What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend?
Brood by Jackie Polzin.
Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time?
I don’t know if this is considered a classic, but I recently read Valley of the Dolls by Jacquelin Susann.
Do you re-read books? And if yes, what was your last re-read?
Very rarely, unless it’s a book that I loved when I was much younger (high school/college). A Prayer for Owen Meany was probably the last one I re-read.
What are your go-to genres?
I like to read across a variety of genres, mostly contemporary and historical fiction. But I do like biographies and especially memoirs on audiobook. I’ll read the occasional YA or rom-com as well.
What is your favorite childhood book?
I was obsessed with the Sweet Valley High series in middle school. Where the Wild Things Are was torture for me, and my parents thought it was hilarious to read it because I would sob, “but where’s his mommy??” (they’re great parents, I promise!)
What books are on your bedside table right now?
Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli
Speak, Okinawa by Elizabeth Miki Brina
Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book?
What is your ideal reading setting?
Any setting! I bring a book with me wherever I go. I do like reading in the outfield of my daughter’s softball games. She’ll have 3 games in a row (6 hours!) and it’s peaceful out there away from the umps and crazy parents.
Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore?
Warwick’s in La Jolla. It’s the country’s oldest continuously family-owned and operated bookstore.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
This is more about reading having power, but I was around three years old and sounded out/read the word “Chardonnay” on a wine bottle that was on the dinner table. My parents thought this was hilarious and amazing and immediately pushed me to read other things. Keep in mind, this was the late 70s, and parenting was generally “hands off” so the fact I got so much attention for it told me “this is important.”
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
The literary pilgrimages have all been research-related for my books–Paris, Rome, Nantucket. Though our family did go see Hemingway’s house in Key West.
Where do you get most of your writing and editing done?
The office in my house. I don’t really like to work other places, but I will if necessary (e.g. softball games).
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Depends on the day!
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Way too many to count. My agent shopped various books of mine for 5+ years until she sold my “first” novel, A Paris Apartment. Since then, I’ve had my own publishers not want to publish something I’ve written. The rejection never stops!
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I only read professional/trade reviews. I haven’t had too many bad ones, though USA Today did completely roast my fourth book The Summer I Met Jack. Whoever wrote it clearly hadn’t gotten the memo that the Kennedys have skeletons. But, the review was so over-the-top, I actually used it in promotion. Who doesn’t want to pick up “the hate-read of the summer”? In my opinion, it’s better than if the reviewer thought it was forgettable.
I don’t read Goodreads or other reviews because there’s really no point. Books are subjective and one reader might hate a character while another person loves that same character. And, what if, God forbid, I agree with the bad review? There’s nothing I can do about it at this point. Also, many people are unnecessarily mean and I don’t want to go out of my way to get my feelings hurt.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Keep writing what you love.
When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?
I do part-time investor relations consulting work for biotechs, so I spend a lot of time writing press releases. I also watch a lot of softball and walk my dogs 3 times per day. I’ve been recognized in the grocery store as “that woman always walking her dogs.” I also play tennis and volunteer.
What are your three favorite things right now?
My new air fryer, having my older daughter home from college, and my dogs.
Your favorite travel destination and why?
This is tough because I like to see different places, but I also am a huge homebody. Rome, probably–the culture, the food, the sights, the people. I also love London because there is so much to do. And Blacksburg, VA, where my oldest goes to school.
What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?
I love trying different foods so this is a tough one. Sushi is always a favorite, and “good” pizza. Our family has been going to a local restaurant for 15+ years and they know our usual orders so I guess I should say “half an italian salad, no olives and a glass of Kendall Jackson Cabernet” at Oggi’s in Encinitas as that’s what the waiters recite when they see me. But my true go-to drink order is Diet Coke. Day or night!
What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
JFK, both Obamas, Joan Didion, Lilly Pulitzer, Robert Downey Jr.
If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, and who would play you?
Oh geez, what genre do boring shows slot into? It’d definitely be humorous and a little frantic. People frequently say I look like Emma Stone.
What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?
“Sr.” on Netflix was incredible (reason Robert Downey Jr. was on my dinner list–it’s a documentary he produced about his dad).
You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick?
Cracklin’ Rosie by Neil Diamond.
If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsovler. I haven’t read it because it feels too intimidatingly long but I’d read it there!