Author Kristen Tsetsi and I decided to pull a little "blog hop switcheroo" in which we'd exchange the same series of questions and then present them on each other's blogs. We modified the original blog hop questions slightly in order to make them more appealing for everyday readers and not writers only.
And so, without further ado, here she is, talking about her novel Pretty Much True...
Q: What is the title of your book?
A: Pretty Much True...
Q: How did you come up with that title?
A: In Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut writes, "All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true." I read that after I'd finished writing the story, and I thought, "How perfect!" The story, while a fictional account, is still very much true. Especially the war parts.
Q: What was another title you considered instead, and what happened there?
A: War and Peas was one. But I think I was about 3/4 of the way through writing it and feeling punchy at the time. I must have been, because there are no peas in the story. Vodka, a slice of cheese, and mayonnaise, yes, but no peas. Mia's not what you'd call a healthy eater.
Q: What is your book's genre?
Literary fiction, but only because it's hard to shelve anywhere else. There's love and romance and sex, but it's not a romance novel. The protagonist is female, but I don't know that I'd classify it as "women's fiction" - Mia's experience is not universally (nor uniquely) female. There's action, but it's largely internal, and suspense, but not the kind that has readers waiting for a killer to turn the corner. (Well, actually...I take that back.)
Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in the screen adaptation that will most certainly be produced?
Mia (the English professor-turned-cab driver): Ellen Page or Kristen Stewart. Enough said, probably.
Jake (Mia's boyfriend, an Apache pilot in Iraq): Someone passably good-looking, but largely unknown.
Donny Donaldson: Terry Kiser Terry Kiser Terry Kiser! I would pay him from my own checking account if I could afford him.
Jake's mother Olivia: Kathy Bates. Olivia is annoying, a little flighty, and a steamroller. Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes immediately comes to mind.
And I'd love a brunette Dakota Fanning to play the marriage-trapped (but wise) Denise. Except she might still be too young.
Q: What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A: A professor-turned-cab driver afraid she'll never see her war-fighting soul mate again befriends a Vietnam veteran and a bad habit or two as her once-normal life becomes an exercise in long-distance relationship management, friendship avoidance, "couples" party handling, and war protest etiquette.
Q: What relationship (between characters) is the most complicated, and what's complicating it for them?
A: Mia and Denise, whose significant others are both at war, have the most complicated relationship. Although both are waiting, they're waiting for very different reasons, which creates increasing strain and distance while simultaneously forcing them together. They're also clashing personality types: Mia is reactionary and passionate, and Denise is almost infuriatingly calm and cool.
Q: Who or what inspired the book's protagonist?
A: Mia as the story's protagonist was borne of my experience, but she as a more complex person/personality was inspired by the things I believe many of us have inside, at one time or another, and are loathe to share or admit to. And I don't mean bad things, necessarily.
Q: Fill in the blank: Readers who enjoyed _______ will also enjoy my book.
A: Based on what readers have said: genre fiction, The Things They Carried, The Bell Jar, Paint it Black, or books by Margaret Atwood or Janet Fitch.
Q: Who or what inspired the story?
A: This is probably an obnoxious answer, but it was inspired by the need to tell it. Most of the stories I've told (in my short fiction) have been inspired by powerful (or subtle, but nagging) personal experiences, and waiting for my lovey love soul mate guy to make it back from Iraq alive was the most passionate, intense, surreal, aggravating, action-packed (emotionally speaking), suspenseful, exciting, and sorrowful experience I've ever had (or expect to have) in my life. How do you not write that story?
Additionally, the larger "waiting" experience is one very few people know much about on a level that goes beyond what we see in the media. I'm nosy, and I assume others are, too, so I like to try to get behind curtains and invite others to see what I found.
Q: What is your favorite line of dialogue a character delivers? (No context.)
A: Donny (60-something man) says to Mia (twenty-something woman), "I'm old enough to be your daughter."
Q: When and how will it be published?
Missouri Breaks Press published it in September 2012. Pretty Much True... can be found in most online bookstores, is available for Kindle, and can be ordered from brick-and-mortars.
Blog Hop and Authors Week
The new craze in blogging right now is what's called a blog hop--one blogger answers a set of questions, then tags several other bloggers to answer the same questions, who then tags more, and so on. It's not unlike the current questionnaire I've been seeing on Facebook in which one person answers a set of questions about a given year, and then tags people in the post to respond and post.
Last week I was tagged by two different authors-- Alice Osborn, North Carolina poet and teacher, and Craig Lancaster, author of 600 Hours of Edward and more. The questionnaire was about works in progress; but given that I'm superstitious and don't like to talk about my works in progress, I chose to write about Adulation instead, especially given that we're just coming out of Oscar season, and the Kindle edition is on sale right now.
To continue the blog hop, I'll be both tagging writers as well as featuring them here all week. Please scroll to the bottom to learn more about these terrific authors and their equally terrific books.
Q: What is the title of your latest book?
A: My most recent title is called Adulation, published in November 2012. (The Kindle edition is currently on sale for $1.99 during the entire month of March.)
Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: I had wanted to write a novel about a fan who meets her longtime idol ever since I saw the original lineup of Duran Duran perform in 2005. In 2010, I had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Sorkin following a Q&A at an advanced screening of The Social Network in Durham, North Carolina. I had interacted with Sorkin on numerous occasions via a Facebook discussion forum prior, but it occurred to me at the moment he shook my hand that had we met under other circumstances—a coffeeshop, a university lecture, through friends, etcetera—and he wasn’t “Aaron Sorkin, famous award-winning screenwriter,” this was a guy I would give my phone number to, perhaps even ask out on the spot.
The what-if was born that night: what if a fan and her idol meet and it turns out they’re more than just compatible, but meant for each other? Can it work out, or has fame and fortune gotten in the way?
Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: I market is as commercial women's fiction.
Q: What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
A: Oooh, I always get stumped on this question! Lately I’ve been thinking Ben Affleck would make a good Danny Masters, especially if he grew his hair out the way he did for Argo. I think I’d want someone relatively unknown to play Sunny Smith. And Jim Parsons has to play Georgie Spencer.
Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A: When attention-craving, celebrity screenwriter Danny Masters meets spotlight-avoiding, bookstore employee Sunny Smith, both must make a decision to give up the things they want to hold on to most to be together, or whether they can.
Q: Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m currently under contract with Amazon Publishers, and I love working with them.
Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
A: I wrote about half of the novel during NaNoWriMo 2010; I wrote the rest during winter, spring, and summer breaks from teaching, 2011.
Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: Not a book, but the Nor Ephron film Sleepless in Seattle, Tracie Banister’s novel Blame it on the Fame, and Jennifer Weiner’s The Next Best Thing. Readers of Christopher Herz’s Hollywood Forever might also like Adulation, although the story is rather different.
Q: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A: See my above story regarding Aaron Sorkin! Although I want to make clear that Danny Masters is not based on Sorkin—at most, he’s had what I call “a Sorkinesque career.” Any similarities after that are coincidental.
Q: What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The story is told in alternating POVs. Danny Masters is written in third person, and Sunny Smith is written in first person. The alternating POV enhances the dynamic of the story, and shows the parallels of Danny’s and Sunny’s lives so that even though they’re living on opposite ends of the country, they’re somehow rather close to one another.
When you find yourself feeling lazy or ‘blocked’, how do you force yourself to get past it?
Curl up in a fetal position on the couch and watch re-runs of The Mentalist…
Seriously, I either freewrite (mostly about how bad the writing is, although eventually I can psych my way past it) or put the work down temporarily and read or watch something else. Despite the fact that I’m a novelist, I find myself inspired by a lot of screenwriting. If whatever I’ve picked up is really good, it inspires me to get back to my own writing.
COMING THIS WEEK
Tuesday, March 5:
HEATHER GRACE STEWART is a Canadian author, journalist and speaker. Her most recent works are a book of poetry, stories and photography called Three Spaces and a screenplay for Kindle, Kobo, ibooks and more, called The Friends I've Never Met. She speaks at universities about the new world of e-publishing and following your passion.
Wednesday, March 6:
KRISTEN TSETSI is the author of Pretty Much True, which earned a mention on NPR. You can learn more about her here.
Thursday, March 7:
MICHAEL TINKER PEARCE and LINDA PEARCE are a husband-and-wife writing team from Seattle, WA. Michael is a knife and sword maker and Linda was an IT professional and project manager for over twenty years. You can read more about them here. Their first full-length novel is Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman.
Saturday, March 10:
NICOLE McLERNON writes because there are stories in her head that have to come out. Nicole is still venturing into the world of publishing although she has written two NaNoWriMo novels. Her favorite things to write are drabbles which are short stories of exactly 100 words. She lives, writes, and works as a nurse in Massachusetts. Her post will appear on her blog Soul Conversations. Please do check it out!
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.