Jen: This week we welcome Sarah Pekkanen to Romancing the Book. Sarah, will you please share a short bio with us?
Sarah: I grew up in Maryland, and after college, I began working as a journalist. I covered Capitol Hill for a while (where I constantly misquoted this one politician from Mississippi because I couldn’t understand his accents) then I moved to The Baltimore Sun to write features. When my oldest son was born, I stayed home and free-lanced for newspapers and magazines. A few years ago, I began writing a humor column for Bethesda Magazine. I still live in Maryland, with my husband and three young boys. And my dog Bella. I can’t forget to name Bella, or she’ll get all pouty.
Jen: Tell us about The Opposite of Me and where it’s available.
Sarah: It’ll be at bookstores everywhere, as well as on-line at places like Amazon.com and Powells.com, on Tuesday, March 9. I can hardly believe I just wrote those words!
Here’s the blurb for the book:
Twenty-nine year old Lindsey Rose has, for as long as she can remember, lived in the shadow of her devastatingly beautiful fraternal twin sister, Alex. Determined to get noticed, Lindsey is finally on the cusp of being named Creative Vice President of an elite New York advertising agency, after years of 80 plus-hour weeks, migraines, and profound loneliness. But during the course of one devastating night, Lindsey’s carefully-constructed life implodes.
Humiliated and desperate, she flees the glitter of Manhattan and retreats to the time warp of her parents’ Maryland home. As her sister plans her lavish wedding to her prince charming, Lindsey struggles to maintain her identity as the smart, responsible twin, while she furtively tries to put her career back together. But things get more complicated when a long-held family secret is unleashed that forces both sisters to reconsider who they are and who they are meant to be.
Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Sarah: I started writing books when I was a kid. A few years ago, my niece discovered an old letter I’d written on Raggedy Ann stationery asking a publisher when my book, titled, “Miscellaneous Tales and Poems” would be published (hey, at least all the poems rhymed!). I carry that letter with me every time I go to New York to meet with my publisher.
After my agent submitted The Opposite of Me, we were incredibly lucky to get multiple offers. I went to New York to meet with editors, and I was about to board an Amtrak train home the next day when my agent called with the results of the auction. I was six months pregnant, sweaty, and fighting my way through the mosh pit to try to grab a seat – but I sure smiled the whole way home.
Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Sarah: The joke is, we’re all writers! My father has published seven non-fiction books, and he was on Oprah twenty years ago for his book “M.D. – Doctors Talk About Themselves” (Oprah? Are you listening? Don’t you think it’s time to have anther Pekkanen on the show?) My older brother is a professor at the University of Washington at Seattle, and he has published academic books – and so has his wife.
Jen: How does your family feel about your career?
Sarah: They’re so proud! My parents routinely accost people in the grocery store line to tell them all about it, and they keep trying to buy an advance copy of The Opposite of Me. I tell them that they fed and clothed me for 18 years, and I’d like to give them a copy, but they’re stubborn.
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Sarah: I get insanely jealous when I read about authors who say things like, “When I’m starting a book, I like to escape to a secluded beach cottage and take long walks in the sand while watching the sun rise before I sit down to write the day’s chapter.” I mean, I’m lucky if I get to stare at a YouTube clip of the ocean for a few seconds before I start work! I’ve got three little boys, which means I bring my laptop everywhere. I wrote some of my novel at Chuck E. Cheese (I used to work in loud newsrooms so I find background noise oddly comforting). I write in little snatches of time, like for 15 minutes if I happen to be the first one in the house awake, as well as bigger spaces when I can score a babysitter. I’m lucky to have very supportive parents who live nearby and are always willing to lend a hand. And my husband is great about clearing away some time for me to work on weekends.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Sarah: The easiest part of writing, for me, is talking about it. It’s so fun to chat about writing a book – but actually sitting down and filling those blank pages? Much, much harder. It requires copious quantities of chocolate and caffeine.
Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Sarah: Having written. It’s kind of like the feeling you get after exercising – a relaxed high.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Sarah: I love my main character, Lindsey Rose. Like most of us, she can be insecure and anxious about how her butt looks in her jeans, but she’s got a huge heart. I can definitely identify with her about the butt part.
Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from and why?
Sarah: I love my current genre – commercial women’s fiction, or chick lit, or whatever you want to call it. I doubt I could write a dark book or a historical novel, just because I don’t usually read those types of books so I’d probably be in over my head.
Jen: If The Opposite of Me was made into a movie, which actors would you choose to play the hero and heroine?
Sarah: Love, love, love this question! How about Reese Witherspoon for the heroine and Ryan Gosling for the hero? My main characters aren’t perfect – they’re quirky and funny and they have faults, just like all of us. But I tried to make them lovable.
Jen: What did you do to celebrate this book?
Sarah: My husband came with me to New York when I met with publishers, and we spent a few days there together, as a mini second honeymoon. I kind of floated around for weeks after I learned my book had been sold.
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Sarah: Jen Weiner is the reigning queen of my bookshelf. I’ve adored her since her first book, Good in Bed, was published – and when my agent told me that Jen Weiner’s editor wanted to buy my book, I almost passed out. Luckily I had chocolate in hand to revive myself. I just read a terrific book called Pieces of Happily Ever After and I’m about to dig into Marian Keyes’ latest, The Brightest Star in the Sky.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Sarah: I’ve finished my second book! My agent is reading it now, and once I’ve incorporated her edits, we’ll submit it to my publisher. This is definitely what I want to do for the rest of my life. Writing books was my first love, and I’m so glad I rediscovered it.
Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Sarah: My website is www.sarahpekkanen.com And for readers who subscribe to my newsletter (there’s a little box on the main page) I hold a raffle every month for a book and Godivas!
Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Sarah: Here’s something I’d love to know: When you walk into a bookstore, what draws you to a certain book? The cover, the title, the quote on the cover…. Or where the book is placed in the store?
Jen: Readers, the SheKnows Book Club is offering up three copies of The Opposite of Me to lucky commenters this week. Due to shipping costs, the contest is only open to US readers. To enter the contest, first you need to leave a comment or question for Sarah. Then to finish your entry, either include your email address in your comment or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. The winners will be chosen on Sunday, March 14.