Wednesday, 20 March 2013
THE "LOWDOWN" ON TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
I am totally gobsmacked/amazed/grateful for the attention my book TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE has received since I announced my giveaway on Goodreads back in February. Since then, I've received all kinds of emails from readers asking about the inspiration for the book, how long it took me to write it, etc.
Although the genre of the book is best characterized as women's suspense, the really cool thing about it is that it has cross-over appeal to Young Adult (YA) since one of the main characters is 17-years-old. However, given the grim subject matter, dark elements and coarse language in some parts of the book, I've been reluctant to promote it to younger YA. I recently did an interview/giveaway with The Young Adult Book Club on Goodreads and the response there from readers has been terrific so it seems to reinforce my belief on its cross-over appeal.
So, for those of you who have asked about me and the nitty-gritty details about the inspiration behind TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE, the interview I did with The Young Adult Book Club is reproduced below:
1. Tell us about your book and what was your inspiration for writing it.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE is about two stories, really. The main story deals with seventeen-year-old Karen Devane, a spoiled Hollywood princess who gets into a confrontation with a homeless woman, who’s killed by a hit-and-run driver as she’s trying to escape from Karen and her two friends. Karen’s involvement in the woman’s death sets off a chain of events which eventually reveals some pretty awful family secrets, all of which revolve around her beloved grandmother, Kate. The back story is all about Kate’s past.
The inspiration for TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE came in kind of a roundabout way. My son used to play high school basketball and one Saturday, I got up really early because he had a game and I guess I was worried about a snowstorm that was supposed to happen later in the day and I couldn’t sleep. Anyway, I turned on the TV and there, on the History channel, was this documentary on war children that caught my attention. What was really sad about these war children was that when the Second World War was over, they were hated and treated really badly by adults and by other children and many were thrown into mental institutions while their mothers were treated as traitors and ostracized for the rest of their lives. Some of these war children grew up to become famous like the musician, Eric Clapton, as well as Ani-Frid Lyngstad, one of the singers from the Swedish pop group, ABBA. I thought this lesser-known aspect of the Second World War would make an interesting, and powerful, back story to my book. Ani-Frid Lyngstad, who’s now a real-life princess, became the inspiration for the grandmother in my book, Kate Stanton.
I also love everything about Hollywood and when I started writing this book, all you seemed to hear about in entertainment news at that time was the Britney Spears meltdown or LiLo’s latest crisis or the feud between Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchey. These guys combined were sort of the inspiration for the character of seventeen-year-old Karen Devane. Karen comes from Hollywood royalty, she’s spoiled and dealing with the break-up of her parents and some recent developments in her father’s love-life have her pretty messed up. She’s a good kid who makes some not-so-great choices which ends up landing her in major trouble. Although both her parents love her dearly, Karen believes the only constant in her life is her beloved grandmother Kate.
2. How did you get interested in writing this particular genre?
First off, I’ve always loved reading YA but when I started writing TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE, I envisioned the book more as women’s fiction rather than YA because the back story has some really dark elements to it, not to mention coarse language. Then as the story evolved, it became clear to me that the story would also have cross-over appeal to older young adults because of seventeen-year-old Karen and her struggles throughout the book.
I think one of the reviews I received from someone on Amazon.com summed up my book really well:
From the synopsis of this book, the reader might think it’s a mystery-thriller centered around the 17 yr. old Karen. What it really is, is a disturbing book about family secrets; taking the reader from WWII Poland, post war Norway, and landing in Hollywood. It’s a tale about the characters surviving horrors, and having the resilience to create new lives for themselves. Karen’s involvement in the killing of a homeless woman is the culmination of events in her family that she has no inkling about.
3. How long did it take to write your book?
It took me about eight months to write the book and another two months to edit it.
4. What was your favorite scene to write and what was the most difficult scene?
There were two really difficult scenes for me to write. The first scene starts off the book where Karen and her two friends gang up on this feisty homeless woman. Without revealing too much, I can only say that things get out of hand pretty quickly. The concept of ganging up on anyone, much less a defenseless woman who has mental challenges, really bothered me but that particular scene is integral to the story. The second really difficult scene for me was writing about the grandmother Kate and her sister, Lilly, as little girls and what they went through at the hands of the man who saved them from life at the internment camp. Again, the thought of someone harming a defenseless child in any way brings tears to my eyes so to write that scene with the two sisters was really, really difficult.
I think my favorite scene to write was the one involving Karen and Liz, the homeless woman’s daughter, near the end of the book, when they meet up with Kate in the cemetery. So much has happened to those three characters and there’s been such a shift in their relationship that it was a real joy for me to write. I’m one of those people who cry over a cute toilet paper commercial so it’s not uncommon for me to be laughing or crying over a particular scene as I’m typing it. Crazy, I know, but what can I do?
5. Can you share an interesting quote or excerpt from your book?
That would have to be the very first line of the book: The dirty clothes and foul body odor were a lethal combination, infusing the already cloying humidity with a pervasive stink.
6. Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?
I can’t say that I’ve ever really had writer’s block but then again, I don’t actually sit down and write until I have a pretty good idea as to what’s going to happen with a particular scene(s). In other words, I have to close my eyes and let a scene or scenes play out in my mind before I can put it down on paper. Lying in a bubble bath, in a dark bathroom lit only with a nightlight, seems to work great for me. It’s sort of like watching a movie in your mind – I replay each scene in my mind several times and then I’m usually good to start typing. It’s a weird process but I guess every writer seems to have his or her own “process”.
7. If you gave one of your characters an opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?
After all is said and done, I think Kate would probably have this to say: Even when people say they’re ready to hear the truth, very few really are…
8. Who designed the cover of your book?
It’s a company in Poland called Formatting Experts. Their website is at www.formattingexperts.com. They do ebook formatting as well as custom cover design. This is actually the second cover they came up with. I didn’t like the first cover because it didn’t seem to capture the elements I thought the cover should have. When I explained exactly what I wanted, I expected them to rework the old cover but what I got was a brand new cover that totally captured the various elements I wanted. They’re a great company, very service-oriented. They also did my cover for the stand alone prequel to this book, THE TIES THAT BIND, and I’ll be using them again for my other covers.
9. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I know most aspiring writers hear this all the time but the best advice I can give is to keep reading and to keep writing. I really think you have to be a reader to be able to write and you must keep writing in order to hone your skills and become better at it.
10. What are you currently reading?
I just finished reading TWILIGHT (a little late, I know) and I’m about to start SAFE HAVEN by Nicholas Sparks.
11. Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?
I’ve always been a paperback girl but you can’t beat ebooks for their convenience.
12. Any authors or books that inspired you and your writing?
Absolutely! As a young girl, I used to love, love, love Judy Blume (who didn’t?). She would write about “taboo” subjects with such honesty and openness. I really liked that. By far, though, my biggest author influences have been Tess Gerritsen, who writes medical thrillers and has a really broad scope as a writer, and Nicholas Sparks, who writes with such emotion. It’s unusual, especially for a man, to have such emotional depth as a writer, I think.
13. What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
In addition to writing, I also have a day job so my writing life is structured around my day job. On weekdays, I’m up at four in the morning and that’s when I write, answer emails, etc. until six in the morning at which point I have to get ready and leave for work. I usually put in a few hours every night as well when I get home from work. On weekends, I write from four or five in the morning until about noon. I don’t have a set daily writing goal but I do have monthly ones. I find that because I have a day job, monthly goals are easier to meet than daily ones.
I have a dedicated office in the basement which I love. It’s pretty much cut off from the rest of the house and has only one small window so there isn’t much to distract me!
14. What do you do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I love to garden and travel and of course, read. I’m never far from a book.
15. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
My life is constantly evolving so I think an apt title would be something like, MARTA: THE NEXT CHAPTER.
16. What book would you like to read again?
I hoard books and I love re-reading them. If I had the chance, I would love to re-read all the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books as well as a book called THE SECRET LANGUAGE which I read as a young girl. It was about these two young girls in boarding school. I thought the book was absolutely magical.
17. Is there a particular movie that you preferred over the book version?
I rarely like movie adaptations of books because when someone reads a book, that person has an idea in their mind as to how a character looks or how a place in the book should look and when it’s adapted into a movie, the results tend to be a bit disappointing and not at all like you envisioned it when you were reading the book. Having said that, I personally liked the Harry Potter movies better than the books. I’m not sure why, I just did.
18. You’ve described your other book, THE TIES THAT BIND, as a standalone prequel to TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE. What’s it about and why do a prequel rather than a sequel?
THE TIES THAT BIND focuses on the lives of Karen’s father, Dr. Eric Devane and his relationship with his fiancée, Brooke Connelly. Brooke comes from a polygamist family and has a pretty messed up past, including ties to a mobster and also to one of the most powerful men in Las Vegas. When I finished TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE, I didn’t feel as though there was anyplace further to go with these characters. However, I wanted to do something with the characters of Karen’s father and his fiancée so I thought a prequel might be the interesting way to go. The back story for Brooke is not very pretty but it is interesting, especially how she hooks up with Chaz Longo, a fellow polygamist, and how they hook up again years later. I think this book also has cross-over appeal to YA despite the adult subject matter.