Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Guest Blog: A PIECE OF NORMAL by Sandi Kahn Shelton

Today, I have the pleasure to host Sandi Shelton, who is blog-touring her current release, A PIECE OF NORMAL. This looks like a great read, and Sandi is an absolute hoot! So be sure to check out the book!

Click here to order!

Here's the blurb about the book:

Dear Lily . . .

At age thirty-four, Lily Brown has her life just the way she likes it. And what’s not to like? She’s got a great job as an advice columnist for the local newspaper, an adorable four-year-old son, and an ex-husband, Teddy, who still thinks she’s wonderful. She even lives in the same beach house where she grew up, with a great view of Long Island Sound and plenty of beach roses to smell.

So what if she won’t let herself date anyone until she finds a new girlfriend for Teddy, who happens to still be hung up on her? So what if she hasn’t changed a thing in her parents’ house, even twelve years after their tragic deaths? So what if it’s been ten years since she’s heard from her younger sister, Dana, who stormed out of the house in a rage when she was a teenager? Lily is fine.

But it’s funny how life has a way of upsetting even the most perfectly laid-out plans, and when one night Lily finds herself painting ghastly orange highlights into her lovely auburn hair, even she suspects that she’s been in something of a rut. And then, when her long-lost little sister shows up, bringing with her the fun and drama and hell-raising spontaneity Lily has missed, her life suddenly takes a turn for the unexpected.

To Lily’s chagrin, Dana’s energy seems to enthrall everyone, especially Teddy. As the tension between the sisters escalates, Dana reveals decades-old family secrets that she’s been burdened with all these years, and Dear Lily must heed her own advice about accepting life’s messiness and chaos.

With her trademark blend of sparkling wit and characters you can’t forget, Sandi Kahn Shelton tells a compelling and universal story of two sisters who learn what they need to let go of, and what they have to hold on to as tightly as they can.

Check out my quickie interview with Sandi:

Even your bio is funny. If we met at a cocktail party, would I walk away thinking you’re quiet or a hoot? And, just to keep you on your toes, one word answers are not allowed. Please elaborate.

That’s a great question, Julie. And thank you for the compliment (as well as letting me come onto your blog for a visit). I come from a Southern family where humor seems to pervade everything. If you can’t tell a story that makes everybody fall down laughing, you just get pushed over to the side. Go make Auntie Pem another drink and content yourself with being part of the audience. That’s the way it is. Compared to my mother and grandmothers and aunties, I’m known as the shy, quiet, reserved one. Now that I live up in the North, I often notice that my dark Southern humor isn’t always taken the way I mean it; I get frequent shocked looks when I do my over-exaggerations. (I didn’t even know they WERE over-exaggerations until I moved up here.) So basically, I think I’m probably funnier in my writing than at cocktail parties. But give me a couple of glasses of merlot, and you never know…

Isn’t being a mom great? (That one’s a freebie. I still get two more questions, but feel free to answer this one, too.)

Oh, my goodness! It’s the best thing ever. I have three kids, and I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without them. They’re all out of the house now…but we still all talk every day, which I know makes me sound like some kind of clingy mom. (I’m really not, I swear.) One day recently I was working on my novel, and suddenly one them IM’ed me and a little screen showed up in the upper left portion of my novel page. So I typed with that kid about his car needing to be fixed…and then *bling,* up came another screen in the bottom of the page. My daughter wanting to know my recipe for chicken curry. And then *bling*--over on the bottom right was my other daughter just wanting to say hi. I sat there, shocked­all three screens were covering up my novel! It seemed symbolic of just what my priorities are, LOL.

Your bio talks about the 17 year gestation of your first novel, and the 10 months to write A Piece of Normal. Was the shift from leisurely (haha) writing to a strict deadline difficult? How did you cope ­ other than eating all the banana popsicles, I mean?

That’s a good question! Well, when I first found out that I had ten months to write Novel #2, I almost had to take to my bed with the vapors. I said to my agent, “What were you thinking? Tell me now: was there anything I ever did or said to make you think I could write a book in ten months?” She laughed and said she knew I could do it. And sure enough, I did. And, although I hate to admit this, there was a way in which it was actually easier. For one thing, when you have a strict deadline like that, IT GETS YOU GOING. You don’t wake up in the morning, yawn and stretch and think, “Hmm, do I feel inspired to write my book today…or would I rather, um, go anywhere else and do any other possible thing?” You know what you have to do.

On the advice of a friend of mine who has written one mystery a year for the past 11 years, I made up my mind to do three pages every single day. No matter what else was happening in life, I knew I had to do those three pages, inspired or not. And that worked to keep me in the book. It kept the material fresh in my mind and kept new juicy stuff for the book flying over to me, even when I wasn’t writing. It was an amazing thing, actually. Not having to sit down and re-read the whole book each time I sat down to write was a big bonus, too; the stuff was still so familiar to me, I could re-read it as little as possible and therefore not get tired of it. You know how when you’re working and working on a book, and you’re reading it too much, you can actually get bored with it and then you have utterly no distance on the writing at all? I found that if I just re-read and edited what I’d written the day before, I could keep going without wanting to press the DELETE button and get rid of the whole thing and go off to join the circus.

So for my third novel (which I am working on now) I also have a (rapidly approaching) deadline of ten months. I love the clarity of focus that comes when you know you have one true priority…and it’s not cleaning the bathtub!

What was the kernel of inspiration for A Piece of Normal?

I always love to write about family relationships, because I think they’re the most fascinating, complicated things going. I’m always struck with how other people’s families always look so together on the outside, and yet when you get to really know them, you see that everybody’s got quirky relatives to deal with, and weird past histories, and buried secrets. (Well, almost everybody. I do know a few people who seem to come from genetically secret-less people. But I’m still digging around, so I’ll get back to you.) I’m particularly interested in the ways that being in a family often requires us to understand and forgive acts that may at first seem like real catastrophic (even if unintentional) betrayals, but which in many ways, serve to enrich and open us.

I think it is these powerful relationships that shape us most dramatically and hold the key to how we see ourselves. (Isn’t there a saying that goes: “Families­-can’t live with ’em. Can’t kill ’em”? Until I take up writing murder mysteries, I guess I’m stuck writing about how families manage to forgive each other and go on.)

My first novel-­What Comes After Crazy-­was about a complicated mother-daughter relationship­-briefly, the mom was a flaky, itinerant fortune-teller and the daughter grew up with almost no skills in making a normal life for herself and her kids. (It should be noted that I thought it was a very serious novel, but when it came out, critics called it “hilarious.” That was a bit of a surprise.)

In A Piece of Normal, (which I had wanted to call “Ordinary Forgiveness”) it is two sisters­-Lily and Dana Brown­-who couldn’t be more opposite. Through their betrayals and long-buried sibling rivalries, they come to realize that they each have something the other one needs. And when the betrayal comes­-well, oops, I should stop here. You see, I always have a tendency to tell too much. I’d write the whole plot here if I’m not careful, and all you asked for was the “germ of the idea.”

Thanks so much, Sandi!

Sounds great, doesn't it? Rush out and get your copy! And you can visit Sandi on the web at

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