Friday, February 01, 2008

GCC Presents: Karen Neches and Earthly Pleasures

So I'm totally fascinated with the concept of today's GCC book, Earthly Pleasures. Of late, as I've mentioned on this blog, I've been contempating those big WHY questions - why are we here, what is our purpose, and of course, religion and God and all of that plays into it. So it's easy to see why I'd be drawn into the description of this book, which was a Notable Book Sense February pick and which Publishers Weekly called "smart, funny and appealingly unorthodox."

Here's the scoop:

Welcome to Heaven. Use your Wishberry to hustle up whatever you want. Have an online chat with God. Visit the attractions such as Retail Rapture, Wrath of God miniature golf and Nocturnal Theater, where nightly dreams are translated to film.

Your greeter might just be Skye Sebring who will advises her newly dead clients on what to expect now that they’re expired. “Heaven is like a Corona Beer commercial” she assures her charges. “It’s all about contentment.”

So different than Earth where chaos reigns. Unfortunately for Skye, she’s been chosen to live her first life. She’s required to attend Earth 101 classes, which teach all of the world’s greatest philosophies through five Beatle songs.

Skye has no interest in Earthly pursuits, until lawyer Ryan Blaine briefly becomes her client after a motorcycle accident. Just as they are getting to know each other, he is revived and sent back to Earth.

She follows his life via the TV channel “Earthly Pleasures” but discovers he has a wife as well as a big secret. Why then does he call a show for the lovelorn to talk about the lost love of his life?

In Earthly Pleasures (Simon and Schuster, February 2008, $14) great love can transcend the dimensions, narrowing the vast difference between Heaven and Earth.

How great does this sound?? So, so great. Anyway, as always, we're lucky enough to have Karen stop by to answer a few of my usual questions. Read on for more... (and LOL at her obsession with gum - don't we all have weird piccidillos like that?)....

1) What’s the backstory behind your book?

I had this sudden thought: Lovely Bones meets Bridget Jones. , I was so excited, I felt like I’d discovered how to turn rocks into gold. Then I spoke with a publicist who said, “What a horrific notion.” Too late. I was already 70,000 words in. My agent hated it. My editor wanted to use it for kindling. I almost gave up on it. I cursed the novel many times but now it’s my favorite.

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?

I wrote this novel while I was still in a honeymoon haze. (I got married after having been single for 20 plus years.) It’s kind of a soul mate scenario: A greeter in Heaven falls in love with a mortal on Earth. I clearly had love on the brain when I wrote it.

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

I was VERY lucky. My first novel, Bet Your Bottom Dollar, was only the second novel I’d attempted. I’d gotten a lot of positive feedback at writers’ conferences so I queried widely and landed an agent after only a couple of weeks. After a few revisions, she sold it and it ended up being a lead title for Simon and Schuster.

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 have to chew Extra Watermelon gum when I write. I used to chew a weird flavor called boysenberry but Wrigley discontinued that flavor so I had a hellish week training myself to like watermelon. Now I’m hooked.

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?

Kate Hudson as my main character, Skye Sebring because she has a sunny, angelic look. Matthew McConaughey as her love interest, Ryan because he’s so good with Kate and Ryan can be cocky at times. One of the main characters is a 85-year old black woman named Caroline and I’d like to Cicely Tyson in that role (with appropriate make up of course.) God, who is female in my novel, would have to be played by Bette Midler, becasue she never takes herself to seriously.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Thin Line Between Love and Hate

Question of the day: I've been very frustrated with my agent. We started working together almost a year ago, and nothing is getting done. She rarely returns my calls and emails--I hear from her once every few months. She is constantly putting me on the back burner for her other clients--it's frustrating. I understand I'm a new writer, and haven't made her any money yet, but I still expect some respect. We haven't even approached publishers yet. But she has a lot of contacts, great credits to her name and is respected throughout the publishing community so I hate to say anything. She is a big time agent and I'm lucky to have her. It just seems like she's lost interest in my work, and at this point, I'm not sure what I should do. Thoughts?

Ugh. I always hate hearing stories of how writers are mistreated by agents because a) I think it gives agents an unfairly bad reputation when many of them are responsive and generous, and b) I hate hearing how writers think that they're powerless when situations such as these do arise. (And yes, arise they do.)

So, that said, the first thing I'd try to do, if possible, is get your agent on the phone and explain how you've been feeling. She might not have any idea that you feel neglected, etc, even though it sounds like you're well-within your rights to feel that way. Alternatively, she might tell you that she's just not as excited about your work, which would really suck, but at least then, you wouldn't be in limbo and you could make a decision as to how to move on.

Barring that, I'd do the same thing via email (if you can't get her on the phone). It sound like, in essence, she's holding your work and your career hostage, and while it's always scary for authors to do, you should take the reigns to the situation. Having a negligent agent is worse than having to start looking for a new one.

Unfortunately, a lot of writers fail to understand this. In our industry, agents are the Revered Ones, the Demi-Gods, the Holders of All Power and Truths, and I've always felt that this line of thinking does writers such an injustice. YOU are responsible for your career, so if YOU'RE not being served in the manner in which you believe you deserve to be, find a way to remedy it. Agents, when true advocates for you (like mine is), are amazing resources, and it's always better to have someone in your corner than not...but if your agent is MIA or is only in your corner symbolically, then frankly, you're stranded in that corner by yourself anyway, whether or not you technically have "representation." Go out there and find someone who will go to the mats for you. You deserve nothing less.

Anyone else ever been in this situation? How do you feel about the balance of power between agents and writers?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Book Promo Day!

So today, I have to make mention of a few newly released books that you should get your hands on. The first, The Opposite of Love, was written by Julie Buxbaum, who has since become a friend but that's not the reason I'm mentioning it! Really! I've been psyched about this book since I first read about the sale on Publishers Marketplace. I even sent the description to my agent and said, "Doesn't this book sound kick-ass?" Cut to a while ago when I receive an email from Julie asking if I'll take a look at the book for a blurb. Now, normally I turn down blurb requests when I'm working on my own manuscript because I find that my voice can be easily swayed when I read something else (this first started showing up when I was a kid and was obsessed with Stephen King...even the way that I'd talk to myself would evolve into his "voice," not my own...which, if you've ever read Stephen King, you know can be more than a little disturbing!). But I was so freakin' psyched to get my hands on this hot little book that I made an exception. The galley arrived a few days later, and I finished it 48 hours later.

And then, of course, I happily blurbed it because as a fan of smart women's fiction, it was right up my alley. (Of course, this is ignoring the fact that I actually FORGOT to send her the intended blurb for like, two weeks, and Julie was totally sweet and gracious that I blew past her deadline.)

This book is getting A LOT of promotion. You'll see it everywhere, I promise. From what I've read, the print run is big - big enough to push it to best-seller status (as I've mentioned in the past, if you don't have a big print run, you ain't hitting those lists), and I have to say, Julie is just a fantastic person, and I'm thrilled for her. So check it out if you're a fan of women's fiction.

The second book I want to mention is The Liars Diary by Patry Francis.

Here’s the scoop on the book: “Jeanne Cross’s contented suburban life gets a jolt of energy from the arrival of Ali Mather, the stunning new music teacher at the local high school. With a magnetic personality and looks to match, Ali draws attention from all quarters, including Jeanne’s husband and son. Nonetheless, Jeanne and Ali develop a deep friendship based on their mutual vulnerabilities and long-held secrets that Ali has been recording in her diary. The diary also holds a key to something darker: Ali’s suspicion that someone has been entering her house when she is not at home. Soon their friendship will be shattered by violence—and Jeanne will find herself facing impossible choices in order to protect the people she loves.”

I don't know Patry personally, but we're members of the same writing organization, Backspace, and it was recently announced that Patry was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, and thus would be unable to promote the book herself. So...a cry went out to bloggers 'round the universe to pitch in and promote it for her. She's the mom to four kids and is fighting the hell out of her cancer, so my admiration for her is a thousand-fold. Check out her website for more.

And finally, while we're on the subject of book promotion, Amazon now has a link up to Time of My Life! How cool is that? know...if you want to get a jump on any pre-ordering, now's the time. :)

So readers out there, heard of either of these books or are you excited for any forthcoming releases?

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm Back!

Sorry for the week of silence, but, oy. The same day/night that we moved, my son came down with the stomach flu that is sweeping NYC, and well, our new place - if you smell hard enough - now slightly smells of barf. Lovely. And my daughter woke up with it yesterday. Add in sleepless nights (why do kids seem to puke only between the hours of 12-7 AM?), a dog who has let us just how he feels about our new house by occasional poops on the floor, and all of the other chaos that comes along with moving, and go figure, I haven't had a chance to blog.

But the good news is that my Time Warner guy kicked ass, so my internet has been up and running! Hey, silver lining and all of that.

Anyhoo, this is simply my way of saying that I'll be more actively blogging this week and from here on out....I'm just too brain-dead to do it today.