Hello, hello! I have the lovely Francine LaSala on the blog today, chatting about her newly released second novel, The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything. Her debut, Rita Hayworth's Shoes was a work of such supreme fabulousness, I know everyone's going to be dying to get the scoop on Francine's latest offering. Check out this summary:
Mina Clark does not have her feet on the ground. At 42, she’s feeling pretty out of place in her life and somewhat frustrated in her upscale community, but there’s more going on than typical suburban angst. Mina’s struggling with amnesia, a condition sparked by an event most everyone believes is best she forget. Because of her condition, Mina tends to get steamrolled by life--mountains of debt, nasty creditors, her daughter in the throes of the “terrible threes,” her busy-body homeowner’s association, the “judgey” other mothers in her development and the pre-school. On top of that, her husband travels for work constantly and she’s worried he’s having an affair. But when a trip to an unusual dental practice leaves her (unwittingly) with a gold dental crown, everything changes. She makes an empowering new friend and re-connects with a significant figure from her past. As she takes back the reins of her life and things start to look up, her memories also start to return. But because of her condition, remembering things too quickly could mean she’ll lose her mind completely.
LM: Welcome, Francine! Thanks so much for being here today. Now, it sounds to me like The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything is a bit of a psychological drama. Am I right about this?
FL: Thank you! That’s exactly what I might say it is! When I started writing this book, I didn’t think that’s what it was going to be. I figured it would be another screwball comedy like Rita Hayworth’s Shoes, except this time instead of a pair of shoes changing my protagonist’s life, it would be a gold dental crown! But these books of ours, sometimes they just become what they want to be. (Like children.) It’s funny because one of the problems my more traditional publishing friends have with me is that I can’t always classify my books into a category and stay there. I don’t pick a genre and write exclusively in it. I just can’t! I think we all have lots of facets to our personalities, light and dark. So Rita Hayworth’s Shoes was a light and breezy quirky romance and The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything is more dramatic and dark, although it’s still somewhat kooky. But now I have something specific to tell those trad publishing friends who want to know a category for Girl. Thank you, Libby!
LM: You are so welcome. So awesome - I love it when I get things right! Researching memory disorders must have been as seriously gruelling task, huh? How did you go about it?
FL: Somewhat but I have to say even more gruelling than actually researching memory disorders was trying to make the puzzle come together and really work in the story. It’s like in that movie Memento. When your protagonist has no idea about where she came from and who she is, and why she can’t remember anything, you have to be really freaking careful about everything she says and does--and everything people say to her and do around her. And when you add to that that her condition has her on the brink of totally losing it for good (something I never read about amnesia, by the way, something I really just made up)... Well, I do not recommend writing a character like this!
LM: Duly noted. Sounds like a major undertaking. Could you tell me what the significance of the dragonfly on the cover is?
FL: I’d rather not give it away right now if that’s okay? It’s one of the mysteries that unfolds as the story moves forward.
LM: Aw, man! No, that's okay. I'll find out soon enough. Now, I love the magical realism aspect in Rita Hayworth's Shoes. Does The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything have a similar magical realism sort of feel? If so, is this your signature?
FL: In a way, yes. In writing, I really do enjoy skating on the edge of what’s “realistic.” I’m a big fan of Alice in Wonderland and my most favorite books and films are ones that are based in reality, but then kind of step “through the looking glass.” For example, two of my favorite Woody Allen films--one old, one new. The Purple Rose of Cairo is about a woman struggling through life and a bad marriage during the Great Depression, who escapes to the movies, and the leading man from the movie she’s seen thirty times escapes from the film to be with her. Just so imaginative and magical and romantic. And in Midnight in Paris, a hack writer in a toxic relationship somehow travels back in time, rubbing elbows with the creative minds whose works have made up his writer’s soul. He literally re-discovers his soul walking through Paris at midnight, and in a more whimsical sense, through traveling back in time. That’s the kind of thing that drives me, and I suppose, yes, that’s where I want to be in my writing, regardless of the category.
LM: That's so cool. How long ago did you start writing?
FL: I have been writing most of my life. When I was kid, it was never on paper, but always with big, grand imaginative stories I’d tell others. (Lies, but whatever.) In high school, I wrote a short story about a loser comb-over donning middle-aged guy who I named after a boy who had just broken my heart. I kept his first name but changed his last name to Antrat--“ant” and “rat.” I think I probably killed him off in some terrible way but somehow the way I handled the telling of the story made my English teacher ask me if I had ever considered a career in writing (and not send me straight to the school psychologist). In any case, Mr. Albert, if you’re still with us and you’re reading this: THANKS!
LM: Hehehe. What made you decide to cross over into the fiction world? I mean with the writing. I know you've been editing fab fiction for years.
FL: I’ve always wanted to write fiction, but as I was an English major in college and an avid reader, always immersed in works that both inspired and intimidated me, it was difficult for me to make that leap. How could I ever compete!? It wasn’t until I helped a former writing partner develop a novelization for a film about ten or more years ago that I started to think that maybe I could do this fiction thing. It took years of starts and stops. I started writing Rita Hayworth’s Shoes eight years before I finished and published it. For eight years, it was two chapters and an idea of what kind of story it might be. What I do know is that when I’m writing fiction, that’s the time that I feel most ME, and really in tune with the universe. I also now realize that what I produce has nothing to do with what others produce--there is no competition because I’m tapping into the essence of me, and no one will ever be able to do that better than me.
LM: Nice. I love that. Do you have any wild or wacky writing quirks?
FL: I used to have more, but I have so little time for writing my own stuff with all the other writing I do for a living, I have to just do it when I can. I guess kind of a strange quirk I have is that I don’t like to stop writing if I can’t conjure the exact words to use to express my thoughts as I’m writing them, or if I’m not exactly sure why my characters are doing things. I just barrel through with placeholder language. So sentences in early drafts of my books look something like this:
“John went to the WHAT and got SOMETHING HERE because he was hungry and that’s what people do when they’re hungry. SOMETHING MORE ABOUT WHATEVER FOOD? MAYBE A CHILDHOOD MEMORY?? PROUST? NAH, SCREW PROUST! He paid with a crinkled five dollar bill and left, ready to WHAT THE HELL IS THIS GUY DOING NOW?, just as he had every day for the past six OR FOUR? years.”
Crazy, right? Yeah, I know. But somehow it works for me. (You should have seen the first draft of this interview!)
LM: Good for you! I tend to labor over things until I'm relatively satisfied - except when it comes to material I'm unfamiliar with. Like in my upcoming release, which takes place in the world of Silicon Valley. The almost-finished draft had stuff like "says something computery" "does something computery" and "insert tech language here". But I digress. Tell me, who are some of your favorite authors?
FL: Most of all, I love authors who make me laugh with quirky spins on real situations. Christopher Moore is at the top of my list right now. I’m also a big Carl Hiaasen fan. Aside from that, Mary Doria Russell has caught my attention lately. For one, she’s a gorgeous writer! But I also enjoy how she skips from genre to genre without batting an eye or losing anything in her stories for doing so. I just finished Dreamers of the Day and I’m going to start re-reading The Sparrow shortly. Such a talented person!
LM: Excellent. What's your all-time favorite opening line?
FL: It’s never changed in the twenty years since I first read Gone With The Wind: “Scarlet O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” If ever an opening line could set up a character and a series of events better... I mean, Margaret Mitchell totally nailed it!
LM: Margaret Mitchell. What a talent... What's your ultimate professional dream? Bestselling author status? Hollywood film adaptation? Total world domination? All of the above?
FL: I have always wanted to win an Oscar for screenwriting (because I’m a sucker for Oscar gowns). I’ve even written four screenplays--but it’s so hard to get anyone to read them! So my hope is that my books take off and get optioned for film, and that I at least get to help in writing the scripts! (Though, if I’m to be honest, I am just happy if people read my books and enjoy them. When someone reads my books and emails me or posts a review or calls me out in a tweet, I’m on top of the world.)
LM: Fingers crossed for you. What's your next project? Can you give us a little teaser of what's to come?
FL: I’m kind of a mad multi-tasker who always has too many irons in the fire, so there are at least four things I’m working on now: A multi-generational story about romantic dysfunction with sometimes tragic ramifications; a series about bacchanalian party girls living in modern times; a fairy-tale satire I’m developing with my husband; and also an erotic novel, just to see if I can do it. :-) I have no idea which one will cross the finish line first. Stay tuned!
LM: Love that "which one will cross the finish line first". Okay, now it's time for a little something I call "pick one." Plotter or Pantser?
FL: I do have the most fun writing off the top of my head and letting the chips drop where they fall, but without a solid framework, no story holds together. So I’m going to have to say somewhere in the middle.
LM: Character first or Plot first?
FL: Character, 100 percent. My characters start to develop before anything else. I pretty much build the story around them and what they tell me they’re going to do.
LM: Mac or PC?
FL: Was always a PC till about a year ago. Not sure I’m fully Mac yet, but I definitely see its advantages.
LM: Edit as you go or Power through and edit later?
FL: Power through, baby!
LM: Morning person or Night owl?
FL: Morning person but also chronic insomniac. It’s amazing how much writing I do between the hours of two and five in the morning. Though I can’t consider myself a night owl because I’m usually passed out cold by about ten o’clock at night.
LM: Coffee or Tea?
FL: If I was on a desert island and could only have one for the rest of my life, coffee for sure, strong and black, though I do sometimes enjoy a good cup of herbal tea.
LM: Coke or Pepsi?
FL: Really not a fan of soda unless I have a hangover. In which case, I guess Coke.
LM: Sandals or Stilettos?
FL: Both, though since I haven’t fully lost all my baby weight (yeah so what that it’s been four years) I haven’t quite found my center of gravity and I’m still not quite able to balance on stilettos yet.
LM: Diamonds or Pearls?
FL: Diamonds, without hesitation. I’m a big fan of “sparkle.”
LM: Snow-capped mountain or Sandy beach?
FL: BEACH! (Oh man, do I ever hate snow.)
LM: Cowboys or CEOs?
FL: Neither. I don’t particularly like dusty men and at the risk of sounding political, I’m not a big fan of “winner takes all."
LM: Ginger or Mary Ann?
FL: I think I go back and forth on this every year. Is it an even year? Then Ginger now.
LM: Superman or Batman?
FL: Batman. I do kind of have a thing for dark, brooding men.
LM: Alpha heroes or Beta heroes?
FL: Beta for sure! I’m a passionate champion of underdogs!
LM: Austen or the Brontes?
FL: I think Austen, but I don’t think about it too much. It’s been a hundred years since I’ve read either.
LM: Mr. Darcy or Captain Butler?
FL: Captain Butler, all the way.
LM: Hurrah! Another potential recruit for Team Rhett (twirls moustache with evil laugh).
FL: Libby, thank you so much for having me! What a great bunch of questions you have here. Very thought-provoking and interesting. I’m happy that readers will learn more about me, and also that I got to learn more about me. :-) I can’t wait to have you at my blog some day soon. Thanks again!
LM: Aw, I would love to come on your blog. Francine, it's been a pleasure chatting with you. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Here's how to find Francine out in the world:
on her blog
on her website
And you can find her book on Amazon