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Renowned in Bulgary

When I was interviewed by Bulgarian Cosmopolitan in May, I asked if they could send me one of the magazines with the free copy of Smart Casual. When I had no response, I presumed my request had drowned in the editor’s slushpile.

Then, about a month ago, I received a bulky parcel from Headline Publishing. This was extremely exciting, since I rarely get anything in the mail except second hand books from Trademe or letters from the Vinegrowers Association of Marlborough, (the snailmail version of remedies to enlarge my penis).

The parcel contained two virgin, cellophaned magazine/book packs, along with five copies of what I presume is Smart Casual. Because the cover of the book was different; and both the magazines and books were in Bulgarian. That’s one of those acrylic languages.

Bulgarian Cosmopolitan

I flicked through the magazine and couldn’t understand anything, although the article on ten ways to pleasure your man in bed was fairly clear even in acrylic. I’d sent the editor of Bulgarian Cosmo a photo of myself, but I couldn’t find it or anything that resembled my interview; she must have decided to go with Eva Longoria Parker. Hey – I’m sure I could look twice that good with some extreme photoshop.

I wasn’t even sure whether the book IS Smart Casual, but it has 63 chapters, which is consistent. Also, there were the same number of sentences per paragraph on the first page.

This is what Smart Casual looks like in Bulgarian. That might be a generic cover, but I love it; I would give a lesser limb for a set of pins like that, and I covet those shoes.

Now, when I talk about Smart Casual, I can say:

SMART CASUAL!
THE INTERNATIONAL BOOK!
TRANSLATED INTO ONE LANGUAGE!

Although that really deserves to be exclaimed.

Two weeks later, I got another parcel from Headline . . . with more packs and copies of the magazine/book.

I’d noticed there is a section in Marlborough Library which contains foreign language books. Since I don’t have many Bulgarian friends, and was now in possession of about fifteen more copies of the book than I knew what to do with, I decided to give some to the library.

I thought any more than three copies was a touch over-fervid. There was mass confusion amongst the librarians when I presented the books at the counter. It took significant time and gesticulative overhead to establish that I wasn’t either a) checking out or b) returning the books.

Then the librarian was suspicious about my handing over new books, and tried to torture me into confessing that I expected renumeration. Once she established that I was donating the books to the library’s collection – and determined the translation was Bulgarian – she became positively frisky.

“Aw, wow,” she said, “I’ll have to set up a whole new section! We don’t have a Bulgarian section,” she confided.

I successfully mastered the urge to correct ‘Bulgarian’ to ‘Bulgary’ – yes, yes, I know my geography is pure shocking.

The librarian looked as if she wanted to high-five me, but honestly, I just couldn’t get that enthused about a whole new section.

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The PR juggernaut rumbles into town

I was recently asked to do an interview for Bulgarian Cosmopolitan. I KNOW! When I was little, I thought my only chance of featuring in Cosmopolitan Magazine would be because my husband ran away with my mother, or for owning the world’s largest chihuahua. I’ve come a long way from The Limerick Leader.

And here it is pre-edit, in case anyone’s interested:-

I loved “Smart Casual”. What made you decide to write that book?
Why, thank you!

Look, to be honest, I had no idea what I was doing when I started Smart/Casual. How difficult could it be? – I could spell!

I had always been told ‘write what you know’, which is why I decided to set the story in a large corporation. I’ve always been intrigued by the workplace: every one is its own little microcosm with a unique set of politics, intrigue, villains and heroes. Office relationships are so tricky: even if you loathe them, you have to get along with your colleagues – a bit like your family, or the police.

Originally I conceived Smart/Casual as a satire of the Mills & Boon ‘she gasped as he pressed her to his glistening chest’ genre, but about five chapters in I feared that was a bit cheeky. Also, I was concerned the market for romance spoofs might be somewhat limited.

The book segued into a standard romance, until I got bored about halfway through and it turned into a kind of thriller romance supernatural murder-mystery, without the ghosts or corpses. Chick-lit if you prefer.

Don’t worry: it was edited a lot.

Has writing always been a passion of yours?
Not at all, I’d much prefer to be having sex.

I always liken writing to going to the gym: I put it off and put it off – I will vacuum rather than write. Then, when I get there, I am pleasantly surprised: hey! This isn’t so bad! And afterwards I feel all noble and worthy. In short: it’s a love/hate relationship.

However, I am passionate about making people laugh. I don’t have many talents (unless I count being able to play ‘chopsticks’ with my toes, which is difficult to work into a resume), but being able to write humour is one of them. I love having an outlet for that.

In the scheme of it, my grand passion – what makes my world go round – the one great love of my life – would have to be: coffee.

If it weren’t for caffeine, I would not be able to write and would probably have maimed and/or divorced my husband.

Do you find writing comedy difficult?
I think difficulty is relative to the type of writing you enjoy. For me, writing comedy is easier than ‘the moon rose like a silvery planet’ style of litter-chewer.

Jokes sometimes visit me at unexpected moments: driving, weeding, washing my hair. I always think I’ll remember them later, but never do. I’m convinced The World’s Best Joke Ever is one of those I thought of and forgot over the years.

I try to carry a notebook around to jot down creative brain burps. In desperate circumstances, I have pressed my hand into service, but then you have to find a pen . . . I find it easiest to record ideas on my phone, despite feeling like an arse talking to myself.

Otherwise, I write pretty much as I speak, although slightly more articulately (unbelievable as that may be). My friends who read Smart/Casual said they could hear my voice in their heads, complete with Irish pronunciation.

I can only imagine what a terrifying experience that must have been.

What is your writing process like? Do you have any special rituals or anything?
First I like to slaughter a chicken . . . oh wait, did you say special rituals for writing?

Apart from stapling myself to my desk, I don’t have a process as such. I wish I did, because it sounds much more effective than my random scattergun approach wherein I am often distracted by dolphins.

I can’t even open my laptop without a cup of coffee on emergency standby.

I like to write with my headphones on channelling Bruce Springsteen.

I prefer writing in the mornings, or just whenever I can pin myself down.

I beat myself with the guilty stick if I don’t write at least five hours a day.

I don’t believe in writers’ block. The most important thing is writing, preferably words. If stuck, I like the words ‘ficus’, ‘shinsplints’ and pretty much any swear word.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you so much for taking time to read Smart/Casual and I hope you enjoy it. My second book, About Time, was published at the end of April this year. I would be delighted if you bought it, so that no more chickens must die.

Overachiever

I admit it: I have an automatic Google search that informs me when Smart/Casual or About Time is mentioned on a website.

Mostly the alerts are about second-hand copies of my books for sale, but occasionally it is something else: The Ampersand Agency’s blog, the debut album from Kids in Glass Houses, or the Smart Casual Raiding Co. of Earthen Ring (“Someone talked to Tirion and decided we don’t need the strength of Wrynn buff – and we do not!” Don’t ask. Here. See for yourself and let me know if you have any idea what brand of mushroom they’re smoking.)

A couple of weeks ago, Google Alerts emailed me the link to this review of Smart/Casual, by Read in a Single Sitting. My critic was kind enough to award it 4 stars out of 5. That’s an A-, right? Well, it is in The University of Western Ontario, which doesn’t sound like the type of college where you can buy your degree at all.

So that would be the highest score I ever got for English Composition and, you know, I can only consider it a failing on my former English teacher’s part that she never likened my writing to:

a Jack Russell: small and with a lot of character, but once you get past the fact that it jumps all over you and tries to do the dirty with your leg, you can’t help but love it

Long melancholy tragi-horror

When Little Black Dress offered me a two book deal, the contract specified only that the second book should be a ‘short, funny romance’.

At the time, I had already started another novel. However, since Revenge of the Cow is a long, melancholy tragi-horror, I postponed it and started a book that featured more boners.

That covered the romance.

‘About Time’ is a sequence of snapshots over an extended period, narrated by both the male and female protagonists.

“Oh my goodness,” said my agent, when I told him I was writing half the book from a male perspective. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. Maybe you could write his sections in omniscient pluperfect. Or . . . something..”

Indeed, for a long time I wondered whether I could pull it off. I’ve always considered my humour fundamentally female, deriving as it does from exaggeration and dramatic over-statement; and Conn’s personality was the precise opposite. Although I had a clear idea of Conn’s character (highly intelligent but pathologically incapable of normal social interaction), getting his ‘voice’ right – the clipped sentences and formal structure – was an arduous process that felt entirely unnatural at the outset.

At least my sense of humour was ideally suited to Lara’s free-spirited character with an uncanny ability to pick emotional wankers.

The story is about the concept of fate or destiny as opposed to free will/choice.

Also, of course, boners.

I’m not going to get a chance to post over the next couple of days, but in the meantime here’s an excerpt from About Time. I hope you enjoy it.

x

Nuttier than a bucket of walnuts

Crazy times here in Casa del Deadlyjelly.

By ‘crazy’, everything is relative. Husband didn’t go on the rampage with a chainsaw – although that may be just a matter of time. I have not resorted to licking the walls – most likely a matter of time too; or a natural response to Andrew coming at me with a live chainsaw. Jed is madder than a barrel of frogs, but relatively speaking? No change there.

The copyeditor came back to me with her feedback on About Time, so I’ve spent the last few days clenched onto my laptop trying not to smear it in blood, sweat and tears. Mostly tears, which are at least more sanitary than the other two.

Apart from the time pressure (not all self-inflicted – I spoke to my editor the other day and she sounded mildly panicked about getting About Time into production) I’ve actually enjoyed revising the book. Which is a first for me: reading through my own work and not thinking it sucks lemons genetically modified for extra acidity. I actually felt quite smug. Not sure I’m over it yet.

Now we’re about to embark on a little road trip to the Coromandel. Normal service will resume on Sunday.

Not posting: the excuses

1. A walrus ate my laptop.

2. I have been frenziedly editing my second book, the aptly titled ‘About Time‘ (unlike the excuse above, this one happens to be true). Editing is a 5-stage process: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. This time around, it took only five weeks to reach Acceptance – which either means: a/ I’m getting better; or b/ my wonderful, long-suffering editor has finally attained Stage 5.

3. My parents arrived on an extended holiday from Ireland. I tell you, looking after them is a Full Time Job: the sleepless nights, the endless questions, the demands, the tidying up after them, the theft of my Auckland map and the scribbling on it. And you have to keep an eye on them all the time, or they get into everything.I never knew childhood would be so HARD.

4. For the last month, I’ve felt like I’ve been run over by a truck and dragged along behind it, then dipped in lightly whisked eggs and rolled down a hill strewn with glass before shooting off the top of a sheer cliff and plunging into a raging sea, then forced to sit and listen to Tom Cruise for four hours. (Note: this is largely speculative, since I’ve never met Tom Cruise so am not entirely sure what it’s like having to listen to him for four hours. However, I did watch Vanilla Sky i.e. I have a fair idea).

Some of the exhaustion is no doubt due to editing, parent-sitting and waging war on walruses. However, a large part is due to reasons I am not at liberty to divulge. I’m sorry; I hate being so coy. Wait, wait. I’ve just thought about that, and it turns out I don’t hate being coy at all. Au contraire, I LOVE being coy and regrettably I don’t have opportunity to exercise half enough despite having a unique talent for it.

The problem is that I hate other people being coy – especially on the Internet. While not in the same sort of league as avarice or sloth, it’s still an unattractive quality. You know like when you read someone’s blog, and they’re all: “So, I know something you don’t and – hey, guess what? I’m not going to tell you,” and you’re all, “Well, yanno, why bother saying anything at all? Why not just SHUT UP about it, you LOSER? I mean, who do you think GIVES A FRYING DUCK? I’LL TELL YOU WHO: NOBODY! YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT! AND I’LL TELL YOU SOMETHING ELSE – BECAUSE – UNLIKE SOME – I FOR ONE AM A DECENT, STRAIGHTFORWARD, CANDID TYPE OF PERSON: THAT’S THE LAST TIME I READ THIS CRAPFEST OF A BLOG.”

“COCK.”

Assuming that’s not just me, I truly hope you forgive me. Would it help if I called it ‘dramatic tension’?

No?

I will say: I’m not pregnant, no, nor suffering from some deadly or even medically recognised disease. Oh, here’s more: I haven’t been battling withdrawal symptoms from kicking my lifelong addiction to coffee – although you’d be getting closer.

Sorry, the coy crept in again there.

Still kicking ass in Kuala Lumpur

Smart/Casual has shot up to #9 on the best-seller list for the week ending September 2009. Ok, I’m still not sure to WHERE this best seller list applies. The whole of Malaysia? Kuala Lumpur? Seri Kembangan? The bookshop on the corner of Jelan Besar and Jelan Utama?

Oh, whatever, I don’t care. Any list in which I compete with Stephanie Myer, John Grisham and Tony Parsons has to be good (Dan Brown doesn’t count).  Never mind that I’ve beaten Sophie Kinsella into the #10 slot.

At this rate, Smart/Casual should hit #1 by 2017 (assuming optimal weather conditions and a natural decline in the popularity of vampire literature)

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