Michele Jaffe and I met in the hottest night-club in Vegas to dance… oops, to talk about her books 🙂 A totally visa-slash-awesome interview, according to Michele herself.
Hey Michele! I’m glad I finally got to meet you! Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Do the hustle do do do do do tra la la do do do–Oh hi! I didn’t see you there! I was just practicing my groovy roller disco moves. Doing the hustle on skates isn’t as easy as it…what? You don’t care about my roller disco moves? You want to talk about my books? Oh, yeah, right. Just let me take off my skates. Okay, ready. What do you want to know?
You’re Pisces, aren’t you? I know they are usually sensitive, intuitive but really really escapist! Are you a typical Fish?
Escapist? Me? No WAY. I am like a little robot, working all day diligently at my computer, except when I have to get up to bake cookies, or go to the mall to see what new clothes they got in because what if there is the PERFECT new dress or pair of jeans and I wait too long and they are all sold out, or play with my shoes, or see what new videos are on MTV, or roller disco, or stare at the wall, or…ahem. Where was I? Oh, right, being all focused and stuff.
If you could describe yourself with three words, those would be…
Sparkly sparkly sparkly
Now tell us everything about Bad Kitty!
That’s too hard! Ask me an easier question.Okay, fine. Bad Kitty is about seventeen year old Jasmine Callihan who is on vacation with her family at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. All Jas wants is to hang around by the pool, maybe meet the cute guy she spotted at the snack hut and above all prove to her father that she can be a Model Daughter and stay out of trouble. Because Jas has a tinsy problem with trouble; she’s like a trouble magnet. If trouble had a girlfriend, Jas would be it. But despite that, she manages to stay completely Out Of It. For about four minutes. And then she finds herself plunged into a crazy mystery involving a fashion model, an insane killer, and one very bad kitty. And she has to solve it, outwit the murderer and save ten lives relying only on her wits, her friends, and her green eyeshadow.So, pretty much like a normal day in Las Vegas.
How did you get that idea?
I was lounging at the pool at the Venetian and I thought, “What if there was this girl who was lounging at the pool at the Venetian and a cat came out of one of the cabanas and then mayhem ensued and…” and it went from there. Which is why, if you are a writer, it is very important to spend a lot of time lounging at pools. For your Art.
Are you like Jasmine?
Sigh. I wish. Jas is way cooler than I am. For one thing, she is taller than me, so she looks excellent in cowboy boots with skirts while I look iper stupid in them. She is also smarter than me, like she would never decide to dye her hair purple and then rinse it out in the shower thus dying her entire body purple too. The only thing we have in common is that we are both flat chested, and we both have crazy hair. Every time I pass a poster for a missing kitten or puppy, I pat my hair to see if its in there. Once I swear my hair stole the lady sitting next to me on the airplane’s Toblerone bar. It was my hair! Really!
I heard you’re planning a sequel… when will it be out? Could you tell us more about the story?
The sequel should be out next year. The story, well…basically it’s Bad Kitty Italian style! Which means more: more mayhem, more mystery, more forensics, more pals, more kissing, more toxic fashion disasters, plus pizza and gelato and pasta and a shoot out at Prada and a chase in a gondola.
How did you start writing (I heard you already wrote books before, but Bad Kitty is your first book for teens)?
Bad Kitty is my seventh novel. My other six are adult books, four historical romances and two serial killer thrillers. All of my books are mysteries because mysteries are my favorite thing to read. And that’s basically how I got started writing–because I loved to read so much. Also I was training to be a professor of literature at Harvard and I realized I didn’t want to be a university professor because I don’t have the right hair or clothes for that, but I needed some kind of job, but the only skills I had were reading a writing and lounging around in my underwear. And the only job I could think of where those three skills would be useful was being a writer.
How do you imagine your reader? You know, when you say to yourself: “there’s somebody reading my book right now”…who do you picture?
Someone looking really grim and miserable. I’m always convinced everyone is going to hate my books and want to use them as wrapping paper.
Always wanted to know… why tacos?
It is a little known fact that TACOS is actually short for Tasty And Crisp Out-of-this-world Sensation. Okay, that is not true I just made it up this second. But I love tacos. With their corn tortilla outside and delicious chicken or steak and salsa inside…Heaven in food form. I have met people who do not love tacos, but without exception that is because they have never had good tacos. A good taco is one of the most fantastico things in the world. As good as sparkly shoes. Yes! I said it!
You’re a huge shopping fan… so, how do you shop, Michele? Are you spending hours looking for THE perfect outfit or is it random (I like it, I take it)? Where do you prefer to shop?
I am an equal opportunity shopper, which means I will shop anywhere, at any time. Stores, the internet, night clubs (ME: that top is so cute? GIRL IN LINE FOR THE BATHROOM AT NIGHT CLUB: thanks ME: Can I buy it from you?). I employ the Long Term Quest model shopping for the perfect outfit if I have a specific event to go to, but in general I am more of a “ooooooooooooh so cute! must go buy it! and then find shoes to match! and a tiny hat! and perhaps a really awesome necklace!” kind of shopper. I like to buy things in outfits (even my underwear) because otherwise I get so distracted playing with combinations of my clothes and accessories that I forget to leave the house.
Do you take your ideas from your own life? Or do you prefer to make your characters discover new things by themselves?
Well, I do a lot of research for my books (testing which lounges at the Venetian have the best angle for sunning, eating off the room service menu to know whether the mini-egg rolls or the bagel dogs are best, meeting with the real CSI police here in Vegas to make sure my forensics are all accurate) so a lot of ideas come from that. And I’m pretty much interested in everything except professional Bass fishing, so many of the fascinations and ideas my characters have come from my own life. But characters do take on interests and personalities of their own that I never could have guessed. I usually have to get to about page 50 before I know who everyone is. Right now I’m working on a new series but I’m launching it through a short story that is only about 60 pages long; that was a huge challenge for me because it barely gave me time to get introduced to all the characters, let alone have them *do* anything. After that, I had to lie around eating bon bons on the couch for a WEEK to recover from the ordeal.
Can you tell us about your new series?
Yes! No one knows about this yet, you are the very first people I’m telling. The new series is about a girl named Miranda Kiss who–what? my agent is on the phone? And she says there’s a reason no one knows about the new series? It’s supposed to be top secret? Until the short story, called Kiss & Tell comes out next April? Okay FINE. Sigh. My lips are sealed.
Do you have some advice for aspiring authors?
I have three pieces of advice:1. Write write write. Writing is 90% about discipline, just sitting down to do it. If you start today and write one page a day, by the end of a year you will have a whole book. Easy right? BWAHAHAHAHAH. Ahem. I mean, go for it!2. Develop good customer service skills. Not everyone gets a book deal right away–a lot of writers have to work other jobs for years before they can write full time. I waited tables, worked as an assistant librarian, passed out lasagna samples in supermarkets, taught sexual education, Shakespeare, and Charm School, and gift wrapped packages at a department store. Among other things. 3. Grow a thick skin. When I was in college, my freshman writing instructor sat me down and said, “Please, Michele, please whatever you do, become a scientist. Because you are the worst writer I have EVER read in my LIFE.” Which, you know, was cheery. And I obviously ignored her. But it taught me an important lesson–there are always going to be people who don’t like your work, and for some mysterious reason they are always going to be way WAY louder about telling you that than anyone saying anything nice. If you want to stay creative and stay focused, you have to learn to let that roll off of you. Not that I have learned that yet. But, you know, life is a thrilling journey.
The usual “writing question”, how do you work?
I work every day, five to seven days a week, from nine in the morning to nine at night. HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! No, really, I do. Mostly. Except when the shopping thing happens. Or when the weather is really nice and I need to go driving around in my car with the top down. Or when I have to get zebra stripes painted on my toe nails. Or…My favorite places to work are in my office, which is pink with zebra carpeting and a huge crystal chandelier, or in my dining room, which is purple with a green table and a huge disco ball and easy access to the chocolate chip cookie dough I keep in the freezer, or in a cabana at the pool at the Wynn Hotel where they have candy bars in the refrigerator and Evian water to mist yourself and I can get burgers from room service. Sometimes when I am at the pool I also work with my eyes closed floating on a raft. FOR MY ART!
What about the writer’s block?
Oooh the dread Writer’s Block! Also known as MyBrainIsFrozenHelp-itis! I think every author experiences writer’s block in different ways and for different reasons. I’ve had a variety from the mild kind that comes when I am on page 70 of a book and either there’s a mistake in the plot on page 20 I didn’t even realize was there, or I’ve written myself into a hole and what I thought should happen next can’t happen next, which goes away when I fix the mistake or do a little replotting. And then there’s the more serious kind of writer’s block when you get a reallllllllllllllllllllllly bad review or someone says something really mean about your book or you are just having a really crap day; that kind can only be cured by sitting on the couch eating ice cream and watching MTV for 24 hours straight. Finally there’s the most severe kind that goes on and on and on for no apparent reason and requires professional assistance (a writing coach or therapist) to help you out of. But most people don’t have that kind, which means that in my experience writer’s block can almost always be cured by either getting deeper into your book or taking a little vacation from it. If you don’t know which one you need, try one and then the other! The important thing is that when the writer’s block is gone, you must celebrate with a delicious snack, because writer’s block is traumatic and you will need to restore your strength.
Would like to add something, Michele?
Only thank you! This was totally visa-slash-awesome.
And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question: You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money (except buying tacos :)?
Call a friend and take her out for lunch.
“Tea or Coffee?”
Saturday evening. Book or Disco? Going out! Then reading a book all day in bed Sunday to recover
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? Beach. I am allergic to nature if it doesn’t come accompanied by a turquoise ocean with pretty fishes in it. Or someone serving drinks with paper umbrellas in them.
Country or City ? City city city. Nature: BAD. City: FANTASTICO!
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ? Comedy. I only like things with happy endings. Or with The Rock in them. I will make an exception for him.
Shy or Easy-going ? Both! is that possible? Sometimes I am shy. And sometimes I like dancing on top of tables at night clubs.
Serious or Funny ? Very very serious. I am a paragon of seriousness at all times. The queen of the serious people. If I had a celebrity fragrance it would be called I’m Totally Serious. Seriously.
Traveler or not ? Traveler extreme! I love to travel, especially to places with delicious snacks, preferably wrapped in puff pastry.
Sporty or not ? Hmm. I am deeply and tragically uncoordinated but I do go to the gym and lift weights. But really that is only so I can continue to eat tacos and fit into my wardrobe at the same time.
The leader or not ? Hmmm. well, I AM kind of bossy…
TV show : Project Runway and Made
Movie : Clueless
Book : Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis
Music : Anything I can swing my arms wildly during while running on the treadmill, thus frightening everyone around me. Right now I’m really into Goldfrapp, Cansei de Ser Sexy and Cooler Kids (even though they are old).
Food (added this one especially for you 🙂 : gee, well, you know, I hardly eat, more like a bird than a human I a–HAHAHAHA! LIES! My favorite food would have to be TACOS!!!!!!!!!!! But I also love very much pizza and burgers and anything featuring the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘gooey’. Oh and also anything miniaturized, like mini-pizzas or mini-scones or mini-pie or mini-doughnuts or mini-croissants or mini-puff pastry filled with cherry goodness and mini–man, I’m hungry now.
Cities : Las Vegas and Venice because they are both cRaZy.
Favourite place to write in : my pink satin underware with the dice embroidered on them from Agent Provocateur. Wait, is that a place?
Quote or Motto: Make up not war.
Thank you, Michele!
Michele’s site: http://www.michelejaffe.com/