How much of the book is realistic?
I think anyone who has lived in Los Angeles or has worked in the entertainment industry will feel a tingle of recognition upon reading Charlotte Dent. Charlotte is an amalgam of various actors I’ve known; to me, her experiences working in plays and on film sets seem very authentic. There’s a strong sense of place in the book: drab Hollywood Boulevard, the sticky and stinky La Brea Tar Pits, the dazzling Getty Museum, the gorgeous yet forgotten downtown buildings.
How important do you think villains are in a story?
I love a good heavy. In general, though, I prefer writing antagonists, i.e. someone who stands in the way of the protagonist’s goals but who may have an excellent reason for doing so, to outright villains. There’s no true villain inCharlotte Dent, but there’s no shortage of characters who have no interest in helping her on her journey, and a few who are actively hindering her progress. Conflict is vital to a story, and if a book doesn’t have both a protagonist and an antagonist working against each other, it’s probably not going to hold my attention.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
I bounce around genres a lot. Charlotte Dent pretty much fits the chick lit mold, Bias Cut is a mystery (though its setting in the fashion industry pulls it a bit towards chick lit as well), Wrong City is contemporary fantasy set in the film industry, and Lonely Satellite, which is an alternate-timeline reimagining of Bias Cut, is post-apocalyptic sci-fi. My upcoming release, Preppies of the Apocalypse, is young adult fantasy. I read a lot of different genres; I suppose it’s only natural I’d write in different ones, too.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Sitting down and doing it, by far. Ideas are easy; rewriting is… well, it’s not easy, per se, but it’s not the hardest part of the process. That first draft, coming up with tens of thousands of words to shape a story, is brutal. Also, I have the attention span of a hummingbird; I get distracted far too easily. The only way I can get through the process intact is by churning out as many words as I can each day, no breaks, until the blasted thing is done. Then I set it aside for weeks, or even months, and work on other projects until I feel ready to begin the rewrite.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
My prose style is pretty minimalist—I like going from Point A to Point B using the barest minimum of words necessary to get my point across. My writing is often described as “crisp” and “fresh”, which I think is apt. My default point-of-view is third person, past tense, though I’ve experimented with first-person as well. I rarely use adverbs; I don’t use dialogue tags other than “said” or “asked”. I use an abundance of sentence fragments, particularly when setting a scene. I’d like to become more adept at complex metaphors, but right now, most of my attempts at metaphor result in some awful purple prose. I envy poets.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I’ve had days where it’s been especially difficult to write, but writer’s block has never incapacitated me. I’ve never been unable to complete a project before a set-in-stone deadline, in other words. On days when the words aren’t flowing easily, I have a few tricks to get through it. Writing longhand in a notebook instead of on my laptop sometimes helps. Or I’ll just type out all the dialogue in a chapter and leave the descriptions for later. If all else fails, I might skip over the troublesome part entirely and move on to the next section, then return to it at a later time.
How did you come up with the title?
I agonized about the title for Charlotte Dent for a long time, because it seems like a cop-out to just use the main character’s name. But it’s a good name, and it ties into the themes of the book—there’s something damaged about Charlotte, so “Dent” seemed appropriate, and “Charlotte Dent” sounds something like “charlatan”, which plays into the themes of finding an identity and feeling like an imposter. So… it stuck. It’s not the most glamorous and exciting title, but it fits.
Who is your favorite author and why?
William Gibson. With all the fuss about the prescience of his writing (this, after all, is the man who coined both the term and the concept of cyberspace, way back in 1984), not enough is said about the beauty of his prose. If there’s a better way to start a book than the opening sentence of his debut novel Neuromancer—“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel”—I’ve yet to find it.
Can we expect any more books from you in the future?
Oh, yes. If all goes according to plan, if I can stick to my schedule, I should have two more out this year, both of which I’m currently rewriting: Preppies of the Apocalypse, a young adult sci-fi book adapted from a screenplay I wrote in the late nineties (“Preppies of the Apocalypse” is also the name of my blog; I picked it because all Google results for that term lead directly to me), and then an as-yet-untitled contemporary fantasy book set in the same vaguely surreal version of Los Angeles as my book Wrong City. It’s not a sequel, though some of the characters from Wrong City cross over into it.
Can you tell us about your main character?
Charlotte’s an unsuccessful actress in Los Angeles. She’s pushing thirty, and she’s well aware that, in the eyes of the entertainment industry, her expiration date for stardom is fast approaching. She’s smart, introspective, self-aware and plagued with self-doubts. She’s someone who probably would’ve been far better off picking a career path other than “aspiring movie star”, because that self-awareness and those self-doubts are really going to get in her way as she goes through the book.
When struggling actress Charlotte Dent is cast as a leggy killer robot in a big, brainless summer blockbuster, the subsequent hiccup of fame sends a shock wave through her life. The perks of entry-level celebrity are balanced by the drawbacks: destructive filmmakers, online ridicule, entitled costars, and an awkward, unsatisfying relationship with the film’s fragile leading man. Self-aware to a fault, Charlotte fights to carve out a unique identity in an industry determined to categorize her as just another starlet, disposable and replaceable. But unless she can find a way to turn her small burst of good fortune into a durable career, she’s destined to sink back into obscurity.
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Genre - General Fiction, Chick Lit
Rating - PG
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