Thank you for Visiting

This book club provided an opportunity to discuss books with authors from 2009 - 2013. I like to think we were a group of daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, well... women finding time to meet while juggling daily life.

I hope you enjoy exploring The Manic Mommies Book Club Archives. We read 46 books over the years, with audio or written author discussions for each book read documented on this blog.

~ with kindness & gratitude, Mari

January 2011 selection: Helen of Pasadena

Thank you so much to everyone for sending questions ahead of time, we could have kept talking for another hour if time allowed.  If you weren't able to join us you can listen online (player located in the right column) or via iTunes by searching Manic Mommies Book Club.

Lian's Book Recommendation: Pictures of You (Caroline Leavitt)

Click here to listen to our book discussion, with author Lian Dolan.

Synopsis: Helen Fairchild leads a privileged existence. It only bothers her a tiny bit that she has never quite fit in with the proper Pasadena crowd, never finished that graduate degree in Classics, and never had that second baby. But the rigid rules of Pasadena society appeal to Helen, the daughter of Oregon fiber artists, even if she'll never be an insider. A hilarious social commentary about modern upper-middle class life meets a strong story of midlife reinvention.

Author Q&A:
Tell us a little about yourself: I am a mother, sister, wife, friend and daughter. In addition, I write, talk and observe for a living. I’ve spent the last two decades working in media—from TV production to radio to magazines to digital content to novels. I created Satellite Sisters with my four real-life sisters to discuss issues of modern women on the radio and the web. And, I created The Chaos Chronicles to examine issues of modern motherhood with a humorous slant. I’m married, have two boys and a busy life in Pasadena, California.
When you start writing Helen of Pasadena, how much of the story did you have mapped out and how much of it emerged as you were writing? I have always been an outliner, even in high school when I was writing papers about The Catcher in the Rye, so having a detailed road map is an engrained part of my writing process. Especially because Helen of Pasadena was my first fiction, I wanted to know where I was going before I started writing. And the pacing of the book was very important to me; I wanted it to move along briskly, no dawdling! I really approached the format more like the three- act screenplay, than a traditional novel. I identified my key plot points before I every typed a word. I bet I had about 70% of the story mapped out as I started to write. I had cards for every scene, with the characters, the conflict and the resolution outlined. That being said, I was really surprised how many big, fun plot details came to me during the writing process. I think having a strong outline gave me confidence that I had enough “happening” in the book and my imagination just opened up during the day writing. I was so immersed in the story that I thought of almost nothing else. And lots of the extra details, situation and characters that made the book fun to write—and hopefully to read—came to me as I was writing. It’s definitely a writing model I will use again.

In the movie Helen of Pasadena, who would you LOVE to see play the roles of Helen, Patrick and Rochelle?  I am terrible at the casting game. Ter-ri-ble! But, as I was writing the book, I did keep picturing Kate Winslet as Helen and Hugh Jackman as Patrick. I know, neither is American, but I know both could pull off those roles. The Rochelle question is tricky, because all I can see are the faces of actual news anchors in my head, bedecked in bright red jackets and overdone make-up! Maybe Bridget Wilson Sampras could pull off Rochelle! Not that she’s anything like Rochelle, I’m sure.

In the back of the novel you mention that your next novel will be a character spin off from Helen. Have you started the writing it? The second book in this Rose City trilogy is also set in Pasadena and involves a woman from history inspiring a contemporary woman, like Helen of Pasadena. That’s all the details you are getting from me! I am both superstitious and suspicious of revealing too much about a work-in-progress. I live in Holly-wood land where, yes, people steal ideas all day long! I have started the outline, some of the research and really prepping to write. I have do a little more reading and research, but I should be ready to write in February. I am working on clearing my schedule and getting focused.

You don't talk much about what you are reading on the podcast but I know you must read all the time. What is the last book you read? What are you reading now? You’re right; I should talk more about books! But in one hour a week, there are so many things to cover, I don’t often get to books. This fall, I did a series of author interviews on Satellite Sisters, so I was tearing through The Wave by Susan Casey, The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman and My Hollywood by Mona Simpson. If left to my own devices, I read mostly fiction and funny non-fiction. I just finished Juliet by Anne Fortier, which I enjoyed. A little history and a little romance. Now, I have the new Nora Ephron book and the new Steve Martin book on my nightstand for the holidays. I LOVE reading books by comedy writers; it’s a sub-genre for me that I consider a specialty. You know why? They are very funny! And I like to laugh.

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