My Book, SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES, Will Soon Be a TV Series
October 31, 2011
They like me. They really, really like me.
I now know how Sally Field felt.
Writers have their own version of The Other 99 Percent.
Concurrently, there is the 1 Percent, too: those authors who have been lucky enough have some pretty powerful -- and persistant -- fairy godfolk to help them prosper in this quirky profession: like an agent who wiped off the slush around them and saw a gem of a great book; and an editor who fell in love with the author's voice and charactres, and heralded the book through committee, so that it could be published; and let's not forget the publishing houses are willing to make spend money -- on co-op, to keep it on the bookstores' front tables, and on promotion, to make the right audiences aware of it; and then there's the booksellers who read it, and talked it up to their loyal customers.
People, this so RARELY happens. Yes, there have been some hit-it-out-of-the park novel-to-TV-series adaptations. Charlaine Harris's True Blood is a perfect example.
But they are rare, and far between.
So, yes, I know: I could not be more blessed.
Wow. ABC! I remember Sunday evenings, sitting in front of our television set waiting anxiously for Tinkerbell to sprinkle me with some of that Disney magic.
Better late than never.
And I could not have asked for a better Prince Charming to take me to my very first Hollywood ball.
Everything I've been told about Mr. Bruckheimer makes me so proud that he's whisked me out onto the the dance floor. Through his production companies, he has built a great team of executive producers. He looks for strong, hardworking writers, and he builds stellar casts from actors who work hard to breathe life into their characters.
Now my characters -- Lyssa, Harry, Ted, DeeDee, and their motely crew of neurotic neighbors -- will be brought to life.
And if our show is lucky enough to catch the zeitgeist left in the final season stardust trail of ABC's very popular hit series, Desperate Housewives, my characters will have a chance to live long and prosper.
To all the readers who loved Lyssa and her story, I thank you for writing me to let me know, and telling me how much she (and I) touched your lives.
To all the book reviewers who sang the praises of Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, I love you, too, and will always appreciate the role you played in encouraging readers to buy my book.
That said I'll let you know what I know, when I know it: who will star, when the show premiers, how well it does-- hey, we can even watch together! You'll find me Tweeting and Facebooking the night the show runs, so I hope you'll join me.
And I'll certainly be running a VERY SPECIAL CONTEST through the night of its premiere. More on that later....
"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading."
Date and Time: Thursday, September 16, 2010, 7:30 pm Location: 200 Madison Avenue N., Bainbridge Isle, WA 98110-1812
To purchase tickets, go to: http://www.BetweenThePagesEvents.org
Participating Authors: Jane Smiley (Private Life) Josie Brown (Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives) Eileen Goudge (Once in a Blue Moon) Joshilyn Jackson (Backseat Saints) Tatjana Soli (The Lotus Eaters)
I'm very excited to be a part of Between The Pages - Seattle 2010. This is a fundraiser for the Kitsap Regional Library Foundation, which serves the communities on the islands in and around Seattle Bay. Their programs also serve a local military base, and a local Native American reservation.
Please join us if you can. It will be a memorable night with five women who will keep you hanging on their every word.
My R-Rated Reading (For Mature Audiences Only...)
August 12, 2010
Women behaving wildly is the theme at Women Who Write, the monthly book salon thrown by memoirist and club promoter Vicki Abelson in Montrose, CA.
In June, I was lucky to be invited as one of the guest readers, along with comedians Marc Maron and Paul Provenza, and musician James Lee Stanley (who entertained us with several of his many hits), and of course Vicki, who reads one more chapter of her work in progress from her fabulous memoir (I got to read a first draft, and I predict best-seller: lots of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll!)
Vicki tapes every reading. My portion of it can be seen here:
However, be duly warned: realizing that my co-readers are seasoned performers who knew how to keep their audiences rolling in the aisles in laughter, I chose a funny and somewhat naughty read myself: not exactly R-rated, but a bit more than PG-13.
So yeah, I'm blushing....and wishing my arms were better toned. ( I'm workin' on that!)
How Gone with the WInd Made a Difference in My LIfe
May 10, 2010
I can honestly say that the book that made the biggest difference in my life was Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. I was born and raised (that's how we say it where I'm from) in and around Atlanta Georgia, and Ms. Mitchell's tome was as ubiquitous as the King James Bible in most of the households there. At that time, Atlanta —and most of the Southern states—had never gotten over losing the war.
I think that has changed, for the most part.
At 733 pages, it is an intimidating read for most adults. I picked it up at thirteen, and was immediately enthralled with the story. How could you not be, what with an opening line like:
Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were...
Mitchell's epic novel is a prose tapestry of living breathing history, entwined with plot threads of love, lust and dysfunctional heroism. (Both Scarlett and Rhett do some right things, but for all the wrong reasons; and some wrong things, too; but then again, that is what makes for conflict and drives the story forward...)
I loved it.
I went on to read it another fourteen times between then and the time I was twenty-six.
Unfortunately for Margaret Mitchell, she never published again. Instead, she spent the rest of her life fighting international copyright violations of her book.
What would she have said, had she lived during the Internet and its copyright free-for-all? I'm guessing she would have shouted something along the lines of "Hell's bells!" at Google and its ilk.
In a large way, I think reading Gone with the Wind is how I formed my own writer's "voice" — a term we novelists use to describe our style, in regard to cadence and use of words — is owed to Ms. Mitchell. I love using slang and colloquialisms. I am not afraid of a big, colorful cast of characters.
Above all, I love flawed heroes and heroines.
Because none of us are perfect.
Where we part: I believe in happy endings. Or, at least hopeful ones.
So pick up her book.
Oh yes: and pick up mine. It took me twenty years to write my very first novel (Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives is my third published novel).I guess I was afraid I could never live up to the scope of her masterpiece.
Instead, I've learned to settle for prosaic bon mots: tasty morsels of plot, character and conflict.
By no means do I claim to be Margaret Mitchell, but I think my latest book is a pretty good yarn for the way we live now:
Not in petticoats, but a great pair of designer jeans.
Tome of the Mommy: Ask Yourself, "Why did I Marry Him?"
April 28, 2010
I've been blessed with a wonderful relationship. My husband, Martin, and I have been together for over twenty years.
I'm always amazed when unhappy couples stay in a marriage. Isn't the goal to be with someone who makes you happy?
Not because each party feels some obligation to stay in the marriage.
When questioned as to whether they are wasting their time, energy and emotions on a relationship that will never get better, the reasons they usually give for sticking it out never has anything to do with his or her own happiness, but some senseof obligation: to their children, their parents, their perception of relationship success.
I feel sad for them. So much time is spent complaining about the fact that neither can satisfy the other.
What they don't realize is that either one party has lost the respect, or trust, of the other. Unless they take the time to earn it back, no amount of passion will ever make it right again.
My own parents' union was not a happy one. I reveled in the unabashed love both my mother and father showered on me, and I will always appreciate them for inspiring me to never doubt my own abilities or my potential. That is all a child can ask of a parent, is it not?
But children want their parents to be happy, too.
As a child, I remember wishing they'd break up, so that each could find the happiness that eluded them in marriage.
When I was sixteen my parents had one particularly raw argument. Afterward I sat on the front porch with my mother during a thunderstorm. As the sky crackled overhead, I asked her: "Why don't you two just get a divorce?"
She paused, then answered: "Because children should have two parents."
"But we're happy when you're happy. And you aren't happy."
She nodded in response, but my words never moved her to action. She stayed in the marriage until the day he died, some three years later. During that time, she was angry. Nothing he did for her made her happy.
Maybe she was afraid she couldn't be happy without him, either. The devil you know is better than the one you don't. Isn't that how the saying goes?
I've always wondered if, had they made the break, he might have lived longer.
People who are happy don't want to give up on life.
In my book Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, my heroine, Lyssa Harper, ruminates on her own parents' divorce, and how it affected her views toward dating and marriage.This small excerpt gives you a small piece of her backstory, in her own words.
Enjoy, and happy new year,
I accepted Ted’s proposal even though I wasn’t really sure that he was The One.
I said as much to my mother, the day after he proposed.
“What is ‘The One,’ anyway?” The smoke from her Kool Menthol streamed out from the high corner of her curled smirk and floated toward the ceiling like a serene genie. “Hey, nothing’s perfect, right?”
It wasn’t a question, but a warning. During the twelve years of her own marriage she had assumed my father had been The One for her. I had, too. He’d been my first and only love.
As it turns out, Father wasn’t The One for either of us. He proved it when I was ten. That was the year he left us both for his secretary, the giggly Patti-with-an-i, and the penthouse apartment where he’d stashed her.
Our consolation prize was our two-acre country club estate in tony Atherton, with its over-extended mortgage. But of course we couldn’t afford the house on our own. Within a year we had downsized to a one-bedroom rent-controlled walk-up in San Francisco's Upper Tenderloin—a “transitional” neighborhood—where we crammed in as much of our large overstuffed furniture as we could fit.
The only good thing about that roach-infested hole was that it was a five-minute bus ride to the Saks Fifth Avenue on Union Square. My mother got a job at the cosmetics counter alongside the same women who, when she was married and flush, showered her with Clinique and Estée Lauder samples as she swept by them on her way to the designer showroom. After the divorce, the Puccis, Guccis, Yves St. Laurents and Blasses she wore to the weekly cocktail parties at her country club either subbed as very expensive work attire, or found its way to consignment shops, where they sold quickly at bargain rates. Whereas she was no longer living proof that you can never be too rich, she certainly proved that you could be too thin—if all you could afford to eat is canned tuna on Saltines.
Like a good girl, I didn’t blame my father or complain to my mother. Instead I threw myself into my other love: painting big sad canvases that made people stop, look and react . . .
Having respect for one's partner is the only way a relationship can survive, let alone thrive. I've watched too many of my friends' marriages crumble because either a husband or wife didn't understand that, or just didn't care to deliver it. Their need to be admired by the opposite sex was much more important to them at the time. In my book SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES, my heroine, Lyssa,realizes her husband, Ted, thrives on flirting. As you'll read here, her reaction -- and I'm sure it would be the same for a lot of us -- is threefold: denial, resignation, and anger...
"Whoa, Tammy, look at those muscles! Flex 'em for me, babe, go on."
Tammy accommodates Ted's demand by taking off the sheer blouse she wears over her tight tank top, and curling a taut sinewy arm. When he rewards her with a wolf whistle, she feigns bashfulness by covering her eyes.
But no one is fooled. This is why she curls 10-pound barbells in 12 reps, four times each arm: so that other women's husbands will admire her.
Including mine. I hate it when Ted flirts.
It wouldn't be so bad if he wasn't so good at it. Or if he only flirted with me.
But no, that would be too much to ask.
Unlike some husbands who feel awkward in a room full of women, Ted loves being the cock of the walk. And because he knows I am completely and utterly assured of his loyalty, he openly flirts with my friends.
He does it with a certain smile on his face. You know the one. It promises more than he can deliver. I know this first hand.
But Tammy doesn't—until she sees the loving manner in which he unconsciously strokes my hair while complimenting Brooke on her last tennis game.
As Tammy follows the other women out the door, she sighs in my ear: "You are sooooooo lucky."
Whereas she is not. Her Charlie's bank account may be humongous, but his sperm bank is all but empty.
This gives her something else to whine about.
It also gives her the audacity to graze up against Ted on her way out the door.
If she thinks I didn't see her, she's crazy. Okay, now I have to be president. Just so I can kick her off the board...
Bottom line: it hurts when a significant other flirts.
A gut reaction would be to throw a hissy fit. If Lyssa had, no other wife in the room would have blamed her . . .
But no. She realizes she is not necessarily surrounded by friends. Had she made a scene, it would give her frenemies something very juicy to gossip about.
So instead she feigns indifference. Why? Because the sharks are circling, and she knows it. No way is she going to rock her tiny boat in this sea of humanity.
What would I have done in this situation? Glad you asked. I would have waited until we were alone, then honestly and openly told him how much it had hurt me.
And yes, I would ask him to refrain from doing it again.
And if he forgot, I'd remind him again, in private.
But this time, I'd have a nutcracker in my hand. 'Tis the season, right?
Have you ever been in a situation where your SI flirted in front of you? If so, how do you handle it? Feel free to comment below...
Inquiring minds want to know,
When to Make a Grown Man Cry
January 19, 2010
I'll admit it, I love to make grown men cry.
On the page, that is.
Does this make me a passive-aggressive bitch? Heck, no!
Say all you want about "alpha" and "beta" males, but bottom line: if you want to make your heroes come to life, you have to do more than just scratch the surface of their characters with a frown, or a grimace, or a curl of the lip.
At the right time, for the right reason, maybe they need to shed a tear or two.
They're only human, right? Particularly when their marriages are breaking up, and they suddenly realize they can lose all they've taken what they hold most dearly for granted: their wives, their children, their homes.
Their real lives.
In my upcoming book, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, my heroine, stay-at-home-mom Lyssa Harper, hears a rumor that the neighborhood's "perfect couple" have split up. This is confirmed by the husband in question, a workaholic lawyer named Harry Wilder, whom Lyssa runs into, on the playground. I've got an excerpt for you, below.
Just call me a tearjerker,
Harry pulls off his Bluetooth headset for good to find Temple and my son playing nicely together on the climbing gym. Mickey has gotten over his wariness of girl cooties (imaginary), and Temple is reassured that Mickey’s cooties (real, but gone) won’t be invading her full head of sun-kissed sateen curls. All is right in the world.
Harry smiles his unabashed gratitude. “Sorry. East Coast,” he says, by way of explanation. “Had to catch those guys before they go home for the day.”
I nod understandingly, and then stick out my hand. “Lyssa Harper. We’ve met before.”
Vagueness clouds his eyes. “Sure, I remember. You’re the Stuckeys’ au pair, right?”
I don’t know whether to be flattered or miffed. True, both the au pair and I have long dark hair, although mine is somewhat curlier. Okay, make that frizzy. And yes, it strokes my ego to be compared to a mere woman-child some ten years younger (not to mention ten pounds lighter). It’s more likely that he’s suggesting that I don’t seem worthy enough to live in Paradise Heights—unless I’m in someone’s domestic employ.
Only in my wildest fantasies would I assume that this is his way of hitting on me. Still, the thought of being picked up on the playground by the neighborhood DILF (the "dad I'd like to—." well, you get the picture) does give me a cheap thrill.
Then it hits me: What if he’s asking because he thinks he can buy my services, which would leave the Stuckeys high and dry? Ouch! And those twins of theirs are a handful . . .
Gee, I wonder how much he’s offering, anyway
Turns out he’s not offering at all. He just doesn’t remember meeting Ted and me at the Crawleys’ Christmas party last year. Or sharing a picnic table with us this past summer at the Paradise Heights Annual July Fourth picnic. Or that we were the ones who found Lucky after he escaped under their fence in order to chase after the Corrigan’s tabby.
My God, as oblivious as this guy is, I’m surprised he remembers his way home.
Then again, maybe he doesn’t. That might be why DeeDee had an affair in the first place.
"Um . . .no. I'm just a mom here in the Heights."
As my black-and-white image of the Wilders gradates to chiaroscuro in the harsh light of reality, Harry tries to make amends for forgetting how many times our paths have crossed by complimenting me on how well my son plays with Temple.
Now it’s my turn to blush. I’m not used to hearing compliments about Mickey from other parents, only pointed remarks about how much more “rambunctious” he is than their own perfect progeny. “Thanks,” I stammer, then add, “I think his patience comes from having a younger sister.”
“Oh yeah? My son isn’t half that great with Temple. Of course he’s somewhat older, a teenager.” He gives a conciliatory laugh. “You know how they are.”
“I know your son.”
Surprised, he blinks, then leans away slightly. He seems wary of what I might say next, so I continue gently, “Jake, right? He’s a sweet boy, too. He and my son, Tanner, play together on the basketball team. Very few of Tanner’s friends let Mickey join in when they come over to shoot hoops. You know how they can be: snubbing kids who are younger, or not as well coordinated. But Jake doesn’t seen to mind.”
Harry nods uncertainly. “Well, I’m glad to hear he’s not so—so judgmental all the time.”
“I never thought of it that way. I just think some kids instinctively know what to do with younger children.” Upon hearing this, Harry frowns. Quickly I add, “I’m not saying that that’s a good thing or a bad thing. In fact, I think it shows that, some day, they’ll make pretty good parents.”
Harry stares off in stony silence. As we sit quietly, I wonder what I’ve said wrong.
On the other hand, what does it matter? It’s my guess that he will forget our conversation the minute we gather up the kids and say our awkward good-byes. And the next time we meet, be it in the carpool line, or at a school function, or a neighbor’s party, he’ll vaguely wonder what the Stuckeys’ au pair has done with the usually caterwauling twins.
Right then and there I make up my mind that that is not going to happen, that I’m going to make a big enough impression on him that my name will finally be emblazoned on his brain, or at the very least that I crack his typically icy demeanor just this once.
Suddenly I remember another thing we have in common: our daughters.
“So, you’ve decided to give Temple a day off from school? In fact, my daughter, Olivia, is in preschool with Temple. Every now and then I let her do that, too. Kindergarten can be so overwhelming for little kids, even with a year or two of preschool under their belts. It’s not like they’re missing calculus, or anything really important, right? And the trade-offs are some wonderful memories. To be honest, though, I hate when it’s called ‘quality time,’ don’t you? I mean, every second with your child is memorable. Even watching them while they sleep is precious–”
I’ve been blathering so much I hadn’t noticed that Harry is crying.
The tears roll down his face in two steady lines. He turns his head toward me so that the children don’t see this, but my look of shock must be just as dismaying to him because he ends up burying his face in his hands.
And sobs even harder.
Harry Wilder, captain of industry, neighborhood enigma, one half of Paradise Heights’ Perfect Couple, is now a puddle of mush.
And it's all my doing.
Out of habit I still carry Handi Wipes. Although they aren’t ideal in situations like this, I can tell that Harry is appreciative for anything that will sop up this mess that is now his life.
When he's able to face me again, he looks me in the eye. “My wife left me. She’s left us.”
At this point I could feign ignorance, but since we’re both striving for honesty here, I have no desire to muck things up with a polite albeit face-saving (for him) lie, a “Gee! Look how late it’s getting” exit line, and another year or two of polite neighborly oblivion. Instead, I nod and say, “Yeah, I heard. On Halloween. I’m—I’m so sorry about it.”
“You know about it? But I—I haven’t said anything to anyone, yet! And she’s—she’s long gone, so I know it didn’t come from her.” He shakes his head at the thought that his personal soap opera is being bandied about the local Starbucks. “Jesus! And I thought news moved fast on Wall Street.”
“Yeah, well, you’ll find out about the Height’s mommy grapevine soon enough. I mean, if you plan on sticking around—”
“I am, for sure. I’m not going anywhere.” The lines on Harry’s face once again realign into a steely implacability. “This is our home. My kids love it here. We’ll…we’ll work through it somehow.”
“Sure you will,” I murmur reassuringly. “There’s no place like the Heights for raising kids. That’s why we’re all here. Hey listen, really, I didn’t mean to scare you off. You know, about the way we mommies talk and all. It was just such a shock to everyone. The two of you always seemed so—so happy.”
“Yeah. Happy. I thought we were, too.” With this, his eyes get moist again. This time, though, he shrugs, then passes a broad palm over them. I assume that he’s decided that the Handi Wipes give off the wrong impression. “You were right when you said that every minute you spend with your kids is important. And I haven’t been around for most of it.”
Well, of course you weren’t, I want to say. You were out making a living! Bringing home the bacon, playing this millennium’s version of caveman . . .
And boy oh boy, your stucco palace has all the bells and whistles to prove it.
Too bad you found another Neanderthal in there, with your wife.
But I keep my mouth shut. Because you don’t hit a man when he’s down.
It's official. SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES will be a book.
December 11, 2009
It's being published by Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press, in bookstores on June 1, 2010. I'm thrilled, as you can imagine. Let's start with the fact that I'm enchanted with my editor, Megan McKeever. The excitement she and her team have for this project is an author's dream. And just think: this time next year, it will be on a bookstore shelf near you. What's the story? It is a chronicle of the bitter divorce of a "perfect couple," and its impact on the gated community in which they live, is seen through the eyes of a neighbor–Lyssa, a stay-at-home mom–who doesn't realize the parallels between their marriage and her own. In the process, she befriends the husband, Harry, a former Master of the Universe turned stay-at-home dad–even as the neighborhood's mean mommies vying to make him the next notch on their bedposts turn on her. Just another fun day in suburbia, right? You know, writing a book is a lot like birthing a baby. The moment you realize it's actually going to happen, you fall into a euphoric trance. Sheer bliss. And nothing can take that away from you... Except the worry that perhaps something bad will befall it while it's incubating. For an author, that can be anything from the "I'm not worthy!" to "Will it find an audience?" to "What do I have to say that is compelling enough to hold someone's attention for 300+ pages?" When this happens, those deep breathing exercises we learn in Lamaze classes certainly come in handy. Well, I'm happy to report that I'm feeling no qualms whatsoever. (Liar, Liar, pants on fire..) No, seriously, I mean that. I've been through the birthing experience four times: two that were the human kind (Austin and Anna), and another two that were the novel kind (Impossibly Tongue-Tied and True Hollywood Lies). During that first trimester, reality sets in. There is so much preparation before the blessed event: outlining a compelling plot; creating characters that are real–to you, and hopefully future readers; making sure the dialogue coming out of their mouths is something someone would actually say–and that others would respond to. Is it any wonder you feel nauseous? By the middle trimester, you're in your groove: pages are flowing, you're heavy with chapter, edits are coming back, but nothing that you feel throws the plot baby out with the bath water. (Some analogy, huh?) In fact, you fall into a complacent routine where everything seems hunky-dory... But by it's delivery date – in The DILF's case, June 2010 – you are more than ready to share you bundle of joy with the rest of the world. Will this book be The Second Coming? I would never presume as much. (Besides, in the book universe, Harry Potter has already claimed that title.) Wise parents know that the most they can hope for their offspring is a long and fruitful life. And of course, you envision a success future. (Those of us who had reserved our children's places in their preschools even before they were born know what I mean). So that my new baby lives a long and healthy life, I'm going to go on the theory that it takes a village to birth a book. I'll include you on how it's going: all the birthing pains, all those little kicks of joy, all the hopes and schemes and dreams I have for it, to make it a book you'll want to read. Along the way, I'll ask your opinion, let you in on some secrets (plot-wise, and about the writer's process), and invite you to the celebration of this blessed birth. And great news! When time comes for my new baby's shower, the gifts will be for you... So stay tuned! —Josie www.josiebrown.com