Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Interview with contemporary novelist Lauren Clark

Today's Reviews and Interviews guest is novelist Lauren Clark. She's doing a virtual book tour for her newest novel, Dancing Naked in Dixie.

There are details below the interview about a giveaway she's offering during her tour. Check it out!

Lauren Clark writes contemporary novels set in the Deep South; stories sprinkled with sunshine, suspense, and secrets.

A former TV news anchor, Lauren adores flavored coffee, local book stores, and anywhere she can stick her toes in the sand. Her big loves are her family, paying it forward, and true-blue friends.

Welcome, Lauren. Please tell us about your current release.
Dancing Naked in Dixie is about New York City travel writer Julia Sullivan. She comes back from an assignment in Italy, meets her new boss, and is told that she's on the verge of being fired because she's missed a few deadlines and has become careless with her stories.

She's offered one last chance to rescue her career and embarks on an unlikely journey to the ‘Heart of Dixie’—Eufaula, Alabama—home to magnificent mansions, sweet tea, and the annual Pilgrimage. Julia arrives, soon charmed by the lovely city and her handsome host, but her stay is marred by a shocking discovery. Can Julia's story save her career, Eufaula, and the annual Pilgrimage? 

What inspired you to write this book?
I generally start with a 'what if' question and a location that I'd like to write about. For example, the question for Stay Tuned, set in Macon, Georgia, was "What if two anchors fist-fight on a live television show?" For Dancing Naked in Dixie, my question was "What if a big city travel writer will lose her job unless she goes to the small-town Deep South to cover a story?" I had lived near Eufaula, Alabama and attended the Pilgrimage, so I knew that setting would work perfectly.

There are many novels about a character excited about moving to a big city or traveling to Paris or London, but Dixie follows a big city girl who visits a very small town. At the outset, she doesn’t want to go—in fact, she throws a hissy fit about it! She’s really a fish out of water—the accents, the food, and the mannerisms are all foreign to her.

I think we’re all somewhat guilty of having preconceived notions or ideas about people and places we haven’t visited. The fun of this storyline involves Julia discovering how wrong she was about the Deep South. It’s a life-changing experience for her. It’s my hope that readers feel that Dixie honors and celebrates cultural differences.        

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am researching for my next novel, The Pie Lab, which is a real restaurant in Greensboro, Alabama. This story will follow a girl who’s gone off to a big city (like Atlanta or New York) and vows NEVER to come home. She’s forced to return to Greensboro, though, when her romantic relationship falls apart. Since she’s burned a lot of bridges, it will be interesting to see how she makes amends. The Pie Lab, as a business, is a great concept, as it offers on-the-job training and the owners are very active in the community. Added bonus…the pies are delicious! The Pie Lab has been featured in Southern Living and The New York Times.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
After Stay Tuned was published and I received my very own paperback copy in the mail. During my two free days on Amazon, Stay Tuned was downloaded 24,000 times in the US and UK. That also made it feel legitimate and real.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
When I'm working hard to finish a book, I disappear into the library at a nearby university. I find an empty classroom and park myself there for several hours with a cup of coffee (yes, they allow drinks with lids!). It's ideal because it is so quiet and the only place that I can't log onto the Internet because I don't have the school password. I also wear my yoga clothes in case I decide to go to class or Pure Barre on the way home. No makeup. Hair in a ponytail. I rush home by 3 pm when school lets out and resume mom-duties: Homework, Finding Snacks, Dinner, Laundry, Cleaning, Paying Bills, and Scheduling Play Dates.

Every day, I also try to spend a few minutes on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and my website. I love connecting with readers and other authors. There's also an amazing, supportive group of bloggers out there who've supported Stay Tuned and Dancing Naked in Dixie. I am forever indebted to each and every one of them!

I find time to write by making it a priority. Writing works best for me in the morning...when I am out of the house. I outline first, then go chapter by chapter. I set a goal of at least one thousand words a day. That said, I try to take weekends off so that I can spend time with my husband and children. We like to be outdoors, go to the beach, and ride bicycles. We also try to give back to the community. Right now, we're involved in "Food for Thought," which helps elementary schools plant and grow vegetable and herb gardens. The goal is to teach about nutrition and fight childhood obesity at the same time. We get pretty dirty, but it's lots of fun!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Three things are must-haves for me: I need absolute quiet, coffee, and my novel's outline.  Without those, I'm sleepy, distracted, and my writing goes every which way!!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh, I told my parents that I wanted to be an Indian Princess and that my name was going to be Tiger Lily. That didn’t happen, so I tease my two boys that I have a secret identity—Super Mommy to the Rescue—pink boots, pink cape, you get the idea. They haven’t bought that, either.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I'm an avid reader, I love books, and try to support my fellow authors and promote their work. I do have a special place in my heart for Chick Lit, though. The genre allows an author to have the freedom of having a quirky character who's not perfect. I also believe that a good heroine should be a strong person--on her own. She doesn't need a man to swoop in and solve all of her problems. She's smart, but makes mistakes and learns as she goes. She's a woman who defines her own future.

Thank you for supporting my novels. It's such a joy to get an e-mail from a reader, a nice review, or a note from a Facebook friend saying he or she liked my book or a certain character. There is no better feeling!

Here's an excerpt from Dancing Naked in Dixie:
The Best Butts in Alabama, the huge billboard above my head brags. A robust pink pig, dressed in blue overalls and a cowboy hat, winks down at me. Next to the hog’s turned up nose, royal blue letters read ‘Phil’s Bar-B-Q.’ 

Phil certainly knows how to make a first impression. As does Mother Nature.

The sunshine beats down on my shoulder through the window. Is it always this muggy in December? I swipe at my forehead with the back of my hand and do quick surveillance.

Where is the historic, elegant city I was promised in the letter? There is a normal-looking church across the street, a run-of-the-mill real estate business to my right, and a tiny hole-in-the-wall place called The Donut King, which seems to be doing ten times more business than the Winn-Dixie grocery store I just passed.

So far, all I see of Eufaula, Alabama is more in-your-face commercial than traveler chic. Of course, I’m not in the best frame of mind to become one with my surroundings.

After a lousy Thursday morning of sulking and a rushed packing job, I sent an RSVP with regrets for the fundraiser, gave away my tickets to the Met, left a voice mail for Andrew, and changed my ticket to an earlier departure.

Hours later, after fighting through JFK security, surviving the cramped flight to Atlanta, I spent the night in Buckhead, Georgia, picked up my enormous rented SUV this morning (it was either that or a red minivan), and began driving the three-and-a-half hours to reach my pinhole-on-a-map destination.

All to save my job.

Thanks for talking with us today, Lauren.

Readers, Lauren will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to one randomly drawn commentor during the tour. So comment below, and then you can follow the tour and comment. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. 


Mary Preston said...

The excerpt had me smiling. That's always a very good sign.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Marybelle :)

If you visit my facebook page ... Ted Hicks from Eufaula posted a photo of the actual "Phil the Pig" billboard.

LOVE IT!!!! xx, Lauren

Anonymous said...

Lisa - Thank you for participating in the Goddess FIsh tour for Dancing Naked in Dixie! I hope you'll have a chance to dive into the novel this summer :)

So glad to be featured on your blog today!

All the best, Lauren

Anonymous said...

I never thought of chick lit that way, as allowing for a heroine's imperfections. Nice interview!


MomJane said...

I really love the sound of this book. What a fun read.

Lisa Haselton said...

Thanks, everyone for stopping by and commenting. A lot of fun today!

Catherine Lee said...

"The Best Butts in Alabama"! LOVE it. What a hoot.That's one of the joys of the South--the ubiquitous BBQ joint. It made me think of a comment my friend said over lunch today. She's trying to do "low carb" and said she found a GREAT low carb fried chicken recipe. The secret ingredient--pork rinds. That's what she used for the coating on the chicken. I'm a transplant Southerner--I think pork rinds, BBQ, grits, collards, etc. are best on native taste buds...LOL.

Lisa Haselton said...

I'm with you on coffee and quiet - but I'm still challenged by outlines. Being a 'pantster' only gets me so far tho! :)

bn100 said...

This sounds like a fun book.