle; and I thought the next story I write is going to be around here, so it’s easy to describe and then I won’t have to look everything up all the time and slow the writing process down. And, that is why Not To Us is based on Bainbridge Island (a place I’ve been to, like twice). Ha!
What is your writing process?
Well, I usually go for a manicure on Mondays. Write a couple of hours; then, come back and dust. By three in the afternoon, I’ve changed out of my apron and greet the children at the front door wearing a cotton blue dress and a string of pearls and carry a wooden tray ladened with healthy snacks and iced spring water as they arrive home from school.
No. No. Not really.
My process is that someone just told me that summer’s about over; and somehow, I’ve missed last fall, winter and spring. I’ve been pretty despondent since my birthday in early February, having marked some kind of milestone that no one lets me forget about. Literally, I write or edit or study writing all the time. I am grateful to Costco for frozen lasagna and their Penne pasta with chicken. My family hates all that stuff now because they’ve eaten it so often. I cleaned the bathrooms just yesterday after a month of experimentation with mold. Thank God for Kaboom. If I ever recoup the money that I’m not making by writing full-time and giving up a career in high-tech sales, I’m hiring back my house cleaner, Amy, in a proverbial heartbeat.
More…on my writing process?
I’ve been lucky enough (smart enough) to sign up for classes at The Writer’s Studio out of New York. I take these online classes (10-week sessions). I just finished my sixth session (at the Fiction III level) this summer. These classes have upped my craft exponentially. I can’t keep up with the ideas I have for novels in taking these classes. Some of my short stories are pretty good, too. I hope to put those out into the world when I can find or buy some time. Of course, this is after I finish the novels I’ve already started on…
And, that’s all I have to say about this… (Yes, I love the movie, Forrest Gump , and Tom Hanks, of course.)