I promised you something special today, and here it is!
A tribute to writing, friendship, and an author for you to discover on release day!
You need friends in the writing world. This can be a joyful game, but also a tough one, and the friends we meet along the way make the good times better and the hard times more tolerable.
Nina Sadowsky and I met over steaks at a NYC restaurant. (Sometimes this industry is fancy and ooh la la, and sometimes it leaves you quivering in a ball on the muddy ground). Anyway, Nina and I actually crossed paths before that, but it’s my first memory because it was just such a Nina Night.
Nina’s former editor was hosting the dinner and other of our bestest writing friends were there (channeling Junie. B. Jones), like Carla Buckley and Stefanie Pintoff, and there was so much laughter and fun and glasses raised that we shut the steakhouse down.
In years to come, Nina and I would discuss Hollywood—you’ll read below about her connection to the silver screen—and she was a source of help as I was getting my feet wet with my own tentative film deal. We weathered transitions at our publisher together—I used to be at her current imprint—and rejoiced over even better times that came to pass for us both.
We are, in other words, friends, and I am so happy to introduce you!
What’s your favorite I-met-a-friend-moment?
Email me describing it, and I will send a paperback copy of one of Nina’s earlier books to a second lucky winner!
Q&A with Nina
Some of your writing travels the globe, some focuses on your own home turf. Do you have a comfort zone?
CONVINCE ME is the first work I've set in Los Angeles, my home for the last 25 years. While I know the city well, I am also well aware of how much the culture of Hollywood influences living here and I didn't want to write an "industry" story. But this story about liars and lying seemed appropriate for LA, the land of illusion.
My first book JUST FALL was set in New York and the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. I chose Paris as the main setting for my second novel THE BURIAL SOCIETY because who doesn't love Paris? And also because my husband has family there so it was a city I've been to many times. Research supplements all my evocations of a location, but I like to at least have a basic on-ground familiarity.
THE EMPTY BED, my third novel, is set primarily in Hong Kong because of an entirely crazy personal experience. For our 5th anniversary, my husband told me we were flying to San Francisco, but on the way to the airport revealed that we were actually going to Hong Kong and Tokyo! Being a suspense writer, I called my editor from the airport and said "husband surprises wife with trip to Hong Kong, wife disappears" and she said "Go write!"
I love this question. I think the character of the mother was the hardest to write (although also probably the most fun) because she is completely different from how I am as a mother, a role which defines a big piece of who I am (have I bragged about my kids yet? They're amazing).
Before I began a chapter from one of the three perspectives, I "settled myself into character" by re-reading the prior chapters from the relevant POV and checking the biographies I had done to make sure I had everything from speech patterns to physical tics to the history of the character right.
Annie is a wordsmith and this becomes a visual element as well as a character one.
As a proud word nerd, I was happy to imbue Annie with this quality. Writing is a big part of how I process the world and I felt giving that attribute to Annie was a gift (particularly since I rain so much misery down on her during the book). Figuring out how to utilize her defining of words in the text was a bit of a process, but in the end I chose words that most aligned with Annie's emotional state.
Death and deceit, loss and betrayal pervade this novel. What is it like as an author to descend to such depths of human experience and emotion?
Death, deceit, loss and betrayal are all things we deal with in the course of our lives. Writing about the hardest of things is how I process them. So my work is always grounded in something personal, even though I don't directly write about myself or my life. As a thriller writer I believe it is my task to take these events and feelings and twist my lens on them to relay a heightened extreme.
My shortcut tip for good writing is what I call "math for writers"
EMPATHY + ANXIETY = CATHARSIS
Create EMPATHY for your characters, add ANXIETY about what will happen to them, thereby creating a CATHARSIS for the reader with the resolution.
The biggest surprise to me about becoming an author is how much work is involved that has nothing to do with writing! The amount of time and energy devoted to supporting a book's release was a total shock to me and a big learning curve.
But a lot of that work is really fun too! For example, I'm about to run a short story contest open to all, where I'm soliciting 500 word stories on the subject of "liars and lying," as that is the subject matter of CONVINCE ME. The winner gets their story published in my dispatch (circulation about 8K) and a prize pack of books and swag. Hopefully, I pick up a few more readers too.
Sign up for Nina's own newsletter and enter her write-a-lie contest!
You have a robust career in Hollywood as well. How do you compare the two?
Writing for TV/film is a collaborative process where the writer is required to take input from myriad people--agents and managers, producers and executives, directors and actors. All of these different voices in one's ear must be acknowledged and their viewpoints addressed. Sometimes it's frankly maddening as you can get conflicting perspectives in one notes document or phone call. Writing a novel is much more solitary. I have a couple of trusted readers who look at early drafts for me, but the voices that really matter are mine and that of a single editor. There's also a pleasure in the concreteness of a book. I've written screenplays and pilots, all road maps for a finished product, but as of yet, none of them have been produced.
You're also a mom, wife, and stepmother. What are your thoughts on the inevitable balancing act that is being a woman today--and every day?
I think one trick to staying balanced is to be fully in whatever moment you're in. If you're with your kid, be fully with your kid. If you're writing, turn off the phone and concentrate. If you're in a meeting, be fully present. People ask me all the time how I do so much, because in addition to writing novels, film and TV, I also serve as Program Director of NYU Los Angeles. My answer is that life is short and I don't think there's any time to waste! I want to do everything I can in this spin on the earth, and keeping busy keeps me sane!
Here's to friendship—especially yours!
I hope you enjoyed meeting Nina Sadowsky, and I hope will lose yourself in her suspenseful, soul-tugging release, Convince Me.
Pub days are exciting and nerve-racking times of transition, and I am grateful to get to share this one with all of you!
Love from the Hills of Wedeskyull,