Monday, June 2, 2014

Interview with Courtney Hamilton, Author of Almost Royalty + Giveaway! (International)

I'd like to welcome Courtney Hamilton to the blog today to celebrate the publication of her debut novel, Almost Royalty. Stick around until the end for a fabulous giveaway that you don't want to miss!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Courtney! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Courtney Hamilton has worked in Hollywood with writers, directors, executive producers, actresses and actors in the entertainment industry in L.A., Las Vegas, and New York, including Golden Globe and Emmy winners in television and feature films (particularly in the humorous fiction, humor romance and women’s fiction genres).

Based in Los Angeles, California, Hamilton is a keen observer of L.A. Royalty and southern California society (which many consider a romantic fiction of its own). Almost Royalty is a fictionalized satire of Los Angeles social classes and especially those who aspire to be part of the city’s A-Level Royalty.

Readers, here's a bit about this new book, which was published last week!

Almost Royalty

Courtney Hamilton is a Velveeta-loving attorney driven to distraction by a city that seethes with soul-sucking status seekers. When her friend Marcie formulates an impossibly detailed rating system for acceptable men—the Los Angeles Eco-Chain of Dating—Courtney goes on a self-destructive binge that doesn't stop until she gets thrown out of group therapy for insulting a former child actress.

Courtney is mortified as she watches her best friends give up stellar careers in law and the arts to marry entertainment royalty and civilian overachievers. Worse, they expect Courtney to do the same. So they hatch plots to get her to give up her career, break her addiction to fake cheese, marry into high-orbit wealth and rule the stratosphere alongside them.

But Courtney resists. She doesn't want to be a poster child for the Opt-Out Generation. And she certainly doesn't want to be molded into date bait for the top rung of L.A. society. All Courtney wants is to be left alone so she can search beneath the surface for a meaningful life. But between a meddling, narcissistic mother, a self-absorbed therapist and friends trying to send her to dating re-education camps, it seems that fake cheese is the only genuine thing left in the city. Social ambition combats self-actualization in this biting tale of one woman's search for certainty in a city full of mirages.
Buy the book from: Amazon

Describe the Almost Royalty in six words.

A hilarious, scathing story about L.A.

How did you arrive at writing chick lit? Are there any other genres you’d like to try your hand at?

I didn’t really plan to write chick lit and frankly some reviewers have said that this is non-traditional chick lit, in that I didn’t follow the usual formula.

I would like to try the paranormal romance genre—oh wait, that actually describes most of the romances in Almost Royalty.

What was the inspiration for the book?

A brutally bad break-up. Also, the sub-prime loan crises. In the months leading up to the actual sub-prime crisis, I saw some wild behavior—the kind of thing where people with no income and no job, people recently out of graduate school—were buying hugely expensive big-ticket items like $2-million-dollar homes. And also a cat... the cat was a huge inspiration for Almost Royalty.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of Almost Royalty. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?
Dinner at the Copper Pan always found me maxing out a credit card to pay for a meal that my mother would have served on a Wednesday night.
You know the situation where you go to a restaurant and realize that you’re paying $35 for a not-so-great meal and a drink? And at the end of the month—or year—you realize that you’ve spent an enormous amount of money on something like a salad and if you don’t pay off your balance every month, you're still paying interest on it? OMG, when did I become Suzy Orman????!!!!!

Tell us about your road to publication, such as how you first queried, unexpected challenges, and things you picked up along the way.

I don’t think that I ever realized it but writing has always been a very organic experience for me. I think that I first got published accidentally at about age 8, and continued to win little awards throughout school. In my first year of college, a wonderful professor—who is still a great friend—told me that I should consider getting published. I didn’t take it seriously until a few years later, when I called a young book agent and pitched an idea on a topic that fascinated me. The agent was kind enough not to laugh, and asked me to submit some chapters of my proposed book. I was very fortunate in that the agent was able to sell my chapters.

After you sign with a publisher, you have that moment where you think, "OMG, this is great. Next stop, NYT Best Seller List," and you think that your life is made. Unfortunately, many authors think that their job is done after they sign with a publisher and turn in their revised manuscript—which, by the way, is enormously difficult to do. But in reality, a writer’s job is just starting, as the marketing component of a book’s launch, including all of the demands of social media, is just beginning and is tremendously demanding.

Are the characters from your books based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your stories?

I think that I have used my writing to synthesize experiences that I didn’t understand, so occasionally, characters in my book are composites of unresolved characters and experiences in my life.

Which character from Almost Royalty was most difficult to write?

It’s hard to write male characters with honesty and dimension because, in my opinion, men and women think very, very differently. Also the cat; I really had a hard time capturing the complexity and nuances of the cat, Abyss.

What do you consider your biggest strengths and weaknesses as an author?

I’m not sure about my strengths—other than that I have an extremely good memory and recall dialogue from years ago.

As for my weaknesses, I could write a book with all of my weaknesses. I write slowly, so that bugs me. When I see those authors who can whip out 2-3 books a year, it just amazes me.

Name the top five novels that have made the biggest impact on your life or on your writing.

I can’t really think of what has had an impact on my life or what has influenced my writing, because my writing is my writing; as I say in Almost Royalty, I take responsibility for it. I can tell you that there are many, many authors whom I admire for different aspects of their writing, however.

The astonishing work of Laurie Colwin, especially her short stories in The Lone Pilgrim. I think her description of childhood in her story “Dalia’s Father” is the most heart-breaking description that I have ever read.

I think that Wolf Hal is a brilliant book; Hillary Mantel is a brilliant writer with tremendous courage. I was astounded by Michael Chabon’s ability to create a world and his own language in The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.

I was amazed by the structure of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.

I’m looking forward to reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and I loved The Secret History—a great story.

I really enjoyed, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer; it was immersive, honest, and sad.

There are so many books that I have loved and so many writers that astound me—I’m really in awe of Jennifer Weiner’s ability to consistently write such great stories. I could go on and on. I think a stunningly brilliant author is Jim Harrison—he has one of most beautiful openings in any book that I have ever read in The Road Home and writes on topics that I could never touch such as natural beauty and epic family-generational drama. Likewise with Don DeLillio; White Noise and Mao II are simply brilliant.

Of course, I also loved Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.

Such a fabulous list of books! What’s the greatest thing you ever learned?

This too will pass.

How do you react to a negative or harsh review to your books?

Terribly. I’m a big baby.

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out what kind of kid Courtney was in high school, the most romantic thing a guy has ever done for her, and real-life lessons for surviving the modern world. We're also hosting a giveaways for print copies and Amazon gift cards, so you don't want to miss that either!

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Some randomness...

Favorite kind of chocolate? Dark, milk, white, coffee-flavored, the kind with nuts or berries inside?? Yes to all of the above.

What kind of kid were you in high school?  It depends on whom you ask. I thought I was a “Rebel with a Cause” but keep hearing different versions from other people.

All-time favorite quote? “There’s always a reason.”

Favorite quote from the book? “I found myself nostalgic for things I once despised.” — It’s part of the prologue.

Most romantic thing a guy has ever said or done to you? A guy took me on a long bus ride on a rainy Tuesday to this art museum. I was really busy and it was a Tuesday, so I was really reluctant to go with him; I just couldn’t understand why he wanted to go to a museum on a Tuesday. When we got to the museum, we had some coffee and biscotti, and then he took me to the third floor where I got to look at one of my favorite paintings, Van Gogh’s "Irises." By that time, it had stopped raining so he took me out on a balcony on the third floor where some other people had gone outside. Because of the rain, the air was really clear and we saw a rainbow and could see the ocean. Just then two deer popped out of the hillside below us and walked by. The guy said, “There’s something I’ve always wanted to ask you.” He got down on one knee and then everything went into slow motion. I remember a woman on the balcony screaming “Oh My God, he’s proposing!” And then the guy pulled out a little black box from his pocket and opened it. It was the most beautiful diamond ring that I had ever seen. We got married four months later.

Most disastrous date you’ve ever been on? There are way too many to pick from, but here's a real winner:

I went to a party and met this guy—he was 31 and I was 17. The guy called me and asked me to come to dinner at his "new house" and to bring a friend. I begged my roommate to come with me and told her that it was going to be a fun, sophisticated evening with "older guys" and a "special meal" in their "brand new house.” We had to drive over an hour and a half to get to there. When we got to the address, there wasn't a house there—it was just the wooden frame of house, just the skeleton, on a cement foundation; this was the "new house.” I walked around the back and the guy and his friend were sitting around a cement fire pit with a six-pack of beer. The guy said, "You thought we were going to make dinner or something?" My roommate and I left in about 90 seconds. I don't think she ever forgave me.

Ugh! How do you get over heartbreak?  I move on. I just try to put as many days and experiences between me and the heartbreak, and I don’t go back. Ever. Binge television watching on shows with six or more seasons also helps.

Currently reading? Dual Inheritance by Johanna Hershon. My God, can she write.

Currently wearing? Three cats. They’re sitting on me. And an Odd Future t-shirt with yoga pants.

Biggest celebrity crush? California Chrome and his team, including his trainer, Art Sherman (oldest trainer to ever win the Kentucky Derby), his owners, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin (two guys outside the horse-racing establishment who put their retirement savings into Chrome), and jockey Victor Espinoza. I’m a big sucker for “defying the odds” stories.

Guiltiest pleasure? Foreign films, television, and reading, of course. I’m really into films from France, India, Spain, Israel, China, and Japan (especially Japanese anime, some of which is so astonishing, it just amazes me). For TV, I like English, Norwegian, and Korean shows. Currently, there are some amazing American TV shows, especially on cable; I’m a big fan of Archer. As for books, I read wherever and whenever I can. Also, skiing, although at best, I’m a completely mediocre skier.

What did you want to grow up to be when you were little? Happy. And passionate about whatever I was doing.

Go-to comfort food? Coffee. Seriously, I find coffee very comforting and I need to be comforted many, many times per day.

Charity or cause of choice? Animals. I’m regularly adopted by different cats.

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What are you involved in when you aren’t writing?

Trading stock... I love to trade stock. And herding my family.

Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes Almost Royalty stand out from the rest?

It’s funny. And it’s a truthful book about L.A.

Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

Keep writing, even when people tell you that your work sucks. Also, try and find your own voice. Try to remember that unless someone feels something when they read your work—good, bad, happy, sad, excited, angry etc.—it’s not working. And definitely get a great attorney, because you will get screwed if you sign your contracts without one.

Now give us your best personal advice—something you wish you had known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.

Learn about money—how to make it, invest it, and hold on to it. Really, it is soooooo important. Don’t get involved with someone who is bad with money because, as much as you may love them, you are doomed and your relationship will fail.

Secondly, get away from people who tell you that you and/or your work suck, especially those with whom you are in a romantic relationship, who treat your terribly under the guise of some pretentious BS like "I missed your birthday (New Years, Christmas, Hanukkah, your favorite holiday with you) because I just don’t believe in celebrating that bourgeois crap." And run as far and as fast as you can away from anyone who says anything like "You might have everyone else fooled, but I see who you really are," because this is the line that people usually use when they know you aren’t attracted to them to make you feel guilty and maybe give them a chance.

Third, anyone who attempts to change your weight, clothing, manners, handwriting, etc. because unless you change, you aren’t “good enough” for them—don’t even bother to acknowledge their existence—they are a control freak and I promise you, it will end very, very, badly.

Fourth, walk away immediately from anyone—friend, romantic interest etc.—who intentionally embarrasses youm especially if it is in public. Even if you are in the middle of a date or whatever, because this is going to also end very, very badly for you and that person has some type of personality disorder, could be dangerous, but is definitely an asshat.

Very practical words of wisdom! What would you say are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

Keep going and find people who believe in your work. And get a good attorney.

What’s the most interesting comment you have ever received about your books?

I’ve been really lucky and had some wonderful, brilliant, thoughtful, and kind early readers from around the world who have been so insightful. They have given me a great deal of clarity about the book. I can’t think of one particular comment, but I can tell you that I have been astonished by the intelligence and insight of most of my reviewers. I’m very grateful to them.

It's amazing how amazing and insightful reviewers can be ;) What are your goals as a writer?

Just to keep writing. And to become a better writer.

What’s next for you?

A great cup of coffee made out of fresh Columbian coffee beans. I’m making myself an excellent cup of coffee right now and if you (or any of your readers) were here, I would give you (or them) a cup and some biscotti and ask you (or them) “What’s next for you?” That is something I would really like to know.

As for me, I'm working on a sequel! Stay tuned.

Where can you be found on the web?

Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you'd like to ask our readers?

I would like to ask your readers “What was your worst date ever?” We are going to have a contest with our readers to find the Top 5 Worst Dates, starting today. The winners will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card, a signed copy of Almost Royalty, and have their Worst Date Ever published on the Almost Royalty blog and Facebook page. I’m looking forward to reading some great stuff.

Finally, thank you so much for the opportunity for this interview.

It was an absolute pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Courtney! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!


You heard Courtney! Books à la Mode is giving away
 a print copy of Almost Royalty
, and in addition, Courtney's publisher is sponsoring a Worst Date Contest, where she's giving away five $10 Amazon gift card and print copy sets! To enter, all you have to do is answer Courtney's question:
What's the worst date you've ever been on?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Courtney and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the author and publisher—a huge thank you to Courtney and Forrest Thompson!
Giveaway ends June 16th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open internationally—woohoo! That means anyone in the world can enter.
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I will be randomly selecting a winner for the print copy, Courtney will be selecting the Worst Date Ever contest prizes (the book and gift card) based on her favorite responses (so make them good!). I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
By entering the giveaway, you give Courtney Hamilton and Forrest Thompson Publishers permission to repost your story or recite it in a video for media purposes.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!