Rian: First and foremost, I’ve been dying to know: what made you decide to write “American Idle”? Are you a huge fan of the show, or was your book more an attempt to show the ridiculousness of it all? (Please don’t take offense if it’s the former.)
Alesia: Rian, first, thanks so much for the opportunity to do an interview with you. It’s a fabulous site, and I only wish I had time to come hang out every day!
And, to answer your question, both!! It’s funny, I was never a huge TV person, but something about the reality TV thing really got to me. The vulnerability of the contestants, showing all of their foibles on national TV for the chance at money and fleeting fame — it was like a train wreck.
You want to drive by without looking, but you just can’t.
On the other side, with the talent competition shows, it was a bit of an American Dream theme that touched me. All of those singers, for example, on American Idol, who were grocery baggers or kindergarten teachers or whatever and just wanted the chance to entertain people. It gave me chills.
When I realized that I was actually turning down invitations from friends so as not to miss Survivor or American Idol, I knew I had to write about it!
Rian: “American Idle” was absolutely hilarious and the main characters really grew on me. Are you planning to write a sequel at all?
Alesia: Thank you!! I do have another story about Jules and Sam in mind, and Kirby’s book, NICE GIRLS FINISH FIRST, will be released in July from Berkley Trade. As you’ll remember, Kirby is the unapologetically bad-ass best friend from IDLE, and she’s really, REALLY fun to write! She has 30 days to get somebody — anybody — to call her “nice” or she loses her self-esteem, her job, and maybe a lot more!
Rian: How did you get your start in writing? Was it a childhood dream or something you kind of fell into on accident?
Alesia: Since I was 4 years old and learned to read and write, I’ve always dreamed of writing books. I really believe that writers are born being writers – we have stories inside of us that we just have to tell. We even look at life differently – every experience is fodder for the story.
But I wanted to have a ‘real’ job and, you know, eat, so I went to law school instead of pursuing my dreams of writing. September 11th was my wake up call that life is too precious to take for granted and dreams need to be pursued now, not at some ephemeral ‘later’ point in time. My husband is in the Navy and was one of the first to be sent to Afghanistan. My first book was a non-fiction look at that experience, E-MAIL TO THE FRONT.
Rian: Do you have any other books coming out soon? If so, what are they about?
Alesia: I’m very excited to say that writing has been very good to me! In addition to NICE GIRLS in July, my second book for teens, SUPER 16, about a teenaged super hero, will be out in February from Dorchester Smooch, under my pen name Jax Abbott. I also just accepted an offer to write a novella for an anthology, tentatively titled THE NAKED TRUTH, again for Berkley. We’re also in the negotiating phase on another anthology offer and two more of the SUPER books.
Finally, I’m going to put my years as a lawyer to work! I’ve recently sold the first three books in a series of chick lit legal thrillers to Berkley. The first, MURDER BY MASS TORT, will be out in March of 2006. It’s the story of a big-city lawyer who moves to small town Florida to start a solo practice, and all the crazy things that happen to her.
And, of course, readers can visit me at www.Alesiaholliday.com for all the latest news!
Rian: What do you think of the chick lit genre in general?
Alesia: I LOVE it! I love that there are books that speak to my experiences, in my voice. They’re fun, they’re real, and the best of them make you think. They draw us in, make us feel like we’re sitting down for a snarky little gossip with a close girlfriend who tells us everything and knows all of our secrets, too. It’s delicious and dishy and real — warts, flaws, bikini waxes, and all, and millions of women love it. The books are literally flying off the shelves.
Rian: Do you have any particular opinions on people that bash chick lit?
Alesia: Well, there are people who bash everything. It’s a situation of not all things are for all people. The only time I get angry is when the implication is that women are too stupid to think for ourselves, so we enjoy ‘froth and fluff.’ I find that to be sexist.
But my response when I get media questions like, ‘How can you, a former class action attorney, write books like this? Why don’t you write something serious?” is always the same. I think that the ability to make people laugh and entertain them and maybe give them a respite from the pain or troubles in their own lives, is a huge gift. I feel very lucky and grateful for each reader letter I receive. And I take entertaining people *very* seriously!
Rian: Who are your favorite books and/or authors, and why? Did they inspire you at all to write?
Alesia: I have so many favorite books and authors that we have . . . counting . . . 12 full-sized bookcases in my home! So this would be tough to answer. Some of my favorites in chick lit are Michelle Cunnah, whose characters are lovely and sweet and endearing, and Lani Diane Rich, whose characters are sharp-edged and real and wonderful. I adore anything by Suzanne Brockmann, whose romantic suspense can keep me up till three a.m., anxiously turning pages. A new favorite in suspense is Jacey Ford, the pen name of Beverly Brandt, who also writes great romantic comedies.
I think Dave Barry is the funniest man in the universe and Stephen King is the best storyteller. I cry when I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Honestly, this list could be 72 pages long!
Rian: What do you find to be the easiest thing about writing a book? What is the hardest thing?
Alesia: The easiest thing is coming up with the ideas. It always makes me smile when people come up to me at a book signing and offer to give me a great idea and split the profits with me after I write the book! I always thank them and reply that I have more ideas than I could ever write in a lifetime. Every experience, every day, brings ideas that could be book premises or bits of scenes or parts of a character.
The hardest thing for me is working through the early bit of the middle, just past the beginning. The initial flow of the ‘great idea, new book’ buzz is gone, and I don’t fully know the characters or the world yet, so it can be hard going. Most of my revision work tends to be in that part of a book. By the second half, and certainly the last third, I know exactly what my characters are thinking/wanting/dreaming about, and the words fly!
Rian: Are you worried about getting a lawsuit from the company that produced the actual show ï¿½American Idle”? I hear the producers were very strict about people using their name. (You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want, but I’m very curious.)
Alesia: I’d LOVE to get sued! Look at what the publicity did for that guy FOX sued! But, seriously, titles are not copyrightable. Also, my book is AMERICAN IDLE and the show is American Idol. It is a distinction with a definite difference. Finally, I talked to a copyright attorney before submitting the final ms to my editor.
Rian: Is there any advice you’d care to give people out there who want to write a humorous chick lit novel?
Alesia: Yes! Make sure the style of chick lit is the style of your voice. Read, read, read in the genre. If you hate most of what you read, you’re in the wrong place, and you should write something different. If you love it and feel like you’ve found a literary home, open that file and type Chapter One. We’d love to have you!