Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Interview with Suzanne Redfearn, Author of No Ordinary Life + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

I'd like to welcome Suzanne Redfearn to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of No Ordinary Life from Grand Central Publishing!

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

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Born and raised on the east coast, Suzanne moved to California when she was fifteen. She currently lives in Laguna Beach with her husband, their two kids, a Cockapoo named Cooper, and a cat named Motley. They own a restaurant in town called Lumberyard.

Prior to becoming an author, Suzanne was an architect specializing in residential and commercial design. When not writing, Suzanne enjoys doing anything and everything with her family—skiing, golf, tennis, surfing, playing board games, and watching reality TV. She is an avid baseball fan. Her team is the Angels. She can also be found in the bleachers watching her kids' sports or prowling the streets with her husband checking out the culinary scene of Orange County.


It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which just hit shelves earlier this month:

Suzanne Redfearn delivers another gripping page-turner in her latest novel, a story about a young mother's fight to protect her children from the dangerous world of Hollywood.

Faye Martin never expected her husband to abandon her and their three children... or that she'd have to struggle every day to make ends meet. So when her four-year-old daughter is discovered through a YouTube video and offered a starring role on a television series, it seems like her prayers have been answered. But when the reality of their new life settles in, Faye realizes that fame and fortune don't come without a price. In a world where everyone is an actor and every move is scrutinized by millions, it's impossible to know whom to trust, and Faye finds herself utterly alone in her struggle to save her family.

Emotionally riveting and insightful, No Ordinary Life is an unforgettable novel about the preciousness of childhood and the difficult choices a mother needs to make in order to protect this fragile time in her children's lives.

Describe No Ordinary Life in six words (or less!).

Mother protects her kids from fame.

How did you arrive at writing women's fiction? Are there any other genres you’d like to try your hand at, or any you want to stay away from?

I have actually written in several other genres, but Hush Little Baby was the one that got published, and the editor I am with works primarily in women’s fiction, so that is the genre she is most interested in publishing.

I love young adult novels and someday would love to write in that genre as well.


What was the inspiration for the book?

I knew my editor wanted me to write another story about a mother protecting her children, and I was in line at the grocery store and saw a tabloid with the headline, “Zac Efron Enters Rehab Again.” My daughter was a High School Musical fan when she was little, so I felt like I had watched Zac Efron grow up, and to know he was suffering and that his suffering was being made public made me feel horrible for him and his parents. The idea Child Star popped in my head. At that point I wasn’t certain what the story was going to be, but I liked the idea of exploring what goes on behind the glitz and glamour that causes so many young actors to suffer such tragic setbacks and downfalls.


As a huge fan of first lines, I'd love to hear the first line of No Ordinary Life. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?
Molly and I sit outside the principal’s office, my eyes staring at my hands in my lap like a defendant awaiting a verdict.
It’s always nice to start with a bit of tension, and all of us can relate to the feeling of being outside the principal’s office. My protagonist starts off meek and overwhelmed by life and she needs to become strong. The first chapter is the setup to show how difficult it is for her to stand up to authority.

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

Telling you my road to publication would take way too many pages :) So I will sum it up: dozens of rejection letters from agents; three agents along the way; dozens of rejection letters from publishers; five novels written; one contingency sale based on my ability to edit the story to the publisher’s liking; one very small advance; a dozen more compromises on the story; Hush Little Baby published!!!!

It was a difficult journey that required perseverance above all else. The most important wisdom I picked up along the way is to keep on trekking. You never know what story is going to hit that magic mark and make it through the gauntlet and into the world.

That's a refreshingly honest perspective—thank you for sharing, and for the sound advice! Are the characters from your book based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your fiction?

I always tell people to be careful what they say or do around me because, if it is interesting, it will wind up in one of my stories. That being said, all of my characters are fictional. They are as real as real people, but they have been entirely made up in my head. This story was a little different because I wanted to tell a story that was very authentic, so I did a lot of research before I started on child actors and the world behind the glitz and glamour. I read every autobiography and biography I could find on former child stars and some of those stories inspired me. The little girl in the story, Molly, is definitely influenced by Shirley Temple and Jodie Foster because I wanted a child too young to choose the path for herself and one so precocious that, the moment the spotlight found her, she would be destined for superstardom. And my protagonist is based in part on Pattie Mallette, Justin Bieber’s mom, who was a young single mom struggling financially when her child was discovered through a YouTube video.

Which character from No Ordinary Life was most difficult to write?

I struggled with Sean, the husband. While he was one of the antagonists, I still wanted him to be sympathetic. I really wanted his internal struggle between his love for his kids and his greed to be felt.

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

That’s probably a question better asked to my readers.

But the part I’m always most amazed at is how the story feels like it tells itself, like it knows what it wants to be and I just have to figure that out. I put the work in, but this other amazing thing happens that feels very organic. It feels like a gift, so I would have to say that is my greatest strength.

My weakness is everything else, the struggle of writing it well enough that the writing doesn’t get in the way, of not being lazy and saying good enough when it isn’t, and also of accepting good enough when I’ve done my best and it still isn’t perfect. All of it. Writing is very, very hard.

Name the top five novels that have made the biggest impact on your life or on your writing.
  1. Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
  2. Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
  3. John Irving, The World According to Garp
  4. Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
  5. Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
How do you react to a negative or harsh review to your books?

I used to read all the reviews. Now I only read the positive ones. So much goes into writing a novel, and so many people help along the way that, by the time it makes it into the world, I am extraordinarily proud of it. Knowing people appreciate it is wonderful. If people don’t, I don’t really want to hear about it.

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Suzanne's random favorites, her best writing and personal advice, and what makes No Ordinary Life stand out as a book from all the rest. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of No Ordinary Life, so you don't want to miss that either!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Some randomness...

Favorite kind of chocolate? Dark, milk, white, coffee-flavored, the kind with nuts or berries inside?? Dark. I keep a Ghiradelli Intense Dark Sea Salt candy bar at my desk at all times for those moments when I just need a little self love.

Self-love is important!! All-time favorite quote? “Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.” — Les Brown

Currently reading? Chris Bohjalian’s The Guest Room.

Currently wearing? Flannel pajamas with dogs wearing glasses, Wigwam boots, and my bathrobe because it is cold.

Most visited websites? TED.com, MSN.com, Thesaurus.com.

Favorite vegetable? Brussel sprouts (with bacon).

Guiltiest pleasure? Reality television—Survivor, The Amazing Race, The Biggest Loser, and the worst of all Are You the One (so bad, it’s irresistible)

What did you want to grow up to be when you were little? An architect.

Go-to comfort food? Chocolate or French fries depending on whether I need sweet or salty.

Charity or cause of choice? Pediatric Cancer Research.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes No Ordinary Life stand out from the rest?

The story hasn’t been told and it is such an intriguing topic. We all know the train wreck stories that are splashed in the tabloids about former young stars struggling, but the reason being famous when you are young is so destructive really isn’t understood. No Ordinary Life is only one story and it is fiction, but it is based on real stories, and I think most readers will find its insight into that world fascinating.

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

You need to write the right story. It is a risk for a publisher to take a chance on a new author, so they are only willing to do it if they are confident you have written a story that will be successful—one that has already proven marketable and yet that has its own hook so it is new. It is an elusive combination, and that is why my advice to writers is to write. Write, write, write. If you are lucky, your first story will hit the mark, but it might be your third story or your tenth. For me it was my fifth.

That's both incredibly sobering and motivating. Writing is hard work, no one writes a bestseller easily! Now give us your best personal advice—something you wish you had known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.

Believe. Don’t let the voice of doubt stop you from trying. Failure is better than quitting.

That is so soothing to my anxious soul. What are you involved in when you aren't writing?

I dabble. I ski, surf, golf, do yoga, kick box, hike, read, hang out with my dog, do Sudoku, garden. Mostly I like being with my family. My favorite thing in the world is when we are together sitting on the couch watching really bad reality television while playing Scrabble.

What would you say are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

I have this ridiculous faith that it is all going to work out. No matter how bad the writing or the story is, I never even think about throwing in the towel. I believe it is going to come together, and it usually does. Also, I stopped reading reviews that aren’t positive. Negativity destroys mojo.

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

I was surprised and humbled by the reaction to Hush Little Baby and how many women reached out to me to tell me the story related to their own experiences and struggles with domestic violence. Some of the stories brought me to tears, and I realized how powerful words can be in touching others.

What is the message in No Ordinary Life that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t know if there is a particular message so much as I hope they walk away with insight and understanding. Celebrity affects people, not only the person who is famous, but those around them. It was a fascinating topic to explore and I hope readers walk away feeling like they gained knowledge and perhaps some perspective.

What are your goals as a writer?

To tell good stories that are entertaining and encourage readers to think and wonder. I love presenting ideas and raising questions that create dialogue, thought, and debate. If I can do that, I feel like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

What’s next for you?

I am writing another story that I am very excited about. It is a story about two moms on the run from the police and their husbands. It’s a road trip story, which I have always wanted to write, and so far I am having a lot of fun with it.


That sounds exciting, I can't wait! Where can you be found on the web?


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

Who is the most famous person you’ve met? If you want to divulge, what the experience was like?

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

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of No Ordinary Life—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is answer Suzanne's question:
Who is the most famous person you’ve met in-person? What was the experience like?
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. Suzanne and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

When I was in third grade, I attended a Louis Sachar book signing back when Holes was all the rage and it was (and still is!) my biggest starstruck moment to date. I felt like I was shaking hands with God. Oh, and I talked to Jason Biggs on the phone once (no bigg..ie lol).

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publicist and author—a huge thank you to the lovely Suzy Missirlian and Suzanne Redfearn!
Giveaway ends March 9th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!