It is always inspiring to discuss the publishing process with an author who has been down this road before. They are more knowledgeable, seasoned, and better prepared for the second time around. Laura Spinella's sophomore novel, PERFECT TIMING (Berkley Trade), has just hit the shelves and is sure to strike a chord with readers everywhere. In our interview she discusses where her ideas come from, where she finds inspiration and what's next for this rising star.
Tell us the story behind the story. How did PERFECT TIMING come to be?
PERFECT TIMING is actually a trunk novel. I think that's worth mentioning because trunk novels don't often get a second shot. I'm ecstatic that this one did. I wrote PERFECT TIMING while in writer's limbo, before my first novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, sold. At the time, I wasn't sure about my direction as an author and ultimately banished the draft to a desk drawer. After seeing how BEAUTIFUL DISASTER connected with lovers of romantic relationship fiction, I yanked open that drawer without hesitation.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing PERFECT TIMING?
Keeping it real. When I decided to resurrect this novel, I had a conversation with my agent, Susan Ginsburg. I asked if she thought it was reasonable or just too whimsical to cast a guy who's a rock star as a main character. As always, her advice was sage but not without warning. She told me that much of this would depend on interpretation--mine. How would I present him to the reader; what would his dialogue sound like? For as charismatic as he could be, what were his flaws? And, most importantly, she advised that I keep Aidan's circumstance relatable. After several revisions and some serious hand wringing, I think we got there.
What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?
Well, with all due respect to whimsical... It's true that PERFECT TIMING's protagonist is a rock star. That part is intended to take the reader away from the ordinary. And I do think, in his element, Aidan Royce earns his ovation. But that's not what this story is about; it's about the rhythm of lasting friendship, and the beat of a love story subject to incredible odds. It's about family and figuring out what makes you truly happy, then being brave enough to embrace it. PERFECT TIMING is relationship fiction set to the sometimes extraordinary and always precarious tempo of life.
Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits?
I am a guilty panster. But I'm a firm believer in this great quote: "Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." It's certainly true for any first draft of mine. I write from early morning until noon; then I switch hats and work my afternoon gig with a web developer. Habits? Oh, writing habits... At this point I think they're better described as nasty ticks. Unless it's completely unavoidable, I only write in my sunroom. This is somewhat counterintuitive in that it's mercilessly bright and cheery. However, we live in a 113-year old house and I do believe its ghosts have seen me through many a revision.
What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?
I read around. I'm currently reading WHERE'D YOU GO BERNADETTE, and I just finished David Ellis's THE LAST ALIBI. In a non-fiction world, I thought Barbara Brown Taylor's AN ALTAR in the WORLD was thought provoking, reminding us that spirituality is mostly found outside the confines of organized religion. Together, all three books are a fair representation of my reading habits.
Which authors inspire you?
Oh gosh, which authors don't might be a shorter list. But I'll go with opposite ends of the spectrum here. As a kid I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder. I had the books, I had the memorabilia, I had a savings account for the express purpose visiting her home in Mansfield, Missouri. It's a good thing she was dead. Otherwise, I might have come off as stalker-ish. Thinking back, I believe reading her writing was a subconscious adolescent study in how to tell a story. As an adult, Jodi Picoult has been my literary hero since I read MERCY. For the record, I harbor no outward desire to seek her out.
What have you learned from this experience?
With a new book on the shelves, I'm only beginning to see what this experience will bring. There is puddle-deep steadiness that comes with book two. To some extent, you do feel like saying, "Okay, I got this..." That's not to say it's the confidence of having a half-dozen books on the shelf. Overall, I've learned a great deal about the publishing industry. I came into the business at a particularly pivotal moment. Self-publishing was on the brink of changing everything when BEAUTIFUL DISASTER was published. So in many ways, I've had a front row seat for that evolution, and therefore a different experience than had I first been published a decade ago.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
See if your desire to write fits the definition for compulsion--that would be a strong, unusually irresistible impulse to perform an act, especially one that is irrational. If you find yourself nodding at that description, then this might be for you! That and be wary what advice you take. It's always great to have input, someone willing to read your work. But make sure the advice you take is coming from someone who knows their stuff.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Gin with a splash of tonic. Oh, you probably meant writing advice. The answer to that relates to the above question and trusting the source of your writing advice. So for me, the best advice is when I receive a detailed to-do list from my agent. It's always a lot of work. But I also know I'm on my way when Susan finds enough substance in what I've written to say, "Go do this... this... and this..."
What are you working on now?
COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES has passed the litmus test of a first draft. I'm currently in the hair-tearing stages of deconstructing the novel and reworking things like point of view and streamlining the plot. It's kind of like building a house and then deciding you want running water and electricity. The frame is good; you just have to figure out how to integrate those elements while not leaving a noticeable mark. Wish me luck!
For more information on Laura Spinella be sure to visit her website. Thanks, Laura!