Book Nerd Interview
I think I always knew I wanted to write, but kept trying to talk myself out of it. In college, I enrolled as an English major, but quickly switched when I realized I had no idea how I would make a living as an English major. I switched to something business-y.
I became an entrepreneur, opening two restaurants and a publishing company before my 28th birthday. But I always felt a tug. It wasn’t that I didn’t love helping people publish their books, and it wasn’t that I didn’t love marketing for my husband and I’s restaurant (Mod’s Coffee and Crepes, bee tee dubs)—there was just something missing.
When I would tell a story to a group of friends, or get really into a great book for example, I felt more alive. Something inside clicked on. So, even though I had a brand new baby (EVA!) and two businesses to run, I started trying to tell a story that I had been thinking about. Most of my writing was done after everyone had gone to bed, between 9pm and 12am, usually. I had a lot of help along the way, but 8 months later it was done.
Now, almost 12 months later, I’m ready to put this baby out into the world. And, I hope you’re ready too. It’s happening December 5th, 2013. There will be lots of ways to get involved, stay tuned here, or sign up for the newsletter (in the top right corner) to get up-to-date info on the book launch.
Love to one, friendship to many, goodwill to all.
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Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
My 8th grade teacher assigned an “auto-biography” project. We had to write our life stories up until that point. I remember being so excited about the finished product and I thought, “this must be what I am meant to do.” I get a kind of high when I’ve written something I really love.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
It’s actually been scientifically proven that stories are the best way to unite people. Stories expose our vulnerabilities, and show us that we are more alike than different. I recently read an article about storytelling written by Robert McKee, the screen writing professor whose students went on to create Forrest Gump, The Color Purple and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Here’s the best quote: “Ever since human beings sat around the fire in caves, we've told stories to help us deal with the dread of life and the struggle to survive. All great stories illuminate the dark side. I'm not talking about so-called "pure" evil, because there is no such thing. We are all evil and good, and these sides do continual battle.”
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
Favorite book of all time: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
It takes a work of ultimate genius to show us both the lovely, endearing and ultimately hopeful side of being human alongside the horror of hate and cruelty we are capable of. And somehow at the end you are still able to see the good in people. That’s what literature is meant for.
Favorite book outside my genre: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Margaret Atwood told me: “Write as much as you can and read twice that much.”
In your new book; Mounting the Whale, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
It’s a quirky and funny story about a dysfunctional family (who can’t relate to that?!) but it ultimately asks the question: can people change?
The Pierce family is confronted with the ultimate version of the “cry wolf” story when Janine, the second daughter, alerts them that she’s been kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel. Janine’s sordid past coupled with her multiple failed attempts at drug rehab, make the family question the legitimacy of the message. Ultimately they decide to attempt to rescue Janine themselves – and through a crazy, sometimes life-threatening journey, they can see themselves a little more clearly.
People should read this book because it shows us something about who we are, and who we could be if only we can take the steps to get there.
For those who are unfamiliar with Cybil, how would you introduce her?
Cybil—the matriarch of the Pierce family—is a very enigmatic character, and yet the type of female character we are going to need to address in this brave new post-feminist world. Women are heads of corporations, many women are the sole-breadwinners in their homes. Times have changed, and yet women are still expected to cook, clean, shop and seduce. How does this affect them? How does it affect their children? How does it affect their spouses? Cybil is one answer to those questions, though I hope not the only answer.
The narrator and third daughter Carlyle looks at her mother as a kind of cautionary tale. She makes this sort of promise to herself that she will not end up as her mother has. Cybil has sacrificed everything for her professional success and now finds herself disconnected and unable to trust anyone.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Wow, this is a really hard question! I think I would introduce Carlyle Pierce (my main character) to Oly Binewski the narrator of Geek Love. I want to show Carlyle that there are certainly more dysfunctional families than her own!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Tom?
That I love him! He is so easy to love. I created him out of the necessity for lightness but found ultimately that he’s one of my favorite characters.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
Oh gosh. Time to come clean! I don’t write every day. I KNOW, it’s the worst thing for a writer to admit. Don’t judge me! I am not even going to lie and tell you I am trying to write every day. I’m not. I have a daughter and a full time job and right now I’m in marketing/launch mode. I find I am an “opportunist” writer – I can and do write my best stuff under pressure, with a time limit. Nap times, weekends, holidays, vacations… these are when you’ll find me buried in story.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I worked as a waitress at a higher-end hamburger place the summer after my high school graduation. It’s where I met my husband and we’ve been together almost 10 years!
Who was your first boyfriend?
His name was Grant. He lived in the next neighborhood over. It was the summer between sixth and seventh grade. I just looked him up on Facebook for the first time in…oh, 15 years? He runs marathons now. Cool.
Tell me about your first kiss
Ack. So awkward! My first kiss was with Greg, who is, oddly enough, a great friend of mine now. If memory serves, we kissed for the first time on our first date at the Tulsa State Fair. Very romantic. Picture this: mullets, beer foam, and fried-anything-and-everything on a stick.
When was the last time you cried?
Gawd, I cry all the time. I am kind of a weepy mess. The last time was last week when we’d been dealing with some health issues my daughter has been facing. A string of nasty ear infections was putting us in the doctor’s office multiple times per week. When I walked in the house for a 15 minute reprieve before having to head out to another doctor, I found my dogs had gotten into the trash and strewn it all over my house. I didn’t even try to clean it up, just broke down and sobbed pathetically.
Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
True love – because all love has the guarantee of a heartbreak. One of you is going to die eventually. But I can’t imagine a life without at least knowing love.
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
The ‘60’s baby!
Top Ten List - Things you would change about your high school years if you could go back in time.
10. I would stay true to my true friends instead of obsessing about the social hierarchy.
9. I wouldn’t be so hard on myself.
8. I would be nicer.
7. I would value myself more.
6. I would do more good (volunteer, help with homework, tutor, etc.) because once you have a job and a kid you really can’t do as much as you would like.
5. I would stand up for myself and others.
4. I would pursue what I truly loved (writing) despite what my teachers or parents told me.
3. Speaking of parents, I would be nicer to mine.
2. I would focus less energy on breaking the rules.
1. I would care much less about what boys thought/wanted/said/did/didn’t do (easier said than done, even now!).
The self-made and affluent Pierce family is hurled into a seamy kidnapping plot when they receive a text message from Janine—the most troubled of all the Pierce children.
Cartel got me, tell mom
The siblings, drowning in their own problems, are forced to focus on the task at hand: a half-cocked rescue mission that involves a borrowed yacht, a favor from a notorious drug kingpin, and a shocking reunion none of them expected.
When the family decides to sneak into Mexico, mother Cybil is forced to deal with a rival CEO whom she’s developed feelings for in secret. Her only son, Tom, is willing to risk bodily harm to save Janine while his other sisters, Carlyle and Valerie, suspect that the kidnapping is less than legitimate.
The long sea voyage tests the limits of the family’s already frail bonds. Dark secrets of infertility, drugs, gambling and extreme taxidermy begin to float to the surface. But nothing compares to what they begin to learn about their missing sister.
If they’re going to make it out alive, they have to recognize they’re fighting the same battles and facing life’s greatest challenges: love, loneliness, and the struggle to find a place in the world.