Wednesday, February 24, 2010

UNDRESS ME IN THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN: AUTHOR INTERVIEW AND BONUS ENTRIES!

UNDRESS ME IN THE
TEMPLE OF HEAVEN

BY SUSAN JANE GILMAN

If you missed the first post with my review and giveaway chances, you can go here for more about this wonderful book! You may post comments as entries under either of my posts and they will count.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW:


1. First, do you have a website or blog that has lots of information about you that readers could go to?

Sure. I’ve got a website www.susanjanegilman.com that will link you to my bio, author events, my blog “A View from A Broad” and more information than you probably need!

2. What is the next or current book/project you are working on?

My three published books are nonfiction. Now, frankly, I think I’ve had it with reality. It’s time to write a novel! I’ve started sketching out two -- one comic, one serious. I oscillate between the two depending on my mood: it’s probably manic-depression-as-applied-to-literature.

3. What gets you started on a new book? A character or story idea or….?

So far, what gets me started on a new book has always been outrage – outrage coupled with a story worth telling.

Every time I’ve sat down to try and write the Great American Novel (or, okay, the Mediocre American Novel), something in our culture has caught my attention, pissed me off, and compelled me to write a book.

About ten years ago, someone sent me a copy of the self-help besteller, “The Rules: Time Tested Tips for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right.” It’s really despicable. Essentially, the authors advise women to act like diet soda: be artificially sweet and bubbly for the rest of your life, and you can trick a man into marrying you.

I couldn’t stand it. “What about a book of rules for catching a life, not just a husband? Something smart and attitudinal and funny and progressive?” I cried to my friends. That’s how “Kiss My Tiara” was born.

My second book, “Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress,” was actually conceived out of the tragedy of September 11th.

For months after the attacks, I was a flat-out basket-case. All I wanted to read were funny, personal books. But when I looked at the humor and memoirs being written by women, it seemed that most of them were about either a) being single or b) going shopping. Oh pul-lease, I thought. There is so much more to our lives than that.

And so the idea for “Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress” began to take shape. I thought about all the different experiences in my life that were both unique yet universal – twirling in a tutu full of childish ambitions, getting bullied, chasing a rock star, heartbreak, first paychecks, divorce, confronting the viciousness of the world...

There was one major story from my life that I left out of “Hypocrite,” however. And this became the topic of my third book – also as a reaction to our culture.

In 1986, when I was fresh out of college, a classmate and I planned this epic journey around the globe based on a paper placemat from the International House of Pancakes. (“Hey,” we said drunkenly, “let’s eat pancakes of many nations in many nations!”) We wanted to be the female Odysseus, Bryon, and Huck Finn all-in-one and have “an adventure worthy of great literature.”

Since we wanted to go completely off the beaten track, we decided to kick off our trip in the People’s Republic of China. China, at that point, was a nation in lockdown that had only just opened up to backpackers. My friend and I spoke no Mandarin and knew nothing about Asia, but we figured we were bright, bold, and American – so how hard could it be?

Well, we found out. As soon as we arrived in China, we found ourselves in completely over our heads – wildly disoriented, homesick, hungry, and stripped of everything familiar in a Communist country. Quickly we began to unravel. We ended up having an adventure “worthy of great literature,” all right – except it was like “The Heart of Darkness,” not “Huckleberry Finn.”

Since it was a fairly harrowing, traumatic, and embarrassing story, I was reticent about ever writing it -- at least as nonfiction. But yet again, things began happening in our culture that compelled me to react.

In 2003, President Bush described our invasion of Iraq as “a cakewalk,” I turned to my husband and said, “’Cakewalk’? Is he kidding? That sounds like something stupid I would’ve said as a 21-year-old at the IHOP.” I also heard about the soldiers – 19, 20 years old – coming home with mental problems after being thrust into a completely alien environment.

On top of this, a spate of bestselling books began coming out with plots along the lines of

After my heartbreak, I decided to heal myself by renovating a villa in the Mediterranean. To recuperate from my divorce, I thought, why not eat a lot of pasta, then go to an ashram?

Whole nations and cultures seemed to be regarded as little more than venues for personal makeovers and American enrichment.

And so, that’s what drove me to write my latest memoir, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, in all its naked honesty.

I wanted to debunk our romantic myths of swaggering Americans who simply tromp into a foreign country and prevail. Being a stranger in a strange land can be achingly lonely, unnerving, and ridiculously difficult. I felt a responsibility to tell this other side of the story—that of the na├»ve, freaked-out Westerners like me -- who bungle into a place, have their egos handed to them on a platter, and are lucky to get out alive.

Funnily enough, I don’t think of myself as an outraged person. My intention when I write is to offer comfort and insight to people and to make them feel less alone. If they have a good laugh at my expense, so much the better. But the impetus behind much of my work, I realize, can probably be boiled down to one single, reactive sentence: “Are you f***ing kidding me?”

4. What is your best advice to anyone, including young people, who want to be writers?

Read well. Read voraciously. Keep copious notes. But when all is said and done, if you want to be a writer, you’ve got to do one thing above all else: get your butt in that chair. Don’t wait for the Muse or a lightening bolt of inspiration to hit. Get your butt in that chair every day and write, whether you feel inspired or not. It’s like any other discipline: practicing scales or repeatedly doing lay-ups. You’ve got to keep at it. And then be merciless with yourself. Edit, rewrite like a maniac, and seek out constructive criticism. Take writing classes and workshops. But don’t take feedback personally. View it as a diagnosis, not a judgment. It should be used to make your work better, not interpreted as a verdict on you as a person or your talent. Develop a thick skin. Criticism may always sting, but don’t let it devastate you. Be fearless and relentless.

BONUS
GIVEAWAY
ENTRIES


THANKS TO MIRIAM AND THE
HACHETTE BOOK GROUP, I HAVE
FIVE COPIES OF THIS WONDERFUL
MEMOIR/BOOK
TO GIVEAWAY!


--U.S. AND CANADIAN RESIDENTS ONLY
--NO P. O. BOXES
---INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS
IN CASE YOU WIN!
--ALL COMMENTS MUST BE SEPARATE TO
COUNT AS MORE THAN ONE!

HOW TO ENTER BONUS GIVEAWAY
ENTRIES:


+1 ENTRY: COMMENT ON SOMETHING YOU ENJOYED OR FOUND INTERESTING IN SUSAN'S INTERVIEW

+1 MORE ENTRY: IF YOU COULD ASK AUTHOR SUSAN JANE GILMAN ONE QUESTION, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

+1 MORE ENTRY: BLOG ABOUT THIS GIVEAWAY AND COME BACK AND LEAVE A LINK

+1 MORE ENTRY: TWEET ABOUT THIS GIVEAWAY AND COME BACK AND LEAVE A LINK...YOU MAY DO THIS ONE TIME EACH DAY BUT MUST COMMENT EACH TIME YOU DO ONE. I WILL CHECK AND EACH TWEET OR RETWEET WILL COUNT AS AN ENTRY.

+1 MORE ENTRY: SHARE ABOUT THIS GIVEAWAY ON FACEBOOK AND COME BACK AND LEAVE A LINK SO I CAN FOLLOW TO FIND IT. PLEASE DO THIS ONLY ONCE!

GIVEAWAY ENDS AT
6 PM, EST, MARCH 13


28 comments:

Pam said...

I'm not sure if I should be leaving these entries here or on the original post....I love how each of her books came about - I read Kiss My Tiara and never would've guessed the outrage behind it. Her work is so funny too that it's hard to imagine it born out of outrage.

melacan at hotmail odt com

Pam said...

I would like to know if she's ever gone back to China and if so, how was her experience similar to the first time and what had changed?

I've visited Beijing and on the whole loved it, but there were certainly events that I found more than a little frustrating.

melacan at hotmail dot com

Margie said...

I love the author's sense of humor that shines through in this interview. Makes me want to pick up her first books. I also like the name of her blog...so funny!
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Margie said...

Question for the author...
Have you ever had the urge to go back to China...to see how your experience would differ now that you're older and wiser?!
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

bermudaonion said...

Great interview! I feel like the author would be so much fun to meet in real life. (I'm not entering the giveaway.)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love the remark "I've had it with reality!"

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

g.g. said...

I love the name of her blog!

anjamie4 AT gmail dot com

g.g. said...

I would ask her what her is she every went back to an IHOP after that trip?

anjamie4 AT gmail dot com

Wanda said...

I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks.
http://booksiesblog.blogspot.com/

Wanda said...

I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks.

wandanamgreb(at)gmail(dot)com

Wanda said...

I enjoyed reading your interview. I especially appreciated your writer's advice for young people.
wandanamgreb(at)gmail(dot)com

Wanda said...

If I could ask Susan one question it would be, "What do you like to do when you're not writing?"

wandanamgreb(at)gmail(dot)com

Wickdogg said...

I am surprised all her books are non-fiction

wickdogg AT gmaildot com

Wickdogg said...

I would ask her if she has ever considered doing stand up?
She is so funny!


wickdogg AT gmaildot com

Icedream said...

I'm excited to learn Susan is working an another book, I would love to see what she does with a fiction novel. I think she is so funny, I hope she goes with comic. :)

Icedream said...

I would like to know how many countries Susan has visited and which ones where they? (I know of at least three now) Also, how many languages can she speaak fluently?

waitmantwillie at hotmail dot com

nfmgirl said...

I love that this whole adventure began over an IHOP placemat in what sounds like a drunken stupor! Please count me in. Thank you!

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

nfmgirl said...

Blogged:
http://cerebralgirl.blogspot.com/2010/03/book-giveaways-in-blogworld-03-06-10.html

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

nfmgirl said...

Tweet:
http://twitter.com/nfmgirl/status/10123128910

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

nfmgirl said...

Tweet:
http://twitter.com/nfmgirl/status/10180258439

nfmgirl AT Gmail DOT com

nfmgirl said...

Tweet:
http://twitter.com/nfmgirl/status/10246722604

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

nfmgirl said...

Tweet:
http://twitter.com/nfmgirl/status/10283849594

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

nfmgirl said...

Tweet:
http://twitter.com/nfmgirl/status/10347047602

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

nfmgirl said...

Tweet:
http://twitter.com/nfmgirl/status/10385199612

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

DarcyO said...

She sounds like everyone's BFF. The view of the bungling American is a welcome one.

dlodden at frontiernet dot net

Aik said...

I love her sense of humour, when she gave her advice for people who want to be writers : get your butt in that chair.

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Aik said...

I tweeted:

http://twitter.com/aikchien/status/10809544258

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Aik said...

I would like to ask her if she faced any problems while writing this novel.

aikychien at yahoo dot com

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