Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Interview with Chantel Simmons and book giveaway
**Giveaway is now closed**
Chantel Simmons lives in Toronto with her husband and cat named Mr. Baz. She is an author, editor (for a digital beauty magazine) and consumer trends tracker (for a local radio station). She also teaches magazine and online writing and editing in the Book & Magazine publishing program at Centennial College. Her two recently published novels are "Stuck in Downward Dog" and "Love Struck." Along with telling us a little bit about what makes her tick, she has offered to give away five sets of both books to some lucky readers in the US and Canada.
If you like what you've read here today, become her friend and fan on Facebook or follow her on twitter.
MP: What is your usual writing routine?
CS: I don't really have a time of day routine like some authors, because I really hate rules and I get bored with routines easily, so I worry that if I did decide to write every day from 2-5, for example, I'd suddenly find myself resenting those hours of the day and making excuses why I wasn't able to write. Like deciding that despite the fact that I'm not 82, I must eat dinner at 4 pm and so from 2 pm on I must chop vegetables (does it take 2 hours to make dinner? I don't cook -- see how long it would take me?). Or realizing that my life has been incoplete without seeing every episode of Judge Judy and start watching reruns at 3:30. Instead, I try my best to write every day (whether it's for five hours or five minutes) so that it's a habit. I really treat it like a job, so if I spend the day getting a manicure and going for lunch with my friends, the guilt is so great that I spend the evening writing to make up for it. As for the details, I have two laptops -- one with a large screen and a tiny one with a superlong battery. This way I have no excuses. I can write wherever I feel like it -- at my desk, in bed, at Starbucks -- and whatever suits my mood. I like to listen to my ipod as it blocks everything else out and lets me focus on the story instead of the beeping dishwasher waiting be emptied or the phone ringing.
MP: How did you celebrate when your first book was published?
CS: Stuck in Downward Dog wasn't set to be in stores for another month or so, so it was a complete surprise when a box of finished books showed up at my door. I had to go to the mall after work for a media event for the magazine I was working at, and while I was there, I bumped into my husband. It was kind of crazy -- I live in a city of 2.5 million people so I rarely bump into anyone I know, let alone my husband. I had the first copy I had taken out of the box in my handbag -- I was bringing it home to give him the first signed copy of the book. We sat down on one of those benches in the middle of the mall and I gave him the book. He was so excited for me, and then he took me to our favourite restaurant -- a little French bistro in our neighbourhood and he ordered a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon. We took the bottle home and have it displayed on a shelf with other bottles of wine we've had to drink on special occasions. (I guess it's clear to anyone who's seen the shelf that we like to drink to celebrate!)
MP: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
CS: I like to bake and be crafty -- but only if I can complete the project within an hour or two. If it takes any longer I lose interest...which may be the reason I have unfinished dresses in my closet and even an unfinished cake (that had about 17 million steps) in my freezer as I type this. I also like to get pedicures...so it's probably not a coincidence that I got the idea for the opening scene of Love Struck while getting my toes painted. (Note to self: check with lawyer -- surely I can be writing off my pedicures as book research?)
MP: Have you experienced any significant challenges while writing any of your novels?
CS: When Stuck in Downward Dog came out, people kept asking me if it was based on my life. I felt so worried that everyone thought it was, and that they thought the friends in the book were my friends (which they weren't). Eventually I realized that this is just what we do. We love a true story (isn't that why people loved "A Million Little Pieces" and felt so duped when they found out it wasn't true?). I find myself wondering the same thing when I read any book. So with Love Struck I wasn't worried that just because I was writing about a husband who has an affair, that people would think I was writing about my own life. After all, if my husband had cheated on me, why wouldn't I write a memoir and go on Oprah instead of writing a novel?
MA: Which of your characters can you relate to the most?
CS: When I read this question, my gut response was to say Mara from Stuck in Downward Dog. I mean, Poppy lets her imagination drive herself crazy trying to figure out what her husband's mistress is like, all so she can make herself over to be more like her! I was sitting down to type that yesterday afternoon at my computer, when I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. On the floor I saw something odd and picked it up. It was a broken half a button. Immediately I realized that my husband must have had a woman in the kitchen and that while they were having mad, passionate sex on the counter, the button popped off her shirt and broke when it hit the floor. I put the broken button on countertop so that my husband could see that I knew what was going on and I could take in his guilty reaction when he got home from work.
An hour or so after he got home, the button was gone. Was he trying to hide it? Pretend it never existed? I confronted him as he was doing a Suduko puzzle.
"Did you see the button on the counter?" I asked him.
He shook his head.
"I put it right on the counter, so you could see."
He looked at me with the bemused expression he often gets when I'm talking. "Do you mean the wax from top of the cork from the bottle of wine we had last night?"
"Oh," I said. "Of couse that's what I meant." I mean, it's not like I was jealous. It was greenish-brown. Would he really have an affair with a woman who wore ugly greenish-brown tops?
Okay...so maybe I channelled a bit of my imagination into Poppy.
MA: If you could choose one of your books to be made into a movie, which would it be and who would you cast in the lead roles?
CS: I would love for Love Struck to be made into a movie -- with Kate Hudson as Poppy and Bradley Cooper as Parker.
MP: What was the inspiration behind both of your books?
CS: For Stuck in Downward Dog, I wanted to write a story about a girl who's stuck in a rut in her life - in that time of limbo when you've graduated from university (so you're no longer a student or a child who can rely on Mom & Dad) but not yet feeling like an adult with everything all figured out. I think it's something a lot of people go through in their 20s but no one talks about.
With Love Struck I was curious about the reason why a woman might forgive her husband for having an affair -- and what she would do with that information once she knew. I got to thinking, what if she knew but there was a way that he didn't? So then, could she forgive him if he couldn't remember and she couldn't forget? That's where the lightning got involved.
MA: You're a consumer trends tracker...what is one of the trends that has taken off big time since you started talking about it on the radio?
CS: Fur! My grandmother had all these gorgeous fur coats and stoles, and for years I've wanted to wear them, but I've felt like I couldn't for fear that people would throw eggs or dye-bombs at me. Now, fur is in style, and actually, designers are claiming it's eco-friendly. After all, it's recycling & reusing rather than buying new, disposable garments produced in sweatshops. I'm totally embracing this trend while it lasts.
MA: What are you looking forward to most during the holiday season?
CS: Every year once we're back in Toronto after visiting our families, my husband and I get up super early and go skating on the outdoor rink at City Hall. If you go early enough, the rink is empty, so you get it all to yourself (good for me since I use the term "skating" loosely for my walking-with-skates-on activity) before the tourists get there. Then we take a break and have hot chocolate that we bring in the snowman thermos my husband gave me one year for Christmas.
Special thanks to Chantel for answering our questions, even with lots of deadlines and an upcoming vacation to steal most of her focus recently. We also want to thank her for the sets of books she is giving away through our blog.
How to win "Stuck in Downward Dog" and "Love Struck":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted. You can use AT and DOT to avoid spam. Or provide a link to your facebook page if you can receive messages there.)
1. Please tell us: What is your favorite trend?
2. Please tell us: What are you looking forward to this holiday season?
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5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)
US/Canada only. Giveaway ends Sunday, November 28th at midnight EST.