I'm definitely a huge fan of chick lit! More than anything, it appeals to me because of where I am in my life -- single, recently out of college, starting my first big career and making all sorts of life changes. Most of the characters in women's fiction are grappling with the quintessential "Where am I going?" dilemma, and I can relate to that all too well! It reminds me that I'm not alone -- and that we all emerge through the haze happier, stronger and more independent.
Beyond a reader and a blogger, you are a writer yourself . . . in the past, it was of poetry, but you are currently writing fiction. What or who has inspired you over the years?
My literary idol is Meg Cabot -- I absolutely love her! I find myself writing in a cadence similar to her writing style -- chatty, fun, talkative. I can only hope to one day have a fraction of the success she has had! She's definitely a huge inspiration to me, especially because she writes excellent novels for both adults and teens.
Beyond Ms. Cabot, I've gotten a lot of inspiration from my family and friends -- and all the fun, silly and random things that happen to me. I love music, and find myself thinking of lines for a novel as though they're a line of a song! It sounds cliche, but I truly believe we can find something interesting and inspirational as we go about our daily lives. A lifetime is a mosaic of those seemingly tiny experiences!
In one particular post, "Ending my literary narcissism," you describe how you have transitioned from writing in the first person narrative to the third person. Can you give us an update on how this project is progressing?
Thanks for asking! It's been pretty strange changing from an "I" voice and finally accepting that my narrators don't have to be me, but it's totally changed the way I write. As is usually the case, my characters seem to be getting themselves into some tricky and delicate situations . . . I love returning to them each day and grappling with how they're going to sort out the messiness of their lives! And helping them find their happy endings, of course.
Moving back to reading . . . have you ever read a book that was atypical for you? What drew you to the book and did it change your thoughts or opinions of the genre?
Most of the books I read outside of my normal genres -- women's fiction, literature and young adult -- have been recommendations from friends or customers at a bookstore where I worked in college. An old boyfriend was really into graphic novels and comics and was constantly trying to persuade me to read them! I finally broke down and read Maus by Art Spiegelman, recommended because he knows I'm a huge history buff and love anything dealing with family dynamics. It was outstanding -- moving, heart-breaking, overwhelming. I would say it absolutely changed my opinion of the genre -- I realized, probably for the first time, that these really were novels -- not just picture books with some text woven through. I was totally prejudiced, I'll admit! But I've since changed my ways. I don't know if I would pick up a graphic novel on my own, but at least I can say I've read one!
You also wrote on your blog about books that men in your life recommended to you. Your reviews were mixed, but you did discover some new finds that you enjoyed. What books would you recommend to the men?
I'm always recommending books to folks, whether or not they necessarily seek out my opinions! I guess that's a foible of mine. One male author I've loved is Jonathan Tropper, and I find myself recommending him to any of the guys in my life looking for a novel in the vein of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. For men -- or anyone! -- looking for a contemporary novel that will shake you to the core, Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close gets my vote -- and his unconventional story Everything Is Illuminated is incredible, too.
One of the favorite suggestions doled out over the years was to the aforementioned graphic-novel-reading boyfriend: Sarah Dessen's Just Listen. I'll give the guy credit -- he barely blinked when I suggested a young adult novel revolving around a female teenage narrator, her family troubles and burgeoning relationship with a kind-hearted, music-loving boy who attends her high school. He reminded me of the story's Owen Armstrong so much, I had to shove the book in his hands! He read it, enjoyed it and later recommended it to customers at the bookstore where we worked. I'd like to think I made him a more well-rounded reader! I don't know what he would say, exactly, but this is my interview -- not his. :)
Blogging, reading, and writing seem to be only a few of your many hobbies and responsibilities. What's your secret to juggling all these tasks?
Caffeine! Starting at 8 a.m. and rolling on through the evening. No, I'm kidding -- well, partially. I do enjoy a daily Pepsi Max as soon as I plunk down at work and often have to grab a latte in the afternoon to recharge my batteries! I perfected the art of multi-tasking in college and am pretty much incapable of sitting still -- regardless of whether I'm on the couch, behind my desk or roaming around Target. I love organizing my life to be as efficient as possible, and that usually means having ten projects running at once. But I wouldn't have it any other way!
Mostly I'm able to keep running and working because I do what I love. I'm absolutely obsessed with words -- the ones we use, the way we use them, the patterns they make, the tapestries we weave with them -- and I'm fortunate to spend all day with the English language. I'm an editor for three local newspapers where I cull over feature stories and design our print pages, and I spend my evenings working on my own stories or reading the awesome novels others have written. Throw in some quality episodes of "Gossip Girl," a few skeins of yarn, some crochet hooks and my family to chat with and I'm rolling right along!
You have been blogging for a little over a year now. What have you learned along the way?
There's so much to be shared through shared experience -- and that we all have something meaningful, important and valuable to say. The book blogging community, in particular, is so warm and welcoming, and I've found so much happiness through the discussions in which I've participated and the friendships formed. I've run websites over the years but never felt as though I had a home on the Internet, but I definitely feel like I do now!
What would be one piece of advice that you would give to a new book blogger just getting started?
Consistency is the key to success -- read often, review regularly and visit as many other blogs as possible. It's amazing how we much we can learn from each other -- check out what other cool blogs are doing and see how you can adapt their ideas for yourself! Make sure your reviews are clear, and don't be afraid to really inject yourself in them. I like to know just who a blogger/reviewer is -- and what they like, do, see, and feel. Your opinion on a book is formed and substantiated by your own life and experiences. Tell us about them!
What would be your book pick for the ever-popular "stranded on a desert island" scenario?
Oh my! Though it's painful for me to narrow it down, I think I'd choose Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of her Pulitzer Prize-winning short stories. They're so gorgeously written, incredible and moving, I'm sure there's no limit to what I could pull from between their pages. Considering I'd be bored out of my mind in no time, Interpreter of Maladies would offer me something fresh to read every time the book fell open.
Lastly, name 3 of your favorite blog haunts.
I start my day by visiting Kay at The Infinite Shelf (http://infiniteshelf.