Sarah Mlynowski

Rian: How old were you when you decided you wanted to be a writer? Was there anything in particular that happened to make you decide?

Sarah: I don’t remember not wanting to be a writer. I started dictating stories to my mom as soon as I could talk. In the third grade I wrote a novella called “Lizzie Forshort”, about a girl named Elizabeth (Lizzie for short – get it?) who moves to a new city with her parents, makes new friends, and wins the lottery. I wrote it during writing time in a three-atrociously-spelled-words-per-line scrawl. My mom typed it up, edited it and sent it to Random House. Not surprisingly, that’s the story of my very first rejection letter. I decided then that one day I would get an acceptance letter. (I obviously didn’t realize then that when a novel is accepted – there’s a phone call, no letter.)

In university I decided that I wanted to get into publishing – I assumed I wouldn’t be able to write professionally until I was much older. But then chick lit came along and I realized I didn’t have to wait.

Rian: Which character in which of your own books do you feel you are most like, and why?

Sarah: Definitely Jackie in Milkrun. She was very much based on me at the time of writing. I was also twenty-three, single, working for Harlequin (aka Cupid) and trying to get over an ex. She’s also extremely chatty and a little crazy, hopefully in a good way.

Rian: What is your favorite book, and why?

Sarah: My favorite book (lately) is The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters, by Elisabeth Robinson. It was heartbreaking, hilarious and unforgettable.

Rian: When writing, do you have any particular routine you follow, or something that has to be “just so” in order for your thoughts to flow freely?

Sarah: Not really. I keep regular 9-6 hours. But I can never write a word until I’ve had my cup of coffee. And if I’m not out for lunch, I watch Law and Order every day while I eat from 1-2. (Even when I’ve already seen the episode 6 times.)

Rian: What is your idea of an absolute perfect way to spend a rainy day?

Sarah: In bed all day with a new book by a favorite author, my husband (as of August 1st!), and a Law and Order marathon on TV (yes, I’m obsessed). And obviously, we’d order in.

Rian: What do you think of the people who bash chick lit?

Sarah: They should get over it already. Chick lit isn’t a trend. It’s a genre of books for and about young women. And if the bashers read any, they would realize that it’s a large umbrella of a genre. The only constant is that the books are mostly about women finding themselves. And you have to wonder what’s wrong with the individual who finds that so offensive.

Rian: Where or how do you get most of your ideas for your books and/or characters?

Sarah: From friends, books, TV, magazines, and from talking to my mom. She writes romance novels for Silhouette, and the two of us log in many hours on the phone bouncing ideas back and forth.

Rian: Your books have been set in many different places, such as Boston (Milkrun), New York City (As Seen on TV), Connecticut (Monkey Business) and Ontario (Milkrun). Have you been to all of these places, and if so, which do you like best?

Sarah: I’ve lived in Toronto, and New York which is why I chose them as settings. My mom used to live in Connecticut, which is why I based Monkey Business there. The only city I’ve never lived in that I wrote about was Boston – first time novelist’s mistake. I was afraid of setting Milkrun in Toronto, where I lived, because I didn’t want the book to be exactly like my life. Also, three of my best friends were at school in Boston so I thought I’d be able to expense my trips. I wouldn’t do that again though – you can’t really get a feel for a city in a short visit.

As for which city I like best, I’ve fallen madly and hopelessly in love with New York City. There’s just something in the water in this town.

Rian: I just received a copy of a book you co-edited called “Girls’ Night In”. Apparently you were a driving force behind this book getting developed. How and why did you pursue this? If this book is very successful in raising funds for the cause it supports, do you guys think you’ll do another one like the UK did – called “Girls’ Night Out?”

Sarah: I fell in love with this project way back in 2000 when I picked up a copy in England. I had just started writing Milkrun, my first book, and I was completely awe struck by these amazing British writers. It was a massive hit there, landing on all the bestseller charts. In November 2003, I met Chris Manby at a Red Dress Ink party and recognized her as one of the co-editors of the collection. I asked her why there was no American edition. She said that no one had offered to edit it. So I offered. I’m hoping it will be a huge success here in the US. It’s for an excellent cause – all author royalties go to War Child. And of course if it does well, I’d be happy to edit the sequel!

Rian: In closing, is there any advice you would give to someone that is interested in writing a chick lit book?

Sarah: How To Write A Chick Lit Book: Finish the book. I meet at least one person a week who tells me she/he wants to be a novelist. Maybe 2% of these people complete a book. Writing is work. It’s hard. It doesn’t get easier with each novel. Sometimes it’s boring. You have to stick to it. The hardest part is seeing it through. If you really want it, force yourself to sit down and write every day. Make it a priority. First finish the book, then worry about getting it published.

In terms of whether to write chick lit, my advice is to write what you love to read. If you love chick lit, then that’s the kind of book you should write. You’ll be guaranteed to know your target market – you.

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