Monday, November 1, 2010
On this Monday morning, I have a very special surprise to help get your week off to a good start: an interview with the lovely author Leila Sales, whose debut novel, Mostly Good Girls, was just released by Simon Pulse! Leila not only happens to be my neighbor and good friend, but she is a wonderful writer whose hilarity never, ever ceases to amaze me (both on the page and in real life). But don't take my word for it! We'll let Leila speak for herself:
--So, your fabulous debut novel, Mostly Good Girls, just came out. How does it feel? Have you been stalking your book on the shelves yet?
It is constantly surreal. Even holding the finished book in my hands doesn't make it feel any more real, because of course I didn't create the book's cover or binding or any of that exterior stuff. It's only when I open it up that I'm like, "Good lord, I wrote every single word in here."
I've gone into a few stores to sign stock and stare at MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS on display. But often when I'm passing bookstores I'm on my bike, so I don't want to go in and ask to visit MGG, because I worry the booksellers will be like, "Jeez, we had no idea author Leila Sales was so sweaty." And then maybe they won't want to carry my book any more.
--Are you a Mostly Good Girl, or a Sometimes Bad Girl? Is there a substantive difference? Describe, discuss.
I am mostly good. I am very rules-oriented. When I break rules, it is usually by accident, and then I feel really bad about it. Or sometimes I break rules that I think are stupid because I don't "believe" in them. That seems like more of a Sometimes Bad Girl thing to do, though.
At my book launch party, I asked everyone to fill out a name tag saying what they were mostly good at. Mine said "Mostly good author." My mom's said "Mostly good mama." One of my friend's said "Mostly good grades." I was like, "Me, too."
--You and I went to the same college! What was your favorite part about the University of Chicago? Your least favorite?
Favorite part of the U of C was Scav Hunt (http://scavhunt.uchicago.edu), which is the world's largest annual scavenger hunt. It lasts for four days and includes 300 items, all of which can be found within a one thousand mile radius of campus. The U of C has intimidatingly bright students, so it's amazing to see what they can create when they put together all their talents and resources for a few days
Least favorite part of the U of C was that it was very far away from any place where one could go out dancing to good music. The only party options in Hyde Park were frat parties or apartment parties, both of which played generic hip-hop every weekend. I used to bring party mix CDs with me and throw them on when the hosts weren't looking. I'm sure everyone found this wildly endearing.
--Your full-time job is in an editorial department at Penguin Books. Do you think working as an editor has helped you as a writer?
Yes, absolutely. I spend every day looking at stories, and it's given me a much clearer sense of the technicalities of how a story works. But being an editor is no cure-all for writing troubles. No matter how capable an editor you are, it is always easier to see the flaws in other writers' work than it is to see them in your own. Or, perhaps more to the point, I can see problems in my own work, but I'm often at a loss as to how to solve them. I tend to know how to help other writers solve their problems.
--Why are you so cool?
--What percentage of MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS is autobiographical?
Somewhere between 53% and 68%. These might strike you as made-up numbers, but I thought about them a lot.
--If you could eat an ice cream flavor RIGHT NOW, what would it be?
The most chocolatey ice cream flavor that has been invented, plus some hot fudge on top.
--Rumor has it you eat foods based on their color. Don't you think that's a little discriminatory?
I have gotten better about food diversity in the past couple years. I think this is part of what it means to "grow up." When I was four years old, I would eat only purple foods. Then I branched out into white and brown foods. I refused to eat any green foods for many years, and now I occasionally eat green foods, but only because I hear they are "good for me," NOT because I enjoy them. All my favorite foods are still white or brown.
Also I have I "theory" about food, which is that if you take any combination of bread products, chicken products, cheese products, onion products, and tomato products, you will by definition get a delicious meal. 85% of what I eat is comprised of those five food groups. The other 15% is orange juice and chocolate.
--Lastly, what would be your ideal book:
1. To read in prospect park on a sunny day? THREE MEN IN A BOAT, by Jerome K. Jerome
2. To read next to a fire THE SUN ALSO RISES, by Ernest Hemingway
3. To read to your children (for when you have them, of course) CHARLOTTE'S WEB, by E.B. White
Okay, now for more fun stuff: Not only will I be giving away copies of Mostly Good Girls to the winners of my titling contest (check them out here), I will also be conducting a separate giveaway just for MGG later this week--so be sure to check back for that!