Friday, February 25, 2005

Have Your Cake and...

The Girlfriends are back!

The next installment in The Girlfriends Cyber Cicrcuit is DRESS REHEARSAL by Jennifer O'Connell.

Jennifer's book sounds simply delectable. Additionally (AND EXTREMELY IMPORTANTLY), we share last initials with an apostrophe! I'll bet she gets called "Jennifer O'Connor" ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME. (I lost track of how many times I've been called "Martha O'Connell.") And I'll bet she's been called "Jennifer McConnell" more times than she can count. I get called that too. Well, with a "Martha," I mean.

And I'll bet Jennifer's also familiar with my favorite Gaelic blessing:

Go bhfana í ngrá linn,
Iad siúd atá í ngrá linn.
Iad siúd nach bhfuil,
Go gcasa Dia a gcroíthe.
Agus muna gcasann Sé a gcroíthe
Go gcasa Sé caol na coise acu
Go n-aithneoimid iad as a mbacadaíl.

May those who love us, love us;
And those who do not love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping.

ANY-HOO (God, I DO ramble), this time I tried to ask Jennifer questions that had not just to do with her book, but with the publishing and marketing process. I know a lot of my readers are also writers, and Jennifer is a wonderful success story!

(But DARNITALL, I forgot to ask her how many times she has to tell people looking her up in the computer to "Try spelling it without the apostrophe!")

Dress Rehearsal is about Lauren, the owner of a wedding cake business, who has another talent: predicting which marriages will last simply by which cake the couple selects. When she sees her best friend heading for a disasterous match, she's got to decide whether to take her psychic abilities public in order to save her friend. Meanwhile she's got a fiance of her own to deal with... and then there's that matter of her dream cake...

Jennifer's been praised in a number of venues, from Us Weekly to LIFE.

Watch that your eyes don't go blurry with all the O'Cs

MO'C: How did you get started writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

JO'C: I never set out to be a writer, although I've always enjoyed writing. I actually always wanted to work in the publishing industry, but I'm more of a frustrated editor masquerading as a writer. When I had the idea for Bachelorette #1, I just started writing and so began my writing career.

MO'C: What advice would you have for aspiring novelists?

JO'C: I am not a "trained" writer. I wasn't an English major, I don't have tons of unfinished manuscripts in my desk drawer, and I wrote B#1 in two months (I was slightly possessed). So, the only thing I can really say for sure is that you have to absolutely love what you're writing. The second thing I'd tell writers has less to do with writing and more to do with the business of publishing. Understand it, study it, and educate yourselves. Know what agents are accepting, don't waste your time submitting to agents who don't even represent what you're writing. Realize that you'll be your own best publicity tool and milk every contact you have - from alumni groups to local newspapers. Don't be afraid to "market" yourself - writing may be an art, but your books have to sell if you want to keep writing. The best, and maybe worst, thing about writing is that your career is in your own hands.

MO'C: You are working with an agent who lives and works outside of New York, Kristin Nelson. (I've heard many good things about her!) What went into your choice to work with Kristin?

JO'C: When it came to choosing an agent I had wildly different options - go with a huge, well-known firm, or a woman who'd just left a well-known firm to start her own agency. I decided that as a new, unknown author, I'd rather be a big fish in a small pond than the smallest fish in a big pond. By going with someone just going out on her own I felt that I'd be more important to my agent and she'd in turn be more aggressive to sell my work and develop my career. And, in hind sight, I think I made the right choice.

MO'C: Did your foreign sales for BACHELORETTE #1 come before or after publication? What's it like to see your novel translated into other languages?

JO'C: My foreign sales for Bachelorette #1 came before publication and continue to come now, over a year later. It's pretty cool to see your book with a different cover and in a language you don't read, but I'm also curious to see what it says (did they change the cover copy to read: A fascinating story about a girl and her dog! If they did, I'd have no idea). I actually found a web site that you can use to translate things, so I've read a few foreign reviews, and that's neat even if the English is a little choppy.

MO'C: What separates your work from the vast amount of chick lit that is out there today?

JO'C: I don't really know what separates my books from the others out there other than that I will never write about a weak woman or someone who whines. None of my friends would ever sit around and bemoan the loss of a guy. We'd never gripe about a bad boss or stay in a situation that was so obviously wrong. Readers have told me that they like that my characters are strong and funny, and that they have great friendships with other women. So far, none of my books have had the story end with "the girl" getting "the guy." I've always said that my books aren't about the girl finding the guy, but about the girl finding herself.

MO'C: Any regrets or things you'd do differently about the publishing process?

JO'C: I attended the Radcliffe Publishing Program after graduating from Smith, so I pretty much knew about the industry and how it works prior to writing a book. No regrets at all.

MO'C: You are giving away a professionally designed cake as part of a
promotion for DRESS REHEARSAL. How did you get such a creative idea and how has it paid off for you? Are you going to bake the cake
yourself or have it created by someone else? Or is that top secret?

JO'C: My "Win the cake of Lauren's dream" contest just seemed like a no brainer to me. The cake in the book is actually based upon a cake from a bakery in New York. The cake was even written up in O magazine as one of Oprah's favorites. So, for the lucky winner, Soupcon is making the cake and will have it delivered to the winner's door. I don't have any idea if it drives book sales or anything, but I thought it would be fun. Who doesn't love cake?

HEY HEY HEY HEY HEY **If you go to Jennifer's site over the next couple of days, you could still win that cake!

MO'C: How do you separate the brain power used to market a book from the brain power that you need to conserve to write the next one?

JO'C: I own my own market strategy consulting firm, so for me writing and marketing a book are inextricably intertwined. Even as I'm writing I'm thinking about marketing ideas and opportunities to promote the book. I think they're both equally fun, and if you can't get people to buy your book, you won't be writing for very long.

MO'C: What is your next novel about?

JO'C: My third book, Off the Record is coming out in September. Off the Record is about a Chicago attorney who discovers that the number one hit and Grammy winning song her freshman year in college was written about her by a former childhood neighbor. Once the news gets out, her life is turned upside. down. I pictured how cool it would have been if I'd inspired a song (particularly, Sweet Child of Mine by Guns n Roses), and went from there.

You may find Dress Rehearsal through your local independent bookseller at Booksense, or at Books-A-Million, Amazon and B&N.

Read on for my daily rant!