Ellen Meister is one of my cyber-friends and a GCCer too. I read her first book Secret Confessions of The Applewood PTA and loved it, so I’m certain her second book The Smart One will be just as good or better. Ellen was kind enough to answer some question from me about her writing life and her new book.
Tell us about your latest book.
THE SMART ONE is a sister story with a bright voice, a dark crime and more humor than I expected. (Sometimes my characters surprise me!)
The three sisters in this book mix like oil, water and hundred-proof gin . . . a combination that threatens to combust over family tensions, suspected infidelities, a devastating accident, a stunning confession, and the sudden reappearance of their handsome, now all-grown-up former neighbor, Kenny Waxman, who’s back in town making his mark as a TV comedy writer.
It seems like the sisters will never understand where their differences begin and their own destructive tendencies end. Then it happens: they discover a decades-old body stuffed inside an industrial drum and begin a bold, heartbreaking, and sometimes hilarious journey that will either bring them together . . . or tear them apart for good.
What pulled you into this story, and as a writer made you think ‘I have to write this’?
When I got the idea to explore the ways in which we continue to define–and limit–ourselves by our childhood labels, I knew I had the beginnings of a novel I would want to read. And when I sat down and wrote an experimental chapter and my protagonist’s voice emerged, I knew I had the beginning of a novel I wanted to write!
Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline or are you more organic?
It’s a combination for me. I start out thinking about the idea for a long time, and then I make notes. In the beginning they’re very stream-of-consciousness–just random thoughts about my characters and story. Then a plot begins to emerge, and I start a rough outline. Before too long, though, I have to try my hand at a couple of chapters to get an idea of the voice and pacing, so I can figure out just how much story I’ll need to fill a book. After that I go back and finish the outline … which winds up being a very fluid document that I change as I go along.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
I have three kids, so there’s no such thing as a typical day. But I usually get up at 5 am and make myself some strong coffee. Once the caffeine kicks in, I get to work until the children awake. Then, after they leave for school, I’m back to my desk. I have to admit that I’d get a lot more done if I weren’t an internet junkie!
For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?
The writing itself is pretty damned hard … especially when I have an edit that requires unraveling a lot of my plot. That always makes me want to smash my head against the keyboard. But I have to admit that the most difficult part of the process is all the waiting and anticipation, especially when it involves hearing from an agent or an editor about my precious newborn work.
What do you love about being an author?
Ah, my favorite question … and so easy to answer! My favorite part is hearing from readers who I’ve touched in some way. That makes the whole thing worthwhile.