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Karen Dalton-Beninato

Karen Dalton-Beninato

Posted: July 30, 2009 07:03 PM

The Hello Girl: An Interview with Author Quinn Cummings


2009-07-30-Picture13.pngQuinn Cummings has written her debut book, the alternately lyrical and hilarious, Notes from the Underwire, Adventures from my Awkward and Lovely Life. From her stories about starring in The Goodbye Girl to her string of endearing domestic mishaps, this book is what my book would like to be when it grows up and writes itself.

Quinn was kind enough to answer the following questions and since we stay in touch via Twitter, I'd like to add: Read @Quinncy For the Win:

I love your pet stories in Notes from the Underwire, and was thrilled to learn the term feline rage. Do you believe the new study that cats control their owners?

Was anyone who lives with a cat who saw that study surprised? I have known women suffering through morning sickness open cans of stinky wet food for their cats. My theory is that, down deep, the cat and the human both know that if the size ratio was inverted, they would eat us. We love our cats, but we're also appeasing them in case they suddenly have a huge growth spurt.

You talk about trying your hand at sitcom writing in Notes from the Underwire (Favorite quote: "That's not just good, it's Saved by the Bell good"). What kind of writing comes the most naturally to you?

2009-07-30-qcy14.jpg
That question just sent me off on a reverie about how totally sweet it would have been if my natural writing style was like Tom Clancy, only I developed this talent two years before Clancy wrote his first book. And then I made Clancy-money for decades and was writing this answer on my estate in Hawaii. Heck, I'd be writing it from my estate which was Hawaii.

Anyway, I think my natural inclination is towards the quotidian and the ruminative. This is a fancy way of saying I like to think for a long time about an uncomfortable conversation I have had at the grocery store and then I like to write about it.

Your QCReport was picked as a top blog on Newsweek, how soon after that did the subsequent book deal with Hyperion come about?

Years later. Completely unrelated nice things which happened to me. Newsweek was alerted to my blog within three months of my starting to write it; the book came about because Abigail Breslin was nominated for an Academy Award. No, I'm not seeing patterns where none exist. Because a child was nominated, USA Today did an article about former nominees who were children. My story went something like "Didn't go to jail, never went to rehab, created The Hiphugger, has a blog now."


An editor at Hyperion found the blog, read enough to think there was a book there, got the head of Hyperion and the marketing department to agree and came to me with an offer. If you have an MFA and a thick file of turndowns from agents for your really good book, I know that my story is very irritating. Sorry.

You're currently on a blog book tour. Did you come up with that concept, and how cool is it to meet your readers without having to leave the house?

The Quinn Cummings Seemingly Endless Blog Book Tour of 2009 has been much more fun than I could have anticipated. First of all, there's the part where you can do press without have to check your lip-gloss, which is a huge "Yeah!" in my book. Second, and I'm not sucking up to my readers, I promise, but the questions have been remarkably good. And the Q&A format works not unlike tennis, in that you're more likely to hit the ball back hard and well if it's hit hard and well to you. And the idea was offered to me by Sara J. Henry who will be using the blog book tour for her own page-turner of a novel very shortly. I wish I could say I thought of it, but I can take credit for having the sense to see a nearly perfect idea when it's handed to me.

Speaking of coming up with concepts, what was your inspiration to invent the hip hugger? I don't carry many babies lately, but it's a brilliant design!

I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome when I was pregnant, which went away the second the kid was born but left me with some nerve damage in my fingers. Nerve damage which was aggravated by holding my baby and then my toddler on my hip. I wanted something which displaced the weight of holding her there across my upper body and didn't make my hands go numb. I mentioned this to a friend who had a design background. Nine months later, we had our first Hiphuggers in a store. One of the strange facts of my life is that my name is on a patent, which still strikes me as absurd; people with patents should be able to put together Ikea furniture without needing to take a sobbing break. But here I am.

I've been name dropping you shamelessly and friends are happy to hear about a writer who went from a childhood in the limelight to a happy home life. With all the Michael Jackson childhood stories coming to light, what advice would you give to the parents of a precocious child looking to break into life in the public eye?

2009-07-30-quinnnn.jpgI lucked out. I had parents who didn't confuse me for an ATM and a certain psychic stability which allowed me to come through my childhood with only the usual amount of scars. Then again, there was no Internet when I was a kid, no cell-phone cameras, no Twitter, no Facebook. When I wasn't in the public eye, I could hope to be anonymous. No one has that luxury anymore. And if you live even a small part of your life as an entertainer you have, in the eyes of a percentage of the population, given up all expectation of ever leading a regular life. And being a former child actor is a permanent state; unless I save the rain forest, my obit is going to be titled, "Quinn Cummings, former child star, dies of something avoidable." Which is all my way of saying, if your kid likes acting and singing, there's something called local theater.

After winning an Oscar nomination for The Goodbye Girl, you starred in series including "Family" and "Blossom" - What's your favorite TV show theme song?

"The Wire." First of all, best show EVER, so I have this Pavlovian response to hearing "When You Walk Through the Garden," one of "YEAH! Best show EVER, about to start!" Second of all, I love how they did a new version every season and they were all great in different ways.

And there's your full circle -- New Orleans' "Treme" is the next HBO series by the creators of "The Wire," and I'm sitting in a New Orleans courtyard fretting over feline rage syndrome. If our kitten doesn't have a panther sized growth spurt, kill and eat us I'm very much looking forward to reading your next book.

Notes from the Underwire is available at Amazon.com (Here).

Follow Karen Dalton-Beninato on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kbeninato