Monday, June 29, 2009

Girlfriend Visiting: Everyone She Loved

"Curran is a beautiful writer, both witty and evocative, and she knows how to keep a reader riveted. I was up way past my bedtime, unable to stop turning pages. I had to know what happened to this family. Read this book, then pass it on to your dearest friend. She'll thank you."
-- Joshilyn Jackson, bestselling author of Gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia

The amazing Sheila Curran. Her new book EVERYONE SHE LOVED is causing good friends to become better friends, better friends to become best friends, and best friends to be bonded for life. It's also the talk of books groups. Sheila herself is astonishing--her website has a surprise on every page. And I mean--a real surprise. A laugh. A tear. A connection. And she's probably lived in your hometown.
Go visit. You won't be sorry. But first--pull up a chair. She and I had a little chat.

HANK: You and I get into an elevator on the first floor. We're both going to 22! Oh, I say, you're the famous author. What's your new book about? You say:

SHEILA: Four women, friends since college, live in a charming southern beach town. One of them, Penelope, has more money than God. Which may be why she insists on playing the deity from time to time. Despite her beauty and inherited wealth, she becomes preoccupied with what might happen to her husband and children if she died. So she talks her husband into signing a codicil to her will.
If she should die, he won’t remarry unless the new wife (and more importantly) mother, has been approved by her sister and three best friends. Years go by, the codicil gathers dust, and more than its share of hilarity, until the unthinkable happens and everyone she loved must find their way without Penelope.
Simply told, it’s old money in the New South, romantic confusion, legal entanglements, and the unbreakable bonds between four women – and a man.

HANK: Do you remember the moment you had the idea for the book? How and when did that happen?
SHEILA: Books are born in strange places. This one was conceived in the front seat of a car.

No, not that kind of conception. My friend Julianna was driving. Our daughters were chatting in the back seat. I was talking about an article I’d written for McCall’s about two young girls in Arizona whose parents had died within months of each other. “Did you know that in some states, if there isn’t a will, the kids can be sent to foster care?”

The girls in my story weren’t so unfortunate. Their mother had named her best friends, another pair of sisters, as the children’s guardians. ”Just make sure you chose someone to take over if something happens to you.”

From there we talked about difficult it would be to chose which couple among one’s siblings and friends would best be suited for the job. Where did one couple’s permissiveness slide into overindulgence, another’s consistency into unbearable strictness? The idea of dying was hard enough, but figuring out which couple would most love your kids in your absence? Impossible.

We paused in our conversation just long enough for my brain to settle on yet another catastrophic possibility. “You know what would be worse?” I asked. “What if I died and John (my husband) married someone awful? I’d have no control at all!”

Another pause. “Unless,” I continued. “I could get him to agree that if he remarried, my sisters and friends would check out the bride. Make sure she wasn’t some kind of wicked stepmother.”

And thus was hatched the idea of EVERYONE SHE LOVED, a novel that explores the faith one woman placed in her dearest friends, the care she took to protect her family, and the many ways in which romantic entanglements will confound and confuse even the most determined of planners.

HANK: Your main character--is she you?
SHEILA: Well, there’s some question about who my main character is. Even though most of my book takes place after Penelope is gone, I certainly share her hyperbolic imagination and desire to control the uncontrollable. Lucy, her best friend, who takes over the care and tending of her children is a painter. The way she feels about her art is something of the way I feel about mine, protective, and willing to give up just about anything to be allowed to keep doing it. Martha, the smart-ass lawyer whose temper sometimes gets her into trouble, well..what can I say? And Clover, who thinks she can sing and gets the lyrics wrong, again, there’s something there of me.

HANK: So--movie time. Tell us who you envision playing your main character?
SHEILA: I picture Catherine Keener (who played Harper Lee on Capote, and the love interest in 40 year old virgin) as Lucy (who could also be played by Kate Winslet or Scarlett Johanssen.) Penelope should either be Penelope Cruz (who I’d love to see play a southerner) or Holly Hunter. Someone who can carry off imperious, charming, lovable and just a little bit over-the-top. I’m sure I’ve forgotten who else could play her. Martha should be Ellen Barkin or Cameron Diaz.
The love interest? McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy. Patrick Dempsey? Or Daniel Day Lewis, or Liam Neeson. A bad guy? Phillip Seymour Hoffman could play the meddling relatives, tweedledee and tweedledum, twins from England. And for the perfectionist dance instructor Siobhan? Ooh, I think Sarah Jessica Parker or Kyra Sedgewick could do her up just right.
HANK: And you can be in the movie too--what part would you play?
SHEILA: I’d play Penelope’s clueless stepsister, Clover. Why? Oh, because she’s so unintentionally funny and carries with her the insecurity of having her mother abandon her at the age of 6. She still thinks it’s because she failed to place in the beauty pageant finals and has spent the rest of her life trying hard to become the sort of person who’d please her enough to get her back.

HANK: Do you read other people books while you're in the writing process? How does that affect you?
SHEILA: Oh, yes. Reading is my major form of entertainment. I’m not sure how it affects me but I think that because I read so quickly, if their style creeps into my prose, it will be edited out during the fifty thousandth time I read the manuscript during the revisions phase. I am continually learning from, and inspired by, other writers.

HANK: What's the very best line of the very best review you've gotten? So far, of course.
SHEILA: “…This is a gem.” Booklist. A starred review. Or maybe it was Jodi Picoult’s “warm, funny, inventive and original novel.” Or maybe Julianna Baggott’s “the unbreakable bonds between women have found their greatest writer in Sheila Curran.”

HANK: . What was your favorite book as a child?
HANK: Do you still love it?

HANK:. What's your secret indulgence?
SHEILA: Home and Garden Television, Real Housewives of New York, New Jersey and Atlanta, the Food Channel. Pasta of any kind. Any chick-flick.
HANK: What would you buy on a day of shopping?
SHEILA: Sheets. Cannot get enough of linens. Oh, and if money were no object? Art and oriental carpets.

HANK: What's one thing no one knows about you?
SHEILA: Gosh, Hank, I’m not sure there’s even one thing no one knows me. Tactfully put, I have a high level of disclosure. Or as one friend put it, a psychologist, “Sheila, your id is right on top of your skin!” (I had to ask what id meant, of course, and I guess it’s the part that knows what to keep secret and what not.)

HANK: Do you remember when you typed "The End?" What happened next?
SHEILA: I set the book aside for a few weeks and then came back to read it with fresh eyes. I probably celebrated by giving myself a ‘get out of guilt free’ day.
A final thought from Sheila:
"I have been kept alive, literally and figuratively, by the affection and support of my family and friends, whose sum total is my proudest boast and matters much more to me than my bank balance or intelligence quotient."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Latest: An Event to Die For (at Turtle Lane)

Isn't this fantastic? Hope to see you there! And check my events page for many more appearances..I'd love to see you!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

BEA Photos!

BEA Day One! And it was a whirlwind start--we pulled into NYC from Boston. Jonathan dropped me at the Javits Center.and I headed for the MWA booth, where the Fabulous Flaxes, Margery (and her husband Steve) pulled together a jam-packed (I should say author-packed) booth, full of books and excitement and mystery-lovers. You can see by my delighted expression how much fun it was!

In the above photo--Chris Grabenstein (who is probably one reason I'm laughing so hard), and Ken Isaacson behind me, and Keith Raffel to my left.

Here's a photo Margery Flax took--she was everywhere! Keith Raffel, me, and Alexandra Sokoloff. My favorite part of this is the woman who's snagging Alex's new book THE UNSEEN. Well, who wouldn't?

I gave out lots of coupons for free copies of the MIRA edition of PRIME TIME--and they went fast. Thank you so much--and to all who got them, the books will be in the mail this weekend, I'm told!

Saturday morning: the MIRA signing, and the first look for readers at the all new AIR TIME, coming August 25.

Wow! It was astonishing. Look at the line! (That's me in the red jacket and leopard skirt, though you can't really see it) signing as fast as I can. And loving every second. In the right of the photo, you can just see my dear editor Ann Leslie Tuttle, who stalwartly helped through the whole lovely day.

More MIRA signing...

And more--look at the bags and loot hidden under the table!

This is what you can't see from the line..

And here's a wide shot of the whole signing booth...the
other woman in red (at the signing table) is the fabulous Joan Johnston. And next to her, the amazing Carly Phillips. (Got to love MIRA. What stars those authors are!)

Another shot of the line--and just to show how much fun we all had. I guess--free books make everyone happy.

That's Elizabeth Flock right next to me in the pale blue--signing Sleepwalking in Daylight. She has so many fans! And was unfailingly charming to every one of them.

And here's a line-up for you...the marvelous Bobby McCue of the iconic Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles, Cara Black, who signed masses of her new book, a happy me, and Ally Carter, whose YA books are New York Times bestsellers--the latest of the Gallagher Girls series is Don't Judge A Girl By Her Cover. (It's spies..get it?)

I didn't take a photo of all the ARC's Jonathan and I accumulated...a copy of Beautiful Creatures--which looks fantastic. And the new Alan Furst. And the new Lorrie Moore. And--the new M.T. Anderson. And lots more. Very exciting! (Or--did I already say that?)

All in all..a wonderful experience. And now, less than a month until the new PRIME TIME!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Girlfriend Visiting: Under the Sea

In Over Her Head"A playful debut... sincere wit."
-Publisher's Weekly

Who here hasn't really wondered about...merpeople. I mean, it could happen, right?

When Erica Peck, one terrified-of-the-ocean marina owner, finds herself at the bottom of the sea conversing with a Mer man named Reel, she thinks she's died and gone to her own version of Hell. When the Oceanic Council demands she and Reel retrieve a lost cache of diamonds from the resident sea monster in return for their lives, she knows she's died and gone to Hell.
When they escape the monster and end up on a deserted island, she amends her opinion - she's died and gone to Heaven.
But when Reel sacrifices himself to allow her to return to her world, she realizes that, Heaven or Hell, with Reel, she's In Over Her Head.

Okay, fine. It didn't happen. Except behind that hot-cool book cover--and from the delightfully original mind of Judi Fennell. And she's agreed to the girfriends cyber-chat with me!

HANK: You and I get into an elevator on the first floor. We're both going to 22! Oh, I say, you're the famous author. What's your new book about? You say:

JUDI:He's a merman and she's terrified of the ocean.

HANK: Do you remember the moment you had the idea for the book?

JUDI: Oh definitely!
HANK:How and when did that happen?
JUDI: I had just finished revisions of my American Title story, Beauty and The Best, and was trying to come up with another fairy tale I could twist and I thought of The Little Mermaid. Then I had to figure out how to "twist" it. That took all of about two seconds, because the best way to flip it around was to make HIM the mer. Then I saw the movie, Failure to Launch, with Matthew McConaughey and that character is Reel. The devil-may-care, playboy, Mr. Hotshot - who's really hiding a fear - is Reel. The story started flowing (pun fully intended).

HANK: Your main character--is she you?
JUDI: I'd say that any of my heroines that have a backbone are me. Now Erica, she doesn't have a backbone when it comes to the sea. And, yes, that is me, too. I saw JAWS at an early, impressionable age, and it totally ruined the sea for me. I have a running commentary with myself whenever I go boogie-boarding or snorkeling about how I'm being ridiculous and no sharks are going to attack me, and I know it's a totally irrational fear. But I still make sure there's someone out farther than I am and on either side. I'm not comfortable when my kids are out there, but I try not to impart my fear on them.

HANK: Ah yes, Jaws. It's ruined many a summer. I freak out over tornadoes. Absolutely as a result of Wizard of Oz. So--movie time. Tell us who you envision playing your main character?
JUDI: I think Sandra Bullock could play Erica perfectly. Kate Hudson would be a good second, but I could see Sandra as she was in Two Weeks' Notice, with her chattiness, playing Erica perfectly. The love interest?Matthew McConaughey. Reel was fashioned after him, even physically because, let's face it, it's Matthew McConaughey. A bad guy? After seeing the movie Enchanted, I could totally see Susan Sarandon as my sea monster, Ceto. She did the DragonLady Stepmother so incredibly evilly, that she could pull Ceto off.

HANK: And you can be in the movie too--what part would you play?
JUDI: Oh, I'd love to play Kai, Reel's mother. And, no, I'm not that much older than Matthew McConaughey (he could be my younger brother, thankyouverymuch), but Kai is Immortal and magical, so she doesn't age. But Kai has some great lines in the book and puts him in his place so beautifully when he's on his high seahorse.

HANK: Do you read other people books while you're in the writing process?
JUDI: I do read while I'm writing, but I try to stay away from others who write stories similar to mine. I stayed away from Shana Abe's The Last Mermaid and MaryJanice Davidson's Fred the Mermaid series until after I'd finished In Over Her Head.

HANK: How does that affect you?
JUDI: I don't want to be influenced by anything anyone else comes up with.

HANK: What's the very best line of the very best review you've gotten?
JUDI: "A great way to spend a snowy afternoon or a sunny day at the beach," by Lynda K. Scott, Star-Crossed Romance. I hope to see people reading this at the beach when I go this summer.
So far, of course.

HANK: What was your favorite book as a child?
JUDI: I have three. One is The True Story of Okee The Otter by Dorothy Wisbeski. And, yes, I do still have it. I bought it at a book fair in 6th grade and absolutely love this story of a woman who raised a Columbian river otter (back when you could) in suburban NJ. The others are by Dodie Smith: 101 Dalmatians and Twilight Barking. To this day, I still love reading them and wish they would have taken more of the original story into the Glenn Close remake.

HANK: Do you still love them?
JUDI: I bought the Dodie Smith books for my kids to read, so, yes, I still love the stories.

HANK:. What's your secret indulgence?
JUDI: I love finger food at parties. We have Friday night "family hours" in the summer in my neighborhood and I have to walk away from the table because I love all of that food.

HANK: A certain food?
JUDI: Hershey chocolate kisses. There is no more perfect piece of chocolate.

HANK: A particular movie?
JUDI: Ever After and Enchanted. Yes, they're Cinderella stories. Is it odd that I write twists on fairy tales?

HANK: What would you buy on a day of shopping?
JUDI: I hate shopping, so I'll head for a bookstore instead. Or Home Depot. Yes, Hubs had to threaten to take the Home Depot card away. LOL

HANK: What's one thing no one knows about you?
JUDI: Now if I told you, everyone would know, wouldn't they? :)
HANK: Grrr.
JUDI: :-)

HANK: . Do you remember when you typed "The End?"
JUDI: I was sitting on the beach, which is so fitting. I wrote 25 pages that day and it felt soooo good. What happened next? I went in the ocean. Yep, I did. Talked to myself the whole time, calling myself all kinds of idiot.

What they're saying:

"Nora Roberts? Danielle Steel? Much acclaimed romance writers should step aside. There is a new romance writer in town and she is certainly causing a great splash with her debut novel, In Over Her Head."

"I truly found a pearl in my oyster when I read this delightful tale. I was surprised how good of a book In Over Her Head is. It is extremely well-written, the storyline flows and I was hooked from the first page."

"IN OVER HER HEAD is a delightful, quirky blend of humor, adventure and passion. All in all, this is a fast, fun read and a great way to spend a snowy afternoon or a sunny day at the beach."
-Lynda K. Scott, Star-Crossed Romance

"In Over Her Head is a heartwarming, but action-packed story of two people-one human and the other of the seaworthy body-joined together in an adventure. I enjoyed this story immensely."
-Dawn M. Ekinia, Armchair Interviews

"A delightful underwater adventure... full of good-natured humor and fun. A strong first effort by a promising new talent."
-Romantic Times

About The Author:
Judi Fennell has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to "get outside!" instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did--right into Dad's hammock with her Nancy Drew books.

These days she's more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she's still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends' books.

A three-time finalist in online contests, Judi has enjoyed the reader feedback she's received and would love to hear what you think about her Mer series. Check out her website at for excerpts, reviews and fun pictures from reader and writer conferences, and the chance to "dive in" to her stories.

To celebrate the release of each of her books, Judi Fennell and the Atlantis Inn
and the Hibiscus House bed and breakfasts are raffling off three romantic beach getaway weekends. All information is on Judi's website,
Check it out! And have fun...

Judi Fennell
In Over Her Head, coming from Sourcebooks, 6/09

Sourcebooks, June 2009
ISBN # 9781402220012
Wild Blue Under & Catch of a Lifetime, books 2 & 3 in the Mer trilogy