Author interview: Marilyn Simon Rothstein

044-MarilynRothsteinAuthorPortrait_14x11crop-more-retouchedI met Marilyn Simon Rothstein at the Saugatuck StoryFest in Westport, CT, and bought her first book, Lift and Separate, because she made me laugh. That novel, by the way, hit the number 1 slot on Amazon’s list of Satirical Fiction last week!

Her novels are filled with humor, as well as romance, pathos and a host of other emotions. The first book made me want to read the sequel, Husbands and Other Sharp Objects, another satisfying read. Marilyn has had a career in advertising, and became a published author relatively late in the game, so naturally I had questions for her.

GC: When did you decide to write a novel, and what made you choose this genre?

MSR liftMSR: I realized that I wanted to write a novel as soon as I began reading novels. As a child, I would go to the library in Queens, New York, and haul home ten books at a time–that was the limit. I owned an advertising agency for over twenty-five years before I turned to writing fiction full time. I enjoy stories about families and friendships so I found a natural path to Lift and Separate.

GC: Your books are full of humor, but also include some sad events. How do you keep the balance between the two? It seemed to be effortless. Was it?

MSR: I was an overly emotional kid so it’s not difficult for me to work myself up into a tizzy.

GC: While you were writing, did you have a critique group, or a trusted reader to comment on the work?

MSR sharpMSR: I have been in the same writer’s workshop for over ten years. Going to that workshop is a highlight of each week. Before joining the workshop, I attended conferences for writers. I liked residential programs because I lived in a hotel and left my children at home with my husband. Conferences at colleges were nice because I salivate at the thought of endless cafeteria food.

GC: How long did it take from the day you signed with the agent to the date you held a copy of your book in your hand?

MSR: It was quick—and happy. I signed in June 2015. Lift and Separate was released in December 2016. Husbands And Other Sharp Objects was published in March 2018.

 GC: What surprised you most about working with a publisher?

MSR: My books are published by Lake Union, which is owned by Amazon. Because I had no experience with publishing a book, it was a tremendous learning experience, like learning a new business. I was delighted to find dedicated, talented and responsive editors who cared deeply about my novels.

GC: You have been doing a lot of author talks. What do you find to be universal?

MSR: Everywhere I go, I find women who enjoy friendships, love books, want to have a wonderful time and laugh.

GC: And, finally, what’s next?

MSR: Currently, I am writing a third novel with all new characters. Here are five things in my work in progress: a fat shaming mother, an overweight daughter, a Lyft driver, a vibrator and a plate of brownies. (GC: As I said, she makes me laugh…)

 

You can follow Marilyn on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to School

I’d just come back from Europe, so it may have been the jet lag. Whatever the reason, even after a reminder email from the Wesleyan’s Writers’ Conference organizers, I’d left my blankie at home. I regretted it the moment I stepped into the frigid dorm in the college’s most modern student sleeping quarters. The bedroom, designed for one, was big enough to house a multitude, and they’d air-conditioned it accordingly. It was huge, modern, and expensively furnished with a bed so high I felt like the princess and the pea, in danger of falling off my mattress when I tossed restlessly in the queen-sized bed, causing Continue reading

Beach Madness

A year ago my husband Jay and I were going to sell the house on the lake in New Hampshire. It’s really too big for us. Mostly, there are only the two of us there, and the house will actually sleep 10 or more, so you can see the logic. I don’t really want a house that will sleep 10 or more – because then the ten people show up and need feeding.

So I was pleased when Jay finally decided that it might be fun to sell and a bit less thrilled when he decided we’d build something new. I remember the last time we built a house. I say we, but actually it was Jay who designed it, which is why I only have a quarter of the single closet we ended up with. Jay turned the other closet into a sauna when I wasn’t looking. (There’s a whole earlier post about that.) Anyway – what really made the prospect of a new house appealing was the fact that there was a piece of land further down the lake with that most highly prized feature: a beach. And not just any old beach but a long one with white sand, where in summer Jay would be able to lounge around reading a book under an umbrella and in winter he’d be able to drive his snowmobile out without (much) chance of falling off it and breaking something.

So we cleaned up the house and put it on the market. People liked it a lot, but the price was too high, they said. (Jay never prices a house to sell – he prices it to keep.) And, they said, they wanted a lawn, not the ecologically correct wildflowers and ferns that graced the back. And the horseshoe pitching thingy that was a long alley covered in mulch, which had never been used (why did I buy him those horse shoes?) was an eyesore. Plus, the house really needed power washing, and there were a couple of little things that needed fixing here and there…You get the picture.

After brooding for a few days, Jay decided he’d give it his best shot and immediately hired someone to do the power-washing, someone to fix the master bathroom shower (it came off in his hand, Jay said, about a year ago), someone to touch up the paint, and someone to turn the back garden into a lawn.

But once he’d started, he couldn’t stop. He had three huge bushes moved into the wilderness near the garden. He hacked down shrubs and tiny saplings that threatened to block the view (in 2037, if they’d lived). He and our middle son built some stone steps and a wooden railing down from the terrace to the new lawn. Jay bought a lawn-mower. (It seems like only yesterday, but it was actually 1984 when he swore he’d never touch one again…) Our house was ready to go back on the market. And then came the news – the beach property that we liked had been sold. To someone else.

Jay supervisingAfter brooding for a few days more Jay made a decision. We didn’t need to buy a beach. He would make his own. We have the falling apart remains of an old stone jetty that joins the shore at the bottom of the garden. It was strewn with rocks and boulders, but this didn’t deter Jay. He press-ganged two of our sons into removing the rocks that were making this so unsightly (and, quite possibly, holding the jetty together). This took a couple of weeks. And then came the sand. Eight tons, I think he said, in a huge pile at the front of the house. It all had to be taken to the back by the wheelbarrow load. That took another day or so. And the result?

I’m not sure it’s quite big enough for the 10+ visitors that will descend on us as soon as the news gets out. But Jay will think of something.

Drunk texts from famous authors

A witty student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Jessie Gaynor, has written/drawn a fun article called Drunk Texts from Famous Authors for the generally rather staid Paris Review. Here’s the first one:

June 18, 2012 | by Jessie Gaynor

Check out the rest at The Paris Review‘s blog here.

Need a plot twist? Check these out…

Aaron Diaz, who travels under the pseudonym of Dresden Codak is a guy with a background in physics, anthropology and computer science, but he prefers to spend his time designing very intelligent and funny comics.  I particularly like the one below, because it’s something every screenwriter, playwright or plot-writer, should have under their belt, no matter what their genre or plot problem:

You can see more of his work here.

The Oddest Book Title of the Year – vote now!

The Bookseller is an English magazine devoted (of course) to book-selling and all related subjects. It’s well worth a look, not least because they organize a contest every year to find  the Oddest Book Title of the Year.is year marks the 30th anniversary, and there are some amazing (or appalling, depending on your point of view) titles to vote for. This is a reprint from their website, giving the titles and a straight-faced description of each book, these titles are begging for comments.  Head over to the site and cast your votes – don’t forget to read the comments; they’re hilarious.

Here’s Philip Stone’s article:

A Guide to Estonian socks, an examination of the role of the fungus in Christian art, and a celebration of the humble office chair are among the books in contention for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year—the prestigious literary award run by The Bookseller since 1978.

A total of 64 books were submitted for the latest instalment of the prize, which celebrates the very best in books with odd titles published around the world last year (2011). Judges from both The Bookseller and its sister consumer magazine, We Love This Book, whittled down the original submissions to a shortlist of seven. This is one more than the traditional six, in recognition of the high standard of oddity witnessed in publishing last year.

This year’s winner will be announced on 30th March. Votes can be cast here.

The full shortlist:

A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume Two by Peter Gosson (Amberley). A book that documents the sand trade from its inception in 1912 to the present day, focusing on the Welsh coast.

Cooking with Poo by Saiyuud Diwong (Urban Neighbours of Hope). Thai cookbook. “Poo” is Thai for “crab” and is Diwong’s nickname.

Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World by Aino Praakli (Kirjastus Elmatar). Covers styles of socks and stockings found in Estonian knitting.

The Great Singapore Penis Panic: And the Future of American Mass Hysteria by Scott D Mendelson (Createspace). An analysis of the “Koro” psychiatric epidemic that hit the island of Singapore in 1967.

Mr Andoh’s Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge by Stephen Curry and Takayoshi Andoh (Royd Press). The story of Koichi Andoh, who travelled from Japan to Yorkshire in the 1930s to train workers at a hatchery business the art of determining the sex of one-day-old chicks.

A Taxonomy of Office Chairs by Jonathan Olivares (Phaidon). Exhaustive overview of the evolution of the modern office chair.

The Mushroom in Christian Art by John A Rush (North Atlantic Books). In which the author reveals that Jesus is a personification of the Holy Mushroom, Amanita Muscaria.

Horace Bent, the custodian of prize, said: “Never has the debate raged so fiercely as to which books should be put forward for the shortlist. Which is why this year we have selected seven shortlistees, rather than the traditional six. And what a shortlist we have.”

Philip Stone, the prize administrator, said: “Despite the global economic turmoil, publishers continue to invest in imaginative, diverse and niche publications, and this award wonderfully reflects that.

“Sadly, though, and despite publishers regularly boasting that they are moving with the times, just one of this year’s seven shortlisted titles is currently available to buy in a digital format: Scott Mendelson’s intriguing work, The Great Singapore Penis Panic.”

The Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year was first awarded in 1978 to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice.

©2012 Bookseller Media Ltd rights reserved.

And you can check out the front covers of previous winners here on The Guardian‘s website. Celtic Sex Magic for Couples Groups and Solitary Practitioners, anyone? GC

 

The Mane Chance – Part 2

I know you’ve all been pining for an update about Ernest and Mabel, the two marble lions that my husband Jay bought in a mad moment in Vietnam. (Click here to read that post if you missed it.)

When last seen, they were standing among a forest of other white marble flora and fauna (not forgetting the odd Venus or cherub) in the showroom of the marble factory in Da Nang. We took it on faith that they would indeed be sent to us via freighter. And in December, we finally got word that they were in…Los Angeles.

But, said the man, we’ll be trucking them over to you as soon as we can. It was the day before we left for the Panama Canal and Peru that the call came through…from Arizona.

They’re here, said the man. In Arizona, we asked. “

No that’s just my cell phone. They’re in Boston, and we can deliver them soon.”

“Not today then?” asked Jay hopefully.

“No, but we can do it next week,” said the man. Luckily we had Fred and Bertie still at home before they returned to their respective studies. Jay briefed them on where the lions should go and we left for points south.

It wasn’t long before we started receiving irritated emails from Fred (and he insists I quote these word for word, because he’s not impressed by my (occasional) lapses into poetic license. (I don’t know what he means.)

“Firstly, the lions. No one has contacted us about them yet. Either on the home phone or one of our cell phones. I thought they were supposed to have done so by now. We have no means for contacting these people, so if you do, maybe you could pass it along to us.”

I suggested he leave it for a couple of days. A couple of days later:

“The freight people… want to bring the lions in on a tractor-trailer. Which Bertie and I are both skeptical about. We don’t think the vehicle will be able to safely get down the driveway and back out again without hitting trees, rocks or some other obstacle. If I remember correctly the cab is 12′ and the trailer is 48′.” (And Fred always remembers correctly…)

A day later:

“The lions are evidently in two separate crates on a single skid. The skid weighs a total of 800 lbs. We assume the crates are about 400 lbs each. Making them probably unmovable by us. The person I spoke with today suggested we could meet them somewhere and they could put them in our truck. I’m not really sure, so I thought I’d see what you thought.”

I suggested the freight people might have a fork lift on the back of the truck. Jay suggested they back down the quarter mile distance from the main road to our house (with a bend in the road).

All the suggestions failed, and eventually Fred threw up his hands in disgust (figuratively, Fred).  We arrived home from our travels to find a message waiting for us from the freight man. He was about to charge us for storing the lions, since we hadn’t arranged for delivery. Jay soon sorted him out.

And the lions arrived. When I first saw them, they were standing in their wooden cage listing drunkenly to one side exactly where the snowplough would hit them. (Luckily snow has been rather thin on the ground, literally, this winter.) Jay had phoned our snow-ploughing guy, Matt, who was looking for work, since there wasn’t any ploughing to do, and Matt was due to arrive within hours to unpack and place the lions where we wanted them.

Jay paced around the outside of the house, trying to decide where to put them. Finally he called me outside to see what I thought.

“What about here?” he asked, pointing to the spot where they were already standing. I wondered whether to let them be run over by the snow plough. But I knew they meant a lot to Jay, so I hinted that perhaps they should be closer to the house.

“There,” said Jay, pointing to the path closer to the house.

“I think they might block the path unless we turn them sideways. How about on the porch?” I suggested. “Then they’d be out of the rain.” (As if that would do them any damage…)

We agreed on the porch, and Matt and his team of three muscly guys managed to get them there. Here’s the picture to prove it.

The lions tamed...

by the lion-tamer

There is one thing, though. Jay decided we should name the lions something other than Ernest and Mabel. That was fine with me. I’d only been joking about the names.

“How about Leo and Lucy?” he suggested. “Or Lenny and Louise?”

I was looking at the lions as he said this and a sudden thought occurred to me. You’ve probably spotted it already. Both our lions are boys. I pointed this out.

“Never mind,” I said. “I’m sure two gay lions would be great for our Chi.”

They still don’t have names.