|Photo by Dave B. Cross|
**Giveaway is now closed**
You won’t be seeing red either, with Deborah Copaken Kogan’s latest novel!
Joining us today is Deborah Copaken Kogan as she celebrates the release of her newest novel “The Red Book.” It is her second novel (and also a New York Times bestseller), but fourth book, that follows "Between Here and April," "Hell is Other Parents" and the bestseller, "Shutterbabe." Deborah is an absolutely fascinating woman whose life is certainly admirable. She has been a writer from an early age (winning her first award in elementary school) and was quite successful for several years as a photojournalist, for which she several received awards. She has also won an Emmy for her work in the field of television. Since 1998, Deborah has kept busy writing novels, publishing essays, adapting both a novel and a memoir into a screenplay, and juggling marriage and children.
Thanks to Voice/Hyperion, we have TEN copies of "The Red Book" for some lucky US readers!
Visit Deborah at her website, Facebook and Twitter pages.
Who are three authors who have inspired you?
Virginia Woolf, Leo Tolstoy, Ian McEwan (and many, many others, but I thought those three should get the shout-out.)
What made you decide to become a writer?
I’d wanted to become a writer from the time I was four years old and wrote my first short story (three sentences long) about a bear in a boat in Dr. Seuss’s fill-in-the-blanks "My Book About Me." I actually remember sitting down with the book by myself at the dining room table in our old apartment in Adelphi, MD, after having accounted for all of the doors, beds and windows in my apartment, and creating something on the write-a-story page where there once was nothing: how thrilling that was, however nonsensical the results. I kept writing short stories throughout elementary school, one of which won a statewide writing contest, which added fuel to the fire. I wrote poetry as a teenager, as well as essays and book reviews for Seventeen. Then I got to college and was not accepted into a single creative writing class. Really. Not one. This killed my confidence, and I let go of the dream. I threw myself into photography, moved to Paris after graduation, and started covering wars as a photojournalist for a living. I did that for four years, often writing the accompanying texts, but magazines didn’t want stories written by photographers. They had staff writers who would take my text and rewrite it in their own words. Then I moved back to the States and worked as a TV news producer. Sometime after my first two kids were born, six years into my TV career, I hit a brick wall: I hated my job, hated office politics, hated wearing dress-up clothes, hated what my life had become.
Around this same time, I wrote my red book essay for my 10th college reunion, and I was inspired by seeing words I’d composed bound into the pages of a book. I was simultaneously reading "Angela’s Ashes," and when I found out Frank McCourt had written this masterpiece of a memoir—his first book!—in his sixties, I told myself it was now or never. I took a leave of absence from my TV job and started writing the first chapter of "Shutterbabe," which I sold, along with a proposal, to a publisher for twice my NBC salary. That bought me two years. That was fourteen years ago. I’ve never looked back.
If The Red Book were made into a movie, whom would you cast in the lead roles?
I’ve actually been thinking about this question, since there’s been interest in adapting it. Halle Berry or Vanessa Williams would be perfect as Clover or a newcomer who looks like an older version of Zoe Saldana. I’d love to see Mia played by Minnie Driver, Jane Adams, Winona Rider, Emily Mortimer, Sarah Silverman, or Parker Posey. Addison always appeared in my head, when I was writing her, as the actress and writer Isabel Gillies, so she’d be perfect, but I also think Addison could be played by just about any fine-boned, gorgeous, 40-something (or late 30-something) actress, meaning so many of them: Amanda Peet, Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Shue, Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman, etc. I wish Caitlin Fitzgerald were a little older, because I could watch her read the phone book and be riveted. As for Jane, I don’t know many Vietnamese-American actresses, but I think it would be important to find one who is actually Vietnamese, not Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or another east-Asian race. Junie Hoang comes to mind, and I think she’s the right age range, but maybe that could be the wild card, casting-wise—an open call for 40-something, Vietnamese-American actresses. Now how often does that happen? Not that often, I have to imagine.
What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Read "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott and then do that. "That," in a nutshell, is an expanded version of this: apply ass to chair, write. Also, read. But those are two pieces of advice, and the latter goes without saying.
Characters really make the story for us. What 3 words would best describe your hero, and what about her called out to you and made you want to write her story?
My novel has four main protagonists, so I’ll answer you four times:
Clover: Determined, strong, weak
Addison: Confused, self-satisfied, pretending
Mia: Complacent, yearning, sensitive
Jane: Defended, naive, smart
They all called out to me not because of their strengths but because of their weaknesses and their contradictions—naïve and smart; complacent and yearning. All of us are weak in certain domains, and all of us live with vast internal contradictions, and when you throw four people together and expose all of their weaknesses and contradictions at the same time, then you get, for lack of a better term, drama. I’m not interested in writing about likable, perfect characters who always do the right thing and never question themselves or their motivations. There are no humans like that, so why create characters like that? What fascinates me are people’s flaws and the fact that we can fall in love with them not despite their flaws but because of them. That holds true for me vis a vis real people as much as it does for fictional characters.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?
A violinist, a writer, and a Mommy. But then I dropped violin in junior high and frankly? I don’t miss it.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I would have to say letters from readers (the nice ones, not the mean, crazy or wildly inappropriate ones) in general, but if we’re talking about the most rewarding experience with regard to the "The Red Book," my favorite moment was when a male newspaper editor, who’d swiped a copy of the galley from his office, pulled me aside at a Bat Mitzvah and said he liked the book so much that the minute he finished reading it, he immediately logged onto his computer and started googling one of the characters. Until he remembered, duh, she’s fictional. That made my night, my year, and, quite possibly, my life, not only because it was a nice thing for any writer to hear from a person she admires, but because it made me realize that the novel might appeal to both men and women. Not that men actually buy or read that many books, but still, it was comforting, edifying, to hear that this man had liked it enough to confuse it with real life. When I write, I never think to myself, “What would a woman want to read?” I think, “What would I want to read?” And since I’m an equal opportunity reader, I like to think of myself as an equal opportunity writer, so when men like my books as much as women do, I feel like I’ve done something right.
If you were shipwrecked on a desert island what 3 books would you want with you?
Isn’t that a little bit of an outdated question? I’d bring one e-reader loaded with every book in the Library of Congress. Of course, e-readers eventually require electricity, so I guess…hmm…
Barring my ability to find the materials to build solar panels, I’d bring:
"To the Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf
"Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy
This massive book I own with all of Shakespeare’s works in one volume, except the pages are super thin, so I’d worry about them disintegrating in all that tropical humidity
Hold on. Is there a weight limit to the books I can bring in my suitcase? Because I might have to pay an overage fee for the last one.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
Because it pulls off the mask we all wear in public and reveals the flawed, desperate, searching, yearning, loving, living, lying, dying humans underneath.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
When my dad was on his death bed, I had a quiet moment alone with him. I said I was going to quit writing because it was too hard, and I have three kids to support, and I just couldn’t face it or the insecurity of being a writer anymore. He actually sat up in bed, as much as it was painful for him to do so, and said, “Nonsense. Keep writing. Don’t ever quit.” I guess that’s what I want to say to all of you regarding whatever hard thing it is you love to do that you’re thinking of giving up or not even trying: Nonsense. Keep ______ing. Don’t ever quit.
Special thanks to Deborah for sharing her thoughts with us and to Voice/Hyperion for sharing "The Red Book" with our readers.
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US only. Giveaway ends May 30th at midnight EST.