Rian: How old were you when you knew for certain you wanted to be a writer? Was there anything in particular that happened to make you decide?
Lauren: I think I was twelve when I first got the idea, based on an English teacher’s reaction to a short story I’d written, that I had a serious itch in that direction. But it wasn’t until 1994, when I was 32, that I left my day job of 11 years as an independent bookseller and decided to take a chance on myself as a writer. It wasn’t any one thing that happened so much as it was that I got tired of being a person who kept saying, “Someday, I’ll… I decided someday was that day.
Rian: In your books “The Thin Pink Line” and “Crossing the Line”, you have created a very intriguing character in Jane. She is witty, yet very hard to like at times because of the things she does. Is there a particular reason you made her that way?
Lauren: I wanted to write a dark comedy about a woman who fakes an entire pregnancy, so, almost by definition, she had to be a bit of a sociopath. I also like complex characters in books and Jane is certainly that. It’s interesting the feedback I get: some readers hate Jane for the things she does, but I’ve also had several people write to me through the website to say they’ve enjoyed both stories and hope they’ll be reading more of Jane’s adventures in the future.
Rian: What is your favorite chick lit book, and why? (If you don’t have a favorite chick lit book, what is your favorite book in general?)
Lauren: Can I say “About a Boy,” by Nick Hornby, for favorite chick-lit book, even though it’s written by a man? Either that or Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” I like both books because they’re more than they need to be. On one level, they’re good comedies, with strong romantic undertones. But on a whole other level, they say something about the lives we live.
Rian: Your book “The Thin Pink Line” has gotten extremely diverse feedback. Do you have any particular thoughts on that?
Lauren: I will say that I never expected it to be such a lightning rod. But comedy is one of the most subjective things there is. What one person thinks is funny, someone else thinks is awful. Then, too, my book is controversial and I consider it a success that I’ve written a book that people appear to feel strongly about, either yea or nay; the most devastating thing would be to write a book to which readers are indifferent. I do think that if a reader opens one of my books with the expectation that it will be frothy and the heroine will be a sweet person they can cozy up to, they’ll be disappointed. But I’ve been very lucky in one regard: every professional critic has responded positively. Hopefully, you’ll forgive me if I prefer the reviews that compare my work to Austen and Swift to the ones that wonder how I ever got published.
Rian: What is your opinion, if any, on people who belittle chick lit and say it’s only ridiculous fluff (or similar)?
Lauren: I say they obviously haven’t read widely in the genre. I say they suffer from sour grapes. I say they need to find a new hobby.
Rian: How did you get into the chick lit genre? Did you purposely set out to join the genre, or did you just sort of fall into it?
Lauren: The latter. I was working with an agent on an entirely different book, an erotic Victorian thriller, when I started seeing reviews of RDI books. I asked the agent if he’d be willing to submit “The Thin Pink Line,” because I thought it would appeal to the same editorial sensibility that was publishing these books. He was tepid about it, said he thought the book was hysterical but that it was his understanding that RDI wasn’t interested in books with a London locale. My radar went off and I asked if he’d feel I was stepping on his toes if I submitted it myself. He gave me a very scathing, “Well, if that’s what you want to do with your timeï¿½” The rest is five-book publishing history. I actually had no idea at the time that RDI was the chick-lit publisher.
Rian: How did you come up with the characters in your books? For example, did Jane come completely from your imagination, or is she loosely based on someone you know?
Lauren: Ha! I absolutely do not know anybody like Jane! I never base characters on people I know. “The Thin Pink Line” has been optioned for a Hollywood film, so people often ask who I see playing Jane and I have to say: I have no idea.
Rian: I enjoyed how the story line of “The Thin Pink Line” is completely outrageous and unusual. How did you come up with an idea like that?
Lauren: I had been married nearly ten years as of late May 1999 and thought I would never get pregnant. And then – voila! – I got pregnant. During the first three months I was home, so sick that all I could do besides watch “Donnie and Marie” – do you sense my desperation here? – was pull myself out of bed just enough times a day to keep up my daily walking and writing. The thought occurred to me, not too long into the thing: “What if some woman, some slightly sociopathic woman, was making up the whole thing, just to get attention?” So I started to write, unsure myself all the while if Jane Taylor would in fact be able to keep up her charade for the entire nine months.
Rian: Was it difficult to write a book that is based in London, when you reside in the U.S.A.? If so, why did you choose that particular location for the books?
Lauren: It really wasn’t difficult at all. Not to be pretentious, but I’m one of these writers who “hears voices.” When “The Thin Pink Line” started writing itself, the voice of Jane Taylor was distinctly British and there was no arguing with her. And so far, the British readers I’ve heard from all take my “impersonation” with a sense of humor.
Rian: Do you have any other books you are writing? Is Jane’s story going to continue in a third book? If so, tell us about it!
Lauren: My next book, due out July 2005, is called “A Little Change of Face” and it’s about a very attractive, never married, 39-year-old librarian from CT, who, for one reason and another, decides to sabotage her own looks in order to find out how life will treat her once she’s no longer one of the world’s swans. And I’m about halfway through my 2006 book, which is called “How Nancy Drew Saved My Life.” I would like to do more Jane books, since some readers seem to want them and I feel all the characters have a lot of play left in them. I do have two more Jane-centric ideas, but they’re not on the schedule as yet.
Rian: In closing, do you have any advice for hopeful writers? (Chick lit or otherwise)?
Lauren: Yes: If this is truly your dream, never give up. It took me nearly eight years from the time I left my day job to the day I was first offered a contract. In the intervening years, I taught myself how to review books professionally and wound up reviewing nearly 300 titles for Publishers Weekly; taught myself how to edit books, and freelance edited nearly 100 books; did freelance writing for various publishers and washed a lot of windows, all to pay the mortgage while pursuing my dream. I also wrote seven novels, “The Thin Pink Line” was actually my sixth, before selling my first. But when I finally hit, it was big: a two-book contract, with an additional three-book contract offered before the first book even came out. “The Thin Pink Line” is now out in seven other counties and, as I said, has been optioned for a film. At any point during those nearly eight years, when nothing was selling, I might have given up. There were certainly plenty of moments when I wanted to. But I didn’t. So if you don’t hear anything else I say, hear this: If this is truly your dream, never give up. The only person who can ever take you out of the game is you.
Rian, thank you for having me here. These were truly excellent questions, any one of which I could have written a book on, and some of which it looks like I did! If any of your readers have further questions, they can write me through my website at www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com. I’m always happy to listen to readers and help sister writers.