Thursday, July 1, 2010
Interview with Caren Lissner and book giveaway!
A few years ago, a friend of mine loaned me a copy of "Carrie Pilby" because she thought it would be up my alley. And she was right. I read it around the time I gave birth to my younger son and it was just the right amount of distraction for all the craziness going on at the time. Once I started reading this story, I didn't want to put it down. It was a lot of fun and I wanted to see where it would lead to in the end. I wasn't disappointed in the slightest and was left with an all around satisfied feeling...similar to the feeling I get from eating a really good dessert. I liked it so much that I got "Starting from Square Two" shortly afterward. It had a similar feel to "Carrie Pilby," in that the characters were easy to identify with and they came off as insecure, which made them that much more likable. I recently had the opportunity to interview Caren Lissner, the author of both books. She has kindly offered up a signed copy of "Carrie Pilby" and a set of post-it notes to one lucky winner (in the US or Canada).
About Your Book/Writing:
1. How did you come up with the idea for "Carrie Pilby?"
I was about to turn 30 and had written three or four novels that didn't get published, and I realized that maybe I was trying too hard to write a "serious" novel and not using the observational humor that I was having success with in my personal essays. I had a lot of ideas dancing around in my head for another novel, and one day I just decided to start it with a rant about how video stores never gave me a bag, while grocery stores would give me a bag for the tiniest thing. At the time, I was also encountering some moral dilemmas, and it was a period when I was almost 30 and a bit lonely and I had to force myself to socialize a lot, and still had some black-and-white ideas. So I created an extreme (and sometimes funny) character from that. I would sit by my window on a Friday night back then writing until the wee hours, thinking about things. A young genius who had just graduated from college was the perfect medium. So the idea was more a combination of ideas and "what-ifs" that were going through my head in that time period.
2. Since you're expanding your audience for C.P. to include young adult readers, did you make any changes to the story before re-publishing?
Since the story was about a 19-year-old genius, and kids today are probably more worldly than kids even 10 years ago, there really wasn't anything I had to tone down or alter. I made a few minor edits that I'd wanted to make after the book was published, just because we writers are always picky and have little things we want to change. So I was glad I got to do that. The one major change was that I had to update the technology a bit, changing videos to DVDs. The rest stayed the same. The publishers gave the book a new cover that's very lively, and I really like it.
3. What was the publication process like for you?
Publishing a novel was a dream of mine, and I had to face the fact early on that it might never happen, as hard as I tried. So when it finally happened, I was thrilled! Carrie Pilby got a lot of positive feedback from publishers when it was first sent out in 2001, but it still met with several rejections or almosts. Then chick lit took off, and an editor at a new Harlequin imprint called Red Dress Ink, Farrin Jacobs, considered it. She told my agent that she really liked it, but it didn't really fit their new line at the time. A few months later, I submitted another novel to them that was more chick littish called Starting from Square Two. By then, Red Dress was willing to take more risks, and they gave me a deal for both. My book had gone through so many revisions based on editors and agents' suggestions by then, that Farrin didn't ask me to change too much. After that, I just had to wait a year for it to come out. I kept worrying that something would hinder the process, but it didn't. It came out in June of 2003, a summer when chick lit exploded. Red Dress really publicized their books a lot, too. It was amazing and very humbling hearing from readers all over the world who were affected by the novel. I had a very good experience with publishing. I can see with the re-release that the market is different now -- more people are buying Kindle books than print editions. I don't mind, as long as it gets out there and readers enjoy it...and I get to write more books.
4. Are you planning to write any more books?
Yeah, I hope to! Well, actually, I am pretty far into a middle-grade book, and almost done with another teen book. Now I just have to see what my agent thinks, so that hopefully we can send one of them out. Any takers?
5. I ask this of all authors, so now it's your turn in the casting chair....If "Carrie Pilby" were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I have no idea - maybe a dark-haired actress who can pull off the nerdy-but-beautiful thing that's so popular in movies. I'm sure there are plenty of appropriate actresses on MTV and in those Vampire flicks.
Just for Fun:
1. What is your favorite memory from your college days?
It's a morning in autumn when I got up early to walk across campus to the library. The leaves were falling, and an old stone church right off campus was having a yard sale, so I stopped there. They were selling some old postcards and I bought a few, then went to the College Green to sit on the grass and read them. They were from World War II. I loved reading these old missives in their spiky black ink, as I sat under a tree with the crisp air swirling around me. As you can see, I was a big nerd in college. You'd think I'd have a more social memory to speak of, but naaaah.
2. Do you have any 4th of July traditions?
Well, my hubby and I can walk to the waterfront, so we'll be watching the fireworks that night. Years ago, my tradition was to hope that one day I'd have someone to watch the fireworks with.
3. What is your favorite sport to either watch or play?
What's a sport?
4. What is your favorite season, and why?
Autumn. I love everything about it -- the change in the air, the purty leaves, the residual hope that used to come with a new school year (I still feel it), and the upcoming Halloween season. I'm also expecting to have a fat little baby -- if all keeps going well -- a few days before autumn starts this year, so it'll be even more special.
5. What personal qualities make you similar to Carrie Pilby? In what ways are you different?
I'm nerdy like she is, and I tend to overanalyze things. However, I'm different because she's completely obtuse when it comes to human suffering or the problems other people have gone through, because she grew up with her father paying for everything. I've been broke before and didn't have that luxury, so I'm a little more sensitive to people who are different from me, I think. I'm also definitely not a genius, although I always did well in school. I think I was smarter at 15 than I am now. Oh well. That's life!
How to win this signed book:
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Carrie had a strange encounter with someone she met through an online personal ad, in a way that only she could pull it off. Please tell us: What is the weirdest experience you've had with someone you met online?
2. Follow this blog and post a comment saying you are a follower (if you already follow, that's fine too).
3. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it.
US/Canada only. Winner will be picked at random on Monday, July 5th.