Friday, January 17, 2014

Author Spotlight - Lynn Marie Hulsman

Welcome to our first Author Spotlight of 2014! Yes, our Spotlights usually happen on a Thursday, and yes, today is Friday. The delay is entirely my fault. My baby started grade one yesterday and I took my eye right off the blog ball and focussed it on the family ball. [I'm sure you all understand, though!]

So, cracking on... today's spotlight author is a fellow Harper Impulse author. She hails from New York, keeps pet rats, is a stand-up comedienne, and has agreed to be a guinea pig to test out our new and improved set of interview questions.

Take it away, Lynn Marie.

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First of all, thank you for hosting me! It’s really nice when more established authors drag fellow authors up with them! I love it when women help women. It proves that there’s enough to go around, and the women really aren’t grown-up “mean girls” competing for scraps. For me, I feel that promoting popular fiction elevates and helps all women writers. Jennifer Weiner, one of my favourite authors, and a personal hero of mine, is a great living example of this practice.

Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

I was born in the southern United States, home of tall tales and the art of storytelling. I’ve now lived in New York City longer than anywhere else, which practically makes me a native. My job history qualifies me as either colourful and creative or “not a very serious person,” depending on your take. I’ve worked at an independent bookstore (Pages & Pages, fave job of all time), a Wine and Cheese shop (yes, I sampled…a LOT), a direct marketing firm specializing in cheesy casinos (We have the loosest slots!), as an Ideation Agent for major international corporations, (I helped invent a dial-your-color foundation makeup package), as a stand-up comic (Caroline’s/Don’t Tell Mama, etc.), as a pharmaceutical editor and proofreader (ask me anything about the prostate: I know), and as a non-fiction writer — ghosting, co-writing, and penning my own cookbook.

My two kids are the most fascinating creatures I’ve ever met, but I wish they’d go be fascinating somewhere else when I’m trying to write. Together with my husband, we like to go to Central Park, play with our Dumbo-eared rats (think Ratatouille, not Scabbers), make up song parodies, and go to water parks.

I love dogs, and have two elderly boys: Mo, my Schnoodle (blind and deaf), and Piglet, my Bedlington Terrier (bath dodger/pizza thief).

I live on the 26th floor of a midtown-Manhattan apartment building, and the view of the Times Square Jumbotron and the Hudson River almost makes up for the lack of square footage.

I love Downton Abbey as much as I love Arrested Development, I like to cook but cannot peel a mango, I don’t believe in white chocolate, and sleep is the object of my deepest desires.

What number book is this? First? 100th? 200th?(Nora only!)

This is my debut novel. I’ve been wanting to write a full-on book since I was 11. I suppose nothing happens before the time is right. Now that I’ve done it once, I’m raring to do it again.

What inspired this book?

What inspired the action of writing this book was my mother’s death. Having a concrete reminder that our time on earth is precious spurred me to start the process, and keep running until I crossed the finish line. It freed me from a lot of my fear. I think one thing most humans dread most is the loss of their mother. Once that happened, I was able to frame things in more perspective. If I could survive that, and adjust to it, I knew I could survive a random stranger telling me that my book isn’t their cup of tea.

Luckily, I was acquired by the perfect publisher for this story. Fate dealt me a kind hand in the form of my wonderful editor, Charlotte Ledger. I can’t imagine having made a better match, at a better time. From the public, I’ve gotten lots of warm response.

The important point, though is this: While the response has been lovely, writing the book was what mattered. I hope to continue to connect with readers, and to find my tribe. No matter what, though, I now know I need to write consistently for the rest of my time on earth in order to feel fulfilled.

Who or what was the inspiration for your hero?

My novel features more than one love interest, though I’m not sure they could both be strictly defined as heroes. Jasper Roth, an alpha-male investment banker, was inspired by a famous figure in the international financial world. I won’t name him here, because my inside glimpse into his daily life comes from a combination of information fed to me by someone who crosses paths with him in real life and my obsessive stalking of him in the news. I’ve come to find out that he’s the inspiration for at least one other fictional character. As in most fiction, the character has precious little to do with the real-life man. Still, when I hear tales of his daily life, I imagine the flesh-and-blood man to be like my creation.

Another love interest in my book, who is definitely not a hero, was inspired by an ex-love. The character’s name is Stephen. The man’s name is Stephen. The character wrote a novel, lived in Paris, and collects Warner Brothers cartoon cells. The man also did and does. The character is kind of an asshat. The man, well…Have I mentioned that it’s fun to be a fiction writer?

Have you any burning ambitions to write a story in a different genre?

While this book, and the second for which I’m contracted by HarperImpulse, is a Romantic Comedy, I have a healthy start on a historical women’s fiction book based on my grandmother’s experiences as a beautician around the time of the Great Depression. I spent years as a stand-up comic, and I own a comedy improv company. I know how to quip, be funny, and see the humor in situations. Still, the somber side of me wants to have its say. The jumping-off points of my grandmother’s stories were hilarious, but she had a dark lining in her life. I’d like to borrow her voice, and share some of what I believe she confided in me, only.

Do you have a writing routine? Do you write every day, and is there a time of day that works best for you in terms of being productive?

I’m a morning person, and I am most productive when I get out of bed, have a (ginormous) cup of coffee, and get down to business. My worst habit is editing as I go. I can fool myself into thinking I’m working, when in reality doing this is a procrastination technique. I think my personal issue is that writing straight through and seeing what I end up with is scary. The nagging question is: What if it’s not good? I have to constantly remind myself that no one writes a first draft that’s worth publishing. Pushing through that fear is what gets words on the page. As they say, “The editing is where the girls get separated from the women.” The other kiss of death for me is putting down a work in progress for too many days. I need to stay in the world, and keep the shape of the characters’ dialogue in my mouth. If I don’t stay on top of what I’m writing, it’s like a nightmarish game of “Mother May I?” in which I’m sent all the way back to the beginning to start all over. In short, I’ve found that while writing is joyful and fulfilling, it’s a job that requires discipline and commitment.

Are your friends supportive?

I never would have completed my first novel if not for my dear friend Kate, who never stopped asking me for more completed pages, and who never stopped telling me how much she liked what was developing. She is a brilliant theatre director, and dramaturg. She gave me an amazing gift by offering her feedback and suggestions. It helped so much, having someone aware of my progress. Ideally, I’d like a writer’s group. Finding and forming one that meets your needs, however, isn’t the easiest thing. I’d venture to say it’s more tricky and delicate than dating. You need the right chemistry, and mutual respect and trust is mandatory. Now that I’ve published, I have some wonderful author friends who are supporting me. It’s great to bounce problems and ideas off of other women in the same boat. With them, I can moan about my fears, ask for help when I’m stuck, and brag when I’m very impressed with myself or when I get a good review.

Mostly, I write at home, seated on my bed, which is terrible for my back and shoulders. I’m looking into getting a “standing desk.” They strike me as a little goofy, though, in the manner of a bean bag chair or yoga ball. When my family are around, I head out to The Center for Fiction. It’s so comforting to be surrounded by books and book lovers in that historic midtown-Manhattan building. In nice weather, I go to Bryant Park. They have free wifi and some of the most pleasant public restrooms in New York City.

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Thanks for joining us here today Lynn Marie. Though I had to stop reading at "26th floor apartment" as my vertigo kicked in.

For the record, her hero Jasper Roth is to die for. He was definitely my Best Book Boyfriend of the holiday season. Any chance I can get some more of him, Lynn Marie?

You can dowload Christmas at Thornton Hall from Amazon, Amazon UK, and all other major online retailers. Lynn Marie is available to chat on Facebook, Twitter and via her website.

Christmas at Thornton Hall

When Juliet Hill unwittingly discovers a most-definitely-not-hers-rhinestone-studded lace thong in her high-flying lawyer boyfriend's apartment, this usually feisty chef is suddenly single and facing a very blue Christmas - with only a ready meal for one to keep her company!

So when she's personally requested to cater for the family at Thornton Hall three days before Christmas, it's not long before Juliet's standing at the (back) door of the impossibly grand ancestral pile.

The halls are decked, the guests are titled, those below the stairs are delightfully catty, and all-American Juliet sets to work cooking up a glorious British Christmas with all the trimmings.

But other flames are burning besides those on the stove... Sparks fly with Edward, the gorgeous ex-soldier turned resident chef, and are those sidelong looks Juliet's getting from her boss, the American tycoon Jasper Roth?

As the snow starts to fall on the idyllic Cotswolds countryside, so does the veneer of genteel high society and there are more than a few ancient skeletons rattling out of the Hall's numerous dark cupboards!

CHRISTMAS AT THORNTON HALL is a country house romance for the modern age, a must-read for fans of the scandals and drama of Downton Abbey and the charm and wit of Helen Fielding.

1 comment:

Sally Clements said...

Thank you for going minxy, Lynn Marie! I love the sound of your book!