Thursday, May 21, 2009

Anna David Can't Be BOUGHT (Or Can She?)

So we haven't done an author Q/A around here for a long time, and despite the fact that I am so very wise, sagacious and all-knowing, I think it's time to mix it up. :) (Er, yeah, sarcasm, in case that doesn't translate.) So today I'm super-excited to have a Q/A with Anna David, author of the newly released BOUGHT and the previously released PARTY GIRL, which I very much enjoyed.

I've known Anna virtually (and by that I mean online) for a few years now, and we finally, finally got to meet a few weeks back when she popped her gorgeous mug into my reading with Laura Dave. As always, it is fabulous to connect with like-minded, supportive authors, and thus, I jumped at the chance to host her here today. Okay, enough of me. Here's the scoop on BOUGHT, and then read on to get some scoop from her.

Tired of gathering banal quotes from the B-list on the sidelines of the red carpet, Emma Swanson publicly yearns for a more substantial career but privately dreams of a hotshot boyfriend to transport her into the beating heart of the Hollywood scene. Instead, she meets Jessica—beautiful, cavalier, manipulative—who shamelessly trades sex for the gifts it can bring. Convinced that writing a story about Jessica and her ilk would seriously boost her journalistic cred, Emma soon finds herself sucked into a world where the luxuries of prettied-up prostitution may cost more than she ever expected.

1) This is your second novel - how did the experience differ this time around than the first?

It was about a thousand times more difficult. I don’t know what your experience was but my first book flowed out of me like the words had just been sitting in the front of my brain, ready to be downloaded onto the keyboard at the earliest opportunity. It was like, “This novel thing is easy! Why do people say it’s so hard?” And then I started writing this book. Because my first novel was based so much on my own experiences and this one was basically an entire figment of my imagination – with bits from an investigative feature
I’d done on high-class prostitution for Details – I struggled and struggled and struggled to find the story. I ended up taking the manuscript back from HarperCollins after they’d bought it and explaining that I wanted to do a page one rewrite. The books is 272 pages, and I barely want to think about how many pages were thrown out. 200? 500? I have no idea.

2) Any lessons learned along the way to publication or between books #1 and

I guess I would have leveled my expectations more. I hope I’m doing that this time (sometimes I don’t know that I’m not doing that until it’s too late, if that makes sense). When my first book came out, it felt like such an accomplishment, and I guess I thought my entire life was going to change as a result. Instead, I learned that hundreds of thousands of books are released every year and few make an impact or an actual impression on the world. This time, I’m enjoying the process more. Yes, I’m killing myself promoting this book, but it’s fun to be interviewed about your book and try to get people excited about it and plan parties for it, and I’m taking the time to remember that this is the celebratory part. All that it’s-the-journey-and-not-the-destination stuff.

3) You were open about your first novel, which I loved, btw, somewhat mirroring your own life. Where did the inspiration come for

As I mentioned, I had done this investigative piece for Details on high-class prostitution. I had spent about six months infiltrating this world of exploitative madams, porn stars doing tricks as “side work,” pimps demanding money in exchange for information, and FBI informants playing me tape recordings of tapped phone conversations with madams, and it ended up being this 2000-word story that was, essentially, about how rich men get their rocks off. So I decided to fictionalize what I’d learned and incorporate in aspects of some of the dysfunctional relationships I’ve been in to tell a story about how much we all sell ourselves to get what we want.

4) You have a huge platform and are a media name: how did you go about
building this platform for yourself? A lot of Ask Allison readers are still
at the beginning stages of platform building, any specific tips?

For me, it was a sort of accidental offshoot of working at magazines. When I was on staff at Premiere and my photo began appearing on the contributors page, VH1, E and other cable networks started calling and asking me to come on to talk about various and sundry aspects of celebrities and celebrity-dom. That really is a good entrĂ©e in because there are hundreds of shows about celebrities that need to fill their hours and are thrilled to do that with free labor! I also wrote about sex, dating and relationships and was lucky enough to be hired to answer those questions every week on G4’s Attack of the Show. I also go on my friend Greg Gutfeld’s show, Red Eye, about twice a month…it’s not a paid gig but the show has such an ardent following (just like Attack of the Show) that I’ve connected with a lot of viewers that way. I really do think TV is the way to build a platform and if you can show up, be comfortable and deliver what they need, the same shows – whether it’s Today, CNN’s Showbiz Tonight or Hannity & Colmes – will keep asking you back. Creating a blog that’s controversial or gets a lot of traffic or writing a slew of magazine stories on similar topics or finding the newsy angle to your novel and then starting to contact the bookers at those shows would definitely be a way to start getting on. I’ve had to hire outside publicists to help on this.

5) You are a Twitter queen. (@annadavid) We've had a lot of debate here on
the blog as to the benefits (or not) of Twitter - where do you come down?
How do you use it?

When I meet people who say, “Yeah, I want to get into Twitter but it would be so much work,” I feel grateful for the fact that I actually enjoy doing it. It doesn’t feel like work to me. And I have connected with some of the nicest fans on there – I’m talking about people who have gone all out helping me get the word out about
Bought, created Iphone applications for my blog, edited together video clips of my appearances on shows…I’m telling you, the nicest people in the world. I’ve also gotten help on any number of things – hiring web developers, handling computer issues, even making my DVD player work when it was acting up. But I think it’s too soon to say for certain what the long-term benefits of Twitter are.

6) You used to do a slew of celebrity interviews. Any favorites? Any great stories (even if names are withheld?!)? :)

I’ll tell you my least favorite: when I covered the Oscars for
Premiere, I was really nervous. I couldn’t believe I was standing at the Governor’s Ball. I went up to interview this French actress who had been nominated, and I was such a bundle of nerves, she accused me of not really being a journalist. When I swore that I was and asked her how she prepared for the night, she spat out, “I did the Alexander Technique” but she said it in this indecipherable French accent and at the time, I didn’t know what the Alexander Technique was. I asked her to clarify and she told me to get a dictionary and look it up, and then swept off. It was so traumatic that I actually fictionalized this incident and used it in Bought.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Well, I'm Stuck

Question of the day: I went to NYC to talk to agents about the novel I'm writing. Several requested pages when I'm finished. Guess what? Now I'm stuck.

Ah yes. That old adage all-too-frequently proves true: that it is much easier to start a novel than to finish one. In fact, while I don't have any concrete stats to back me up, I'd gander that at least 75% of people who start a book don't finish it, because, let's face it, it's a hell of a lot easier to come up with a fancy concept that can generate a few chapters than to see that fancy concept (and all of the twists and turns) to page 300.

This isn't a slam at all. Just a simple writing fact of life.

So here's what I recommend. I've found in the past, whenever I get stuck, it's because I don't have enough going on with my characters and their lives and their sundry problems. So if I'm at a literal loss for words, I try to come up with another obstacle, another problem to throw in their path. Make them miserable; make their lives fall apart. You'll inevitably generate momentum because you'll HAVE to find a way to write them out of the hole you've place them in. Put a kink in their marriage, fire them from their job, send their father off a cliff (okay, figuratively speaking). Examine your character's life from all angles and see where it can go wrong.

Exposition - chattering off what's going on inside your character's head - can sink a book faster than a lot of authors realize. Don't get stuck in an actionless plot. Create the action and the pages will soon follow.

Monday, May 18, 2009

On the Clock

Question of the day: You said in one post you only work on your book about an hour a day -- did I get that right? Do you do it first thing in the morning or after your freelance work? And how often do you violate that rule?

Yep, indeed, I did say that, and it's only sort-of true. I set aside one hour a day to write because that's what I tell myself I HAVE to write...given how arduous I sometimes find fiction, I think if I told myself that I had to write four hours or whatnot every day, I simply become paralyzed with dread. But an hour? I mean, what's a measly hour? It's nothing. So I schedule my day around this hour because let's face it, anyone can do anything for an hour. (I often use this same psychology when it comes to running or working out...I can really endure a little pain for that short a period of time, and then it's over, and then I'm always glad that I did it, right?)

I almost always designate this hour in the morning, if only because my afternoons tend to get away from me with non-writing stuff - dropping in on my son's baseball class, walking the dog, running errands, and the only way that I can ENSURE that I get my hour in is to crank it out when the house is quiet.

Now. Does this mean that I only give an hour? No, not at all. Often times, once I get started, I completely lose track of the time and devote much more. But if I'm having a crap writing day, after minute 59, I give myself an out. Again, just like a workout. You have to break a sweat, but that doesn't mean you have to exhaust yourself. On days like that, just showing up is enough.

As far as my freelance stuff, it all depends on my deadlines. I procrastinate much less on my articles, so carving out time isn't that tough. Many times, I give myself that hour to work on my fiction (or else I'll end up skipping it altogether), and then, once my brain is in the "work mode," I transition pretty easily to my articles.

I think there are a couple of reasons why this works for me: 1) I don't expect too much from myself. As noted above, anyone can suffer through an hour. And 2) I've established a pattern that really works for my mental and physical schedule: I start writing right after my coffee has kicked in, when no one is around to bother me. No excuses. No reason NOT to dive in. It's a no-brainer.