I might be in Hawaii for the week with my boys, but I’m really excited about my reader dinner in Alexandria two weeks from now! I’ll be hosting the dinner on Sunday, April 21st with bestselling author, Sarah Pekkanen, as my guest. Some of you already know Sarah, but in case you don’t, I thought I ought to introduce you to someone that is touted by Library Journal as a “rising star in women’s fiction”.
Sarah’s brand new novel, The Best of Us, is out today and sometime in the night, Amazon downloaded my copy of The Best of Us onto my Kindle so that’s what I’m reading next…ust as soon as I finish Anne Gracie’s The Autumn Bride
Sarah Pekkanen is the mother of three young boys, which explains why she wrote part of her novel at Chuck E. Cheese. Seriously. Sarah penned her first book, Miscellaneous Tales and Poems, at the age of 10. When publishers failed to jump upon this literary masterpiece (hey, all the poems rhymed!) Sarah followed up by sending them a sternly-worded letter on Raggedy Ann stationery. Sarah still has that letter, and carries it to New York every time she has meetings with her publisher, as a reminder that dreams do come true. At least some dreams – Brad Pitt has yet to show up on her doorstep wearing nothing but a toolbelt and asking if she needs anything fixed. So maybe it’s only G-rated dreams that come true.
Sarah, please tell my readers and friends a little bit about THE BEST OF US.
Of course – here’s the quick scoop:
An all-expense paid week at a luxury villa in Jamaica—it’s the invitation of a lifetime for a group of old college friends. All four women are desperate not just for a reunion, but for an escape: Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie is shattered by the news that a genetic illness runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her wealthy husband an unforgettable thirty-fifth birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks already splitting apart their new marriage. Languid hours on a private beach, gourmet dinners, and late nights of drinking kick off an idyllic week for the women and their husbands. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to re-evaluate everything they know about their friends—and themselves.
You’ve also written three linked 99 cent e-stories. How does that process compare with writing longer books?
Right now, I’m writing one novel every year and one short e-story every year, and I enjoy both processes (well, when I’m not wanting to toss my computer out the window). The challenge with my e-stories is that they are all linked, whereas my novels are stand alones, with a group of fresh characters coming in for each new book. My e-stories need to fit together, and enhance each other, yet also be a satisfying read if you end up buying just one. But it’s much easier to hold the plot of a short story or novella in my mind, compared to a novel, so in that way they’re easier.
How did you become a published author?
The real trick is having the faith and commitment to actually write a book, because agents won’t take you seriously unless you have a polished manuscript in hand. As I’ve learned, it’s much harder to finish a manuscript than to start one! I wrote my first book, The Opposite of Me, then showed it to a few folks, and rewrote it more than once. When I felt as though it was in good shape, I started submitting query letters to agents. I heard back fairly quickly from a bunch of agents who requested a sample of my novel – and that was surprising to me, but I’ve since learned many good agents are constantly on the lookout for new talent. Agents aren’t in hiding – they all have websites that list ways to contact them. I went to New York to meet the agents who’d expressed interest in The Opposite of Me and ended up signing with Victoria Sanders.
What’s the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That writers get visited by a tempermental muse, and have little control over their work or productivity. Writing is hard sometimes – and frustrating, agonizing, exhilarating, joyful and tedious at other times. I always compare it to training for a marathon. But you need to carve away time to write, and get words down on paper even when you’re not inspired. If you wait for the muses to sing and dance, you might never write your book.
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Book titles! I’m not kidding – I am horrible at coming up with titles for my novels. I turned in my latest one and actually called it “Book 4.” My editor usually spends hours coming up with titles for my books – she picked them for my first three novels – because I seem to have a mental block about it! But I never get blocked when I write. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think that I need to fill 300 pages, and I get a little scared about whether I’ll pull it off, but putting down words on the page has never been a problem for me. Maybe that’s because I worked as a journalist for almost a decade, and I learned to write on deadline.
How do you balance being an author and being a mother?
Now that I’m writing a book a year, and have firm deadlines, I realize that I need a few chunks of time to really concentrate when I’m writing pivotal scenes. I tend to write on the fly – I snatch an hour before all my kids wake up, or when my youngest is at preschool. But I also need a few big swaths of time to read through my manuscript and make sure it’s anchored securely. That’s the biggest challenge for me as a mother – writing through endless distractions and interruptions and requests for juice or extra Wii time. So during the writing of THE BEST OF US, I checked into a hotel for one night and didn’t leave my room, other than to grab coffee. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and it was so helpful!
When you aren’t writing, what hobbies do you enjoy?
Mostly spending time with my family and friends. I also have the world’s sweetest dog, a rescue lab named Bella, and we love going for long walks together (sometimes I work out the kinks in scenes on those walks, too!) I adore reading and can go through three or four books in a good week. And I’ve been known to watch a little reality TV. I’m addicted to The Voice right now, and having trouble deciding if Blake or Adam is hotter!
To celebrate the release of The Best of Us, and my dinner with Sarah on the 21st, I’m giving away three copies of The Opposite of Me, by Sarah Pekkanen, tucked in a box with a $10 Starbuck drink card, my new JP tote bag, and lots of wonderful treats. The contest will run through Saturday the 13th, with the three winners announced on Sunday, the 14th. Tell me if you’ve ever read Sarah, and fill me in on your April so far!