Archive for the ‘Veronika Asks Interviews’ Category

Pour inaugurer la version française de “Veronika Asks”, Fanny Joly, auteur (entre autres) de “Marion” et “Hotel Bordemer”, a accepté de répondre à mes questions, dans la joie et la bonne humeur… comme à son habitude 🙂
Interview in French, dating back to 2006.

Bonjour Fanny ! Ravie de vous accueillir chez « Veronika Asks » ! Merci d’avoir accepté d’être la première interviewée. Pourriez-vous vous présenter aux lecteurs ?
Bonjour. Merci de m’accueillir ainsi, je suis très honorée. Donc, je suis écrivain, j’ai 51 ans et je gagne ma vie avec ma plume depuis l’âge de 16 ans. Mon 1er livre jeunesse est sorti en 1986 et j’en ai publié beaucoup depuis. Plus de deux cent…

Vous intéressez-vous à l’Astrologie ? De quel signe êtes-vous ? Correspondez vous aux caractéristiques de ce signe ?
Non, je ne m’intéresse pas à l’astrologie. Si un horoscope me tombe sous le nez je le lis parfois mais pas toujours. Je suis sagittaire.

Comment (et surtout quand) avez–vous commencé à écrire ?
D’abord j’ai toujours beaucoup lu, dévoré. Etant jeune, mes vacances commençaient par aller vendre mes livres scolaires chez Gibert et acheter des romans avec l’argent ( privilège que mes parents m’accordaient)… A mes yeux lire et écrire sont un même besoin sous deux formes, comme manger (lire) et cuisiner (écrire). A part ça, j’ai commencé à écrire un peu par hasard. Quand j’avais 16 ans, donc, ma soeur qui a 20 ans de plus que moi et qui s’ennuyait dans le métier d’avocate, m’a confié qu’elle avait envie de faire du theâtre, de faire rire. Je l’ai aidée à écrire des sketches, de façon très naturelle, très joyeuse.

Comment êtes-vous arrivée à publier votre premier livre ?
Mon 1er livre publié (chez Centurion devenu depuis Bayard Edition), MARCEAU BONAPPÉTIT était un album, épuisé aujourd’hui. Je l’avais co-écrit avec une amie médecin. C’est elle qui s’est battue pour convaincre un éditeur après s’être fait jeter par plusieurs. Je n’aurais peut-être pas eu ce courage. J’ai eu de la chance, chez cet éditeur travaillait Jacqueline Kerguenno qui se trouvait être aussi l’une des créatrices de J’Aime Lire. On a sympathisé. Elle m’a poussée : « pourquoi n’essayez-vous pas d’écrire un J’Aime Lire ? » et c’est parti…

Comment travaillez-vous ? Avez-vous parfois le syndrome de la « page blanche » ? Si oui, que faites-vous ?
Je travaille cinq à six heures par jour, tous les jours sans exception… J’aime être bien concentrée. Je n’ai pas peur de la page blanche, jamais. Je fais des brouillons, des monstres, des recherches, des plans, des synopsis, sans me censurer. Je m’attends à ce que les débuts soient nuls. Ils le sont. C’est à force de retravailler que j’arrive à me trouver un peu moins nulle. Je suis habituée. Ce fonctionnement demande du temps. Il ne faut jamais se laisser prendre à la gorge par le délai. Mon angoisse se situe plutôt là…

Auriez-vous un conseil pour ceux qui souhaitent écrire (et se faire publier) ?
Lire. Acheter des cahiers de brouillons. Et ne jamais s’impatienter.

Le feuilleton Marion, qui est publié dans Je Bouquine, a un grand succès auprès des jeunes. Comment est née Marion ?
Un peu par hasard. En tout cas pas comme un personnage de série. C’est l’enthousiasme des lecteurs qui a fait de Marion une « récurrente » (le 11ème tome sort en octobre). En 1994, ayant publié une dizaine de J’Aime Lire, j’ai été contactée par Jacqueline Cohen, qui s’occupait de Je Bouquine à l’époque. « Tu n’aurais pas envie d’essayer d’écrire pour les plus grands ? » Et c’est parti. Rebelote (cf plus haut).

Pouvez-vous nous en dire un peu plus sur les prochaines aventures de Marion (va-t-elle enfin réussir à attirer l’attention de Félix ?) ?
Dans les prochains mois, Marion va… faire des expériences capillaires, jouer du théâtre classique, manger du curry, avoir la fièvre, rire, pleurer, voyager et déclencher pas mal de catastrophes, comme d’habitude… (J’écris en ce moment l’épisode de janvier 2007) Côté Félix, il va se passer des tas de choses bien sûr… Mais pas « eau de rose & prince charmant ». Sinon ce ne serait pas Marion. Ni moi.

Laquelle de vos histoires préférez-vous et avez-vous le plus de plaisir à retrouver ?
Toutes. Mes histoires sont comme mes enfants. J’y mets mon cœur en entier.

Vous dites aussi écrire pour le théâtre (les one woman shows de Sylvie Joly, par exemple) et la télévision. Quelles sont les différences entre l’écriture d’un scénario et d’un roman ?
Dans l’écriture scénaristique, le style compte moins… Seuls les dialogues seront perceptibles par le public. Le reste est utilitaire, transitoire. Péripéties d’abord. Dans un roman, tout compte. Un auteur de talent peut faire dix pages sur un rien. Ou même cent.

Ne voudriez-vous pas essayer d’autres genres ? Écrire pour les adultes, par exemple ?
Vous ne croyez pas si bien dire… Mon 1er roman adulte sort en octobre. Il s’appelle LA VIE COMME EVA. Il m’a été commandé par… une de mes éditrices jeunesse qui est passée « dans la cour des grands » chez Intervista. Ça m’a donné bien du travail, bien des doutes. Catel m’a fait le grand plaisir d’accepter d’illustrer ce texte. 250 pages de texte et 18 dessins Noir et Blanc.

Vos romans sont publiés en 14 langues. Lesquelles ? Suivez-vous toutes les sorties de tous vos livres (dans toutes les langues) ?
Je ne tiens pas la liste mais comme ça de mémoire : anglais, allemand, grec, italien, coréen, espagnol, portugais, polonais, hébreu…

Quels sont vos projets pour cette année ?
Partir en vacances (après-demain)… Des vacances studieuses puisque je dois rendre un épisode de Marion le 15 août, un texte chez Hachette image le 4 septembre, à nouveau Marion le 15 septembre, le 7ème épisode d’une BD historique que je co-écris un mois sur deux dans J’aime Lire : SUZIE et GODEFROY vers le 20 septembre, le 10ème tome de ma série DROLE D’ECOLE chez Pocket le 30 septembre. Après, hé bien je suivrai la sortie de mon roman adulte et puis… on verra.

Et maintenant la-question-qui-n’a-pas-vraiment-de-rapport-avec-les-livres-mais-qu’on-aime-quand-même : vous venez de trouver 100€. Qu’allez vous en faire ? Sans trop réfléchir…
J’achèterai sans doute des livres ou des disques ! C’est mon principal poste de dépense… A moins que mes enfants ne me les piquent avant !

“J’aime…”

Série télé : Je ne regarde pas la télé. Je n’ai jamais regardé une série ni un film en entier.
Livre :
Je dirais plutôt : auteurs. Comment citer tous ceux que j’aime ? Balzac, Maupassant, Zola, Mauriac, Marcel Aymé, Roald Dahl, Alison Lurie, Elisabeth Taylor, Jean Paul Dubois, Jean Echenoz, Weyergans, Ludmilla Oulitskaïa, Anita Brookner, Alice Munro, Magda Szabo… Je m’arrête mais je pourrais continuer…
Film :
Un de mes films préférés : RETOUR A HOWARDS END de James Ivory.
Musique :
Du jazz, piano, saxo, voix…
Ville :
Paris.
Endroit pour écrire :
Un lit et une paire de boules Quiès.
Dicton, mot, proverbe :
« Je m’empresse de rire de tout de peur d’être obligé d’en pleurer » Beaumarchais.

“Pile ou Face?”

Samedi soir. Sortir ou lire un livre ? Lire un livre.
En vacances. Plage ou Montagnes ?
Plage.
Au cinéma. Drame ou Comédie ?
Comédie.
Ville ou campagne ?
Ville.
Timide ou communicative ?
Communicative.
Sérieuse ou rigolote ?
Rigolote, j’espère.
Voyageuse ou pas ?
Voyageuse.

Merci Fanny!
Le site officiel de Fanny Joly: http://www.fannyjoly.com

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Garden gnomes need love too. Today, I get the chance to interview director, writer and voice actor Kelly Asbury. Kelly answers my questions about his new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet”, movie-making, Ventriloquism…and much more.

On… Kelly Asbury:

Welcome on Veronika Asks, Kelly! Thank you for being my interviewee. You’re a director, writer, voice actor and illustrator. Did you achieve everything you wanted to or is there something else you’d like to try?
I’d like to keep doing it all again and get better with each try!

Which animated movie made you want to become involved in this industry?
I saw Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES when I was about 7-years-old and that was that.

Which one of the movies you worked on is your favorite?
I”ve enjoyed them all to a large degree, but, as of now, GNOMEO AND JULIET is my favorite!

In most animated movies, the hero often gets help from a fairy godmother. Do you have a fairy godmother? 🙂
My high school art teacher Mrs. Minnie McMillan is as close to a fairy godmother as I’ve ever come.


On “Gnomeo and Juliet”:

“Gnomeo and Juliet” is “an epic tale on a tiny scale”. The making of the movie too, must have been epic. Could you share your best and “worst” “Gnomeo & Juliet” memories?
My best memories are too many to mention here, but suffice it to say that I loved working with all the brilliantly talented artists and technicians I had the priviledge to be surrounded by. My worst memory is when it was all over and we had to say “goodbye for now.” It was like parting with family.

Fairytales often teach us valuable life lessons. What about “Gnomeo and Juliet”? Is there a moral behind the fun?
Don’t judge a gnome by the color of his hat!

Are there other classics you’d enjoy “gnoming”?
Been there, gnomed that.


On Animation and Movie-Making:

You’ve worked on amazing animated movies such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Shrek”, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”, “Beauty and the Beast”… What do a storyboard artist, assistant art director, story artist and director do exactly?
A storyboard artist works closely with the director to tell the story in still drawings, much like a comic strip. The storyboards serve as the blueprint from which the entire movie is planned. An assistant art director helps the production designer and art director develop and design the look of the movie from the environments to the colors and lighting for a given scene. A director oversees and shepherds all the creative decisions from the start to the finish of production.

What is the difference between a “good story” and a “story worth turning into a movie”?
All stories are worth turning into a movie and all stories are only as good as the teller.

Once an idea is born, how is an animated movie made? Could you briefly describe the movie-making process, taking your new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet” as an example?
Idea + script + storyboards + editing + many revisions + designs + voices + animation + surfacing + color + sound + sound mixing + final print = animated movie. A process of usually no less than 4 years.

I’ve heard it will soon be possible to “revive” dead actors thanks to the new technologies. Does that mean it will soon be possible to see new movies with those long-gone stars? How far do you think special effets may go?
I think the sky is the limit, but the stories have to be good and the characters have to be engaging or none of it’s worth a hill of beans.


On “Dummy Days”:

You wrote a non-fiction book titled “Dummy Days: America’s Favorite Ventriloquists from Radio and Early TV”. How and when did your passion for this incredible art form start? Have you ever considered becoming a ventriloquist yourself?
I was given a toy ventriloquist dummy as a kid and never was very good at actually being a ventriloquist. Still, I’ve always loved puppets and magic and those interests remained into my adulthood. After searching for a good book on the history of ventriloquists, I became frustrated and decided to write one myself.

Who is your favorite ventriloquist? And the greatest dummy of all-time?
My favorite ventriloquist is my good friend Mr. Jimmy Nelson, who’s famous for those old 1960s Nestle’s Quik commercials featuring his dummy Danny O’Day and the singing dog, Farfel. The most famous ventriloquist dummy of all time is Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy, who, in the 1930s and 40s was as popular as Mickey Mouse.

Do you think there’s room for another Golden Age of Ventriloquism?
There’s room for anything!


My…

Hero: Walt Disney
Favorite Animated Movie:
DUMBO
Favorite Animated Character:
Mickey Mouse
Favorite Actor/Actress:
Marlon Brando/Meryl Streep
Motto:
There’s always something new to learn.
Dream:
I’m living it
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken
Favorite City:
Los Angeles, CA
Favorite Music:
Anything that makes me want to sing along.
Hobby:
Deep sleep

Bonus Question: You’ve found $100. How will you use that money?
I’d first try hard to find out who lost it, in the hopes of getting it back to them. If that failed I’d throw a KFC block party.

Thank you, Kelly!

You can follow Kelly Asbury on Twitter: http://twitter.com/KellyAsbury
…and discover “Gnomeo and Juliet”: http://www.gnomeoandjuliet.com

Dr. Stephen M. Thompson answers my questions about lucid dreaming, the Chagos Islands and his novel “Coma Story”. When fiction meets History.

Good morning Stephen, welcome on “Veronika Asks”! Could you please briefly introduce yourself? Then, if you could describe yourself – and Coma Story – with three adjectives…

Thanks for having me. My name is Stephen, I’m a working author who lives in St. Peters, Missouri. I got drifted from Singapore to the U.S. just before the millennium bug.

Me: Creative, Motivated, Kind

My book: Humorous, Shocking, Enlightening

In your novel Coma Story, coma survivor Aldan Foy and Diego Garcia native Tarzan conspire to get back the Chagos Islands – without rioting and violence. What sparked the idea for Coma Story? Why did you base your novel on the Diego Garcia depopulation?

Let me give a real brief blurb first. Coma Story is an alternate history fiction based on a recent unfortunate event, i.e. the merciless depopulation of Diego Garcia Island (once part of Mauritius) by the British to help the U.S. build a massive military base. Aldan Foy, when in coma, gets into the habit of lucid dreaming. Along with his native friend Tarzan, he finds a way to get back the islands from the superpowers – without a fight.

However, he wakes up after four years and realizes nothing’s changed. Then he starts recollecting his dreams. Coma “recovery” was the main theme with which I started the book. Lucid dreaming followed as an after thought. Integrating the plight of the Chagossian people was kind of a miracles bold idea, as I stumbled upon their unthinkable history during a non-related research. Though it’s a dark subject, the novel is very inspirational at many levels and fun to read – or at least that’s the feedback I have been receiving.

Why lucid dreaming?

Good question. But tell me, what would one do in coma when trapped in his or her non-responsive body, but then aware of what’s happening around? Hypothetically, all that one could do is dream. To add a clever element, I inserted the scientifically proved concept of lucid dreaming into the story. Believe me, I spent countless hours reading about lucid dreaming, which is indeed a fascinating subject. I just fell down the rabbit hole, I guess.

Your descriptions are very colorful; you seem to know a lot about the life and story of the Chagossians. Could you describe “the making of” Coma Story? Did you make researches? Did you travel to Mauritius?

That’s a question I have been asked a lot and I take it as a compliment. No, I did not had the opportunity to visit Mauritius nor had the privilege to meet a single Chagos islander so far. However, as I started writing I reached out to various organizations, that had been working on many spectrum of the Chagos situation. Though my research progression was not easy, I was lucky to get in touch with some awesome people from various sectors – military, social activists, politicians and service groups. Then again, Internet and local libraries were great assets as well. Since this is a sensitive subject from a military perspective (then again, it’s about real people who are still suffering), I had to go through strange challenges in finding middle ground. No wonder, it took two years to complete Coma Story.

You say Coma Story is “in no way an attempt at a definitive history of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) deportation during the Cold War nor a catalyst for any anti-base”. What is it, in that case? What is the purpose of the novel?

I would like to emphasize that Coma Story is not only about exposing BIOT events. It’s also about coma recovery and lucid dreaming – told in an approachable and balanced style. In terms of BIOT the purpose is simple: help mainstream discover the story of the Chagos Islands and do something for the displaced people.

You seem to share a lot of things with Aldan. Did you base any character of Coma Story on real people?

Yes, to some extent. Many sub-events or small part of a character are in fact based on real inspirational folks I know. For example, I had put in an occurrence about at-risk school programs, which is something I have personally been involved with for a few years now, as I am an advocate for preventing high school dropout situation. Tarzan’s childhood accident recovery account is a real – and moving – event in the life of a good friend of mine, who is now a successful movie star. In many aspects, Coma Story was fun and interesting for me to write. It was sometimes difficult having a life outside the book.

You’re an IT techie; how did you come to writing? Can you remember the first story you’ve ever written?

I started writing because I had to. I took up technical writing at my first job – documenting software features and compiling training materials. Subsequently, I started writing a lot. Then came dissertations, technical papers, online journals, collaborative blogs, wiki biographies and one fine day – books.

Can you tell us more about your first book “Land of Opportunity Forever”?

Sure. It’s a non-fiction book where I discuss social issues in the U.S. and its links to superpower status sustainability. Land of Opportunity Forever not only fetched me couple of awards but established me a as a social and current affairs author.

What is a typical working day for Stephen Thompson?

When I write, I actually spend most of my time researching with Internet and end up actually writing for a couple of hours. In any case my working day is usually not that organized, so let’s not even go there.

Finally, an off-topic question: you’ve found 100$, how will you use that money?

I would buy a bunch of copies of Land of Opportunity Forever and give them for free to teenagers at my book events and speaking engagements.

What are you working on right now? What about your plans?

Well, there are a couple of inspirational people, whom I am familiar with, I’d love to write biographies of. But it seems to be an extremely daunting task for now. So am sticking to my previous life’s profession and it’s going to be business book series; starting with Customer Service. I am not under any contact though.

Would you like to add something, Stephen?

I would like to thank you for this opportunity. I certainly enjoyed the interview.


“My Favorite…”

Author & Book: So many! It’s really hard for me to pick one.
Movie & TV Show: IRT Deadliest Roads
Food: Thai and ice-creams
City: I am not a big fan of cities in general, but I would have to say my favorite is Amstelveen, Holland.
My Idol: My parents
Music: Abba, 90’s and I love all kinds of Indian music.
Hobby: Golf and car shows
Place to write: Home
Motto: Get your parents dream for you and follow their dream.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea of-course, with cream and sugar.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Restaurant or at home.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? None, though I can handle both.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megalopolis? Crazy because we currently live in a kind of sleepy town. Both suit me.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Drama? Whatever by daughter gets as I am not allowed to pick.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to travel and learning new things.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Proud to be a Couch Potato, though I do like to golf.
Leader or Follower? I would follow only if I trust.
Shy or Easy-going? I’m very easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Combination of both, but maybe a bit more funny.

Thank you Stephen!
You can learn more about Dr. Stephen M. Thompson and his books at: www.ComaStory.com


“Coma Story” review by Veronika Asks

Have you ever wondered what the Diego Garcia depopulation is? What do you know about the lives of the Chagossians, forced out of their island?

In “Coma Story”, Aldan Foy gets the opportunity to meet the victims of the Diego Garcia depopulation and get a glimpse of the destinies of the Chagossians. With the help of Diego Garcia native Tarzan, Aldan conspires to get back the Chagos Islands – without rioting and violence! And, as surprising as it may sound, the pacific fighters win…until Aldan emerges from coma and realizes his incredible project and victory were a lucid dream.

Stephen Thompson’s “Coma Story” helps shed some light on the Diego Garcia depopulation and introduces the reader to a wide range of colorful and sympathetic characters (my personal favorite is Tarzan). The novel gives us the opportunity to learn more about this historical event and travel to Mauritius and Diego Garcia with Aldan and Tarzan. An interesting read for those who want to know more about lucid dreaming – and fight every day, whatever it takes.

Acclaimed author Anne Fine talks about writing, editing and getting published. The Carnegie Medal winner shares her views on the publishing market, book competitions and movie adaptations.

Dear Anne, thank you for visiting me on “Veronika Asks”! If you could describe yourself – and your books – with three adjectives…
Me: Impatient, curious, restless
My books: Cruel, funny, unsettling

What are you working on right now?
A comedy for children of 8-11 – the third in my Mountfield Family Series (following on from The More the Merrier, and Eating Things on Sticks).

How did you come to writing? Can you remember the first story you’ve ever written?
At Northampton High School for Girls, in the upper thirds, I and my best friend Gillian wrote a book called Agatha the Witch. We took turns to write chapters in a French Vocabulary book, and the English teacher allowed us to read each episode out on Monday mornings at the beginning of our lesson. Alas, the book has been lost, and I can remember nothing of the story.

How did you break into the publishing world? How much time did you spend looking for an agent or publisher?
I didn’t even know about agents. I sent my first book off to two publishers. The first sent it back saying they did not publish children’s books (clearly, I’d never heard of the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book, either). The second sent a really positive letter, regretting that my book wasn’t quite right for their list. I thought she was just being polite, and threw the typescript under my bed. Two years later I fished it out to submit it for the Guardian/Puffin Kestrel Award, and was runner up after Jan Mark. Both our careers started with that prize because, at the prize ceremony, the agent Gina Pollinger asked if she could represent me. She sold the book to Methuen Children’s Books a few months later. So I am a huge fan of competitions.

Your views on the evolution of the publishing market: was it easier – or, on the contrary, more difficult – to get published in the 80’s and 90’s? What do you think of ebooks? Are paperbacks meant to die?
I truly have no idea about the first book – though I do believe that a really, really first rate first book will still finally find a publisher. But I do guess that since established novelists are finding it harder and harder to get almost automatic publication of further works, it must be more difficult than ever to find a first publisher. It’s obvious that ebooks are storming away (tellingly, this year I took a flight from Manchester to Los Angeles, on which most readers had printed books; then a further flight up to Seattle on which the majority of readers were reading from screens). I don’t for a moment think paperbacks will die. But I do suspect they will turn much more into Print on Demand, because of the total collapse of the range in bookshops.

Authors often complain about editors “butchering” their manuscripts. What about you? Do you have complaints or did you get used to it?
When I was much younger, I had a copy editor for my third book (The Stone Menagerie) whose plan was clearly to rewrite my book in the way she herself would have written it. Luckily the commissioning editor took my side. I take enormous care to edit myself as well as I can before I submit anything, and so my in-house editors tend to go very easy, and I appreciate their input as it usually airbrushes out mistakes and infelicities and therefore improves the book. Currently I am delighted with the skills of the editors in all of the publishing houses I use (that, I admit, is unusual; but it is true. I don’t know if I’m currently just lucky). I do hear horror stories. On the other hand, I read so many books that seem to me to cry out for stricter editing that I might be on the publisher’s side more often than many of my author friends might imagine….

Do you pay attention to bad reviews? How do you handle criticism?
If it’s dishonest (misquoting, axe-grinding etc), stupid (e.g. “I did not like this book because I did not like anyone in it”) or wrong (“Children don’t want to read about this sort of thing”) then I have learned to ignore it. If it puts a finger on a real weakness in your book that you yourself were trying to pretend wasn’t there, it really hurts. Since they are so much longer and can therefore be more thoughtful, I tend to find the foreign reviews – particularly of my adult novels – well worth reading and often useful.

Did you improve your writing skills (attending classes or reading special books)?
No. But I did have superb English teachers at school. And I do read a lot of excellent novels.

What is a typical working day for Anne Fine?
Wake up. Make tea. Back to bed. Press ahead (pencil and rubber). Drain teapot. Get up. Breakfast. Walk dog. Type up earlier scribblings on computer. Correct, correct, correct. Quick lunch. Walk dog. Do office work. Read in bath. Supper. Walk dog. Go to bed.
A typical ‘event’ day is just alarm clocks, trains, rain, clockwatching, heavy bag carrying, more trains. (Grim.)

Could you describe “the making of a novel”?
Not really. Before I start, I have a sort of vision of what the book will be like. The instant I begin, the work seems to depart entirely from my mental template. I struggle through. Surprisingly, at the end, I can often look back and the book mirrors my original intention far more than I would have thought possible.

Do you have writing secrets or tips for aspiring authors?
Guess the maximum length of the book. Keep a chart of thousands of words written (like a child’s chart of days to the end of term). It takes so long to finish a book that it is encouraging to cross the stages to the end off one by one. It reminds you the task is finite.

You are a fellow of the “Royal Society of Literature”. What was your reaction? Did you use Byron’s pen or Dickens’ quill to inscribe your name on the official roll?
I took it as a tremendous compliment. I used Byron’s pen.

Do you have a favorite book among your own works?
Of the adult novels I love Raking the Ashes best. And for the books for younger  people, it’s a toss up between How To Write Really Badly and Up on Cloud Nine (both for personal, rather than literary reasons).

The famous movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” is based on your satirical novel ‘Madame Doubtfire”. Were you involved in the making of the movie?
Not at all. I don’t really like working with other people much, so I left the whole thing to the film makers. All I asked was that they would not make the children bratty, and they did indulge me in that.

Are you satisfied with the result?
If a book has paid off your mortgage, it’s rude to criticize – especially if you yourself chose to have nothing to do with it. Let’s just say it’s not the film I would have made. The tone and the circumstances of the book are very different. Essentially, the filmmakers paid for the ‘ex-husband dressing up as his own children’s nanny’ idea – and a few of my jokes (And if I’d made the film, probably no one would ever have heard of it).

Finally, my favorite off-topic question: you’ve found £100, how will you use that money?
Half to Sight Savers (I dread, absolutely dread, perhaps one day not being able to read). And half going out for dinner.

What about your plans?
As usual, I plan to take a few weeks off, go on holiday with Richard, lounge on a beach, etc etc. As usual, I have started another comedy for young children.

“My Favorite…”

Author: Tolstoy
Book: Middlemarch
Movie & TV Show: McCabe and Mrs Miller. Have I Got News for You
Food: Avocados
City: Melbourne
Music: Bach
Hobby: Reading
Place to write: Bed
Motto: Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.
Idol: Andrew Carnegie

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea (except mid morning, when coffee).
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Disco & Restaurant
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? I say megapolis because I already live in a sleepy little town and really, really fancy a change.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Drama? Comedy
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Hate to move.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato
Leader or Follower? Well, I’m bossy. So Leader, I suppose (though I’d hate to have to do it).
Shy or Easy-going? Easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Strangely, serious. But I’ll fall in love with anyone who can make me laugh.

Thank you, Anne!
Anne Fine’s official website: http://annefine.co.uk/

Bestselling author Rosalind Miles answers my questions about writing, women writers and the ladies of the Arthurian world and gives readers useful advice…

Hello Rosalind, thank you for answering my questions on Veronika Asks. Could you please briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
I am an Englishwoman who always wanted to write. I went to a very strict and academic girls’ school, but then I got to university to study and I never looked back.

Then, if you could describe yourself with three words…
Lover, mother, writer.

You’re Capricorn, aren’t you? I’ve heard they’re usually known for being practical, reliable and thoughtful. But they’re also quite temperamental. Do you consider yourself a typical Capricorn?
I’m not temperamental. For me a Capricorn is down to earth, pragmatic, reliable and hard working, and I like to think I am all those things. But the goat must climb. That’s where the creativity, the fantasy comes in. If you tied our front legs together (which all societies try to do with energetic, ambitious and aspiring females) we Capricorns would still climb.

Who were you prior to becoming a full-time novelist?
I had my first job at 13 in a plastics factory when all such work was still done by hand and by female labour. I have worked as a travelling saleswoman, a stable hand, a ganger in a chain factory, all alongside studying and graduating. I then married a fellow student from the university and we had 2 children, a girl and a boy, but I still persisted with graduate work, part-time teaching and trying to write. This was hard because my children were so lovely I really only wanted to be with them!

How did you break into the publishing world?
As a graduate student I had to write 2 theses, one for my M.A. and one for my Ph.D. I then set about trying to get this work published, to no avail. Then I saw an announcement in the literary section of the Times of London that there was to be a new series of studies of the novel, and 20 names were listed, not one of them a woman. I was so enraged I wrote a furious letter to the editor and to my amazement he wrote back to say if you care so much about this, why don’t you write a book for me? Or course I had to write about all the women writers in one volume when each of the men had a volume of their own, but at least it was acknowledged that women wrote fiction too!
That book was called The Fiction of Sex.
Then once I had published that, they asked me what else I wanted to do and I published my doctoral work about Shakespeare, in a book called The Problem of Measure for Measure.

How much time did you spend looking for a publisher (or agent)?
I lucked into my first publisher via the editor who was interested my idea of women writers, but I was still locked into an academic format. But through my husband I met an agent who said if you want to write for the popular market, what would you write? Oh, hold me down! I had a hundred ideas and he sold the first one – Danger: Men At Work.

You write an Arthurian trilogy (composed of three trilogies) with the Guinevere and Isolde trilogies. How was the trilogy born?
The more I studied the story of Guenevere, it was clear that her life fell into three distinct sections.
Also, three is the Goddess number – the old matriarchal religion was based on the holy trinity of a woman’s life: maiden, mother, wise old woman. This concept was hijacked by the Christians who reduced women to the simplest level, virgin and mother (? please!). So all those stories had to be trilogies.

Can you tell us more about the third and final one?
That is still brewing. There are so many Ladies of the Lake in the Arthurian world.

There is a controversy surrounding the Arthurian world: some people suggest Arthur, Guinevere and the Round Table are only part of a legend. Others believe they were real. I even read that some people suggest Arthur was in fact Slavic. What do you know (and think) about it?
In British history, there is no doubt that a national hero emerged at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire in Britain, who may or may not have been called “Arthur”. There were also many Celtic queens regnant like Boudicca and Cartimandua, so we have no problem accepting Guenevere. Around these people and the knights who served them, many stories, myths and legends naturally grew. I am quite sure that a Slavic Arthur could have fulfilled the same role for his people, fighting to protect and preserve the life they knew.

What is a typical working day for Rosalind Miles?
Get up and get into it, don’t mess around! Up at 6, writing this at 11.30 pm, but don’t do it if you don’t love it, and you have to have a life in between, or where will you get your material?

Do you have writing secrets?
Keep at it. Never give in. Fake it till you make it, keep going all the time.

Thank you, Rosalind!
You can learn more about Rosalind Miles and her books at http://www.rosalind.net

Lauren MyracleWhat about some girl talk? Lauren Myracle answers my questions about writing, Internet Messaging, cookies and more! And, whether you’re a teen or tween, you can be sure you’ll find a Lauren Myracle’s book you’ll love.
Warning: the TTYL series are advised for older readers (not tweens), as the themes and language are quite explicit.

Hi Lauren, I’m glad to see you on Veronika Asks! Could you  say a few words about yourself to our readers?
Okey-doke. Well, I’m a writer. I write books for tweens and teens and I LOVE IT. The common thread in my books is that they’re all about friendship, in one way or another, because that’s something I’m endlessly fascinated by. My “Internet Series” books are for teens, while my “Winnie” books (ELEVEN and TWELVE) are for the tween set. . .but I find that there’s a lot of overlap between the readerships.

Then, if you could describe yourself with three words…
Hmm. I think I’ll go with…whimsical, sassy (sassy! sassy is so…sassy!), and kind.

You’re Taurus, aren’t you? Those Bulls, they are known for being warmhearted, determined but also very self-indulgent. Are you a typical Bull, Lauren?
Um, that would be a yes, I suppose. Although I need to work on being more self-indulgent. I’m actually quite monkish at times, but then at other times, I indulge, indulge, indulge!

So, now let’s talk a bit about TTYL, TTFN and L8r, g8r. Tell us more about this series.
Oh, they’re about three dear friends–Zoe, Maddie, and Angela–and their ups and downs as they navigate the crazy terrain of high school. And they’re all told in Instant Messages.

Why did you write this series only with IM messages? Isn’t it too difficult?
Difficult? Heck yeah! But awfully fun, too. And for readers, it’s like getting to eavesdrop of the girls’ inner lives, which I think is appealing. Anyway, I’m always up for a challenge!

And then comes Rhymes with Witches. What is it about?
Popularity gone bad 😉

I also read you write a series with two novels already out, Eleven and Twelve. Tell us more! (will there be a Thirteen?)
I love those books! Thanks for asking about them. I think of them as the ttyl books’ little sister. All the same drama–friends, boys, etc.–but just a little…cleaner. And yes! THIRTEEN is in the works!

How did you start writing?
Well, I picked up a pen…just kidding! Um, I always knew I wanted to be a writer, so at some point in my very early twenties, I said to myself basically, “Put up or shut up.” Meaning, do it or don’t–but if you don’t, then you can’t go whining about it!

How do you write (how, where, when)?
WELL. First you should know that I’ve got three kids, which is both delightful and endlessly complicating. So first I get up, get them up, get the boys off to school or camp or whatever, and, three days a week, drop my daughter off at a wonderful caregiver’s house. And then I go STRAIGHT to Starbucks and get busy writing. I write there because 1) the coffee rocks (and just hush, you anti-Starbuckers!); 2) there are no laundry-machine-ish distractions; and 3) it’s just the most efficient way of getting in as much writing time as I can before going back to get my daughter at noon. Then, while my daughter sleeps, I tend to the busywork deets of being a writer, such as answering fan mail and dealing with other correspondence. Although sometimes I fall asleep. I do love taking naps!

Is there a book you wish you’d written?
Oh, heavens. Anything by Flannery O’Connor. And if I’d written To Kill a Mockingbird? I’d be hugging myself constantly and telling myself how brilliant I am!

Which book(s) would you advise for a perfect girly beach read?
Fireworks! It’s an awesome collection of summer love stories. Verrrrrrry fun!

Off-subject, but still: why this passion for cookies?
Because they’re so yummy, of course! MUST BE HOMEMADE. Just FYI.

What do you think about eBooks?
Never read one.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on How to be Bad, a road trip novel, with two other fabulous YA novelists, E. Lockhart and Sarah Mlynowski. It is soooo much fun. (Oh, and that’s a way to avoid the loneliness pitfall of writing, too. Co-write a book with a buddy! Or two!) I’m also finishing up Thirteen, which is the sequel to Eleven and Twelve, and I’ve just started a prequel to a book of mine called Rhymes with Witches. Eee-gads!

Now, the Nothing-to-do-with-books question: you’ve found $100 in your pocket (lucky you!), how will you use that money?
Hmm. Something frivolous and fun. I’d probably go to this great store in Old Town called White Balcony and buy silly random things like stone eggs and “Bad Girls” lip balm and gorgeous whimsical journals! (Either that or–um, yeah–give it all to charity…)

Would you like to add something, Lauren?
Nah, I’m good. But thanks.


“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? book
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? beach
Country or City ? country. no, city! I don’t know! Both!
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) Comedy
Shy or Easy-going ? both
Serious or Funny ? both
Traveler or not ? traveler
Sporty or not ? sadly not
The Leader or not ? Um…I can be bossy, if that’s what you mean! But it’s always good-hearted…

“Favorite…”

TV show: Grey’s Anatomy
Movie : Harold and Maude
Book : To Kill a Mockingbird
City : Atlanta
Food : chocolate chip cookie
Music : almost ALL
Favourite place to write: Starbucks
Quote or motto : This is your one life. Use it wisely.

Thank you, Lauren!
You can learn more about Lauren and her novels on her website: http://www.laurenmyracle.com/

Nancy J. CohenBeauty and mysteries with author Nancy J. Cohen and her Bad Hair Day Mysteries series!

Hi Nancy, I’m glad to welcome you to the new Veronika Asks blog for the “Mysterious July”! Please describe yourself with three words…
Dedicated, loyal, friendly.

Tell us about your Bad Hair Day Mystery series…
Hairdresser Marla Shore solves crimes with humor and style under the sultry Florida sun. She owns and operates the Cut ‘N Dye salon, which is the backdrop for the series. I like to include issues of importance to Floridians in my stories, as well as topics that interest me so the reader and I both learn something new. Marla chases after suspects at my favorite weekend getaways, so you get a taste for different parts of Florida. Humor is important to the story, as wellas Marla’s romance with Detective Dalton Vail, and her relationships with other friends and family.

Your latest release is Perish by Pedicure. What happens to Marla in this episode?
When Marla takes a job as assistant hairstylist to a platform artist at a beauty show, she doesn’tcount on murder being part of the program. She’s excited to work for Luxor Products, hoping the connection can advance her career. That is, until company director Christine Parks is found dead in her hotel room, face down in a foot bath. Suspect number one is Marla’s college roommate, Georgia Rogers. Since Georgia recommended Marla for the glamorous job, the least Marla can do for her in return is to clear her name. To complicate matters, her fiancé’s former in-laws have come for a visit, putting Marla’s temper on a short fuse just when she needs her wits to solve the crime.

Killer Knots will be out in December 2007. Tell us more about it!
Florida hairstylist Marla Shore hopes for a romantic interlude with her fiancé on their first Caribbean cruise, but a storm brews on the horizon. Troubled waters lie dead ahead when her dinner companions start disappearing one-by-one. Then Marla learns a killer may be along for the ride. On board art auctions, ports of call, and sumptuous buffets beckon, but she ignores temptation and musters her snooping skills to expose the culprit. She’d better find him fast, before her next shore excursion turns into a trip to Davy Jones’s locker.

Will there be another Marla Shore book?
Maybe. I’m working on other projects right now. Doing too much of the same thing constricts the creative muscles, and every now and then it’s good to stretch them.

Who were you before starting to write? How did you start writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. When I was younger, I did poems, short stories, and a Shakespearean-type play. In 1975, I decided to write a novel and bought a how-to book to help me learn the structure. Even though I’ve tried to stop being a writer, I am unable to quit writing stories. I take notes wherever I go, and characters keep talking in my head. It’s an addiction. As for my other career, I have a master’s degree in nursing and worked in that field for ten years before retiring to write full time. I still maintain my R.N. license.

Why do you set your mysteries in the beauty world? What gave you this idea?
I was in the hair salon getting a perm, waiting for my timer to go off, and I had nothing good toread. I glanced at the other customers who were staring into space waiting for their timers to gooff. I thought, we need something gripping to read to kill time. Let’s kill off one of these ladies! Thus PERMED TO DEATH was born. In that story, hairstylist and salon owner Marla Shore isgiving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when the old lady croaks in the shampoo chair. Marla has to prove her innocence to handsome Detective Dalton Vail.
Marla is a businesswoman as well as a talented professional who cares about her customers. A stylist has to be a good listener, so she’s a natural for a sleuth. She knows many people around town, and clients confide in her. The beauty parlor is a great background setting for a mystery series. People are constantly walking in, gossiping, and exchanging information. Plus, it’s fun to research, and I can write off my hair appointments on my taxes. 🙂

How do you write (where, when, how)?
I write in the morning after walking my dog. My quota is five pages a day or a chapter a week. This takes place in my home office. I use Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred voice recognition program to save my fingers from so much typing.

How do you react to the writer’s block?
Depends on what’s causing it. If it’s a problem with the story I’m writing, I’ll take time out to determine the purpose of the next scene. Usually I write a synopsis first so I know where the story is going. But other things can cause writer’s block: outside distractions, loss of confidence, rejections, changes to editors, publishing imprints, etc. This stuff is harder to overcome. Sometimes you just need to take time off.

Do you have some advice for aspiring authors?
Study the craft. Attend workshops. Join professional organizations. Go to conferences. Keep writing. Develop a thick skin. Never give up and never surrender.

What do you think about eBooks?
I believe eBooks have a future ahead, especially when eBook readers become standardized. Kids today download everything on their iPods and such; why not books? But folks like me still like to hold a book in hand. I look at a computer all day; I don’t want to read books on them. However, I’d be happy to gain new readers by having my books in that format. Unfortunately, authors aren’t earning much in the way of income from this source yet, and we do want to make a living at this career.

And now the famous Nothing-To-Do-With-Books question : You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money?
Spend it on groceries. It costs so much when you go to the store to stock your food shelves these days.

Which books would you advise for a perfect beach read? Have some favourite authors to feature?
Harry Potter. I’m a fan like everyone else. If you want my personal list of favorite authors, please email me at nancy.j.cohen@comcast.net

Would you like to add something, Nancy?
Yes, thank you very much for your interest in my work.
Please visit my sites http://www.nancyjcohen.com, http://mysterygal.bravejournal.com

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening: Read a book
Holidays: Beach on a tropical island
Country or City ? Suburbs.
Watching a movie: Romantic comedy
Shy or Easy-going ? Easy-going
Serious or Funny ? A little of both, probably more serious
Traveler or not ? Yes
Sporty or not ? Not, although I like to walk on nature trails
The Leader or not ? Depends on the group

“Favorite…”

TV show: Stargate SG-1, and after ten years, it’s OVER! Bwaaa…..
Movie : Star Wars, Galaxy Quest, Star Trek IV
Book : Too many to mention
City : Orlando
Food : Salmon
Music : Mozart
Favourite place to write in : Home
Quote or motto: Be Prepared.

Thank you, Nancy!
You can pay Nancy a visit here: http://www.nancyjcohen.com

Lisa Clark

Pink power! Lisa Clark and her sassy fiction-friend Lola Love show us the way to a pinkalicious life with their rocking books, “Think Pink” and “Beauty*Licious”!

Hi Lisa and Lola, and welcome on Veronika Asks! Please introduce yourself to our readers…
Howdy miss Veronika and reader-types!
Why, of course we will introduce ourselves, it would be positively rude of us not to!
I’m Lisa Clark author girl of the brand spankin’ new Lola Love series of go-for-it guides for girls, and I, Lola Love, am the hipster heroine who narrates these un-put-downable life guides along with my kooky clique of gal pals, the Pink Ladies – hola!

If you could describe yourself with three words…
Lisa: really rather fabulous
Lola: pink thinkin’ diva

Lisa, you’re Scorpio, aren’t you? They are known to be loyal friends, ambitious but also quite suspicious. Are you a typical Scorpion ? What is Lola’s sign? Do you and Lola like Astrology, horoscopes?
Lisa: How did you know that? That’s incredible! I am most deffo a typical Scorpio and I am absolutely obsesso about all things astrology, I read my stars every day and I’m even starting a course in September to study it!
Lola: I’m a Gemini, which, makes me very indecisive, I think!

Who is Lola Love? How did you create her? How did you get your first book published?
Lisa: Lola is a total superhero version of the teen girl I wish I’d been. She’s hella cooler than me and she’s got pink hair for goodness sake, I ALWAYS wanted pink hair! So, Lola is deffo based on the girl I wanted to be as a teen, but she’s still really real – we live in a world where girls are given all kinds of crazy-assed role models to aspire too – Nicole Richie? Paris Hilton? C’mon! I wanted readers to dig Lola, I didn’t want them to want to actually be her, I just wanted to create a character who helped girls to realise their own fabulous, just live a BFF would!
It took a whole lot of time to find a publisher who actually got what I wanted to do – I got a LOT of rejection letters, but finally I found an agent who totally got it and we kept sending it out until we found the sparkly-gorgeous Lindsey at HarperCollins, who got it too, we became the ‘got-it’ gang and made it happen – we had to do a whole lot of persuading, but seeing the finished result, well it was most definitely worth it, the books are freakin’ adoreable!

So, tell us everything about Beauty*Licious…
Lisa: Beauty*Licious is the 2nd in the Lola Love series and whether you’re petite or curvy, tall or small, redhead or blonde, it’s a book that will help you to celebrate what makes you stand out from the crowd and create your own kick-ass beauty blueprint – ‘coz girls, you’re Beauty*licious!
Lola and the Pink Ladies show you how to look great, think great and feel great. It’s a style bible that’s bursting with beauty tips and ideas on how to make the very best out of your own style and will give you great ideas on how to stay happy and healthy without having to resort to fad diets or unhealthy eating regimes.
Beauty*Licious is an absolute must-have for anyone who wants to be fun, feisty, fearless and fabulous on a daily basis!

And before Beauty*Licious, all the Pink Ladies in the world discovered Think Pink. What is it about? Why do you so love pink? Do you always think pink?
Think Pink is filled with everything a girl needs to become feisty, fun, fearless and fabulous – Lola and her kooky clique, The Pink Ladies, banish monotone thoughts of chubby tummies, bad school marks and arguing parents, and replaces them with the most exciting possibilities, because lets face it, life’s not a dress rehearsal, right?!
I do Think Pink, because when you do, life is substantially a whole lot sweeter! Y’see, pink Thinking is positive thinking.
In the book, Lola has pinked-tinted shades to highlight the benefits of seeing the so-called ‘real’ world filled with it’s constant comparisons, unrealistic media images and a need to strive for perfection, in a different, more positive way. Y’see when you Think Pink, anything is possible. You can live a life filled with thousands of candy-kissed, sunshine moments because you’re in control. What’s not to love about that?
I wear a LOT of pink too. If I’m having an antsy day where I’m all foot stompin’ grumpy, I put on a slick of pink lipgloss, my matching glitter-pink pumps and a variety of pink accessories, and I can’t fail to smile at my reflection!

Lola, will there be a fiction book about you and your Pink Ladies?
Lola: Yes, Miss Veronika, there will be – I can’t tell you a lot about them yet, partly because author-girl is in the process of writing them, so I don’t know what I’m going to do from one day to the next, but they’re definitely happening – how exciting is that?!

Lisa, you host a pinkalicious website, Pink World. How was it born and what is it about?
Lisa: I do! Pink World is the ‘zine I always wanted to read, it wasn’t out there, so I created it! It was also a great way to bag interviews with my favourite authors and music-girls and it helped people to understand what pink thinkin’ was really about.
It’s an extension of the books, it’s updated weekly and has interview with inspiring women, features on girls who are doing fabulous things, book reviews, news and has everything a girl needs to become feisty, fun, fearless and fabulous in her daily life!

Lisa, if you could give an advice to a girl…
Lisa: To love yourself up! Not when you’ve lost 5lb, not when you get your brace off, NOW – you’re YOU-nique chica, and that’s such a good thing!

What will Lola talk about in her upcoming guides?
There are lots more to come – but the next two, which will be super-cute handbag size, are called ‘It’s a Girl Thing’ and ‘Viva La Diva’ and are available from Jan 08!

Which books would you advice for a perfect summer read?
Lola and I LOVE reading books so we’ll both be reading LOTS this summer – Lola is a total fan of Cathy Cassidy so will be reading her latest Sundae Girl, while I will be getting sucked into Sarra Manning’s fab new Fashionista series – so, so good.

Want to add something, girls?
Thanks so much for having us come play Veronika – you rock n’ rule – mwaaaahhhh x

“Tea or Coffee?”
Lisa: Oh I LOVE these – how fabulous!

Saturday evening. Going out or read a book? Read a book on my way out!
Holidays. Beach or Mountains? Just been to Croatia – they have both – perfecto!
Country or City? I’m a total city girl – mmm the sweet intoxicating smell of exhaust fumes!
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else?) Rom com, deffo! I love me a chick flick more than anything in the world!
Shy or Easy-going? Easy going!
Serious or Funny ? I couldn’t be serious if I tried!
Traveler or not ? I LOVE travelling!
Sporty or not ? NOT.
The Leader or not ? I love being part of a group but I don’t like to be TOTALLY in charge – I’m all about the sharing!

“Favorite…”

TV show: Ugly Betty – hands down, I’m head over flip flops in LOVE with that show!
Movie : Ever? Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Gentleman Prefer Blondes
Book : Namedropper by Emma Forrest
City : San Francisco – I’ve left my heart there, can’t wait to go back!
Food : Chocolate. Any kind!
Music : Oh I love so much music I can’t possibly choose – right now, I’m throwing shapes to 60s girl groups like The Ronnettes – LOVE it!
Favourite place to write in : my notebook, sat on the pebbles at the beach. Sigh.
Quote or motto: Think Pink!

Thank you, Lisa and Lola!
You can pay a visit to Lola and Lisa at Pink World! http://www.pink-world.co.uk/

Lauren Baratz LogstedLauren Baratz-Logsted (author of “Vertigo” and contributor-editor of “This Is Chick-Lit” ) shares some writer’s life stories. Makes you want to grab a pen and write!

Howdy Lauren! Glad to welcome you on “Veronika asks”! Could you tell us a few words about yourself?
Hello, Veronika – I’m happy to be here! To answer your question, I’m a writer. It took nearly eight years to get a book published, but now that I’m in, things are crackling. In the past three years I’ve had three books published, but this year will see four more and next will see at least three. I’m also a wife and mother. Any minutes that are not occupied by family or writing are filled with reading.

Well, a bit of Astrology now: you’re Cancer, aren’t you? They are known to be intuitive, shrewd, but overemotional. Are you a typical Crab?
I was always told Crabs were romantic and moody. I’m both of those plus the adjectives you mentioned.

If you could describe yourself with three words…
Resilient, resilient, resilent.

Could you tell us more about the anthology “This is Chick-Lit” (you are the editor and the contributor of)…
The idea for the anthology came when I heard last year of a forthcoming anthology called “This is NOT Chick Lit.” Like many other authors, I felt offended by the idea of a collection defining itself by what it’s not: Can you imagine calling a collection “This is Not Sci-Fi”? So I found 17 other writers who were willing to contribute stories to “This IS Chick-Lit.” Our goal is to showcase the broad spectrum of what Chick-Lit can be; rather than the stereotype of shopping and designer cocktails, all the stories focus on problems facing the modern women. They say important things about life, but they do so in a mostly humorous way.

Why do you think Chick Lit is so popular? What do you like in writing Chick Lit?
I think it’s popular because it does make people laugh – and in a tragedy-stricken world, laughter is healing – but also because the very best of Chick-Lit does speak to women’s experiences. I like writing Chick-Lit because it gives me the opportunity to express themes that are important to me within a comic framework. For example, on the surface, my debut, THE THIN PINK LINE, is about a crazy woman who fakes an entire pregnancy. But, scratch the surface, and you realize it’s an indictment on how all too often in life we pursue important things – marriage, children – more because everyone else is doing it than because we’ve given the matter sufficient thought.

I understood you write in several genres, not only Chick Lit. What do you wanna “say” when you write a story? Why do you feel the need to tell a story?
I’ve always loved storytelling and now that I get to do this for a living, it’s tough to imagine doing anything else, unless it was some other job having to do with the creation of books. Just as I read in many genres, I write in many genres. The story I want to tell dictates the genre rather than the other way around. A couple of examples: my forthcoming VERTIGO is classified by its publisher as literary and is set in the Victorian era with erotic and suspense undertones; the story I wanted to tell – that of a good wife who falls drastically when she reaches for something outside of her comfortable social box – would never have worked so well if I’d set it in contemporary times; and my fortcoming ANGEL’S CHOICE, about a Yale-bound college senior who finds herself pregnant, works best as a serious Young Adult novel.

Before being a writer, you’ve been an independent bookseller, a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly, a freelance editor and a librarian… always surrounded by books! How did you start writing? How did you get your first book published?
I left the bookselling job in 1994 because I realized I’d never fulfill my own dream to write a novel if I stayed there. It took, as I said above, nearly eight years to get a book published. During that time, I did those other jobs you mentioned plus washing windows. My first book to be published, THE THIN PINK LINE, was in fact the sixth I wrote and I sold it on my own as part of a two-book deal to Red Dress Ink.

You said you also had an essay in the Jane Austen anthology “Flirting with Pride & Prejudice”… could you tell us how an anthology “works”? Why do you like writing short stories and essays for anthologies?
In Flirting with Pride & Prejudice, I was a contributor; in that instance, the publisher got in touch with me and basically said, “We’re doing an anthology on P&P and wondered if you’d contribute.” For THIS IS CHICK-LIT, I’m both editor and contributor. I conceived the anthology, pitched and sold it to BenBella Books, hand-picked the other 17 contributors, wrote my own story, pre-edited the whole thing before turning it in. I like writing stories and essays, in addition to novels, because they stretch different writing muscles. By varying what I do in terms of genre and length, it keeps me fresh.

How do you write ? Do you have some tips for aspiring authors?
I write every day when I’m working on a novel. I get up before the rest of the world and start writing before doubt has the chance to creep in. I set quotas for the day. In terms of tips for young writers: Stay alive! I’m only half joking. One of the biggest cautionary stories in publishing is that of The Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. He wrote the book in the ’60s, submitted it to every publisher in the U.S., was rejected by every publisher, and killed himself at age 27. His mother took up the cause, got Grove to buy it, it won the Pulitzer posthumously in 1980 and still sells like crazy today. But the author doesn’t get to enjoy any of his success because he’s dead. So stay alive! And remember, your work isn’t over when you have a first draft; it’s only beginning.

How long does it take you to write a book? Authors often complain about the fact they don’t have enough time to complete their novels and that the deadlines are stressful. Your opinion?
I’m lucky in that I’m able to produce a first draft quickly. When I first started writing, it would typically take three months. Now it goes quicker and if it’s a project I’m hot to write, it goes really quick. That’s not to say my first drafts are publishable as is – revise, revise, revise! – but I don’t have any problems thus far keeping to publishers’ schedules.

What are you working on now?
I just finished revisions for my fifth book for Red Dress Ink, BABY NEEDS A NEW PAIR OF JIMMY CHOOS, which deals with the perils of obsessive-compulsive behavior, and I’m about to start revisions for my next book for Random House after VERTIGO. This book is called THE SISTERS CLUB and is a contemporary novel about four very different women who come together to perform the sister function for one another.

And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question: You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money? Without thinking too much 🙂
I’m sure I should say give it to charity, but no doubt I’d spend it on my gorgeous six-year-old daughter.


“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? Both. Why can’t I put a book in my fancy purse?
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? Both.
Country or City ? Both.
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ? Both.
Shy or Easy-going ? Both.
Serious or Funny ? Both.
Like to Travel? I used to be before I had my daughter and suspect I will be again one day.
Sporty or Couch Potato? In between.
Leader or Follower? Leader. I’m a control freak.


“Favorite…”


TV show: Entourage.
Movie: The Piano.
Book: Love in the Time of Cholera.
Music: Warren Zevon.
City: New York.
Favourite place to write: My basement office, cave that it is.
Motto: “The only person who can ever take you out of the game is you.”

Thank you, Lauren!
You can visit Lauren’s website http://www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com/
Official website of This Is Chick-Lit http://www.thisischicklit.com/

Niki BurnhamRoyally interviewed! Meet Niki Burnham, YA author (and baseball fan). She talks about her latest novel, “Do-Over”. Dynamic princesses and baseball fans, get ready!

Hi Niki! Nice to meet you there! Please introduce yourself to our readers…
Hi, Veronika! Thrilled to be here. I’m the author of five books for teenagers—so far. I’ve also written a short story called “Reality Check” that will be exclusively on Amazon in the very near future. I also have two books for teens scheduled for 2007 and am working on more.

You’re Gemini, aren’t you? They often are witty, lively but also a bit tense and inquisitive. Are you a typical Gemini?
Of course, anything said about Geminis that is complimentary fits me to a T and anything negative doesn’t. Okay…that’s not entirely true! It all fits. I’m a pretty typical Gemini. I love to travel, I love to write, and I love to people-watch. I admire anyone who likes to engage in witty banter or who’s intellectually curious. I like knowing what’s going on in the world. I do get stressed out sometimes, but I know that about myself so I try very hard to anticipate stressful situations and avoid them. I also have a tendency to trip on my own tongue and say things that are off-the-wall or embarrassing. I’ve gotten MUCH better about that as I’ve gotten older—thank goodness! As a teenager and even in college, I often spoke before I thought something through. I also get bored easily. I’m a dreamer (my brain never stops asking ‘what if’ questions) but despite that, I’m very much a pragmatist at my core.

If you could describe yourself with three words…
Practical. Curious. Resilient.

Now tell us everything about Do-Over (it will be released in September 2006)!
Thanks for asking! Do-Over is a comedy about the romance between Valerie Winslow—a fifteen year-old from Virginia who now lives in Europe—and her boyfriend, Georg. Georg is sixteen, gorgeous, and loves playing soccer, but he just happens to be the crown prince of a small country similar to Lichtenstein. His parents have a fabulous marriage, while Val’s parents are in the middle of a divorce, as Val’s mom has moved in with another woman. When Georg and Val go on a ski trip to Austria together (along with Val’s dad and a public relations person from the palace), all kinds of things go wrong. There’s even a subplot involving Val’s dad.I have an excerpt posted on my website for anyone who wants to get a feel for the book. Just go to http://www.nikiburnham.com/.

It’s the sequel to “Royally Jacked” and “Spin Control”. Please tell us more about these novels.
Royally Jacked opens with Valerie Winslow finding out that her parents are getting divorced. Her mom is moving in with another woman, and her father—who works for a very conservative President during election time—has to move away to take a new job. Valerie has to decide where to live. Though it sounds heavy, Valerie has a sense of humor about all of it and the book is a comedy—she decides to go with her dad and meets a guy who blows her doors off. In Spin Control, Valerie and her new boyfriend, Georg, are having difficulties, and decide to take a break. She gets the chance to go back home to Virginia for a while, and while she’s there, she gets asked out by a guy she’s had a crush on since kindergarten. How she handles it—at the same time she’s staying with her mom and mom’s new girlfriend—leads to a lot of laughs.

Will there be a sequel to “Do-Over”?
Yes! There’s a short story about Valerie’s friend Jules Jackson that’s exclusively on Amazon.com. It’s called Reality Check, and will be available for download for forty-nine cents. I’ve had a ton of readers ask me for a story about Jules, so I thought this would be fun to do. As far as a full-length sequel, I haven’t decided yet. I don’t want to write a sequel to any of my books just for the sake of writing a sequel. I need to have a story idea that makes readers say, “That was even better than the previous books!”, that’s different from the book(s) that preceded it, and that stands on its own. Otherwise, it’s not worth writing. But it’s certainly a possibility. I love writing about Valerie. When I know for sure whether or not I’m doing a full-length sequel, I’ll post the info to my website bulletin board and will put it in my newsletter (there’s a signup form on my website if anyone wants to subscribe…and I do not share my list, so there’s no spam.)

Tell us, why should we read “Do-Over” ? 🙂
For fun, of course!

How did you start writing?
When I was in eighth grade, everyone at my junior high school was assigned to write an essay in honor of Law Day. Then they were all judged and the winner got a hundred dollar savings bond. I won. (And yes, I was totally shocked…no one would have picked me to win.) Unfortunately, rather than making me see that I might have some writing talent, it got me wondering if I should be a lawyer. Eventually, I did become a lawyer, but I was bored out of my mind. I started writing for magazines, and eventually quit practicing law. Soon, I sold my first novel.

How do you see your reader? You know, when you say to yourself: “there’s somebody reading my book right now”… who do you picture?
I try very hard not to picture anyone reading my books—at least not while I’m writing them. If I did that, I’d be second-guessing every sentence, thinking, “What would a twenty year old college student think about this?” or “How would a thirteen year-old girl reading this during study hall react?” or “What would the mother of a teenager think if she read this?” And that might affect how I write the story. So I just try to concentrate on the characters and what’s important to them. But, that being said, one of the very best parts of my job is getting e-mails from readers and chatting with them on my bulletin boards. I like getting to know them and learning what they find funny, what cool discoveries they’re making (books, music, movies, you name it) and what’s important to them.

Do you take your ideas from your own life? Or do you prefer to make your characters discover new things by themselves?
I do both, actually. I get ideas from everywhere—things that have happened to me or my friends, things I see in the newspaper, snippets of conversations I’ve overheard. Then I take that beginning, throw in some twists and turns, then let my characters go from there.

A question I always want to ask but always forget 😉 Do you know how many copies of your book are printed?
Not really. I have an idea when the book first comes out, but as copies sell out in bookstores, publishers go back to print and don’t always tell the author. So I don’t really know for certain.

The usual “writing question”, how do you work ? What about the writer’s block ?
I’m not sure I believe in writer’s block. There are times when writing is more challenging than others, of course. In those instances, I’ll take a break and go for a walk or do some other activity, but I get right back to the computer and work. Putting words on paper—even if they stink—is the only way to finish a book. And once you get going, the words will come more easily again.
So my answer, I suppose, is that I just write through it.

If you had to choose between being a professional baseball player or a writer, you would choose…(baseball fan here!)
Tough question!! They’re both dream jobs, aren’t they? But if I could truly play baseball well, I’d have to say professional baseball player. I absolutely love the game. Of course, the problem with being a professional athlete is that players get injured, and players eventually age out of the game. Writing is something I can do forever, so I consider myself very lucky to be a writer. Also, players are public figures in a way that writers aren’t. (Do you think you’d be able to identify your five author if you saw her in the airport? What about your fave professional athlete?) I don’t think I’d be comfortable with being that recognizable.

And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question: You’ve just found $100 in your pocket, how will you use that money?
I’d like to think that I’d buy myself a pair of jeans so fabulous they’d make me feel like a supermodel. In reality, I’d probably buy groceries. Practical stuff like apples, milk, and bread. I might treat myself to some take-out sushi if I really felt like splurging, though. In the end, I’m sure I would realize that no jeans on Earth can make me feel like a supermodel. And that’s fine.


“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? Depends on my energy level. Probably book.
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? Mountains (big time!!)
Country or City ? Both
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ? Comedy
Shy or Easy-going ? Easy-going
Serious or Funny ? Both. Often at the same time.
Love to Travel or Hate to Move? Definitely a traveler
Sporty or Couch Potato? Sporty
Are you a Leader? No. Unless everyone is doing that thing where they say, “Oh, I don’t care. What do YOU want to do?” I hate that, because it can go on forever, so I usually say, “Let’s do X.”

“Favorite…”
(Caveat here: my favorites change all the time. Remember, I’m a Gemini!)

TV show: Right now, it’s Star Trek Voyager (I’ve been watching the complete series lately on DVD while I exercise. It’s well-written and well-acted.)
Movie: The Shawshank Redemption
Book : Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
Music: Beck, Oscar Lopez, Shakira
Food: Sushi
City: Rome
Place to write: My one requirement is that no one talks to me or bothers me.
Motto: Do what you love.

Thank you, Niki!
You can visit Niki’s site http://www.nikiburnham.com/