Introduction by Melissa Amster
The last time I saw Francine LaSala in person was in 2015. First at Book Expo, when we had dinner out with a group of wonderful authors and bloggers. Then a few weeks later, when she and our Chick Lit Cheerleader were out in my neck of the woods. Francine is so genuine and easy to get along with. She has a great sense of humor too (which is evident from the first book of hers that I read, Rita Hayworth's Shoes-reviewed here). However, she's taking her writing in a new direction this time around with her latest novel, A Comfortable Madness. To celebrate the recent publication, Francine has a $20 Amazon gift card for one lucky reader!
Francine LaSala has written nonfiction on every topic imaginable, from circus freaks to sex, and edited bestselling authors of all genres. She is now actively taking on clients for manuscript evaluations, editing services, copy-writing (covers, blurbs, taglines, queries, and more), website and blog creation, and developing kickass social media campaigns, all through her creative services business, Francine LaSala Productions.
Her other novel is The Girl, The Gold Tooth & Everything (reviewed here). She is also the creator of The “Joy Jar” Project. Francine lives in New York. Visit her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
When Annie and Hugh first meet in a Long Island cemetery, they’re each dwelling in their own darkness. Hugh is a “serial monogamist” whose romantic fervor ruins every relationship he gets into, and Annie is still reeling from a dark secret from her past involving her dead ex-husband--one she’s been drowning in alcohol and quick, failed relationships for years. That, and the terror that love may push her over the edge... Again…
When they run into each other at a party in Manhattan later that night, they are surprised at how easily they connect. Despite their insistence to remain “just friends” to protect each other – and themselves – their chemistry is intense and their attraction soon becomes impossible to deny. Can they see beyond the damage they're convinced they’ll do to each other and finally give in to the love they so desperately crave? (Courtesy of Amazon.)
What was the inspiration behind A Comfortable Madness?
I started writing A Comfortable Madness at the end of 2001 after two consecutive heartbreaks. It was the first real fiction I ever tried to write – except that I started writing it to right... (see what I did there?) those two messes. Suffice it to say, this is an absolutely terrible reason to write a book. The first draft was over 100K words of emotional vomit. Eventually I scaled it back. I saw the big strength in all of it was the dialogue and as I am generally more, well, comfortable, with script writing, I made it into a screenplay – and a great one, actually. Except I had no connections to sell a screenplay, so back to a novel it went. A process that itself took about seven years post-script. (I started writing and published both Rita Hayworth's Shoes and The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything in the first three years of that slog.) What I realized in the process of creating ACM was that I wasn't just dealing with romantic heartbreak. That deep down inside, there was also considerable pain over elements of my childhood and the way Catholicism had strangled me, for want of a better way to say this, instead of empowering me. I had all these crazy ideas about a lot of things, and went along with them for years because that's what one does. Because that's easier than facing the crazy and ironing it all out. That's really the essence of the concept of “a comfortable madness” - that you swirl in the spiral of these things because it can be easier to do that in some ways than taking a step back, being honest, and pulling out of it. In any case, I am delighted, relieved, and at peace that the book is finally done.
What was the most rewarding and most challenging parts of writing A Comfortable Madness?
For me, writing starts with emotion and dialog; out of there, a story forms. ACM is the product of that process. The challenge is to actually make a story out of the mess, and a good one. It was challenging for me to find a way to make readers like and sympathize with Annie. Hugh was always easy – he's a doll. But Annie's anger, especially, has made her unlikable. When I first wrote her, I wrote her very close to me, and people would come back to me and say “Wow, I really can't stand her!” You can imagine how much that hurt. :-) When I released her from me and let her be Annie, let her tell me who she was and what was going on with her, she started to become likable and relatable to others – so this element of telling this story is both the most challenging and most rewarding.
What is the best compliment you've received on your writing? What is some constructive feedback (from a review) that you've applied to your current novel?
The best compliment I ever received for my writing was in a text from a writer whom I deeply admire, Jen Tucker, who read this just before it was published. She called me a "master storyteller." That's when I knew I did my job. As far as reviews, as my writer friends will attest to, I don't normally read them. I have, but they aren't always constructive. Example: A common criticism of Rita Hayworth's Shoes is that there's too much dialogue and not enough narrative. A common criticism of The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything is that there's too much narrative... Sigh. Hopefully this time I got it right? Who knows. Every story is different, and needs to be told differently. In this story, the balance feels right for me. We'll see!
Side note from Melissa A: For those of you who don't know Jen yet, you'll meet her in a few weeks. ;)
If you could cast A Comfortable Madness as a movie, who would play the lead roles?
When I started writing this, it was Reese Witherspoon as Annie and Paul Rudd as Hugh. I think they may be too old now. :-) How about Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Emily Rossum recently stood out for me as a good Charlotte. I can see Jason being played by Jared Leto. Maggie, Walter, and Phillip weren't in the story in the beginning. In fact, Father Phillip wasn't in the story until about a month ago! Maybe Kristen Bell as Maggie? Ryan Gosling as Walter? Jake Gyllenhaal as Father Phillip? I do have a Pinterest board made.
What is the most comfortable item you own?
I have a ratty old gray zip-up hoodie I bought in Santa Cruz the first year I went to the beach with the "Beach Babes." It's really vile but I freaking love it and will never throw it away.
What is the last thing you got really mad about?
In the context of this story, the "madness" is not technically anger, but craziness. I did recently go batsh*t nuts over a bag of Tate's Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies. :-) I try not to get really "mad-angry" about anything, though, because it never leads to anything productive. I'm not always successful, but I am the "Joy Jar" girl after all and I do try my best to keep it "sunny."
Thanks to Francine for chatting with us and for sharing an Amazon gift card with our readers.
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Giveaway ends April 13th at midnight EST.