The reason I have decided that we are besties is that she threw the MOST fabulous book event, ever, ever, ever this past Sunday. Her new book, The Great Escape, comes out on today (July 10th), so she is just kicking off her supporting book tour (more on the book later!).
First of all, let me just tellllllllll you about the venue. It was hosted by Lutz Cafe and Pastry Shop, and this place is like a sweet Bavarian dream. An unassuming little shop front opens into an adorable bakery - with a pastry case full of jaw-droppingly beautiful goodness, and as you wander to the back, there is a fabulously formal dining room with linen table cloths and gorgeous place settings. Through the back door is a patio area with several tables under umbrellas nestled into a beautifully landscaped garden, with a little fountain in the middle. It really felt like we had stepped into a German mountaintop scene. So while we were swooning over this, the group of girls I arrived with - which included Sarah of the Brazen Bookworm (a fab book blog everyone should read), snagged a table with a great view. Then we were able to purchase advance copies (!!!) of the book, from local independent bookstore, Anderson's. As an aside, I love that SEP is such a supporter of independent bookstores. She is from the Chicago suburbs, and has been using Anderson's for book events forever (one of the many points in her favor for bestie-dom).
As she moved on to another table, we were offered our choice of coffee or tea and a dessert selection from that amazing display. Seriously, this was the best $10 ticket I have ever purchased. I am not 100% sure what was in my pastry - but it was delicious and amazing and heart-shaped:
She also shared some funny stories and mishaps from her tour - things like being afraid of birds and totally losing it at a fancy lunch when a bird flew into the restaurant, and waiting to make a big splashy entrance at an event, only to completely faceplant into her translator. Haha, it was just too funny - she summed it up nicely that when someone gets into as many ridiculous situations as she does, "Well, its just hard to try to be sophisticated!" (down to earth = another point!). So then she launched into a trivia game, which was hysterical. She asked that we not reveal her questions since I think she will be continuing to play this game on her tour and it would ruin the fun to give away the answers. But they were fun and funny questions about previous books, her characters and their backgrounds. (likes playing games = CLEARLY a point in her favor).
When we started talking about the actual new book, The Great Escape, SEP pointed out that she just can't talk about this one without also talking about her previous book, Call Me Irresistible. She did note, however, that she doesn't really think of any of her books as part of a series, but rather that since all of her characters live in the same world, they just have a habit of showing up in her other books. When she set out to write Call Me Irresistible, she really wanted to tell Ted Beaudine's story. Ted is a character who first showed up in Fancy Pants as a little boy, and then we see him again in Lady Be Good, this time as a recent college graduate. Phillips said that she just loves Ted as a character, and that when she wrote about him in Fancy Pants as a child, her two sons were just around his age, so Ted became a little bit of both of her sons, which apparently is the only time that she has created a character based on someone she knew in real life. So while SEP loved his character, so did all of her readers, and apparently she was regularly pestered to tell his story. Then SEP wrote First Lady and she just fell in love with the character Lucy Jorik. The first time I read First Lady, I totally thought Lucy was the best character I had read in awhile - she is fiesty and pissed off and super protective of her baby sister, and just heartbreaking. Love it.
Anyways, SEP totally thought that Lucy and Ted would be absolutely perfect for each other...until she realized that they both WERE just too perfect and are too 'together' to be good for one another. Which is why Meg Koranda, first seen in What I Did For Love, had to show up and get that wedding derailed. This point is where The Great Escape starts - Lucy realizes that Meg was right when she said that marrying Ted would be a huge mistake, so just before she walks down the aisle she calls of the wedding and runs away. (Not a spoiler, don't worry. That part is all in the GR summary). When SEP was working on Call Me Irresistible and announced that Ted and Lucy weren't going to end up together, apparently people were SUPER pissed at her - she laughingly admitted that she got hate mail over it! Sheesh.
Phillips originally thought that she would be able to tell Lucy's story as a subplot of Call Me Irresistible, but as she got deeper into the story, she decided that there was more to the story and that it really needed to be its own book (thanks for that!!). So she pulled everything that she could about Lucy's story out of the book. There were just two phone calls between Meg and Lucy that had to be kept - so SEP knew that whatever else she did as she was writing The Great Escape, she HAD to get to those two plot points. The story of Lucy and Panda (ugh, that name, I KNOW), got a whole book to sort out their messy situations. (Note from Flann: PANDA? SERIOUSLY?)
Working on a new book but is still pretty early on in the process so she wouldn't share any more than the fact that it will be a total stand alone, which she knows "everyone will moan and groan and whine about."
What is her writing routine?
When she started writing, she decided to approach it like any other job - "just as if I was a secretary and simply had to go to work everyday." She writes everyday, even on weekends, when she can, so she doesn't lose the flow of the story. She also uses a digital timer and makes herself get in three solid hours of writing time every day. If she has to get up for a snack, or answer the phone, or go to the bathroom, or do some research, the timer gets paused until she starts writing again. It sounds like a pretty awesome plan, actually. She said that she uses this technique when she feels like she has to force herself to do anything - cleaning out closets, or folding laundry, or whatever. Decide how much time you are going to commit to it, and then set your timer. I miiiiiiight have to try that out (since I am grossly procrastinating on my thesis writing).
What is your favorite book?
"My favorite book is always the one that I have just finished. And my least favorite book is always the on I am currently working on. Always!"
Do you read your own reviews?
She said that she does sometimes. There have been some online reviews (on Amazon for example) that she found really thoughtful and well-done. But she said that oftentimes, readers fall in love with an author's voice in one book and then want the author to keep retelling that same story so they are frustrated with any different stories or types of material. And then there are some reviews that are just "damn stupid."
Who are your favorite characters?
She mentioned three characters that she just loved and knew that she had to know what their stories were:
1. Bobby Tom Denton (first in It Had to Be You, unfortunately one of the worst cover art situations I have ever seen), then in Heaven, Texas
2. Dean Robillard (first in Match Me if You Can, one of my all-time favorites, and my usual recommendation for where to start with SEP books), then in Natural Born Charmer
3. Finally, of course, Ted Beaudine (we've got him covered)
Did you always want to be an author?
"Oh god no, I wanted to be a movie star! Being an author was my fall back career!" She apparently studied theater in college, and taught high school theater before she started writing. She said she started so she could write the books that she wanted to read. (Loves reading romance books = another BFF point earned).
What romance authors do you love to read?
Jayne Ann Krentz and Kristen Hannah.
So there it is folks! We finished up the Q&A, and then she stuck around to make sure that she signed everything that anyone wanted to get signed, and took pictures with everyone who came (more points, DUHZ). Susan Elizabeth Phillips was already an insta-buy author for me, but getting a chance to meet her and hear her talk about books and her writing, and telling stories really made me love her so much more as an author. If she is going to be anywhere near you in her upcoming tour I highly recommend that you make the effort to go! You won't regret it. I'm not sure how that math for becoming my best friend works out, but she got a LOT of points, so I'm pretty sure its all going to come together nicely. (Note from Flann: So it's over just like that?! Gosh, 10 years down the drain.)
Final note, courtesy of The Huffington Post last week. Hopefully this will NEVER be useful...but hey, you never know!: 6 Things You Shouldn't Say To A Runaway Bride.
Thanks for having me!!
Have any of you read Susan Elizabeth Phillips' novels? Thinking of giving them a try?