10 March 2014
My hugest thanks go to Nic for taking the time to write this for me.
You can buy Boss Girl as an eBook now!
HOW A PHONE CALL LED TO “BOSS GIRL
I’d been talking to a friend, a female television anchor who wanted to find a new job but was worried she was “too old.”
She was in her late thirties.
Television news may strive for diversity, but the oldest double standard still exists. Male anchors must be older and distinguished. Female anchors must be young and gorgeous. Sounds like something from the Mad Men era.
“It's a shame,” I said to her, “that you never see an anchor team with an older woman and younger man.”
And as soon as I got off the phone, I knew I’d come up with a concept for a novel. I’d seen plenty of credible women passed over for young pageant fembots who might have trouble spelling IQ. It was time to reverse the process, even in a fictional setting. It was time for an entire network and its affiliates to use that template for every newscast. Credible, smart, attractive middle-aged woman sharing the anchor desk with a smoking hot younger guy. A brain for the male anchor not a requirement.
So I had a concept. But not a plot. No problem. I started to do what I’ve always done.
It was time to wing it.
Now I know plenty of writers who do detailed outlines before they write one word of a manuscript. Some have rooms that look like a sticky note factory exploded, with slips of paper detailing every chapter and character. Others have a whiteboard with arrows going all over the place connecting characters and events resulting in something that resembles a formula drawn by a rocket scientist. A few have stacks of index cards with every scene in detail.
But I’ve always believed the plot is already in your subconscious. Your muse simply has to help you get it out. I love writing this way because I like to be surprised as much as the reader. What’s the fun of writing a great plot twist if you already know it’s coming?
Usually when I write a novel I have a concept, a beginning and an end. But I have no earthly idea how I’ll get to that ending.
In this case I had a beginning and a concept, but no end. Whatever. I was so excited by the idea I started to write Chapter One, and by the end my intelligent thirtysomething network executive Sydney Hack had hired her first hot male anchor who otherwise might have had a career as a very attractive doorstop. And by then I also had my ending. (Don’t worry, I hate spoilers, so you’ll get no hints here.) The middle would be filled with female television executives turning the broadcasting industry upside down with great success. Yes, I went over the top with their actions, but only to illustrate how ridiculous the double standard is. Men have been acting this way for years.
Twenty-nine days later, I had a novel. And as I suspected, the entire plot was in my subconscious, surprising me along the way. Things I’d written in the early chapters amazingly became key plot points toward the end of the book. It always seems to work out that way, at least for me.
Maybe Boss Girl will start a real life trend in broadcasting, one which is certainly overdue. Till that day you can enjoy the fictional escapades of women who know what they want and take no prisoners along the way.
You can pre-order Thirteen Weddings as a paperback or an eBook now!
"Last year, Bronte left Sydney for a wedding in England, where she met newly single Alex. After a night of passion they parted ways, and Bronte returned to Australia. Now working on a picture desk for a magazine in London, Bronte is about to meet her new colleague, who turns out to be all too familiar. Although awkward at first, as Alex is now engaged to the girl he was on a break from when they met, they soon become friends. In her free time, Bronte is a wedding photographer, so Alex enlists her to do his wedding. Unable to refuse, Bronte is stuck with the job. But as the two get closer, and the wedding day looms, it is clear that Alex and Bronte have unfinished business… Will Alex leave his bride at the altar, or will Bronte be forced to photograph the wedding of the man she herself should be marrying? "
6 March 2014
Meet Molly Bennett. Married to Max and mother to two warring teenagers, she’s just ‘celebrated’ a significant birthday. According to Bridget Jones Molly is a “smug married”. So why doesn’t she feel smug?
Is it because everyone seems to be having a better time of it than her? Or is it that Max has started taking more of an interest in ‘business trips’ and less of an interest in their sex life? Molly is beginning to despair until an old school friend starts flirting with her through Facebook …"
You can buy Diary of an Unsmug Married as a paperback or an eBook now.
Diary of an Unsmug Married is author Polly James' debut novel with publisher Avon. I was pleased to receive a review copy, as it sounded like something I might enjoy. I quite like realistic looks at life as a busy mum, and diary style books can appeal to me too. However, I have to be honest in my reviews, as always, and sadly this book just wasn't one for me. While there were parts I enjoyed, I wished there were far more of them rather than the politics of Molly's job which is littered all over the book. But here's why I wasn't sold on Diary of an Unsmug Married.
Molly Bennett is married to Max, mother to two teenagers and work for a local MP as a glorified secretary. She feels like she's stuck in a rut, there's no spark between her and Max anymore, her job is never dull but isn't exactly what she always dreamt of doing, and her kids are nothing but a worry. Perhaps it's just Molly - maybe everyone else is just fine pottering along in life. But when she receives a random email from an old school friend, Molly wonders how different her life could be if she made some radical choices. But is Molly willing to put her family life at risk to pursue a different kind of happiness...?
I wanted to enjoy this book. It sounded like a great premise and like something I would really enjoy reading, but alas it was not to be. Although I liked the character of Molly, I found her to be quite warm and funny as a narrator, and I cared about what she was saying in her diary too, I just found some of it utterly dull and it didn't intrigue me at all. Molly's job was the worst bit of the book without a doubt. Molly works for a local MP, answering his letters, his phonecalls and generally making sure he isn't putting his foot in it 24/7. Whilst there are a few amusing moments, the majority of it didn't interest me at all. In fact, I'd say probably as much as 75% of the book is set at the office - way too much for me, I wanted to see much more of Molly's family life and I think this is where I was disappointed.
There wasn't enough interaction in the book between Molly and Max to make me actually care about their relationship, and the fact that Molly might want to have an affair with her old school friend. I didn't care because I wasn't invested enough in them as a couple to feel anything which was disappointing. The fleeting scenes that they were together in passed by too quickly. There also wasn't a huge mention of Molly's children, so again, a lack of relationship development there too. In fact, Molly's most carefully accounted for relationships in the book were with her boss, and her colleague Greg! I realise when you're working, you do spend a large majority of time with your colleagues and not your family, but I just felt this book had the balance entirely wrong, for me anyway.
I took quite a while getting into the book, although I usually quite like a diary-style narrative in a book. I did find Molly's narration easy to read, and Polly James writes well, but I found the areas of Molly at work dragged on too long and my interest began to wane quite quickly. I was determined to stick it out, but the work part of Molly's life continues to dominate the book. The story with her online flirting didn't really interest me either, in fact it rather made me cringe because it just didn't seem to flow well and I couldn't believe Molly could be so silly as to fall for the drivel coming through her computer screen. Unfortunately, this wasn't a book for me, and that's a shame because I had high hopes for it. I was just uninterested in Molly's job, despite the odd few chuckles, and I found the book was just bogged down in it. It needed more of a balance as I enjoyed some of the scenes with Molly and Max at home, and her quite amusing musings about Max having an affair with their neighbour! As I said though, not for me, the downsides did outweigh the bad, sorry!
4 March 2014
You can buy The Dead Wife's Handbook as a paperback or an eBook now.
You can read my review of The Dead Wife's Handbook here.
Q1. Please tell me about your new book The Dead Wife's Handbook
The Dead Wife’s Handbook is the story of 36-year-old Rachel, who’s dead and is narrating the story from some sort of netherworld, where she’s afforded sporadic access to watch the lives of the living, not least those of her husband, Max and seven-year old daughter, Ellie. The book is about love and loss and how both Rachel and the people she’s left behind have to come to terms with their grief and with life moving on.
Q2. Obviously, the book is about a very emotive subject. What made you decide to choose this topic for your debut novel?
It wasn’t so much that I chose it for my debut novel as it chose me! Once Rachel as a character was in my head I just knew that I had to tell her story. Also, I’m a pretty emotional and analytical person myself so I think it was always quite likely that might writing would be emotive too.
Q3. The book is written from a unique perspective - that of the dead wife, Rachel, herself. How hard was it to write this book, and where did you get the idea for writing it from Rachel's point of view?
The idea came from talking to a friend about the news that her ex-husband had started a relationship with a new woman. My friend confided that she felt concerned about her ex-husband sharing all her secrets with his new partner, and it got me thinking about how that’s probably quite a common anxiety. And then I got to thinking about the most extreme example of that, and hence the idea originated of a dead wife, looking down on her husband as he makes his first forays back into the dating world, and all of the complicated emotions that might evoke.
Q4. How did you feel when you signed your publishing deal with Penguin? What's been your favourite part of the publishing process for The Dead Wife's Handbook so far?
The Dead Wife’s Handbook was sold to Penguin a fortnight before I was due to give birth to my daughter so it was a pretty emotional time all round. I remember getting the email from my agent to say that Penguin were going to offer, and just reading it and re-reading thinking, ‘Really?!’
I think my favourite part of the publishing process so far has been becoming part of the book community online. The blogging community has been so welcoming and I’ve loved being a part of it and getting to know so many brilliant people. And I’ve met (virtually!) loads of great people across the publishing industry. I’ve found it an incredibly supportive and collegiate place, which I really value and is very refreshing.
Q5. What sort of books do you like reading yourself?
I like a book either to make me think, laugh or cry. There are so many great books in the world that I get a bit frustrated if a book can’t make me do at least one of those things (and the best books, in my opinion, make you do all three). I read mostly contemporary fiction - people like Nicole Krauss, Sarah Waters, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes... but if I carried on listing all my favourite authors we’d be here for a very long time!
Q6. What do you do when you aren't writing?
Not much at the moment, in all honesty. I’m looking after my 16-month old daughter full-time, so am fitting in writing in the very early hours of the morning, during her lunch-time nap, in the evenings and at weekends. So we tend just to have one family day a week together and mostly we see friends or family. But when I have a bit more free time I like long, lazy lunches with friends, country walks, travelling and movies. And reading, of course.
Q7. Have you enjoyed using social media as a way to connect with your readers so far? What are the benefits and the downfalls for you?
See question 4! Yes, I’ve loved it. It’s really tapped me into a community I didn’t even know existed a year ago.
The benefits are manifold: meeting lots of people who are passionate about books in the way I am, getting great book recommendations, chatting about everything from books to babies and everything in between. And the Twitter community in particular was genuinely an incredible source of support to me in the run-up to the publication of The Dead Wife’s Handbook: having your first novel published is a pretty scary event (as well as being incredibly exciting) but it was made so much less anxiety-inducing by the bloggers’ involvement and support.
The only downside, really, is that I’ve become so involved in the Twitter community that I find it hard ever to turn Twitter off. That’s just about manageable when I’m pottering around with a little one, but I need to get better at turning it off when I’m actually supposed to be writing.
Q8. Are you working on your next book yet? Can you tell us anything about it?
I am indeed. I’ve done the first draft and am just working on the second draft (aka my agent’s notes) at the moment. The subject is still under wraps for the time being but I promise that you’ll be one of the first to know!
3 March 2014
She soon realizes a whole lot of over-thirty female viewers do as well, so she sets out to give these women what they want; a chiseled, trophy buck in his twenties sitting on the anchor desk next to a woman…
With nothing to lose she does the unthinkable; along with three female managers who happen to be her best friends she brings out the casting couch and turns it into a sleeper sofa. Doesn't matter that the men have no television experience. As long as they look good. And there’s a hint of romance in every newscast.
Ratings skyrocket as a result, but Sydney and her female cohorts discover something else along the way…
True love is not always age appropriate."
You can buy Boss Girl as an eBook now.
I read and loved Nic Tatano's debut novel Wing Girl last year, it's refreshing to have a men in the women's fiction market, and one who writes so brilliantly for women too. I was thrilled to see that he was bringing the series back with 'Boss Girl' last month, and another is coming in May entitled 'It Girl'. Nic Tatano is clearly an upcoming voice in the market, and with his brilliant covers courtesy of Harper Impulse and his fantastic stories as well. Boss Girl was a book that surprised me a little, it wasn't what I was expecting from it at all but I enjoyed it nonetheless, although I can forsee that this topic matter isn't going to be for everyone!
Sydney is an upcoming TV executive, and she is very good at her job. She gets the ratings up for the TV channel she works for and they turn a blind eye to what she gets up to in her own time. Sydney realises the way to get a new market to watch their show is by giving the demographic exactly what they want - a hunky young man presenting alongside an older, more experienced female co-anchor. Sydney, together with her 3 best friends who also happen to be executives at the channel, start up a new side to their business - a casting couch with a difference. As the TV ratings begin to rise, Sydney knows she's got it right but there's trouble lurking around the corner...
Straight up, this book is full of sex. If you don't like reading about such topics, or don't like occasionally vivid sex scenes, then this is probably one eBook that you aren't going to want to read. The book also challenges a lot of people's perceptions. The premise of the story revolves around 4 female executives sleeping with potential male anchors for their TV channel to see if they are good in bed and if so, they get the job. Also, the female anchor they choose gets to sleep with the male co-star whenever they feel the need. There's a lot of loose morals going on here, and I was pretty shocked with the amount of bed-hopping and man-swapping that goes on in this book. While I was shocked, I didn't find it too distasteful but it certainly made me think about exactly how much of this book could be based on reality...
One of Tatano's strengths is how brilliantly he writes a strong female lead. Sydney Hack is fantastic, she's not afraid to go after the men that she wants for the TV show, and isn't afraid to "trial them" either. She sees no wrong in what she's doing, and will defend her job and decision to the end, if that's what it takes. But for me, what makes this book so great was the presence of another 3 very strong women, Sydney's fellow executives: Jillian, Neely and Rica. Each of them brings something to the table,whether it's attitude, personality or stunning looks, and they use it to their advantage. The women are honest - they know what they want and how to get it - and also want to be incredibly in their careers too. I liked them all, although Sydney was my favourite.
For some, the idea of the book just won't appeal. At first, I found it a bit uncomfortable, knowing that the couples slipped off upstairs to have sex in the loft whenever they fancied, how they all swapped partners and positively encouraged each other to do so, and how they rated the men's potential on how good they were in bed. It seemed wrong in some way, yet I have to agree that it made for entertaining reading at times! The male characters in the book were great too, they were treated as bits of meat pretty much, and they knew it. They seemed to have no objections either... why would they!? Shawn was my favourite by a long way, he seemed to have the most going for him outside of the bedroom, but the men aren't the focus of their story at the end of the day.
As well as being a book about sex in the workplace, and using it to get ahead, it's a fascinating insight into the life of a working news channel. I really enjoyed the ins and outs we get to see of Sydney and her fellow executives doing their jobs and managing a successful TV station, using the new set-up of an older female anchor and young male co-star to their advantage, and turning world perceptions on its head. Tatano's writing is on the money, fun and fresh, and really easy to read. His characters jump out of the page into your mind, and everything comes alive as you're reading. The storyline was interesting, and I liked the twists and turns along the way, a lot of them quite unexpected - I certainly didn't know whether Sydney and co would have a happy ending at the end! I'm really excited to read Nic's next book It Girl and hope it'll be another fantastic read, this one certainly was!
28 February 2014
You can pre-order The Perfect Match as a hardback or as an eBook now.
"Three years ago Bella Castle left her home town nursing a broken heart over Dominic Thane, the man she fell in love with but couldn't have .
Now she's made a new life for herself in the country, working as an estate agent.
Bella loves her job and she loves her boyfriend Nevil. But recently he's been preoccupied, and she's starting to question if his future hopes and dreams are a perfect match for hers.
And when Dominic turns up unexpectedly in search of his dream house, she begins to wonder if home is really where the heart is. But she's over him, isn't she?"
27 February 2014
Rachel, Max and their daughter Ellie had the perfect life - until the night Rachel's heart stopped beating.
Now Max and Ellie are doing their best to adapt to life without Rachel, and just as her family can't forget her, Rachel can't quite let go of them either. Caught in a place between worlds, Rachel watches helplessly as she begins to fade from their lives. And when Max is persuaded by family and friends to start dating again, Rachel starts to understand that dying was just the beginning of her problems.
As Rachel grieves for the life she's lost and the life she'll never lead, she learns that sometimes the thing that breaks your heart might be the very thing you hope for."
You can buy The Dead Wife's Handbook as a paperback or an eBook now.
Occasionally, there is news of a debut novel that sounds so amazing, you just know you want to read it the minute you get your hands on it, and hope that it's worth all the excitement around it. One of those books for me is Hannah Beckerman's debut novel The Dead Wife's Handbook. With its straight and to-the-point title, you know what you're getting with this novel, and I've been looking forward to this since late 2013, when I first heard about it. I was utterly thrilled to be sent a proof copy from Hannah when I won one on Twitter, and I am pleased to say that the book was every bit as good as I was expecting, and much, much more.
Rachel's life was utterly perfect. She was happily married to Max, living in their beautiful home with their young daughter Ellie, and thought she had it all. However, when she suddenly dies, Rachel leaves behind everything she held dear and precious for her. But Rachel soon finds herself watching her loved ones from afar, unable to communicate with them but able to see them grieving for her, living their lives without her around. Rachel isn't prepared for how difficult she finds this new aspect of her new existence, and as Max, Ellie and the rest of their family move on as time ticks on, Rachel wonders how she is going to cope seeing her life being lived out without her being a part of it.
You can tell both from the synopsis, and even the title of the book, that this is going to be a hard-hitting emotional read. I've read lots of books that have really touched me, that have lingered with me long after turning the first page, but The Dead Wife's Handbook seems to be on a completely different scale. As I was reading, I just could not stop myself from putting myself in Rachel's shoes. As the mother of a young son, leaving him behind is my worst nightmare, and I could not think of any worse to happen that for me to die while he is so young. Rachel was going through this living nightmare, and it is very hard reading throughout. She is forced to watch her daughter from afar, learning to live without her, watching her cry over missing her mother and eventually beginning to get on with life without the huge burden of grief hanging over her. The way she is only allowed infrequent glimpses into their life too shows how separated she is from their reality, often missing months at a time and having to hope no significant changes have happened in Ellie and Max's lives.
This is painfully raw reading, and Beckerman narrates it so perfectly. She hits on every emotion with such accuracy that you really feel everything along with Rachel - and you don't have to be a mother for this to resonate with you. It's an amazing portrayal of grief, of loss and heartache. Rachel yearns to be with her family, but knows it's impossible. I felt so sorry for her, stuck in a situation she would give anything to not be a part of, and watching her family get on without her and start to introduce new people into their life was heart-breaking, it moved me to tears several times and as I said, really hit home with me. Rachel's narration is emotive, and the fact we get the flashes into Max and Ellie's life through her means we see not only their life, but Rachel's opinions and emotions on everything too, a very unique and touching narrative.
For me, though, my favourite character by far was Ellie, Rachel's young daughter. Hannah Beckerman writes this wonderful little girl with such realism, she seems real to you as you're reading and my heart hurted for the pain she was going through. At such a young age, she doesn't how to cope with the loss of her beloved mother, and her relationship with Max, her father is so beautifully written, and so moving, hearing the pair discuss Rachel, her effect of their life and keeping her alive for Ellie in her mind. Max, too, was a fantastic character, being pulled in all directions by the people that he loves. He's a grieving husband, still deeply in love with his deceased wife and not knowing how to move on, you feel so desperately sad for him and as he moves forward with his life, I was just hoping that he and Ellie could find a happy ending of their own in some way, one that Rachel could be at peace with too.
For me, this stunning and thought-provoking debut novel is one of the best books I have read recently. While it is a tragic subject, and reading about it isn't easy, at times it is indeed quite painful, Beckerman's writing is just perfect and deals with the issues in the book sensitively and with such grace. As a young mother myself, I hated what Rachel was going through, and I did find the novel hard to read, as I kept putting myself in Rachel's shoes, and consequently it was a very emotional read for me. It makes you think about that awful 'what if' moment, what would happen to your family if something terrible were to happen to you. It's a very raw book, some will find the subject matter too close to home, but for me it was a stunning portrayal of grief, love and loss, and cannot fail to move even the coldest of hearts. For a debut, this is amazingly written, and I cannot wait to see what Hannah Beckerman will come up with next. Poignant reading at its absolute best. Simply brilliant.