She’s 6 Years Old–and She’s My Most Controversial Character To Date!
Bizarre right? I mean, how much trouble can a six-year-old cause? Well, if you have one of these, or have ever had one of these, you’re probably snickering to yourself right now… (Oy! Six-year-olds!)
Antics aside, what makes Zoe “trouble” is that readers either adore or deplore her. Zoe is the “sage” in the book, and it doesn’t always sit so well with every reader that here you get a freak-show cast of grownups flitting about all willy-nilly trying to figure out their lives, and at the center of it all is this diminutive, beyond-precocious child, this insanely polarizing figure, sitting back with her nose in a book and making sense of everything for them all. I LOVE HER! Others, not so much. For some people: “It’s just not realistic! Why should this child be smarter than anyone else! Why should she have all the answers! I just don’t buy it.”
And then for others, well, others can’t get enough of her. “It’s really so realistic! Children are smarter than adults in many ways, of course! They see the world more purely! From the mouths of babes!”
The thing is, I do now have two children. And I KNOW they are smarter than me, and also smarter than most all the other adults I know. I also know that I didn’t pull Zoe out of the the air. She’s based on a now-woman (oy!) who used to be six once, and when she was six, I swear she was just like Zoe. In fact, she’s the one who named most of the characters in the book. (True story. A good bit of advice you won’t hear too often: If you’re stuck on characters’ names, ask a six-year-old. They know!)
If you’ve read Rita Hayworth’s Shoes, you know the whole book is meant to be a little over the top (and if you haven’t yet, hey, why don’t you!), and that’s all thanks to the secondary cast. And for me, this is exactly what makes writing and reading fun. You can pin all the struggle and the strife on the protagonist, lay the foundation, if you will, the framework of the house of the story. And then you get to paint and embellish and really decorate the joint with the rest of the cast! For me, the brighter the colors, the crazier the flourishes, the more fun there is to be had by all!
I’m not alone in this. Consider the Governor in Carl Hiaasen’s books. The Emperor in Christopher Moore’s. Think of every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen starring Joan Cusack as “the best girlfriend” and you see it’s true. Secondary characters are where the quirk is. They steal scenes and they steal hearts. Like Zoe. (You know, unless you hate her.)
Probably the only thing that’s similar between The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything and Rita Hayworth’s Shoes is that each is jam-packed with a colorful secondary cast… And probably many of my new characters are just as polarizing as my Zoe! There’s an eccentric octogenarian, a rock-star new age preacher, a mysterious Russian stalker, a ghetto fabulous best girlfriend… Without these characters, there would still be a story, sure. Of course you could get by without them, like you could live in house that was simply a plain white box. But hey! Why would you want to do that?
So who are some of your favorite Secondary Characters? Please leave me a comment and share your favorites with me!
Tracie Banister’s got it going on! Not only has she published TWO books this year, she’s also incredibly active in the online book world. She blogs regularly and even organizes events in which other authors can participate, like blog hops and Twitter chats.
I “met” Tracie when I joined one of her blog hops in May. I had no idea what a blog hop even was (in May, I barely even knew what a blog was…) but Tracie was so helpful and accommodating, answering every one of my awkward newbie questions without making me feel like an idiot. I learned so much from the experience and look forward to more authorial adventures with Tracie going forward!
1. I ask this of all writers, but I’m always so intrigued by the answer: Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what were you doing before you did? And either way, can you remember your “Aha!” moment?
I never thought about becoming a writer because I always was a writer. It was just something that came naturally, and I enjoyed sharing my work with others. I wrote plays that my class performed in elementary school and continued on with essays, multi-part stories, and literary analyses all through my formative years. I had dreams of one day publishing my work, but I also had dreams of marrying a prince and starring on a soap opera. None of those dreams seemed very likely to happen, so I did what sensible people do when they grow up and got a real job (administrative work). I took a stab at writing a historical romance novel in my early twenties just to see if I could do it, but got distracted by real life and never finished it. For the next decade or so, I kept my creative juices flowing by penning a lot of genre fan fiction that was well-received online.
I guess that my “Aha!” moment came when I lost my job as a personal assistant after 12 years. My friends and family encouraged me to follow my bliss and devote myself full-time to writing a novel. The thought of chasing a dream was pretty scary, and I honestly didn’t know if I had what it took to not only complete a novel, but submit it to agents and editors. Rather than spend the rest of my life wondering, “What if?” I decided to commit myself 100% to getting my work published. I’m happy to say that despite a lot of ups and downs, it’s been a really rewarding experience and I’m proud of myself for going after what I wanted.
2. Lots of writers tend to rely on similar conventions from one book to the next, but your two novels, Blame It On The Fame and In Need Of Therapy, are so different. One is a high-glam diva-licious tale about five women vying for the same prize; the other a story about a woman finding herself in her “crazy” world. Can you share what inspired you to write each of them?
Writing books is a very time-consuming process, so I stick with settings, characters, and themes that will sustain my interest for the year or more I will have to spend with each of them. I’ve always been fascinated by Hollywood and the lives of celebrities, so writing a novel about the five (fictional) actresses nominated for the Oscar seemed like a no-brainer to me and I had a blast playing around with all of the Hollywood stereotypes (girl-next-door, snobby British thespian, hard-partying trainwreck, second-generation actress, middle-aged star trying to make a comeback) in Blame It on the Fame.
Back in the day, I toyed with the idea of becoming a therapist myself, so I took several Psych courses in school and read Psychology Today religiously for years. Even now, I’m a very analytical person who enjoys listening to people’s problems, dissecting them, and giving advice. So, when my mother off-handedly said, “You should write a funny book about a female psychologist,” a light bulb went off over my head. It just seemed like such a great idea that was rife with possibilities (What does a psychologist really think when she’s listening to her patients’ problems? How does her shrink persona translate to her personal life? Is there a downside to being caring and empathetic?)
3. I used to have all these rituals when it came to writing, but as most of mine is done within the chaos of working full time and raising two kids, I’ve sadly relaxed on nearly all of them. What about you? Do you have any special rituals when it comes to writing?
I am a creature of habit, and things have to be just so in order for me to be able to concentrate and write. So, yes, I have quite a few rituals. I always write at my desk in my office (I loathe laptops!). I must wear my special “writing sweater,” an Old Navy cardigan, even if it’s 100 degrees outside. And it’s essential that I have a glass of Lemon La Croix water nearby (I’m convinced that the carbonation stimulates my imagination!). I burn eucalyptus oil in my office a lot as there’s something about the aroma that I find soothing and now I associate that scent with “creative time.” Oh, and I always touch the head of my Shakespeare paperweight every day before I start writing. For inspiration, for good luck, I have no idea; it’s just part of my crazy routine!
4. Different writers have different methods for getting from the beginning of a story to the end. Some like to write in order, making sure each paragraph is perfect before moving on. Others also do a total run-through, not looking back until they get to the end. Some start with narrative and weave in dialog; others (like me) start with dialog and build a narrative around it. Can you explain how your story-making process unfolds for us here?
I am not a stream-of-consciousness writer. I carefully consider every word I put down on the page and edit as I go, so I am one of those writers who can’t move on until a paragraph is perfect. The upside of that is that I don’t end up with a rough draft that requires major editing or revising. I just have to do several rounds of proofreading and clean up minor continuity issues then I’m done.
My writing process differs depending on the book. For Blame, I had to write five stories that ran parallel to each other and intersected at various points throughout the book. So, although I wrote each heroine’s story in chronological order, I would jump back and forth between the heroines, working on whichever character arc was calling to me. I didn’t even number the chapters as I couldn’t put the pieces of my story puzzle together until I was done. That’s when I pulled out my dry-erase board and multi-colored post-its (each heroine was assigned her own color) to figure out how to arrange the chapters in keeping with the book’s timeline.
For Therapy, my process was much more linear. I started at the beginning and worked my way through to the end. I find outlines very stifling, so I don’t do detailed plotting before I begin work on a book. I always know where I want my stories to start and where I want them to end. How the characters get from Point A to Point B happens organically as I’m writing. I always say that the best bits in my books are the things I didn’t plan!
5. I could totally see either of your books becoming films (even In Need Of Therapy becoming a TV series). When you write, do you ever imagine actors in your mind playing your characters to move the story along, or is about telling the story first and then recognizing your characters in actors?
There are usually one or two characters in each book whose physical description will be based on an actor/actress. For instance, I envisioned Gerard Butler when I wrote for Scottish bad boy Miles McCrea in Blame It on the Fame. And Josh Holloway was my inspiration for Mitch in In Need of Therapy. Sometimes an actor or actress will spring to mind while I’m working on a book as Eva Mendes did for Pilar in INOT. I enjoy doing “casting” posts on my blog when I release a new book so that I can tell readers who I’d like to see play my characters if they ever make it to the big screen.
BONUS QUESTION: Imagine your books have become runaway bestsellers and a producer has decided to make a movie about your life! Who would play you and why?
I like this fantasy! Okay, if my life story were turned into a movie, I’d pick Reese Witherspoon to play me as she’s petite, blonde, Southern, and sassy and I am all of the above.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Francine!
Thank you for visiting with us in the Shed, Tracie!
And thanks, readers, for visiting! If you’re new here, please stick around and read through some of the other posts here. And if you like what you see, please sign up–and invite friends. The more the merrier here in the Shed!
In Need of Therapy
Lending a sympathetic ear and dispensing sage words of advice is all part of the job for psychologist Pilar Alvarez, and she’s everything a good therapist should be: warm, compassionate, supportive. She listens, she cares, and she has all the answers, but how’s the woman everyone turns to in their hour of need supposed to cope when her own life starts to fall apart?
While working hard to make a success of her recently-opened practice in trendy South Beach, Pilar must also find time to cater to the demands of her boisterous Cuban family, which includes younger sister Izzy, an unemployed, navel-pierced wild child who can’t stay out of trouble, and their mother, a beauty queen turned drama queen who’s equally obsessed with her fading looks and getting Pilar married before it’s “too late.” Although she’d like to oblige her mother and make a permanent love connection, Pilar’s romantic prospects look grim. Her cheating ex, who swears that he’s reformed, is stalking her. A hunky, but strictly off-limits, patient with bad-boy appeal and intimacy issues is making passes. And the sexy shrink in the suite across the hall has a gold band on his left ring finger.
When a series of personal and professional disasters lead Pilar into the arms of one of her unsuitable suitors, she’s left shaken, confused, and full of self-doubt. With time running out, she must make sense of her feelings and learn to trust herself again so that she can save her business, her family, and most importantly, her heart. Purchase In Need of Therapy!
Blame It on the Fame
A power-trippin’ bitch, a has-been, a skanky ex-model, a press-shy indie queen, and a British stage actress no one knows – this is how the Best Actress hopefuls in this year’s too-close-to-call Oscar race cattily describe each other. Which of them will win the much-coveted gold statue and what price will they be forced to pay as they travel the red carpeted-path to Hollywood glory?
Amidst all the press-schmoozing and angsting over which designer gown to wear, these Oscar contenders feud, commiserate, and face a succession of personal crises – scandalous secrets come to light, marriages implode, accidents land two nominees in the hospital while another receives news that could derail her career, all culminating on Tinsel Town’s biggest night when anything can happen, and does. Purchase Blame It on the Fame!
And now,without further ado… Lights! Camera! Broads!
1. So what made the two of you decide to come together and take on Hollywood in such a devastatingly glamorous way? Did some dastardly director done you wrong one too many times? Seriously, what made you decide, “Hey, we should do this!”
Nicole: Well, I’ve had it out for Spielberg for years — and frankly, he had this coming. We’d been wanting to write together for a while, but wanted it to be fun and light — not heavy and polarizing (like our friendship). Plus, there are so few women movie reviewers and we thought it was time film audiences were given the female perspective.
elizabeth: I did it to meet men. No, well, yes, I do it for that reason and more. I hate to start this interview off with agreeing with Dauenhauer, but we do have similar senses of humor and after my dream about her throwing me off the rooftop of a NYC townhouse because I penned a New York Times bestselling book, I knew it was wise to keep my enemy even closer. Plus we had something to say about what Hollywood is up to and we won’t be ignored. And to meet men.
2. Do you watch most movies together, or do you meet afterwards (maybe so as not to infect each others’ impressions)? Please share your process!
Nicole: It’s a little of both. We prefer to see the movies together, and when we do — there’s always a buffer seat in between. (cassidy has a “jimmy arm” — very unpleasant.) Occasionally, there will be a movie we can’t catch together — so we follow up after and compare notes. Other times, like for Hope Springs or The Dark Knight Rises, one of us has no desire to slap down 12 bucks and we go it alone — then fill the other broad in on the plot so she never has to see it.
elizabeth: I go to the movies with Nicole to accumulate brownie points so I can go to heaven one day. We saw Salmon Fishing in the Yemen together and we got to witness an older couple making out like a couple of thirteen-year-olds a few rows ahead of us. It was a memorable night because while I wanted to move to Yemen to live with that hot sheik, we overheard lover boy’s dentures fall out at a very critical moment. And what am I doing with Jimmy’s arm?
3. There’s a lot of back-and-forth in your blog about what you enjoy about films and what not, though you usually have a reasonable consensus on “love it or hate it.” Have you ever gone at it / had strong words / duked it out over a movie you didn’t fundamentally agree was hit or miss?
Nicole: We tend to agree more than we disagree. Go figure?
elizabeth: I don’t agree with anything Nicole says. I just let her ramble and ramble and ramble. And sadly, the one movie that did us both in was The Campaign. I am receiving and responding quite nicely to shock therapy and I pray that one day my family will let me back into the fold. Just between us, I ain’t praying that hard.
4. Unlike me, kind of an “ingenue” of the blogging world, you’re both fairly seasoned broads in this arena. Can you tell me about some of the other blogging you do?
Nicole: I blog a bit on Skirt!, where I wax philosophical (that may be stretching it) on pop-culture and women’s issues. I also have a humor blog, “You Hadda Be There,” which catalogs the frequently bizarre things my parents say.
elizabeth: Nicole, I think she just called us a couple of old broads. (Francine, here. cassidy–so touchy! Not old. Savory!)I have been blogging since 2008. I started at Skirt! and now have a column on Here Women Talk and World Literary Café. I think it is essential for writers to have their own blogs and it can be a great way to get exposure and develop a following. Everybody has got an opinion and there is room for everyone although I would like to be the supreme blogger of the universe one day. I think that says it all. Check out my words and art at elizabethcassidyart.com.
5. What about other interests? One of the reasons I’m drawn to the two of you is that you always seem to have an improbable amount of tasks you’re handling at once. What else are you doing right now (Elizabeth just had one of her artworks picked up for a book cover!) and how are you finding time to do these things?
Nicole: Well, cassidy’s the true Renaissance woman. She puts me to shame. Other than blogging, I create paper crafts and photo art for my Etsy shop under the name Mockingbird’s Mantle.
elizabeth: The only reason Nicole calls me that is because she tells people that I finished high school at the end of the Renaissance. I think when I got back to my artistic roots last year, I felt a strong rebirth going on inside of me. Life can get in the way of our dreams, so when the universe gave me the gifts back, I decided to run with it. I am so excited to be doing my art again and I do plan on starting my first book this fall. I want to die knowing I have done it all and that I have no regrets. Well, still waiting for Colin Firth to call me.
BONUS QUESTION: Imagine Hollywood’s just called and, based solely on the strength of your Film Fatales brand, wants you to fashion a script that they’re already optioning from you–sight unseen! (Oh I do so love imagination, don’t you?) What is the genre of the film and who’s going to star in it?
Nicole: It should be equal parts comedy, action, drama, and French farce with equal strength. And, obviously Catherine Zeta Jones should play me because we look so much alike.
elizabeth: I think it should be called The Campaign: Part Deux about two women running for the presidency of this country. I don’t mind being cast as the evil villainess (type casting) who defeats Nicole in a landslide. But then Nicole would then be able to go find her Heathcliff while I sit around in the White House in my underwear. Who would play my part? Who would play my part? I want to play me. I think I have that down pat.
A huge thanks to the Film Fatales for visiting the Shed and shedding some wisdom on what makes for a great flick! I for one can’t wait to see their comedic, action-packed, drama-drenched French farce about an election for which I would find it almost impossible to cast a vote… Which one could I possibly choose?!
If you’re new to here, stay a while and have a look around. We’ve had a few interesting people visiting here, and more are lined up this fall.
Thanks for coming!
Let’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.