Isn’t it amazing how sometimes life throws you a curve ball? Take for instance
our recent snowstorm here in the northeast. Sure, we knew it was coming. All
the newspapers and television channels predicted huge amounts of snowfall.
Naturally, we ran to the grocery stores and stocked up for what surely would be
an adventure. Best of all, the kids were looking forward to a couple days off
from school. What we didn’t expect was a second snowstorm right behind it that
quickly turned the fun into a national weather emergency.
This month’s Jen’s
Jewels Maria Murnane
chronicles that same kind of unexpected mayhem on the dating scene in her
comical debut novel entitled PERFECT ON PAPER. Just in time for February, the month dedicated
to love, I guarantee the misadventures of her hilarious main character Waverly
Bryson will tickle you pink! Not to mention, you might pick up some dating do’s
and don’ts along the way!
As part of this interview, AmazonEncore has donated
five copies for you, my lucky readers, to win. So, don’t forget to look for the
trivia question. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your
Jen: Since the conception of my column years ago, all of my Jen’s Jewels
have been published by the major houses. Luckily for me, your manuscript came
across my desk from the newly launched AmazonEncore
line. For those readers not familiar with the program, Amazon finds self-
published books that have been overlooked and re-introduces them to the public.
Bravo for Amazon! They found a sparkling gem…PERFECT ON PAPER! How
apropos! Let’s start by finding out more about you. Please fill us in on your
educational and professional background.
Maria: Hi there- first of all, thanks so much for
choosing to read my book! I really appreciate it. This is all so exciting,
isn’t it? To answer your question, I majored in English and Spanish as an
undergrad at UC Berkeley and also have master’s degree in integrated marketing
communications from Northwestern University. Before I wrote PERFECT ON PAPER, I spent
several years in public relations on the agency site.
Jen: As you mentioned, you had a career in PR just like your main
character does in PERFECT
ON PAPER, Waverly Bryson. At the time, what happened in your life that led
to your writing this book?
Maria: I guess you could say that spending a good chunk of my twenties
working and being single in San Francisco was what first got me thinking about
it. It got to the point where I had so many funny stories running around in my
head that I knew I could probably come up with a pretty good book. But I never
had the time or mental energy to seriously pursue it.
Then one day I quit my job because I just didn’t want to be in PR anymore. It
was scary to walk away from a career path I’d been on for so long, but I knew I
had to make a change or I’d be miserable forever. I wasn’t ready to face the
question of what to do next, so I bought a ticket to go to Argentina and Chile
by myself for 2.5 weeks to practice my Spanish. After two weeks I had no desire
to go home, so I got a job playing semi-pro soccer and decided to stay for a
year. (Random, but true – I even got paid!) So there I was, living in Buenos
Aires playing soccer, and one day I realized that if I was ever going to write
the book I’d always talked about, that was the time. So I started writing and
writing and writing, and eventually I had the first draft of what would become
PERFECT ON PAPER.
Jen: A simple question but one I just have to ask, how did you come up
with her name? (I love it!)
Maria: HA! I’m so happy to hear that, because I recently saw a review on
Amazon where the reader said she hated the name Waverly so much that it
literally ruined the entire book for her! I wanted to choose an unusual name
for the main character, something that would really stand out in a good way.
When I was in high school, a girl on my soccer team had a baby sister named
Waverly, and I always thought it was such a cool name. Waverly (spelled
Waverley) is also the name of a street in my hometown, which is sort of cool.
So I picked Waverly and never looked back. The last name (Bryson) I made up
because I thought it went well with Waverly, but then I found out that Bryson
is also a street in my hometown. They don’t intersect though. Now THAT would be
cool, and maybe even worth a misdemeanor to have those intersecting signs on
display in my living room...
Jen: In terms of the format, each chapter starts with a Honey Note.
First, please explain to my readers exactly what a Honey Note is. Secondly,
what connection do they have with Waverly?
Maria: A Honey Note is a witty greeting card for female friends to send
to each other “just because.” At first Waverly invents them as a way to help
her manage the pain of a breakup, but soon they begin to reflect her insightful
into much more than just romance. They appear throughout the book, and the ones
at the beginning of each chapter represent the main theme of the chapter, for
Front: Ever feel like you don’t know anything at all?
Inside: Honey, congratulations. At least you finally know that.
Jen: The story centers on Waverly’s “misadventures” on the dating scene
in San Francisco after being left at the altar. With her two girlfriends, Andie
and McKenna, by her side, she tries to juggle her sports PR career with finding
a suitable mate. In what ways does Waverly’s dissatisfaction in her personal
life affect her attitude towards her job?
Maria: Waverly’s breakup with her perfect fiancé jolts her into
realizing that the relationship she has with her career might not be so perfect
either, even though she’s always been committed to it. She thought her personal
life was going to be one way, and then it suddenly changes, just like that.
It’s extremely painful, but it also teaches her that acknowledging that
something isn’t a perfect fit isn’t a bad thing, especially if her heart isn’t
in it. It takes her a while, but she finally sees that the old cliché is really
true: Life is what you make of it.
Jen: Being an only child as well as motherless has taken a toll on
Waverly. How does her rocky relationship with her less-than-perfect father
affect her attitude towards men?
Maria: There’s a part in the book where Waverly finally realizes that
she’s spent a lot of energy worrying about what the men in her life want, not
what SHE wants. That’s probably why she ended up engaged to the wrong guy in
the first place. Her dad’s inability to express how proud he is of her has
clearly made her insecure on the romance front, but I also think it has shaped
the way she interacts with her male friends and colleagues—albeit to a much
lesser degree. On some level she expects all the men in her life to think she’s
not quite good enough.
Jen: Words just cannot describe the importance of having a close circle
of friends. Luckily for Waverly, her adorable sidekicks help keep her sane! Yet
sometimes Waverly uses them as a crutch. Why does she tend to view herself as
more imperfect rather than near perfect?
Maria: I think we can take the last sentence of the above answer and
change the words “all the men” to “everyone.”
Jen: From one escapade to the next, I found myself laughing out loud all
the way through the book. Waverly is one hysterical character! (My favorite
scene was her girlfriend’s bathroom experience at the apartment party!) How
much of this book is based on your real life?
Maria: I’m so glad that you laughed out loud! (You just made my day,
btw.) The main plot of the book is completely made up, but many of the funny
things that happen along the way did indeed happen to me or my friends. And
yes, that includes the scene you mention above. But it wasn’t me—I swear!!
Jen: For a novel to be successful, it must have strong supporting
characters. Without a doubt, you most certainly do! The character that was most
intriguing to me was the loner, Brad Cantor. We all know a “Brad.” How does
Waverly’s relationship with him mirror how she really feels about herself?
Maria: Ah, Brad. Such a nice guy, so socially awkward. I think Waverly
is so annoyed by him because he genuinely likes her, and deep down she thinks
that she’s not worth liking that much. Not that he’s not annoying, but he’s
probably less so to people who aren’t as insecure around men as Waverly is. I
loved how he eventually shows that there’s more to Brad Cantor than meets the
Jen: As in every typical office environment, there is the barracuda
hoping to chomp his or her way up the corporate ladder. In PERFECT ON PAPER, her name
is Mandy. However, Waverly may hate to admit it, but she and this fierce fish
do have much in common. In what similar ways are these two women struggling
with their own inner demons?
Maria: Professionally, Waverly is accomplished and well-liked but is
struggling to figure if she even wants a career in PR, while Mandy wants the
career and is capable but is struggling with her interpersonal skills.
Romantically, however, deep down neither of the two thinks she deserves to be
loved. I like the dynamic between them because it shows how complex people can
be, how a wrong first impression can taint an entire relationship, and how
sometimes two people can be so similar in one way yet clash terribly in
another. That last part can be true even between close friends.
Jen: I liked how you tied in superstar basketball player, Shane, and his
wife, Kristina, with Waverly’s storyline. How does her brush with celebrity
types help to keep her grounded especially when things start turning around?
Maria: I mentioned earlier how Waverly eventually begins to believe in
herself and realize the truth of the “Life is what you make of it” adage. Her
exposure to successful people who are doing just that reinforces that message,
which she apparently needs to hear a billion times before it sinks in. But at
least it finally does! :-)
Jen: Without giving too much away, what has Waverly’s zany adventures
taught her about the importance of family and friends?
Maria: That Honey, if you have family and friends who love you, you are
Jen: The most important question of the interview… will there be a
sequel? (I hope so!!)
Maria: Oh gosh, I don’t know! I would really love to write a sequel, so
let’s cross our fingers that the first book does well enough to allow me to
take the time to do that. Unfortunately, Waverly needs to eat!
Jen: Let’s switch gears and talk about your promotional plans. Do you
have a website? Will you be participating in author phone chats? And if so, how
would my readers go about scheduling one?
Maria: My Web site is www.mariamurnane.com, and I am more than happy to
do author chats. Readers can email me through the site or send a note to
mariaATmariamurnaneDOTcom. I love getting emails from readers and answer every
Jen: What’s next for you? Will writing remain your full-time job?
Maria: Actually, so many readers asked me to make the Honey Notes for
real that I decided to give it a try, and right now I’m in the middle of
launching a line of products called Waverly’s Honey Shop! To start it includes
Honey Notes just like the ones in the book, plus Honey Tees, Honey Hoodies and
Honey Totes featuring witty quotes from Waverly. The past week I’ve been
carrying a Honey Tote around that says “Is it worse to be fake or bitchy?” and
a couple women have literally stopped me in my tracks to ask where I got it.
How cool is THAT? The site is www.waverlyshoneyshop.com. I’m not sure if all
the Honey products will be up there by the time this interview runs, but anyone
who wants to order one can send me an email – I’ll hook them up!
Jen: Thank you so much for taking time to stop by and chat with my
readers. I wish you the best of luck with your career. Thanks for sharing
Waverly with all of my readers!
Maria: It was my pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting us! :-)
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Maria. If you’re not snowed in,
please stop by your favorite bookstore or library branch and pick up a copy
today. Better yet, how would you like to win one? Okay, be one of the first
five readers to e-mail me with the correct answer to the following question and
you’ll win. Good luck!
you buy Maria’s “Honey” products?
Until next time...
twist of fate landed Jennifer at the "Reading with Ripa" roundtable
discussion with Kelly Ripa and Meg Cabot, she knew that her career as a French
teacher would essentially be over. Instead, she figured out a clever way to
combine her love for reading and writing and "voilà" She became a book reviewer
and columnist with www.freshfiction.com. On the sidelines, her parents secretly
hoped that her French degree from Vanderbilt would one day come in handy and
Jennifer is happy to report that the phrases ‘Je ne sais pas' and ‘C'est
incroyable!' have been quite useful when reviewing certain selections! As is
typical in her whirlwind life, one thing led to another and soon she found
herself facilitating a popular moms' book club and writing a column she cleverly
named Jen's Jewels. (Jewelry is one of her many addictions, as is the color pink
and Lilly Pulitzer, which when you think about it, would probably make for a
good story! Hint! Hint! ) To keep herself away from her favorite retailer, Ann
Taylor, she serves on the Board of Trustees of the Harford County Public Library
in Maryland. As a national trainer for The Arthritis Foundation's Aquatic and
Land Exercise Classes, she is an advocate for those like herself who suffer from
arthritis, the nation's #1 cause of disability. When asked how she manages to do
all of these things and actually get some sleep at night, she simply replied,
"It's just Par for the Course." Hmm! Now where have we heard that before?
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