Friday, September 01, 2006

Desperate Housewives in Applewood!

All right, I'll confess that I secretly believe that the most "together" women on our local PTA are cocaine addicts. Otherwise, how else could they juggle all the balls they do?

MUSIC FOR TORCHING by AM Homes? (One of my faves of all time. That's the one with the crack-smoking suburban couple.) Well, I'm convinced I'm right. Someone else who's got the goods on the PTA is author Ellen Meister, author of the new and controversial novel, SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA.


When a Hollywood location scout comes to Applewood, Long Island and announces that the local elementary school might make the perfect backdrop for an upcoming George Clooney movie, the PTA’s decorum crumbles like a cookie from last week's bake sale.

Enter Maddie, Ruth and Lisa, three women who become the glue that holds the project together...and wind up forming a bond of friendship stronger than anyone had imagined.

A good thing, too, because each of them is about to come apart. Maddie Schein, an ex-lawyer trying as hard to fit in as she is to save her marriage, gets knocked off balance by Jack Rose, an old college friend hell bent on seducing her. Ruth Moss—rich, sexy and outspoken—has more to give and less to enjoy than most people think. Indeed, since her husband's stroke left him embarrassingly uninhibited yet completely impotent, she's more of a caretaker than a wife. And modest Lisa Slotnick, a loving parent who wants nothing more than to fade into the scenery as she tends to her children, must deal with the humiliation of being thrust before the spotlight by her scandalous, alcoholic mother.

When these three get together, a powerful alliance is forged. But is it strong enough to overcome the obstacles to getting the movie made in their town? And will their friendship be enough to mend their hearts and homes? Join them as they reach for the stars...and try to pull off a Hollywood ending of their own.


Born in the Bronx, New York, to two devoted readers, Ellen Meister understood from an early age that the best way to get someone's undivided attention was to put words on paper.

And so, after growing up in suburban Long Island with her parents, older brother, and younger sister, she did what any dreamy, unrealistic, word-loving girl of her generation did: She went to college and majored in English.

Ellen graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Buffalo and set off to take the publishing world by storm. Not, however, as a writer. She got a job as a promotion assistant for a small medical publisher with a budget so tight they couldn't afford a trash can for her desk, let alone a living salary. So one year later she left for the glamorous side of publishing and went to work for a giant literary agency.

The job seemed like a dream come true for the 23-year-old Ellen, whose romanticized notion of writers still fueled her passions. But her tender young nature was so ill-suited to the maniacal atmosphere of the place that one co-worker remarked that she looked like Alice in Wonderland sitting at her desk.

A few months later she left for what she thought were earthier pastures, doing publicity and promotion for a trade association. From there she found her way to the marketing departments of various magazines, where she got to hone her copywriting skills. Eventually, Ellen opened her own boutique sales promotion agency.

Several years after marrying Mike, whom she describes as "the smartest, funniest guy on the planet and a hell of a Pictionary partner," Ellen gave birth to her first child and left the business world to be a full-time mother. By the time she finally found the gumption to sit down and write her first novel, she had three kids and was a card-carrying member of the PTA.

Ellen Meister lives in Long Island, New York, with her husband, two sons and one daughter. She writes, she swears, she sings, she dances—all from the front seat of her minivan. And while she wouldn't have it any other way, she still longs for attention.


"Meister's debut novel is heartbreakingly funny, her characters facing life's dramas and disappointments head on with wit and spunk." — Library Journal

"A funny and wonderfully irreverent look at the dark underbelly of suburbia." — Lolly Winston, author of Good Grief and Happiness Sold Separately

"It's every woman's fantasy to have a film-location crew select her hometown for the next movie starring a major cinematic sex symbol (in this case, George Clooney), and when Applewood, Long Island's elementary school, is deemed a possible site for Clooney's upcoming flick, the members of the upscale community's PTA go into hyperbolic overdrive to turn fantasy into reality. As members of the PR committee, it will fall to Maddie, Ruth, and Lisa to polish Applewood's somewhat spotty reputation when the producers come to town. Accomplishing such a massive public-relations coup would be difficult enough, but add Maddie's failing marriage, Ruth's clandestine affair (with the school superintendent, no less), and Lisa's alcoholic mother to the mix, and you have women facing challenges that make the typical Saturday morning PTA bake sale look like a piece of cake. With sexy characters, sharp dialogue, and snappy pacing, Meister's sassy, saucy debut novel could well turn into a movie of its own." — Booklist

"Women, hide this book from your husbands and resist the urge to read passages out loud. Ellen Meister knows our secrets, and she tells them in a smart, honest, and very funny voice." — Maryanne Stahl, author of Forgive the Moon and The Opposite Shore

"Three conflicted housewives in Applewood, Long Island, long for something more fulfilling than what their families and their membership in the local PTA offer.... helping each other realize their dreams. Comical yet poignant..."
Kirkus Reviews

"George Clooney should be proud." — New York Times best selling author, Mark Ebner

"The best time I've had in years. Ellen Meister's characters are so funny, smart, and real, I feel like I've made three new friends!" — Lisa Kudrow

1. How did you get this idea for this book? Please describe how
the book grew from a glimmer of an idea into a whole novel.

The inspiration came at a PTA meeting. It was the first meeting of the year and, as usual, I was feeling a little self-conscious around the other moms, who seemed so perfect to me. I found myself wishing they knew there was more to me than the smiling PTA face I was presenting. Then it occurred to me that everyone might be feeling something similar. And that's when I knew I had to write about these types of women, to explore their inner lives, and the layers of joy and heartache beneath the surface.

From there I set out to construct a plot around an event that could affect the community as a whole and the women as individuals. Eventually, I got the idea to bring a Hollywood movie studio to their town, and select their schoolyard as a possible location for the filming of a George Clooney movie.

2. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Read as much as you can. And remember that every book you read, whether it's something that makes your heart sing or not, has something to teach you. Keep your mind open--there are gifts everywhere.

3. What's your writing day like? Any tips or tricks for getting organized?

Trust me, you don't want tips from me on getting organized! My writing day starts at 5 a.m. before the kids wake up. From there on in it's catch as catch can. I squeeze in an hour here or there whenever I can.

4. What's been the most exciting thing about publishing? The most
The most exciting thing has been simply walking into a bookstore and seeing my novel there. The most frustrating thing about publishing a book is all the waiting. It's a Herculean test of patience!

5. Do you think you might write a follow-up to this book? If not,
what else is in the works?

Right now I don't see writing a sequel to Applewood. I'm working on my second novel, THE SMART ONE. It's a story about three sisters who begin a journey of understanding certain truths about their relationship after discovering a dead body in an industrial drum. It will be released July 2007.

Thank you so much, Ellen! Pick up her novel at your localindy bookseller, or try Amazonor Barnes and Noble. Happy Labor Day, all! Don't get in too much trouble, and if you do, DON'T TELL ELLEN!