Because I no longer write blurbs, but still very much want to help other authors, I've launched a blog series called Better Than Blurbs. The authors and I have in-depth discussions about their books, which I hope will help readers identify whether they'd enjoy reading them.
This is the ninth post in the series. The author is Celia Bonaduce and the book is Much Ado About Mother: A Venice Beach Romance. But before the word "Romance" causes you to tune out, please give us a chance to adjust your thinking.
Me: Celia, will you please tell my readers about the book in your own words?
Celia: Much Ado About Mother is the third book in my VENICE BEACH ROMANCE Trilogy. If you’re now frantically mousing away from this page because you are not a fan of romantic novels, please hang around. When Kensington Books (a highly esteemed publisher of romance) told me they wanted to buy my series, I was stunned. Grateful to be sure, but stunned. Because I didn’t think I was writing romance. I thought I was writing comedy. Book One: The Merchant of Venice Beach is probably the closest to a classic romantic novel as this series gets, since the protagonist is very focused on seducing a mysterious dance instructor in and around Venice Beach, California. But it’s very tongue-in-cheek. While the emphasis of the story is Suzanna’s maniacal pursuit of an emotionally unavailable man, the theme of the book is about a woman finding herself. Book Two: A Comedy of Erinn is about Suzanna’s older sister, Erinn, a had-been Broadway playwright who moves to Southern California ostensibly to be near her sister, but basically because she has no where else to go. She is jobless and friendless. If Suzanna refuses to face adulthood, Erinn is old before her time. While there is a romantic element – actually, several romantic elements -- once again, the point of Comedy of Erinn is that Erinn has to come to terms with herself. It’s not about the guy. Which brings us, finally, to Much Ado About Mother. In this third book (the characters appear in each other’s books, but each book can be read as a stand-alone.) Erinn, Suzanna and their mother, Virginia each have a say in “ADO”. In this book, I was writing in all three voices, and named each chapter ERINN, VIRGINIA or SUZANNA as a way for the reader to be clear who was speaking. I learned that from you at that seminar in Big Sur a few years ago.
Much Ado About Mother is the story of three women – a mother and her two grown daughters – who all feel that life has been good, but not great. I thought it would be interesting to look at life from three different age groups (Suzanna is in her early thirties, Erinn in her early forties, Virginia is just turning seventy). Each of the woman is thinking “Is That All There Is” – which of course, is flawed thinking. Unless you’re dead, it’s never all there is. This book is about family. It’s about how, when all is said and done, no matter how the dynamics change, your family can be the greatest joy – while being the greatest thorn in your side – in your life. And yeah, there is some romance.
Me: I’m actually not a fan of romantic novels. But I’m a fan of this one. And I agree that for a romance it’s very much not a romance. How do you feel/how does it work to have your work put in a box that may not quite fit? It opens you up to new readers, yes. Does it shut you down from others? Or do people see that the book transcends its genre, so no problem?
Celia: I’ve tread lightly into Romance territory. The description of my books “not quite fitting into a box” is accurate. That’s one of the reasons I am so grateful for Sharon Bowers – my agent and Martin Biro – my editor at Kensington – for taking a chance on me. I’d like to think there are readers out there who normally wouldn’t touch a romance were happy when they stumbled upon my books. To be honest, though, from the few really stinko reviews I’ve gotten on Amazon, there were those romance readers out there who felt tricked by the covers and description. Frankly, I think they had a valid point. If you order a soufflé and someone serves you Eggs Benedict – it doesn’t matter if the Eggs Benedict are terrific or not. You wanted a soufflé, you ordered a soufflé and that’s what you were entitled to get. On the whole, though, my reviews have been very positive – although a goodly number of those reviews said “This was not what I was expecting, but I really liked it.” Next series out, I’m hoping people continue to like my work, but won’t be surprised. The Eggs Benedict crowd will already be with me!
Me: Talk to me about quirk. I found this to be delightfully quirky, encompassing characters who are, among other things: 1) named Dymphna; 2) a herd of Angora rabbits; 3) a not very likable Chihuahua named Piquant, whom we tend to like anyway; 4) a man who runs into a burning building to save his ex-wife’s moose head art sculpture, and 5) a large tree. Do you purposely infuse quirk, or is your mind just naturally quirky?
Celia: I guess my mind is just naturally quirky! I will say that I am always on the lookout for the unpredictable!
Me: What do you like to read, and is humor a big factor in what you look for as a reader, or do you read different tones for different moods?
Celia: I read all kinds of stuff – humor, classics, non-fiction, travel books. One favorite genre is “southern women writers” – from Flannery O’Connor to Fannie Flagg to my new favorite Joshilyn Jackson. These women rewrite true, believable characters infused with humor and love.
Me: In your own opinion, are you funny in person, in the spoken word, or more so on paper? Do you speak easily and comfortably in front of a crowd, with this same lighthearted manner you use when you write?
Celia: Well, this is certainly a “toot my own horn” moment, isn’t it? I humbly submit that I am funny in person, on paper and in front of a crowd. While I long to be an introspective artist, who is quietly pondering big questions when not “at work”, sadly, I attempt hilarity 24/7.
Me: Will you please tell my readers, many of whom are writers, about your road to publication?
Celia: My road to publication was long and filled with rejection. I expected that, though. My parents were both professional writers, so I knew from a very young age, that rejection was part of a writer’s life and you couldn’t take it personally. I also had the great good fortune to go to a writers’ conference early in my foray into novel writing – where I met you, Catherine, and Jodi Thomas. I’m sure the readers of your blog can visualize what a boost it was to have these two wildly successful women take the time to tell me that my “voice” was unique as well as funny. You both encouraged me to get in touch if I felt stuck or frustrated (and I don’t have to tell you, I availed myself of that more than once!) Both of you warned me that my style “didn’t fit on a shelf” – and there would be rejections from agents and publishers, but to believe in myself and my work. Also, my feeling has always been “ You only need ONE. ONE agent. ONE publisher. I just needed to stay true to the process. As each rejection came it, one new submission went out. Sharon found me. Kensington found me. I knew they were out there and I just needed to hang on until they did.
Me: Please write your own question, and answer it.
Celia: Do you “cast” your characters, either with actors or with people you know?
I actually don’t have a physical sense of my characters at all. I HEAR them. It’s actually one of the most intriguing parts of writing for me. I’ll create a character and I can suddenly hear them speaking to me. Currently, I am writing a character who sounds exactly like Johnny Mathis. It’s awesome!