Interview with Jennifer Echols

Today I am thrilled to welcome the tremendous author Jennifer Echols! Her latest book, Love Story, was released just last week and although it wasn't a big hit with me, I still am a major, major fan of her earlier novel Going Too Far. So needless to say I was thrilled when Jennifer kindly agreed to answer some questions about Love Story and writing in general.
How would you describe the writing process for Love Story? Were Erin and Hunter fully formed in your head from day one or did their story evolve along the way?

I always write blindly and randomly for about 150 pages, then figure everything out, then write the rest of the book by filling in the blanks, knowing exactly where I’m going.

Love Story is about a girl who wants to become a romance novelist. Did you dream of writing in a particular genre yourself? Which one?

Early on I wanted to be the next Hemingway. I think most English majors are taught to think this way. Also, when I was growing up, my mother had an extremely snobby attitude toward romance novels, as if that was the worst, most damaging thing I could read--even though she was handing me her Mary Stewart books! But at some point I realized that even though I was trying to write more literary fiction, the part of my stories that interested me most was the romance. I decided to concentrate on that. And happily, my mother has lost her snobby attitude, because I have introduced her to Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, and Jennifer Crusie.

Of all the characters you've ever written, which one do you love or connect with the most? The least?

Lori in The Boys Next Door and Endless Summer is the character most like me. I was pretty frustrated with my editor when I started The Boys Next Door because I had gone around and around with her about the idea. So I just wrote exactly what I wanted to, so there. I thought it was funny and I really didn’t care whether anybody else thought so or not. When I sent it to my critique partner to read, she wrote me an e-mail that said, “OH MY GOD YOU HAVE WRITTEN YOURSELF!”

I feel some connection with the bad guys in my stories. As a writer you have to understand where they’re coming from or they won’t be believable. But the villain I have disliked most is Zoey’s father in Forget You. A lot of readers have picked up on this and mentioned it in their reviews. He is cold but scarily familiar.

Recently you announced that you have quit your job as a copyeditor to become a full-time writer (Huzzah! Congrats!). Maybe this is a bit premature, but are you now feeling the pressure to produce even more books or are you just reveling in the absolute freedom of being able to focus on your writing full-time?

Thank you so much! Honestly, I have always written a lot faster than the publishing industry wanted to go. For instance, I wrote Going Too Far in 2005, and it was published in 2009. I wrote Forget You in 2007, and it was published in 2010. My hope is always that I have a contract to write something new, but typically what happens is that I have deadlines and stress and write non-stop for several months, and then it’s all over and I am depressed and write something I’m not sure will ever sell and become convinced that I will never publish a book again. I hope that will not happen on March 1 when I finish writing the last of my books currently under contract, but I’m reasonably sure it will.

Are there any books out there you find yourself recommending over (and over) again? 

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, One Night That Changes Everything by Lauren Barnholdt...and I haven’t yet read Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore, but I’m dying to, and it’s gotten a starred review from Kirkus. It’s coming out a week before Love Story, on July 12.

Free White Cat Download

If you haven't had a chance to start into Holly Black's a-MAZ-ing Curse Workers series, then I seriously recommend that you take a moment and go sign up for the Random House newsletter which will give you a free audiobook version of White Cat, book one (here's my review of White Cat and Red Glove). It's narrated by Jesse Eisenberg and is awesome stuff. Happy Wednesday.

Quick Harry Potter Recap

Anyone else planning on going to see the very last Harry Potter tonight? Well if you didn't find yourself with enough time to reread all seven books beforehand, head on over to BuzzFeed for the complete Harry Potter series in comic book form. Truly, it's amazing how the artist Lucy Knisley manages to capture each book in one poster. My favorite bit has to be the pat on the head and 'Good boy' from Dumbledore at the end of each book.

Faves of 2011 (so far): The Books

I'm a little late the party (I am woefully behind on my google reader), but after stopping by Inkcrush yesterday and checking out Nomes' awesome Faves of 2011 (so far) lists, I just had to join in all the fun. This set-up is especially perfect for me since I have been an extreme slacker of late and haven't sat down to write full reviews for many of the unforgettable books I've read recently. In all total, for the first half of 2011, I have read 78 books - not a good as last year, but hey, I did just have a baby...

So I'm a week late, but here are my picks for The Books.

Favorite book read so far in 2011
This one is toughie so I chose two:
Chime - I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love, adore and cherish this book. Really. Briony and Eldric are superb and the narrative style is simply unforgettable. 

The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta is a genius. But of course you already know this, right? Tom is so much more than what you expect and my love for him is boundless. I just want to spend a day with him and Tara and Francesca and Georgie and really the entire Mackee family. Read this one. You will cry. And laugh. And then you'll hug it. 

Most powerful book - A Solitary Blue
Jeff Greene and The Professor fumbling around each other trying to figure out what it means to be a family. I hadn't read the incredible Tillerman Cycle until this past year and once again I am stunned by Cynthia Voigt's brillance.

Brilliantly funny - Magic Slays
One of the many things I love about Kate Daniels is that she always ready with a blindingly witty retort for His Furriness at a moment's notice. Their banter is priceless and is a major selling point for Magic Slays.

Best ache-y, heart-breaking, tear-jerker read - Unsticky
Another one that I could not get out of my head. Grace and Vaughn have issues upon issues but I still wanted them to be more than just okay by the end. This book is one heck of a emotional ride, but one I promise you won't want to put down.

Most beautiful story - The Piper's Son
Switching from Tom and Georige's perspective does unimaginable (good) things for this book. Two different people at different (yet crucial) times in their lives just trying to make it through the next day. 

Delicious rainy day comfort read - Stealing Heaven
Dani's reluctant acceptance of the goofy Greg could not be any sweeter. These two just put a big 'ole grin on my face. 

Adrenalin-fuelled, unputdownable award - Red Glove
Holly Black writes some incredibly twisty-turny-cross-and-double-cross cons. The entire book was one surprise after another but never in an 'i'm trying too hard to fool you' way. Cassel is one sharp dude.

The beautiful prose award - Chime
Unlike any other book (or author) out there, Chime has this crazy, forceful yet subtle way of pulling you into Briony's story. I was effortlessly caught up in the Swampsea and the mythology of the creatures there. Simply incredible.

Most atmospheric and vivid setting and M
ost original and imaginative - Eon
Take elements of historic China, add a bit of Dragon mythology, a cross-dressing girl, some truly nefarious Evil Doers and a empire on the brink of collapse and you basically get the idea of the awesomeness of Eon. Fantastic storytelling that kept me up till the wee hours of the night.

Best under-appreciated, hidden gem book and I
-had-no-idea-I-would-love this-so award - Seeing Me Naked
So not your average chick lit novel. Family DRAMA, a lovely relationship and endless descriptions of mouthwatering desserts. Plus witty banter. Love.

Most haunting story - Stolen
The tale of what happens when a 16 year old is kidnapped by a guy who has been watching her for years and is taken to the Middle of Nowhere Australia. Nothing is black and white in this one - not even my possible Stockholm Syndrome.

Series that I’m loving
Magic Slays (Kate Daniels series) and River Marked (Mercy Thompson series) - It's a major tie between these two. They both feature worlds and characters I simply cannot get enough of. 

Most memorable voice award - Chime
I've already mentioned this but Briony is unlike any other narrator you will ever encounter. Her humor and feelings of self-doubt are brillant. 

Completely Awesome Premise Award - Tiger and Del books
I'm going to cheat here and award this to the entire Tiger and Del series which begins with Sword Dancer. It flips every gender convention on it's head by featuring a female sword master fighting her way thru a mans world. But it's told from a chauvinistic (at least at first) male perspective. Clever, clever.

Would make the best movie - 84, Charing Cross Road

I know this is a bit of a cop out since they already made it into a movie, but hey, I simply adored it.

Want to re-read already - The Piper's Son & Chime

I think I've gushed about these two enough already...

Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer

Ever since having this baby, I've been devouring contemporary novels at an alarming rate (I promise I'm reading, just not reviewing much - slacker that I am). I'm not particularly sure why this genre speaks to me right now, perhaps it has something to do reading about women facing challenges with humor and hoping some of their wit (and experience) will rub off on me... Whatever the reason, I found the perfect read in Liza Palmer's Seeing Me Naked. It came highly recommended to me by both Angie and Chachic and I only have to thank them for pointing me towards this fantastic book. Cause Seeing Me Naked is a complete winner.

Much to her father's disappointment, Elisabeth Page deliberately selected a career as far removed from his own (Ben Page! The two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author!) as possible. She became a pastry chef. Despite Elisabeth's obvious success working at one of the hottest restaurants in LA and her brother Rascal's celebrated author status, the pair continually find themselves falling short of their father's ideal of success. But the strain is starting to wear and Elisabeth is ready for something to give when she inadvertently finds herself giving cooking lessons to a recent LA transplant, Daniel Sullivan, who just happens to be utterly clueless in the culinary department. As a UCLA basketball coach from Kansas, Daniel is utterly unlike her patrician, snobbish family and her longtime boyfriend Will, who she only happens to see once every year or so. All it takes is for Elisabeth to spend a few days with easygoing Daniel for her to realize that different is good. Very good. But old habits die hard and Elisabeth isn't sure she's ready to remove all those layers of self-protection and let Daniel see her 'naked' self.

Witty and introspective, Seeing Me Naked is not your typical chick lit fare (despite its misleading cover and title). Elisabeth is so controlled and focused on her full yet unfulfilling life that you cannot but help cheering her towards Daniel - even if her first attempts are awkwardly hilarious. I do so love it though when a couple truly brings out the best in each other, and Daniel and Elisabeth are quite the pair. Although Daniel is a large part of Elisabeth moving forward, much of the story is dedicated to the highly explosive Page Family Dynamics. Liza Palmer has crafted a deep and layered family of individuals who fight each other just as fiercely as they love one another. Even though I tore through Seeing Me Naked, it's a book I can see myself sinking into time and again, discovering something new about all those messy and beautiful relationships every single time. See, I told you it was a winner.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
4 Girls and a Book review
Angieville review
Chachic's Book Nook review
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books review

book source: purchased

Thirteen Reasons Why Winners

Thanks again to all those who entered the Thirteen Reasons Why giveaway.

And the winners are...

Annie Lanning
Justine Wang