Thursday, February 27, 2014

Waving goodbye to February, but waving hello to Sheryl Sorrentino!

Of course we didn't forget out February Interview! But alas, things happen, and our original guest couldn't grace us this month. However we have a really great guest, who is just as fantastic. And she was really awesome for coming to stop by considering it was very last minute(we arrogantly put out the option three days before we needed it, but she came through in the nick of time. If she can do that in less than a few days, imagine what her novels must be like!)So without further ado, Twinja Book Reviews presents Sheryl Sorrentino!

First off, thanks for stopping by our blog! Connecting through the past few days, I've learned a bit about you, and your book, but what can you tell anyone meeting you for the first time about yourself?

I have a “split personality.” I am an analytical, fiscally responsible real estate attorney by day, but under cover of darkness (usually between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m.) I am busily pursuing my subversive passion, fiction writing.

You are the author of 4 novels. What inspired you to write books, let alone four, in the first place?

My first novel, Later with Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz, is autobiographical fiction. I was inspired to write it when a long-buried family secret came to light after my father died, giving me fresh perspective on my disastrous, racially-charged adolescence. That exercise overtook my creative senses like never before. After experiencing that for the first time—that total sense of losing myself in something I loved doing, I couldn’t stop. I have tried several times to get this stubborn itch “out of my system,” but I am not completely happy unless I’m working on a novel. 
Since you are an accomplished author, what have you learned each time you've penned a new book that perhaps you didn't know from the last book?

Like any new skill, we get better at something the more we practice. And so, composing novels has gotten easier and more rewarding with each book I’ve written. I have learned a myriad of obscure grammatical rules and storytelling devices along the way; I’ve learned a ton about the publishing industry (and adjusted my expectations as a result!) and have trained myself to ignore that predictable point when I’m about three-quarters into a first draft and am convinced my story sucks. Well, duh, of course it sucks! It’s a first draft! The final organization, the tying all the loose ends together, the brilliance and nuance, that all comes later—with painstaking reading and re-reading, editing and fine-tuning. As with a slow-cooking stew, this process of “seasoning and simmering” cannot be rushed. As a new writer I wanted to race to the finish line. With experience, I have come to relish the view along the way.

What inspires the titles for your books? Are they typically specific lines spoken in the novel? Or do they just give an idea of what the story's plot is about?

I found it particularly challenging coming up with titles for my first two books. It was almost as hard as naming my child! My husband suggested the name of my first (Later with Myself), which has the double meaning of reflecting upon my past as well as not taking myself so seriously. I added the subtitle (The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz) not only for clarity’s sake but because I simply couldn’t let my husband have the last word! 

My second novel (a romantic culture clash between a typical, spoiled “ugly American” and her hotheaded, macho Latin lover) had several early titles before I settled on An Unexpected Exile. The title is a double-entendre for the protagonist’s unexpected romance with an illegal alien in “exile” from his homeland, and the way in which she takes leave of her own senses and goes into a form of self-imposed exile by falling deeper and deeper into this emotionally charged and increasingly abusive relationship.

(Naming my last two novels, The Floater and Stage Daughter, was a piece of cake by comparison.) 

5.  You know I’m going to ask. Your fourth book "Stage Daughter" features a main protagonist with a mixed culture background. At Twinja Book Reviews, we typically look for more than just your "default" white, Christian, cisgendered, able bodied, male character. What inspired your 12 year old protagonist Razia?

Razia’s character was inspired by my own daughter (also twelve at the time I began writing this story). Like Razia, she is biracial, creative, and perhaps too smart for her own good. She, too, attends a performing arts school (on which the fictional “Oakland Regional Conservatory for the Arts” is loosely based), and likes heavy metal music. But while my daughter, like Razia, gives her mom a real-life run for the money, the similarities stop there. Unlike Sonia, I feel blessed and honored have an intelligent and outspoken child who is quite sure of her own mind, and no matter how high the “drama level” rises in my house, I try to let my daughter be who she is. 

A review that stood out to me on Goodreads was a review that highlighted the diversity in the women in your story. It comes as no surprise to me, but even at times, male privilege will often encourage the diversity amongst men, but will ignore the women. Was it a conscious choice to make many women of many ethnic backgrounds? Or did it just work best for the story?

I didn’t really think too much about how to “diversify” the female characters apart from my conscious decision to focus on the difficulties of the bi-racial single mom, Sonia. I merely wanted Stage Daughter to celebrate the diversity of my hometown, Oakland and neighboring Berkeley, where the story takes place. In general, I want my stories and my characters to reflect real life. As for Sonia, I wanted to show how even someone who has experienced racial inequality can fail to recognize her own intolerance when it comes to other groups (Muslims in particular, since that type of bigotry is largely overlooked and even sanctioned in the post-9-11 climate).

Here at Twinja Book Reviews, we try to promote diversity amongst women, people of color, people of diverse religious backgrounds, mental and physical disabilities, countries of origin, as well as diverse body types. Is diversity something you isolate between novels? Or is it something you tend to write, but don't think about?

I want all my stories to reflect the diversity that is the reality of our planet—and our lives—for good and bad. For sure, this poses challenges for certain people (and my tackling this subject as a white person might raise some folks’ hackles). But my characters afford me an opportunity to stretch myself as a writer (and human being) by placing myself in the shoes of people from different backgrounds while putting forth a multitude of viewpoints and life experiences through these characters’ eyes. This was especially true for crafting the characters in Stage Daughter and my third novel, The Floater—the story of a middle-aged Hispanic woman facing employment discrimination in her quest to work as a lawyer at a large firm. In this way, I strive to present entertaining and thought-provoking situations and perspectives that might cause readers to question their own notions about what it means to accept and be tolerant of others. 

What was the last book that made you want to sit down with a stranger and brag about?

I may get excited when telling people about my novels, but I generally try not to brag about them. I realize some people will love my work, others will hate it, and with today’s information overload, most will be justifiably indifferent. 

That said, I will mention that Stage Daughter just became a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree ( I suppose that honor, along with a Compulsion Reads endorsement and finalist slot in the USA Best Book awards, does give me limited “bragging rights” where Stage Daughter is concerned!

What can you tell us about your future in writing? Anything in the works?

After a brief dry spell late last year, I began writing my fifth novel, tentatively titled Stop and Frisk. (The title refers to the protagonist’s job as a strip club bouncer who has to search patrons for weapons at the door each night.)  I am still processing my own brother’s death over a year ago, so this story will feature themes about losing a loved one and coping with the questions and regrets we inevitably feel when someone close to us passes. And in keeping with my commitment to exposing bigotry in all its forms, Stop and Frisk will be told primarily from the point of view of a white male protagonist who, because of the “hard knocks” he’s suffered in his lifetime, resents the “Mexicans” and other “foreigners” in his midst. Set in the California Central Valley city of Modesto and its rural environs, my main character, Paulie Beckwith, will butt heads with his half-Mexican neighbor up the road (because he can’t stand the fact that she inherited a cabin and many acres of land while he lives in a rusty trailer), as well as the Colombian lawyer about to marry Paulie’s boss and unrequited love interest (especially when he begins to suspect the attorney was connected to his brother’s shooting).

10. Lastly, where can anyone go to find and be updated on everything Sheryl Sorrentino?

Readers can visit my website at  Sheryl Sorrentino's Official Site, follow me on Twitter @SherylSorrentin; "friend" me on my Sheryl Sorrentino's Facebook Page, and become a fan/check out my blog on Goodreads Official Blog Page . I love hearing from readers, so please “like” my pages, leave comments, or email me at my Official Author Email Address

This is what an author of four novels looks like!


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