The book came, and when my schedule finally opened up, I found myself in dire need to read something fun, funny, and as entertaining as She Likes It Rough turned out to be.
This book is the perfect chic-lit, so perfect in fact, I parallel it to Kinsella’s books. The antics just don’t stop in this well-paced adventurous story. So, I am over the moon thrilled that the creator of a book I curled up with for an entire weekend, has granted me this interview.
In a most fascinating interview meet Geralyn Vivian Ruane (GVR) Corcillo, a native of Chinchilla, Pennsylvania who lives in North Hollywood with her husband Ron; and who hit the New York Times Bestseller List with her first short story, "Jane Austen Meets the New York Giants," in the Marlo Thomas anthology, The Right Words at the Right Time: Volume 2!
Interviewed by OEBooks/RYCJ January 2014
OEB: Having a background in writing screenplays, contributing to articles and other notable projects, writing your debut novel had to be a very unique experience. So, how was it?
GVR: When I graduated from college and moved to Hollywood, I wrote screenplays. And I am glad I did. Writing screenplays strengthened my novel writing in two significant ways: pacing and dialogue. Because in a screenplay the whole story is told through dialogue, I learned to make dialogue count. Every line has to convey something about the character and story dynamics beyond the mere information. Writing dialogue is challenging but so much fun! And the pacing – get in, get out, make every scene advance the story – screenwriting is really such great training for writing books! At least, for writing the kind of books I want to write.
I started writing my first novel in 1999. Yikes! And I finished my second novel in 2005. What is unique about the experience of writing She Likes It Rough is that I finally had the gumption to publish. She Likes It Rough is the third novel I've written, but the first I've published. I wish I could say, like Lizzy Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, that my courage rises with every challenge, but that isn't always the case. With my first two novels, I let rejections from editors really defeat me. My second novel I sent out only once and when I got the rejection, game over! Even though I knew rejection was part of pursuing a career as an author! A. Manette Ansay (Vinegar Hill), a very talented and successful author, was my writing teacher my freshman year at Cornell. On the last day, she came to class with scores of papers hanging from her clothes. She had pinned every rejection letter she had ever gotten to her outfit to show us how tough it is to be a writer. But she did not give up and she became a renowned novelist. So even though I knew writing would be hard and fraught with obstacles, I still let my fears of failure dominate me for over a decade. All this time I was writing and/or submitting something, somewhere, but I was not taking the bull by the horns and getting serious about my career as a novelist. Thank goodness I never quit. Then I would be missing out on the overwhelming joy of hearing from readers who've enjoyed my book!
OEB: Let us know, what is the backstory for writing She Likes It Rough?
GVR: A few years ago, I heard an amazing writer-turned-psychotherapist-but-still-writes-too Dennis Palumbo (My Favorite Year, From Crime to Crime) speak about writing, writer's block and facing your fears. He talked about a cartoon depicting a blocked writer sitting beleaguered at his typewriter, crumpled pages all around him. His dogs were also lounging all over the place, underfoot and demanding attention. His wife says to him, “Why don't you write about dogs?”
I don't know why, but that talk and that cartoon got through to me, even though both were espousing something I had been hearing for years and years: write what you know. And what did I know? I knew that I was scared. Terrified. Of what? Dennis Palumbo summarized my fears, the fears of so many writers, with admirable pithiness: “You are afraid that that the story in your head will not be as brilliant as you know it is when it gets onto the page.”
Seriously, I was like that classic two-best-friends-are really-in love-with-each-other-but-won't-do-anything-about-it story: I was afraid that actually acting on my greatest wish would destroy my fantasy of how it could be. But just like the friends too afraid to go for a deeper love, I was settling for a life of “not really what I want.” But that wasn't enough. Not anymore. So, to cast out my demons so I could go after my dream of making my living as an author, I decided to write about a scared woman who is facing her fears. And that is how I came up with the idea for She Likes It Rough.
Did the story in my head end up as brilliant as I wanted on the page? It ended up even better- for me, as I am sure it is for many writers, the more I write, the more my writing evolves and the better it gets. And what about the actual writing and publishing of the book making me stronger and braver and getting me closer to my ultimate goal? So far, so good! I definitely recommend biting the bullet and living the dream! It is hard work, for sure, but so damn worth it.
OEB: Love your style! And this is the ideal chick-lit. Over the edge, but realistically, and pleasantly over the edge. That said, my favorite characters were the main characters; Lisa and Jack. Who were yours?
GVR: Jack and Lisa are definitely my favorite characters in the book. At one point in the book, Lisa says that Finding a Man will never be on her list of things to do. This statement is a crucial part of the story because Lisa's goal is not to get a man to either complete her life or make things make sense. Her goal is to figure out how to make herself feel good about herself by becoming a meaningful part of the world. Namely, how can she use her time and fortune to make the world a better place? She knows she needs a backbone to make any sort of headway, and this is where Jack comes in.
So for me, Lisa's story makes the distinction between finding a love that you end up wanting so much versus seeking a man. And what do I love most about Jack? That when it comes to Lisa, he is not about to put up with any selfishness or games. Is Jack perfect? Hardly. Is he always right? No. Is he an amazing guy? Yes, but that does not mean he is perfect or always right. Is he more together than Lisa? Yes, but that does not mean that he is always right and that she is always wrong and that his opinions count more than hers. And that is what he has got to figure out over the course of the novel. And you know what? Lisa has to learn that, too. At the end of the opening scene, Lisa asks herself why she ever expected that someone like Jack would put up with someone like her. Her journey throughout the novel is how she comes to understand and realize the answer to that question.
How much is Lisa like me? Certainly, I am afraid of many of the things Lisa fears. And this story is riddled with ideas that grew from seeds in my own life. But those seeds grew to wildly and to hyperbolic size as my imagination took charge.
OEB: Curious too. Did you use an outline to pull the novel together, or did you ad lib? And, was there one part about writing a novel that you did not anticipate?
GVR: I don't work from an outline. I get an idea, and it works itself out in my head pretty quickly. I make sure I have the elements and progression of a solid story, then I'm off! I sit down and write, write, write. And ideas come up as I write, working themselves into the story. Then everything I write goes through much editing. MUCH editing. I am a firm believer that before you write something good, you have to write something. So, I do not worry much about the first draft. Once I've got it down, then I really go to work. The editing takes at least three times as long as writing the first draft. Director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) says that you never get done editing, you just run out of time, and I agree! I could edit forever, tweaking this and that, but then I have to stop to, you know, and publish the book.
The part that I did not anticipate isn't about the writing, but about the marketing. I knew from my research and from knowing other authors that marketing is as or more time consuming than actually writing the book. In fact, all the work entailed in marketing a book was something that I dreaded.
What is the biggest surprise for me is how much I love connecting! Today, so much of marketing revolves around social media, and I find myself getting lost in it and becoming addicted to Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and on and on and on. I have so little time to connect with my online friends and fans, what with writing and living the rest of my life, but I make sure I do it everyday because I love it so much! Especially Twitter. I've connected with such an array of interesting people! And only about a third of what I tweet about has to do with my books. Connecting is just such a positive experience – I love it!
OEB: Do you plan to continue writing novels? Are there other genres (mystery, sci-fi, or non-fiction) that you see yourself pursuing?
GVR: I absolutely plan to continue writing novels – I enjoy it so much and even though the whole process can torture me, it can also galvanize me and make me feel truly alive!
Right now I am working on my second chick-lit novel, Queen of the Universe, about a television writer who is used to controlling the lives and destinies of the characters she creates. But when she gets the chance to create and run her own show, she realizes that controlling actual people – especially the handyman she is trying to strong arm into playing the lead in her drama - isn't so easy. I am having such a good time with this book. I think I like my lead characters Lola and Arlen even more than I like Lisa and Jack in She Likes it Rough – if that's even possible! Lola's trajectory is the opposite of Lisa's. Lisa is whacky and somewhat immature and doubtful, and she must learn to grow confident and grow into herself. Lola, on the other hand, has it all figured out. Or thinks she does. She's got to learn to find her more emotional, spontaneous side. And whereas Lisa is all about making mistakes and messing up, Lola needs to figure out that messing up isn't the end of the world.
I have plotted out ideas for three other chick-lit novels and for a Young Adult series. I adore reading chick-lit and YA and writing in these genres as well. I probably read more mystery than any other genre, but oddly enough, I have no desire to write mystery. At least, not yet.
OEB: What is your favorite reading genre, or author(s)?
GVR: In 2006, Marlo Thomas published my short story “Jane Austen Meets the New York Giants” in her anthology, which turned out to be a New York Times Bestseller, The Right Words at the Right Time: Volume 2. The anthology contained personal stories, so this story was about me, written in my voice. It was the first time I had written a piece in totally my voice. Up until then, I had written the way I thought I “had” to in order to be published or accepted. I sent the story into the editors late on a Monday night. One of the book's editors, Bruce Kluger, called at 9am Tuesday morning to accept my story into the anthology. I was over the moon! It was the first indication I'd had that my voice was something acceptable and entertaining and marketable.
So, I started writing She Likes It Rough, in which I give my voice free rein. The amazing genre of chick-lit seems so welcoming to off-kilter voices – I feel so right. But I was still doubtful – would anyone want to read a whole book in my voice? By this time, I had become friends with Bruce Kluger, and were emailing back and forth all the time. Knowing something of my angst and what I liked to read, he said, “You should check out my brother's books.”
I started reading Almost Like Being In Love by Steve Kluger and hallelujah! I could hear the angels singing! I found an amazing author who writes novels filled with love and whacky antics and improbable but believable situations. He delivers a hell of a satisfying, toe-curling, tummy-tingling feel-good kind of read that makes you laugh out loud really hard, tear up, cringe, cheer the characters on, and pull out your hair as you yell, “Noooooo! He's the one for you, you idiot!!!”
His book My Most Excellent Year is hands-down one of the best books I have ever read. Steve Kluger is my favorite author because every one of his books entertains me and touches my soul. And because when I was a fledgling writer, reading his work showed me beyond a reasonable or incredibly irrational doubt that writing to the beat of my own drummer, no matter how strange the rhythm, is the best thing I could ever do.
OEB: Back to She Likes it Rough. What was the most enjoyable part of the writing process? ...And the most difficult?
GVR: The most enjoyable is the same as the most difficult: coming up with the ending. I seriously needed to nail the landing. I love romances, especially romantic comedies – books, movies, television shows. But my biggest pet peeve about romances, especially romantic comedies, is this: anti-climactic endings. Sometimes I am engaged in a great story with a compelling build-up, only to be let down at the end when the pay-off disappoints me. I want to be on the edge of my seat, then stand up and cheer than collapse back into my chair and say, “Awwww.”
The ending that inspires that response is my ideal ending to a romance, and that is what I wanted to write. I achieved that, at least for me. I totally love the ending of She Likes It Rough! And every time I hear from a reader that she or he liked the ending, I am just so delighted! I don't even remember what the original ending to the book was, but I do remember that I came up with this ending somewhere during the second edit. I love the ending because it...well, I won't say any more!
OEB: How long did it take to complete... from the idea phase to the time when the novel was ready for print?
GVR: So long! 7 years. Let me first say that this protracted process of mine can inspire every writer out there. It is never too late or too long since to go back to that novel you were writing or to get that manuscript out from under the bed and submit it or publish it or to finally write that story you have been thinking of for decades.
I actually finished writing She Likes It Rough in 2009. Then I started pitching, querying, and submitting to publishers and agents. That took a really long time because I would never submit the book to two publishers or agents at once. When I waited a year and half to hear back from one really successful editor who'd asked to see the full manuscript when I'd pitched it to her, only to get a 5 paragraph scathing rejection, I decided, “The hell with it. I'm publishing this on my own.” Because you know what? The 5 paragraphs of some pretty rudely phrased commentary made me feel good – I mean, I felt good after about a month when my gut unclenched and I could breathe again. The vitriolic rejection letter made me realize that my writing had really provoked her. Not everyone is going to like Lisa and her antics or my voice, but I sure as heck didn't seem to be boring anybody. That letter made me realize, like never before, that if I could find my audience, those readers would love the book. And based on the results so far, I was right.
OEB: How did you celebrate when you received your first real copy?
GVR: For many years I have belonged to The Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America, or OCC/RWA for short. OCC and all of RWA are the most supportive communities a writer could ever hope to belong to.
When Dean Koontz came to OCC to speak, he praised us for how amazingly supportive we all were of each other and of all writers everywhere – he said he'd never experienced anything quite like it. And I celebrated with OCC.
At OCC monthly meetings, any writer who has had something published over the past month gets a rose, and the writer goes up to the podium to accept the rose and make a little speech and tell everyone what the published story is about. Getting a rose is, to me, like getting an Oscar. For years, as I have watched author after author accepting her rose, I have dreamed of the day I would get mine. Well, a print copy of my book arrived in the mail Friday afternoon. I was holding MY BOOK in MY HANDS. Wow. The next day was the monthly OCC meeting, and I would be getting my rose. Saturday dawned, and I walked into the OCC meeting hugging my book like a baby! But terror lurked ahead. That day's speaker was Jessica Brody, doing a Save the Cat! presentation. Save the Cat! is an amazing book written by successful screenwriter Blake Snyder that clearly details the elements of the most successful stories out there.
Holy Mackerel! The day after I get my book fresh off the presses, I have to listen to this? I didn't read Save the Cat! before I wrote my book! What if I am about to find out that my book has none of the elements of a successful story?!?!? Not that I believe I can achieve my best writing by adhering to a formula, but...what if my novel does not have what it takes according to this really successful guy's book and according to all the examples he points out? I'd made it this far, so I knew I could survive if my book didn't make his grade, but I really hoped I had the elements of Jaws and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I sat through the lecture on the edge of my seat – but like those times when I am watching election results roll in on a night when the vote swings the way I want it to, I grew more relaxed and confident as Jessica Brody's presentation unfolded. My book had the beats! Step by step, my book comprised the elements that so many successful stories share – yay!!
I was so damn happy and relieved! Towards the end of the meeting, when my name was called to accept my rose, I ran to the podium, jumped up on stage, and screamed my head off. “I am so excited! I am so excited! I hope I am always this excited, for my second book, my third book, my tenth book!” I thanked everyone in the room, giving shout-outs, and I mean shout-outs, to a number of writers in particular who really encouraged me and helped me along the way. Talk about a really great day. I got to share my book and my excitement with my incredibly awesome community of writers!
OEB: Awl, now that was a beautiful pitch above. I think I’m going to have to put that one in my purse and keep it with me!
Now, do you have a book tour lined up? Where? When? Or, where can readers connect with you?
GVR: No book tour lined up...yet. It is on the list of Marketing Things to Do. An endless list that keeps growing faster than the Hydra that Hercules has to defeat. Once I cross one thing off the list, it gives rise to five more things I have to do. But that's my life now, and I love the work I'm doing. Readers can connect with me primarily on the “Meet Me” page of my website and on Twitter, but other places as well. Here is a list of ways to connect with me.
My website: http://gvrcorcillo.com
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/gvr-corcillo?store=allproducts&keyword=gvr+corcillo
I've included Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble as places to connect because I LOVE reader reviews, on these sites as well as on Goodreads. As a writer, I long to hear what readers think of my books.
Rhonda, what an awesome interview this has been! Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.
OEB: You’re welcome, though Wow, that was one energetic interview! What a true honor!