You say THE ACCIDENTAL BESTSELLER is not a roman a clef, yet protagonist Kendall Aims seems so like you—changing publishers, living in the Atlanta suburbs, and friendships with other women writers are your “story” as well. Isn’t she really you? No. Yes. Well, sort of. Kendall and I both had terrific relationships with the editors who originally acquired our books. We both lost them due to corporate reshuffling and ended up in situations that didn’t work. I was able to change my situation, but the “what ifs?” had already started. What if I hadn’t been able to make the break? What if I’d had to deliver another book to someone who had no respect for my work? What if I had no next contract? When we meet Kendall, she’s been written off by her mercurial power-hungry editor and is certain her career is over. Then things really start to fall apart. I imagined all kinds of worst-case scenarios for her, inspired by my own insecurities, plus the horror stories I’ve heard from other writers.
But she’s so much like you—lives in Atlanta, has two children, enjoys a mountain retreat—do you have that much in common with other characters you’ve created?
It’s not totally coincidence because I certainly relate to Kendall a great deal, but it’s rare to create a character you don’t have something in common with. Invariably, you find bits and pieces of an author’s personality, lifestyle and opinions in any number of their characters. Kendall doesn’t’ share traits with me all that much more than others have. Some have had my hair, my background, my likes and dislikes, favorite foods…the list goes on.
Kendall also has wonderful writer friends who are a great support group. Did you draw from your own friendships to create them? Are Mallory St. James, Tanya Mason and Faye Truett out there somewhere? Absolutely. Mallory, Tanya and Faye are composites of writers I know or know of. I began critiquing with other writers after I moved to Atlanta and then settled in with just one other writer several years ago. No one understands what you’re going through like someone else who’s on the same path. Your family and non-writing friends may know and love you, but they don’t necessarily relate to the unique highs and lows that are a part of writing a novel and staying afloat in the publishing business.
How important are friendships and networking with other authors for a writer? For me, they’re critical. Writing is such a solitary pursuit and as readers see in THE ACCIDENTAL BESTSELLER the business can be brutal. Sometimes you just need another pair of experienced eyes to tell you where you’re going wrong. Or, when the self doubt sets in, what you’re doing right. As Kendall acknowledges at one point, she might be capable of writing entirely on her own, but she wouldn’t want to.
I critique with one other writer on a regular basis. In fact, in the acknowledgments I refer to Karen White as my Tanya, Faye and Mallory all rolled into one. I also acknowledge the writer friends who helped me turn the kernel of the idea for THE ACCIDENTAL BESTSELLER into a full fledged story.
Bottom line, it’s your writer friends who understand and help keep you sane. And, hopefully, you do the same for them.
You share forty-five quotes about writing, one at the start of each chapter. Why this device? And how did you choose the quotes? Originally, I was simply looking for a strong quote to use at the beginning of the book; something that would help set the tone of the story. But then I found so many that I loved and that summed up so many things I’ve felt, that I couldn’t be content with just one.
I decided to use them as epigraphs at the beginning of chapters, and I had a lot of fun deciding which I thought belonged where.
How does your editor feel about the depiction of the publishing world in your new book? Especially some of the more jaded quotes, such as A. N. Wilson’s “I’m not saying all publishers have to be literary, but some interest in books would help?” Hmmmm, forgot to ask her. But I have to believe she wasn’t too offended since she did buy this book! I’ve requested an opinion and she’s promised to respond. Can’t wait to see what she has to say.
Have you gotten feedback from other published authors who have had an early look at the book?Other early readers? Very few people read it before publication. In fact, Jane Porter, Karen White and Haywood Smith, who were kind enough to read and offer such glowing quotes, are the only ones I showed it to. Their positive comments and enthusiasm mean a lot to me.
But none of the writers I know are shy. I’m sure I’ll be hearing more soon!
Readings, signings, awards, fancy dinners, meeting readers, seeing your name on a book all seem glamorous. How are writers—and aspiring writers—supposed to keep the stars from their eyes? Should they? What about your writing life do you find glamorous?
Sorry, I’m still ROFLOL over the use of the word ‘glamorous’ in the same sentence as writing.
It’s an incredible thrill when the words are flowing and there are few things finer than seeing your book on the shelves or hearing from a reader who loved it. But the daily reality of writing comes down to you and the blank page. Committing to the creation of a book requires a giant leap of faith. Each and every time.
I try not to think of it in overly adversarial terms, but it is often a struggle to breathe life into an idea; to turn a notion into a fully realized story.
Any regrets about choosing a writing career? Only when the words aren’t flowing. Generally, I’m thrilled and grateful that I get to spend most days ‘making things up.’
What comes next? I’ve just finished my next book for Berkley, which will be out next February or March. And I have the glimmering of an idea for a sequel to THE ACCIDENTAL BESTSELLER. It might be time to invite some friends over for a little more brainstorming…
THE ACCIDENTAL BESTSELLER
Berkley Books/Trade Paperback/Original/Fiction
June 2009/On Sale 6-2/$15.00
0425227677 ● 978-0425227671
Contact: Joan Schulhafer, Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting, firstname.lastname@example.org, 973-338-7428