Our guest today: L. Alison Heller Why we love her: Her debut novel is FANTASTIC. And she is CUTE as hell. And FUNNY too! (Yes, we're girl crushin'!)
Her debut novel: The Love Wars
The scoop: Even though Molly Grant has only a handful of relationships behind her, she’s already been through more divorces than she can count.
At the premier Manhattan law firm where she’s a matrimonial attorney, the hours are long, the bosses tyrannical, and the bonuses stratospheric. Her clients are rich, famous, and used to getting their way. Molly’s job—and primary concern in life—is to work as hard as possible to make sure they do. Until she meets the client who changes everything….
Fern Walker is the desperate former wife of a ruthless media mogul. Her powerful ex is slowly pushing her out of her young children’s lives, and she fears losing them forever. Molly—haunted by an incident from her own past—finds herself unable to walk away from Fern and sets out to help her. She just needs to do it without her bosses finding out.
Now, as complications both professional and personal stack up, Molly can only hope that her own wits, heart, and instincts are enough—both in and out of court.
Our thoughts: Very Devil Wears Prada-esque! We LOVED it--fast paced and fun, you won't be able to resist The Love Wars. One of our faves so far in 2013.
Giveaway: TWO copies! Leave a comment and you'll be entered. We'll choose the winners on Sunday, May 19th after NOON PST.
Fun fact: Alison writes what she knows--she opened her own family law and mediation practice in 2006.
CHICK LIT IS NOT DEAD PRESENTS...2013 CLUB: L. ALISON HELLER'S THE LOVE WARS
Be Nosy! Eavesdrop, people watch and make up pretend lives for any strangers who inspire such speculation. I always thought this was just a weird thing I did, and it decidedly is, but it’s also a skill that when nurtured can strengthen your fiction.
Read Bird by Bird by Annie Lamott. Not only does it fantastically describe the writer’s state of being open and observing, but it also coaxes that openness. It changed the way I think a little bit.
Write (of course) and revise, revise, revise.
DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do
Think that you can’t be a novelist because you don’t have an MFA.
Think that you can’t be a novelist because the first draft doesn’t turn out the way you want. (That means you’re doing it right. Or at least I hope it does.)
Give up! I’ve heard plenty of novelists reference the trick to success: finishing things.
On your desk? A lot of mail that I’ve opened but not yet dealt with. Stray sticky pads stuck in random places. Five pens, three of which are uncapped. The largest pair of noise cancelling headphones I’ve ever seen. (In all honesty, I don’t need ANY of these things, but they’re on my desk and have been for quite some time. I would much prefer to chalk this up to their being crucial than my sloppiness.)
Truly, my only must have is my computer, which I love and take pretty much everywhere.
On your Facebook feed? True confession: I am a lurker—an unrelenting, take-no-prisoners lurker on both Facebook, specifically and the Internet, generally. I LOVE looking at pictures—the adorable toddler pictures, the good times at a bar pictures, the we-hiked-up-a-mountain pictures, the we-got-a-fish tank-and-this-is-us-setting-it-up pictures. I am rather heavy-handed with the likes, which I hope is enough to save me from being a creepy lurker and at least land me in the friendly/benign category.
App on your phone? Pages and Notes. It frustrates me beyond to try and edit on that tiny keyboard (and small screen), but it’s still comforting to feel like I can do it wherever.
I also have a surprising amount of apps for dressing up princesses, but I swear those aren’t for me.
Song you listened to on repeat? Under African Skies by Paul Simon. There’s a scene in my second book in which sisters listen to it on a car trip, so I was playing the song over and over while conjuring and writing. In the book, the track sparks one of the sisters to remember her childhood, which was almost nothing like mine except that I too listened to Paul Simon a lot growing up.
My Dad loved music, Paul Simon’s included, and since he passed away two years ago, playing the songs he loved has been one of the ways that we remember him and continue to feel connected. It’s wonderful, but also sad. I had no idea that Under African Skies would bring on the nostalgia (because honestly, it’s the earlier stuff I remember listening to as a kid) but it did. I got completely sidetracked from the scene and—between the crying and the memories and singing along and the continued pressing of repeat—things got a little messy.
Book you read? PICTURES OF YOU by Caroline Leavitt. LOVED it.
Time you laughed? The last time was a few hours ago when I arrived at my daughter’s preschool for pick up and saw hanging on her little hallway cubby hook the dress AND tights she had been wearing that morning. I briefly imagined her casting off her clothing like some pirouetting fairy sprite too ethereal to be bothered with such earthly confinement (an act that would have been in character for her) before thinking to check whether her spare clothes were missing. Thankfully, they were, at which point I allowed myself the laugh. (The reason for the change was rather tame—water spill.)
Agents did you query before you found "the one?" I had read somewhere to send out queries in shifts of 15-20 because your manuscript will change along the journey of finding representation. Because I’m nothing if not obedient, I had sent out my first shift of about that many and got several rejections, very quickly—one less than a minute after I sent it out, which I felt had to be some sort of record. As part of my surveying stage, I also signed up for one of those “find an agent” writers’ conferences being held in my city.
Here’s how it went down: on Friday, I attended the conference with my first two pages and query and was basically told that I needed to scrap everything before anyone would get within fifty feet of it. I returned home demoralized and spent the weekend fairly moany and groany. On Monday—two days after that—my now-agent, part of the initial batch of 15-20, who had previously requested a full manuscript, called and offered representation.
Mine was sort of like a classic agent quest on speed. I got incredibly, incredibly lucky that someone on the top of my list from my first batch made an offer. But, I also experienced that metallic taste of rejection—blank looks after nervous oral pitching (the worst) and the feeling that I was just throwing queries into a black hole.
The moral: taste is subjective. Polish your manuscript as best you can and listen to the suggestions, but sleep on them and go with your gut on what’s a valuable comment and what’s noise.
Hours do you write per day? I don’t have a strict count because any goal would be too vulnerable. I usually try to use the morning hours. If I can’t because of my divorce work, I will attempt to mobilize after dinner (the time when I am usually at my weakest as a human being).
Hours do you waste online when you should be writing? A lot. This is another reason much why I don’t hold myself to a strict word count. If anyone has any tips of how to spend less time on Internet, please let me know.
Way to celebrate a book deal? I was really good at celebrating. I bought a handbag I’d been eyeing. I drank champagne. I had far more celebratory meals than the event warranted. Truly, in the celebrating-your-own-book-deal category, I shone.
Trick to overcome writer's block? Reading or writing something else can help, as can the passage of time—sometimes you just need to NOT actively think about something for the ideas to start breaking free from your brain.
Way to think of a book idea? Primarily newspapers; stories from friends (gossip, I guess, although that term sounds rather mean); and magazines. I get excited when a story makes me stop and ask what if and why.
My idea for my second book came along with the true story of a regular guy—with a family, house, respectably boring job and probably a golden retriever—who’d committed a crime in the workplace. There are plenty of whys in there, but I couldn’t stop wondering about his wife—was she surprised or in denial? How did it square with her morality and family priorities? What, if anything, did she tune out? What was she consciously aware of? And so on. The story changed drastically as I got into it, but that was the germ.
Show you'll DVR? Right now I think I’m DVRing Mad Men and The Good Wife. My DVR, however, has likely decided on its own that it’s too full and tired and underappreciated to tape either. I’ll realize it later in the week when I go to watch them and have another exhausting yes, you can! talk with it. And the DVR might appear to get with the program (no pun intended), but will ultimately ignore me again. That’s our dynamic as of late.
Book you'll read? I just cracked open WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel— my sister and mother (along with most others on planet earth) loved it and I can see why. I really want to read Amy Shearn’s THE MERMAID OF BROOKLYN both because I’m a mother in Brooklyn and because it looks wonderful. And, of course, as soon as I can get my hands on it, the all-around fabulous and talented Meg Donohue’s ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS. Doesn’t just reading the title make you feel the fresh sea breeze across your face?
Book you'll write? My second will be out in 2014 and I just handed in the first round of revisions on it to my editor. It has a working title, but we changed THE LOVE WARS so many times (four) that I’m reluctant to put it out there until it’s cemented. Also, as life is generally better for me and those around me when I have a work-in-progress, I’ve started the initial draft of my third, which doesn’t take place in NYC—a first for me.