Four Questions About My New Novel Shoplandia

A few writers are tagging other writers to answer "4 Questions" about the writing process. My friend Nicole Valentine recently tagged my friend Robb Cadigan, and now he has tagged me. The timing couldn't have been better as I'm finally about to complete a project which I've been working on steadily for the past three years. Here are my 4 answers: 1. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?

ShoplandiaBookCover5_5x8_5_Cream_290 copyI just finished up my first novel, SHOPLANDIA, which I'm happy to announce will be launched at Chester County Book Company on May 15th. See details below. Told from the perspective of production assistants, show hosts, producers, and a VP, SHOPLANDIA peels back the curtain to give a humorous and sometimes tragic glimpse into the bonds that form in our working lives. This novel told through stories also has a supporting cast of reality TV personalities, motivational gurus, A-Team actors, beloved country musicians, drunk baseball players, and aging movie stars.

SHOPLANDIA Book Launch Thursday, May 15th, 6-8 p.m., short presentation at 7 p.m. Chester County Book and Music Company 957 Paoli Pike West Chester, PA 19380

SHOPLANDIA Book Launch Weekend Sunday, May 17th 3-5 p.m. BOOKPLACE, 2373 Baltimore Pike Oxford, PA.

2. HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE?

As far as I know, there is only one other novel about life behind the scenes at a home shopping channel, and that is Sellevision by Augusten Burroughs. When I first read that novel years ago, I realized he had an outsider's perspective and the novel didn't capture what it is really like to work in the absurd, yet thrilling mayhem of a studio that is live 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And because he wrote about people who were co-workers and friends, I didn't find the satirical depiction very flattering. While there are still some villains in SHOPLANDIA, they are more than offset by the hosts, producers and on-air guests who are downright heroic.

3. WHY DO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU DO?

My friend Larry Geiger recently asked me, "Why do you write?" and my only reply was "Because I can't play the drums." Seriously though, after writing my first collection, Elephant: Short Stories and Flash Fiction, I wanted to write something lighter and fast paced. Shoplandia is definitely a work of fiction, but it was inspired by my seventeen years as a producer at QVC. My goal was to capture the spirit of a live television studio, which has always been a remarkable place.

4. WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS LIKE?

Agonizing. Most of the time, I start with a snippet of an idea - a visual or a phrase that intrigues me and I go from there. It's like making my way through the dark. I've come to see writing is more like sculpting than anything else. The first draft is always crap, just a blob of clay. Even by the tenth draft, it's still only shaped a little bit. One of the chapters in SHOPLANDIA, Pepper Man, was written three years ago but I didn't have a satisfactory ending until last fall, when it suddenly came together. The real short pieces come together more quickly. Laugh Track came together in an afternoon, but anything over 1,000 words takes revision upon revision.

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you at one of the book launches or you can purchase SHOPLANDIA online soon. If you want to stay updated on events, you can sign up for my newsletter for occasional updates. Click HERE.

I've now tagged writer Carla Sarett to answer these four questions. Carla has two collections - Strange Courtships: Nine Romantic Stories and Crazy Lovebirds and she is working on a novel. You can check out her blog by clicking HERE.