Liz & Lisa's Book Club: The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz

The amazing Brenda Janowitz has a new book out April 12th and we've selected it as our #bookclub pick because it's a must-read for anyone who wants to be thoroughly entertained for 300 pages! Add THE DINNER PARTY to your TBR list for Spring--you'll thank us!

And we have a copy for #giveaway. Just leave a comment here or on our FB page to be entered to #win. Share this post for a second entry. Contest closes on Friday, April 8th at 5pm PST.

Brenda, also the force behind many of PopSugar's must-read lists, stopped by to answer some of our burning questions. (Find out why she's inspired us to use the voice memo app on our phones!) But first, more about her novel!

The scoop: This Passover Seder is not just any Passover Seder. Yes, there will be a quick service and then a festive meal afterwards, but this night is different from all other nights. This will be the night the Golds of Greenwich meet the Rothschilds of New York City.

The Rothschilds are the stuff of legends. They control banks, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and even an organic farm somewhere in the Midwest that produces the most popular Romaine lettuce consumed in this country. And now, Sylvia Gold's daughter is dating one of them.

When Sylvia finds out that her youngest of three is going to bring her new boyfriend to the Seder, she's giddy. When she finds out that his parents are coming, too, she darn near faints. Making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who'll be coming with her less than appropriate beau and his overly dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won't stop there. Because despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family. Long forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go.

Our thoughts: Read. It. Now.

INTERVIEW WITH BRENDA JANOWITZ

 PHOTO BY: Hy Goldberg / Cristina Calvi

PHOTO BY: Hy Goldberg / Cristina Calvi

How did you come up with the idea for THE DINNER PARTY? And on that note, when you think of an idea, do you write it down in a notebook, pin it up on a corkboard, file it away in your mind, promptly forget it and then curse yourself for not writing it down? 

I wanted to write a novel about letting go of the past, and how only when we do that can we move on to the future. The novel originally began at Chapter Fourteen, where Sarah’s boyfriend insists on wearing a “tie substitute.” (I have such affinity for that chapter, and it’s the one that was featured in my PopSugar First Look.)

When I think of an idea, I usually write it down. I’ve done the “file it away in your mind” thing and I always forget it (and then curse myself for not writing it down!). So, these days I live by my notes and the Voice Memo app on my iPhone.

The book is chock full of lively and complex characters that anyone in a family can relate to--especially during the holidays. Did you have a favorite to write? One that you found more challenging than another? 

Thank you! I appreciate that so much. I definitely had a blast writing Valentina, the woman who says what everyone is thinking. I wish I could be the sort of woman who says what everyone is thinking. But alas….

I always find male characters tough to write. I’m such a girly girl, and sometimes my worldview sneaks into their dialogue. In the book I’m working on now, one of my agent’s comments was: “A man would never say that.” And she was completely right! I was saying the line in my own head, when really, I should have been imagining Ryan Gosling, or Henry Cavill, or Joe Manganiello, or… I’m sorry, what were we discussing?

Ooh how we loved the drama in this book! In your own life, how do you handle drama when it comes your way?

You two are seriously making me blush! Thank you!!

I love family drama, but only in novels. In real life, family drama is so much harder to deal with. I think that’s what I love about fiction—you can create this entire world that you control. And you can give it a resolution.

Oh, and how I deftly answered around your question? That should give you a little glimpse on how I deal with family drama. I duck and I swerve and I try not to say anything too incriminating.

You are such a huge supporter of other writers. Why do you feel this is important?
I love reading and I love books. There’s nothing I love more than a good book, so why not talk about it?

What are three things your readers might find interesting about your writing process? 

One: I dictated full chapters of this book on my Voice memo app on my iPhone. (See, above, regarding not losing ideas when they come to you!)

Two: I don’t have a set writing routine—I basically write whenever and wherever I have the time. Sometimes it’s the nursery school parking lot (thank you, Voice memo app!), but I prefer it to be in my office.


Three: I’ve always had vivid dreams and nightmares, but I think it’s a big part of my creative process. I keep a pad next to my bed at night since I often wake up in the middle of the night with an idea.

Have you recently discovered any debut authors you'd recommend? 

So many!

In the past year, I loved EVERYBODY RISE by Stephanie Clifford, SWEETBITTER by Stephanie Danler, EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE by Mo Daviau, A WINDOW OPENS by Elisabeth Egan, HUGO AND ROSE by Bridget Foley, LOVE AND MISS COMMUNICATION by Elyssa Friedland, MAESTRA by L.S. Hilton, BE FRANK WITH ME by Julia Claiborne Johnson, THE THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE by Lynda Cohen Loigman, MADWOMAN UPSTAIRS by Catherine Lowell, THE ASSISTANTS by Camille Perri, THE NEST by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, and DIETLAND by Sarai Walker.

What's up next for you?

I’m working on my sixth novel and doing lots of freelance work. I’m getting ready for the launch of THE DINNER PARTY and reading seemingly a million galleys for my PopSugar Best Reads of Summer list. Maybe somewhere in there, I’ll work in a nap, but it’s doubtful.

Thank you so much for having me here! 

Thank you, Brenda!

xoxo, Liz & Lisa

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: House Trained by Jackie Bouchard

HouseTrainedFrontCoverThe leaves are turning. The air is crisp. Fires are being built in the fireplace. (Well out here in the Midwest anyway!) And this month, we have a great suggestion for a heartwarming (get it?) novel to read when you want to relax on a nice fall day: HOUSE TRAINED by Jackie Bouchard. And you can win a copy! Just leave a comment on this post or on our Facebook page to be entered. Contest closes on Sunday, November 1 at 8pm PST.

The scoop: Alex Halstad, a childless-by-choice interior designer and dog mom, is a true perfectionist. But her orderly life turns chaotic when the teenage daughter her husband, Barry, never knew he had shows up on their doorstep...with a baby girl of her own in tow. While Alex’s dog enthusiastically welcomes the new arrivals, Alex struggles with the loss of her steady routine. She desperately needs peace and quiet to get her business back on track before Barry finds out she’s spent most of their savings. Meanwhile, the arrival of the girls stirs up old insecurities, and Alex can’t help but worry that Barry’s ex will make an entrance too. With her tidy life a distant memory, will Alex be able to learn from her dog the true meaning of love and acceptance? From bestselling author Jackie Bouchard comes a humorous and heartwarming look at how life creates opportunities to love in surprising ways.

Our thoughts: Smart, sweet and completely satisfying!

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: HOUSE TRAINED by Jackie Bouchard

Jackie&Rita-colorYour books have always centered around dog-friendy characters and are considered "fido-friendly" fiction--what impact have animals had on your own life?

Oh, man. I could write a book to answer that! My dogs have been my best buddies, my constant companions, my therapists, and my teachers. Our last dog, Abby, had an especially huge impact on my life. She died very young from bone cancer (she was diagnosed when she was only 15-months old, and then we had another fantastic 15 months with her), but she had a huge zest for life. She taught us to make the most of today, because you never know what tomorrow has in store.

You were a very accomplished self-published author before signing with Lake Union. Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.

Back in 2006, I started writing a novel - I needed something to do at night after work while my hubs was busy working crazy-long hours. In 2008, I signed with an agent (I met her at a conference after reading a scene in her workshop), and she helped me polish the manuscript. Then the market crashed, so it wasn’t great timing by early 2009 when we were shopping the manuscript around. I got a lot of nice rejections... but, still, rejections. I started working on two other books, and then had dinner a couple of years later with my agent, and she encouraged me to self-publish my first book. Self-publishing had come into its own by then, so I decided to go for it.

I self-published WHAT THE DOG ATE in 2012, and then in 2013 I self-published RESCUE ME, MAYBE. I didn’t even bother trying to pitch that book to publishers. I just wanted it to be out in the world, so went for it. At one point, I put the book on sale and advertised it, and it sold so many copies it hit the USA Today bestseller list. The sales and the good reviews caught the attention of Lake Union, a publishing imprint owned by Amazon. They contacted my agent, right around the time we were ready to sell HOUSE TRAINED, asking if I’d like to work with them to re-release MAYBE. I said, heck yeah! And then we sold HOUSE TRAINED to them as well.

What advice you would give aspiring authors following your same path?

If you go the self-pub or hybrid route like I have, that advice that you’ve probably heard before *really* is correct: write the best book you can, and get a great cover. It’s so easy to self-publish now, but you have to resist the temptation to publish the book before it’s ready. Have an editor help you whip the story into shape and also look for grammatical/spelling errors. You can also always recruit some friends to help proofread it. When I thought RESCUE ME, MAYBE was ready to self-publish, I waited and had four friends read it solely to look for typos. They each found two - but none of them found the same two! As for the cover, you don’t have to spend a fortune, but unless you’ve got some graphic design experience or artistic talent, don’t try to go it alone. Hire a pro!

When it comes time to market the book, focus on finding your ideal readers and connecting with them. For me, my ideal readers are dog-lovers, so I blog, tweet, and post about dogs to connect with other crazy dog ladies.

House Trained is a wonderful novel filled with some heartwarming moments. What, if anything, was taken from your own life?

Thank you! Really, there’s not that much in the book that comes from my life, other than the most basic starting point, which is that the couple in the book are childless-by-choice and have a dog. The hubs and I are “CBC”ers and are very happy with our familial unit of three, which includes our current rescue mutt, Rita. The hubs would like me to make it clear that (a) he does NOT have a love child out there in the world and (b) he does NOT talk to his private parts (as Alex finds her husband doing in the opening scene in HOUSE TRAINED). (Poor hubs.) Alex is an interior designer, so their house is much nicer than ours, and she’s a great dog trainer, so their dog is much better trained than ours!

There is one scene that is somewhat from my own life. Alex goes to a party her sister throws, and she feels out of place with her sister’s friends who only seem to want to talk about their kids or having babies. I used to be in a book club that really should have been called a “baby club.” All the women in the group had either just had a baby, were pregnant, or were trying to have a baby, so there was very little talk about the books. As a huge book lover, that was bummer enough, but I just really didn’t fit in with that group. I often sat with nothing to contribute to the conversation, and I would come home feeling very sad and out of place. I wanted to write the character of Alex for other ladies out there who feel out-of-place because they don’t want to have kids. Just because we don’t want to have our own children, it doesn’t mean we’re not nice, loving, nurturing people.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on what I’ve been calling “a fairy tale for a forty-year-old.” It has lots of cute dogs in it and I’m having fun writing it. I hope folks will enjoy it when it’s done!

Thanks, Jackie!

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

MIAL_coverWe adore Taylor Jenkins Reid and her novels. And her latest, Maybe in Another Life (out today, July 7th) is definitely her best yet. It was the obvious choice for our book club pick this month! (Can you imagine being able to live out two versions of your life? Such a great concept!) And because we love you guys, we have a copy of her book up for grabs! Just leave a comment here or on our Facebook page to be entered to #win. Contest closes Thursday, July 9th at 8pm PST.

The scoop: From the acclaimed author of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do comes a breathtaking new novel about a young woman whose fate hinges on the choice she makes after bumping into an old flame; in alternating chapters, we see two possible scenarios unfold—with stunningly different results.

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.

Our thoughts: The movie, Sliding Doors, is such a great concept. Taylor translates this idea into book form in such a unique way. All we can say is we loved, loved, loved this book! And you need to read it ASAP if not sooner! :)

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid author photoWe love the movie Sliding Doors and your book hits on that idea of what could happen if you'd made one single different choice in your day. Without giving anything away, we really appreciate how you handled it in your book. How did you come up with the idea? 

I have been preoccupied with the debate of fate vs. chance my entire life. I remember back in the 90s watching a trailer for Sliding Doors and deciding right then and there that it was my favorite movie even though I hadn't even seen it. I just loved the very concept. Personally, I wonder, "How different would my life be if..." on a regular basis. So, going into this book, I already knew exactly how I wanted everything to end.

We're curious about your writing process, especially with this novel and the dual storylines. Do you write your chapters in succession? Do you outline? Do you know the end before you begin?

I write everything in succession with no real outline. I start with where the character is at the beginning and I write toward how I want the book to end. Anything in the middle is up for grabs. It means that my first draft is excruciating. I wake up every day knowing I have to write a certain amount of pages and having no idea what they will be. But it also means I'm surprising myself sometimes with what the characters do and say -- which is the most fun part.

Congrats on FOREVER, INTERRUPTED being optioned for film. When you write your novels, do you picture the book as a movie? 

Thank you! Yeah, I think every book I write feels cinematic to me. I just see it all so clearly and because my first job out of college was in feature film casting, I often see characters as actors.

You also developed a show for HULU. Do you ever sleep? Ha. Tell us about how you juggle your day jobs!

Oh, my God. Sometimes I'm positively exhausted. It's not the 'hours in the day' problem so much as the creative energy. It can be hard to replenish once you feel like you've spent it all. I'm just now starting to really tap into what inspires me and learning how to harness that inspiration to fuel my work.

What's up next after MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE publishes?

 

Another book out next year and hopefully a few more project announcements! Every day I'm hustlin'.

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

The_Life_IntendedOMG, y'all! Kristin Harmel's latest book is soooooo good. The Life Intended is a Sliding Doors-esque (one of our all-time favorite movies!) story that makes you think about life and love and happiness. And guess what? You can win a copy of this novel that's not even out until December 30th. (You're welcome!) Just leave a message to be entered to win. Contest closes on December 27th at 10 am PST. The scoop: From the author of the international bestseller The Sweetness of Forgetting, named one of the Best Books of Summer 2012 by Marie Claire magazine, comes a captivating novel about the struggle to overcome the past when our memories refuse to be forgotten.

In this richly told story where Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You, Kristin Harmel weaves a heart-wrenching tale that asks: what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting the past?

After her husband’s sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she’s planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn’t she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

Our thoughts: The perfect book to read as we head into a new year.

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

Photo credit: Robin Gage

1. THE LIFE INTENDED is such a fabulous concept. (Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You is one of the best descriptions we've read in a while). How did you think of the idea?

Thank you so much!      SLIDING DOORS is one of my favorite movies and P.S. I LOVE YOU is one of my favorite books and movies, so when I realized this was the description the publisher was using, I was absolutely thrilled! That said, I never set out to write a book that paralleled either of those stories! Whereas every other novel I’ve written has evolved over months – or even years – of thinking and reflecting, the genesis of THE LIFE INTENDED was a bit unusual. I actually dreamed the plot almost whole. I know that sounds kooky, especially since the novel centers partially on the dreams that the main character has of her dead husband, but it’s true. I woke up one morning a couple of years ago, and the entire book was already in my head. I jumped out of bed, rushed to the kitchen table, grabbed a stack of paper, and began scribbling as quickly as I could, to get as many elements of the plot down on paper as I possibly could. The finer details – the sign language lessons, the kids’ cochlear implants, Patrick’s and Kate’s personalities, etc. – evolved later, but the basic structure of the plot and lots of the broader details were there from day one. Weird, right? Maybe this is the book intended!

2. Tell us about the cover. It's beautiful! 

 Oh, I love the cover. I think it evokes New York, where the book takes place, but it also looks very dreamlike. And so much of this novel is about Kate, the main character, trying to figure out whether she’s dreaming – and what her dreams (if they are indeed dreams) actually mean. I like that the cover has the same sort of hazy, intangible, almost gauzy look that dreams sometimes do.

 3. You've always been so great about helping up and coming authors (years ago Liz and I took one of your writing classes in Los Angeles). What advice do you give to aspiring writers now that the publishing landscape has changed?

Oh, thanks! It was such a pleasure to have you two in my class, and I’m so glad we’re still in touch. It’s been lovely to see the success you’ve had! Congratulations! As for advice, hmmm… The thing is, I think every situation is different. For some people, the wide open world of self-publishing, or publishing with a small press, might be the best idea in the world, whereas a few years ago, many of those types of options didn’t even exist. There are so many more ways now to put your book out into the world. But at the same time, if you hope to be published traditionally by a major publisher, as I am, I believe it’s important to be thinking in terms of both the quality of your writing and the heart of your story. In other words, competition is tough. So if you’re writing a novel, make sure the writing itself is good before trying to find an agent. Just as importantly, your story has to be good, and when it comes to mainstream fiction geared toward women – the kind of novels I write – I think the feelings and emotions you put into the story really matter. Your characters should be experiencing big transformations in their lives, big moments where their worlds are changing. And from the standpoint of making your story appealing to agents and editors, you also have to be able to sum up your book in less than a paragraph in a way that would make the average reader saying, “Oh cool! I think I might want to read that!” So think in terms of that elevator pitch, that short description of your book, and if you can summarize it in a tantalizing way, then it will help you as you write and as you edit to nail down exactly what makes your book special. In my experience, I’ve also found that focusing on family dynamics is just as important as focusing on romantic dynamics between characters. Our families really make us who we are, and that’s something I love exploring in fiction. It makes books much richer, much more well-rounded and impactful, I think.

 

4. Because THE LIFE INTENDED is our Liz & Lisa Book Club pick of the month, what do you think are the top (non spoiler related) themes book clubs can discuss for this novel? 

 Thank you so much for picking THE LIFE INTENDED as your book of the month! How cool! Well, it just so happens that there’s a Reading Group Guide in the back of the book. (You can also find it here: http://books.simonandschuster.com/The-Life-Intended/Kristin-Harmel/9781476754154/reading_group_guide). Simon & Schuster does such a good job with these discussion guides that I’d definitely recommend starting with that. (But please don’t read the Reading Group Guide until after you’ve finished the book, because it does contain spoilers!)

If you plan to read this for your book club, I’d pull out the Readers Group Guide on the night of the meeting, once everyone has read the book. In the meantime, I think two of the themes that are worth discussion are:

  • CHOOSING HAPPINESS: How has Kate failed to choose happiness over the last 12 years? Do you think she believed she didn’t have the right to a happy life? Why? How can you choose happiness in your own life? And since this book comes out just before the new year, how can you make 2015 a year of choosing happiness?
  • FAMILY: What makes a family? Kate definitely has some nontraditional relationships in this book. For instance, she seems closer to Patrick’s mother than her own mother. And in a way, she’s searching to rebuild her family with Dan. In life, how do we choose our families, and how do our families choose us? How much is fate and how much is choice? And when it comes to building a future, how do the choices we make affect everything?

5. We can't believe it's already December. Do you give books as gifts? Which ones top your list?

 Eesh! Where has the year gone?? Yes, I do sometimes give books as gifts, but I don’t have any annual standbys. Instead, I tend to give people books I’ve enjoyed over the few months preceding the holidays. I look for books that are thought-provoking, and I usually write a little note in the card explaining why I thought the recipient would like the book. This year, I might give friends a novel by Lucinda Riley, a new favorite author of mine. I also love the proliferation of non-fiction, gift-oriented books around the holidays. Cookbooks are often a good gift option, as are humor books. It’s also nice to give people biographies if they are interested in a particular person or period in history.

 6. Okay, so this question has nothing to do with your book per se, but you had the most romantic proposal ever and now you are married. (Congrats!) What can you tell us about him?

Aw, thanks! Yes, I still can’t quite believe it! I’m in my mid-thirties, and before Jason and I started to date, I had just begun to have those little “What if you never meet someone?” whispers in the back of my head. I had also begun to figure out that whatever happened, I’d be okay, which I think was key to being ready for the love of my life to sweep in. It sounds silly, but I think that getting to a point in my life where I was happy alone, and where I was focused on being a better person and a better writer (as opposed to finding a guy) was really a hugely important step. I finally became me – and that’s when I finally became ready to be with the right guy. In any case, Jason is great. We’re a funny pair, because I’m five feet on the dot, and he’s six foot one, but I like to think we’re cute together! He’s a big runner – he does marathons and triathlons – and he’s also very creative. He works in advertising and PR, but he’s also very creative in his spare time. The very first gift he gave me was an original painting he’d done of the Eiffel Tower (which is actually where he proposed a year and a half later!), and there are several pieces of art around our house that are his originals! We’re buying a new house right now, and he’s been sketching some really creative, awesome plans for landscaping the back yard. He’s just really imaginative. I love it. But much more importantly, he’s good and kind and supportive, and I trust him entirely. He’s also so generous; he’s always volunteering for charitable organizations. Oh, and did I mention he’s handsome? Seriously, I couldn’t have written a better character in a book. He’s perfect for me.

 7. Are you working on another novel? If so, can you give us any details?

Yes! I’m currently in the outline stages of my next book, which may or may not work. Sometimes, it takes me an outline or two to hit on the right idea. But I think this is the one. Like THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING, which came out in 2012, this new idea will focus on a character in the present and a connected character in the past. The story in the past is the one that’s a little more vivid to me right now; it’s about a mystery involving a German POW who was imprisoned in the southern United States during World War II. Did you know that more than 400,000 German prisoners lived in the States during the war, in more than 700 prison camps? It’s just such a rich period in history, and I’m truly enjoying the research.

Thanks, ladies!

xo, Kristin

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Never Too Late by Claire Cook

NeverTooLate_final_smallClaire Cook, the bestselling author of eleven novels, has proven time and time again that she can write compelling and entertaining fiction that leaves you wanting more. (Must Love Dogs, anyone?) And now with her latest, Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (Without Getting Lost Along the Way), she's proving that she also excels at writing non-fiction. And not just any type of non-fiction. She has penned a funny, yet informative guide to living the life you actually want to live. (Go to ClaireCook.com to read an excerpt and to download a free workbook.) And we have a copy to give away! Just leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win. Contest closes on October 12th at 8am PST.

The scoop: Claire Cook speaks to real women—our fears and obstacles and hopes and desires—and gives us cutting edge tools to get where we want to go. Bursting with inspiration, insider stories, and practical strategies. Filled with humor, heart, encouragement, and great quotes. Claire Cook shares everything she's learned on her own journey— from writing her first book in her minivan at 45, to walking the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of Must Love Dogs at 50, to becoming the international bestselling author of eleven novels and a sought after reinvention speaker. You'll hop on a plane with Claire as you figure out the road to your own reinvention. You'll laugh a lot and maybe even shed a few tears as Claire tells her stories and those of other reinventors, and shares her best tips for getting a plan, staying on track, pulling together a support system, building your platform in the age of social networking, dealing with the inevitable ups and downs, overcoming perfectionism, and tuning in to your authentic self to propel you toward your goals.

Our thoughts: A quick read with practical tips for everyone, whether you want a major life overhaul or to make small, but significant changes.

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Never Too Late by Claire Cook

Claire_Cook_author_photo1. Why did you write NEVER TOO LATE?

Reinvention is pretty much the theme of my books and my life. I wrote my first novel in my minivan at 45. At 50, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie adaptation of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack.

I’m now the author of 12 books, and wherever I am—on book tour or at speaking engagements or online—reinvention has become the thing that everyone wants to talk me about. And it feels great to be able to tell them that it is truly never too late.

One day it just hit me that even if I kept traveling and traveling, I wasn’t going to meet everyone in person. So I decided it was time to share everything I’ve learned on my own journey that might help other women in theirs. And that’s how Never Too Late, my first nonfiction book after 11 novels, was born

2. Tell us about the concept of the Reinvention Intersection

I think we all have that sweet spot—the place where the life we want to live and our ability interest. For some, the trick is finding it. If you’re one of those people, you’re still trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, whether you’re pushing thirty or eighty.

For others, like me, deep down inside you already know what you want, so it’s all about finding the courage to dig up that dream and dust it off.

Over the last decade and a half, I’ve talked to thousands of women hoping to reinvent their lives, and they usually fall into one of these two categories. I try to give tips, strategies and encouragement for both in Never Too Late.

3. We love that this book can be for someone who wants a major life overhaul and also for those who desire small, but substantial changes. After reading this book, what is the next step for a person in either of these categories?

Stop listening to all the reasons you can’t, or shouldn’t do it—whether they come from within or without. Rise above the negativity and take one simple step in the direction you want to go. Then get up the next morning and do it again. And again. And again.

4. What is your advice for someone who has a "buried dream" but also gives herself a million reasons why she shouldn't unearth it?

To recognize that it’s a choice. The difference between me and someone who hasn’t gone after a buried dream is that I finally shook off all the fear and procrastination, and just did it. If you don’t actually write the book, it can’t get published.

Every day your life gives you perfectly legitimate reasons not to go after your dream. We’re all crazy busy. Somebody always needs something. You have to want it enough to do it anyway, and in the book I offer strategies for building your dream into your life.

5. We love how you tie in the fictional books you've written and identify how the characters in your books might also help someone who wants to reinvent herself. Which of your books/characters do you feel is the most inspiring? Or is this impossible to choose?

Thank you! I always feel like the next book/character I write will be my best work. I guess that’s what keeps me motivated enough to do it again. And I love that my readers all have a different favorite. I think it’s usually the one that cuts closest to their own lives, which makes sense because I think one of the reasons we read is to find ourselves.

One of my favorite parts of being a novelist is that I get to live all of my heroines' lives vicariously, but still stay in my own wheelhouse, focused on the thing I do best.

Sarah in Must Love Dogs is a preschool teacher, and in Book 2, Must Love Dogs: New Leash on Life, she takes on a summer consulting gig teaching social skills to twenty-somethings at a video game company. In The Wildwater Walking Club, Noreen is duped by a sorta boyfriend into taking a corporate buyout and gets involved in walking and lavender and clotheslines. In Life's a Beach, Ginger transitions from a series of dead-end sales jobs to making sea glass jewelry while she spends time on a movie set as her nephew's guardian.

In Summer Blowout, the family business is a hair salon, and Bella's reinvention involves staying away from her ex-husband, who has run off with her half-sister, and creating her own personalized makeup kits. March and her daughter go to college at the same time in Multiple Choice and end up with their own radio show.

And on and on! That’s a whole bunch of lives to live without ever leaving your computer!

6. Tell us about the line from your novel, Multiple Choice, "Karma is a boomerang" and how you tie that into this book

Karma is a boomerang is one of the smartest things one of my characters has ever said. In Multiple Choice, it’s a tagline for a crazy New Age radio show, but it’s also one of my favorite sayings.

That some kindness you put out into the world can boomerang back to you is something I believe with all my heart. This is not to say that I go around doing nice things all day long just to get something back. The truth is that sometimes it boomerangs and sometimes it doesn't. But still, whether it comes back to you or not, sprinkling kindness as you go is a great way to walk through the world.

My two best karma is a boomerang stories are both in Never Too Late—how the Must Love Dogs movie happened and how I ended up on the Today show

Calling all book clubs! Fun giveaway for your group!

dr-seuss-quotesSo...YOUR PERFECT LIFE is out soon! (June 10th!) *squeal* And one of the things we're most excited about is hanging out with book clubs. (If you'll have us!) We've been in our own book club for two since we were 14, when we'd swap and devour Danielle Steel and Judy Blume novels like there was no tomorrow. Reading has always been one of our favorite things, as has dishing with each other--and all of you on this website-- on what we love about the books we've read.

And now, to have the opportunity to talk about our own novel with you and your book club would be humbling to say the least.

Also, we'll bring wine. Did we mention wine?  Maybe we should've said that up front! Or if we aren't/one of us isn't local, we'll Skype in or do a Google Hangout and ship you a bottle-- and we can all drink virtually together. Because wine's wine, right?

We also thought it would be fun to run a CONTEST for y'all. Because you know we're contest/giveaway whores. (Contest will close June 24th at 8am PST!) Here are the deets:

If you book us to talk with your book club, we'll enter you in a contest to win TEN COPIES of one of the most fabulous, thought-provoking, you-can't-stop-turning-the-pages-and-are-so-sad-when-it's-over, novels we've read this year: AFTER I DO by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Here's the scoop: From the author of Forever, Interrupted—hailed by Sarah Jio as “moving, gorgeous, and at times heart-wrenching”—comes a breathtaking new novel about modern marriage, the depth of family ties, and the year that one remarkable heroine spends exploring both.

When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.

Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?

So what do you say? You, your club, us, wine?

Just leave a comment here and/or email us at Lisa@lizandlisa.com or Liz@Lizandlisa.com to set it up!

xoxo

 

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Safe With Me by Amy Hatvany

Safe With Me by Amy HatvanyWe know it's not a secret that we heart Amy Hatvany. But even we were blown away by her latest novel Safe With Me! It was incredibly thought provoking and satisfying--we ugly cried near the end but it was all worth it!  Seriously, READ THIS BOOK! NOW! So, of course, it was a no-brainer to choose it as our book club pick for March--we are quite certain that y'all will love it as much as we did. And guess what? We have a copy of Safe With Me to giveaway!  Just leave a comment and you'll be entered to win. The contest will close on March 8th at 8am PST.

The scoop: The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. A year after she signed the papers to donate her daughter’s organs, Hannah is still reeling with grief when she unexpectedly stumbles into the life of the Bell family, whose fifteen-year-old daughter, Maddie, survived only because Hannah’s daughter had died. Mesmerized by this fragile connection to her own daughter and afraid to reveal who she actually is, Hannah develops a surprising friendship with Maddie’s mother, Olivia.

The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Once on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him in the wake of the transplant that saved their daughter’s life. Meanwhile, Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the Internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to return to school, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape.

Where you can read more about Amy: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Safe With Me by Amy Hatvany

Author-Photo.-Amy-Hatvany-261x3001. The first chapter, where Hannah loses her daughter is so gut-wrenching, yet beautifully written.  As a mom, was that hard for you to write--to think about losing one of your own children?

It was excruciating, really. I had the first scene in my head long before I began writing and it haunted me. The idea of losing one of my children is the most painful thing I could imagine. Not too far into the story, I realized right along with Hannah, who loses her daughter, Emily, that children who lose their parents are orphans, spouses are either widows or widowers, but there is no word for a parent who loses a child. A profound finding, I thought, and totally understandable. The significance of that kind of loss is simply too devastating to fit into one word.

2. Olivia's daughter, Maddie, is such a great character and so believable--do you draw from experience with your own teenager?

With Maddie, I wanted to explore how social media tends to create this false image of perfection in our lives. People typically only post their prettiest pictures, their happiest moments. We end up comparing our insides–our insecurities and struggles–with what I like to call other peoples’ “Photo-shopped” outsides. I thought about the rising influx of cat-fishing stories in the news–people pretending to be someone other than who they actually were online–and wanted to point out how dangerous and appealing this might be to a teenager, who by nature already struggles with insecurity and are desperate to fit in.

I think more teens are turning to the internet to escape the realities of life. With smart phones, especially, it’s all too easy for them to do. With my teenagers, I can see firsthand how the way they define themselves and the world around them is shifting according to everything they do and see online. I worry about it the long term effects of this shift, but social media has become so all-encompassing, so all-consuming, I’m not sure there’s any way to stop it.

3. SAFE WITH ME is such an original story idea--what was the inspiration?

It actually came from an article I read over a decade ago, about a woman in New York city who was having her home remodeled. She became friendly with one of the workers and as the two of them got to know each other, she shared the fact that her husband was recovering from a kidney transplant. When the worker told her that he had actually donated one of his own kidneys to a stranger the previous year, they compared surgery dates and doctors names and it turned out that the worker was the person who saved the woman’s husband’s life.

I still get chills thinking about the two of them coincidentally crossing paths. The story idea grew from there.

4. You had us blubbering with tears in more than one chapter--what were your own emotions while writing those passages?

I definitely blubbered right along with you during a few of those more emotional passages, but I also found myself chuckling during others, especially some of the stuff that Maddie thinks about or says. The line, “God would have to be a total asshole to strike me down in the middle of a giggle” was so completely something my teenage daughter, Scarlett, would say if she had a life-threatening illness, I could help but laugh every time I read it.

5. SAFE WITH ME was exquisite and we can't for the next one!  What is up next for you?

I’m currently working on revisions for my 2015 release and making notes and doing research for the book I want to write after that. Since I never really know where I might find inspiration, I do sometimes worry that another idea won’t come along, but so far, I’ve been lucky. One always does.

Thanks, Amy!

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Twisted Sisters by Jen Lancaster

Twisted_Sisters_coverY'all know how much we love on Jen Lancaster. In fact, we gushed about her just yesterday, the day her latest novel, TWISTED SISTERS, was released. Three words: BUY. IT. NOW. We can't say enough times how lucky we feel that Jen and so many other talented authors have not only taken the time to read our novel, but have also praised it. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, lovely ladies!). In the coming weeks, we will reveal who else gave us a glowing review. But today is about Jen and her tenth book, TWISTED SISTERS! Yes, we just wrote TENTH. Let's take a moment of silence to praise her for that! We loved her novel so much we chose it for our book club pick of the month. It's funny. It's thought-provoking. It's the perfect book to read if you need an escape from the weather or whatever else you're hatin' on right now.

And guess what? We have one copy to give away (US). Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select that lucky someone on Sunday, February 9th after 3pm PST.

Here's the scoop: Reagan Bishop is a pusher. A licensed psychologist who stars on the Wendy Winsberg cable breakout show I Need a Push, Reagan helps participants become their best selves by urging them to overcome obstacles and change behaviors. An overachiever, Reagan is used to delivering results.

Despite her overwhelming professional success, Reagan never seems to earn her family’s respect. Her younger sister, Geri, is and always will be the Bishop family favorite. When a national network buys Reagan’s show, the pressures for unreasonably quick results and higher ratings mount. But Reagan’s a clinician, not a magician, and fears witnessing her own personal failings in prime time. (And seriously? Her family will never let her hear the end of it.) Desperate to make the show work and keep her family at bay, Reagan actually listens when the show’s New Age healer offers an unconventional solution…

Record Nielsen ratings follow. But when Reagan decides to use her newfound power to teach everyone a lesson about sibling rivalry, she’s the one who will be schooled…

Where you can read more about Jen: Facebook, Twitter  and her website.

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: Twisted Sisters by Jen Lancaster

Photo credit: Deborah Feingold

1. In honor of your novel, TWISTED SISTERS, you've been posting "twisted" photos during the month of January. What's been your favorite picture?

I love the shot of my dogs posing with a copy of the book.  It’s really hard for dogs to look “fierce” wearing matching cableknit turtlenecks and posing in front of a floral wallpaper backdrop, but Libby and Hambone manage to pull it off.  Miss Tyra Banks would give the girls extra credit for smizing, too.  They have definite Top Model potential.

2. Your hilarious novel includes sibling rivalry, body-swapping and reality TV. How did you think of the plot?

To fully answer this question, I have to explain that I would rather die than write a love scene.  DIE.  There’s not enough bourbon in the world to keep me from giggling like a twelve year old at the thought of penning anything vaguely sexy.  (So, no, there will never, ever be a Fifty Shades of Bitter book.)  Because romance is off the table, I’m constantly trying to look at relationships outside of the sexual realm.  And, really is there anything more fascinating than the way women relate to other women?  Plus, I wanted to explore the nuances of what it might be like to have a sister.  (My theory is it’s like having a best friend you occasionally hate.)  I also had such fun with the magical realism element of Here I Go Again that I was anxious to try it again, hence the Freaky Friday aspect.  And reality TV?  Well, I wish I could quit you, reality TV, yet here we are.

3. The cover is brilliant, as was your last. You are on an awesome cover roll! What's the story behind this cover? And while we're at it, how did you think of the title and when in the writing process did you come up with it?

Thank you!  (I happen to think YOUR new cover is pretty awesome, too.)  This one is my all-time favorite.  In the beginning, the covers of my memoirs were mostly text-based.  To differentiate between the fiction and non-fiction, we wanted to diversify the brands, so the art department tried something new.  As someone who often buys a book for the cover (I know, I know), I was thrilled when this option was presented because it sums up the story so succinctly.

4. You are a huge Breaking Bad fan. Now that you've finished binge watching that show, what's next? Or what have you started that you recommend?

I plowed through seven seasons of Weeds over the summer after inhaling Orange Is the New Black.  (Jenji Kohan, you’re the best.  Call me!)  I’m currently binge-watching The Good Wife and now I’m mad at all my friends who clearly didn’t insist strongly enough that I watch this show.  The one thing that’s making me absolutely crazy is that for as well as they nail Chicago politics, they’ve completely biffed the logistics.  Why would the Cook County State’s Attorney live in Lake County?  Why would a realtor in Oak Park list a house in Highland Park?  And hot dog vendors?  On the street in this city?  No.  And how come no one ever walks around in Chicago team shirts or has a mustache?  The tiny details annoy me, I guess largely because they get all the larger points right.

5. You're very open with your fans on social media. But is there something they might be surprised to know about you?

After writing seven damn memoirs, I’m not really sure there are a lot of surprises left.  People know how much I love husband and my friends and how I spoil my pets.  I always share reading/watching/listening suggestions and they’re kept abreast of whatever my hobby-du-jour is, such as my current obsessions with refurbishing old furniture and learning Italian and growing roses.  I guess they don’t know I just ordered a bunch of supplies to start building my own terrariums?  So, terrariums.  When I start to yammer on about terrariums, please, everyone, do your best to seem surprised.

Thanks, Jen!

 

 

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin

What Nora Knew by Linda YellinHey y'all!  Today we're introducing another new feature we hope you'll love--Liz & Lisa's Book Club! Each month we'll highlight one UH-mazing novel and give away a copy. To kick it off, we've found an author we think you'll really love--she's hilarious and her narrative is quirky and funny---Linda Yellin!  Her novel, What Nora Knew (out tomorrow, January 21st!) is a breath of fresh air--we could not put it down. Any fan of Nora Ephron will devour it! And when you read her answers below, we think you'll fall a little bit in live with her the way we have!

We have ONE copy for giveaway!  Leave a comment and you'll be entered. Winner will be chosen after noon on January 23rd. US and Canada only.

Here's the scoop: Molly Hallberg is a thirty-nine-year-old divorced writer living in New York City who wants her own column, a Wikipedia entry, and to never end up in her family’s Long Island upholstery business. For the past four years Molly’s been on staff for an online magazine, covering all the wacky assignments. She’s snuck vibrators through security scanners, speed-dated undercover, danced with the Rockettes, and posed nude for a Soho art studio.

Fearless in everything except love, Molly is now dating a forty-four-yearold chiropractor. He’s comfortable, but safe. When Molly is assigned to write a piece about New York City romance “in the style of Nora Ephron,” she flunks out big-time. She can’t recognize romance. And she can’t recognize the one man who can go one-on-one with her, the one man who gets her. But with wit, charm, whip-smart humor, and Nora Ephron’s romantic comedies, Molly learns to open her heart and suppress her cynicism in this bright, achingly funny novel.

Where to read more about Linda: Her website, Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads.

Liz & Lisa's book club: What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin

auhtor linda yellin1. We loved WHAT NORA KNEW! What was your inspiration for the book? Are you a huge fan of Nora Ephron's? My first book, SUCH A LOVELY COUPLE, was about my first husband, and my second book, THE LAST BLIND DATE, was about my second husband. I ran out of husbands so I had to write about somebody else I love. And, yes, I love Nora Ephron.

2. In the novel, Molly is quite skeptical about romance after a bad divorce. What about you?  Are you a romantic? That’s the funny thing about skepticism. You’re skeptical…you’re skeptical…then you meet the right guy and – boom! - you’re a romantic. I hated dating. I was terrible at it. I wanted to skip ahead from the getting-to-know-you part to the order-in-a-pizza-and-watch-TV part.

Molly interviews couples making out on subways, couples buying engagement rings at Tiffany’s, single guys playing Frisbee in the park. Like her, I couldn’t figure out what everyone else seemed to figure out so easily. The first time my husband Randy called (of course, he didn’t know he was my future husband; I had to point that out to him several months later) – I was at home watching TV and eating a pizza. So really, it was the perfect beginning. And now I am a total romantic.

3. Molly subjects herself to many different ways of meeting people in order to research her article.  What's your take on speed dating, online dating, etc?  One of the great perks of being a journalist is that you can pretend you’re researching an article, when really you just want to meet guys. Speed dating fascinates me. It must be either the ultimate trust-your-gut experience, or a great way to have men reject you every five minutes. Maybe both.

And then there’s online dating. Ah, yes. I met Randy right before it became popular. I often wonder if a computer would have matched us up. I lived in Chicago and he lived in New York, so I’d have had to request: looking for someone within a 700 mile radius - which let’s face it, sounds pretty desperate. But – and I’m quite proud of this - I’ve written several profiles for girlfriends and so far I’ve reeled in two husbands and two serious boyfriends. I get the fun of online dating without having to actually date.

4. What's your favorite Nora Ephron movie?  (Ours is When Harry Met Sally...) Oh, me, too. Definitely. Ditto. I totally agree. When Harry Met Sally. High five. Group hug. Absolutely.

5.  What's up next for you? At the moment I’m recruiting anyone I’ve ever met in my entire life to come to my Barnes and Noble reading on January 28th. Which is why I expect a major New York snowstorm on January 27th.

Thanks, Linda!