Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Interview with Diana Peterfreund

UNDER THE ROSE, the sequel to her fabulous debut SECRET SOCIETY GIRL, was released yesterday.
I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of the book and let me tell you, it was fan-freakin-tastic! I couldn't put it down!
So today I'm chatting with my WRW buddy Diana Peterfreund.
Amanda: Welcome Diana! Congrats on the release. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Diana: I have blonde hair and blue eyes, and I like puppy dogs and long walks on the beach... LOL! I grew up in Tampa Bay, Florida, and went to college at Yale, where I studied geology and literature.
After I graduated, I worked as a food critic and events editor for a alternative weekly newspaper in my hometown, and traveled extensively through Australia and New Zealand (often by thumb). Now I live in Washington D.C. with my partner, code name Sailor Boy, and write full time. (We don't have a puppy dog because our apartment complex won't let us, and
the last time we went to the beach, there was a hurricane.)
In my spare time, I'm addicted to Netflix, I love blogging(, and I volunteer at the National Zoo watching Golden Lion Tamarins. If you stop by, say hi!
I'm also on the board of two RWA chapters: Chick Lit Writers of the World, and (soon to be) Washington Romance Writers. Let's see, what else? I'm going to three weddings this summer...
Amanda: Sounds like you're "at that age" where every time you turn around, there's another wedding! LOL! Anyway, how did you begin writing?
Diana: I'm one of those folks who was always writing. back in grade school when we were given "put this vocab word in a sentence" assignments, I wrote short stories with vocab words instead. After I graduated from college, I decided to actually write a novel instead of just thinking about doing it "someday." I knew about organizations like RWA, but decided that before I invested what little money I had into membership, I needed to prove that it was worth it by actually finishing a whole book.
Which I did.
It... wasn't very good, but completing it was one of the most amazing feelings I ever had. For me, finishing a WHOLE NOVEL was the real challenge. After that, I knew that the only thing that stood in my way was writing a good one. So I joined RWA to help me learn how. I wrote four novels before I got it right.
Amanda: Well, having read both your published novels, I can say you definitely did get it right. Speaking of your novels, UNDER THE ROSE has a sex scene, whereas SECRET SOCIETY GIRL didn't. Why the change, and how did you prepare for writing this scene?
Diana: SECRET SOCIETY GIRL didn't have a sex scene because it wasn't an important part of the story. It was never an active decision on my part not to include sex in that story. It just wasn't the interesting part of her interaction with her lover. In UNDER THE ROSE, sex is a far more important part of the relationship, so it made sense to include it.

I teased my editor that it was "a glass of wine and Prince on the iTunes" that helped me write it. Though I'd written four (unpublished) romance novels, all of which had sex scenes, I'd never written a sex scene from a first person POV before. It poses an interesting challenge. There was some danger, I thought, of it sounding a little bit TMI to hear "and then he did this to me, and then I did that to him" which is something I never thought of in third person. The key for me was to keep it in Amy's voice, and in the confessional tone of the book. Even in those circumstances, there are things that Amy won't say, and there are ways that she'll say certain other things. For instance, Amy's mind works in lists, always, so there is even a list in the sex scene.
Amanda: Yeah, I found that particularly hilarious! So, how do you find your inspiration?
Diana: Everywhere. I love playing "what if" in different situations. Sometimes, a line from a song or a movie or just something I overhear on the street will lodge in my mind, like grit in an oyster, and a story idea will start from there. I got the idea for SECRET SOCIETY GIRL because one night that movie, THE SKULLS, was on TV (we used to make fun of it in
school) and I wondered why no one ever wrote a book about secret societies the way they REALLY were. So I decided to do it.
Amanda: Spill close to reality is fictional Eli University?
Diana: Pretty much everything except for the names! The geography is almost identical, and the culture and lifestyle at "Eli" is pretty much exactly the same as it is at Yale. It's one of those "change the names to protect the innocent" deals. And of course, calling it Eli instead of Yale means that I CAN Change things for the purposes of fiction without feeling guilty about corrupting my beloved alma mater. The mix of fact and fiction is one of my favorite things about being a novelist, and I've gotten letters from folks saying that XYZ I wrote about is clearly
not true (when it is) as well as comments from secret society members wondering who told me about ABC when I made it up! But my favorite letters are the ones from people who said I made them feel nostalgic for their college days.
Amanda: And you know what? Besides the sharp observations and witty writing, that's probably what I love best about your books. It makes me feel like I'm back at Duke, even though we clearly didn't have secret societies or anything like in the book, but you totally took me back there anyway. Good job!
Anyway, switching topics, you recently sold a young adult novel to Harper Collins about a teenage virgin descendant of Alexander the Great who slays killer unicorns. Talk about high concept! How did you get the idea?
Diana: I don't actually have a good answer for you on that one. It's not an idea that came all at once, but slowly, over a period of years, with each little piece clicking into place after much thought. I know I was interested in the concept of virginity and who decides what that means, and I was also interested in the different myths of the unicorn worldwide, but I don't know what the original piece of grit was, though, that started me down that path.
Amanda: Well, I'll definitely be looking forward to reading it when it's released! So, what's next for you?
Diana: I've published two novels with Bantam Dell: SECRET SOCIETY GIRL and UNDER THE ROSE, as part of a four book series about Amy Haskel and her adventures in the Ivy League secret society Rose & Grave. The third book, tentatively titled RITES OF SPRING (BREAK), will be out next summer, and that takes up the bulk of my writing time.
In addition, I'm in the non-fiction anthology EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME, edited by Jennifer O'Connell and out
now from Pocket Books. And then the unicorn book is due next year, and oh, yeah. I'm getting married this fall.
Thanks so much for having me, Amanda!

And thanks so much for being here, Diana! You're definitely busy, that's for sure! So, readers, buy UNDER THE ROSE. You won't regret it!

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Posted by Amanda Brice :: 9:11 AM :: 6 comments

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Monday, June 25, 2007

It's That Time of Year, Folks...

A few months back, I blogged about the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case and the limits of free speech. A bunch of my readers got very riled up, on both sides of the issue.

Anyway, like the title of this entry says, it's that time of year. It's late June, so it's time for a whole rash of Supreme Court decisions before they go on recess.

Today we got the ruling in this school free speech case, in a split 5-4 decision:

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion for the Court, that schools may prohibit student expression that can be interpreted as advocating drug use.

I'm really not suprised at all, looking at precedent on free speech for students cases.

What do you think?

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Posted by Amanda Brice :: 8:43 AM :: 5 comments

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

When Did My Life Become a Chick Lit Novel?

A few weeks ago, I blogged about when I locked myself out of the house but stuck inside the screen porch. That was so freaking hilariously funny other people. Not to me. At least not at the time.

Now I do think it's funny, but it wasn't at the time.

A few days ago, I did something equally dumb and deserving of a scene in a chick lit novel. It all started when I joined the gym at work. Completely inoccuous and good, right?


I wanted to go to yoga class after work on Thursday but I was runing late, so I decided to change in my office rather than in the locker room. I locked the door, closed the shades, and changed.

All good.

I don't work on Fridays, but I came in on Sunday briefly to get some work done on an appeal brief. When I got into my office, I discovered a stack of cases on my chair, obviously put their by my boss after he reviewed them (sad to say that there was a lot of red on them...grrr...).

So I picked them up so I could sit down, only to discover a... bra!

Yup, evidently I have a thing for leaving unmentionables in my office. So yeah, my boss definitely saw my bra when he came into my office on Friday to drop off cases. The fact that he covered it up with the files pretty much establishes that as a fact.

For those blog readers who know my boss, you'll definitely find this story kinda funny yet distrurbing at the same time. For those of you who don't know my boss, I'm sure you'll just find it funny.

I, for one, find it humiliating.

But anyway, yeah. So when did I become a chick lit heroine? Because it seems like I'm getting more and more fodder for funny scenes just in my real life...

But it brings up a good point. I guess the reason I realte to chick lit so well is because the heroines are real. They're goofy, they do dumb things. So I can laugha nd look at them and say, "At least I'm not that neurotic/messed up/dumb/goofy."

Only, apparently I am...

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Posted by Amanda Brice :: 12:02 PM :: 8 comments

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Today I'm chatting with one of my Book Cents sisters, Jennifer Colgan/Bernadette Gardner. She's got several books out this summer, including La Mirage, which came out from Samhain yesterday.

Amanda: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jennifer/Bernadette: I've been married for fifteen years to my best friend. We met at a Star Trek convention in 1990. I have two children and a spoiled Dalmatian. The latter keeps me company while I write and reminds me to get away from the computer now and then to give him treats and let him outside.

Amanda: How did you begin writing?

Jennifer/Bernadette: When I was ten years old, one of my friends wanted to be a writer like her grandfather. She actually got me into writing stories and I've been doing it ever since. She eventually gave up writing, but the dream stuck with me and here I am a number of decades later still making up stories.

Amanda: What are your upcoming books about?

Jennifer/Bernadette: I have a number of releases coming out this summer, one from each of my four publishers in fact. La Mirage will be available from Samhain Publishing on June 15th. It's a contemporary erotic romance with a paranormal twist and will be released as part of Samhain's Midsummer Night's Steam anthology series. Writing as Bernadette Gardner I have Rogue Theta, a spicy science fiction adventure from Ellora's Cave set for June 22nd. This my first release from EC so I'm really excited about joining the amazing group of authors over there. In July, I have another sizzling science fiction adventure called U-4EA, due to be released as part of the Space Truckin' Pax anthology from Amber Quill Press, and later in July, New Concepts Publishing will be releasing Hunter's Mate, a follow up story to my very first published novella, Hunter's Moon. Also hot science fiction romance [Bernadette's specialty] Hunter's Mate follows the daughter of the characters I introduced in Hunter's Moon in 2005.

Amanda: How do you find your inspiration?

Jennifer/Bernadette: I get inspiration from everywhere. Television, music, even the news. Everything I hear or see tends to make me wonder 'what if...?' and ideas come from there.

Amanda: I'm hoping my agent will find homes for two single-title paranormals I've written this past year and I have a number of spicy novellas and short stories planned to keep Bernadette busy for the summer.


Posted by Amanda Brice :: 9:30 AM :: 6 comments

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Time's Running Out to Enter the Stiletto!!!!

If you're a chick lit writer who hasn't signed a contract with an RWA-approved publisher in the last 5 years, then here's the contest for you. But act quick, because the deadline is THIS FRIDAY!!!!!

First-place winners in each category will be entered into a lottery to receive a detailed critique of their submission by either agent Christina Hogrebe (Jane Rotrosen Agency) or editor Diana Szu (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press). In addition, the overall highest scoring entry will receive a free enrollment in Cathy Yardley’s (WILL WRITE FOR SHOES: HOW TO WRITE A CHICK LIT NOVEL) online course “How to Write Chick Lit.”

Entries must be received by June 15, 2007. In addition to the special prizes for finalists, randomly selected entrants will receive a complimentary copy of Cathy Yardley’s how-to book, WILL WRITE FOR SHOES.

Finalists will be notified by August 25, 2007 and will be given the opportunity to revise their entry prior to forwarding to the final judges. Winners will be notified by November 5, 2007.

In the preliminary round, entries will be judged by two (2) qualified judges - Chick Lit Writers members experienced in critiquing and/or published authors of the genre. Large score discrepancies will be sent to a third judge. All entrants will receive detailed score sheets and judges’ comments from the preliminary round. Top four (4) entries in each category will move on to the final round.

The final judges will rank the top four finalists in each category: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Honorable Mention. We have an impressive array of chick lit friendly agent and editor judges for the final round who are excited and anxious to read your entries. (Each finalist entry will be judged by an agent AND an editor!)

Classic Chick Lit/Lady Lit
Editor: Kathryn Lye (Red Dress Ink)
Agent: Lois Winston (Ashley Grayson Literary Agency)

Chick Thrill
Editor: Leah Hultenschmidt (Dorchester)
Agent: Paige Wheeler (Folio Literary Management)

Paranormal Chick Lit
Editor: Anne Groell (Bantam Dell Publishing Group)
Agent: Kristen Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency)

Inspirational Chick Lit
Editor: Krista Stroever (Steeple Hill Café)
Agent: Mary Sue Seymour (The Seymour Agency)

Young Adult Chick Lit
Editor: Kristin Daly (Harper Collins)
Agent: Kelly Ferrara (Book Cents Literary Agency)

Red Hot Chick Lit
Editor: Hilary Sares (Kensington Aphrodisia)
Agent: Roberta Brown (Brown Literary Agency)

More details at: http:www/


Posted by Amanda Brice :: 11:35 AM :: 0 comments

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Monday, June 11, 2007

An Interview with Agent Christine Witthohn

Remember when interviews with authors and editors were a regular feature of my blog? Well, I'm hoping to get back to that, starting with today's fabulous interview with agent Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency.

Amanda: Welcome Christine! Tell us something about yourself.

Christine: I am one of eight children in a highly competitive, but very supportive Italian family. To give you an example of how competitive... one of my sisters was on "Survivor" (Guatemala).I went to school for 16 years studying biology, chemistry and nursing before moving onto medicine.

I am married to my soul-mate. I love to read and I love to travel (and it's a good thing).My office is in Charleston, WV, however I spend one week a month in New York (I grew up in NY and still have family there) and I attend at least one writer's conference a month.

Amanda: How did you get your start as an agent?

Christine: After the sudden death of my father (the patriarch of our immediate and extended family, as well as my ROCK), I decided I didn't want to work in a hospital setting. He was sick for only 5 (emotionally draining) weeks before we lost him to pancreatic cancer.

Everything I had done up to that point in my life was to further my medical career, but I needed a change. I have always been an avid reader (a hobby both my hubby and I share) and secretly I am also a writer. I know the excitement and the sense of accomplishment writers feel when they finally finish typing "the end". I also understand the ups and downs of putting a story together, trying to make time to write and getting writer's block. However, truth be known... I haven't written anything new for a few years now (I just don't have the time).

For as long as I can remember, my fantasy "dream job" was one where I could help people get their stories into print - hence, my logo: "Turning Your Words Into Books" (book or screenplay). Strangely enough, I started on the film side of the business before moving over the the literary side.

To be competitive, I studied the industry and market for four and a half years. Because my hubby is an attorney and could support us, I had the luxury of traveling back and forth to NY and Los Angeles to develop and nurture important industry contacts. I'm very proud of all my hard work and my strong contacts with all the major NY publishing houses, as well as several big production companies.

Amanda: What has been the most challenging part of opening your own agency?

Christine: Since I opened my agency's doors for business in September of 2006, things have just taken off at a warp speed. I think I would have to say the most challenging part of my job is... trying to juggle my travel schedule, getting through the writer's queries/submissions in a timely manner and being available to my clients at a moments's notice (after all, there is only one of me). First and foremost, my priorities are with my clients and their writing careers.I have a very close relationship with all my clients and I truly adore each and every one of them on a personal level. My response time to them is immediate.

I have never been afraid of hard work and anyone who knows me, can attest to that fact. I'm not afraid to get dirty and I like to jump into the trenches with my clients when they need me.I am ultra organized and I run a tight ship. I like things to run smoothly, but my job requires me to juggle the unpredictable (late/cancelled flights, deadline changes, client's needs, computer crashes, etc.). As far as queries and submissions... I go out of my way to be approachable and make myself available to writers. I try to participate in all festivities at most of the writer's conferences I attend and I never leave early. I encourage people to introduce themselves to me at conferences and I always make time for them when they do.

I also read EVERYTHING that a writer submits to me (good or bad) - I don't want to miss anything :)

My ideal turn around times are: for an e-QUERY - one to five days; for an e-PARTIAL/e-FULL - four weeks, but this is becoming increasingly harder and harder to do. The amount of submissions I have been receiving, has far exceeded even my own expectations!

I always heard the horror stories, but now I can state with certainty... they're all true!

Amanda: What are you looking for in a potential client and/or story?

Christine: Quite simply... Good writing. I have to love their writing. I personally am of the belief - an agent can't SELL a story they don't love.

I tend to get very excited about my client's writing and it shows when I'm selling their stories to a publisher. Also, before I take on a client... I interview them. If I don't feel I have a good rapport with a person, I won't take them on. I usually go with my "gut" on that one. I'm not looking for quantity, I look for quality. I expect all my writers to work as hard as I do. We become a team, so we must be able to work well together. If I'm going to bust my behind, I want to know that my client is willing to do the same. I'm also in this for the long haul, so I'm really not interested in a writer who only has one story and doesn't want to make writing a career.

Amanda: Any particular projects you're most excited about (besides mine, of course)? ;)

Christine: Yes! Several.

Creative Works:I have a client with a four book series of Humorous Women's Fiction I am really excited about. I'm also excited to report - several big names in Hollywood are also eyeballing her. I have another client who used to write Romance, but now has moved to the dark side and has a kick-butt Thriller I am about to unleash on a few big publishing houses. Lastly, I have several publishers chomping to see a three book saga, which was described as... Indiana Jones meets The Mummy meets The Lord of the Rings. Folks... this kid is brilliant! (He's also so cute you could eat him up, as well as available - to all you nice and well established gals out there :) What? I told you I adore my clients.

Agency News: This news has not yet been announced (so you are the first to hear it)... Book Cents Literary Agency will soon have their own Foreign Rights Office, as well as their own Film Rights Office. These offices and their services will not only be available to our clients, but to other agents and agencies. I'm so excited! My goal has always been to be able to take care of all our clients needs. Now it's going to be possible.

Also, a pet project I have been working on and helping to promote is the fourth annual International Women's Fiction Festival, being held in Matera, Italy - Sept. 27-30, 2007. To find out more information about the Festival, please visit: This festival celebrates women who tell stories. Whether, on the big screen, in a book or in a song. Attendees will have access to top industry professionals in the European Markets/Foreign Rights (English, French, German, Italian), Film makers, Singers/Songwriters, Agents and Editors. Here are just a few names of people who will be in attendance: Nicholas Sparks, Cherry Adair, Sofia Coppola, Josephine Hart, Barbara Samuel and many more. This is a little known fact, but most authors make more money on their foreign sales than they do on their domestic sales.So all you authors out there who are already published and want to increase your international sales - this conference is for YOU!

Thank you for having me Amanda!

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Posted by Amanda Brice :: 6:48 AM :: 7 comments

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Costa Rica pics!!!!!

It took a good portion of the day, but I've finally uploaded the pics to Shutterfly. Since I have zero HTML talent, I'm just going to paste the links in here instead of trying to put pretty pictures in my blog.

Hopefully if I get some time tomorrow, I'll do a recap. Suffice it to say that Costa Rica is lovely and awesome, which you'll see from the pics. But they don't even BEGIN to capture how great it was!

Here's the Shutterfly albums...
First batch of them:

Second batch:

Posted by Amanda Brice :: 1:44 PM :: 5 comments

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Back From Costa Rica!

I'm tired. Very tired, but we had a wonderful time! I'm tan, which is a treat in itself (I usually burn or stay pale, but I actually tanned even with 50 SPF on--LOL!).

The nature was undescribably beautiful. If you ever get the chance to go, do it. AWESOME trip.

I'll try to download pictures soon, and then will do a recap.

Only downer was that I came home to a zillion and one emails when I got to work today (bitter that I had to come in instead of lounging on the beach in paradise), one of which was another rejection letter for my YA. :(

Posted by Amanda Brice :: 2:28 PM :: 1 comments

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