I'm back from my wanderings, and this time I managed not to be entirely sore and exhausted, in spite of a rather adventurous Sunday. But I came home to a towering to-do list and a pile of stuff to catch up on, so the trip report will have to wait until later in the week (yeah, I know, I'm a tease -- which shouldn't come as a huge surprise to those who have read my books). While I'm off attempting to be efficient, I've got a Girlfriends Cyber Circuit entry to catch up on. My guest this time is Valerie Frankel, author of I Take This Man, and this one is a big honor because I was a fan of hers as a reader long before she joined the GCC.
Just as Penny Bracket is putting the final touches on her wedding day, she receives a note from her beloved that simply says, "Penny, I can’t go through with it. Sorry, Bram" Mortified, Penny is determined to figure out what went wrong, even if it kills her, or, preferably Bram.
Ester Bracket, Penny’s divorced mother, wants Bram’s head on a platter. And she gets it: In a fit of maternal rage, Ester finds Bram as he’s packing to flee, knocks him out with a bottle of champagne, and kidnaps him to a secret room in her mansion in affluent Short Hares, New Jersey. Will Penny get the answers and revenge she’s after from Bram, who (as she may or may not discover) is locked in her attic? Will Bram’s widowed father, handsome tough guy Keith Shiraz, locate his son and/or seduce Ester Bracket? Will Bram, athletic and regretful, escape both his wedding and his imprisonment in one piece?
Now, the interview:
What inspired you to write this book?
The basic idea for I Take This Man was cranked out on a typical day in the life of a working mother. My daughter came home from school and announced that some little girl in her first grade class made her cry. A flash of anger flooded my brain. After a minute or two, I calmed myself down. Lucy and I discussed what had happened, and worked out an appropriate response. But that flash of maternal rage got my meat grinder going. Any intense emotion is a kick-start. It made me wonder: What offense against one of my daughters would actually move me to lash out with violence against another human being? I fixated on the question, lay awake in bed, wondering what indeed would make an otherwise controlled, rational woman thirsty for blood? I imagined being the mother of a jilted bride who, in a fit of vengeance, attacks the runaway groom. From there, I asked more questions: "Why did the groom cancel the wedding?" "What did the mother do with the groom after she bashed him?" "How would the bride find out what happened?"
Five hours later, at three o’clock in the morning, I had the framework of a plot.
Describe your creative process.
I like to start with a broad-strokes outline, where the story begins and a rough idea of where it'll end, and then I improvise and make changes as I go. If I have nothing to start, then I get a bit lost. The free-wheeling approach can be a fun adventure, but no recommended when on a deadline for a contracted book. I am currenlty working on an erotic comedy for my own amusement (it's uncontracted), and I'm flying without an outline on this one. Fun, but a little scary, too. I'll have to do a TON of revisions when I'm done.
Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
No music--too distracting. No food--too messy. I write for about an hour at a time, starting around 11 AM. I break often to lie down on the bed and stare at the wall (blue). Drinking coffee is essential to the creative process, of course. If I have the energy, I can put in a productive hour at 9 PM, and write until bedtime. Only problem, the ideas keep coming after lights out, and I lose sleep.
How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine?
I Take This Man has two heroines. The 23 year old bride, Penny, and the 45 year old mother of the bride, Esther. Technically, I have more in common with Esther. We're both in our forties and are mothers. I'm not as control-freakish as she is. And I'm not a collector of anything (except CDs). Penny, she's figuring life out, one relationship at a time. That speaks to my own youth.
What do you think an appropriate punishment might be for a groom who bails on a wedding after all the planning is done?
I love the punishment I made up for Bram. Lock him in a room, make him eat every last plate of catered food (each bliss potato and piece of cocktail shrimp), make him write personal notes to the disappointed wedding guests, and return gift mailing labels. Beating him with a champagne bottle optional.
Chocolate: dark or milk?
Dark. Like my coffee.
What are you working on now?
I just finished revisions on the third novel in my YA series. The book is called American Fringe, following Fringe Girl and Fringe Girl in Love. Very proud of this series. I hope it takes off so I can write many more!
Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
Of my six chick lit novels, I consider I Take This Man the funniest yet. I haven't done much with mother/daugher stories until now, either, now a wedding theme. So, yeah, I'm proud of it. Hope others will agree.
And now I'm off to restock my bare cupboards, wade through a couple hundred e-mails, tackle my to-do list and get mailing supplies for my next round of post office trips.