Monday, August 06, 2007

GCC Presents: Ellen Meister and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA

Girlfriend Cyber-Circuit time! Today, I'm thrilled to present Ellen Meister, whose laugh-out-loud Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA premiered with a bang last year. And guess what? If you didn't check it out then, now's your chance to grab the paperback version.

Here's the juicy scoop: When a Hollywood location scout comes to Applewood, Long Island, and announces that the local elementary school might make the perfect backdrop for an upcoming George Clooney movie, the PTA's decorum crumbles like a cookie from last week's bake sale.
Enter Maddie, Ruth, and Lisa, three women who become the glue that holds the project together, forging a bond of friendship stronger than anyone could imagine. And not a moment too soon, as marriage woes, old flames, and scandalously embarrassing family members threaten to tear each of them apart. Is their powerful alliance strong enough to overcome the obstacles to getting the movie made in their town? And will their friendship be enough to mend their hearts and homes? Join them as they reach for the stars . . . and try to pull off a Hollywood ending of their own.

And now, Ellen answers five questions just for Ask Allison readers! Here ya go:

1) What's the backstory behind your book?
Back in 2000, I finally got the gumption to stop procrastinating and pursue my lifelong dream of writing a novel. I was determined to find the time to do it, even though I had three small children, one of whom wasn't yet in school full time. Only problem was that I didn't know what I wanted to write about.

My head was swimming with the notion when I attended the first PTA meeting of the year at my local elementary school. As I smiled, greeting all the other women with my best soccer mom persona, I thought about the fact that no one in the room knew I had this special dream. In fact, no one knew I had an inner life at all. Then it occurred to me that everyone there could be feeling something pretty similar. As soon as I had that thought, I knew I wanted to write about these types of women--to explore the pain, passion, heartache and joy hidden beneath facade of the perfect suburban housewife--and do it with humor and compassion.

From there I set out to construct a plot around an event that could affect the community as a whole and the women as individuals. Eventually, I got the idea to bring a Hollywood movie studio to their town, and select their schoolyard as a possible location for the filming of a George Clooney movie.

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?
This has been a big issue for me. Since I'm ON the PTA in a Long Island town and I WROTE about a PTA in a Long Island town, everyone in my community assumes the book is autobiographical. Alas, I can't seem to convince them otherwise! I have a lot of interesting conversations in the supermarket.

Truth is, if I wrote about my own life I'd bore the reader to death. All I do is take care my kids, laugh with my husband, and write. So I have to dig pretty deep into my imagination to find my stories and my characters.

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
Hard work, patience, and more than a little bit of luck! I worked hard on the book, hard on finding an agent, and hard on revisions. Still, it's such an insanely competitive market that I consider I consider myself lucky I found such a wonderful agent ... and an editor who was willing to take a chance on me.

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 wrestle the procrastination bear, too. But I find a busy schedule is the thing that propels me to get off my butt and get it done.

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've given this a good amount of thought over the past few years! As Maddie, the emotionally-needy ex-lawyer, I'd cast Amanda Peet, as I need someone who can do physical comedy and also be touching. Ruth Moss, my brash and bosomy protag, could be played by Virginia Madsen or Joely Fisher. Keith, Ruth's brain-damaged husband who makes inappropriate sexual remarks to every woman he sees, could be a great fun role. I'd love to see Paul Giamatti, Steve Carrell or Alec Baldwin do this. For modest and timid Lisa Slotnick, who suffers a relationship with an alcoholic mother, Laura Linney would be perfect. Maddie's sarcastic friend Beryl could be played by Janeane Garofalo or Rosie O'Donnell. And last, but most definitely not least, a certain someone who has still not called to thank me for the signed book I sent him, could do a cameo as himself.(George Clooney, are you reading this?)


Trish Ryan said...

That sounds like a great book - nice job with the Q&A!

Larramie said...

This sounds a bit like the song/movie "Harper Valley PTA" without the gossip. ;)

Maryanne Stahl said...

I'm an Ellen groupie--following her around on her cybertour!

nice to meet you, Allison.

Ellen said...

Thanks for the fab blog entry, Allison! I love it.

Trish, appreciate the kind words!

Larramie, I guess it's like a Longisland, Noo Yawk version of that song. :)

Maryanne, at last I have a groupie! Yay!! xo

Myfanwy Collins said...

I love this book so much and am thrilled it's going to be out in paperback as well. Ellen is such a hard-working and talented writer!

Cindy said...

Loved the interview. I always cast the books I read, choosing the perfect actors and actresses for the roles.

This book sounds great!