Monday, April 2, 2007

Best-selling Author Lauren Baratz-Logsted









Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Lauren Baratz-Logsted. She is the best-selling author of The Thin Pink Line, Crossing the Line, A Little Change of Face, and How Nancy Drew Saved My Life which are all comedies. Her book Vertigo is a literary novel, and Angel's Choice is her first YA.

In 1994 Lauren Baratz-Logsted made the leap from a bookseller to writer. Her success did not happen over night; it took eight years to attract the interest of a publisher. Her determination to become a writer was tested, but perhaps her career path was inevitable.

Her life was focused on books and authors. As a bookseller she surrounded herself with books. Moonlighting to make ends meet, she washed windows for the late best-selling novelist Robert Ludlum. Her perseverance was rewarded in 2002 when Red Dress Ink Publishing responded to her query with an offer to buy her first novel “The Think Pink Line”, and writing her career was launched.

Since then, Ms. Logted has written six more published novels. One of her joys is to monitor her Amazon ranking on daily. It’s no doubt an instant reality check offering confirmation that she has realized her dream.

Her recent novel, VERTIGO, which is a Victorian thriller laced with erotic twists, was released last September by Bantam. It has been well received by Lauren’s fans. Her new release and first young adult book, “ANGEL'S CHOICE’” was published in December of 2006 by Simon and Schuster. Despite reaching a new YA audience, it still holds true to the elements that popularized her earlier work.

In a departure from her previous books “Angel’s Choice” exposes the dilemma of a Yale-bound high school student, who must deal with the emotional challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. The protagonist, Angel Hansen is a bright student, who falls in love with a young boy, Danny Stanton. When he rejects her, a drunken ‘Angel’ seeks relief from the pain of unrequited love, and in the process looses her virginity in a meaningless sexual encounter.

It was neither the pain of rejection, nor the pleasure of first-time sex that are unforgettable for Angel. But rather it is the consequence of an unplanned pregnancy that will define her life. Angel must make a decision to have an abortion, put the baby up for adoption, or accept her new reality as an unwed teen mother. Angel must work through the toughest decision of her life....

Lauren Baratz-Logted has three more books scheduled for release in 2007 and 2008. She lives in Connecticut, with her husband, who is also a writer, and their daughter.

E. I. Welcome and thank you for stopping by. Would you please tell your fans a little about your writing background, and what it took to sell your first book?

LBL: It would take a whole book to give you the full saga so I'll try for the Cliff Notes version. I left my day job as an independent bookseller of 11 years back in November 1994 to take a chance on myself as a writer. It took me eight years to get a book published, the sixth of seven I'd written up to that point, The Thin Pink Line. During those eight years I went through a few agents and worked as a Publishers Weekly reviewer, a freelance editor, a sort-of librarian and a window washer to support my writing habit.

E. I. Was your first book written before, or after you landed the book deal? Did you or your agent approach a publisher, or vice versa?

LBL: My first published book was written before getting the first book deal. I was working with my third agent on an entirely different book in fall 2001 when I started reading reviews of books put out by a new publisher, Red Dress Ink. The reviews weren't always positive but I was sure that the editorial sensibility behind those books would be interested in The Thin Pink Line, my dark comedy about a woman who fakes an entire pregancy. I showed it to the agent and he said he loved it but wasn't interested in representing it because there were too many books out there like that already - you know, all those fake pregnancy books. So I asked if he'd be willing to just submit it to RDI, but he said no to that too, saying he knew for a fact that the editor wasn't interested in books with a London setting, which my book has. So I asked if he minded my submitting it myself. He was very scathing about this, but I went ahead anyway and wound up selling the book on my own as part of a two-book deal. Before the book was even out, they offered me an additional three-book contract. The book was eventually published in 10 countries, was optioned for a film and received a starred Kirkus review with PW calling it "hilarious and original."

E. I. Do you let anyone read your manuscript, before you send it to your editor?

LBL: It depends on the book. I have so many projects in the works, it would be cruel to expect any one person to read them all! But I do have a writing group that meets in my home every Friday night, so they hear some of my stuff before it goes out. I'm also lucky to have two online acquaintances who I've never met but who are interested in everything I write, be it humorous adult fiction or serious adult fiction or YA or for an even younger market, so in recent years they read nearly everything first.

E. I. When three of your novels came out: The Thin Pink Line, Crossing the Line, A Little Change of Face - all comedies. What was your biggest fear and reaction the first time you saw your book in a bookstore?

LBL: The first time I saw one of my books in a bookstore, I was just happy - I'd waited so long for that moment! My daughter was three at the time and having seen the cover flaps, the ARCs and then the author's copies of The Thin Pink Line come to the house, she knew what "Mommy's book" looked like, and she gathered up all the copies in the store, an angry look on her face. She was sure the bookstore people had sneaked into our home in the night, stealing what was ours! As for fears, I didn't have those for the first book, but I certainly have them now. Now when I see my new books out, I'm still excited, but I also think, "There are so many other books in this store! Why in the world would anyone ever want mine???"

E. I. What was your biggest challenge in developing the character, Jane Taylor, in your book 'The Thin Pink Line'? How long did it take you to write?

LBL: The first draft took approximately three months. I suppose the biggest challenge, given that I'm an American who was writing a book set in London about a Londoner, was getting the language right. Funnily enough, British readers had more of a sense of humor over my faux pas than did some Americans.

E. I. In your latest book Vertigo, you've created a captivating characters. Emma Smith and Chance Wood seems very realistic. Are these characters base on real people? And has the book been optioned for film yet?

LBL: So far the only book of mine to be optioned is The Thin Pink Line and since that was nearly four years ago, I highly doubt it will ever get made. But I do hope someone one day picks up Vertigo, since readers write me all the time talking about its cinematic quality. As for basing Emma and Chance on real people, the answer is no. I never do that - that way madness and libel suits lie! - but sometimes in my books I will steal anecdotes from my real life and slip them in.

E. I. If you were allowed total control of a Hollywood version of "Vertigo," Who would be in the starring roles? And who would direct?

LBL: Ooh, fun! I would like the Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd to play Chance, please. And, since I'm dreaming here, I would then play Emma myself. Oh, and please loan me Michael Apted to direct. I love Rome!

E. I. Would you tell us a little about your editing and revision process, novel development? How long does it take you to write a novel including doing all your research?

LBL: It really depends on the book. Some books you write in an insane fit of creativity and they spring almost whole, needing little tinkering; I won't say what the quickest I ever wrote a book was, because then people will hate me. Other books require more. For example, the first draft of Vertigo was written in fall 2000, but it didn't sell til nearly five years later and during those five years it went through countless revisions. I had one agent suggest I add nearly 100 pages of historical detail, which the next agent promptly suggested I take out. Typically, though, my first drafts are always quick. I liken it to the barn-raising scene in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I get an idea, a character, a title - everything is built up around that. I bang it all up and then stand back to look at what I've done. Then I try to figure out what I still need. Sometimes I need to paint the scenery, sometimes I have to add a sublpot that mirrors or inverts the main plot. The challenges are always new, always different.

E. I. What changes took place after you published your first novel, i.e. how different has writing been since you turned it into a career?

LBL: It's definitely a different kind of pressure. When you're first trying to break in, it's very stressful, but time is on your side in that you can take as long as you need to get it right. But once you're published, deadlines come into play. And I think that, like it or not, you become more aware of your audience. I still write the books I want to write and tell the stories I want to tell, but I'm more aware that the finished version has to please someone other than just me. I'm not complaining, though. I know how lucky I am to get to do what I love for a living. May the good luck continue.

E. I. In your opinion, how important is it for a writer to have a writing degree?

LBL: Well, if we're just judging by me, not very! :) I have no writing degree, and the last course I took in the subject was Creative Writing in high school. But that doesn't meen I discount the usefulness of writing programs and MFAs for others. I think you just need to choose the path that will work for you and not try to fit into someone else's box of how your career should be.

E. I. What has been your favorite question or comment by your fans about all of your high crime suspense books?

LBL: Just prior to receiving these interview questions, I received an email from a reader who said she was going through an incredibly difficult time in her personal life. Then she discovered Vertigo in her local bookstore and for a few hours her problems disappeared. That same night, I received an email from a 12-year-old saying Angel's Choice, my debut YA novel, was one of the best books she'd ever read. I doubt I will ever win any awards for my writing, and I also doubt the more highbrow book reviews will ever notice me, but it's very gratifying to know that my humble work makes their time on this planet just a little bit better for at least a few readers.

E. I. Ms. Baratz-Logsted, thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know you, and your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers?

LBL: I say the same thing every time I'm asked this, so people who've read more than one interview with me will eventually memorize it, but here goes: Keep putting one writing foot in front of the other and always remember, the only person who can ever really take you out of the game is you.

To learn more about Lauren Baratz-Logsted, please visit her at:
Website: http://www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com/
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/laurenbaratzlogsted

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