Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Ellen Meister

I'm more than halfway through with this round of revisions. I've decided that on this pass I'll do the major surgery -- all the cutting, adding that relates to the plot, and rearranging -- and then I'll do another pass that layers in some of the emotion and theme stuff.

Plus, Mom gave the thumbs up to the new ending on book 3, so that one is more or less done. Woo hoo!

And now, since I have work to do, I'll leave you with a Girlfriends Cyber Circuit entry. This week's book is Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, by Ellen Meister.

When a Hollywood location scout comes to Applewood, Long Island and announces that the local elementary school might make the perfect backdrop for an upcoming George Clooney movie, the PTA’s decorum crumbles like a cookie from last week's bake sale.

Enter Maddie, Ruth and Lisa, three women who become the glue that holds the project together...and wind up forming a bond of friendship stronger than anyone had imagined.

A good thing, too, because each of them is about to come apart. Maddie Schein, an ex-lawyer trying as hard to fit in as she is to save her marriage, gets knocked off balance by Jack Rose, an old college friend hell bent on seducing her. Ruth Moss—rich, sexy and outspoken—has more to give and less to enjoy than most people think. Indeed, since her husband's stroke left him embarrassingly uninhibited yet completely impotent, she's more of a caretaker than a wife. And modest Lisa Slotnick, a loving parent who wants nothing more than to fade into the scenery as she tends to her children, must deal with the humiliation of being thrust before the spotlight by her scandalous, alcoholic mother.

When these three get together, a powerful alliance is forged. But is it strong enough to overcome the obstacles to getting the movie made in their town? And will their friendship be enough to mend their hearts and homes?

And now the interview:
What inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration came at a PTA meeting. It was the first meeting of the year and, as usual, I was feeling a little self-conscious around the other moms, who seemed so perfect to me. I found myself wishing they knew there was more to me than the smiling PTA face I was presenting. Then it occurred to me that everyone might be feeling something similar. And that's when I knew I had to write about these types of women, to explore their inner lives, and the layers of joy and heartache beneath the surface. From there I set out to construct a plot around an event that could affect the community as a whole and the women as individuals. Eventually, I got the idea to bring a Hollywood movie studio to their town, and select their schoolyard as a possible location for the filming of a George Clooney movie.

Describe your creative process.
I know that for some writers, it's a totally organic process, and they just sit down to write, letting the story come to them as they go along. Others carefully outline every plot point before beginning. For me, it's a combination of the two. I spend a lot of time thinking about my characters before I begin, so I can get an idea of who I'm dealing with. And I start with a loose idea of the plot--I know where I want to start and end, but most of what happens in between unfolds as I write.

I'm not one of those writers who can blow through a quick, rough draft and then go back later to edit. I pound away at each paragraph as I go, making it as perfect as possible. As Kurt Vonnegut once said, there's no right or wrong approach. It's individual to each writer.

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I'm a morning person, and so I get up at 5 am every day to write. In fact, I swear I lose one IQ point every hour of the day. I'm my sharpest in the morning. I can't write a coherent sentence at night. And caffeine? A must.

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine(s)?
SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA has three heroines, and I like to think there's a little bit of me in each of them. In fact, I think the only way to write any character is to find something about them you can relate to on a very real emotional level.

The suburbs seem to be the hottest location these days, what with Desperate Housewives and all, and suburban moms are among the hottest heroines. What do you see as the appeal behind the suburban setting (especially its sometimes dark underside)?
Great question. I think that for years, there's been this stereotype of the perfect suburban PTA housewife. And while we all knew it was a lie, everyone went along with it, pretending it existed. As I mentioned in my first answer, it was this very concept--several years before "Desperate Housewives" hit the air, I might add--that inspired my book.

Once "Desperate Housewives" aired, it opened up this chink in the suburban veneer, and everyone loved getting a glimpse into the secrets beyond the vinyl siding. I was like this collective AHA! moment, where everyone got to see a truth they suspected all along.

What's the biggest "scandal" you've seen in your experiences with the PTA (you don't have to name names)?
I can't, Shanna! My local PTA is about tar and feather me as it is!

(Ooh, then it must be really juicy!)

Chocolate: dark or milk?
Dark, natch.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on my second novel, THE SMART ONE. It's a story about three sisters who begin a journey of understanding certain truths about their relationship after discovering a dead body in an industrial drum.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
When I sat down to write SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA, I was taking the advice of a J.D. Salinger character to write the story I most wanted to read at that moment in my life. The fact that others want to read it, too, is a joy and a blessing.

(Oooh, very good advice!)

For more info, visit Ellen's web site.

No comments: