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Please welcome Stephanie Zia for this week's Unread Interview! Stephanie is promoting her latest book, Ten Good Reasons to Lie About Your Age!
Unread Interview is a series where I feature authors whose books I couldn't accept for review because of time or logistics issues.
From Amazon: When Sally Lightfoot’s music producer husband is suddenly killed in an accident, Sally has to put her life back together from scratch. But what life? Her kids have grown up and now she’s no longer a wife. Or a backing singer. Or even a caterer to the endless turnover of rock bands passing through Strawberry Hill Studios’ kitchen. To make matters worse her caring but interfering neighbour, Val, appoints herself as Principal Grieving Companion. One year on and harmonising and blending in threaten to become Sally’s undoing. Her old rock chick mate Ramone’s suggestion that she should get back out there and lose her ‘wididity’, her born-again virginity, before it’s too late falls on deaf ears. Her husband is irreplaceable. Until, on a much-needed holiday to the romantic Greek island of Hydra, spiritual home of the affluent hippie, Sally meets Loro, a Leonard Cohen tribute artist who bears more of a resemblance to Cat Stevens circa 1972. Cupid’s challenge to sensible Sally’s decision to age gracefully forces silly Sally into making a move. Will she win a short, sweet romance or merely add humiliation and rejection to her long list of woes?.Paperback Version at Create Space.
Tell us a bit about your book (s).
Ten Good Reasons To Lie About Your Age is a romantic comedy about a woman of 50 back on the dating scene. Sally Lightfoot is a funky backing singer who's seen the raunchier side life. She's lived fast and loose. Touring with David Bowie and Queen in the 70s, she met her sound engineer turned music producer husband, Dom, and settled down. But, when she doesn't know which way to turn after his sudden death, her skills at harmonising becomes her undoing. One year on and she still doesn't know what to do with herself. Should she age gracefully like her dull, interfering but kind neighbor Val? Or should she follow her feisty rock chick singer friend Ramone's advice and get herself out there again and lose her 'wididity' her born-again virginity, before it's too late? At first she dismisses Ramone's advice. Dom was/IS her one and only true love. And, besides, what chance is there of a stray, suddenly-single Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall type rocking up, all sexy salty hair and rubber wellies, who'd be interested in HER? Even if by some fluke George Clooney himself were to leap on her from behind a bush she wouldn't be up for it. The thought of dating again is gross. And why would she want all that fuss, bother and trauma that her poor daughter Ami was going through with her wayward charity hero Oxfam Pete? With added flabby bits? No, gardening, chocolate and sudoku is the way to go. But she didn't reckon on meeting Loro, a Leonard Cohen tribute artist who sings to the tourists on the gorgeous Greek island of Hyrda, Cohen's old stomping ground. They're the same age and get on well but he only has eyes for the girls and doesn't, she know, see her 'in that way'. Egged on by Ramone's wididity challenge and bar owner Barry's insistence that if she wants something she has to ask for it, Sally finally plucks up courage to leave her comfort zone to face the possibility of humiliation and rejection square on.
Have you ever wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing "seriously"?
No. I used to work on BBC documentaries about writers, have always loved reading and was fascinated by their lives but didn't for a second think it was something I could do. The turnabout came when I won a BBC staff competition to make a short 10' documentary for primetime TV. My film 'Applause'about why people clap, was repeated 4 times and shown at a special screening at an arts centre. I was hooked on the creative process! But I couldn't get my foot in the documentary door, I had the ideas but was too shy to network. I gave up TV when my daughter was born and, in 1996, took a beginner's evening class in writing to get out of the flat for a couple of hours a week. I went to the class for 3 years, writing short stories and entering competitions and completely loved it. I love film-making but it was so refreshing to be able to create without having to get a budget and a film crew together! My first novel, Baby on Board (Piatkus) was published in 2003.
Do you read much? What kind of books do you usually read?
I've always read a lot. I love libraries, the randomness of not knowing what you'll find, the kindness of librarians. everything about them and have been going since a small child. I read all sorts of books. Early favourites were Enid Blyton, George Orwell, Graham Greene, Paramhansa Yogananda. Then came Richard Brautigan, Russell Hoban, Kurt Vonnegut, Jonathan Raban. Books I read over and over are Sybille Bedford's Jigsaw, John Steinbeck's Cannery Row and Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. Heading the list of contemporary authors I love are Marian Keyes and Lisa Jewell and I've just discovered Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad. My favourite poets are Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin.
What are your favorite or least favorite scenes to write?
When characters are talking to each other and something develops I didn't expect. To me it's usually the story itself that takes on a life of its own rather than the characters. That's when I know something's happening, when the stuff arises from the subconscious without me knowing it. That's the drug!
Do you relate more to any of your characters? Why?
For all of my 3 published novels, and the several partial unpublished ones, I've always written in the third person from the close perspective of the main character's viewpoint. So, usually, it's just that. But sometimes another character threatens to take over. In Ten Good Reasons, Ramone is such a strong, feisty type I had to keep her in check. She kept butting in, and had an affair with Sally's son at one point. That had to come out as Ramone was pulling the story up a blind alley, trying to make it all about her rather than all about Sally.
Which genre do you feel it would be a challenge to write?
Probably a crime thriller, I wouldn't like to have to deal with evil and gore in my day job. I'd like to write historical fiction one day, to immerse myself and feel the wind of another time, another age. That must be thrilling.
What inspires you? And how's your writing environment - music, place, etc.?
Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones' Diary inspired me to break away from short stories and write my first novel. Like countless millions of others I felt I WAS her! I'd just had a baby and so wrote about that in a Bridget Jones type of way. I do lay claim a bit though. I worked in the same TV department as Bridget did, lived in Notting Hill Gate and drank in the same bar - 192 - with my girlfriends. Frequently falling off stools, too, after too much Chardonnay and getting involved in wrong relationships. I've moved back to this area recently and am sad to see that 192 is no longer there.
What would you say about the book - your words, no blurbs! - to convince someone to read your book?
I hope I've conveyed that feeling of identity with the main character. That's what gets readers hooked in I think. And there's a real shortage of good, raunchy up to date fiction for older women. I'm thrilled with the first reviews just coming in which would confirm that. The Huffington Post says: "Sally feels real, like a neighbor or a friend and that makes the story take on a presence of its own. It is a story of hope and learning to love yourself, to find that inner you that sometimes is lost when we make other's lives more important than our own."
What are your plans for the future, writing-wise? New books, sequels, publishing deals, etc.
Too many projects! I am looking forward to getting back to writing my epic children's novel, a fantasy journey with an ecological, environmental edge. I got about half way before stopping, overwhelmed by the myriad avenues it was going down. The characters, idea and main story are all there but I need to take a firm hold of them and pull the storyline into shape before starting again. I'm excited by the new ePub3.0 Acrobat Adobe system that's slated to come out later this year. I found out all about this at my first visit to the London Book Fair last week. The Russian crime author superstar Boris Akunin demonstrated how his new novel will embrace this new technology. You'll have to pay attention to the story, listen out for clues as well as looking in embedded video and audio. It's completely mind-blowing and I will have these new author tools in mind when I restructure! But before the children's novel I have another commercial women's fiction novel shaped and started and I really, really want to start on this literary novel idea that's just a germ at the moment but it's a powerful one that won't leave me alone!
Thank you Stephanie, for your time and success in your future projects!