Day 14: Interview with Lian Dolan

Jen: Today our guest is Lian Dolan. Lian, will you please share a short bio with us?
Lian: Lian Dolan is a mother, wife, sister, friend, and daughter. She is also a writer, novelist , producer and talk show host. Her first novel, Helen of Pasadena, a romantic comedy about a modern mother in transition, is a Los Angeles Times best-seller. It was publisher in November 2010 by Prospect Park Books. In addition to fiction, Lian writes and talks about her adventures in modern motherhood for her website, www.chaoschronicles.com and her weekly podcast, The Chaos Chronicles. She is known for her humorous take on the day-to-day issues that face women everywhere. Lian is currently developing The Chaos Chronicles as a half-hour comedy for Nickelodeon.

Prior to The Chaos Chronicles, Lian spent a decade hosting Satellite Sisters, an award-winning talk show that she created with her four real sisters. Her writing has been featured in many national magazines including regular columns in O, The Oprah Magazine and Working Mother Magazine. Lian has appeared numerous TV shows including The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She lives in Pasadena, California with her husband and two sons. Her dream is to ride on a Rose Parade float.

Jen: Tell us about Helen of Pasadena and where it’s available.
Lian: Helen of Pasadena was released on November 1 2010 by Prospect Park Books. It’s available in bookstores nationwide and at amazon.com and B&N.com. It was released in Original Trade Paperback with a simultaneous Kindle and Nook release. So. You can get it almost anywhere in almost any format!

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Lian: I always loved writing, but never officially studied any form of creative writing till I was in my late 20’s and took a screenwriting class. Because that’s the law if you live in LA. But writing has always been a function of my job post-college, first as a producer then as a radio host. Because of Satellite Sisters, my sisters and I had an opportunity to release a collection of essays called Satellite Sisters UnCommon Senses in 2001. After that, I finally felt like a “writer.” When I got a call from my publisher that O, the Oprah Magazine was going to excerpt one of my essays from the book, I started to cry. That was a huge stamp of approval for me, personally and professionally. It gave me a real confidence boost. That book lead to two regular magazine columns in O and Working Mother, then a zillion blogs post, and a sold TV pilot that I am currently working on for Nickelodeon. Writing fiction came after all that.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Lian: My father has been a writer a whole life, trying everything from plays to novels to screenplays. He is fascinated with Joan of Arc, so all his work is about the same woman!

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Lian: I am a serious outliner. I don’t know how a writer could sit down and start typing page one without knowing what was going to happen on page 300! Not me. I plot, use index cards, have details descriptions of scenes and conflicts before I write anything! Always have, since term papers in high school. Did some key plots points come to me mid- book? Of course. But I had about 70% of the book plotted before I typed a word.

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Lian: The most challenging part of writing is taking the time to really get something right. I think lots of writers, myself included, wish we could just blink like I Dream of Jeannie and the vision we have in our head would end up on paper. But you have to write every word. The easiest part of writing for me was the re-writes. I had great readers with really good critiques. The re-writing went pretty smoothly for me.

Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Lian: Getting stuff off your chest! I love having an outlet to express myself in a creative thoughtful way. Even with fiction writing, you can infuse your work with your personal opinions.

Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from and why?
Lian: I feel like I am writing in the exact right genre for me: Smart Chick Lit meets Women’s Fiction. Maybe that is not technically a genre, but it’s where I’m staying. I would completely out of my comfort zone writing a thriller. I don’t know enough about technology, weaponry and armored vehicles, nor do I want to!

Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?
Lian: I am a big fan of Nick Hornby. He writes funny, funny books about relationships that have just the right amount of heart. Also, Nora Ephron who can write anything—a screenplay, an Op Ed piece, or an essay. Her unique voice comes through, no matter what the format. And, finally, I love Anna Quindle, because she started as a journalist and essayist and has transitioned to fiction writing. She’s a role model for me in terms of her career path.

Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?
Lian: I bought a brand new laptop! Classic,right? I’ve never owned a laptop, preferring to work on a real desktop computer. But, I finally buckled and bought my self a Mac Book Air when the book hit the LA Times Bestseller List! Though, you’ll never see me “writing” at Starbucks. I don’t how people do that! I need total quiet when I write.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Lian: I think there is a lot of surprise about how funny the book is. And, it’s meant to be. But readers seem really pleased that it’s “laugh out loud” funny, as they keep telling me. The most surprised readers are the men who might have picked up the book because their wife brought it into the house, then ended up enjoying it because of the humor. Men are always surprised when women are funny.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Lian: I’m working on a TV pilot based on The Chaos Chronicles, the writing and podcast I do about Modern Motherhood. And, then, I’ll start my second novel.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Lian: www.helenofpasadena.com, www.chaoschronicles.com, www.satellitesisters.com,
www.oprah.com

Jen: I hear you’re holding a special contest. Can you give us details?
Lian: Here’s the official spiel…

Celebrating the debut of Lian Dolan’s new novel, Helen of Pasadena, Prospect Park Media is pleased to announce the Helen of Pasadena Weekend Getaway and invites everyone to enter to win a fabulous weekend in Pasadena, California.

In Helen of Pasadena, Helen enjoys a romantic stay (with her sexy archaeologist boss) at the Langham Huntington in Pasadena, an elegant and truly grand hotel originally built in 1907. The lucky winner, who will be selected in January 2011, can follow in Helen’s footsteps with his or her own sexy guest (sorry, we cannot supply sexy archaeologist!). Winner and guest will enjoy deluxe accommodations for two nights with complimentary breakfast each morning and free valet parking, as well as a 60-minute couples’ Chuan Harmony massage in the Langham’s newly renovated 11,000-square-foot spa.

After all that pampering, the winner and guest are off to high tea and a personal tour of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens – a location of great significance in the story — with Lian Dolan, author of Helen of Pasadena. Lian will share what inspired her to set so much of her book at this amazing landmark. Finally, winners will also enjoy lunch at the Little Flower Candy Company in Pasadena, site of the Helen of Pasadena publication party.

Both locals and out-of-towners agree that spending a weekend at the luxurious Langham Huntington hotel is a special treat. To enter, simply visit www.helenofpasadena.com and click on the “Enter to Win” button. Entries for the sweepstakes can be made by completing and submitting the email entry form between Monday, November 1, 2010 and 11:59 pm PDT Friday, December 31, 2010. Only one entry per person per day is allowed, and transportation to, from and around Pasadena, CA is not provided.

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Lian: Helen of Pasadena is about a contemporary woman inspired by Helen of Troy. What women in history inspire you?