Monday, August 29, 2011

Interview with Susan McBride, author of "Little Black Dress"

Susan McBride is the author of Little Black Dress (click here for my review) and I was able to interview her via email recently.

How did you start writing, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Susan McBride
(from the author's site)
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and I still have three books I wrote in fifth grade (I even illustrated the covers!). But I didn’t know until I was 19 and between transferring from the University of Texas to the University of Kansas that I truly wanted to be a novelist. That’s when I took some time from school and sat down to write a 600-page historical romance called THE THORN OF THE ROSE. My fate was sealed! Some of the authors I love reading right now (although I’m always discovering new ones!) include Kate Morton, Sarah Addison Allen, Susan Vreeland, Santa Montefiore…oh, gosh, so many! I particularly love novels that blend history with a little mystery or magic.

Do you have your own “little black dress,” though it might not be a dress? (some clothing or talisman that makes you feel lucky?)

I do have a pair of lucky earrings. They’re sterling silver Celtic crosses that I bought about a decade ago. Now I can’t travel without them on. I feel like they keep my planes in the air!

When I first started reading this novel, the dress reminded me of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, in the way that it fit all three woman (Evie, Anna, and Toni). Did you find inspiration in that novel for this one?

Yes, I did get some inspiration from TRAVELING PANTS. When I started conjuring up the idea of a magical black dress, I knew it had to fit sisters Anna and Evie as well as Evie’s daughter, Toni. They are three very different women, not only in personality, but in shape and size. I kind of thought, “Well, if Ann Brashares can do it, why can’t I?” It worked out beautifully!

from the author's site
I read in the press handout that you base some characteristics of the male characters in your novel on your husband, Ed. Were any of the male characters in this novel based on (or made up of parts of) him?

Ed inspires me to write about men who are good and loyal and loving, which is how I see Jonathan Ashton and Hunter Cummings from LITTLE BLACK DRESS. Neither of those men looks much like Ed, but they do have his decency and his steadfastness.

Which is your favorite genre to write, women’s fiction or mysteries?

I really think I’ve found a home in women’s fiction. Writing THE COUGAR CLUB and then LITTLE BLACK DRESS suited me so very well. I just love being able to explore the lives of women and delve into their friendships and families. It’s pretty much what I’ve always wanted to do. I did enjoy writing mysteries immensely, and I’ve got a young adult mystery in the works right now. What’s fun about writing women’s fiction is that you can always incorporate elements of mystery, as I did in LBD. So I feel like it’s the best of both worlds!

Your bio says “[You] were 40 years old and had spent most of [your] adult life working [your] tush off trying to get published.” When did you start writing, and when did you realize you wanted to be a published author one day?

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been writing since I was a kid (and reading like a maniac, too). Once I wrote a full-length manuscript at 19, I realized, “I am a writer.” That’s all I ever wanted to do with my life. After I graduated from college, I wrote a manuscript a year for at least a decade before I signed a traditional publishing contract with a small press. I was 34 when AND THEN SHE WAS GONE finally came out. I learned a lot about the business with my first published book, and I kept learning with each book after. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to work so steadily these past 12 years—and for two wonderful publishing houses, HarperCollins and Random House. I hope I can continue working steadily for years and years to come!

Will you write more women’s literature after this book? Is there anything you are working on now?

Yes, I just finished DEAD ADDRESS, the young adult mystery, for Random House, although it needs a revision before I turn it in. And I’ve got another women’s fiction book that delves into magical realism (like LBD) due this year to HarperCollins. It’s called LITTLE WHITE LIES, about a woman whose lies catch up with her when a tornado dumps a man from her past smack into her lap (well, into her walnut grove anyway). I’m excited about that!

If Little Black Dress was to be made into a movie, who would be perfect to play Evie, Anna, and Toni, in your opinion? What about Hunter and maybe Greg?

Oh, gosh, I’m really bad at this kind of thing. We’d have to cast young Evie and Anna as well as their older selves. Hmm, I don’t know! Any suggestions???

*Interviewer's note: I would suggest the following for a movie adaptation!
Young Evie: Emma Stone 
Young Anna: Evan Rachel Wood (but may have to change hair color)
Older Evie: Maggie Smith
Older Anna: Patricia Clarkson, maybe? This is a hard one to cast.
Toni: Rachel Weisz, though she's about 10 years younger than Toni.

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