Praised by Time Magazine, Publisher’s Weekly, People, Booklist, and … well … need I go on (?) … Stephanie Evanovich took the publishing world by storm last summer with her debut novel, Big Girl Panties. I am elated to welcome her today as she opens up about her writing process, her famous aunt Janet, and her upcoming release, The Sweet Spot.
After the interview, leave a comment for a chance to win one of two paperback copies of Big Girl Panties!
Big Girl Panties is about a 32-year-old widow who tries to get her life back on track with the help of a handsome personal trainer—and winds up changing both of them in many ways. What else can you tell us about that story?
Of course, I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but Big Girl Panties is basically a story about first impressions and second chances. And by second chances, I mean the chances we take on ourselves, to break away from our own preconceived notions and all the wonderful things that can happen when we do. Both the heroine and the hero go through that transition, only from different perspectives and with different stakes.
What do think people will love most about the book? What do you think makes it unique?
Hopefully, readers will be able to relate to the comedy that comes along with the characters fumbling through self-discovery. Miscommunications, outside influences, all the foibles that accompany Holly and Logan busting out of their respective comfort zones. What makes it unique? I want to believe the voice of the storyteller. I think it’s what makes all books unique.
Big Girl Panties sends the age-old message that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but it also addresses the importance of staying fit and healthy. What did you want your readers to take away from this?
That you don’t have to look like a Sports Illustrated swimwear model to celebrate your body temple. Our bodies and our health are real gifts that we should feel good about. I don’t want to get up on a soapbox on this topic, but I personally wasted a lot of years in self-loathing over weight I may very well have been genetically predisposed to. The end result was gaining more and more weight until my health actually did become an issue. If I can spare even one person that journey, I’d consider it a very good day. Fit and healthy are not synonymous with thin. They never have been. I wish I had gotten that message sooner.
Your next book, The Sweet Spot, will be released on July 8. What can readers expect from this story?
The Sweet Spot is the prequel to BGP, featuring the secondary characters, Chase and Amanda Walker. He’s a hunky baseball superstar with a sexy secret, she’s a pragmatic, straight-laced restaurateur who believes happy endings only occur in fairly tales. Some readers really took to them in BGP, they nearly stole the show. When I suggested them for a book of their own, I was thrilled to get the go-ahead, even if a prequel is tricky. If the reader knows how it’s going to end, you have to make the ride worth it. I’ve got my fingers crossed I did that justice.
Not everyone may realize that your aunt is bestselling mystery writer Janet Evanovich. What effect did this have, if any, on your love of writing and your decision to pursue it full-time?
It’s pretty cool having an icon in your family. But the truth is, for the thirty years leading up to my debut novel, my passion was acting. I was also focused on being a mom. That didn’t leave a whole lot of time to spare. I would write a bit, short scenes to entertain friends, but I would lose interest when it came time to dedicate myself to the work of developing a story. It was only after my kids grew up and I realized I was probably never going to make it as an actor that I got motivated enough to take a shot. I guess there is some truth to the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention.”
Thousands of people dream about going from polished manuscript to agented writer to debut author with a huge press like William Morrow. Can you tell us a little about the process that worked for you, and what you learned along the way?
I have to be honest here, my experience was unusual, due to the family name. Without a doubt, it created an interest that definitely worked to my advantage. I also had a friend in the business who encouraged and was able to guide me. He introduced me to my agent, but he refused to do so until the manuscript was complete. My agent loved the manuscript but suggested that I change the ending, which I did, and they sent it out on submission. Even after BGP was sold, the first order of business was to change the ending, for what would be the third time. The most important lessons I learned were to always keep an open mind and that creativity really is a well you can draw from over and over again. I’m glad I listened to them, in the end it made for a better book.
There are many rough patches on the road to publication. How did you get through the bad days?
Pollyanna alert. Either I didn’t have many bad days, or I was too caught up being amazed by the process to remember them. Here I was, getting this awesome opportunity to create and entertain. I wanted to respect it, and enjoy it. I hold a black-belt in tae kwon do, and when training, I really took to the whole zen-live-in-the-moment side of it, so I tried to look at everything as a challenge and focused on meeting it. I was also pretty naïve about publishing, so I didn’t know what I was supposed to freak out about. I had bad days when I was a bookkeeper too, at least now I’m doing something I had only dreamt about.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you can share with aspiring writers?
Never stop writing, but don’t be too hard on yourself when the flow isn’t there. As my editor says – some days you just have to barf it out. You can always go back and change it, and most days you will. Maybe more than once. And sometimes when pushing through, you stumble upon plot or dialogue or character development you never thought was there, which can quickly turn a writer’s frown upside-down. But the words have to make it to the paper (or the screen) for any of that to happen.
ENTER TO WIN!
Comment below to win a paperback copy of BIG GIRL PANTIES. The giveaway will remain open until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, March 15 (PST), at which point TWO winners will be chosen at random. Best of luck to you all!
Plus: how to get a free copy!
Then, on April 23, Cathy Bramley reveals how she turned the self-publishing world upside down with Conditional Love.
(And offers a giveaway too!)