For my first ever ”Interview with the Author” segment, I have chick-lit and contemporary romance author Mae Wood with me to answer questions on her debut novel, Risking Ruin (which I reviewed here), as well as her writing process, and her upcoming sequel, Surviving Bitsy.
When writing Risking Ruin, how much do you draw from your own life?
Clarification: I am NOT asking about the sex scenes. That’s your business 😉
I am an employment lawyer like Marisa, so I hear about all sorts of workplace craziness. Many of the allegations of workplace harassment in the story are drawn from events I’ve read about in court papers. Marisa and I have the same job, but our lives differ greatly from there. I’m married and a mother. I’ve never been as career-focused as Marisa is, but I know plenty of women who are. I don’t draw from my life per se, but I do draw from stories of my career-minded friends who are in their 30s and struggling through (or have struggled through) awful dating situations. Trust me, that woman at the head of the boardroom table closing a billion dollar deal or speaking in front of thousands at a MacWord-style conference still has self-doubt. I know. I’m her “ordinary” friend and I get the emotional phone calls.
When is your moment to write?
I like to write in about 2 to 3 hour long blocks, but I’m fine with interruption. Typically, this means I write during my child’s bath time and her nightly viewing of Peppa Pig and while she’s up and down for hour or so after I put her to bed, demanding water, more blankets, less nightlight, etc. (Every parent knows what I’m talking about.) That said, by the time I sit down to write, I know where I’m going. I’ve muddled through the next steps in my head while driving home and preparing dinner.
Where are you up to with the sequel?
Tentatively titled “Surviving Bitsy,” the sequel picks up where “Risking Ruin” left off. Marisa and Trip are in the plane on the way to St. George. Let’s just say that Trip’s unilateral decision to “solve” the problem in their relationship is not well-taken by Marisa at first. I’ve written about the first 20%, including Marisa getting to meet Trip’s mom Bitsy and John returning to the story. Marisa’s firm has hired him to babysit her and make sure her relationship with Trip doesn’t mean that the firm loses Branco’s lucrative business.
You’ll note that “Risking Ruin” did not end with an “I love you” or an exchange of rings. For me the most interesting bit in any relationship is getting from “Let’s date exclusively” to “Can I live without you?” “Surviving Bitsy” follows Marisa as she navigates being Trip’s proper girlfriend and them trying to blend their lives together. As for the title, Bitsy is Trip’s mom. But this isn’t a Monster-In-Law type story. Quite the opposite. I can’t wait to get it wrapped up and released late summer!
Do you intend to keep the chick-lit / contemporary romance balancing act for the sequel? Is it difficult?
I love Chick-Lit. Bridget Jones’ Diary spoke to me in my 20s and I’ve never looked back. What I love about Chick-Lit is what I find missing in a lot of contemporary romances — personal growth by the heroine in the face of a real-to-her-life challenge in the form of a career change, money problems, or just her beliefs. Classically, think Pride and Prejudice. Many Chick-Lit stories are love stories at base, but I view them as Chick-Lit because of the tone. I love humor. I love puns. I love to verbally spar. I also crave honesty. For me, it’s not love unless your cheeks hurt after a date because you’ve been smiling and laughing so much. I do intend to keep the same light and honest tone the for the sequel.
Do you let your family read your work? What if they asked?
My husband detests “Risking Ruin”! He doesn’t understand the genres of Chick-Lit or romance at all. He’s read though the first sex scene and then just couldn’t tolerate it any longer. I don’t take offense. I’d rather go on a 10 mile hike in the middle of summer than read the five volume biography of Lyndon Johnson he currently has his nose in. Our tastes in pleasure reading differ and that’s fine with me. Nonetheless, he’s my biggest cheerleader in this project and extremely proud of me.
My family has no clue I’ve written a novel. However, my two closest friends I consider family read my work as a serial. When I get a few chapters pulled together, they gobble them up and then tell me what they like, don’t like, and want more of. It’s partially their fault there is sex in Risking Ruin. So blame them if you think it’s too much!
As for them asking to read my book, my sister would roll her eyes. My mother would be super supportive and probably really like it. And no one wants their father reading sex scenes they’ve written! (Okay, probably someone wouldn’t mind, but I’m from the U.S. South where daddies and daughters pretend sex doesn’t exist.)
Which supporting character in Risking Ruin have you enjoyed writing the most?
I love writing Erica! She’s a blend of several of my friends and my grandmother. I’ve been toying with a story about Erica. I’d love to know if readers would like more Erica.
What do you do to pick yourself up in moments of doubt?
I ask my best friends, my cheerleaders. “Too much?” “More?” They’ve told me harsher things in life than “that scene is boring” or “no one else will find that funny” or “more sex.” It’s that level of trust and honesty that permits me to keep going.
Thank you Mae Wood for letting me interview you and answering my questions!
Have more questions for Mae Wood? Check out her Goodreads page and ask away!