Friday, April 11, 2008

Getting By With a Little Help...

So I usually don't blog on Fridays, but I wanted to take a moment to share a wonderful experience that I had last night. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a get-together with several other authors, and we convened yesterday for high tea. What a blast! (The company might have even been better than the scones, and that's saying a lot.)

In attendance were Sarah Mlynowski, Jane Green, Laura Dave, Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus, and Lynda Curnyn. (Leslie Margolis was sick, so couldn't make it.) Now, these are women who, conceivably, do not need to sit down with other writers to chew the (literal and otherwise) fat. The above names, for the most part, are big, big names in women's fiction and YA and the world of writing in general, so the fact that they all hustled their butts to a tea salon in Gramercy Park to meet other writers says a lot about them.

And oh what fun we had. Yes, there was some industry gossip, but mostly, it was just getting to know each other and supportive stories from the trenches and figurative pats on the backs or shoulders to bitch on. And this, to me, is what makes these women so amazing...and what we need more of in this industry. It's even more fitting because I'm attending a dinner for FLX members tomorrow, and nowhere is there a more supportive writers network than on FLX.

Writers need to support other writers. Women need to support other women. As Emma said at one point, we are not opening weekends. We are not competing with one another for box office seats. Their readers are my readers, and vice versa. Failing to realize this can not only alienate you from other authors, I truly believe that it can limit your personal growth, which, really, is probably leaps and bounds more important than your total book sales at the end of the day. And, incidentally, this is the same reason that I don't post negative reviews on places like GoodReads: this writing business is tough enough, why bring someone else down?

And, of course, that's also what this blog is all about. So, even though we haven't all met for high tea, I do hope that we all put out there what we take in, that we all sow and reap and reap and sow. I'm grateful that other writers feel the same, and I'm grateful that you guys do as well.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cover Me

Today, I'm over at Writer Unboxed, chatting about covers and how they influence different demographics - for example, the softness and more heightened emotion of my paperback cover compared to the striking, stronger image of my hardcover and what that's all designed to do, in terms of sales.

Btw, this paperback version is out on April 22nd! (Don't worry, I'll remind you!) But please do look for it in a store near you. I know that a lot of folks don't like to shell out for hardcovers, but I hope that you'll consider paying $11 from Amazon or the $14 at your local store. (And yes, you can pre-order it now! It might show up a few days early.) :) First week sales and pre-orders make all the difference (something I'll be chatting about next week), so I can't thank you enough for your support.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

GCC Presents: Wendy Tokunaga and Midori by Midnight

So I haven't done a GCC post in months, and I can think of no better way to get back into the swing of things than with a Q/A with Wendy Tokunaga, whose debut novel, Midori By Midnight just hit bookstores and which Publishers' Weekly called, "a delectably frothy romp!" Sounds like the perfect beach novel when/if spring ever arrives here in the Northeast! (But my weather complaints are another post for another day...) I especially like her answer to #3, and suspect that many blog readers will as well.Here's the scoop on the book, then read on for her wonderful answers to my usual questions:

What happens when a young woman, fresh from Japan and too independent for Japanese society, finds herself suddenly lost in translation in San Francisco as she searches for her American Dream and the perfect dessert?

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga answers this question and more in her poignant comic novel, MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT, where we meet thirty-year-old Midori Saito, whose dream seems about to come true. A strong independent streak has always made her feel like a stranger in a strange land in her native Japan, but now she’s embarking on a new life in San Francisco. She’s about to marry Kevin, the perfect American man—six feet tall, with curly hair the color of marmalade. Unlike a Japanese guy who’d demand she be a housewife, Kevin doesn’t mind if Midori follows her dream of becoming a master pastry chef. Her life is turning out as exquisitely as a Caramelized Apple Tart with Crème Fraiche, until Kevin dumps her at their engagement party in favor of his blond, ex-fiancée, whom Midori never even knew existed.

Now Midori is not only on her own—with just a smattering of fractured English in her repertoire—she’s entered the U.S. on a fiancée visa that will expire in sixty days. Unable to face the humiliation of telling her parents she’s been dumped, and not wanting to give up on her American dream, Midori realizes she’s “up the creek without a saddle.” Her only hope is new acquaintance Shinji, 30, who long ago escaped Japan after a family tragedy, is a successful San Francisco graphic artist and amateur moon gazer, and who lets her share his apartment as a platonic roommate.

Soon Midori finds herself working at an under-the-table hostess job at an unsavory Japanese karaoke bar, making (and eating) way too many desserts, meeting a charming and handsome chef with his own restaurant who may be too good to be true, and trying to uncover the secret behind a mysterious bar hostess who looks strangely familiar. But Midori’s willing to endure almost anything to hang on to her American dream, and she just might find that the love she’s been searching for far and wide is a whole lot closer than she thinks.

1) What’s the backstory behind your book?

~ MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT is about 30-year-old fresh from Japan Midori Saito, who finds herself lost in translation in San Francisco searching for her American dream and the perfect dessert. It is inspired by my Japanese husband’s story of how he never felt he fit in Japan and ended up trading his native culture for a new one when he settled in the United States.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?

~ MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT is the story of a Japanese woman who feels like a stranger in a strange land in her native Japan and escapes to the United States, so of course it’s not autobiographical (I am Caucasian American and was born and raised in San Francisco). But I have had a long love affair with Japan and Japanese culture, am married to a man born and raised in Japan, have Japanese in-laws, and I speak the language half-way decently so I have put a lot of my experience and knowledge into the book.

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?

~ MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT is my debut novel, but is actually the fifth I have written. For me to get a major publishing deal it took over ten years of trying, along with getting hundreds and hundreds of rejections from agents. I did win an award in the Writer’s Digest Best Self-Published Book Awards in 2002 for my novel NO KIDDING, but that didn’t help much in getting notice from agents. Along the way I published some short stories in small journals and wrote a couple of children’s non-fiction books as works for hire (flat fee, no royalties). So this has been a long road (including finally getting an agent who couldn’t sell book number three or four, then him dumping me). I decided that maybe out of these five novels I’d written I could at least get an MFA in Creative Writing. So I applied to grad schools, decided on the University of San Francisco, and right when I started in Summer 2006, I got my great agent Marly Rusoff and she got me a two-book deal with St. Martin’s about eight weeks later.

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What’s your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?

~ I procrastinate when I know I have to write something new because that’s the hardest part for me. On the other hand, I can spend hours happily revising, rewriting, and tweaking. I don’t have any particular rituals. I am deadline driven and always meet my deadlines so I guess that motivates me.

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?

~ Rinko Kikuchi ("Babel") as Midori and Masi Oka ("Heroes") as Shinji.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Anatomy of a Book Sale

So this weekend, I picked up Meg Wolitzer's The Ten-Year Nap. We've discussed the book-buying decision several times on this blog, and since I'm fresh out of a meeting with my marketing and publicity team for Time of My Life, in which we talked about which publications actually get people to buy books, I've been paying particular attention to how I make my book-buying decisions. (Btw, I'll have more on my FABULOUS meeting coming up on the blog soon.)

So here's what happened: I saw a great review of TTYN in Entertainment Weekly, which, I believe, gave the book an A-. The book seemed to cover similar themes as those covered in Time of My Life - motherhood, the bigger picture, discontentedness, fulfillment, etc. Over the years, I've come to learn that my sensibilities match EW's nearly exactly, and since they so rarely give As, this review caught my attention. (Incidentally, the pr/mktg team agreed that EW is one of those places that really can sell books, so I'm not alone.)

From there, with my interest baited, I headed to both Amazon and GoodReads to see what others had thought. All good things, it turns out. And from there, because I suspected that Wolitzer might be a little too literary for my specific tastes (and because I judge a book based on its cover, and that too, seemed literary), I tried to read the excerpt on Amazon, but the link wasn't working, so I googled an excerpt, found one on NPR and discovered that this book was right up my alley.

I bought it later that day and dug into it that night (whoohoo, rockin' Saturday night at the Scotch household, thanks to an emergency in our babysitting situation!) and read until my eyelids could no longer hold themselves upright.

I have no idea if this is how most of the book-buying public makes their decisions, but I think this is a pretty standard way that I make mine. A lot of times, I buy books simply because I know the author, and whether or not it's truly a book that speaks exactly to me, I want to support him or her, so I whip out my wallet. But beyond that - and other than referrals from friends - this is the best way that I know how to end up with a book that I enjoy reading from first page to end.

So...let's get this discussion going. A) What are you currently reading? And B) if you're up to elaborating, how did you make the decision to buy it?