Thursday, April 30, 2015

Jen Lancaster is no longer "bitter"....plus a book giveaway

It’s not a secret – I LOVE Jen Lancaster. Even before I ever read one of her books, I could tell from reading her blog she was my kind of person. Funny in a snarky way, isn’t afraid to call out the elephant in the room, and painfully direct. But what I didn’t get from her blog that you immediately find out once you meet her in real life, is that she is one of the nicest people ever. So nice you don’t know why the hell you ever thought you thought she was one of those “mean girls” you did everything possible to avoid in the halls in high school – maybe it has something to do with the snarky and direct nature of her writing.

Since I’ve interviewed Jen before, I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to ask her this time around. So I did something I never thought I would do...I asked her what interview questions I should ask her. Yep, that’s right. In an interviewing first, I asked my interviewee what I should ask them. It happened at a recent book event of hers that I attended and figured since we were chatting maybe she could give me a clue, or two, since I had none of my own. Note: The questions below are not a result of that direct question. But it was fun channeling my “inner direct Jen” for just a brief moment, nonetheless.


If you'd like to connect with Jen or just need a good laugh, visit her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter

**Thanks to Penguin Random House, we have TWO copies of Jen's latest book,  I Regret Nothing, for some lucky US readers!**


It's been nine years since your first book, Bitter is the New Black was published. How has your writing process evolved since that first book? How has it stayed the same?
Nine years seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?

In terms of process and change, I’ve definitely improved my technical skills. When I look back at parts of "Bitter," I cringe. There’s so much I’d fix if I could, e.g. I’d stop using the same words over and over again. (BUY A THESAURUS, 2005 SELF.)

That being said, "Bitter" was definitely the most organic book. I wrote this with no regard for proper structure and long before there were ever any expectations/sales plans/marketing strategies, etc. (NEXT TIME, GOOGLE THAT SHIT, 2005 SELF.)

Looking back, I realize exaggerated my bad behavior at the beginning of the book, inadvertently turning myself into a caricature. So, people read "Bitter" and came away with an impression of me that wasn’t 100% genuine. Really, it’s like 80 - 85%, as I’ve always been more empathetic/nicer than I portray. (I AM NICE, DAMN IT, WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE ME?)

Subsequently, now when I paint an accurate picture, I get a lot of snarky Facebook comments saying, “You’ve changed,” and that kind of makes me want to kick a lung out of someone.

Okay, fine. I am mostly nice.

Anyway, my work is much more personal in later books, more introspective, and I definitely enjoy the writing process to a greater extent, having done it so many times. In terms of professional skills, I definitely have a better grasp on time management and deadlines, while paying closer attention to showing and not telling. Though I can likely never recapture the whole let’s-throw-everything-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks parts of "Bitter" (coincidentally what makes me now cringe), I understand these imperfections are what people appreciated.

tl;dr: I’m a work in progress.

What is the most valuable lesson you've learned about the publishing industry?
Publishing is a business and profits and losses are as important as the art. Yes, many writers strive to pen legitimate literature, crafting the kind of prose that high school kids will complain about reading one hundred years from now, not caring if a single copy sells, as having created is its own reward.

For me? I kind of like to buy things, so I hope my work sells.

I’m happy to write light, entertaining stories, even if that means I’ll never be reviewed by the NYT. (At least in a flattering manner.) And hey, that’s cool, because I believe there’s nothing thing wrong with aiming for commercial success. In fact, publishers quite like that. For example, while I’m personally not a fan of the "50 Shades" series, I have such an appreciation what that book did for Random House. Every single employee received a "50 Shades"-based $5000 holiday bonus the year the books came out, from the publisher down to the guys in the mailroom. The success of "50 Shades" allowed Random House to gamble on a lot of unknown authors, which may introduce us to the next Faulkner or Hemingway or Steinbeck, or whomever else high school kids will bitch about reading in the next century. And if my silly stories help pave the way for the kind of authors who’ll create a legacy? All the better.

If you had a chance to go back and rewrite one of your books, which one would you choose and why?
You’d think "Bitter," but actually it’s If You Were Here. This love letter to John Hughes was my first novel. I figured the easiest way to bridge the gap between memoir and novel was to create doppelgangers for Fletch and me, particularly since he and I had just moved to the suburbs, exactly like the characters Mac and Mia. The thing is, after those two got to the suburbs, their story diverged greatly from our own as ours was drama-free. (Which is a nice way to live, but lousy in terms of creating conflict.)

Because we bore such a striking resemblance, the memoir-readers were confused. I was unaware of how frustrating this blurred line could be until I read Bethenny Frankel’s novel and I couldn’t figure out what was fact and what was fantasy. Since then, I’ve worked hard to separate my life and my characters’ lives.

Still, sometimes my characters still sound like me, largely because I’ve created them. And I think that’s okay.

If you were to interview yourself, what is the first question you'd ask yourself? What is the answer to that question?
I’d ask what people don’t know about me, and the answer is that I have an almost pathological need to please others. (See? No one got this impression from "Bitter," yet it’s always been true.) I have a hard time not being everyone’s dancing monkey. I struggle with saying no because I don’t want to let folks down, even when it’s to my own detriment. I’m getting a lot better at saying, “Sorry, that doesn’t work for me,” but it’s so against my kiss-ass-cheesedog-suck-up nature.

Superstitions - A bunch of garbage or totally real? Why do you feel this way?
I want to say I’m not terribly superstitious, but that’s likely untrue. I don’t fret about black cats or Friday the 13th, but sometimes I have trouble celebrating what’s going well because I’m always afraid that by doing so, I’ll jinx it.

Which is essentially crazy.

I learned that this is a symptom of anxiety and the way to combat it is to keep a running list of things for which I’m grateful. Easier said than done, but I do try.

My all time favorite TV show is:
Really, this depends on my mood, but I desperately and consistently love Arrested Development, Veronica Mars, and Mad Men. I have such an appreciation for shows that reward viewers for paying attention; good writing conquers all.

Thanks to Jen for chatting with us and to Penguin Random House for sharing her book with our readers.

~Introduction and interview by Tracey Meyers

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

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US only. Giveaway ends May 5th at midnight EST.

32 comments:

Janine said...

When I was young, I did a lot of stupid things. I hung out with all the wrong people and got in a lot of trouble. I'm lucky I didn't end up in jail or dead. But I don't regret any of it. I learned some very valuable life lessons from those experiences.

Jennifer Groff said...

I met my now husband while on Spring Break. I changed my plans to spend time with him - 14 years later I don't regret that a bit!

susieqlaw said...

Moving closer to my family

Shelby N. said...

Honestly, I regret nothing as well. I've never made any huge massive mistakes that have resulted in catastrophe...so why regret anything? Every thing I've done and decision I've made has brought me to where I am and made me into who I am. Its all good.

Bonnie Franks said...

I sometimes regret some things I didn't do......but I've always tried to be truthful and I don't regret that.

Angela Holland said...

I do not regret getting our wedding rings tattooed. This way we will both always have our rings.

S.Sabia said...

For the first 8 years of my marriage my husband and I lived in Phoenix, Arizona. Then he got a job offer that would require us to move to Providence, RI. The job didn't end up working out and we only lived there for about a year but I don't regret our decision for him to take that job. It got us back to the East Coast (where I'm from) and I couldn't be happier living in the state I grew up in!

cpr040304 said...

I have no regrets on the choices I have made. At the moment they were made they had to be made. I don't regret any of my tattoos either. People judge and I can't please everyone YOLO! Jen sounds like a cool, honest, and down to earth person! My kind of people :)

rhonda said...

First day of teaching a new teacher entered the room.my future husband walked in ,in my mind I said there he is&was right 6 months later we were engaged.we've been happily married for years.sometimes you just know,

Book Blogging Mom said...

I regret nothing! I look forward to the future and bigger and better things! xx

Sharon said...

Having my first child out of wedlock.

Snark said...

I can't say I have any regrets. Because for me, to regret choices in my life says to me that I wish I was someone else than who I am now. If I could go back and change anything in my past, I wouldn't change a thing because I really like who I am today. And I am who I am because of the choices I made.

Jennifer Huelsebusch said...

Moving back to St. Louis after living in Kansas City for 9 years!

traveler said...

I regret not having the chance to travel when I was young. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Lisamarie said...

I have no regrets of not finishing my degree (1 1/2 years left) and focusing on raising my family. Although my job now isn't at all what I pictured for my future the flexibility it has given me to attend all school functions and leave at the drop of a dime when I needed to to be with my kids is well worth it. I am so connected to my kids that are now in their early 20's and I'm not sure that would've been the outcome had I finished school and got the job I expected.

StephTheBookworm said...

I don't regret getting engaged after just a couple of months. We are now happily married and have a baby boy.

Laurice McClung said...

I have no regrets about having 5 kids!

Bonnie K. said...

Everything that happened in my life makes me who I am. So, no regrets for my life.

bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

Nova said...

i have no regrets for having my 4 children or having a life saving surgery when i almost died from Crohn's disease.

Linda Kish said...

I don't have any regrets about my life, even the dumb things I have done. They have made me the person I am today and, hopefully, I have learned from them.

AiringMyDirtyLaundry said...

I don't regret having my son at 19. He's awesome!

Bridget Taylor said...

Married my husband when I was 20. High school sweethearts.

Vivian Vereeke said...

I do regret a few things, but I will never regret spending time with God, praying and studying the Bible. I have even gotten to the point that I really miss it when I can't.

Holly said...

Getting a terrific education and ensuring that my kids did too.

Carl Scott said...

I have no regrets about my choice of career. My parents didn't like it but I had to do it and I did. Thanks

Katy said...

I don't regret putting myself out there, ever, even if it is hard sometimes - and I do regret the times where I should have taken a risk but felt too self-conscious.

bn100 said...

don't regret anything

Erica said...

Moving away from my family temporarily for a job because it wAs a great job and we still visited tons. Now I am back home and happy for the experience.

EKB said...

I will never regret living near my family. though the new england weather almost breaks me in winter- being able to see them and have them a part of my kids lives is worth every damn snowstorm!

rubynreba said...

I don't regret staying in small town Iowa all my life. I enjoy knowing everyone and the support.

Anonymous said...

My regret is any unkindness I have done, intentionally or unintentionally and not having the ability to make amends in person. Since that time, I've gone out of my way to offer a small kindness to whomever in atonement.
Otherwise, I've learned a great deal from my mistakes and that I don NOT regret!

Kathleen Bylsma h5apby@yahoo.com

Ruth Lyons Mazur said...

I regret moving away from my parents, and for not being able to visit them as often as I would have liked. I've had several serious accidents, which makes traveling impossible, as I am housebound. - I also regret not being able to have more children. I have one son , and, while I know I'm blessed to have him, I wanted to have more children. I wanted to adopt a baby, but, my husband was against it. My son is 41 and I have 2 precious grandsons, but, even after all these years, I still regret not having a larger family.