About the book:
One of Hollywood’s hardest working women is about to discover there's a lot more drama behind the camera than in front of it...
Faith “Freakin’” Sinclair probably shouldn’t have called her boss a perv...or grabbed his “privates.” But as creator of the hit dramedy Modern Women, she’d had enough of his sexist insults. Now she’s untouchable in the industry—not in a good way. The only way to redeem herself is to convince Alex, the wildly popular, wildly demanding former star of her show, to come back. But there’s one obstacle in her way—one very handsome, broad-shouldered obstacle...
Professor Mason Mitchell is head of the theater department where Alex is studying “real” acting. The only way he’ll let Faith anywhere near Alex is if she agrees to co-teach a class. It’s an offer she can’t refuse—and as it turns out, the professor just might end up teaching Faith that there’s more to life than work—and that real-life love scenes are way more fun than fake ones...
Interview with Jayne Denker
Do you have another job outside of writing?
Oh heck, I’m a mom, so yeah—about a hundred other jobs outside of writing! Nanny, housekeeper, landscaper, laundress (oh what a nice archaic word), shopper, tutor-—on and on!
I hear you! It's one of the toughest, but best, jobs around. How did you create the plot for this book?
It actually came from a little tantrum I had, when I found out that yet another one of my favorite TV shows was destroyed when the show’s creator (and primary voice for the scripts) either left or was booted out by the network. It happens far too often, to save money or exert creative control or whatever, and then the show turns into some horrific, pale imitation of the original. I worship Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls, Bunheads)—I love her dialogue, pop-culture references, and humor—and I thought it was a travesty of the highest order when she ended up on the outs of Gilmore Girls, I did too! and the new showrunner kept insisting that the show would be fine without her. The last season was an unmitigated disaster without her voice and vision. So I started wondering what that was like from the creator’s point of view—having a show taken away from you. And off I went with Unscripted.
I totally agree with you. Sounds like a great premise for a book. Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?
I’m a complete pantser. Some characters pop into my head, and then some random scenes, and some dialogue. I start writing, not knowing how it’s going to develop. Sometimes I think I know what’s going on, but then my characters do something completely different from what I had planned. My editor asks for an outline before I start writing a new novel, and I give him one, but it’s a total lie. He knows it, I know it, and still we go through the motions. It ends up working out eventually. As they said in Shakespeare in Love, “Strangely enough, it all turns out well.” “How?” “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”
Do you have imaginary friends? When do they talk to you? Do they tell you what to write or do you poke them with a Q-tip?
Most of the time, a character shows up in my head first, before I even have a story to go with him or her. That character becomes my imaginary friend, taking up residence in my cranium. Then other characters show up, and it gets pretty crowded in there. While they don’t talk directly to me, they start living this life in a parallel universe in my head. I just eavesdrop and scramble to write it all down. If I get it wrong, they poke me with a Q-tip.
Ouch! Which character did you most enjoy writing?
I absolutely loved writing Faith, the heroine. She has more chutzpah than I’ll ever have. She knows what she wants, and she just goes for it.
I’m constantly on the lookout for new names. How do you name your characters?
I try to make the names mean something, to illustrate their personality a bit. I named my main character Faith because I wanted to give the sense that despite her jaded, seen-everything attitude, she’s rather an innocent, and an optimist, at heart. Originally, her last name was Underwood, because I wanted her initials to be F.U., in homage to her attitude. But then I realized a minor character from my first book had Underwood as a last name (I have no idea why I like that surname so much), so I changed Faith’s last name to Sinclair. When she calls herself “Faith Freakin’ Sinclair” her initials are F.F.S., which is almost as good as F.U.
Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
Of course I enjoy any scenes with my main characters, Faith and Mason. I adore them together. But I also love any scene where the minor characters take over. I actually still giggle at the scene at the studio gate, where Bea, the crude, obnoxious guard, takes Faith down a peg or ten. You just get the sense that Bea has this wild backstory, that she’s seen and done more than Faith ever will. I also loved scenes with Faith’s stepfather, Dominic. I never knew what was going to come out of his mouth, plus I got to use my Italian family’s peculiar way of speaking—broken English and unusual cadence—-which is always fun.
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
Whenever and wherever I can! Most of my writing is done between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., in bed, when the house is finally quiet. When my son’s at home, he’s got the TV, the Xbox, and the computer going, plus he’s narrating a Lego scene in the middle of the floor. Writing is just not gonna happen! Sometimes, when I get too distracted by housecleaning and other chores screaming for my attention, I decamp to a local coffee shop. Food, drink, bathroom, wi-fi—what else do you need? I can spend half the day there, and sometimes I do.
Ditto! Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.
I’ve lived in my small village (population approximately 2,000) for less than ten years, which makes me a total newbie, a stranger most likely not to be trusted. I should note that you don’t earn trust until you’ve lived here for at least three or four decades. (I’m guessing on that—-could be longer.) Most people’s families have been here for generations. So the weird thing (which is also the nice thing, which is also a fact) is that, in a matter of five minutes, anyone you speak to can —and will!— give you about a hundred years’ worth of their family history that entwines with everyone else’s. It’s fascinating...and a little alarming. Oh—and everyone’s related to everyone else. But not in a “Dueling Banjos” kind of way at all.
Is there anything in particular that you do to help the writing flow? Music? Acting out the scene? Long showers?
I love music so much—-and singing in particular-—that I can’t listen to music while I write. I end up focusing on the music, always singing along, which prevents me from writing. My best practice is to zone out—doing boring things like washing the dishes or taking a shower or driving somewhere—-which lets my mind slip into the creative alpha brainwave. Then the ideas come. And then I need to stop doing what I’m doing and write it all down.
You and I are very much alike! If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Internationally, London. I’m a ridiculous anglophile. I’ve been to the U.K. twice, which is nowhere near enough. Within the confines of the States, New Orleans. “Colorful” doesn’t begin to describe it.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing a fourth novel (no title yet), which will be a second story taking place in the small town from my third novel, Down on Love (publishing November 21). The main character is the very nice ex-girlfriend of Down on Love’s hero, and the new hero is a movie star. Because I can never hold off my fascination with Hollywood for long!
Sounds great. I'd love to hear about them all! Please come back!
Guest Post: Ooh, I Just Had a Brainwave
by Jayne Denker
When I graduated from college, I was a bit adrift. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my creative writing degree, so I ended up back at my parents’ house, in my teen bedroom (egad), and working at a bookstore (naturally). I had so much spare time and excess creativity that I figured it was the perfect time to write a novel.
So I holed up in my bedroom after dinner and booted up my graduation present, an Epson computer roughly the size of a future Smart Car (hey, it was the late Eighties), with the intent of writing a YA ghost story. Although I never finished it, I went at it great guns for a while.
I only remember bits and pieces of the plot, but I can recall one thing very clearly: almost every night, just as I would get into a creative groove, my bedroom door would open. My dad would lean in the doorway and say, “Whacha doin’?”
Don’t get me wrong—I loved my dad. He was a sweetheart, without a mean bone in his body, never a bad word for anyone. I never wanted to hurt his feelings. But I just wanted to break things when he derailed my train of thought like that. Still, because he only wanted to chat with his kid, I’d stop typing and talk to him for a while. Then he’d say, “I’d better let you get back to work,” and with a sigh of relief I’d turn back to my story. Sometimes I regained my momentum; most of the time I didn’t. Then I’d give up, make some tea, and turn on Knots Landing.
I felt guilty about getting angry at my dad, but now I know why I always had such a visceral reaction whenever he interrupted my creative process. I wasn’t a bad person—instead, it was just my brain waves being messed with.
If you engage in meditation, you’ve probably heard about different brain wave patterns; if you haven’t, this bit is for you.
Humans have four main brain wave patterns: beta, alpha, theta, and delta. (There are more, but let’s stick with four.) Each is connected to a different type of brain activity.
Usually we’re in beta—that’s the pattern our brain produces when we’re fully alert and aware, engaged in daily activity, thinking and multitasking and bustling around.
But when we focus on one thing, like reading, getting “really into” our favorite TV show or a good movie, writing or creating other forms of art, listening to music, etc., our brains slip into alpha. We’re still alert but relaxed and imaginative. It’s this brain wave pattern that’s present when we’re being creative, when ideas slip in and our imagination soars.
(Theta and delta are indicative of slower and deeper meditative states and deep sleep, respectively.)
All very sciencey, right? Perhaps. But this science stuff was my salvation. When I found out about the different types of brain waves, and how humans can’t switch immediately from one to another (it takes a few moments to make the transition), I realized that there’s a physiological reason I get really, really cranky when I’m interrupted! I’m not a brat! I’m not self-centered! (Well, no more than usual.) Instead, for me—and everyone—it’s truly like missing a gear while driving a stick. For a few seconds I don’t know where I am and I flail to regain control.
It’s not my fault-—it’s biology! Cool!
Excerpt from UnscriptedRandy’s phone rang; he immediately answered it and walked a few steps down the sidewalk into the shade, indicating he was done with me. He took a moment to snap at the guards, “Get her out.”
I let them lead me to the studio gate, where I had left my car. As I passed the good-looking guy, still watching with concern, I called, “It’s okay. Thanks, though.”
He stayed where he was. The guards turned me away from him.
At the gate, they let me go, then stood by as I rounded the barrier and headed for my car. I kept my face impassive, but I was absolutely dying inside.
Bea called after me, “What about your stuff?”
I didn’t know what she was talking about until she yanked my box of personal items out of the guardhouse and dropped it in the doorway with a thud. I thought I heard something fragile shatter, but Bea didn’t bat an eyelash.
She nudged the box forward with her black-sneakered foot. “Whaddya want me to do, gift wrap it for you?”
The dusty Toyota I had hidden behind pulled up on the other side of the guardhouse in the exit lane, and Bea turned away from me. It was like everyone at the studio was done with me; I was suddenly invisible.
Bea leaned closer to the car. “How’d it go, honey?”
The driver handed back a visitor pass through the open window. A dirty-blond head followed. “I don’t know, Bea. All right, I guess.”
“What’d they say?”
“They’ll ‘be in touch’?” He squinted up at the guard with a queasy smile.
Applying for a job, eh? Hm. That response could have been a kiss-off, could have been a promise to call soon. I wondered what he’d been interviewing for.
“You keep your chin up, honey,” Bea answered, more warmly than I’ve ever heard her say anything in her life. Even “Merry Christmas” sounded like an epithet coming from her.
“Thanks for all your help. You’ve been great.”
Now I’d heard everything.
“Good luck to you.”
“Thanks, Bea.” Then he looked at me. “Everything okay, Ms. Sinclair?”
Aw, that would have been a nice, chivalrous moment, if Bea hadn’t snorted with derisive laughter, then coughed up a loogie that she spit into a tissue she drew from her pocket.
“Fine. Thanks for asking.”
He hesitated, then nodded, rolled up his window, and drove off.
I should have just picked up my box and left too, but I couldn’t help asking, “Who was that?”
Bea turned away and dug a cigarette out of her bag. She mumbled an answer I couldn’t make out.
She straightened up, tugged at her blouse, then lit the cigarette. “I said, ‘a nice guy who deserves to be treated better than what he’d get at this place,’” she snapped, blowing the first puff of smoke straight into my face. “What’s it to you?”
“Gee, I dunno, Bea,” I answered, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “If he’s looking for a job, maybe I could help him out.”
“Not anymore you can’t,” she grunted, giving my box one last shove so it was perilously close to teetering over the lip of the doorway. “You got no pull here. Everything you are now is in this one box.”
“You’ve been waiting for this day for three years, haven’t you?”
She eyed me with her lizard squint. “Maybe.”
“Bea, why do you hate me so much?”
“I hate everybody.”
“You seemed to like that guy who just left.”
“He’s not a Hollywood asshat.”
I couldn’t argue with that. I picked up my box of belongings—it couldn’t have been any more clichéd if there had been a giant coffee mug and a sad-looking plant sticking out of it—before it could pitch out of the guard station and hit the ground.
“You think I’m a Hollywood asshat, Bea?”
The woman actually stopped and thought about it for a minute. My hopes rose. Maybe she didn’t hate me. Maybe she saw the good in me—the good that most everyone else recognized. The good in me that I was darned proud of, that I had cultivated over the years, making sure I wasn’t like every other jackass in Hollywood, despite my upbringing, despite the fact that I’d spent my whole life around showbiz people.
Bea delivered her verdict. “Yeah. I do.”
I sighed. “Thank you for your honesty.”
“Still,” she went on, pinching out the end of the cigarette and squirreling it away behind her (she wasn’t supposed to smoke on the job), and my hopes inched up again, “from what I hear, you got dicked around pretty bad.”
Apparently Bea, when she was talkative, liked to use quite colorful language.
“You’ve seen a lot of people come and go, haven’t you, Bea? I mean, in the business, not just in and out of the gate,” I finished lamely.
She grunted assent.
“You probably hear a lot too.”
“I hear enough.”
“So what do you think?”
“About you?” She considered, then let out a strangled sound that I think was supposed to be a laugh. “If I were you, I’d get outta town for a while.”
About the author:
Jayne Denker lives in a small village in western New York with her husband, son, and a very sweet senior-citizen kitten who loves nothing more than going outside, where she sits on the front walk and wonders why she begged to go outside. Jayne is the author of three romantic comedies, By Design, Unscripted, and Down on Love (publishing November 21), plus she’s hard at work on a fourth, a sequel to the small-town rom com Down on Love. When she’s not hard at work on another novel (or, rather, when she hard at work on another novel), she can usually be found frittering away stupid amounts of time on social media, where all her friends live.
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