Thursday, 3 January 2013

Author Interview: Wendy Lawless

Wendy Lawless has written Chanel Bonfire.

1. What is your name and where do you call home?
My name is Wendy Lawless and I live in Los Angeles, California.

2. Do you have a pen name?
No, though Lawless is my "stage name" that I have used in my acting career. It's also my maiden name. 

3. What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or less words, what would you say?
My memoir "Chanel Bonfire" is my first book. I would say it is a horrible and horribly funny true story of two girls trying to survive the shipwreck of their childhood, without a map or a how-to manual.

4. Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
There is some talk of a follow-up book to "Chanel Bonfire". It would be the story of a young actress, living in 1980's New York, searching for love, identity, work and maybe a free meal. Oh, and she has a crazy mother.

5. What or who inspired you to start writing? And how long have you been writing?
When my second child was born, I decided to stop auditioning for acting jobs (I still do an occasional television commercial) but I still wanted to do something creative, so I started writing. First, I wrote short essays, about being a mom, being a mom in Hollywood and being a mom who was raised by a mom who was nuts. And one of them became the springboard for my book.

6. How did you come up with the cover? Who designed the cover of your book?
A woman named Lisa Litwak at my publisher, Simon & Schuster, designed the cover. I love it. The picture on the wall on the book cover is actually a portrait of my mother, done by a very talented society portraitist named Pedro Menocal, painted in 1967. The cover depicts the first scene in the book, so I like to think it helps pull the reader in right away.

7. How did you come up with the title for your book?
The title was originally a chapter heading in the London section of the book, where the wild, teenage, backyard bonfire party scene was. My husband (the screenwriter David Kidd) and I were brainstorming titles one night, and he landed on this one. It sounded catchy, and we needed something to grab people while I was trying to find an agent and then sell the book. I think it worked - people responded to it.

8. Do you have a book trailer? And what are your thoughts on book trailers?
I do have a book trailer! It was shot in a little studio at Simon & Schuster in New York. I think it's a great way to get the word out, especially now with YouTube, and all the social media outlets we have today. For me, as an actress, it was like making a commercial for my book. Very fun.

9. What is your opinion on ARCs?
ARCs are, again, a wonderful way to get the buzz going about your book. I know that there have been three different giveaways of "Chanel Bonfire" so far on Goodreads. What doesn't make me happy is when I see people selling them on Ebay! But what can you do.

10. Are you a self-published / Indie author?
I was lucky to have my book bought by Gallery Books, which is an imprint of Simon & Schuster. If it hadn't been bought, I most likely would have self-published it. 

11. Have you ever read a book more than once? And if so what was it?
I reread "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee every few years. I love the beautifully true way she writes, through the eyes of a young girl. I have read "Portrait of a Lady" by Henry James, maybe three times. It's just so gorgeous and tragic, with intrigue, darkness and a cast of marvelous characters.

12. Have you ever read a book just based on it’s cover?
I might be drawn to a cover, but I always read the first few pages in the bookshop. That's what decides whether I'll buy the book... Must take it home so I can find out what happens on page four? The last book I simply devoured was Amor Towles' "The Rules of Civility". It has a beautiful cover, and the writing is amazing! I scooped it up and finished it in two days.

13. What is your favourite film based on a book?
I would have to say that my favorite film based on a book is "To Kill a Mockingbird". I just find it to be a seemless, perfect telling of the story of the book, with all it's complicated, difficult,social and emotional material brought to life up on the screen. I'm also very fond of the film of "Breakfast at Tiffany's", though it is quite different from the book. It's very romantic, and madcap and I love the music by Henry Mancini too.

14. What books have made it onto your wishlist recently? And why?
My current book wishlist includes: "Cleopatra" by Stacy Schiff, I love big biographies of fascinating women in history. Also I'd like to read "The Chaperone" by Laura Moriarity, and "Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter, both I believe are set in the film world, another interest of mine.

15. What book are you reading at the moment? And in what format?
Right now I am reading "The Lifeboat" by Charlotte Rogan. I took it out of the library. I have access to a Kindle (my son has one) but I don't enjoy reading on it. I prefer a book I can hold, and turn the pages of. I guess I'm old fashioned in that way.

16. Do you have any advice for other writers? And what’s the best advice that you have been given when it comes to writing?
My advice to writers would be to believe in yourself, and never stop believing in yourself. There are always going to be people who don't understand your work, who reject it, or tell you what they think you should change. When I was in acting school, one of my teachers told me that, in the most immediate sense, you are acting for you, and in fact you have very little control over what the audience will think of you. I thought that was terrific advice. You have to listen to yourself, and stay focused on the course. Oh, and never give up!

17. Do you have any hobbies that aren’t related to reading & writing?
I go to the gym, hang out with my family, go to the movies. I like to cook and knit.

18. Where can your readers follow you?
"Chanel Bonfire" has a Facebook page, my Twitter handle is WendyLawless2. I am also on Goodreads, and have enjoyed reading the early reviews of my book, and sometimes hearing from readers through the site, which has been fun. Gallery Books put up a gorgeous website at It has an excerpt, a slide show, a Spotify playlist. It's quite something. 

Thankyou so much for taking the time to do this interview and allowing us a glimpse into your writing world!

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