Your debut novel is VENUS ENVY, which by the way, is a GREAT title. If you had 50 words or less to pitch VENUS ENVY and make us want to run out and buy it, what would you say?
What happens when a fairy godmother has a quota to meet and runs up against the most stubborn Cinderella she's met in 2000 years? It's looking like bribery with chocolatinis and trips to Tiffany won't even be enough to help Venus accomplish this Extreme Love Life Makeover!
How has your life changed since getting your book deal? Has it changed?
You know, it really hasn't changed that much. Except that writing is harder...more pressure, I guess. More fear that I only had one book in me (even though, logically, I know that's completely ridiculous!). I still have to taxi kids around, do the laundry, and scrub the bathrooms. On the other hand, I think I really have a sense of accomplishment that I didn't have before. I really feel like I succeeded at something I can be proud of.
From the time you finished VENUS ENVY, how long did it take you to get an agent and subsequently, the book deal?
I actually had my wonderul agent, Deidre Knight, of The Knight Agency, before I wrote VENUS ENVY. We'd shopped around two books before VENUS and had some close calls, but hadn't sold. I finished VENUS, I think, in January or February of 2005, she started shopping it around in March, and by mid-May, we had our sale. It seemed to take forever at the time, but when it was all over and done with, it seemed like time had just flown by!
What's your favorite thing about VENUS ENVY?
The character of Venus without a doubt! I actually came up with the title VENUS ENVY before ever writing the book. I'm horrible at coming up with titles, and when this one popped into my head, I decided I HAD to write a book to go along with it. So, I asked myself, Who is Venus and why would someone be envious of her? From there, the character of Venus Cronus just blossomed. She was so much fun to write, always had her own opinions, and, truthfully, says a lot of things I wish I could say aloud myself. I saw the potential for a continuing character in Venus, and hope that still happens in the future!
What are three adjectives that best describe VENUS ENVY?
At the risk of using an overused word, I think Snarky is a great one. Funny is another. And, I think maybe surprising to some people, I'd call it Touching. Venus, as well as the other main character, the Cinderella of the story, Rachel Greer, both have a lot of growing to do...and I think both of their stories are very touching.
What are three adjectives that best describe YOU?
Me? Yikes! Um, Friendly? Optimistic? Oh, and to be completely truthful, Disorganized. :-)
How do you spend your time when you're not writing?
Well, I have a day job as a medical transcriptionist, which I've been doing for about 18 years. I've also been married for almost 22 years and am a mom to two great kids. I love to read in my spare time, too, like most writers.
What three tracks would make it onto a soundtrack of your life?
Do I really have to pick from the 4700+ songs on my MP3 player?! Really, I have no idea how to answer this one. It all depends on my mood. One day I may feel that the soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera fits best, another day I'm more hip with the top 40, and another day feel like getting soulful with singers like Norah Jones or India Arie. I truly cannot pick particular songs that would play as my life's background music!
Do you have a standard process to your writing? Are you an outliner or a jump-right-in writer?
I'm definitely an outliner...but I will also go with the flow. I tend to write out pretty detailed outlines (like 20-30 pages), but I'm completely willing to change things or move things around if necessary when inspiration hits. I've discovered if I at least know how it's going to end, I can get through the story. I once tried to write more by the seat of my pants and plotted out only the beginning and middle of the book. That was a complete disaster, as I knew nothing about the end except that I wanted a happy ending, so I was stuck at about the 3/4 point for months! It was horrible. I'll never do that again.
Word Association. What comes to mind when you see the following words:
VENUS: Confident and cocky, yet vulnerable.
LOVE: A real, tangible thing that can heal most any wound.
WRITING: A frustrating, maddening passion.
RACHEL: Cautious, longing for what feels like the impossible.
SHANNON MCKELDEN: Needs to get her rear in the chair and her fingers writing again. (Hey, you asked!)
What advice would you offer aspiring-to-be-published authors?
The tried and true advice of "don't give up." And, I think that applies to published authors, too. You really have to renew your faith in yourself and your writing every single day...even when the book sales are light or the next contract is slow to come. Once you give up, you are assured of failure, so just don't give up!
What is one big thing you've learned about the industry since receiving your book deal?
One thing? Actually I've learned a lot, but if I've learned anything about the industry specifically, it's that the timetable of the publishing business is unlike the timetable of any other business that exists. I think they exist on football time...lots of timeouts, moving in fits and starts, "15 minutes" on the clock lasts 2 hours in reality. I think my non-writer friends and family have the hardest time with this concept when they ask, "What's going on with such and such?" and I really have no answer for them, because I'm still waiting on New York.
Dream-on: You've just been told that someone wants to turn VENUS ENVY into a movie. Who would play Rachel, Venus, and Luke?
Venus is easy! I had a picture of a very sultry Portia de Rossi stuck to my monitor the entire time I wrote this book. All I had to do was look at it, and I could hear Venus's voice. For both Rachel and Luke, I had random pictures from magazines, without particular celebrities in mind. But, this is a great dream, so I'd have to say even though, looks-wise, Sandra Bullock doesn't fit Rachel, I definitely had her in my mind when it came to attitude and personality while writing the book. And how about Josh Lucas for Luke? Yum! He's got the calm sweetness about him that I loved about Luke.
What projects are you currently working on?
You know, I've spent the last year really floundering in my writing life. I had changed some of my reading habits and began to read books that are in what has been a really hot subgenre. Hoping to jumpstart a slow-moving career, I decided I should be writing what I most enjoyed reading lately...only to discover that, as a writer, what you love to read may not at all be a good fit for your voice. It took me most of this last year to come to grips with that. I have worked on some YA that fits my voice really well, and came quite close to selling, but again...not quite. I'm now really looking to get back to being true to myself and my writing voice. I'm working on some women's fiction with, of course, romance as the heart and soul of it. I'm becoming more honest with my writing, too, I think, and hopefully that will bring good things in 2008!