Thursday, August 12, 2010
Interview with Susan McBride and book giveaway!
Susan McBride has recently joined the chick lit scene with "The Cougar Club" (reviewed here). She has previously written mystery and young adult novels about debutantes, such as "Blue Blood." Along with writing about "cougars," Susan has become an accidental "cougar," having caught the eye and heart of a man 9 years younger and getting married to him in 2008.
Melissa P. and I have something in common with Susan too. We all grew up in the midwest (Missouri, Illinois and Indiana for her, Illinois for us). Susan also spent some time in the south and east before heading back to the midwest and calling St. Louis her home for the past 15 years. We had the opportunity to interview this dynamic woman about her book and herself and found out some fun and interesting things. She has also offered to give away three signed copies of "The Cougar Club" to some lucky readers.
MP: "The Cougar Club" is your first women's fiction novel and your second, "Little Black Dress," is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2011. Do you plan to continue writing women's fiction?
SM: Most definitely! After COUGAR came out, I signed with HarperCollins for two more women’s fiction books, including LITTLE BLACK DRESS. So I’ve got one more to do after I turn in LBD, and I’m very excited about that. I’ve always wanted to write women’s fic, and it’s so exciting that I’m actually doing it!
MP: Did you experience any challenges while writing "The Cougar Club"?
SM: THE COUGAR CLUB was challenging in several respects. For one, I married a guy who’s nine years younger. When people hear that, they think the book must be autobiographical (actually, my real Cougar sister thought it was about her!). While my own situation of being an “accidental” Cougar inspired the novel, there’s none of my life in there. The fun of writing fiction is making things up. Although tiny bits and pieces of my experiences—or experiences of family and friends—might work their way into one of my novels, pretty much 99% of everything comes from my imagination. I did have trouble with the first draft being too superficial and more about the whole Cougar phenomenon. I wanted the book to be funny but about real-life changes as we grow older. So what it means to be over forty in our society and what happens if you fall in love with a younger guy (or end up alone, pursuing another kind of passion entirely). So I revised the entire book, re-doing whole chapters completely, and I’m very happy with how THE COUGAR CLUB turned out. It’s truly about the deep friendship of three 45-year-old women—Kat, Carla, and Elise—and what they’re going through on a lot of different fronts, not just in their love lives. Any woman over forty, or any woman for that matter, will find something relatable in these three ladies’ stories.
MP: After waiting almost a decade for your first book to be published, how did you celebrate when the day finally arrived and all of your hard work was rewarded?
SM: Yep, it was a long time coming! I wrote a manuscript each year after my college graduation, and it wasn’t until the eleventh book that I signed a contract with a small press after winning a contest they sponsored (with the prize being publication). It was a wonderful day getting that call, saying, “You’ve won, and we’ll be putting out your book.” I’m sure I jumped up and down and blabbed to everyone I know. I remember selling, like, 150 books at my first-ever signing (at a Barnes & Noble that no longer exists!). I felt equally thrilled when I signed my first contract with HarperCollins for my mysteries…and each contract I’ve signed since. It still seems crazy and wonderful to think I’m doing what I love for a living. Yes, it took a long time to even get where I am (and I still have so many goals ahead of me); but it was worth it.
MP: If you weren't a writer then what would you be doing?
SM: I can’t imagine not writing! It’s so much a part of me.
MP: What inspired you to to write the Debutante Dropout Mysteries?
SM: The inspiration behind that series was being a sorority pledge in the 1980s at the University of Texas with a bunch of Dallas debutantes. They would practice their curtsies in study hall and gab about their new BMWs that Daddy bought them “just because” or their recent trip via private plane to their house in the Caymans. I wasn’t a debutante, so I felt out of place. I had a ball writing about Andy Kendricks, who was raised in chi-chi Highland Park by her Chanel-wearing mother and who refused to debut. It’s fun even now when people discover those books and tell me they chuckled all the way through the series.
A little known fact: the first of my Deb Dropout Mysteries, BLUE BLOOD, was initially called STABBED IN THE BACK and then DEATH AND THE DEBUTANTE DROPOUT. I wrote it a handful of years before it sold to HarperCollins because I loved chick lit novels and I loved mysteries. So I combined the two when it wasn’t really popular to do it. But once Bridget Jones’ Diary hit big and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books became so popular, the doors opened for chick lit mysteries. BLUE BLOOD was one of the forerunners of that trend, and some booksellers didn’t know where to shelve it. So it was often placed in both the Romance and Mystery sections, which I found rather cool.
MA: If "The Cougar Club" were made into a movie, who would play Kat, Carla and Elise?
SM:I’ve actually thought about that! How about Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, and Lisa Kudrow from “Friends”? I think they’d be perfect! Just don’t ask me which actress should play which character. I haven’t figured that out yet. ;-)
MA: What is your favorite thing about living in St. Louis?
SM: I’ve been in the Lou for 15 years now, and my roots are buried in the dirt. My mom grew up in St. Louis, and my grandparents lived here so we’d visit a lot. I moved around every few years when I was a kid (my dad worked for IBM = I’ve Been Moved), and I’m very happy to stay put. My husband is from here, and we love it. St. Louis is a city with a small-town feel.
MA: Are you still close with your best friends from high school? If so, how has your friendship changed or evolved over time?
SM: I’m really not close with anyone from high school. I envy women who’ve had lifelong friendships (like the characters in THE COUGAR CLUB). I’ve made some great friends here in St. Louis, and I have other friends that I met through my books or online that live far away. It’s so amazing having that support system. It’s very much like family. I don’t think all friendships are meant to last forever. But when you find good friends who “get” you and who stick by you, you want them to be around as long as possible!
MA: You have mentioned that you are older than your husband. Are there generational differences that come in to play that you both have found humorous (such as misunderstanding, jokes between you, etc.)?
SM: We’re only 9 years apart so there isn’t really a generation gap (in my mind, that’s more like when you’re 20 years apart). Ed’s very smart and aware. His dad is a professor, and his mom was a teacher. So there aren’t many things I bring up in conversation that make him go, “Huh?” The main thing is that he shares my sense of humor, and we crack each other up all the time. We like a lot of the same movies and have very similar interests. The main thing that happens to remind me that he’s younger is how often he gets carded! About half the time we go out to eat, he’s asked for ID when he orders a beer. He’s 36 but he has such a baby face! I can’t wait ‘til he goes gray, that’s for sure.
MA: What is your favorite media portrayal of "cougars?" (Specific TV show, movie, etc.)
SM: Wow, it’s scary that nothing leaps out at me. Maybe I don’t watch enough TV or see enough movies! I think most Hollywood portrayals of older women and younger men use the stereotypical Cougar, like Samantha in “Sex & the City.” In real life, there are more cases where it’s incidental that women over forty end up with younger guys (like me!). I know with my generation of females, it’s less of a big deal to go out with someone younger, and younger guys are definitely more interested in older women. I don’t think Hollywood has caught up to that yet. I do know they nearly changed the name of “Cougar Town” because of the negative image connected to the C-word these days. I’m very glad they decided to keep it. Maybe Courteney Cox, playing a mid-forties woman who’s single and dating younger men will make people realize that’s just part of life now. Age isn’t as important as a lot of other qualities, like compassion, honesty, loyalty, and trust (just to name a few!).
If anyone wants to email Susan McBride or find out more about her books, they can visit her website or find her on Facebook.
Special thanks to Susan for a lovely interview and a great book that she has offered to give away.
Thanks always to Melissa P., whom I know will enjoy "The Cougar Club" as much as I did.
**Giveaway is closed**
How to win "The Cougar Club":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted.)
For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Please tell us: Which celebrity crush of yours would make you into a "cougar"?
2. Please tell us: What is your longest friendship?
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4. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it.
5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)
Giveaway ends Monday, August 16th, at 6 pm EST.