Interview and Giveaway: Laura Fitzgerald, author of One True Theory of Love

images-1Recently I had the opportunity to interview one of my favorite authors, the wonderful Laura Fitzgerald.  Laura is the author of the bestselling book Veil of Roses, and a new novel, One True Theory of Love (reviewed here), which just came out in February.  Even though she is really busy promoting her book and going to book signings and festivals, she took the time to give me very thorough and thoughtful answers to my questions.  Please enjoy this interview, and leave a comment if you’d like a chance to win her new book!  

BOTB:  If you had to describe your new book in one sentence, what would that be?

Laura:  One True Theory of Love is a story about the redemptive power of second chances in life and love.

51svuaqeq5l_sl500_aa240_BOTB:  You mentioned your very own book club recently read and discussed One True Theory of Love.  What was that like for you? 

Laura:  It was incredibly fun, because it was such a celebration of a big goal achieved and these are great women with whom to celebrate. It was also a great discussion of the book’s themes of second chances and the changing nature of relationships. All in all, it was a fun night of much wine, great discussion, and laughter.

It was also a bit weird, because everyone was asking me about my husband’s forearms and are they as sexy as Ahmed’s in the book…That’s been the one big difference between Veil of Roses and One True Theory of Love. With the main character in Veil of Roses being from Iran, no one suspected there was anything of me in her. But with this second book, I’m being asked that question a lot: How much of Meg is you? And, of course, there’s a lot of me in both Tami and Meg, as there is a lot of me in every character I write. I’m all over my books, hiding in plain sight. 

n225748BOTB:  I’ve read on your website that the idea for the book came from a book club meeting you attended for your first book, Veil of Roses.  Can you tell us about that?

Laura:  Well, I was quite far along in my writing of this other story that just wasn’t working out – I couldn’t get the main character to be likable, and the story itself was so different from Veil of Roses in tone and temperament that I was coming to the sad conclusion that it wasn’t the right “next book” for me. This realization was confirmed as I met with three book clubs in Wisconsin in the course of a week. 

The clear message was they like the “make you laugh, make you cry” flavor of Veil of Roses. The book I’d been working on was a straight “make you cry” type of book. Also, in each book club, members were going through huge life changes, falling in or out of love, mourning the deaths of loved ones, and just in general fighting the good, hard fights that life presents us. And it just struck me how much courage it requires to build yourself back up after life has knocked you down. We like to believe our happy ending is out there, waiting for us – that no matter how bad things are, if we just try harder, or try AGAIN, good things will happen and we’ll be happy. That’s not always how it works – but this deliberate optimism is what helps us move forward. 

I hate to sound existential, but I believe the happiness can be found in the struggle. Life is richer for going after what you want when there’s no guarantee of a positive outcome. It just is. 

BOTB:  What has been the most exciting thing that has happened to you since becoming a best selling author?  How has it changed your life? 

Laura:  I can’t and won’t downplay how nice it is to forevermore get to be referred to as “national bestselling author,” but the life-changing part of it comes down to the fact that I had a hard-to-achieve goal and I achieved it – writing a novel good enough to be published at a time when no one cared whether I did it or not. I now get to spend my days doing what I love, in a way that is perfectly suited to my skills, wants and personality. I am figuring out how to tell great stories, and after years and years of work learning my craft, I am almost at a point where I feel I’m hitting my stride with my writing. It’s exciting for me personally to feel with some confidence that the next few books are going to be a culmination of a lot of work on the backend, and that the best is yet to be. 

To repeat: Life is richer for going after what you want when there’s no guarantee of a positive outcome. I feel like I’m walking on a tightrope and to stay on it requires every ounce of skill I have, plus some luck. It’s a position I love to be in. 

BOTB:  Do you write with a particular audience in mind, or do you just write what you like?  

Laura:  Pretty much all my stories center around women who have to summon the courage to do something that is hard for them to do in order to get their shot at happiness — it’s a proactive approach to life and ultimately very affirming. We save ourselves, and we find ourselves in the broken pieces. I firmly believe that. My audience is any woman who needs that message. 

BOTB:  What is the writing process like for you?  Do you treat it like a job- writing for a certain number of hours a day- or do you wait until inspiration strikes?  How do you manage to get anything done with two young kids at home? 

Laura:  Writing is my job, absolutely. I have an office that I go to Monday through Friday while my kids are at school. I’m at this phase in my life where I’d spend twice as much time on my writing if I could – seven days a week, probably, but I’m acutely aware that my kids won’t be this age forever. My top value at the moment is maintaining balance and it’s a constant struggle. So I leave my writing at the office and spend the rest of the time with my kids. And husband. And friends. (And on facebook.) 

BOTB:  Can you tell us about your workspace?  Do you have interesting things on the walls or on your desk to spark creativity?  

Laura:  I rent an office a few miles from my house, and it’s mine, baby – all mine. No phone, no internet connection, no husband, no kids. I don’t like clutter, so I keep my desk clear, with only a great view of the Catalina Mountains in front of me. I’ve got Ethan Allen furniture – desk, reading chair and bookshelves. I have three prints on my walls – two simple and artistic photographs, one of a book with its pages spread open and one of a cup of coffee shot from above (I love both coffee and books). I also have a print of Mark Twain with one of his quotes: I find it usually takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech. This has significance to me because I believe in doing a ton of work behind the scenes to make my writing come out smooth and easy. I’m a big planner and thinker and having my office – which I think of as my “pretty little prison cell” allows me the space and time to do both. And then to write, of course. 

BOTB:  You mentioned that you’re writing a sequel to Veil of Roses.  I’m so excited about that!  What will it be called, and when can we expect to see it in stores?  

Laura:  I’m working very hard to make this sequel even better than the first book. In addition to learning what happens after Tami and Ike’s wedding, I’m delving into the lives of two other characters from Veil of Roses – Tami’s mother, and Rose. 

As yet, it hasn’t been titled. I’m calling it GONE TO PICK FLOWERS, but that’ll likely change. It should be in stores by next summer (2010).

BOTB:  Laura, THANK YOU for your time and generosity!!  I loved your book and am so thrilled to be able to offer a copy of it to one lucky reader!

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Laura’s new book, One True Theory of Love, leave a comment here by Tuesday, March 17th.

Giveaway and Q & A: Immortal by Traci Slatton

Jennifer at The Literate Housewife is starting an online book club in September, and the first reading selection is Immortal by Traci Slatton!  I have 2 copies of Immortal to give away (I received 3, but selfishly, I’m keeping one!).  I ask that you only enter the contest if you’re interested in participating in Jennifer’s online book club.  All you need to do is leave a comment here by Friday, August 15th.  

**edited to add:  If you sign up for Jennifer’s book club, she’ll send you a fancy handmade bookmark.  She rocks!

The publisher sent me a Q & A with the author to use along with the giveaway, so here goes:

About the Book

Q&A for Traci Slatton
Author of Immortal
Tracilslatton.com

Tell us about your book, Immortal.

Immortal is a rags-to-riches-to-burnt-at-the-stake story. It’s a journey of spirit and an education of the heart. That said, it’s the story of a mysteriously gifted street urchin who undergoes the darkest moments possible and still goes on to find true love, deep friendship, hope, faith, and ultimately the deepest secrets of his origins.

Why did you write this book?

I love to tell stories! I was working on a non-fiction book about science and spirituality. (Piercing Time & Space, ARE Press, Virginia Beach, VA: 2005.) It was fascinating research, but I found myself longing to write fiction, to create characters and wrap myself around adventure, conflict, and obstacle. Story lust drove me.

The book takes place in Florence during the Renaissance: What inspired you to choose this setting?

This goes back to the previous question. Renaissance Florence is a character in this novel–it’s inextricably interwoven into the story. It’s why I wrote THIS book. More explicitly, I am married to Sabin Howard, who is one of the foremost classical figurative sculptors working today. (www.sabinhoward.com) Think Michelangelo’s work: that’s what my husband’s work resembles. Moreover, Sabin is half-Italian; his mother is from Torino and he is completely fluent in the language. So, for him, Renaissance Italy is alive and well. It’s a part of our everyday discourse. I was always interested in Renaissance art but it’s become a passion because of living with Sabin.

Also, Florence between 1300 and 1500 was an intense and extraordinary place, almost unequalled in history. Art, philosophy, learning, commerce, banking, and government were all burgeoning and concentrated into this small city, making it the center of Europe. Out of Florence radiated invention and innovation. One of the popes called it “The fifth element of the universe.” Only Paris between the two world wars comes close to the fervor of creativity that was taking place in Florence during the Renaissance. It’s a powerful time to write about.

How did you come up with a protagonist like Luca?

I wanted a character who would meet and make an impression on my two great Renaissance heroes: Giotto and Leonardo. This character had to be the kind of man who could inspire love, lust, envy, admiration, and riveting hatred in other people. And he was going to face terrible challenges, so he had to have personal resources to help him through. And his suffering would make him humble and give him a hunger to love and be loved.

Lucas plays many different roles – orphan, companion, healer – throughout the story, which do you personally relate best to?

Perhaps to the healer and the companion. I was a hands-on or spiritual healer for many years, and Luca gets to do what I always longed to do: lay hands on and cure someone completely, even bring a dying man back to life.

I have four daughters, and in the best moments of parenting, there is a companionable aspect to it. There are moments when all the little stuff falls away, all the blah-blah-blah about messy bedrooms and parties and grades and allowances and health concerns, and my children and I are friends, laughing together. Even my little one, who is 3, sometimes sits and chats with me as if we were two good buddies. I treasure those moments.

Luca meets da Vinci, Botticelli…“immortals” whose impact on society is still apparent. Can you talk to us about some of those figures, and the way they still shape modern society?

They have left a legacy of art and ideas which is the foundation of western civilization. Petrarch, who is a friend of Luca’s in Immortal, articulated the notion of the individual self (see Ascent of Mount Ventoux) on which we built the United States: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” This is a radical change from the earlier systems of society, and it came out of the Renaissance. The great Cosimo de Medici who led Florence from 1434 to 1464 established the Platonic Academy, which formulated the ideals of humanism which are now axiomatic in our worldview. Even our pop philosophy, eg The Secret, has its roots in Pico della Mirandella’s Oration on the Dignity of Man: “O highest and most admirable felicity of man to whom it is granted to have whatever he chooses, to be whatever he wills!”

The great artists like Leonardo and Botticelli left us ideals of beauty that are still unparalleled. Leonardo left behind a prototype of a polymath genius as the highest aspiration.

Part of what makes Luca’s story so beautiful is the time period it is set in and the people he encounters. Do you think it would have had the same significance had it been placed at another time, such as the present?

Renaissance Florence is such an integral part of the story that it’s hard to say. I am, however, considering bringing Luca back in a future book that is set in Paris between the two world wars. Readers who love Luca can stay tuned…

Luca witnesses many important historical events throughout his life. What kind of research did you conduct for these?

I read a million books (okay, maybe a hundred), searched on-line, spoke with friends and relatives with extensive historical knowledge (my husband is a Renaissance sculptor and my father-in-law is a history teacher with a PhD), and I corresponded with, or spoke to, a couple of professors. I also like the History channel for shows on history! And we visited Italy several times, spending much time in the Medici chapel in Florence and the Pinacoteca Vaticano in Rome.

No one but me is to blame for inaccuracies, distortions, and out right fallacies.

What are your future writing plans in writing?

I am working on the sequel to Immortal right now.

Any advice you could give to beginning novelists out there?

Persist! And know who to trust with your work.

Jill Smolinski, Author Interview and Book Giveaway

Tonight our book club had the privilege of speaking to Jill Smolinski, author of The Next Thing On My List, reviewed HERE. Jill was warm and funny, and she patiently answered all of our questions.  We had a great time talking with her!  And is it just me, or does she look a lot like Courtney Thorne Smith?  Anyway, she generously offered to send a book to be given away here at Books on the Brain (BOTB) and agreed to answer a few questions about her best-selling book, which just recently came out in paperback.

BOTB:  Where did the idea for The Next Thing on My List come from? 

JS:  I knew I wanted to write about a woman doing a “life list” ever since I started one of my own before my 40th birthday.  I set out to write a story about a woman who was doing a list that she herself had come up with, but as June developed as a character, I knew she’d never really do a list of her own.  She was too passive about life.  It would take something really big to force her out of her rut, which is how the idea of her trying to complete someone else’s list came about.

BOTB: Were any of the characters or events based on real people or situations?

JS:  June’s job at the rideshare agency is based on a job I used to do – running carpool programs in Los Angeles.  A few of the characters started out very loosely based on people I know, but as I progressed, they took on personalities of their own.  Strangely enough, sometimes they’d do or say things that surprised me!

BOTB: You started your own Life List on your blog, with a twist-trying something new each day for a year. What was your experience with the list?  Did it change your outlook on life? 

JS:  It was harder than I expected to come up with something new to do every day – but that’s part of what made it such an incredible experience.  I did little things (like trying new foods or treating myself to a bubble bath) and things that scared me (holding a snake) and things I’ve always meant to get around to doing (get my ears pierced).  Like a lot of people, I have a tendency to put off things I really want to do because of all the things I “have” to do – this made me put a priority on getting more out of everyday life.

BOTB: Are you a list maker in every day life (to-do lists)?  How important is it, do you think, to write down your goals, big and small?   To set deadlines for your goals, the way Marissa did?  To try new things? 

JS:  I’m a big believer in writing down goals.  It takes something from being a mere idea and makes it concrete.  I’ve talked to so many people who’ve done life lists since my book came out, and I’ve learned that it’s the ones who’ve put their dreams in writing who tend to be actually making them happen.

BOTB:  I read that TNTOML was picked up by NewLine to be adapted to film.  Congratulations!  How did you feel when you got the news?  Can you tell us anything about when the movie might be coming out?    

JS:  I couldn’t be more thrilled about the movie – especially since it’s being produced by Wendy Finerman, who did Devil Wears Prada.  It’s in the screenwriting phase now so it’s still in the very early stages.

BOTB: Are you a member of a book club?  

JS:  Yes, for 18 years now!   It’s great because when you’ve finished reading a really good book, you’re dying to talk about it, so this gives me a chance to do that.  I also often call in to book clubs that have read my novels – I love talking to readers & also learning how other book clubs do things.

BOTB:  What is the message you’d like readers to take away from The Next Thing on My List?

JS:  At the risk of sounding corny – live life to the fullest every day.  Amazing things can happen.

**For a chance to win a copy of The Next Thing On My List, leave a comment on this post by May 15th!**