Lauren Baratz-Logsted in the Hot Seat!
Talking with Lauren Baratz-Logsted
First, thanks so much for joining us Lauren!
Thank you, Lisa, for having me here! Since red is my favorite color, this is a good place for me to be.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born on July 6, 1962, and I'm very short. I live in Danbury, CT, with my husband and daughter. In 1994, I left my day job of 11 years as an independent bookseller to take a chance on myself as a writer. Between then and nearly eight years later when I got the first call from RDI offering me an initial two-book contract, I took jobs as a Publishers Weekly reviewer (I reviewed 292 books for them), a freelance editor (I edited nearly 100 books), a sort-of librarian and a window-washer to help pay the mortgage until my writing ship came in. I read and write every day and I love what I do for a living.
Did you always want to write?
I think almost my whole life I wanted to be a writer, but it wasn't until 1994, at age 32, that I finally had the guts to leave my day job and take a chance on myself.
How long did you write before you published? And how many books until you were published?
As mentioned above, it was nearly eight years between first putting pen to paper and The Call. The Thin Pink Line, my first book sold, was actually the sixth I wrote and I'd written a seventh before getting The Call. The first five didn't make it for a variety of heartbreaking reasons, the most notable one being when Falling for Prince Charles, a romantic comedy I wrote in 1997 about a cleaning lady meeting and falling in love with the real Prince Charles, was torpedoed in August of that year by the death of Princess Diana.
Can you tell us about 'the call' ?
It was odd. Earlier on the same day I got that first call, I'd received some very bad news about my daughter ( she's perfectly fine now, thanks ) so here was this phone call I'd been working toward for nearly eight years and all I could think to say was, "Can we discuss this some other time?" I'm sure my editor thought I was very odd.
At what point did you get an agent and what was that process like?
Since I initially was offered a two-book contract, negotiated that contract, and was offered a subsequent three-book contract all on my own steam, I'm obviously one of those authors who believes it's not necessary to have an agent to get a career. Further, a bad agent or a good agent who is bad for you can actually have negative impact and stall your career. That said, now that I finally have an agent I totally adore, I can see all the benefits when the system works like a dream. I would always counsel people to try to get a good agent first. But if you can't, then you can always do what I did. And, believe me, if a publisher offers you a contract, you'll have no trouble finding agents afterward. I should point out that before selling my first book, I had 2.5 agents, who were not good for me in a variety of ways. The worst was probably the man I like to think of as Agent .5, whom 'd been working with on my seventh novel. I showed him The Thin Pink Line and he said he thought the book was hysterical but that this kind of thing had been 'done too much already' (can someone please tell me the last dark comedy about a fake pregnancy they read?) and when I further asked if he'd be willing to just submit it to the one editor at RDI on my behalf, he declined, saying one of his reasons for saying no was that he knew for a fact that editor was not interested in books with a London setting. Immediately, red lights went off in my tiny brain and I asked him if he'd mind, 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 time." And the rest, as they say, is publishing history. Or my publishing history, at any rate.
How did you get the idea for your first release THE THIN PINK LINE? And did the title come from you or later in the process?
I had been married nearly ten years as of late May 1999 and thought I would never get pregnant. And then ' poof!' 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. As for the title, it was there from the beginning.
How long did it take you to write the sequel?
Please don't hate me, but the first draft of Crossing the Line took 28 days. I've always written fast first drafts, but in the case of crazy Jane Taylor and all her cohorts, I feel I know these characters so well that it's easy to come up with new adventures for them. It's actually harder to make them shut up, since I already have ideas for three further books involving them.
Do you write full time?
Yes. I am one of the universe's lucky people.
What is your writing schedule like?
My ideal writing day begins with me getting up very early and, after getting in my daily walk, hitting the computer until my daughter gets up. After she's off to school, I'll work for the next four hours until it's time to pick her up. If I'm working on a novel, as soon as my husband comes home from work, I'll let him take over with our daughter while I get a few more hours in. I also don't like to take days off when I'm in the midst of a book; it gives me too much anxiety. I think that's about it. Oh, and one other detail for my ideal writing day: I have to feel good about what I've produced at the end of the day. And it would help if, while I'm toiling, I got a call saying a movie was definitely being made of one of my books or to say I made a best-seller list somewhere.
How can readers find you?
They can find my books in bookstores everywhere or online from the usual suspects. To keep up with my tour schedule and what's coming next etc, they should go to http://www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com/ where they can also find a link to send me email if they're so inclined.
What writers inspire you as a reader both past and present?
Jane Austen, the Brontes, Arturo Perez-Reverte. Sena Jeter Naslund, Nick Hornby. I've been reading 100-250 books per year since the age of 10, so it's hard to create a short list of favorites, but those authors certainly factor in. Also, Emily Giffin wrote a fantastic first novel, Something Borrowed, that I greatly admired because the heroine does a very unsympathetic thing and yet the book succeeds. I think in real life, as in literature, there are few pure heroes or villains and I prefer reading and writing books that reflect that. Most of us, I think, are flawed human beings, occasionally capable of brief flashes of brilliance or bravery.
What comes next for you?
Following the release of A Little Change of Face on June 28, I have two more books coming from RDI: How Nancy Drew Saved My Life (July 2006), which is about Charlotte Bell, a young nanny who, having been burned by one affair with a married ambassador boss in NYC, accepts a new position with the U.S. Ambassador to Iceland. Once in Reykjavik, history begins uncomfortably repeating itself as she finds herself falling for Ambassador Edgar Rawlings. But where is Mrs. Rawlings? And, oh, by the way, is there a madwoman in the attic? Part Charlotte Bronte, part Bridget Jones, part Nancy Drew, How Nancy Drew Saved My Life is about the choices we make the first time around and the choices we make the second time around; and Chick-Lit: A Love Story (July 2007), a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice about a successful writer of ' you guessed it!' who crosses swords and hearts with the Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times Book Review. Oh, and on September 1 of this year, I've got an essay called "If Jane Austen Were Writing Today" featured in a collection of stories and essays called Flirting with Pride and Prejudice, edited by Jennifer Crusie and published by Benbella Books.
Will you be doing a multi-state book tour?
I['ll be signing copies of A Little Change of Face at Book Expo America and doing some local events. But this time out, I'm focusing most of my promotional energies on radio plus doing online interviews and a lot of guestblogging. That said, it's always worth people checking out the website periodically to see if I've added any dates in their neighborhood - you never know!
The characters in your books, are any of them close to your own personality or completely the opposite?
Well, Jane Taylor, the heroine of The Thin Pink Line and Crossing the Line, is something of a sociopath, so I hope I'm not too much like her! But I do think I share her self-awareness of her personal flaws and her devotion to those she really cares about. Anyone who has read the books can readily see that while Jane is often self-involved and small-minded, she'd throw herself in front of a train to save her best friend David and a few others. As for Scarlett Jane Stein, the heroine of A Little Change of Face, Scarlett and I share little in common in terms of the details of our lives, but I share her ambivalence about her physical appearance. I am by no means as attractive as Scarlett, but like her, I seesaw between wanting to be seen as beautiful and wanting to be loved for myself. Because of that, I've spent most of my life downplaying whatever positives my outer appearance might present.
What happened after 'the call'? Did life change?
I always like to say that success hasn't changed me yet! Shortly after the publication of The Thin Pink Line, I did buy a new car, but that was only because the car I'd been driving was a 20-year-old Peugeot and my drunken mechanics said there was not enough rubber bands or duct tape in the world to keep it gong anymore, and the car I bought was modest. I do write fulltime now for a living, something I wasn't able to do before, which is lovely. And it's nice not to have friends or family look at me pityingly anymore, with expressions that say, "Poor, deluded fool she thinks she might actually get one of her books published some day."
After the success of book one did you feel pressure to have book two be great or relief that made writing easier?
I can't say that I felt pressured. It was a great feeling to finally be in the game! Of course, having book two be a sequel, there was some concern that I'd just be rehashing old ground ( sequels can be so disappointing! ) and I even tried to get my publisher to put on the cover the words "Definitely Not a Sequel," which they declined. But for those who've read both books, they know the second represents a whole new adventure for wacky Jane and deals with a different theme: the first is about people wanting things without really understanding what they're wanting while the latter is about the joys and perils and responsibilities of cross-racial adoption. If reviews are anything to go by, nearly everyone liked the second book even more than the first, perhaps because acerbic Jane is kinder and gentler in it, and I myself think that while the plot of The Thin Pink Line is more original ' crazy lady fakes an entire pregnancy! ' the writing in Crossing the Line is tighter.
Any final words?
Yes, two things:
1) If you're a reader and you love a particular writer's books, then buy those books. It's the way writers get to go on having careers.
2) If this is truly your dream, to be a writer, 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 10 counties and 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.