About author, Kim Gruenenfelder: Kim Gruenenfelder lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son, and continues to avoid anything even remotely resembling a real job. In addition to her books A Total Waste of Makeup, Misery Loves Cabernet, There’s Cake in My Future, and her newest, Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink, she has written feature film screenplays, episodic teleplays and two stage plays.
When did you start writing? I officially started writing when I was 20 years old, and working for the gameshow Jeopardy!. They were doing a teen tournament, and the writers on staff were all in their 30s and 40s and I thought a little out of touch with what teens knew. So I asked the producer of the show if I could write a few categories. He said yes, and I loved it and officially joined the writing staff a few months later. My first category was “Boys”. (Things haven’t changed much.)
Have you always wanted to be an author? Nope. I started writing screenplays while I worked at Jeopardy!, and had enough success with those to get to leave that show and write full time. But frequently in Hollywood, you sell a script and have a job, then no one ever shoots it. After awhile it got hard on my ego to never have anything to show for my career. After I had my son, I decided to take a little time off to write a novel. The book was “A Total Waste of Makeup”, and it was just my take on turning 30. It sold very well (I was very lucky), and suddenly I had a new career.
What is the writing/editing/publishing process like for you? Wow. Those are 3 totally different categories. When I wrote “Makeup”, I wrote whatever I wanted, then got an agent, rewrote it based on her notes, then sold it to St. Martin’s. My editor didn’t have many notes. However, for my next three books, “Misery Loves Cabernet”, “There’s Cake in my Future” and “Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink” I spent month pitching ideas for books, many of which were rejected. Once an idea was approved, I would write a first draft, which my editor gave notes on, then write a second draft.
The publishing process is all about other people doing their jobs – I mostly get to sit back and watch. My editor oversees the design of the cover, done by an artist I don’t know. A proofreader makes sure the copy looks good (I also proofread the final copy twice). The marketing people get me into bookstores, and my publicist (Hi Nick!) gets me into publications like yours so that I sell more books. Publishing the book itself is a team effort which actually has very little to do with me. And I am very lucky to have such talented people doing that part.
Do you prefer the term “chick lit” or “women’s fiction”? I am trying to get the term “Romantic Comedy fiction” to gain some traction. My husband made up the term to describe to men what I do for a living. I don’t mind “chicklit” though: I even defended it on a TV show recently. I also don’t mind “Women’s Fiction”, but the term is so general, and includes so many types of books – everything from erotic fiction (which is nothing like what I write) to comical fiction. So I prefer chicklit or Romantic Comedy lit, because the terms are more specific.
Which author inspires you? I’m going to cheat and give you two answers, because they inspire me for different reasons:
Shakespeare. I love all things Shakespeare. Okay, not Titus Andronicus, but everything else. I can just open his collected works and pick a comedy to read, and it makes my world a better place.
Charles Dickens (as a work in progress). Years ago, my father gave me a copy of a rough draft of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, which includes all of his notes scribbled all over the pages as he was working on his final draft. I am inspired by it, because even a great author like him clearly had days when he thought, “What am I doing? Is this even good?”
How do you come up with the titles of your books? Back in college, my roommates and I used the expression “A Total Waste of Makeup” to refer to really bad dates. When I wrote that book, I used it as a working title, just assuming someone else would have already used it. Turned out, no one had. I originally called “Misery Loves Cabernet” “A Total Waste of New Lingerie”, since it is a sequel to “Makeup”, but my editor didn’t love it, so I came up with a bunch of alternate titles, and she burst out laughing when I said, “Misery Loves Cabernet”. Getting someone to burst out laughing is always my goal.
“There’s Cake in my Future” was actually suggested to me by Jennifer Enderlin, an editor at St. Martin’s, and I loved it. “Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink” was inspired one night when I threw out on Facebook that I needed a title. My friend Janet DiVincenzio started the “Keep Calm and” part, and my agent, Kim Whalen, finished it with “Carry a Big Drink”.
I loved There’s Cake In My Future! Where did you get the idea for that book, and who was your favorite character to write? My friend Dorothy went to a cake pull, and told me all about how the bride tried to rig the cake for the guests. She suggested I write a book about that. I thought the idea of the bride trying to rig the cake, then screwing it up, was a fun comedy of errors. I liked writing all of the characters: by making Nic a stepmom, I was able to jump into the stage of motherhood I was in at the time (still am actually), which is the driving all over town getting your kid to school and after school activities, dealing with shopping trips for random things like poster board and a jester’s hat (I didn’t include that specific story, but yes, one afternoon I had to track down a jester’s hat, which my son announced he needed the next morning for school. It was already 4:00. Fortunately, I live in L.A., and tracked down a costume shop open until 7, but jeez…) Seema was fun because I got to go back in time to when I had a huge crush on my friend, and Mel was fun because I could go back in time and laugh at all the disastrous plans I had back when I was actively trying to find a man.
In Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink you wrote the book from Mel’s POV. What made you decide to pick her character? I actually started writing “Keep Calm” the same way I wrote “Cake”: with all three women speaking from chapter to chapter. But I soon realized that Nic’s story was a little boring: people don’t really want to read about changing diapers. Seema’s story was about the struggles of the first year of marriage, when fantasy becomes reality and your Prince Charming becomes the guy who can’t do a dish or pick up his socks. And while I liked that, I decided I could include her as a secondary character and still keep those struggles in the book. Mel was really the only one who did not yet have her happy ending, so she quickly became the person I wanted to write about.
Every author must have a…:
Okay, I mentioned this question to some writer friends, and they wanted to add a few:
Wine rack. — Bart Baker, Honeymoon with Harry
Trust fund. – Quinn Cummings, Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from my Awkward and Lovely Life
And a corkscrew. – Back to Bart Baker
From your first to your latest release, can you see a difference in your writing? I don’t notice a difference in my writing per se, although I guess I use less of my real life now. My first book “A Total Waste of Makeup” was pretty autobiographical, particularly the family stuff (I even used some of my family’s real names: for example, my mom and dad are named Carol and Ed.) The characters of my later books are in completely made up situations.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? In terms of writing: “Unapologetically write for women.” Years ago, while writing screenplays, I was trying to imitate the male action writers at the time, including a friend of mine who was quite successful. I was imitating him poorly (although he was nice enough never to say that.) So one night he asked me, “What do you want to write?” And I said, “I want to write female characters for women.” And he said, “So do that. Unapologetically write for women.” The conversation was longer, but ever since then I have unapologetically written for women. I hope men like it too, but that’s not my goal. Also, I no longer try to imitate anyone else. I throw it out there, and people either like it or hate it, but at least it’s all mine.
What are you working on right now? I just finished a TV pilot of “Makeup”, and am about to start a new book. Will keep you posted.
**An additional comment from Kim: Please buy my books! I’m not qualified to do anything else!
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**Books by Kim Gruenenfelder**
**Click HERE to read my review of “There’s Cake in My Future”