Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Nadine's Website Promo Blitz - Day 4

The end is almost upon us! Wow - it passed so fast... maybe because promo week also coincides with an especially busy period at work for me, but I've managed so far, so maybe I'll treat myself to a mojito tonight... or two (who am I kidding... I'll take any excuse for a mojito, whether deserved or not! Speaking of mojitos, they can be very hit-or-miss, as my editor Paul, who recently tried his first and hated it, can attest. I've just discovered a place here in Cayman which does a fantastic job of them, and if I can twist the bartender's arm, I may just reward you faithful blog readers with a recipe one day...)

But I digress. Without further ado, I bring you the winner of Cathy Yardley's Chick Lit How-to book as well as a critique from your truly... Erin E!!!!! Erin, show thyself and you shall receive your prize.

Yesterday's question was a toughie that even I got wrong the when I did the quiz, so I am absolutely flabbergasted that you all got it right (could it be that I get the cyber equivalent of blasting the answer through a blow horn right into your ears??)

That's right, over 60% of Arab Americans are Christians of various denominations, the most important of which is Catholic. This is exemplified in my novel through Sophie and Jaz, the two major secondary characters, who are Christian. How can this be when most Arabs are Muslim, you ask? There is a very logical is somewhat unscientific explanation... (feel free to skip over the history lesson to straight to our featured author interview, I won't hold it against you, promise).

Well, just like the Puritans of yore escaped to discovered lands so they could establish a society where they wouldn't be the downtrodden minority, so did Christian Arabs (like the famous Khalil Gibran of 'The Prophet' fame) emigrate to North America in the 1800s, where their religion would no longer be an issue as it was in some Arab countries, depending on which way the wind blew (this is a bit of an exaggeration as Muslim Arabs were for the most part very tolerant of their Christian brethren, but I can see some Christians getting nervous every time religious fundamentalism makes a a comeback... which it is these days. This has not always been the case throughout history).

Nowadays, larger numbers of Muslim Arabs are emigrating to North America. When I was a growing up in Montreal, I was one of a handful of Arab Muslim kids in a predominantly Lebanese neighborhood. I counted many more 'Maroun's (a very typical Christian Maronite name) than Mohammeds among my acquaintances. If you went to my old neigborhood now, the picture would be quite different.

So, all this to say, unless the Arab you meet at work, at school, or in the street is wearing a head scarf or is called Mohammed, it's a safe bet they're Christian. Surprised? Thought so. In fact, unless they go out of their way to tell you, most Arab-American/Canadians, whether Muslim, Christian, Druze, or a passionate atheist, are in fact an invisible minority, and you'd never know you were speaking to one. So be nice. But you were going to be nice anyway, right ; )

The history/sociology lesson officially ends here, and we get down to the REAL businesses at hand... today's featured author, fellow Tor/Forge author, Shannon Mckeldon!!!

Shannon holds the honor of being the first humorous women's fiction writer bought by Tor/Forge's Natasha Panza. For those of you who don't know, Tor is an imprint known mostly for their Sci Fi and paranormals, while Forge delves into mainstream fiction. We, Shannon's writer friends, are very anxiously awaiting the release of her debut novel because Shannon is a lovely person and we adore her, and also because the title of her novel totally rocks: Venus Envy. (and it's out for pre-order on Amazon...)

1. What inspires you to write?

I'd have to say it's the love of reading, the love of good books. I've wanted to write since I was in 6th grade and began to see that the short stories I wrote got rave reviews from my teachers. I've sold a few short stories over the years to confessions mags, but my first love is books. Just seeing all the wonderful novels on the shelves and wanting to see my own up there is all the inspiration I need.

2. Do you have a writing routine, if so, what is it?

I really don't have much of a routine. I have arranged my hours at my job to give me three days a week where I'm available to write when my kids are in school. However, too often, I have to work extra and don't get that time in. I'm a bit of a binge-writer, too, I'd say. I can't write in little 5- to 10-minute increments like some writers can. It takes me longer to get into my work, so I write best in long stretches.

3. Have you developed any tricks or self-manipulation techniques to keep your butt in the chair and writing?

Does guilt count? When I go too long without writing--because I am an awful procrastinator--I begin to feel so guilty that I just have to write.

4. What are you reading at the moment?

I've been reading a lot of Harlequin NeXt books lately. I'm reading one now called SUBURBAN SECRETS by Donna Birdsell, and I'm loving it! It's really fun...and funny. I also read a lot of paranormal, which I didn't used to read at all. But, now that I've written what is basically a paranormal romance, I kind of had to figure out what's available in this genre.

5. What's the biggest myth about being a writer?

That it's easy. That you can just "whip out" a full-length book based on an idea you get. It just doesn't work that way. I don't know how many books I've started to write with an idea, and it doesn't pan out because there's not enough to the idea to carry it out. Doesn't mean I can't use the idea elsewhere someday, but it by no means "easy."

6. What advice would you give to budding authors?

Never, ever, ever give up. It might not happen today or tomorrow, or with your 5th or 10th book, but it can't happen at all if you give up. I look back at when I had written my 2nd or 3rd book and how much I wanted to be published back then...but you know, I really don't think I was as ready for it as I thought I was. I am in a much better place now for taking on this career than I was then. So don't give up no matter what. I guess you have to make the decision that you are either going to keep going until you sell because you want it that much and are willing to keep learning until you get it right, or you aren't meant to be a writer in the first place. Harsh, but true. I even had to go through that myself once...making the decision to either be willing to keep going until I sold or just give it up right then and move on to other things in my life. The fact that I couldn't imagine with what else I would fill the gaping whole left behind if I didn't write, was enough to tell me that I was willing to keep trying until I succeeded.

7. What can readers expect from you in the future?

Hopefully I will be working on the next Venus book very soon. Venus ENVY is part of a trilogy, so there will be at least two more books from that. I'd also love to write YA and contemporary romance genres.

8. How long does it take you to write a novel?

You know, that all depends on how well thought out the idea is. VENUS ENVY took me six months AFTER I finally had the idea down pat. I've written books in as short as four months, before, though. Or I've taken much, much longer. And I don't always think that the ones that take longer are necessarily better. :-)

9. Is it harder to start or finish a novel?

Hmmm...I don't know. Sometimes the momentum of beginning a novel propels me
forward. But other times I have a hard time getting started. I do know that a sticky part for me is usually long about the two-thirds to three-quarters point. I've realized after 5 completed novels that it is at that point that my brain is trying to root out what the book is REALLY about. I usually get stuck and feel like I can't move forward anymore, but I've come to trust the process and realize that if I just step back and let it sit a while, I can usually figure out what is trying to come to the surface. And then the end of the book usually comes pretty quickly after that.

10. How did you go about finding an agent and do you think it's necessary to have one?

I think having an agent is pretty important. Especially after seeing the contract I got and realizing that it was like reading Chinese for me. My agent is indispensable for stuff like that. Plus it leaves the writer with the ability to have a writing relationship with their editor and to not have to deal with the sometimes sticky business aspect of things. I found my agent, Deidre Knight, by querying various agents listed by Romance Writers
of America. She took me on based on my 3rd completed book (my first chicklit). We shopped that one and one other around before I finished VENUS ENVY, which is the one that finally sold.

11. How do you deal with writer's block?

I'm not really sure there IS such a thing as writer's block. I tend to think, in my case, that it is sheer laziness that prevents me from writing. And writing isn't always about putting the words on paper. Sometimes it's a mental thing, thinking out the problems, imagining the scenes. I find that when I'm stuck it's because I haven't been mentally going over the book as much as I should. I've been filling my mind with other things, busy work. I find that driving in the car with no radio on and no other distractions really helps me get past any "blocks" I may think I have.

12. We've all heard the adage "write what you know", but some of us have also heard "write what you can imagine". With a novel told from the perspective of a fashion-minded, millennia-old Greek goddess, you've clearly taken the latter nugget of wisdom and run with it. How did you manage to get into character when writing Venus, to figure out what she's like, what she would be thinking, and how she'd react? And how much fun was it write this character?

Venus was a BLAST to write! The whole book started with her and blossomed from there. Okay, really, it started with the title. I was sick of never having good titles and determined to find a great title for a book. Somehow VENUS ENVY popped into my head and I knew I had to write a book for it! So my next step was, "Who is Venus and why does someone envy her?" It wasn't until Venus told me she was really the goddess who had been banished here on Earth by her very unfair, irrational father that all the rest started to fall into place.

Venus was very easy to get into. Not sure why, as I am the most un-fashion-minded person alive. I wouldn't know Prada from Gucci if it was labeled clearly in front of me. But Venus did, so that was all that counted. I kept on my monitor a picture of Portia de Rossi, in a siren red dress, looking all pouty and misunderstood, as my vision of Venus. I really and truly can't explain why she was so easy. She was, by far, the easiest character in the book to hear. I can't wait to write the next book just to see what Venus comes up with next!

Thanks so much for being here Shannon! [insert load, obnoxious applause here]

Alright people, today's prize is really special - Shannon's novel hasn't even hit the shelves yet - I haven't even read it yet - and I'm giving it away. Sigh. Consider yourselves spoilt. To today's very lucky winner goes a copy of this collector's item and I'm also throwing in a set of postcards, direct from Cuba. To clean your palette from the spate of serious questions you've had lately, here's one on a subject near and dear to my heary... fashion! (And though that website will help somewhat, you'll have to google some names here, unless of course Instyle is your version of crack, is it is for me, then this'll be a piece of baclava...) Here's your question, drop me a line via the In Touch page on my website, and you're entered to win:

Which of the following fashion designers is NOT Arab or of Arab origin?

a) Reem Acra
b) Issac Mizrahi
c) Norma Kamali
d) Elie Saab

... on your marks, get set, pick up your Instyles!


Erin said...

I'm here, I'm here!

Kim Stagliano said...

Nadine, I hope I get this right. Assalamu Alaikem. Love seeing Shannon's interview here. History lessons are important too -- keep them up!


Nadine Dajani said...

Ha ha! Yes, al'salam alekum is correct but pretty formal as it translates to 'may peace be upon you'. 'Ahlan wa sahlan', 'ahlayn' or 'marhaba' all mean hello.

I SO should have been an interpreter instead of an accountant... I live for words, in all languages.

MariaGeraci said...

Nice interview. Shannon's book, *and* a set of Cuban postcards? I think I'm going to have to enter that contest!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview :)

Ovation Leader said...

Wonderful interview with Shannon. And you're right, VENUS ENVY is a title worth envying.

I think the fashion designer not of Arab descent is Elie Saab.


lacey kaye said...

I loved absolutely EVERYTHING about this blog :-) And YAY for Shannon!

EntertainUs said...

c) Norma Kamali

Great interview.

Sam said...

Another gal from a Christian Arab family waves hello!
(your book looks delightful - I can't wait til it comes out!)

Shannon McKelden said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone! Glad you liked the interview. Good luck in the contest!