Bachelor Degree | Seducing Harry

Interview: Bachelor Degree

Q: Now that you’ve embarked on your second novel, is Bachelor Degree similar to your first book, Seducing Harry?
A: The genre (women’s lit) is similar, but in no way does this novel mirror the other. The characters are all colorful and fun, and get embroiled in naughty and scintillating adventures, but the entire premise is different. The main protagonist in BD is Blake Hamilton, artist hottie from London, who comes to New York and seduces everyone he meets both through his art and his wildly engaging and sexy persona.

Q: I’m already intrigued. Once again, I must ask: are any of the characters based on people you know?
A: Certainly. We’re all influenced by the people in our lives and it’s no different with the characters, who run among my pages. There are snippets of vague resemblances to those I know, but they are not fully-formed ‘real” people-mostly figments of my imagination run amok.

Q: Will this book appeal to both sexes?
A: Absolutely. As with “Harry,” men read and enjoyed that book, and I am certain they will feel the same about Bachelor Degree. I write about real issues and situations that affect the lives of both men and women, and in that way, it has wide, generic appeal.
Interestingly, I always thought that Seducing Harry was geared more toward women. After the book came out, I received lots of mail and accolades from men who loved it. I predict that Bachelor Degree will reach that same target audience, comprised of both sexes.

Q: Can you provide a brief synopsis of Bachelor Degree?
A: The novel is set in Manhattan’s posh art world where Samantha Krasner and her uproariously, well-intentioned, misguided and meddlesome 62-year old mother, Madeleine Krasner-Wolfe- create a mother/daughter duo you won’t soon forget. Samantha, a partner at Madison Avenue’s prestigious Cole Gallery, signs Artist du Jour, Blake Hamilton, who becomes the toast of Gotham. But, as New York’s most eligible bachelor begins to fall for Samantha, she starts to suspect something is awry. And with mother popping up uninvited at every juncture, Samantha is at her wit’s end.
Stir into this volatile Manhattan cocktail a bevy of attractive, eligible bachelors, father –son doctors and the hi-jinks have just begun. In the Big Apple, where ambition, money and love become hopelessly confused, it may sometimes seem impossible for even the most deserving of women to earn a Bachelor Degree.

Q: Wow! Sounds delicious.
A: “Delicious” is the perfect word. The book is filled with jaunts to well-known Manhattan dining spots that many will recognize. It’s a very foodie novel.

Q: How long did it take you to write Bachelor Degree?
A: Surprisingly, a much shorter time than Seducing Harry. I stopped teaching to write full time. I am still writing my weekly humor Westport news column, but with more time to just write, the pages flew faster.

Q: Or, perhaps, you are becoming a pro at the writing game with two novels under your belt.
A: It’s not that it gets easier, just more familiar, and familiarity breeds productivity. It’s also fun to wake up every day and greet your characters and have them take you on this glorious ride.

Q: So, it’s they who drive you?
A: Yes, I have a loose plot outline, but my characters can change a book's direction. I always take their lead and I’m not so plot driven that my original ideas are written in stone. I make many changes as I go along.

Q: I’m sure that deadlines help.
A: I find that deadlines are a writer’s greatest tool. That, and a good agent and editor, both of which I have. They have amazing instincts and know how to bring out the best in an author. We are all an excellent fit.

Q: Are you still writing at “V” restaurant in Westport?
A: Yes, and loving it. I wrote both books there and hope to continue on that path. I am presently working on a third novel.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about a typical writing day?
A: The day begins with going over the previous day’s work and making changes. Then, I go to “V” and write long-hand for several hours. Later, I go home, and transpose what I’ve written on to my computer, do some editing and it all begins again. I also have a first reader who sees pages before I send them out to my editor. In between my writing, I exercise, do errands, see my children/grandchildren and have a life. But, my writing life is one of the greatest perks.

Q: You mentioned a third book. Can you elaborate?
A: Too soon to talk about that, but I will say, it’s different in some ways from Seducing Harry and Bachelor Degree and deals with some sensitive subjects. But, it’s also humorous, foodie and fun.

Q: What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
A: In a word: WRITE! You can take courses which are helpful in that being in a writer’s group can be motivating and force you to keep writing on a regular schedule. But in the end, it comes down to one thing: pants-to-chair and don’t get up until you’ve reached your designated goal that you set for yourself each day.

Q: I’m not being flip here, but do you think writers suffer?
A: I’ve touched on this before, but allow me to reiterate. All creative people suffer to some extent. The act of prying loose thoughts from your mind, and getting them down on paper and putting yourself out there is a daunting experience. It’s like suffering an exquisite agony. All those words. As I like to tell my writing classes: I think if someone were to cut my head open, words would be scattered everywhere. But, I love my craft and wouldn’t give it up or change it for anything.

Q: Can you talk about the writing process?
A: The writing process is fascinating. By that I mean, the novels I write control me rather than I controlling them, unlike my column. When I write my weekly column, I provide breezy dialogue and get in and out quickly. The novel format is completely different and at first, it was daunting. Suddenly, I was faced with endless amounts of pages to fill and I had to learn to adjust to that change. In that way, I am merely the vehicle for the characters who bring me along on the journey and I merely follow their lead. When I start out each day, I am never sure where I will end up and therein lies the fun – the thrill of it all. Creating characters and living vicariously through them in my imagination is the grandest excursion of all.

Q: Can you leave us with a few words of wisdom?
A: Stick with it. Even when you get rejected or feel you’re failing, never give up. Stay true to your work and above all, keep writing.

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Interview: Seducing Harry

Q: What led up to your writing your first novel, Seducing Harry, an Epicurean Affair?
A: I have been a writer all my life. I always wanted to do a novel and eventually knew I would. I had an idea in my head that started to mushroom even before I put words to paper. There is such a wealth of funny people and situations in the world, and they are too irresistible to ignore. I wanted to bring them to life on the pages of my book and have a good time in the process.

Q: How long did the book take to write?
A: I'd like to say, a couple of years, but truth be told, it's been in the works - marinating in my mind for most of my adult life. I could not have written this book until I had many experiences and adventures under my belt. I'm probably one of those late bloomers: like wine, I think I get better as I age…so does my writing."

Q: Are your characters based on real people you know?
A: If I were to admit that, I might be shot at sunrise. My characters are all a composite of a lot of people I know, who may or not even recognize themselves. They are all disguised although any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely intentional. My guess is, if I put a group of men and women in a room and asked the real "Coco" and "Harry" to stand up, they all would.

Q: How would you describe the characters in your book and what genre does it fall under?
A: The popular term today is Chick-Lit. The book's female protagonist, Coco is a woman who feels comfortable in her own skin and isn't afraid to reveal herself. She's had a past, but is still ever evolving. She's come into her own, isn't perfect, slips occasionally, but picks herself up and starts again. She is also very aware of her sexuality, but is a smart cookie who knows what she doing and why. My male protagonist, a handsome and debonair plastic surgeon is the perfect man to woo her away from conventionality into a life she can't resist. Love and danger is in the air throughout the novel with a cast of characters who hopefully will keep my readers turning pages as they vicariously hop from table to table in the finest restaurants and from bed to bed. Add to this a touch of mystery and intrigue, and you are on your way to a fun-filled food-fest leading toward a naughty conclusion.

Q: Would your book appeal to men as well as women?
A: Indeed. While the book's protagonist is a woman in her 40s, it will appeal to women of all ages and is not gender-specific. I think today's man can relate to it, as well. The book is directed to those who are in the mainstream of high society, concerned with a tony lifestyle and all that it entails: high couture, expensive meals at the finest restaurants, travel, spas and all the privileges of the upper-crust, who live on the edge and dabble in so-called harmless indiscretions. Men will definitely relate and hopefully learn a thing or two about makes women tick. A fun escape for both sexes.

Q: So, the book has all the important elements?
A: A writer friend once said: a good book must have three basic elements: religion, sex and mystery and offered, as an example: "My God, I'm pregnant. Who done it?" Seducing Harry has the important elements I am striving for: a culinary and sexual romp through various stages of Coco's life and how women today can take risks, but not without repercussions. So, while my characters do feel remorse they are human, and isn't that what life is all about: being human?

Q: Is the book autobiographical?
A: Isn't everything?

Q: Can you talk about the writing process?
A: For me, the writing evolves on its own. It's as though my characters are taking me on a glorious ride and I follow their lead. When I start out, I am not always sure where I am going to end up. As strange as it sounds, sometimes, it feels as though I am merely the vehicle for the characters, who bring me along on the journey The book often controls me more than I control it. I am often surprised by the twists and turns that result from plot direction and character development. I find the writing process extremely fascinating.

Q: So, you don't have a specific plot outline you adhere to?
A: I work with a loose plot outline, which is subject to change as I move along. As I said, I am often led by circumstances that I am not fully aware of when I begin the book. I go down one road and sometimes end up in a completely different place.

Q: Some writers find writing a book difficult? How is it for you?
A: Terrifying, at first, though I am genuinely excited, to be starting out on a new creative venture. But, it can be daunting. I am facing the unknown: that big, blank piece of paper that is going to be filled with thousands of words all leading to a beginning, middle and end. Once, I'm into a book, I start to feel more comfortable, since I have established a rapport with my characters and rely on them to get me through. Then, I can start to relax, though I am never truly "at peace" until the book is completed.

Q: Does having a deadline help?
A: Yes, my first novel was written without an actual deadline. My agent wanted the book, but being that it was a first novel, she gave me all the time I needed. Big mistake for me. Now that I have been offered a two-book deal with a deadline for book two in 18-months, I have some definition and a goal. I don't feel so alone. That works for me.

Q: How important is having a good agent and editor?
A: Having the right agent - the one with whom you are simpatico - is key. Wendy Sherman is marvelous in all respects. She has amazing gut instincts. I think we're an excellent fit. As for my editor at Ballantine, Allison Dickens is a dream editor. I told her I believe she has "microscopic eyes" down to the smallest details that needs to be addressed. In all respects, I lucked out here and feel so fortunate both with Wendy and Allison.

Q: I know that you also teach and write a weekly newspaper column? How does that affect your writing schedule?
A: I taught English at a community college for 10-years and I love the stimulation and interaction with my students along with the diversity of the student body. The same applies to my humor column. I love writing humor and I've been going strong with the column for 20-years, but now I have to weigh my options and consider my priorities.

Q: Meaning?
A: Now that I have a written a novel with another on the way, I have decided to take a leave from teaching. I will continue writing my column and teach my humor writing class at the college's extended studies program, but I plan to devote the majority of my time to writing books.

Q: Do you have a specific time of day or night that you write? What is typical for you?
A: Because my life has been so diverse, I've had to juggle writing with teaching. Now, I will have the luxury of utilizing my time on my next book without students' papers hanging over me. That will be a relief though I might miss the interaction with the outside world. Writing is so solitary.

I find that I am most productive in the morning. I can stay focused for several hours, then break for lunch and write again in the afternoon. I do make it a practice to have some exercise. I do a daily power walk and use that time to work through plot, characters and the direction I want the book to go. In short, I'm walking and painting word pictures simultaneously.

Q: You prefer walking alone?
A: Yes, it's my quiet time when I can think. For me, tossing ideas around in my head is part of the process. And, I'm never really alone anyway: I have my characters to keep me company. People know this: when I walk at the beach (my favorite spot) invariably someone will stop and inquire: are you walking or working? People are pretty tuned in.

Q: Is your family supportive of your work?
A: definitely. My husband, Mark, though an engineer, comes from a family of writers and one of his daughters is quite high-profile as an editor Mark is my staunch cheering section and understands the joys and agonies of being a writer. He also likes offering fodder for my books and column. The kids are all out of the house and on their own, so quite reigns supreme, although sometimes too much silence can be distracting.

Q: Explain what you mean.
A: I like having white noise behind me. That's why I often take a pen and notebook to restaurants and write. The din of conversation is soothing and I don't feel entirely alone. That seems to work for me. I understand many writers "write in restaurants." Later, I transfer my notes to the computer. I find that I have done some of my best work writing in public places.

Q: Do you have a favorite spot?
A: Absolutely. There is a wonderful restaurant in Westport called "V" where I have my own table and no one bothers me. I even mention them in the book. They have enjoyed sharing this part of my life with me. It makes me feel less alone and I am quite productive. I also like using the Library and expect I will be working there a lot of the time. But, because Seducing Harry is such a foodie book, writing at "V" has been very conducive to solid work. I feel as though I am nourishing both my mind and body. Sheer heaven.

Q: What suggestions/guidance would you offer other writers?
A: In a word: WRITE! You can take writing courses and they can be helpful. You can read other writers (also helpful), but in the end, in comes down to one thing and one thing only: pants-to-chair and don't get up until you've reached the goal you've set for yourself that day.

Q: What is your goal?
A: Once I'm on a roll, I write quickly. Word counts vary. I try and write 10 pages a day, but it doesn't always happen. I am often reminded of a famous author, I think it was Faulkner, who was giving a lecture at a large university. He scanned the student body of which over two hundred students were seated in the large auditorium, ready to hang on his every word. He looked around and finally asked: "are all of you writers?" A resounding "yes" reverberated through the room. "Then, for God's sake, what are you doing here?" he asked. "You should all be home writing." With that, he walked away from the podium and out the door. I like that story and it probably made the point better than any I've ever heard.

Q: What do you think about writers as a group?
A: I was discussing this very subject with my friend, Ann Chernow, who is a very successful artist. Who do you think have the bigger egos: writers or artists?" I asked her. "Definitely artists have bigger egos," Ann said. I thought about that and replied: "That's because their work is so in-your-face. They have shows, serve wine and cheese and get immediate feedback. Writers are more internally-driven and don't interact as much with their public. We can never be sure who is reading us. Artists can hang up their work and rely on someone to keep their egos greased. Writers live in silent hope that someone out there will like their work. Yes, writers definitely suffer more than artists because we can never quite be sure what's going on behind our backs.

Q: So, you think that writers suffer?
A: Yes, they suffer exquisite agony…that is their plight. All those words! I think if someone were to cut open my head, words would be scattered everywhere. But, it's an agony I would never trade for anything else in the world.

Q: Finally, what words of wisdom would you like to impart to your audience?
A: Buy my books! Seriously. I'd tell them if they are sincere about their work, to write every day, keep the faith and always have an extra black ink cartridge on hand. Ten pages a day uses up ink pretty quickly.

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