Romance is A Bag of Potato Chips

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I keep thinking about what my eight-year-old self used to think was the key to love and romance. Eight-year-old Stacey loved to imagine what it would be like to be a teenager in love. Obviously, every single notion of this I had came from the movies.

My all-time favorite movie is Meatballs. It’s classic Bill Murray. But more than that, it is all about coming of age at summer camp, for which I have professed my love all over this blog (see some proof).

meatballs

(image)

My favorite couple in Meatballs is, and always has been, A.L. (the girl) and Wheels (the boy). They are the “hottest couple from last summer,” but alas, they are broken up at the beginning of the movie. Camp gossip is aflutter about whether or not they will get back together (good thing this was pre-Taylor Swift).

Flash forward to one night when they are hanging out in her cabin. She forgot their third anniversary. But he remembered. He came prepared. He pulls out potato chips from a shopping bag and they have a picnic on her bed. And wait for it… they start dancing in the moonlight pouring into the cabin.   Here’s the clip:

To this day, cartoon hearts pop out of my eyes every single time I watch this scene. When I was eight years old and saw this for the first time, I was convinced that this was the most romantic thing that could have ever happened. All one needed to live happily ever after was a bag of potato chips.

Maybe my eight year self was onto something. Maybe it is the simplest gestures that end up meaning the most.

And when in doubt… bring potato chips! Because if the movies have taught me anything…

And you? What romantic movie scene did your childhood self think was the penultimate gesture of love?

Wishing you a wonderful Valentine’s Day. I hope it comes with Potato Chips (even if you buy them for yourself).

xoxo,
Stacey

Interview with Renee Rosen

NOTE: There are NO Dollface spoilers in this post. Feel free (and safe) to keep reading even if you are in the middle of the book!

After our ah-mazing discussion of Dollface, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to interview Renee Rosen about writing, the creative process and marketing.

rosen1

1. What was: (a) your favorite book as a child (b) the last book you read (c) the book you are currently reading and (d) the book you will read next?

a.) My favorite book as a child was Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. That book is responsible for my lifelong love of blueberries!
b.) The last book I read was A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.
c.) The book I’m currently reading is The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin (coming out in June 2014).
d.) My TBR pile is toppling over but I’ve promised myself that the next book I’m reading is Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole.

2. How did you make the leap from writing ad copy to writing fiction?

I wrote, submitted, got rejected. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Seriously, it took a long time for me to break in. I can remember getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning so I could write before I went into the various ad agencies I worked for. Then I came home and spent my evenings and weekends writing. I was forever querying agents and forever revising my drawer full of manuscripts. After years of rejection someone finally said yes! And all it takes it one. It was a lot of work, but I can definitely say it was worth it.

3. This is your second novel. What did you know about writing a second book that you didn’t know while writing your first?

I knew to avoid certain publishing nightmares, like including long song lyrics and other licensing traps. I also understood the importance of character arc and pacing better. My first novel was a character driven story whereas Dollface relied equally on plotting as much as character. It was a challenge but a great learning experience.

4. How do you come up with and cultivate ideas?

I’m really into history and usually I’ll turn to certain events that I think would make a particularly interesting backdrop for a story. Once I get a sense of time and place and breathe a certain amount life into my characters, they tend to take over. I never know what’s going to happen or what they’re going to do from one page to the next.

5. How many creative projects do you work on simultaneously? Relatedly, what’s your best time management tip?

Currently I’m jugging two books, though they’re in different phases. I’m still promoting Dollface while finishing up my next book What The Lady Wants. And somewhere in between I am starting to do preliminary research for the next book.

In terms of time management, I think deadlines really help—whether self-imposed or dictated by your editor. Something else that helps is setting daily goals. For me, I try to hit 2,000 words a day when I’m drafting something new. When I’m revising, I’ll set of goal of X-amount of pages for the day. From there it’s a matter of finding what works for you and your schedule. Some people are morning writers, other’s evening writers. Some write in spurts, others hit it every day. There’s really no right way and alas, there’s no shortcuts!

rosen2

6. Other authors I’ve interviewed have shared that a good portion of the marketing of their book is left in the author’s court. Do you agree or disagree? To what extent have you marketed DOLLFACE on your own?

There’s no doubt that more and more authors are taking on a more active role in marketing their books. And because my background was advertising and marketing, this seemed like a natural for me. But that said, I’ve had tremendous support from my publisher. I came to them with several unconventional ideas and they backed me 100%. Some of those included a gangster tour followed by a speakeasy party just for booksellers, reviewers and local media. Another fun thing we did was team up with the Chicago History Museum for a big blow out bash celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. We had over 400 people there complete with a band, dancing, mock casino and an open bar and food. It was great. Other tactics were more expected, like giveaways and a lot of social media postings, which is almost always up to the author.

7. What advice would you have for other creatives (like bloggers) on how to market themselves?

Since we live in the digital age, social media presents a tremendous opportunity for self-promotion if it’s done the right way. When it comes to social media I think the key is to be yourself and be sincere. If you’re not being genuine I think people can see right through it. Also have fun with it and let your personality come through. And remember it’s important to strike the right balance between promoting yourself and providing entertainment or information that your followers/readers/etc. will find engaging.

8. What has been your favorite part of the Dollface experience?

Oh my goodness—I’ve seriously enjoyed every phase. I loved the research and writing and loved the editing process but I suppose my most rewarding experiences have been in meeting with readers and talking about my gangsters. I just think material is such fun that I’ve really enjoyed sharing it with people.

9. Dollface featured a cadre of very strong women. How purposeful was this depiction? Do you see yourself in any of the women?

While I don’t see myself in the any of the characters, people who know me say they see glimpses of me here and there. But the decision to have strong women play such a dominant role in the story really came from an editor who encouraged me to move the men to the sidelines and tell this story from the woman’s POV. Once I did that the women naturally grew stronger and bolder.

10. Care to share any details about your next novel, What the Lady Wants?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked! I’m very excited about this next one! What the Lady Wants: A Novel of the Gilded Age tells the story the Chicago retail tycoon, Marshall Field and his 30-year illicit love affair with his neighbor, Delia Caton. Starting with the Great Fire of 1871, this novel covers a lot of ground, including the growth a Marshall Field’s & Company, the Haymarket Riots, The 1893 World’s Fair, the mysterious death of Marshall Field Junior and ultimately the emergence of Chicago as a major city. There’s a lot of twists and turns wrapped around one of the all-time great love stories.

A major thank you to Renee for letting me interview her. Because I’m such a lover of books and because I think crafting a novel is such an amazing (and hard) endeavor, I’m always in awe when I get to ask a writer questions. It’s my absolute favorite kind of celebrity sighting!

And you? Lots of questions for you: what did you think of Renee’s creative process? What did you think of her time management and self-promotion tips? Have you tried those? Do you have tips of your own to share?

And just one more question coming your way: What was: (a) your favorite book as a child (b) the last book you read (c) the book you are currently reading and (d) the book you will read next?

Until next time!

xoxo,
Stacey

Smiles, Quotes and Links #5

Hi Friends!

Enjoy Every Moment // Likes to Smile

(Image via Unsplash)

Ever since I came back from Mexico, I keep daydreaming about finding a way to get myself to another tropical destination for President’s Day weekend. Most likely, that will remain a daydream. But I am trying to think up some equally wonderful things I would enjoy doing every moment during that weekend in NYC. What could you do that would make you enjoy every moment (even if for a short amount of time)?

And now for some link love. I swoon for:

1) This Je Te Desire Valentine’s Day DIY. Je t’aime!

2) I overuse “Je T’aime.” Which obviously means, this would be a perfect Valentine’s Day present for me.

3) David Bruton: substitute teacher and Denver Bronco’s safety. The substitute teaching has me super impressed.

It’s a light week, admittedly. I’m still trying to figure out my new routine with the new job (still wonderful).

My favorite thing that happened this week was Wednesday’s post where I chatted with you. I love hearing about you because I will never, ever be able to articulate how warmed my heart is by the fact that you read my ramblings here.

So one more question for all of you for some smiles this weekend:

Next Friday is Valentine’s Day. Love it or hate it?

I love a good Valentine’s Day, First Grade style. The kind where you give every friend a nice note and everyone feels the same amount of love. I even appreciate the teachers for making sure everyone made one for everyone else. Group unity. Inclusion. The best kind of Valentine’s Day.

Speaking of remarkable teachers: this one wins a prize. I believe she is saving lives.

Until next time!

xoxo,
Stacey

Let’s Chat #6

Yeah, baby! Let’s Chat: February version is in the house (err…on the blog). Time for you and I to get our chatter on. I couldn’t be more pumped.

likes-to-smile-lets-chat-6
(Image via Unsplash)

I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions now (and share my responses below). If you answer in the comments, I promise to write you back!

Take Five:

1) What was your New Year’s resolution and how has it held up over the last month?
2) Exercising: by yourself or with a group?
3) What is your favorite winter meal?
4) What was your favorite childhood book series?
5) If you could wave a magic wand and grant yourself one talent: what would it be?

My Answers:

1) NEW YEAR’S. My resolution was to have more fun. Many bloggers have pointed out how trendy and cliched this resolution is, but alas, I really do think it is necessary for my mental health given the to-do list tunnel vision with which I took on the end of 2013. Thus far in 2014: I’ve seen a Billy Joel concert, been to Mexico and started a new job (that I’m loving). This resolution and I were made to dance together.

2) EXERCISE. I’m splitsies on this this one. On the one hand, I like exercising in small group classes or with one other person. I find that I get the best workouts in these situations because I push myself harder. But…I also love to crank up the iPod shuffle and just go for a long while on the elliptical. Just so long as I’m all #goalgetit.

3) WINTER MEAL. Macaroni and cheese. But the real deal, not the from the box stuff. It is the best, most comforting food on a cold, wintery day. Winner, winner, macaroni and cheese dinner.

4) BOOK SERIES. Total toss-up. Either The Baby-Sitters Club (Kristy really did have a great idea) or Camp Sunnyside Friends. I spent a lot of years babysitting and a lot of years at camp. Cue the foreshadowing!

5) TALENT. The ability to sing on key. It’s the ultimate party trick. And one I, sadly, do not possess.

And you? I would love to know how you would answer the questions. I’m so looking forward to chatting with you in the comments!

Until next time!

xoxo,
Stacey

Likes to Smile Book Club – Dollface

HOLY PROHIBITION BATMAN!

It had been so long since I had picked up this book, what with my insane November and December, that when I was in Cancun, I started over. I read it all in one day. Dollface might be my favorite book I’ve read in a long, long time, regardless of whether or not I’m related to the writer (hi, Aunt Renee!).

Which is why, I’m so excited it’s finally discussion day! Should we get this party started?!

Likes to Smile Book Club Dollface Discussion!

Here are our questions:
1) Every Likes to Smile Book Club discussion starts the same way! Let’s cast the book! Which actors should play Vera, Shep and Tony? Feel free to cast any other parts, as well.
2) There were many friendships portrayed in the book. Which was your favorite?
3) Likewise, there were many relationships portrayed in the book. Which was your favorite?
4) The women portrayed in this book were incredibly strong. Who did you relate to the most?
5) Vera spent a lot of energy trying not to become her mother, only to end up taking over the family business. Did you foresee this or were you surprised when you read it?
6) What was your favorite part?
7) What question did I fail to ask that you are dying to discuss? Propose it in the comments and we can all chat away about it!

I’ll answer the questions here and you can answer in the comments. Feel free to comment on one another’s answers and get a discussion going. And if you leave a comment, I promise to respond.

My answers:
1) CASTING THE BOOK: I choose Amy Adams for Vera; Chris Noth for Shep (or Dan Bucatinsky); and Matthew McConaughey as Tony. I also cast Leighton Meester as Basha.

2) FAVORITE FRIENDSHIP: Basha paired with almost anyone. Basha was very pragmatic, she knew exactly the world she was in and she made no apologies for it. She also understood the emotions that came with being a “gun moll” in said world and just knew when to show up, pour a drink and be supportive. I was captivated by her in every scene she appeared in and found myself eager to discover what she might say next.

3) FAVORITE RELATIONSHIP: Shep and Vera. Despite knowing from almost the get-go that there was no way those two would have a “hollywood-happy-ending,” I found myself rooting for it throughout the book. As he walked into the Clark Street garage, I kept whispering under my breath, “Will you just listen to her?”

Shep also had a code of honor I admired, albeit a very twisted code. He really believed it was his job to protect and care for his family. He also treated his family with a great deal of respect. I never got the sense that he was one to have a girlfriend on the side.

4) FAVORITE FEMALE: Vera. That girl has grit. And gumption. I was particularly taken with how she managed to pull herself and Evelyn into an illegal business to find the money she needed for herself and Hannah. Her brain was set on making it happen, and so she did. I would never involve myself in an illegal business, but I enjoyed watching her go after her goals (no matter how misguided those may have been).

5) ON BECOMING HER MOTHER: This is precisely why I felt it was the best book I’ve read in a long, long time. I did not foresee it coming at all; but when I read it, all I could think was “of course, that makes sense.” The author left breadcrumb after breadcrumb, leaving the perfect trail to the end. And still… I didn’t see it coming. The first hint was left in all the discussion of her dreading that lifestyle, the smell, and the dirty fingernails. But then, when she became a boot-legger herself and noted that she learned negotiation from her mother…

Following the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, I knew that no one would take care of Vera (especially after discovering her relationship with Tony) and I wondered how she would fare now. Still, I hoped it wouldn’t turn to her running her family’s business. But, “of course!”

Somewhere during the reading of the book, I fell a bit in love with Vera and my heart broke for her that she ended up working for Abramovitz Meats. It felt like a cruel twist of fate, even for a girl who got caught up in a world of gangsters.

6) FAVORITE PART: How do I pick just one? I think my favorite part was the depiction of 1920’s Chicago. Just imagining the era was riveting. What it must have been like to have been a flapper and to be taken to all those restaurants and speakeasys! Didn’t it just make you wish you were there to witness it in person?! It was easy to find compassion for how Vera (and Evelyn) could so easily get themselves caught up in that lifestyle. I was caught up in it from the novel alone!

7) YOUR TURN: Propose a question!

And you? What did you think of the book? I cannot wait to read your answers in the comments! That others read Dollface and came to participate in a Likes to Smile Book Club Discussion warms my heart. Thank you!

Until next time!

xoxo,
Stacey