Kids get arthritis, too. How can that be you might ask yourself? Arthritis is
an old personās disease, right? Unfortunately, I am here to tell you that itās
not. According to the CDC, over 300,000 children nationwide suffer from this
chronic and at times debilitating disease of which there is no cure. Yes, we
have come a long way, but there is still much work to be done.
By now youāre probably wondering what this has to do with Laura Lippman. Well,
about four months ago I approached HarperCollins with the opportunity to
sponsor an author luncheon to help raise money for The Arthritis
Foundation and in particular, for the kids who have arthritis. Not only
did they enthusiastically climb on board, but also Laura Lippman volunteered to
be our keynote speaker. So, on April 12th here in the Baltimore area, one
hundred of Lauraās biggest fans will be having lunch with her while celebrating
the release of her newest novel, ANOTHER THING TO FALL, to help raise money for a cause that is
very dear to my heart. Words can not express my gratitude for the support from
Laura as well as HarperCollins. With their generosity, we are one step
closer to finding a cure.
So, please grab a cup of coffee and get to know my friend, the fabulous Laura
Lippman. And, donāt forget about the contest section at the end of the column!
(For more information about The Arthritis
Foundation, please visit www.arthritis.org/. If you
are interested in making a donation for the luncheon whether it be a monetary
contribution or an auction item, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jen: For those of us living in the Baltimore area, we are fortunate to
be able to closely follow your exciting career because you are one of our own.
So that my readers can get some insight into the path of your success, please
tell us little bit about your educational and professional background.
Laura: It was a pretty ordinary path ā public
schools, 1-9 in Baltimore
(including a year at Western High Schoolās A-course) then three years at Wilde
Lake High School, then still in the grip of āopen spaceā education, an
interesting contrast. I went to Northwestern Universityās Medill School of
Journalism. College admission wasnāt so overwrought, then; my memory is that
almost everyone I knew got into his or her first-choice school.
Jen: What influence did your father, Theo Lippman, Jr., have on your
choice to become a newspaper reporter? Did you feel pressure to live up to your
well-known fatherās reputation as a respected writer? Is there a particular
story that you broke that stands out in your mind as one of your finest hours
in the newspaper business and why?
Laura: I thought my fatherās job seemed cool. He went to an office, he
wrote what he thought ā that was my rather simplistic sense of what an
editorial writer did ā he got to travel. It looked fun.
I have a lot of cherished stories from my life in journalism. But my favorite
one was a quiet one ā a day I spent with a single 10-year-old boy, on his last
day of fourth grade. It was one of the best stories I ever wrote, and it didnāt
hurt anyone, a rare feat in journalism.
Jen: I read that you wrote seven books before leaving your career as a
journalist. What finally made you take the leap of faith and leave it all
behind to pursue the life of a writer? Do you miss the adrenaline and constant
chaos associated with working on a strict deadline and how, if at all, has it
translated over into your writing career?
Laura: I donāt want to dwell on this, but my last year at The Sun was
pretty intolerable. My bosses, in effect, made the decision that I would be
leaving. (I think they thought I would opt to stay and give up writing novels,
but they clearly didnāt understand just how well I was doing with my fiction.)
It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I miss the people, the camaraderie. I never miss the work. When something awful
happens ā the day the water taxi capsized, for example, and all those people
drowned ā I think, āIām so happy I donāt have to cover that.ā As for
deadlines . . . well, Iāve gone from having lots of little ones, to one big one.
Jen: Your lead character, Tess Monaghan, mirrors your life in the sense
that she too left a career behind at a newspaper, hers being the fictitious The
Beacon-Light, to embark on a new chapter in her life. Of course, she became a
private investigator and you an author. Is she a compilation of many people in
your life or was she meant to be a sort of metamorphosis of the new person you
Laura: Sheās the road not taken, in a sense. What if I had been laid
off? What else was I equipped to do? (A not so-wild fear in the 1990s.) But, by
virtue of her biography and temperament, Tess is very different from me. We
agree on a lot of things, particularly books and music and films.
Jen: Your latest release, ANOTHER THING TO FALL, incorporates the Hollywood scene into your
popular Tess Monaghan series. Some of my readers may not know that you are
married to David Simon, the executive producer of HBOās show āThe Wire.ā Were
you at all concerned that some readers may think you were writing about certain
members of his staff? Also, how concerned were you with accurately portraying
the way in which a television production operates without offending anyone? How
much research went into the writing of this novel?
Laura: Iāll begin with the last question: Enough. I did enough research.
I always do enough. I think research is a bit fetish-ized in fiction-writing,
often by people who have no background in journalism, and therefore find it
extraordinary. You call people up! They tell you stuff! Look, I once had less
than an eight-hour shift to research and then explain several aspects of
Baltimoreās water filtration system. I once learned, on deadline, how to
explain the refinancing of transportation construction bonds, and why the
increased fees were not counted against the project as cost overruns. Those
kinds of things demystify research.
As for offending people ā novelists really canāt afford to think that way. I
donāt write roman `a clefs, but I also understand that those who donāt write
fiction can never really grasp that. Non-writers keep trying to reduce novels
to their parts, as if they were recipes that can be deconstructed very
precisely. I know that no one in my book is āreal.ā I expect that others will
believe they see real people in my characters, which is kind of a knock on my
imagination, but so it goes.
Jen: Have you collaborated with your husband on any projects or have any
plans to do so in the future?
Laura: Hmm. I think we both contributed to Rafael Alvarezās going-away
page when he left The Sun. And I did edit Davidās story for Baltimore Noir, not
that it required any real editing. We have one project we might work on
together, one day. But thereās no real urgency to it.
Jen: I think series like yours is very appealing to readers because they
feel connected to the lead characters, somewhat like visiting with an old
friend. What is the biggest challenge as a writer in respect to keeping the
material fresh without losing the familiarity of past novels?
Laura: The big challenge is providing familiarity and novelty, because a
series requires a careful balance of both. I donāt make many claims for my
work, but the 10 Tess Monaghan novels to date are very different. Iāve never
written the same book twice.
And, in fact, there are often things or characters that donāt show up from book
to book. If itās winter, Tess isnāt rowing. Whitney and Crow, among others,
donāt have always prominent parts. But lifeās like that, right?
Jen: You are no stranger to winning such coveted awards such as the
Eddgar, the Anthony, the Agatha, and even the first-ever recipient of the
Mayorās Prize for Literary Excellence. With that being said, how does that
compare to making the New York Times Bestselling List for the first time with
your novel WHAT THE DEAD
KNOW? How has that impacted your career? Has it changed the way in which
you write? Do you now feel more pressure to exceed your readersā expectations
with each new novel?
Laura: The pressure, always, is to exceed my expectations. The readers
are generous. I am not.
Itās hard, a year out, to assess the impact of WHAT THE DEAD KNOW. Mostly
good, I think. Iāll sign a new contract with Morrow this year. There are even
more foreign editions of my work. I think, I hope, that Iām taken seriously
within crime fiction as someone with serious and earnest ambitions. Thatās all
I really want, to be credited with doing my best, to being very sincere about
Jen: There are many challenges when piecing together a crime novel,
especially in determining whodunit. What is the most difficult part of the
novel for you to write and what part do you enjoy the most and why?
Laura: Middles are the worst. I loathe the middle. The beginning is
always fun, fresh and full of potential. And ends tend to fall into place
quickly ā but only if the middle is right, which it often isnāt.
Jen: What has surprised you most about the publishing business and why?
Who is you biggest critic and whose opinion do you value most when it comes to
Laura: Like a lot of writers, I had to learn that publishing is a
business. I donāt obsess over it, but I do understand it now.
Iām my biggest critic because Iām the only one who knows exactly what Iām
trying to do. Although, itās my sense that there are some folks who would like
to fight me for the job. Theyāre just not tough enough.
Jen: Please tell us about your website. Do you have e-mail notification
of upcoming releases? Do you participate in a blog? Are you involved with
author phone chats? And if so, how would my readers go about arranging one?
Laura: HarperCollins has a program in which authors āattendā book clubs
via telephone. I have a website that is updated (almost) every month, and I
blog at a Journalscape site called the Memory Project.
Jen: Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what can you
tell us about it?
Laura: First, I just finished a novella, āScratch a Woman,ā which
will be part of a short story collection released this fall, HARDLY KNEW
HER. Iām also in the beginning stages of a new novel, a stand-alone,
but itās too early to talk about it. I donāt always feel that way, but this one
needs some breathing room. I donāt want to weigh it down with my own
expectations and hopes, not in public.
Jen: Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to
chat with my readers. I also want to personally thank you for being the keynote
speaker at The Arthritis
Foundation's Author Luncheon. It means so much to me that you are
willing to be a part of such a very special event. Best of luck in 2008!
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Laura. Okayā¦here is the trivia part
that you all love! Five lucky winners to correctly answer the following trivia
question will win a copy of ANOTHER THING TO FALL!
What is the title of
Lauraās first book that made it to the New York Times Bestselling List?
Next month, I will be bringing to you my interview with Andrew Gross! His
latest release, THE DARK
TIDE, is one you wonāt want to miss!
Happy St. Patrickās Day!
Until next time...Jen
When a 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 "voilĆ " 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 āJe ne sais pasā and āCāest
incroyable!ā 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 momsā book club and writing a column she cleverly
named Jenās 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 Foundationās Aquatic and
Land Exercise Classes, she is an advocate for those like herself who suffer from
arthritis, the nationās #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,
"Itās just Par for the Course." Hmm! Now where have we heard that before?
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