A Q&A With Michele Gorman

17212148What would life be like if you pursued your passion in ballet instead of law school? Or if you reconnected with the one who got away? What if you dropped the monotonous office job and ran off to the bright lights of Hollywood? So maybe none of these situations apply to you, but you get my point, right? To live life to its fullest, you’ve got to take some risks. That’s the underlying message in Michele Gorman’s new novel Bella Summer Takes a Chance. Although everything seems hunky-dory in Bella’s lovelife and career, she knows that it’s just not enough.  With some help from a colorful cast of friends, she takes life by the horns and chases her dream to become a musician.

Michele was kind enough to chat with me about her new book. Read on to learn more about her writing process, character development, and…ahem…how she goes about describing some rather blush-worthy bedroom scenes.

What compelled you to write a story about a woman risking it all to pursue a career in music? And how can some of her struggles resonate with women readers?

I started to toy with the idea of what’s “enough” for a woman (complete with giant quotation finger movements). Where is that line? As I started to play with Bella’s situation (oh the fun of toying with my characters’ lives!), I found myself feeling very disgruntled on her behalf, in all spheres of her life. Why should a life in which nothing is wrong be a life that’s right? Just because society, or your friends or family or boyfriend say so? Nuh uh. I wanted Bella to grab the golden ring with both hands. She may fail, fall off the horse and end up in a heap on the ground with her underpants showing, but she’s going to try.  

The fragility of identity also interested me. Having taken ten years and four books to get my first publishing deal, I knew how hard it was to continue on a creative path when anyone else in her right mind would have given up. As Bella says: When do you stop becoming a musician-with-a-day-job and start being an accountant-who-is-musical? I think that having that experience helped me write her musical pursuits realistically.

Could you tell me a little about the setting, and why you chose that particular location?

michele-gormanThat’s easy. Bella is set in London, where I’ve lived for the past 17 years. I absolutely love my adopted hometown, so it’s the natural setting for my books. My debut, Single in the City, is about an American who moves to London, so the city is the other main character in that story. It’s easy to write about an American when you are American (I have dual nationality), but I’ve wanted to write about a British character in London for awhile. I got halfway there this time (Bella is Canadian-American who has lived in London for a decade, so her speech and characteristics are more British than American). My next book, The Reinvention of Lucy Winters, will finally have all British characters in London.

What was the most interesting thing you had to research for Bella Summer Takes a Chance?

Ooh that question made me snort my coffee! Well, okay, I’ll tell you. There is a threesome scene in Bella. Don’t worry, it’s not gross or explicit; I get terribly embarrassed writing about sex, so if I have to do it, I do it with humour rather than detail. Anyway… I felt I needed some help with this, since I had no first-hand experience (Bella gets kissed by a girl). So I invited one of my closest male friends out for lunch. Since he’s bisexual I figured he’d be able to tell me about the differences. Oh boy, could he ever. Unfortunately he described every detail with theatrical glee, in a very quiet restaurant full of old people. As he talked, I noticed the two couples beside us staring over their main courses. I got my research notes, and they got more than petit fours with their coffees.

Who was your favorite character to develop?

That’s a hard one! Usually I have just one or two favourite characters, but I loved Bella, Marjorie (her ninety-one year old friend) and Frederick (Bella’s flatmate). I couldn’t possibly choose!

What message do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

When I began writing, I saw the book as an exploratory journey for Bella but it soon became clear that this is a girl-power story J Each character faces “societal” pressures (there are those ditto fingers again) but lives her life exactly as she feels she needs to. Their stories are all very different but involve balancing ideals (whether that’s in love and relationships, or career or motherhood) against reality to find out what’s possible, and what’s right for them.

Now, a little more about you! Do you have a writing routine? What is your average writing day like?

I do have a writing routine of sorts. I’m an early riser, so usually get up, make a coffee and spend an hour or so answering emails and doing admin. Then I’ll go for a jog or a walk (otherwise the day can go by without me setting foot outside the house) and settle down for a few hours of writing before lunch. I’ll either carry on writing after lunch if I’m on a roll (or haven’t hit my word count – I aim for around 2,000 a day). I always have a nap, then spend the afternoon marketing. Marketing might involve doing Q&As for lovely bloggers, or working on the million little details that each soon-to-be published book needs doing. I try my best to stay off twitter and facebook when writing, but I always fail miserably. I do have a software programme called MacFreedom that I can turn on to block my internet (saving me from myself) when I really need to concentrate.  

And lastly, but not leastly, how do you spend your “free” time — when you’re not writing?

I’ve always been a homebody, so I hang out with my friends and boyfriend (technically he’s now my fiancée, but that’s very recent and I’m still getting used to that title!). Cooking, watching films, reading, going to the local pub or restaurants, having walks in the park. It’s a very low-key lifestyle and I love it!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks so much Jessica, for having me on Chick Lit Café! And if anyone would like their eBook copy of Bella Summer Takes a Chance signed and inscribed, there’s a genius website called www.authorgraph.com where you can send me a request (if for a friend as a gift, just tell me in the Comments). I’ll e-Inscribe your book and you’ll be able to add it to your kindle (or print it out, keep it as an email or send it to your friend). I’m happy to do that for any of my books – they’re all on there.

Short & Sweet Sundays: Misfortune Cookie by Michele Gorman

In honor of Sunday – a day I reserve for reading and lollygagging – I bring you a short and sweet book review! 

The gist (from the publisher): Would you move 6,000 miles to be with the love of your life? Hannah did. Unfortunately her plan isn’t going terribly well. What was supposed to be a move to Hong Kong to start a wonderful new life with Sam is turning into a move to Hong Kong to spend occasional weekends with Sam, when he can get away from an unanticipated work assignment on the opposite side of the South China Sea. Still, she’s optimistic, if woefully unprepared for the intricacies of Hong Kong. Stumbling through the alien city, which she loves, she starts to build a life for herself. Things definitely look up when she finds a great boss to work for, and her best friend Stacy moves to the city too. But alarm bells ring as Sam seems to be getting a bit too cozy with his boss. And when things start going wrong at work, Hannah can’t help but wonder if she’s made the biggest mistake of her life.

Why it’s unique: It’s set in Hong Kong! Though I have zero interest in traveling to a Asia, it’s fun partaking in Hannah’s many culture-shock experiences. Come to think of it, setting a story in a foreign land can be a bit of a risk. If readers aren’t traveling vicariously through the author’s prose, they’re going to feel let down. Well, Michele certainly didn’t fall short in this department! Here’s a little taste of her whimsical descriptions of Hong Kong’s exotic cityscape:

Hundreds of skyscrapers pulse and glow in the lilac twilight, their stairwell lights running up them like excavated dinosaurs’ spines. The dark pool of the harbor beyond the building reflects back at us, deceptively calm. And Kowloon blankets the far shore, stretching into the distance. I don’t’ think I’ll ever get used to these views, or take them for granted. I hope not.

What surprised me: Despite the fact that Hannah moved across oceans to follow a man, the book has some surprising girl power moments. Just when I thought I made up my mind about the flighty protagonist, she’d totally redeem herself by doing something ballsy. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that I was very pleased with her decisions. You go girl!

What irked me:  Hannah is frustrating. She’s a little too ditzy in a wide-eyed, bumbling Bridget Jones kind of way. She’s the kind of girl who agonizes incessantly about her boyfriend when she should be enjoying a night out with the girls. I was especially put off when she left her BFF all alone on her first night in Hong Kong so she could squeeze in another date with her boyfriend. Lame!

Will I read another book by this author? Well after that puzzling ending, I kind of have to! Seems like Hannah’s journey of self-discovery has only begun – and I can’t wait to see where she’ll end up next! The author sure knows how to leave her readers guessing.

This book is best paired with: A silky kimono robe and a frilly pink cosmo.

Overall: This is a fun, fast read that is sure to entertain fans of Sophie Kinsella (Shopaholic series) and Helen Fielding (Bridget Jone’s Diary). Hannah’s hilarious inner dialogue and many awkward moments had me giggling throughout the book. If you’re looking for something light and amusing, check this one out.

Introducing Jessica’s Cranky Corner: Dirty Bloggers

I’m a naturally perky, bubbly, fun-loving girl. I love sunshine, furry woodland creatures and lollipops. But sometimes (typically on a full moon) I get royally PISSED! There are things in this world that really get my goat, and sometimes I just want share my angry rants with the world atop a mountain with a giant megaphone.  But alas, we only have scrubby hills in Austin and only the squirrels and grackles would be subjected to my soapbox tirades.

While enduring a painfully obnoxious scene at a free concert (picture gaggles of high school kids with iPhones), I got to thinking…the pen is more powerful than the almighty sword. So why not share my cantankerous ramblings with my lovely readers? When the mood strikes me, I’m going to vent about an everyday situation that probably pisses you off as well!

For my inaugural Jessica’s Cranky Corner post, I would like to vent about the seedy underbelly of book blogging.

When I created Chick Lit Café just a mere two years ago, I had no idea there were so many unwritten rules of decorum among my fellow bloggers.  Don’t emulate another blogger’s meme without permission. Don’t claim an alias without doing a thorough Google search first. The list goes on and on. For more about this, check out the sassy and unabashedly candid Bookish Brunette. This girl is always on the up and up about hot-button issues in the blogosphere.

As you can see, there’s a lot of room for error in the book blogging community. After the Story Siren plagiarism debacle, we all need to keep in mind that our actions will have consequences. So when I discovered a group of chick lit bloggers are actually charging authors $95 for “favorable” reviews, I was completely flabbergasted! Call me crazy, but book blogging should not be a moneymaker!

Not only did these yahoos try to scam the author into paying for a dishonest review, they also threatened to take legal action after she blew the whistle about their shady dealings on Twitter. Wait, what? They’re going to sue her for telling the truth? That makes a heck of a lot of sense – NOT!

The author, Michele Gorman posted a detailed a report of her correspondence with the bloggers on her site. Get a load of their “advice.”

“You are young and need to learn a lot about life still, especially when it comes to business practices. What you are doing is causing others (especially the people that matter) to see you as a trouble maker, and then they won’t want to work with you.”

Wow! Oh and it gets worse. Check this out:

Have you ever heard of kirkus, they charge $425.00 -$575.00 per review. There are a lot of companies that charge for reviews. Educate yourself before harrassing us next time. We have the ability to track IP addresses, so I would think twice before you begin to defame our name…That is illegal, and we will take action. Our attorney has been notified! And before you go accusing us of anything, open your eyes, our disclosure link is right there on our home page.

Here’s a fun fact: Kirkus reviews, distributed to bookstores and libraries, are unpaid. Kirkus Indie reviews are paid, and only go to a segregated, less visible part of their website.

In my humble opinion, the book blogosphere should be a greed-free zone. We should be so lucky to win the attention of authors like Michele Gorman and get free books in the mail! My “payment” is the community that I’ve built with authors and fellow bloggers. When authors offer to send me a book or post a comment under a review, I feel like a rock star! These people work hard and produce some quality books that sometimes, in this sad state of publishing, slip into obscurity. But sadly, I have no doubt some indie authors – desperate to get their name out there – are paying these losers for “favorable” reviews.

Hopefully after this sad news trickles through the online literary community, more authors will be savvy enough to take a pass on these money-grubbing turkeys.  The author was gracious enough to not disclose the name of the shady blog, which is a lot more than what I would have done! I do give her mad props for raising awareness about these sleazeballs.

What do you think? Is it cool for bloggers to charge for reviews? Feel free to post a cranky comment!