Backstory: Neither fish nor fowl

July 20, 2008 | 1 Comment

Where was I? Yes–How The You I Never Knew made it from my head to the printed page. It’s convoluted; bear with me.

So I had this big finished manuscript, around 120,000 words, a story from the heart that I really liked. But it was neither fish nor fowl. It wasn’t a historical romance, where I was finally finding some success. And it wasn’t one of the currently popular romantic suspense novels. It was…just a novel. But a good one, I thought.

My agent at the time (1996; we parted ways shortly afterward and I signed with the perfect-for-me agent) was in charge of pitching the book. There was a serious lack of communication about this process and according to this agent, no offer was forthcoming from my current publisher, so the plan was to take the book elsewhere. After several more mismatches (remember, I don’t believe in rejection, only in mismatches), it wound up in the hands of a really terrific editor who was then at Warner. (Now Grand Central Publishing.) Claire Zion is thoughtful, creative, meticulous and hands-on, which worked very well for me, particularly with this new direction. There were several things she did so wonderfully for this book. First, she acquired it for the publisher. Then she meticulously edited it–and then edited my rewrites. I switched part of the book from a first-person, present-tense narrative to third-past. She sent it to copy editing twice. I know many writers who would rather set their hair on fire than go through the wringer on a book like that, but I like a lot of input, particularly when I’m trying something new.

Finally, after quite some time, we got the book whipped into shape. The rest is a snap, right? The heavy lifting is over. This is when the writer gets to kick back, relax and enjoy the ride to the bookstores, right?

Sometimes, that’s exactly right. In my case, it was dead wrong. Disaster struck–stay tuned. I’ll post about the disaster and rising from the ashes tomorrow.

Backstory: In case you’re wondering…

July 20, 2008 | Leave a comment

I had a good question in e-mail, and my reply has turned into this blog post:

One of this month’s reissues had a circuitous road from the story in my head to the published book. I wrote The You I Never Knew on spec, meaning I had no contract with a publisher to write the book. I just wanted to. Since I had a track record and a publisher, why would I do such a thing? A few reasons.

1. This was a new genre for me. I’d published historical romances and historical novels. This new story was contemporary women’s fiction. The early drafts had a literary voice (which I later toned down because it got in the way of the reader’s enjoyment). I didn’t expect my publisher to experiment with me. Mira was working to build my readership for the historical romances. Pulling a switch early in the game wasn’t playing fair.

2. When I try something new, I like to give it my best shot. It’s not enough to say “I can do that.” I have to do it to prove to myself and to the world that it’s possible. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “I’ve got a great idea for a book! It’s a surefire bestseller!” But of those ideas, how many actually turn into books? And if I hear this a lot, imagine how many times editors hear that line.

3. Selling a completed book rather than a partial manuscript minimizes the risk you’re asking a publisher to take. Why? Because on the balance sheet, a finished manuscript is an instant asset; it’s in the black. A partial is actually a liability–the publisher’s money is in the red until the author turns in the book. With a complete book, the publisher starts earning money almost immediately by licensing subsidiary rights to audio, foreign publishers, book clubs and other formats. Imagine buying an unfinished house from a builder you’ve never worked with before. You don’t get to live in the place for months and months, yet you keep having to pour money into it. Compared to buying a completed house, buying the partial feels risky.

So how did I end up selling this spanking-new, finished book to a publisher? (Again, this is of greater interest to writers rather than readers.) I’m off to pack to a trip to New York City, so I don’t have time to go on. Watch this space for the scoop tomorrow.

3 girls, 3 shops, 3 hours

July 13, 2008 | 2 Comments

So Darcy took me shopping the other day. My niece (11) came along because she’s got excellent taste. Darcy wears lots of hats, including the local fashion expert with TV segments on “Northwest Afternoon.” On the one hand, schlepping around the city with a personal shopper seemed like the ultimate indulgence. On the other hand, it was efficient and smart, like having an advance scout. We hit 3 shops in 3 hours and I won’t need to shop for clothes again for a year.

At Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and Anthropologie, Darcy had preselected things waiting. They know and love her in these shops. We looked for things that flatter:


Meadowrue Jacket
Defined shapes and details that make you seem narrower than you are, in the right places. Lines and patterns that draw attention to your face and better features. Look for details through the whole garment, all the way around in back (little pleats and tucks, etc.).


When you have a basic neutral color–black and white, brown, khaki–add a splash of bright color:

…and pick things on opposite sides of the color wheel:

Don’t go overboard matching everything. You don’t want to look like you worked too hard!

A little color goes a long way. But neutrals definitely need it. A black-and-white outfit looks more interesting and friendly if you pick a nice color.

Jeans fitting–choose dark wash, trouser cut, with back pockets that cut across the full part of your butt.

Cut off those thready little belt loops! They’re only meant to keep the belt in place for shipping.

Don’t buy something on sale just because it’s on sale. Only buy it if you would have bought it full price–the sale price is just a bonus. If you bring a kid along, make sure she’s well-behaved and has food and water. Give her a big scarf and let her play with it. And buy her a rockin’ outfit.

Round up the pieces you think you might want and ask the shop to hold them for you. Come back after you’ve finished in all the other shops and make your purchases.

All righty, then…

July 11, 2008 | 6 Comments

It was a perfect summer day, so we went out boating and found……..the Pyrex Museum. Can such things be?

Remember, you saw it here first.
Remember, you saw it here first.

And just WHERE is this wonder?







Um, just one floor above the PAPER BAG MUSEUM, natch.


good book/good friend

July 10, 2008 | Leave a comment


Know what makes me happy? When I make friends with a writer and I’m a fan of her books. Which makes me glad I know Carol. Here’s an excerpt of my review of her debut novel. It’s published in its entirety on my favorite review site:

Physician Carol Cassella’s haunting debut novel has generated a lot of pre-pub buzz — for good reason. It’s exactly the sort of book that gets people excited — fresh and different, something you can’t wait to share with a friend or better yet, with your book group. It’s a clear-your-schedule and turn-off-the-phone novel, the kind you want to hide away and read straight through to the end.

OXYGEN tells the story of Dr. Marie Heaton, a gifted anaesthesiologist facing a doctor’s worst nightmare — dealing with the fallout after something in the O.R. goes terribly wrong. It’s not a thriller, although a sense of impending danger and doom pervades each scene, building to a stunning and inexorable climax. Nor is it a medical procedural, though the book pulls aside the curtains on the mysterious and frightening (to lay people, anyway) workings of the operating room. OXYGEN is a story of tragedy and redemption, intricately plotted and told in a compelling voice that will keep you riveted to the page.

[…] I loved this book the way I loved MIDWIVES by Chris Bohjalian. I imagine there will also be favorable comparisons to THE MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER, or maybe THE LOVELY BONES. The publisher describes this book as “Atul Gawande meets Jodi Picoult,” an awkward but apt shorthand to tell the reader that it combines the literary medical voice of the former with the tautly wound psychological drama of the latter. Yet Cassella writes with a quiet precision and grace all her own, firmly establishing herself as a talent to watch.

    Order OXYGEN from   
    Amazon     Barnes&Noble

Christian the Lion

July 06, 2008 | 22 Comments

Well, for heaven’s sake if you’ve somehow managed to miss this, watch it IMMEDIATELY. RIGHT NOW. With sound turned on.

I swear, people. I have to do all the surfing for some of you! This one’s pretty much my favorite cat video ev-ar. And I don’t even like cats! Enjoy…