Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Jamie Beck Interview - The Happy Accidents


Photo Content from Jamie Beck

Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author Jamie Beck’s realistic and heartwarming stories have sold more than three million copies. She is a two-time Booksellers’ Best Award finalist, a National Readers’ Choice Award winner, and critics at Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist have respectively called her work “smart,” “uplifting,” and “entertaining.” In addition to writing novels, she enjoys dancing around the kitchen while cooking and hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah. Above all, she is a grateful wife and mother to a very patient, supportive family.

        
  


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling is important because reading creates empathy. When you get invested in characters who are different from you, who are living different lives and facing different problems, it helps expand your perspective. At the same time, it also proves how universal most human experience can be, which also helps you connect to other people.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
While it is always nice to reach a milestone or receive an accolade from peers or trade reviews, my favorite thing is getting fan mail, particularly when they say that something I’ve written has helped them get through a difficult trial. I honestly live for those notes in my inbox. Writing is a lonely business, making it too easy to fall into a place of self-doubt, so those kind notes keep me going.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
I wrote this book from April 2020 through early October of that same year, so the pandemic and election cycle were extremely anxiety-producing and distracting. I was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to have surgery (I’m completely fine now). But as a result of all that stress, THE HAPPY ACCIDENTS is a low-angst book. Not only did I not have it in me to write something more gut-wrenching, but I also felt certain that, by the time it released, people would prefer a light read.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m getting ready to turn in the book that will be my fall 2022 release, entitled TAKE IT FROM ME. I really can’t say much about it yet except that it has been extremely fun to write and my beta reader feedback is mostly glowing. It’s set in my town (New Canaan, CT) and involves an empty-nester and her new neighbor, a young writer who is lying about her identity. It’s a story about a lot of things, including how what you try to control will end up controlling you.

Can you tell us when you started THE HAPPY ACCIDENTS, how that came about?
I have a core group of close friends who plan a girls’ trip every eighteen months or so. We all have very different personalities, mine being the most introverted and risk-averse. Many of my friends are much more willing to take chances. This book came about as a “what if”—as in, what if I let go and didn’t worry about the consequences. I also think about how much more confident I’ve become with each decade, so I wanted to write a story about being more authentic, and letting those choices become the foundation of a happy life.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
The three women in the book have different lives and different personalities, so when they experience a reversal of fortune, each has to address different challenges. I’m hopeful readers will identify with at least one of the characters, and if the reader is also struggling with a difficult choice, that the book might inspire them to be true to herself/himself.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
I had the most fun writing Jess, the wild character, because I could live vicariously through her brazen ways. Chloe is probably the closest personality to mine (although I’ve got a bit of Liz in me too).

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Fun question! It would be fun to connect Jess (in this book) with Erin from If You Must Know. Those two would get along well and create something exciting together. Both are outside-the-box thinkers and tend to speak without thinking, yet both have big hearts and really love their family and friends.

Tell me about a favorite event of your childhood.
This is impossible to answer. I enjoyed a lot of excesses in my childhood, but one that permanently influenced me was my first ski trip. We went to Aspen, Colorado when I was ten. I immediately fell in love with that state and the Rockies. The trip spurred a lifelong love of skiing and of the mountains/nature.

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
Ha! Can I get away without a shower today? The answer is usually no.

Best date you've ever had?
My husband and I used to go camping in West Virginia when we first started dating (we’re both originally from Pittsburgh, so WVA is a short drive from there). It was fun and romantic. We’d hike and swim all day, then cook hotdogs on the camp fire and lie beneath the starry sky. I loved not having to wear makeup!

What was the first job you had?
My first “summer job” as a teen was working in a department store. My first post-college/law school job was as a commercial real estate lawyer. Neither of those suited me very well, although lawyering is a great training ground for logical thinking and writing.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
There have been so many events that have changed me, but the first one was living through an extremely acrimonious divorce that affected my relationship with my father’s family and my brother (I was twelve at the time). It taught me to compartmentalize, to separate emotion from reasoning, and to forgive. I learned early that people you love can do selfish things without realizing how it affects you, but that you can still forgive and love other things about them. It also taught me that letting go of anger is the best thing for me—grudges make everything worse.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
We once rented a vacation home that had a koi pond in the living room. This was on Red Mountain near Aspen. Very odd on its own, let alone in that setting!

First Heartbreak?
Excluding Jimmy Goldberg in kindergarten? Oh, I’ve got many thanks to a million unrequited crushes in my youth. But my first true heartbreak—real love that ended badly for me—was my law school boyfriend, Dave. He uttered those painful words: I love you but am not in love with you. OUCH! But we are still friendly thirty years later, and he knows my husband and kids. Looking back, I can see why we weren’t a good fit, but he will always be dear to me anyway.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
The former. Nothing is better than falling in love. I’ve survived heartbreak and found love again. You cannot close yourself off from pain in life, so enjoy the good. Good memories help get endure the bad ones.

Ten characteristics of a great friend:
My closest friends share these important traits: Honesty, thoughtfulness, trustworthiness, humor, adventurous spirits, helpfulness, supportiveness, intelligence, loyalty, and curiosity!

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from THE HAPPY ACCIDENTS
At the opening of the book, we learn that Jess encouraged her younger sister, Liz, and friend Chloe to “say yes” to anything that came their way on her birthday celebration. They wake up to Liz having been caught on tape badmouthing her show (she’s a morning TV host) and her co-host, a tape that ultimately gets Liz fired. This following excerpt is taken from a scene in which Jess goes to visit her sister to try to mend fences. Liz is angry with Jess about the pact, and she has also been tormenting herself by watching her former co-star and replacement on TV that morning while being told by her agent to lay low until the storm blows over. The chapter is longer, but this snippet gets to the heart of things and tells you a lot about the sisters and their relationship. We are in Liz’s point of view in this chapter:

“All jokes aside, Jessie, I know seeing Dennis and his son hurt you.” Witnessing my invincible big sister—a talented, bold adventurer—be reduced to a weepy divorcĂ©e this year has been disquieting. “Are you really okay?”

She averts her gaze. “I don’t know. I’m rather exhausted.” She frowns, taking another sip from her glass. “Seriously exhausted.”

“Are you still depressed?”

“I don’t think so. I’m stuck, though. I’ve tried painting and hiking, even browsed around looking for some place new to travel, but the idea of going alone . . .” She suddenly brightens. “We should take a trip. Someplace you’ve never been. Oh, please! I’m desperate for you to enjoy life while you’re young.”

I hesitate. She could use my support, and enjoying life—at least the way she means—hasn’t been my forte. But I also can’t be in the wilds of Africa if an opportunity comes up. “Timing’s bad.”

“Now’s the perfect time. Once you get a new job, you’ll never be free.” Her gaze is soft as she sets her glass aside.

“I won’t get a new job if I’m gallivanting around with you.” I sip the bubbly beverage, which tickles my nose.

“You don’t know that. You could even get a wonderful new job abroad—in London, perhaps—something different and exciting for reasons you can’t imagine now. Open yourself up to the possibilities.” Her bracelets jangle down her forearm with each animated gesture.

“I’m not like you. I know only one way to succeed—set a goal and work the steps toward accomplishing it.” Like most of the world.

She stands and walks toward the railing, peering out over it to the street below. “Well, that’s the problem. You need to learn to look at things with a new perspective.”

I cock my brow, having never understood hers.

“Quit focusing on the bad news—the firing. You’re free now—free to do anything you want. Create your own reality.” She spins around to face me, her back against the railing.

“Ha!” I can’t help but laugh, although her remark shouldn’t surprise me. She’s always been a proponent of creating one’s reality.

“I’m serious. What’s really changed for you, other than not having to wake up at four o’clock?”

“Everything!”

“You honestly believe your job at The Dish was everything?”

“Not the job—my reputation. People welcomed me into their homes each morning because they believed me to be a sincere, genial, intelligent woman who befriended them and the guests. Now they think I’m an arrogant drunk who’s jealous of and cruel to an injured football hero. What cohost will want to work with me next? What producer will trust me not to make another public screwup? What viewer won’t be waiting for me to slip up?”

She waves a hand, frustrated. “Stop worrying about what other people think about you. What do you think about yourself? Who do you know yourself to be? What are you capable of, and how can that shape a future that will make you happy?”

“You can’t understand. You work alone. My career requires a universe of others.”

“If no one likes my work, my career dies, too. But I don’t let them tell me what to paint. I have faith that someone somewhere will like what I have to say and connect to how I express it on a canvas. Why don’t you have faith in yourself, Lizzie? You, the perfect Clarke daughter.”

Striving to be the best is not perfection. If anything, it’s a cover for the doubts that I could ever live up to our parents’ bar of personal excellence.

“Well, the illusion of perfection is surely shattered now.” Pulverized.

“Good. Perfect is boring. Perfect isn’t real. And imperfection doesn’t erase everything good about you—your experience, brains, and beauty.”

“So what, you think I can create a job out of thin air? Create a media company all by myself?” I gulp my mimosa.

“Now, that’s an interesting idea, isn’t it?” Her face lights with excitement.

I choke on my drink. “I’m kidding.”

“Or maybe your subconscious is nudging you. With technology, the landscape seems rife with opportunity for someone with the right experience and background.” She shrugs with a wry smile, as if she didn’t just hand me a parachute and push me from a plane. As if I’m the risk-taker in this duo.

I grunt. Start my own media company. A pipe dream. The competition is fierce. The capital needed to break out would be intense. And I would need a partner, at a minimum. Someone whose instincts I trust. Someone who knows the business and shares my vision.

Others would assume I couldn’t get hired. That it was an option of last resort, not a choice. I’d disappear from the landscape. More humiliation. More mockery. And Kenny’s trolls might eviscerate any attempt I made, too.

Jess is staring at me.

“What?” I ask.

“I recognize your thinking face when I see it.” She finishes her drink wearing a cat-who-ate-the-cream expression. “The seed is planted.”

“Was this your plan in coming here today? To stir me up?”

“Come on, Lizzie. Since when do I plan anything? All I’ve done is ask questions. You filled in the blanks all by yourself. But I have to say, I’m totally into the idea. Wouldn’t the best revenge be success on your own terms?” Her eyes twinkle.

It’s thrilling to imagine a victory of my own making. “I would love to wipe that smug look off Kenny’s face. But it’d be a huge risk, and I might never get back to where I was. What would people think?”

“Screw what other people think. Most of them are fools. Jesus, you’ve taken all of Dad’s edicts to heart but that one. Besides, will you care about commercial success if you’re happy with the work? You might love controlling the message. Following stories that mean something to you. Creating something from nothing. It’s amazing, Lizzie—that part. A blank canvas of your own.” Her voice is so full of hope. I feel myself rising to its call, until my insecurities flutter.

“You, of all people, know how hard that blank canvas is to face. What if I fail?”

“What if?” An insouciant shrug hardly slows her down. “Failing didn’t kill you this time. The sting eventually fades, and then you try something else. Honestly, nothing great was ever accomplished without some failure at the start.” Poof. Problem solved, in her mind anyway. She might be nonchalant about her career and reputation, but I’ve given up everything for mine, so without them I’ve got nothing.

I finish my drink, dabbing the perspiration from my forehead. “That’s big talk for someone who came here saying she’s stuck.”

She collapses back onto the outdoor sofa, chuckling. “I know. Jesus, I know it. I’m considering a major about-face to clear out my bad juju.”

Uh-oh. “I’m terrified to ask.”

Jess’s laughter peals through the air. “Nothing crazy. For starters, it’s time to rid my life of all traces of Dennis. Things I’ve held on to—items of clothing, even paintings inspired by him.”

“Wow. Are you sure?”

“Not at all. But maybe they’re blocking me. Weighing me down. He’s moved on faster than a comet. The fact he didn’t even acknowledge my birthday is proof.” Her eyes glisten, and her voice is tight. “I must love him much more dearly than he ever loved me.”

I rub her thigh. “I’m sorry you’re suffering.”

“I know you think I should’ve agreed to have a baby, but it’s not that easy. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t see myself living that life. I’m too much like Mom and Dad.”

I try not to laugh, but she could not be more different from them. “How so?”

“In their single-minded pursuit of their own goals.”

“But they had kids.” As if that weren’t obvious.

“Should they have?” She pins me with a doubtful stare.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m glad to be alive.”

“Not the point.”

“You’re so hard on them, but we’ve had an amazing life.” Her extreme take on parenthood isn’t healthy. Couples everywhere find a way to balance careers and kids. I might like the chance, although given my age, it’s looking unlikely. That prompts the tiniest pang. “No parent is perfect.”

Jess frowns, having no immediate retort. A second later, she says, “Anyway, what right did Dennis have to expect me to change something so fundamental—something we’d agreed to from the start?”

Fair enough. “Well, I’m sorry it’s been so hard. Do you need help packing up his things?”

“No, thanks.” Something about the glimmer in her eyes gives me pause, but I keep quiet rather than risk making things worse. “Let’s stop talking about me. I came here to help you. What about your love life—has Brian reached out at all?”

“No.” I sigh, absorbing the ache of more rejection. At least I hadn’t given him my whole heart, like Jess did with Dennis. “I can’t blame him for protecting his rep.”

“I can, but you’re better off without someone that weak. You deserve more.”

For some reason, Michael Saxton’s freckles flit through my mind.

“What’s that little smile? Are you holding out on me?” Jess asks.

“No . . . not at all.” My cheeks are hot, and not from the sun. “I’ll tell you what—I’ll start dating when you do.”

She throws an arm around my shoulders, which fills me with warmth. “Well, that cinches it. We’re doomed to be old maids who live and die together. It’s not so bad, really. There isn’t anyone I’d rather grow old with than you.”

Even though our differences could lead to us killing each other rather than dying of natural causes, the idea makes me feel better—less alone.

As suddenly as she arrived, she rises to leave. “Well, I’m off.”

“Where to?” I wish she’d stay longer, but won’t ask. She’s always been something of a butterfly—beautiful and pulsating, yet not to be captured for too long.

“To clean house.” She hugs me. “We’re both facing a blank canvas, Lizzie. Let’s make it count.”


Three women wake up to the consequences of one impulsive pact in an insightful novel about friendship, love, and fulfillment by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jamie Beck.

While at a casino to celebrate her birthday, Jessie Clarke proposes a pact to her reserved sister, Liz, and their childhood friend Chloe: the three women will say yes to any adventure that comes their way. Jessie is mourning her recent divorce, so the other two reluctantly agree. Twelve hours later, they awaken to the shocking consequences of their behavior.

A viral video throws Liz’s career and reputation into question. A major loss at the craps table rocks the foundation of Chloe’s staid marriage. And Jessie’s desperate bid to unblock her artistic creativity results in a life-changing choice. Staring down the crossroads, each woman finds her relationships—with herself, with each other, and with loves both old and new—tested. At every turn, they struggle not to let fear decide their fates. Will they give in, or will their misadventures lead to the greatest fulfillment of all?

You can purchase The Happy Accidents at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JAMIE BECK for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Happy Accidents by Jamie Beck.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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8 comments:

  1. My most memorable birthday was 21.

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  2. 18th. I was one week into boot camp and told my CO that I just turned 18 that day. He rewarded my with overnight guard duty that evening.

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  3. My 55th for I was able to spend it with dear friends.

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  4. The big 50 was fun everyone went to a fun place to eat together.

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  5. This last one. My best friend is a 64 yo Brit ex-pat. He opened champagne & we drank it as we ate chocolate cake while listening to our favorite music.

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  6. My most memorable birthday was my 21st.

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