Interview with Lisa Daily

Jen: Book Talk readers, help me welcome Lisa Daily to the blog this week. Lisa, will you please share a short bio with us?
Lisa: Lisa Daily is a dating coach, speaker and popular media guest — she has done more than 2000 interviews on top radio and television shows, including iVillage Live, MTV Live and Entertainment Tonight, and she appears as a real-life dating expert on the Hitch movie DVD starring Will Smith. Lisa is the dating expert DAYTIME, a nationally-syndicated morning TV show. A frequent source for reporters, Lisa has been quoted in hundreds of publications, from the New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune to Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Men’s Health, Christian Science Monitor and US Weekly Magazine.

Lisa: By the time you hit forty, you have a pretty good idea of what you want when it comes to dating, love and relationships. How to Date Like a Grown-Up tells you how to find the love you’re looking for (even after a long marriage or dating hiatus) including where and how to meet better men, why we end up making ourselves magnets for losers, and tricky stuff, like how to face getting naked in front of someone new for the first time.

How to Date Like a Grown-Up is available at Amazon.com and bookstores everywhere.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.

Lisa: I was in elementary school when I first discovered writing – I wrote a serial about my hunky science teacher and read it to the other girls in class at recess. It was a hit, and I was hooked.

After college I worked as an advertising copywriter, an excellent training ground for young writers. After a few years in advertising, my husband and I moved to Minneapolis after he finished grad school, and our young son was still miraculously taking three-hour naps every day. I decided it would be fun to write a dating advice book in my spare time, and sell it online instead of going the traditional publishing route.

I did the math, and figured I’d make a lot more money if I published the book myself. I never looked for an agent, I never submitted to a single publisher. I have an advertising background, and I knew art directors, I knew printers, I knew production people. I figured, how hard can it be? Besides, I planned to do all the marketing myself, and after 8 years of serving the advertising needs of corporate America, I thought I might like to call all the shots in my next creative endeavor. For a change.

So, I wrote my little dating book in about six weeks, set a pub date (Valentine’s Day, naturally) bought myself a block of ISBN numbers and found a good short run printer. I hired a book publicist to send out review copies ($5000, resulting in 7, count ‘em, 7 media hits) and built a website.

When Oprah didn’t call immediately, I started to worry. When B&N national decided to pass, I started to freak. I woke up in the middle of the night, terrified that I’d spent $10,000 we didn’t really have. I decided that publicity, lots and lots of publicity, would be my only salvation. So every time I woke up with nightmares of being sucked into a quicksand-fast hole of debt, I cranked out a press release and faxed it to every media outlet I could think of.

I got booked on a local radio station. I got booked on the local TV station. B&Ns all over the country started placing individual orders for my book. My $5000 publicist managed to snag a quickie review in the New York Daily News (thank you, Alev Aktar).

The interview requests started to pick up, and I had the idea to pitch the book to the Ally McBeal show –it seemed like a good fit, one of the characters was always doing weird stuff to try to snag a man. I sent off my pitch and received a lovely form letter back stating that they could not look at my book and pitch unless they came from an agent.

Well, that was inconvenient. I didn’t have an agent. Fortunately, my $5000 publicist had a good friend who was an agent, and she was pretty certain her agent pal would be willing to slap a cover letter on my package for Ally McBeal.

I’d racked up about thirty interviews, the book started taking off, but I was spending a couple of hours a day in my garage (in Minnesota, in February), packaging up books one and two at a time for individual stores who’d ordered, and re-ordered them. I was spending most of my writing time billing stores (individually, gawd help me) and shipping out books.

Two days later, as I returned from my freezing cold garage/shipping center, I got a message from the agent on my answering machine. She said she’d read my book, she loved it, and to give her a call if I ever wanted to sell it to a major publisher.

Hmmm. Thrills and glory as a big-time author? Or two hours a day in the garage? Hmmm…what to do, what to do? As soon as my fingers started to thaw, I dialed the phone.

We talked for an hour, and I agreed to sign on with her. I worked on a proposal over the weekend and sent it and my contract off on Monday morning. On Tuesday I got a call from the Sally Jessy Raphael show. They wanted to book me for Thursday.

I called Lorraine, my newly-minted agent, who promptly set up meetings with as many editors as she could squeeze in before my return flight. Two days later, I was in NYC, sitting across from Sally Jessy Raphael, one of the nicest interviewers I’ve ever met. I had meetings with three editors that afternoon, all at big houses, and had several offers from by the end of the week.

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?

Lisa: I’m a plotter. For both fiction and non-fiction, I need a basic outline. If I know the basic direction the book is headed, I’m free to have more fun with the language, the characters, and in the case of non-fiction, the way I deliver my message.

Jen: Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?

Lisa: My laptop, a steady supply of junk food, and noise-canceling headphones.

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?

Lisa: On Tuesdays and Thursdays I write from the beach, on Fridays I do the DAYTIME show. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I write from my office, catch up on emails and calls. Ideally, I’d love to have more uninterrupted time to write, but the business aspect of being a writer can suck up a lot of time.

Usually I’ll go for a walk in the morning, and then settle in with my computer to write until 2 or 3. If I’m on deadline, I try to ignore my email until afternoon. Email is the world’s greatest procrastination tool, because it feels like you’re accomplishing something. I find write twice as many words if I just put off answering email until 2 pm. (Why is this so hard to do?)

Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect of writing?

Lisa: Readers, by far. I love hearing their stories. It’s also pretty cool to walk into a book store and see your book on the shelf. There’s no feeling like it in the world, and it never gets old.

Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write?

Lisa: Well, I’ve covered non-fiction dating advice twice, and had a ball with Fifteen Minutes of Shame, my first novel, a romantic comedy. At some point in the future, I’d really like to try writing a mystery, and possibly a screenplay.

Jen: Where do you draw your inspiration?

Lisa: From everywhere! I’m always people-watching at the beach or the airport, interested to see how people interact, imagining what their stories might be. I wrote How to Date Like a Grown-Up because I was so inspired by all of the 40, 50 and 60-something women who wrote me letters and emails with their dating and relationships questions. Most dating advice books are written for women in their 20s and 30s. By the time you hit 40, you have an entirely different perspective on what you want from a relationship. A lot of women hit 35 or 40 and think no man will want them, that they can’t compete with their 20 and 30 year-old counterparts. I wrote How to Date Like a Grown-Up to let them know they don’t need to compete – they’re in a whole different league.

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one that you identify most with?

Lisa: I’d have to say Darby, the main character from Fifteen Minutes of Shame. She’s a funny, somewhat klutzy dating expert who wants to see everybody get a little piece of happily ever after. The trait we share is that we both tend to trust our brains over our hearts. Unlike Darby, my sweet husband has no plans to dump me on national television. (As far as I know.)

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?

Lisa: Anything by Jane Austen, Delia Ephron, Nora Ephron, Jennifer Weiner, Sophie Kinsella, Oscar Wilde, Jane Green. I loved Freakonomics for the writing. I love Eats, Shoots & Leaves for the punctuation stickers in the back. Liberating Paris by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason was a revelation, and Michael Alvear, Lisa Earle McLeod and Lenore Skenazy crack me up.

Right now I’m reading What Would Emma Do?, a hilarious, poignant book by Eileen Cook, one of my new favorite writers. (http://www.eileencook.com) Definitely worth reading.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?

Lisa: What free time? We’re launching How to Date Like a Grown-Up this month, so my life has been pretty non-stop for the last several months. After Valentine’s Day, I’ll take a bit of a break, regroup, and get back to actual writing.

When I relax, I like to hang out at the beach, drink margaritas and of course, read.

Jen: What’s next for you?

Lisa: I’m working on a new novel called The Truth About Gossip.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Lisa: Find me at http://www.lisadaily.com or http//www.datingexpert.tv for dating advice.

Jen: Do you have anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Lisa: I’d love to know where you find the books you read. Do you hear about them at book clubs? Find them on the Internet? Find them in the bookstore? I’m always fascinated to learn how other readers find their books.

Jen: Lisa, thanks for taking some time out of your bust schedule to visit at Book Talk. Readers, Lisa is giving away two goodie bags. One will contain the book How to Date Like a Grown-Up and the other will have Fifteen Minutes of Shame. To enter the contest, leave a comment. Answer Lisa’s question or ask one of her. The contest will run until Thursday, February 5 around 5:00pm PDT. Please leave an email address if you are not going to check back at the blog to see if you’re a winner.