Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ideal Writing Day?

I'm pleased to have Libby Malin visiting Over Coffee again with her latest romantic comedy, My Own Personal Soap Opera. Libby writes both YA (as Libby Sternberg) and humorous Women's Fiction.

Libby leads a very busy life as many authors do these days. She's a wife, a mother of three, and a professional writer. She has worn many hats in her professional life, a Spanish gypsy, a Russian courtier, a Middle-Eastern slave, a Japanese Geisha, a Chinese peasant, and a French courtesan – that is, she sang as a union chorister in both Baltimore and Washington Operas. She's been an education reform advocate, done stints on Public Radio, and then turned to writing, working in a public relations office and then as a freelancer for various trade organizations and small newspapers.

  • Given her busy schedule I asked her, What is your ideal writing day? Have you ever had one?

I’ve been doing a lot of crazy blog posts during this virtual book tour, so my first inclination when I get asked this question was to dream up an extravagantly luxurious day involving pools, pool boys, masseuses, bon bons, pedicures, manicures, martinis and gauzy peasant-style clothing that I wear while typing on my laptop in a gazebo amidst flower-scented warm breezes.

But I won’t go there.

Instead, I’ll the truth. :-)

A realistic ideal writing day for me is actually one where I feel I have the freedom to write as long as I want, the inspiration to stick with the writing and an ironclad surety that what I write will be published. Rarely does an author experience that.

But here’s the closest I have come to that ideal—writing virtually nonstop all day because I’m on fire to tell a particular story, resentful of any interruptions (phone calls, meals!) and eager to get back to my characters, reasonably sure I can sell what I’m writing.

I think those moments are rare for most authors because of the need to work at other jobs and also because of the unsteadiness of the market. Few authors are sure these days that their next book will sell.

I’ve been very fortunate because I also work as a freelance writer and editor. For several organizations, I write articles and other publications. And for two publishing houses, I am a copy editor. This work is very fulfilling, keeps my bank account from growing too anemic, and also helps me polish skills I use as a writer of fiction. But this work—especially the copy editing, which usually has a tight deadline—can interfere with writing fiction. So I have learned to discipline myself to write, even when inspiration or a whole lot of creative energy isn’t there.

Most beginning writers have to learn that lesson very quickly because often, writers are working full-time before or even after they sell their first novel. Somehow, you find the time and the energy to make it happen. If writing is what you really want to do, nothing can stop you!

I’d be happy to answer any questions about the writer’s life or about writing comedy, in particular.

My Own Personal Soap Opera is my third humorous women’s fiction book. I’m very fond of its characters, particularly the protagonist, Frankie McNally, who is also a writer—the head writer for a soap opera.

I had a lot of fun researching this book by reading autobiographies of soap stars and interviewing some folks who’ve been involved in soap opera work. The head writer of As the World Turns was particularly kind and patient with me, and I really appreciated her help. Of course, I take liberties with the real information I unearthed, but I hope the book creates a realistic-enough feel that even those in the industry will find it entertaining!

  • Any questions about comedy or writing, thoughts, or comments? 2 copies of My Own Personal Soap Opera. 2 winners, US and Canada only. Be sure to leave me a way to contact you.

Back Cover Blurb:

Is life stranger than fiction, or vice versa?

Frankie McNally has found the perfect solution for life’s perplexing problems: as head writer for the daytime soap Lust for Life, she works them out on the air!

Meanwhile, Frankie’s being courted simultaneously by the dashing older man sent in to save the show’s sagging ratings and by the soap’s totally hot leading man. And just when Frankie thinks the plot couldn’t get more complicated, a jewel thief starts copying the show’s storyline-a development that could send the show’s ratings soaring, if it doesn’t get Frankie arrested first...

Can Frankie writer her way out of this one? And can she put make believe aside long enough to discover the truth of her own heart?

First Chapter Excerpt Download

In her signature blending of the hilarious with the poignant, Libby Malin’s latest light-hearted novel combines the best of life and of fiction into an entertaining and incredibly satisfying read.


Libby Malin is published in women’s fiction, including the books Fire Me, My Own Personal Soap Opera and Loves Me, Loves Me Not. Writing as Libby Sternberg, she is also an Edgar nominated YA mystery writer. As Libby Sternberg, she has an adult historical mystery offered exclusively on Kindle called Death Is the Cool Night. Her first print adult historical, Sloane Hall (inspired by Jane Eyre and set in old Hollywood), will be released in September.

Libby has worked in public relations, as an education reform advocate, and was a member of the Vermont Commission on Women. She is the proud mother of three children and lives with her wonderful husband in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome back to Over Coffee, Libby. you know where the coffee bar and goodies are.

Whadda ya mean No "pool boys, masseuses, bon bons, pedicures, manicures, martinis and gauzy peasant-style clothing typing on my laptop in a gazebo amidst flower-scented warm breezes."

I'm so disillusioned. Darn.

Isabel Roman said...

I'm jealous you write comedy so well! I prefer the one-liners, myself...rather th story does since it gets written that way. How do you maintain that pace? I have to say, My Own Personal Soap Opera sounds like a hoot!

Libby Malin said...

I'm happy to be here!

As to how to maintain a comedic pace . . . that's an excellent question. I was trained as a musician (a singer) so I guess I think I have a feel for where tension (even comedic tension) needs to be maintained, then released. Although it's hard to go back and read funny material and still feel the laughter, it does help to reread and edit, especially when thinking about pacing. Sometimes, after thinking about a scene, an idea will come to you -- you'll think, "that would be a lot punchier if I deleted X and inserted Y."

Kat Sheridan said...

Hi, Libby! The book sounds like so much fun! I soooo admire folks who can write comedy (I tend toward dark and melodramtic, myself). I think comedy is so much harder. Have you always told funny stories (i.e. were you the class clown?) Best of luck to you with your writing!

Libby Malin said...

Actually, I was extremely shy as a kid. So, no, I wasn't a class clown. But I've always loved to laugh. If someone can make me laugh, I can forgive many faults. In addition to my light stories, I, too, like to write dark, brooding tales. I have one coming out in September -- SLOANE HALL. It's inspired by JANE EYRE and set in 1920s Hollywood.

Helen Ginger said...

This sounds like a fun book, and I like that you did a lot of research, including interviewing those currently involved with the soaps. This ought to be a big seller since there are millions who love soap operas.

Straight From Hel

Terry Dubbs said...

It sounds like a neat book - I think might have to pick it up! :D It's a great interview!!

TinaFerraro said...

I loved your idea of the perfect writing day, and Frankie sounds like a character I'd really enjoy reading!

SueO said...

Brava, Libby! Like Isabel and Kat, I admire and envy anyone who can write humor INTENTIONALLY. Sometimes my prose comes across in a way that keeps people laughing, even during the serious bits. It's somewhat disconcerting, really...


Sia, thanks so much for introducing this writer to us. Her book seems like a lot of fun. I love wry observations on Life, as the title implies. I'll look for this at my fave bookstore.

Tonya Kappes said...

Hey Libby! I love your title. It makes me smile. I write with humor quirky characters and they are a lot of fun to get to know!
Thanks for sharing with us today! Definitely picking this one up.

Libby Malin said...

Thanks for the comments -- and the pledges to pick up the book! LOL!

Yes, I've written unintentional humor too, usually by misplacing adverbs or by the use of dangling modifiers (I think that's what they're called).

~Sia McKye~ said...

Libby, I've found humor to be hard at times. But When I'm in the right mood, humor is easier to pull off. But I will admit the timing, set-up, and pacing is so important and not always easy. What has helped me is stating outrageous as a fact or exaggerating a fact or even setting up something outrageous and the reactions of those around the characters reaction is fun.

When I write, I love having characters with a good sense of humor. Asides and attitudes as much as dialog.

I have a friend who is a humorist. He's FUNNY. But he did a series of articles here on writing humor and you realize what a lot of work it can be to make it effective. Kudos to you.

Olivia Cunning said...

Sounds like a fun book! And I adore your cover.

I think my perfect writing day would be one where the house was perfectly clean (which is an impossible dream in my reality), and I had no errands, chores or day job "stuff" to worry about. All those mundane, creativity-sucking day-to-day worries gone. Gone. Gone. All gone. Yeah, that's the stuff real fantasies are made of.

I have the hardest time writing funny when I'm trying to write funny. Funny either flows for me or it doesn't. When I try to force it, it sounds, well... forced. Does anyone else have this problem? Probably just me.

Houston A.W. Knight said...


Oh - I so hear Libby on a writer's life and wishes for a full work day! I share her resentments at being disturbed when trying to work.

This was a great post! Awesome!


Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Sia, thanks for hosting.
This book sounds like buckets of fun and who can't use a little of that in their life right now? :)
I say bring on the cabana boys~ if not then a good book. This one is on my list.

Elle J Rossi said...

What? You mean I have to give up my cabana men? That totally stinks. I had big plans, Libby. BIG PLANS.

I do have a question for you: When you're on a deadline, what other part of your life suffers the most? What is your biggest sacrifice?


Libby Malin said...

Elle, my biggest "sacrifice" when I'm on deadline is housecleaning. And believe me, it's no sacrifice. :-)

Seriously, I just let everything else go if I'm on a deadline, except maybe cramming in time for some freelance writing projects, which I still handle.

Libby Malin said...


I think you're right about "funny" just flowing or it seems forced. I've found I just need to mentally relax to write comedy and let 'er rip, realizing that what I write might not be funny, and I'll have to start all over again. You have to turn off your inner editor to write it. And then turn the editor back on to view it critically.

Netti said...

Sia, you evol one you, everytime I check in you get me hooked on someone new! I'm going to have to check out this know I likes my funnies :D

Libby, the book(s) sound great! Can't wait to pick one up!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Netti, I think it's one that would do well in your store. This is the third of her romantic comedy books.

I know I'm Evol, lolol! It's my job to be and to tempt readers to fall in love with the authors and the books I feature here.

Cheryl Brooks said...

Sounds great, Libby! Can't wait to read it!

Netti said...

yes, and you do that job TOO well... hmmm, having said that I should totally get you to work at my store *EG*

The Romantic Comedies to sell exceedingly well at the stores; will definitely be checking these out :D

Kat Sheridan said...

SLOAN HALL sounds wonderful! Jane Eyre was my inspiration as well! How fun! I'll be looking forward to it!