Tell us about your novel, Happily Ever Before.
Happily Ever Before is what would happen if the hit comedies Bridesmaids and Baby Mama had a love child. It tells the story of two sisters and the biggest, most important question anyone has ever been asked: would you, if I for some reason couldn’t, loan me your womb and give birth to my baby? It’s how two sisters who would do anything for each other are finally in a situation where they’re actually tested on that very fact: how far would you go to help someone you love?
Why did you write this novel? What was your inspiration?
Well, it was born out of an idea of creating a vehicle of some kind for Melissa, and as we worked on it, we kept adding more and more story, and then it morphed into this aha moment of you know I think this would make a really good book. Which was nowhere on our scope of things to do. Well for me, it was, as a writer. I have written other novels, but this particular concept or idea wasn’t supposed to be a novel. When I mentioned it to Melissa, she was a little taken aback. She’s a great writer but had never written a book, but she only hesitated for like a moment and then just jumped in with both feet. So the fact that she was game to undertake this journey made me even more excited to write it and that energy, that positive, joyous energy really infused the process and that sort of became our inspiration.
Which of your characters do you identify with the most and why?
Well, I can honestly say that Melissa is much more Grace and I’m much more Clair and together we created George, who was born out of a wish fulfillment of someone who tells it like it is, but also out of a “well what would I be like if I was a hot mess?” But all these great rich female characters in our book are born out of the relationships with our sisters. I have four sisters, Melissa has one, and we have a network of really amazing women in our lives: our mothers, our aunts, and our friends. So there’s a little of everyone we know and love in all our characters.
How did you meet Melissa and why did you decide to write together?
We met at book club. It was a "bring your friend and start a book club" thing and we both ended up there. My friend Linda Figueiredo, a noted TV comedy writer and her friend Emmy Laybourne, now the best selling author of the YA novel Monument 14, started a book club over 10 years ago when we were all just starting out. I think Melissa had just booked her role on Reba. Anyway, we really hit it off. And as book club evolved or devolved, we were soon the only ones reading the books, and then it morphed into an eating club, and then it just sadly went away, but we maintained our friendship, and we had always spoken about trying to write something together, and we finally just did it.
What is it like to write as a duo? Tell us about your writing process.
Writers are alone a lot. And when you write with a partner it’s nice not being alone. It’s nice to have someone to turn to and go does this make any sense at all? Does this seem plausible? And it was a true joy writing with Melissa because not only is she a delightful human being, and well stocked in the snacks department, but she’s got a background in improv, so when we would pitch out a scene, she would invariably jump up and act it out and in that moment we would know if the scene was the direction we should go for the book. Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn’t, but it led us to the right place. After our scheduled writing sessions, I’d go home and clean everything up and write the prose and put in the layers and make sure the story was tracking, then I’d send it all to Melissa and she would read it before our next writing sessions and then we’d go over it and get it to where we were both happy with it and then we’d move on. When I hit upon the fractured fairytale idea with the narrator and the “this is now, this is here, before we can go there…” etc, I wrote up a few sample paragraphs and sent them to Melissa for her to weigh in on the voice and once we got that narrative sensibility down and had that voice in our head, so to speak, everything just really flowed from there.
Why did you decide to self-publish Happily Ever Before?
I love writing. I always have. I love everything about it. I really don’t struggle too much as a writer. The part of the process I have issues with and am still grappling with is the other side of it, the getting an agent, editor, lawyer, huckster, that person who believes in you, who supposedly gets out there and hustles for you, sells it, gets it to the supposed right people. Melissa and I were really close to selling this book to a traditional publisher, then the market fell out, people panicked, no one was “buying” books anymore or so they said and so that combined with the lack of that professional support entity, if you will, in my life, which over the years has caused me so much frustration and real heartache, is what led me to the path of self-publishing.
At first, it was hard to wrap my head around it because I felt that somehow if I self-published, I wasn’t a legitimate writer, that my words didn’t matter because I hadn’t followed a traditional path, a path that would somehow legitimize me. It look me a long time to make peace with that and to realize that self-publishing wasn’t my scarlet letter. And then knowing that I was taking this journey with Melissa made it less scary because not only wasn’t I alone, but she’s a wonderful cheerleader and her belief and trust in me as a writer and person, along with my family and friends, gave me the courage to undertake this adventure.
The eBook is available now. Will it eventually be available in paperback?
Yes, actually we just did another sweeping edit of the book and we handed all our files over to our formatter so that we can participate in the Amazon Create Space and the book can be printed on demand. Which, I’m really excited about.
What are your favorite genres to read?
I just love a good book. That being said, I tend to shy away from the darker horror like fare, unless it comes highly recommended then I might pick it up and give it a try. I spent a large part of my life as a movie-marketing executive and I worked on a lot of horror films, from Se7en to the Nightmare On Elm Street series, so I’ve had my fill. I lean toward chick lit, love Clair Cook, Jennifer Weiner, Emily Griffin, Sophie Kinsella, and I will read and reread everything written by Nora Ephron as well as the classics like Jane Austen and Edith Wharton. I love Kaye Gibbons and Carrie Fisher and Anne Lamott. Bird By Bird changed my life!
What was the last book you read that you loved?
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. It’s spectacular! Funny, smart, so smart, so real. The characters jump off the page. The concept: losing ten years of memory and starting over at a time when everyone else in your life has grown and changed and moved on in ways you so can’t grasp because you’re literally not there in your life yet, and those moments that defined who you are, that in ways shattered your world, you don’t remember. It’s just so compelling and heartfelt and just a big WOW. I loved it!
What are you working on now?
I’m actually working on a screenplay, been working on it for a while now. I don’t want to talk about it, but it’s definitely a concept I’ve never hit on before. It’s got some time travel elements in it in some way, and it’s really pushing me as a writer, which is something I crave, because it’s so unlike anything I’ve ever written, but at the same time, I feel like everything I’ve ever written in my life, my other novels, my other screenplays, my TV pilots have all led me to this one story. It’s a lovely journey to be on, quite eye opening for me as a writer, and I’m really enjoying it.
I’m also rewriting my first novel, Bella’s Book Of Fear, and then depending how Happily Ever Before does, am considering releasing it as an e-book, and also Melissa and I, depending on how Happily Ever Before does, have to decide if we’re going to move forward with a sequel.
eBook Giveaway! Please leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Happily Ever Before. Be sure to include your email address or Twitter/Facebook information so that we can get in touch if you win. The winner will be chosen on Thursday, November 15th. Good luck!