Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Susan McBride: An Interview

Susan McBride’s highly anticipated new novel Little Black Dress is released today (check out my review here )and to celebrate it’s release Susan McBride has kindly stopped by to answer a few questions and talk about the new novel.

Thankyou for joining us today and congratulations on the release of your new novel, The Little Black Dress. I absoutely loved the book. Where did the idea for the novel come from?

Thanks so much Georgina! The idea came from a few different places, starting with my mom's insistence that every girl should have a little black dress in their closet and then realizing that this is probably something all women have in common. I began to envison a black dress with peculiar qualities - like, giving it's wearing a glimpse of the future - and wondered, what if the dress was shared between two sisters and again with the next generation? How would it change their lives? Would it push them onto paths they had never considered taking? Would it tear them apart or bring them together? Once I started pondering all those things I was hooked.

Did you experience any writer’s block while writing Little Black Dress?

I think I have moments while writing every book where I feel like a scene I just finished isn’t quite right, and I can only move sluggishly forward. That’s when I sleep on it (really!), and I wake up with the solution floating through my head. Showers and the treadmill are good for figuring out where I went wrong so I can move forward, too. It’s not a matter of being stuck, but being off-track. So it helps to think outside the box until I can get back on-track again!

Why did you decide upon using a dress as the item which leads these women’s lives towards their destinies?

Not long ago, my mom gave me this lovely painted brooch that had belonged to my great-grandmother. I love the concept of family heirlooms being passed down from one generation to the next. I wanted the magical item in my book to be something other than a piece of jewelry, however. So I latched onto my mom’s “every girl must have a little black dress” credo and said, “Of course, it’s a black dress!” It’s a little like the jeans in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants as it fits Evie, Anna, and Toni, even though they’re different shapes and sizes.

Do you own a particular item of clothing that makes you feel special?

I do have a dress that felt magical when I put it on: my wedding dress. On that one day nearly four years ago, in that particular dress, I definitely felt like I was glimpsing a wonderful future ahead of me with my husband. I still have my wedding dress, hanging in my closet! Although I don’t think I’ll ever wear it again; but I keep thinking I’ll get it shortened and dyed. 

Did you know as soon as you started writing Little Black Dress how it would pan out?

 Since so much of the storyline comes full circle, I did know each woman’s secret and what the end result would be. I just had to write the entire middle to connect everything (and the middle, for me, is the toughest stretch!). But I felt more compelled to write this book than any book before it. And it’s the only novel I’ve written that gave me chills. So no matter what happens with Little Black Dress, it will always be special.

Which character do you most relate to - Anna, Toni or Evie?

Definitely not Anna. She’s the complete opposite of me. Although I have to say that the older Anna is someone I find interesting, much more so than young Anna. I do relate to Evie, although she has this sense of calm that I’ve never possessed. I understand the depths of her responsibility and her love of home and husband. I relate to Toni in some ways, too, as she’s in her 40s and still single. I didn’t meet Ed until I was 41, and we married when I was 43. I could be friends with Toni and Evie easily.

You have said before that your previous books have been inspired by different aspects of your own relationship. Was this book inspired by your own life and experiences in any way?

The part of Little Black Dress that was inspired by my own life is my belief that things happen for a reason…and that they happen at the right time. When I look back at the past six years, particularly how I met my husband, I realize how many things had to happen first—like dominoes falling—before our paths could cross. There are so many events in Little Black Dress that reflect that belief. Do I think we’re in control of our lives? Yes, to a degree. Do I think fate or a higher power plays a part as well, putting us places we need to be at the precise moment to make some things happen? Yep, I believe that, too. 

Is there a message you want readers to take away from reading Little Black Dress?

Wow, great question! I hope they take away any number of messages, like the idea that sometimes when life doesn’t turn out exactly as we’d planned, maybe it’s because there’s a different road ahead of us; and that everyone’s life has a little bit of magic in it, but we’re all so busy we don’t notice. When wonderful things happen, we need to hold them close and not analyze them. We should just relish those moments because they never last long enough.

If the story of your own life was made into a movie which actress would you choose to play the character of you?

I would love to be played by Natalie Portman! She’s so lovely and elegant. I’m a big goofball, but I think she’s a good enough actress to pull that off.

What novels are on your reading list?

I am a bookaholic so my TBR piles are never-ending! I just finished reading Escape by Barbara Delinsky, Things We Didn’t Say by Kristina Riggle, and Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, all of which I liked very much. I’ve got The Help still to read (I know, I’m probably the last person on the planet to get to it!), Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, plus books by Jodi Picoult, Santa Montefiore, Nancy Pickard, Isabel Wolff, and so many more. I wish I had time to read more as reading keeps me inspired so I carve out a little time every night when it’s possible to sit down with a book.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Read as much as possible and in a variety of genres. Write whenever you can and don’t worry about being perfect. Just start with observations, little bits of overheard dialogue, descriptions, whatever comes to mind. Understand what makes good books work, whether it’s the characters, the pacing, or the plot. Don’t expect the first thing you write to be published (although, these days, I know it’s possible to publish everything you write if you want to). Decide whether you want to write as a career or as a hobby. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble that way. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s not a competition, unless it’s you against yourself, striving to be better with each new project. Learn as much as you can about the business online via blogs and web sites, as well as by attending writer’s conferences and workshops. And if this is something you need to do with your life, don’t let others discourage you. Rejection is part of the game. Rise above it, keep going, and find your voice. No one can tell your stories but you.

What’s next for you?

I just finished the first draft of a young adult mystery for Delacorte called Dead Address, and I’m about to start working on Little White Lies for HarperCollins, which will let me delve into the world of magical realism again. It’s about a woman raised by a mother who could tell nothing but the brutal truth; so she’s grown up softening her speech with little white lies. Only those lies could come back to haunt her—particularly a rather large one she’s told her daughter—when a man from her past is dropped back into her life by a tornado. Like Little Black Dress, it’s about love and fate and how our lives can change (for better or worse) in the blink of an eye.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I can't wait to read your next novel

Thank you for having me! J

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