Tell us about your latest book.
Time of My Life is the story about a woman who, on the surface, seems to have it all. But when you peel back her layers, you discover that she is deeply unhappy and has lingering “what ifs” about her past. Rather than face her current problems, she wakes up one day seven year in her past – at her old job, with her old boyfriend – and has the opportunity to rewrite her future.
What pulled you into this story, and as a writer made you think ‘I have to write this’?
I knew I wanted to write a book that dealt with time-travel in some way…the last episodes of Felicity were among my favorite hours of television EVER, and I was drawn to doing something like that. But I didn’t know how to sort it out in my mind. In fact, I mentioned something to my agent about “time-travel” for my next book, and I think she thought I was nuts! But then one afternoon while this was on my mind, my best friend called while she was on vacation in a city of her ex-boyfriend, and she said, “I’m so weirded out…I can’t stop thinking about what my life might have been like.” Then we had one of those intimate life conversations that you can only have with your closest friends about her what-ifs and my what-ifs, and how this was all very normal, even though people didn’t really talk about it. We hung up, and I headed out for a run, and bam, the idea, characters and plotlines just presented themselves very clearly. I came home, wrote what are now the first 14 pages, and sent them off to my agent, who flipped for them. I think, as so many of us get older and look back on our younger years with nostalgia, it’s very easy (and normal) to consider what the other possibilities could have been – and I wanted to explore that.
Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline or are you more organic?
I guess you could call my process organic. I start with a plot idea – in this case, as I mentioned, I wanted to explore what-ifs and second chances. But the character very much define where the book goes from there. Jillian presented herself to me immediately – her voice and her situation rang very clearly to me on the run I just mentioned – so I came home and wrote HER story, that happened to fit into my plot. But from there, I let her (and the other characters) dictate what happens…often times, a book will go in an unanticipated direction because the characters lead me there. Which I why I don’t work from an outline – it seems like an exercise in futility.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
When I’m in the writing groove, which I’m not right now, I have a pretty specific schedule because with two kids and a dog to walk, I don’t have a choice. It also really, really helps curb my constant procrastination. So, basically, I drop my son off at school and take a little walk to clear my head. I’m get home, eat breakfast and surf any necessary junky gossip or writing sites that I absolutely can’t live without before I start work. I usually set a time limit for myself because if not, I will do this for the entire day – seriously Facebook or JCrew or People.com can suck me in forever – so at 10:30 or so, I start writing. I set a word count for myself, when I’m really in the groove, it’s about 2k a day – and this usually takes me about 2 hours to reach. Once I’m there, I break for errand running/lunch picking up/gym, and then if I have magazine stuff to tackle, I do so afterward in the mid-afternoon. Then, I’m off to walk the dog (he gets walked in the morning, so he gets a good romp in with his friends), and then, by 6pm, my sitter leaves, and I’m whipping up dinner for my kids. (And by whipping up, I usually mean nuking something moderately healthy. Let’s not kid ourselves here.)
Do you have a vice that you’ve given up, but long to continue?
Does sleeping in count? J Because that’s the one luxury that I really miss these days. All through my life, I’ve been a champion sleeper – I even modified my major in college when I discovered that one of the required classes met at 8 AM, and I knew that I wouldn’t make it. But now, with two kids, I’m up waaaaay too early for anyone’s good, and I truly long for the days when I can pass out and not wake up until my body is truly ready to. Oh, wow, just thinking about it makes me want to cry.
How do you promote your books? Are you going on tour for this book? Any upcoming signings?
I am doing a few signings, but the truth is that with two small kids, I’m not anxious to jet all over the nation in the hopes that some strangers will show up and ask for my autograph. Instead, I’ve found that using the web for promotion can be much more efficient (and you don’t have to worry about losing your luggage!). So I’m guest-blogging on a host of sites, and my publisher is also running ad campaigns on a variety of sites like People.com. I think that visibility is the key to selling books: I read somewhere that a consumer has to see your book cover three times for it to really make an impact, so any place that I can get that cover and title out in front of people, I am. I’ve also been really fortunate, really, really fortunate, I should say, to have gotten a lot of magazine coverage in places like Redbook, Cosmo, Family Circle, and Hallmark, so certainly, that is a big boost.
For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?
Oh geez, this feels a little bit like asking a celebrity what’s the worst part about being famous! But right now, the most difficult thing for me is coming up with my next big idea. I’ve been starting and stopping several attempts at books, but none of them seem to compare to Time of My Life. I’m sure that this is just undue pressure I’m placing on myself, but I can’t seem to get over it. That said, I write my best when the idea just hits me, as it did for Time of My Life, and as it did for my first book, so I’m sort of sitting around, waiting. (And spending too much time on the web!) I suppose the other down side of being an author is that really, your future is basically the great unknown – who knows if your efforts will be published, and if so, if anyone will like them anyway? But for me, that’s also what makes this a great life: I love knowing that I’m at the helm of my career, and that for the most part, I can steer it wherever I like.