Thursday, December 20, 2007

On Avon Romance Blog Today

Hey everyone, I'm on the Avon Romance blog today!

Since I've been on "vacation" the last week, I've fallen back into my addiction to historical romances. Those crack dealers at Smart Bitches Love Trashy Books introduced me to Loretta Chase and today a 30% Borders Rewards coupon arrived in my email. (Sigh) Last night, I finished Lisa Kleypas' Mine Till Midnight. Thank God the next book in her new Hathaway series won't be out till 2008 or 2009, or else I'd never get anything accomplished.

Now I'm reading Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. It's very literary so that means I'll get bored while reading and my subconscious will start working on my new book. (I always did my best thinking while half-listening to some of my college professors or my bosses at meetings.) Some may call it disassociation; I call it my creative process.

And now I'm going off-line to dip biscotti in chocolate and pack up my holiday goodies!


Monday, December 17, 2007

Blockbuster with a Heart

Last night, Ryan and I went out to see I Am Legend. I expected to be bored out of my gourd as movies, lately, just haven't been doing it for me. But this movie took me by surprise and I wonder if it was because Oscar-winning screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman was one of the producers as well as one of the writers.

Anyway, there is a scene that really struck home for me as to what we writers do. Robert Neville, played by Will Smith, routinely goes into a video store to pick movies that keep him company during the long nights he's barricaded in his home. Inside the store, he has arranged mannequins to talk to because his only companion is Sam, the German Shepherd. Later in the story - and I'm trying really hard not to give anything away! - Robert returns and begs one of the mannequins to say hello to him.

By the way, if you don't think much of Will Smith's acting, you might change your mind after this scene.

I Am Legend is about our need to connect with each other. As the last guy alive in Manhattan, movies give Robert that necessary connection to other human beings. Have you ever thought it odd that when we're among each other in the mall, or in our cars driving through the streets, that we humans get so impatient with each other? We flip off the dude who cuts us off, or quicken our pace so we get to the check-out line before the other lady does. (And don't get me started on what we do to our family and friends!)

But when we watch movies or read books, we connect to the make-believe people who inhabit those stories. We cry when they're hurt, or laugh at their follies. We cheer when they deliver justice, and sigh when they find The One they're meant to be with. Sometimes I wonder if it is story that keep us civilized. Without us writers, what would this world be like? Thoughts?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Top Latino Books of 2007

On Friday, the Top Latino Books of 2007 appeared in the New York Daily News. Chica power!

In other news, I've not written one word since La Familia Orihuela. I should just accept that the holidays are here and there are gifts to wrap, cookies to be baked and people to see. However, it's the perfect time to do very important research. I get the best stuff for dialogue, conflict and characters at holiday parties. If I were you, keep your meshugas at home because there might be a writer lurking in the corner!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Between the Pages With Frederick Smith

I remember the first time I saw Frederick Smith. We were in Miami for the Chica Lit Fiesta sponsored by Alisa Valdes Rodriguez and Fred walked into the room with Patrick Sanchez and Erasmo Guerra. In a conference of women, they were the three lone rangers but having read their books, they are some of the most talented writers I've ever met.

Two weeks ago, when Fred sent me a copy of his book, The Right Side of the Wrong Bed, I made a terrible mistake. It was the last stretch of NaNoMo and I cracked open the first page and in that moment, I was hooked by the story of Kenny Kane, a successful thirty-something who has been betrayed by the love of his life and has to start all over again. He meets Jeremy, a gorgeous, charismatic twenty-one year old who attracts him like a bee to honey. And that honey traps Kenny into a relationship that threatens his professional life as well as his heart.

By the way, it wasn't a terrible mistake (it just sounded more dramatic) and I finished NaNoMo at 30,000 words!

Anyway, Fred took the time to talk with me about his new book.

Chica Lit: What inspired the story of Kenny and Jeremy?

Fred: I started writing this novel on the day I got dumped by someone I was dating. He said he was no longer interested in me and had started dating someone I thought was a friend of his, but was actually more than just a friend. My intuition had told me one thing about their "friendship" while we were dating, I'd chosen to not to follow it, and I wondered how I'd been so stupid. Instead of continuing to put myself down, I decided to channel that energy into writing. And while this story isn't a play-by-play of our relationship, the real life breakup inspired the creation of Kenny, Jeremy, and all the fun and not-so-fun situations the characters face in the novel.

Chica Lit: The thing I took away from The Right Side of the Wrong Bed was the issue of integrity. Kenny has been a victim of a dishonest partner and he has so many reasons not to trust Jeremy.

Fred: Integrity and intuition are two areas I think are important to relationships. Sometimes, though, we're blind to or choose to ignore signs that tell us that the person we're with may not be the right one for us. We do it for a number of reasons. For the character Kenny, he doesn't want to appear to have failed at yet another relationship. He also fears to some extent that at age 33 he might not have another shot at meeting someone as young, exciting and attractive as Jeremy, even though in his heart he knows they shouldn't be together... and even though deep inside he knows he can find someone else who's more compatible. Those same factors might influence us in real life to ignore issues of integrity because we're acting out of fear rather than out of genuine love of self.

Chica Lit: Looking back on your two books, what is a common theme and why?

Fred: I tend to write characters who are culturally-empowered, meaning they're not ashamed of their ethnic or class backgrounds, and aren't looking for validation from majority culture per se. This is important to me, because sometimes young people of color who decide to come out but don't get affirmed immediately by their families/communities, may search for acceptance from people and communities that don't necessarily have their interests at heart. They feel they have to choose sexual orientation over ethnicity. But these characters navigate all their labels and communities well and have a strong sense of identity.

Chica Lit: What was your process in writing this book? How long did it take to complete?

Fred: This book came so quickly to me. Partly because I had so much energy from the break up, and also because I absolutely loved all the characters created in the book. They were fun to write, so full of life, and really leaped off the page for me in the creative process. I generally get up around 4:30 or 5 in the morning and write for a couple hours before going to my day job. I finished the first draft of RIGHT SIDE in about three and a half months, and my agent and editor thought it was in pretty good shape, though I did do some extensive revision work. I wish I could go through a break up every year and maybe it would help my writing productivity, lol.

Chica Lit: Which authors and books have inspired you?

Fred: I was inspired when Terry McMillan and E. Lynn Harris came along on the fiction scene. When I discovered their work, while in my late high school and early college years, in the early 1990s, I knew that one day I could write a novel that might one day be published. They opened so many doors in publishing, and I always have credited them for giving me hope that I could realize my dreams in fiction writing. Other authors I admire for their works or their career paths are J. California Cooper, Eric Jerome Dickey, Alisa Valdes Rodriguez, Lorrie Moore, and Tayari Jones.

Chica Lit: What are you reading now? What was the best book you read in 2007?

Fred: Right now I'm reading two books: Them by Nathan McCall and Boston Boys Club by Johnny Diaz. The best books I read in 2007 weren't written in 2007: Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller and Chasing Destiny by Eric Jerome Dickey.

Get to know Fred or order your copy of Frederick Smith's The Right Side of the Wrong Bed at: