Friday, July 27, 2007

Leslie Schnur, Late Night Talking

What I thought was going to be a cute little read ended up being more. Late Night Talking is a very good book with some thought provoking issues and author Leslie Schnur hits the nail on the head with so many pet peeves. Jeannie Sterling is the talk show host of Sterling Behavior, a late night radio show where she voices her pet peeves about people’s behavior. Callers can phone Jeannie and chat about what irks them too.

Jeannie is the moral compass for late night talking. But how far can she go before her annoyances at bad behavior take a turn for the worse and do gooder Jeannie is in over her head? Add in an estranged father, a hunky reporter and a handsome boss and you have a recipe for Late Night Talking. Leslie would be so proud of me, yesterday I was at SeaWorld and someone tossed a water bottle in the garbage can and missed. I picked it up and threw it away like the responsible citizen I am.

Leslie Schnur is a great writer and a really fun and kind person. I can't wait for her third novel so I can interview her again. Our first interview, for her book The Dog Walker can be found here.

You must see a lot of strange behavior living in New York City. What is the oddest thing you have ever seen? When I lived in Honolulu, I saw a guy walking down the street while peeing in front of oncoming traffic that was pretty crazy. (And gross).

That is gross! And in Hawaii too! But New York City isn’t worse than anywhere else. It gets such a bum rap, which isn’t fair. I think it’s an amazingly civilized city given the size of its population. That said, I’ve seen guys peeing too—drunk guys, deranged guys. But the weirdest behavior to me is from people who seem normal – they have jobs, go to school, they probably have homes, families, etc. I saw two high school girls on the subway platform, eating a morning donut and when they were finished, they just dropped their garbage at their feet. And a garbage can was only a few feet away.
I saw another young woman, sitting on a bench waiting for a train who spit on the platform. And then she spit again! I saw a man and a woman get into a fight for a space in a parking lot. And there were lots of spaces—they’d just have to walk a little further. I saw a Hummer parked on the street, and it was not only taking up two spaces, but one was for the disabled. Things like that are crazy odd to me because they cross the fine line between ethical and insane behavior.

How different was it writing a second novel as opposed to your first, The Dog Walker? Did you find it easier or harder the second time around?

It was easier in that I had the confidence to do it. I had done it before, so I could do it again. It was harder because I so wanted it to be a better book, a deeper read, a bigger seller. The first book I wrote on hope and a dream. I had little expectations. The second time I wanted more all around, in every way. And yet, having been a publisher, I knew from experience that most often an author’s second book is often ignored. So it was scary from that point-of-view but fun and exhilarating from the actual writing.

You walk into Barnes and Noble. What section do you head towards first?

I go to the New Fiction table, then the New Fiction section, to see who has a new book, what hot new debut is out, and I think all the neurotic things that authors do, which I am not going to tell you about here. It’s too embarrassing. Then I usually pick out one or two to buy.
And then, because I cannot help myself, I have to check to see where and if my books are in stock. If I find them spine out, I move them face out. But ssshhh, please don't tell anyone at B&N that I'm the culprit.
This summer my new book has been right up front on the summer reading table, so I won't have to be own own personal merchandiser for a while.

Your long list of pet peeves on your website made me laugh and I agree with what you say. Do you ever comment after witnessing offensive behavior?

Just yesterday a man was sitting in his huge SUV, talking on his cell phone, and the engine was running and he was blocking the exit to the parking lot. Cars had to go around him, which blocked the cars entering the lot. As we walked into the lot to retrieve our car, I swore to myself that I’d say something if he was still sitting there when we left. And there he was. As we drove around him, I rolled down my window and said, as we passed, “Parking there is not safe. And it’s illegal too.” That was a little goofy, right? And, it wasn’t very effective. He looked at me and went back to his cell phone. When I comment like that, my kids worry about me. They’re afraid I could get beat up or shot. So I have to be careful what I say and to whom, just so my kids don’t worry.

If you could jump on a plane and go anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do?

I want to go everywhere and take the kids and make them excited about travel and new places and people. I love traveling to Europe and also want to go to Argentina and Costa Rica and China and Morocco. But really what I dream of doing and am afraid I never will is to go white water rafting down some wild river and get the thrill of my life. Oh, and also, I want to go to Antarctica. I read every book that comes out about Shackleton. There’s something very romantic about him and the place.

What is the last movie you saw?

It was Live Free or Die Hard. I loved it. It was really very exciting and, though I normally go for story and character over special effects, the special effects were outrageous. And watching Bruce Willis running around half-naked for two hours aint bad either. The movie before that was Knocked Up, which I thought was fresh and hilarious and perfectly raunchy. Tonight I’m going to see Sicko.

Do you write in your pajamas? Writers are so lucky, we can be sitting in front of the computer with unwashed hair and bunny slippers and no one knows!

I write in a t-shirt and yoga pants and flip flops. I’ve just started to do yoga, but that has nothing to do with it. The pants are comfy and one step up from sweats. A girl has her pride. Sometimes I don’t shower until the afternoon, but I do make myself change from the t-shirt I slept in to a fresh t-shirt just to pretend I am getting dressed. On those rare days I have to dress up to go to lunch or a meeting, I have to remember where I put my makeup.

You mention New Jersey drivers….as a Jersey girl, I feel obligated to stand up for my home state. Come on! Jersey drivers aren’t that bad. I think New Yorkers are worse. Why pick on NJ?
(sidenote: Leslie must be right because I just read that New Jersey is ranked number 1 for the worst drivers in the USA!)

Now wait a minute, Cindy. Just because I am from California, I don’t defend everything about the place (I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor? Pullease.) So why should you defend New Jersey’s world-renown reputation for having the very worst drivers? To be fair, maybe New Jerseyites only become bad drivers when they cross the border into New York. Unlikely, but anything is possible. New Yorkers are excellent drivers, except for those Big Apple dwellers who only drive on the weekends or in the summer. Then, they might beat out New Jersey in the Entitlement category. (As in ”I am so special that I am entitled to double park, to cut you off, to not use my turn signal.”)

Do you know what your third book will be about?

Yes, but I find that talking about the book I’m working on makes me think I’ve worked on it when all I’ve done is talk about it. So, let’s just say it’s about a single mom who is given a mysterious painting when her best friend dies. Her search for the truth behind it takes her on a journey—of love and discovery-- that changes her life.

After you complete a book, do you take a break or immediately start on something new?

I’m always taking a break. Like right now, talking with you, instead of writing. So, I try to start something new right away. But I find that I take a long time to stew over the next book—I think, make notes, research, think, watch Ellen DeGeneres, think, make more notes, go to a movie, email a friend, make some notes, check my numbers on Amazon, get depressed—before I can sit down and begin to write. I need to stew a little less and begin actually writing a little sooner so that I close up the time gap between my books.

Who would play the lead role in Late Night Talking if it were to become a movie?

Drew Barrymore or Kate Winslet would be Jeannie, George Clooney or Bruce Willis would be Moss, and Jake Gyllenhaal or Heath Ledger would be Tommy.

What are your summer plans?

I’m so lucky to be living out near the beach for the summer. My kids are at day camp, so I get to write every day without the distractions of city life. Though there is the beach, which is a major distraction for me, not to mention that we do get the internet out here and Ellen on TV, and movies. But I’m finding lots of room to breathe and think and write. So I hope to get a lot done before we head back to real life in September. Let’s talk then. I’ll let you know how it went.

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