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Julie A. Carlson

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Review of Spin and Interview With Catherine McKenzie

Posted: 02/ 2/2012 8:10 am

Many Gossip mags, shows and websites love featuring the latest scandalicious news of the rich and famous from Hollywoodland. Readers and viewers eat up these juicy tidbits like candy -- speculating on who's wearing what on the red carpet, which couple is splitting up and who's looking way too skinny. What about all the ado when a celeb enters rehab? Most recently, the biggest name to have their fair share of multiple stints in rehab is Lindsay Lohan. I thought about all this while reading Spin by Catherine McKenzie.

So what's all this talk about rehab?

Well, Spin is about a young woman, Katie Sandford, who desperately wants to work for a music magazine called The Line. Katie knows everything there is to know about music, musicians, and even movie stars. By the way, Katie also shares the same musical tastes as Catherine McKenzie, but according to the author, the similarities end there.

One of the things Katie loves to do is keep tabs on movie superstar, Amber Sheppard and her weekly escapades. After one precarious, drug-induced situation after another, Amber eventually lands in, you guessed it, rehab.

Katie on the other hand, is a struggling writer. She loves to get drunk with her friends and cling to hope that one day she'll get a job at The Line. Soon, Katie gets the opportunity of a lifetime -- an interview with the magazine. But she's so nervous she gets smashed the night before and shows up stinking drunk at the interview. Of course, she fails to get the job.
So what does Katie do best? She wallows in self-pity and at the bottom of a wine bottle. But wait! The Line is still interested in Katie's writing. But not for the job she applied for. They ask her to work for their sister website, Gossip Central. The editors want Katie to write a tell-all story about Amber Sheppard in rehab, but in order for Katie to secure a position at the magazine... she has to enter rehab herself.

About her debut novel, McKenzie says: "The idea for Spin came to me several years ago when it seemed like a whole generation of celebrities were going in and out of rehab and the media was on a feeding frenzy. I was watching some TV coverage showing a bunch of paparazzi standing outside a rehab facility waiting to get a shot and I thought 'why don't they just follow her in there?!' And then I thought: 'Now there's a great idea for a book!'"

That being said, McKenzie continues, "Amber is not based on any particular celebrity (I swear). Rather, her circumstances are an amalgamation of several celebrities but her personality and life story come from my imagination, and any resemblance to a real life person is purely coincidental."

Spin made my day. It's uproariously funny, charming, and filled with delightful twists and turns, and likable characters, often reminding me of Bridget Jones's Diary. One of my favorite things about the novel is the name-dropping, the music, and pop culture references. I really like one of the characters nicknamed "E." who is named after the character of the same name on Entourage. However, while reading, I wondered if some people might not pick up on these references because they may not be familiar with them.

"I have a serious E. crush," McKenzie says, and goes on to explain, "I don't think writers should be concerned about their readers getting every pop culture - or other - reference they put in their books. Obviously, if they are all very obscure it could be a problem, but if someone has to look a few of them up, or doesn't get every one, I think it's fine."

McKenzie continues, "It's like historical fiction in a way; I don't think you have to know the entire history of the Tudor/Stuart family to enjoy Wolf Hall. What I think is important is that the references are true to the character and the story. For instance, Kate is a music journalist. It makes sense for her to know about and listen to bands that not everyone would have heard of. In fact, I hope some readers get curious and go check some of the music out - it's all great!"

Throughout the novel, Katie's voice is witty, but she hides behind her sarcastic comments with pain and a past which haunts her. Aside from being humorous, the story is honest and brutal. It shows how rehab is not something to be ashamed of. Instead, it's a positive experience for the mind, heart and spirit. Katie makes friends, gains a cute love interest and learns about herself in the process.

"Katie was definitely my favorite character - I think she had to be because I - and the reader - had to live in her head for the entire story. She was also just really fun to write and her voice was with me from the beginning," says McKenzie.

As for McKenzie, you may have seen her name around the HuffPost. She's a blogger. "I have fun with it. Though I don't post that often, I like having an outlet for saying what I want to say when I want to say it. It's kind of every writer's dream, right? No assignments except those you give yourself," says McKenzie, who splits her time between writing and working as an employment and constitutional lawyer in Montreal.

SPIN will be released in the US on February 7th. Pick up a copy and enjoy!

Julie also reviews books on her blog, "That's Swell!"

 

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