Friday, October 24, 2008

Meet Me In New Hampshire

So the car and the kiddies are packed, and we're heading up to New Hampshire for my reading/signing on Saturday. If you're in the area, please stop by!

In the meantime, if you haven't bought the book, will you pretty, pretty, pretty please pick it up this weekend? And email your friends and ask them to too? :) And then have them email their friends? LOL. Okay, maybe not. But I ask because, I can't believe this, it actually looks like I have a shot at making the bestseller list THIS WEEK, so THIS WEEK'S sales really, really, really matter. So please, please, please - buy it today! If your local store doesn't have it, please ask them to order it! I was told that this is the best way to help boost store support. (The things you learn...I'd normally rush home and buy it from Amazon, but apparently not.)

Okay, enough of my begging (one more time: please???): my GCC tour begins next week, but two lovely bloggers were kind enough to tour me early, which should keep you occupied until I'm back in town and at the computer.

Roberta Isleib's Blog -

Granny Panty Chronicles -

Happy weekend, everyone! (And hit the bookstore asap!)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Secrets to Success (And Oh Yeah, A 2nd Print Run, Baby!)

Hey - New Englanders: mark your calendars: I will be reading and signing this weekend, Saturday, October 25th, at the Barnes and Noble in Manchester, NH on South Willow St. at 4pm. I hope to see some of you there!

Also, more good news! Time of My Life went into its second printing yesterday! Yay! If you haven't bought it, I hope that you'll consider buying it now!

I was asked this week, on one of my writer's boards, to share the secrets of my success. The question made me both laugh and cringe, and it feels really narcissistic to even indulge myself into thinking that I'm someone who should have secrets to her success, much less share them, but once I started thinking about it, I thought, eh, maybe I do have some tips that might be helpful or inspirational to blog readers, and so, here are a few ways that I think I helped boost my career. Take them for what you will, knowing that there are many, many writers out there who are more successful than I am, and that I in no way am placing myself into their vaulted category.

So anyway, here are some tips:

1) I'm not afraid of failure. For me, it's not that failure isn't an option. Of course it's an option, but it's not a reason not to do something. I push myself my very, very hardest, and I truly and fully believe that I will succeed at virtually everything I do, but I also know that if I don't, it's not the end of the world. Failure really isn't that scary to me, but I think for some writers that fear of failure can be paralyzing. But you know what? So what if your ms doesn't sell? Mine didn't. Eat cookies, move on. (As I've been known to say.) Use it as a lesson for improvement.

2) I'm open, very open, to constructive criticism. This sort of goes along with #1. I think a lot of writers tie their egos to their work, but what really happens is their egos bog them down like boulders. I got criticism earlier in my career (hell, I still get it, let's be honest), and rather than raise a wall of defensiveness, I took an honest look at what these people were saying about my writing and I tried my very best to implement the advice, when sound. I often say here that improvement in your writing is a limitless ceiling, but many times, the only way to improve is to take a hard look at your weaknesses. Even if your mother tells you that your ms is perfect, it's most likely not, so stop thinking that it is.

3) I dream big. I don't know if this makes me particularly unique. I'm guessing that most writers hope to write big books and have their novels turned into movies and all of that good stuff. But regardless, I dream big, but I don't just dream: as I alluded to in #1, I fully, fully believe that I am capable of making this stuff happen. I honestly give this credit to my parents: I have been over-confident since I was a kid; it's just full-blown innate assuredness (is that even a word?) that if I want to get something done, I have the skills and capacity to do so. So I use everything in my control to make it happen. If it doesn't, it's not going to be for my lack of trying. (Think of that Chumba Wumba song: "I get knocked down, then I get up again, you're never gonna knock me out." Well, I love that song. It is my motto to a tee.)

4) I surround myself with very, very, very good people. I keep getting congratulatory emails and phone calls, but really, I think a lot of the kudos goes to the team (ugh, yes, I said that I have a team, forgive me) that has worked to make this book a success. I have been with my agent since the beginning (well, after my first agent gave up on me - see #1 about failure), and she wasn't the most established and she wasn't the biggest and she wasn't the a-numero-uno. But I believed in her, and she believed in me, and together, we've ascended the ranks. I trusted that she was smart and capable and talented and my ally, and she has proven to be all of these things, and without her, I would not be here. Ditto the team at Random House: people congratulate me on The Today Show, and I say, "Congratulate my publicist because she did it, not me!" And it's true: from the person who designed the incredible cover to my publicist to my incredible editor who suggested some tweaks in my first draft that made this book so, so, so much was a collaborative effort. And an intentional one as well. My agent and I knew that we wanted to work with these folks before we shopped the book around, so we found a way to make it happen, even if it meant, for example, that I pulled out from an auction and took less money.

5) I had some good luck. Let's be honest here. There are plenty of incredibly talented writers out there who haven't yet been discovered. My timing has worked out. If my best friend hadn't called me on the day I was gestating a time-travel idea and hadn't started talking about her what-ifs and if I hadn't then gone for a run on that incredible summer day, who knows? I worked very, very hard, but I also got lucky. I'm smart enough to know that too.

Anyone else want to chime in on their own secrets to success? I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

GCC Presents: Nadine Dajani and

Whew! So I'm taking a break from the whirlwind of ToML stuff to promote someone else's book, something you know that I'm always happy to do! We're returning to our regular programming with a GCC tour stop. Today, we have Nadine Dajini and her new book, Cutting Loose, which Publishers Weekly deemed "engrossing," and the Romantic Times calls, "hard to put down." Nice! Pick up a copy on Amazon today!

Here's the scoop, and then Nadine answers my usual questions (aspiritng novelists - be sure to read her answer to #3):

Ranya is a modern-day princess—brought up behind the gilded walls of Saudi Arabian high society and winner of the dream husband sweepstakes . . . until said husband turns out to be more interested in Paolo, the interior-decorator-cum-underwear-model, than in his virginal new wife.

Smart, independent, but painfully shy, Zahra has managed to escape her impoverished Palestinian roots to carve out a life of comfort. But she can’t reveal her secrets to the man she adores or shake off the fear that she doesn’t deserve any of it. Neither can she stop herself from thinking that if she holds on to anything—or anyone—too dearly, they will be taken away in the blink of a kohl-lined eye.

Rio has risen above the slums of her native Honduras—not to mention the jeers of her none too supportive family—to become editor in chief of Suéltate magazine, the hottest Latina-targeted glossy in town, and this in spite of Georges Mallouk, her clueless boss, and in spite of Rio’s affair with Georges’ delicious but despicable younger brother, Joe.

In this city of fast cars, sleek clubs, and unapologetic superficiality, Ranya, Zahra, and Rio wrestle with the ties that bind them to their difficult pasts, each wondering if she will ever manage to cut loose…

1) What’s the backstory behind your book?

I always look at a new book as an opportunity to address an issue that’s bugging me – looking at it from different angles, finding characters that embody the clashing views and struggles, and then put them in a room together against some dazzling backdrop.

In Cutting Loose, there are many issues – every single character in this book has a different ethnic makeup – there’s the Lebanese Muslim social butterfly, the shy Palestinian Christian accountant whose family is struggling to survive under military occupation, the Honduran-American whose piece of the American dream was much more hard-earned than most, and then there’s a multi-generational dynasty of Lebanese Christians with roots in the US going back to Frontier times, and who’ve built a business empire. Every one of these characters represents a demographic that flies in the face of the conventional narrative we’re always being fed about who really occupies this world we live in, and what it is that really matters to them. Their struggles unfold against a few cities – Montreal, London, and Miami, but most of the action takes place in sizzling Miami, where I love to spend time when I can.

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?

There are a few elements of Ranya’s experiences as an expat in Saudi Arabia that were lifted from my memories, but I was too young back then to really be out and about and have something memorable to comment on – I lifted some of my cousin’s experiences, who is older and so had more interesting things happen to her… like sharing a classroom with actual princesses from the Saudi royal family. There are so many of the (last stat I came across was 11,000 in a relatively unpopulated country!) so it’s certainly possible (probable even), if you go to the top schools. Like Zahra, I’m originally Palestinian, though born in Lebanon, and I did want to explore that a little bit. But the most autobiographical element is right up front in the first chapter – I was sitting in a posh London restaurant (Harvey Nichols rooftop terrace, to be precise), thinking about how to begin this book. Just as Ranya notices, Middle Eastern wealth is really on display over there, as may Gulf Arabs spend their holidays in Europe and take advantage of the excursion to as (as do tourists all over the globe…). I guess the lady sitting at the table next to me was a little miffed by all the headscarf-clad heads in this posh place, and the loud, jovial chatter, so she turned around to her companion and said” “C’est payant, le terrorisme” which I’m sure you guessed, means “terrorism pays”.

Let me tell you, for an author who was looking for a good way to start a novel dealing with racism, it couldn’t have been more inspirational.

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

The old fashioned way – polishing and polishing and polishing my first effort until it was obviously ridiculous not to send it out. I researched agents, pitched at an RWA conference, identified my top two “perfect fit” agents, queried them both. They both requested a partial (that’s the first chapter and a 5 page summary). They both came back with both positive and negative feedback and gave me a shot at spiffing up my first few chapters and resubmitting. I did, and with their feedback, the chapters really were much better – and they both made an offer! It was an incredible moment in my life. In fact, I was keenly aware that no other “first” would top this one – it was the first time I’d gotten validation from someone willing to pay actual money for these sentences I’d strung together, mostly for fun. I decided on the agent I felt had the best experience, and the one who could offer constructive criticism (and not just gush over my writing, or want to be my friend). A couple of months later, I had a deal!

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 also have a serious procrastination problem, and there are no better motivators than meeting deadlines and getting that check in! I tried to weed television out of my life, but with all these Planet Earth reruns and the constant election coverage, I can’t resist anymore! It’s a constant struggle with no shortcuts… sorry.

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?

I love this question! The whole time I was writing, I had a clear picture of Aishwayra Rai (even made a reference in the novel…) of Bride and Prejudice as Ranya, the doe-eyed, mocha-skinned beauty being taken for a ride by the ageing blond-bombshell cad, Jude Law. As for her studly but darker-humored savior Georges, my dream casting would be my current Hollywood crush – Javier Bardem. But the boys are supposed to be brothers and I have a hard time picturing Jude and Javier as remotely related!

For the driven and snarky Latina editor of Sueltate magazine where Ranya lands her first ever job, I can see Rosario Dawson (who shares the character’s first name!) with a no-nonsense pixie cut. Marisa Tomei would be great too.

As for Zahra, the slightly overweight, shy Palestinian accountant, I think Jennifer Aniston would be fabulous if she agreed to put on 30 pounds and be made up to look frumpy, à la Nicole Kidman in The Hours or Renee in her infamous take on Bridget Jones.

And for my favorite character of all, the unlikely young Latin hunk poised to rock Rio’s cynical world, I would love to see Jay Hernandez who totally rocked my world in Crazy/Beautiful opposite a nutty Kirstin Dunst.