About the author, Libby Mercer: Born and raised in the Midwest, Libby Mercer’s adventurous spirit kicked in after graduating from high school, and she’s since lived in Boston, NYC and London. San Francisco is the city that she currently calls home. For several years, Libby worked in fashion – first as a journalist and then as a shopkeeper. She also dabbled in design for a while. Even through the crazy fashion years, Libby never let go of her dream of being a published author, and has since developed her signature writing style, crafting quirky chick lit/romance hybrids. Fashioning a Romance was her first published novel, and Unmasking Maya will be her second. Libby has a third novel, The Karmic Connection, scheduled for release in 2013.
Describe yourself in five sentences: People sometimes read me as a flaky, whimsical sort, but in fact I’m totally driven and Type A when it comes to my work. I’m a cat person and a dog person. I have two kittens right now – no dogs yet – but I plan to get one at some point. There’s nothing I love more than throwing myself into a fun, group project. Even though I’ve lived a lot of different places, I’m still a Midwestern girl at heart.
Tell us about your books: Both of my books have got a fish-out-of-water element. Caitlyn, the American heroine of Fashioning a Romance, works as a personal dressmaker for a wealthy Londoner who just happens to have a dashing and charming brother. Sexual tension ensues. And Maya of Unmasking Maya is a disgraced fashion designer who’s run out of NYC and ends up finding refuge in Silicon Valley of all places – at a company run by a super hot tech genius. Again, sexual tension ensues. I guess you could say I’ve got a few reoccurring themes.
Did you always want to be a writer? I did. I wrote my first “book” when I was seven years old, and continued to pen stories all through childhood and adolescence. Even majored in creative writing in college. I veered off course many, many times though – and not only with the work in fashion and the freelance journo gigs. Every year or so, I’d get to feeling like I needed a stable career and a steady income so badly I’d take steps to make that happen. I even took the LSAT a few years ago! But I never followed through with any of these ideas, and in the end I’m glad it didn’t. If I was working crazy hours in an office, I’m pretty sure I would not be a published author today.
What is your favorite snack to indulge in when working? Hah! This will make me sound like I’m nice and trim (which I’m not) but when I’m on a writing roll, I don’t even think about food. I just grab a part-skim mozzarella stick out of the fridge every few hours or so to stave off the hunger pains.
What do you love most about the Chick Lit genre? The characters, hands down. Nine times out of ten, they’re people I can relate to, in all their flawed glory.
People would be surprised to know that you… were a rebellious teen. I feel terrible about the things I put my folks through!
Team Jen or Team Angelina? Team Jen. She’s a classic chick lit character.
Take us through what a typical day is like for you: It depends on whether I’m in writing mode or marketing mode, but I’ll give you an example of a writing day. I wake up, feed the kittens and feed myself. Then I sit down at the computer and start writing. If I’m on a roll, I’ll be at it all day and all night with only short breaks for quality kitten time and quick runs to the convenience store. If the words aren’t flying out of my head, I usually only spend about 5 or 6 hours on the actual writing. I fill the rest of my day emailing, social networking, running errands, doing chores and doing some fun stuff too – meeting up with friends and whatnot. And when I go to bed at night, I have to have a book with me. Even if I’m practically comatose with exhaustion, I have to read myself to sleep.
Who and/or what inspires you? Everything! Anything from a Caribbean island that I’ve never been to but have always dreamt of visiting to a unicyclist I met at a meetup for tall people. You never can tell what will end up sparking the creativity. Or at least I can’t.
What’s the writing/editing/publishing process like for you? Well, I’m a pantser, so there’s a lot of brainstorming for days (or weeks or even months) before I start writing. Once I do get started, I’ll write and edit as I go. And each day, I go through and edit the previous day’s work before moving on. After I’ve finished the project, I’ll try to put it away for a while before I do a read-through and edit more. At that point, I’ll probably send it to a couple of critique partners. When I get their feedback, I’ll edit once again. And when I’ve got the final version nailed down, I’ll format it correctly and then start laying the groundwork to market it properly.
If you could write anywhere in the world, where would it be? I would love to have a little cottage on the beach I could escape to, and really throw myself into my work. I wouldn’t want to live there all the time, but oh! To have a cozy, quiet little place to retreat to…
Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects? Sure! I’m working on a rancher romance right now – with a chick lit twist, of course. He’s a cattle rancher from Texas, she’s a sustainable farming expert from Northern California – and a vegetarian. I’m having a lot of fun with it.
AUTHOR GUEST POST
All About the Readers
Thanks so much for having me here today, Isabella! Now, I’ve been blogging a lot about chick lit from the perspective of an author, so for something different, I thought it would be fun to chat with some chick lit readers and see what they have to say about the genre.
Character relatability is one important aspect that endears readers to chick lit books. In fact, a few of the women I spoke to mentioned this as a major draw. Angela from San Francisco says, “The characters are dealing with issues that are highly relatable… job stress, wrong career, following dreams, friendships, family ties, children, infidelity, life-threatening illnesses, etc… [they] are usually going through something my friends and I have gone through. So rather than it being just an escape, I feel that reading good chick lit is a way to connect.”
For some readers, the promise of some well-deserved escapism is the biggest draw. Syrah, who co-founded the delightful and delectable site Chick Lit & Wine says, “Chick lit is my guilty pleasure. Like reality TV, it feeds my need for drama, gossip and a happy ending.”
Everyone I spoke to cited character relatability and/or escapism as what they loved most about chick lit, but Brenda, a woman I found in cyberspace, brought up another aspect that draws her to the genre – and it’s quite an unexpected one. She says, “What I like about chick lit is the whiny/overly dramatic tone. Really. J There’s a certain self-centeredness to the genre that is refreshing. More so in a book than in real life.”
When I asked about whether or not others ever give these women a hard time because of their reading choices, I got a variety of different responses. Sara, who writes an endless stream of fabulous reviews for Chick Lit Plus, says, “Oh yes! I’m in a book club and everything we read is very serious. I’ve suggested a few chick lit books by bigger authors here and there but they always get shot down. Now, don’t get me wrong… serious books are awesome. But, at the same time, sometimes all I want is a light, fun read and a lot of times chick lit fits that mold perfectly.”
Elizabeth from New York works in the financial industry and doesn’t feel comfortable clueing her colleagues into her reading preferences. “Let’s just say I’m thankful for my Kindle,” she says.
Syrah isn’t bothered by the snooty attitudes of people who look down on chick lit. “There’s a misconception that chick lit is somehow beneath other literature,” she says. “My belief is that if something feeds your soul, stick with it – and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.”
And Angela says, “When you’re reading a book with a pink cover, sure, some might turn their noses up at what they perceive as lowbrow. But, hey, even Dickens was written for the masses.”
Responses were divided down the middle on the subject of book covers. I asked the women if they preferred minimalist covers like Emily Giffin’s or bolder, more colorful versions. Sara, for example, said, “I am definitely a fan of minimalism.” And Elizabeth, on the other hand said, “I love those bright colored covers with the sparkly designs.”
When asked to name their all-time favorite chick lit author, not a single of the women I spoke to could narrow it down to one. They all gave me a list of faves, though. Emily Giffin and Sophie Kinsella tied for first place with the most votes, followed by Marian Keyes, and then (in no particular order) Jen Lancaster, Jane Greene, Sara Jio, Jennifer Weiner and Meg Donohue. It was slightly surprising to me that no one mentioned Helen Fielding as a fave. All but one of the women I spoke to said Bridget Jones’s Diary was the first book to get her hooked on the genre. The “gateway book” if you will. Perhaps Ms. Fielding’s absence from their lists can be explained by the fact that she hasn’t written anything new in so long… What a shame. I’d love to know what Bridget’s been up to!
And on that note, I’ll wrap things up. Many, many thanks to the fabulous reading chicks who were kind enough to chat with me. And many, many thanks to all the fabulous reading chicks out there all over the world! As an author, your opinions mean the world to me, and I will do my very best to write the kind of stories that stories I think (I hope) you’ll enjoy. Mwah!
**Buy “Fashioning a Romance” from Amazon**
**Buy “Unmasking Maya” from Amazon**
Chick Lit + Wine (@ChickLitandWine) says
What an oversight! Of course Ms. Fielding belongs in the upper echelon of authors, but you’re right that she’s simply off our radar. But the good news is I’ve heard rumors of a third Bridget Jones: http://is.gd/bridgetjones3
Libby Mercer says
Hi Syrah! I don’t know how I missed your post earlier! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on chick lit for this post!!
Elke Feuer says
What a wonderful interview. It was nice getting to know a little more about you. Certainly didn’t picture you as a rebelious teen. 🙂
Congrats on your new release!
Libby Mercer says
Aw, thanks Elke! Isabella asks some really great questions, I think. Guess I was right that people would be surprised to know that about me. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and for the congrats!!
Susan Buchanan says
great interview. I love that word ‘pantser’. So interesting how we all write and edit in different ways. Totally know what you mean about Bridget, but the good news is book 3 is about to be written. Life has been fun for you so far! I have my copy of Unmasking Maya and am looking forward to reading it, Sooz
Libby Mercer says
Thanks, Sooz! I know – about Bridget, huh? I wrote this a couple of months ago before the news hit. Cannot wait to find out what Miss Jones has been up to. Life has been good. 🙂 Hope you enjoy Unmasking Maya!