Saturday, May 06, 2006

SPOTLIGHT ON: "Monkey Love" Author, Brenda Scott Royce

Photography by Jamie Pham

Title of your new book: MONKEY LOVE

Pitch your book in 50 words or less: Holly Heckerling's already hectic life is complicated by the arrival of a mischievous monkey. At first the monkey makes a mess of everything, even prying Holly and her date apart during their first kiss. Eventually, the impish creature steals Holly's heart and helps her discover what's missing in her life.

What's the best thing about this book?

Reading it won't give you a brain aneurysm. My husband, a philosophy professor, reads uber-serious question-the-meaning-of-existence type books, which usually require deep thinking and a yellow highlighter. For every paragraph he reads, he has to spend several minutes in deep contemplation (after highlighting key passages). MONKEY LOVE is a screwball comedy that requires neither highlighting nor deep thinking. It's not going to change the world or shift any paradigms, but it will incite laughter (one reviewer called it "laugh-out-loud, wet-your-pants funny"), which I think is a good thing, too.

Tell us about your journey to publication.

It took me 2½ years to write the book, during which time I also finished my degree in primatology, worked both full-time and freelance jobs, got married, and had a baby. I brought my laptop everywhere and wrote whenever I had spare time between classes, homework, work assignments, and contractions.

My big plan was to finish before the baby was born and get a publishing deal while I was on maternity leave - with an advance big enough to let me stay home with my son! Things didn't happen as fast, or as lucratively, as I'd hoped. Of the first batch of 5 queries I sent, I got 3 rejections and 1 request for the full manuscript (I still haven't heard back from the last one!). The agent that made the request ultimately declined, and I put the book aside for a while to focus on caring for my newborn son and moving into a new house. Several months passed before I came up for air and decided to try again. I punched up my pitch letter, sent another 5 queries, and this time got two bites. One was Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, who called a few weeks after receiving the full manuscript to say it made her laugh out loud in the subway. It only took her about a month to sell the book to NAL.

How do you spend your time when you're not writing?

My son is now two, so what little spare time I have is usually spent watching "Sesame Street" (my preference) or "Barney" (his). Between having a toddler and working full-time (as Director of Publications for the Los Angeles Zoo), I have little time to write. I try to squeeze writing into lunch breaks, late evenings, and the occasional weekend getaway.

What are your three guilty pleasures?

1. Starbucks' Iced Grande Carmel Macchiator with extra caramel.

2. Soap operas.

3. Las Vegas (video poker, free watered-down drinks, and all-you-can-eat cocktail shrimp-wahoo!)

As a published author, what three pieces of advice would you offer to aspiring-to-be-published authors?

1. Get a rich spouse.

2. Hire a housekeeper.

3. Find a good coffee shop.

Okay, so I'm joking about #1 and only half-serious about #2, but #3 is crucial. A rich husband would have been nice, but true love is better than financial independence, right? And while I'd like to think I'd have more time to write if someone else was doing the laundry, I'd probably just spend more time pre-cleaning the house so the housekeeper wouldn't think we were slobs.

But finding a good coffeehouse (actually several) was vital to writing my novel. I didn't even like coffee when I started writing Monkey Love, but I needed a place to write away from the many distractions of home. Now I have a debilitating caffeine addiction and my yearly coffee expenditures could probably employ a full-time housekeeper. Or two.

What are you currently working on?

Potty-training my son. And writing a sequel to Monkey Love.

Dream-on: You've been greenlighted to do any creative project you want. What project would that be?

I'd love to create and executive produce a television series, a la Shonda Rhimes of Grey's Anatomy. It'd be an hour-long dramedy, the kind of show that makes you laugh and cry and snort and sob and tune in next week to see if the hunk and the heroine will finally get together or just keep exchanging flirty glances. And to combine all my interests, it should involve animals, too. Maybe a Grey's Anatomy­-type show set in a veterinary hospital. We'll call it Pets in the City...

Learn more about Brenda at her WEBSITE!

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