Talking with Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke about YOUR PERFECT LIFE
Lisa Steinke and Liz Fenton are the dynamic duo behind the blog Chick Lit Is Not Dead. No, chick lit is not dead. And Liz and Lisa continue to prove it with their new novel YOUR PERFECT LIFE. Today, they talk with R@R about their unique collaboration, the books that get them excited, and why the grass isn’t always greener.
How did your writing collaboration happen, and how does it work?
We’ve known each other for 25 plus years and from the moment we met in high school, we always shared a love of books and reading. But it wasn’t until college that we first collaborated on a writing project. And that single experience of co-authoring a one-act play for our theater class almost turned us off to the idea of writing together for good. (Let’s just say there was a word processor that might have ended up on the floor after a dispute over creative control!) But the reason we stayed excited about a joint writing venture in the future was because we liked what we’d written. And despite the argument we’d had, we knew there was something there when we put our brains together. But still, we put off the idea of writing a book for another decade! As the story goes, Lisa was rather pushy about finally starting a novel and Liz, despite being very pregnant with her first child and not feeling the timing was great, agreed. And over the next five years, we wrote two manuscripts that didn’t sell but finally hit our stride with Your Perfect Life. YPL is a dual narrative. Lisa wrote Rachel and Liz wrote Casey. Our process is pretty simple. One of us writes a chapter then emails it to the other who then edits it and sends it back (the majority of our writing is done when we are not together). Once we’re both in agreement that the chapter is editorially where we want it to be, we move on to the next chapter and repeat the process until the book is done.
Tell us about the experience of running Chick Lit is Not Dead while writing your own novel
We started Chick Lit is Not Dead in 2009. And at the same time, we started writing novels together. To us, they were of equal importance. We wanted to build a network while also supporting authors we loved and giving readers great book recommendations. We feel that our website is a huge reason why we have a publishing deal so it will always be very important to us. We were able to start an email dialogue with our now editor, Greer Hendricks, after she reached out to us about a blog post we’d written that highlighted several of her author’s books. So we may have used that opportunity to tell her we were writing a manuscript! And after she heard the premise, she asked us to send it to her!
What books are on your ‘top ten novels’ list?
This is a tough one to answer because we like so many different books from so different genres!
- Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
- London is the Best City in America by Laura Dave
- Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
- Interpreter of Maladies by Jumpa Lumpari
- Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
- The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty
- Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
- After I do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
- Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch
How did you come up with the Freaky Friday sort of storyline and why that appealed to you as a device to explore these two characters?
We wanted to explore that commonly asked question, is the grass greener on the other side? But we wanted to do it in a unique way. We both love those body swapping movies and thought it would be interesting to tackle that idea in a book, and to do it with two longtime best friends who thought they understood and knew everything about the other. As longtime best friends ourselves, we had come to a place in our friendship where we realized we didn’t know everything, that there was a lot more going on that met the eye. And this was intriguing to us because we talked all the time and saw each other often. How were there still secrets? So we hoped that tapping into this idea in a novel would be relatable and entertaining forour readers.
What are you working on next?
Our next novel, out in Summer of 2015, is called The Status of All Things. It’s the story of a social media obsessed woman who goes through a traumatic experience and then discovers she can change her life by what she writes in her Facebook status. We had a great time exploring the Facebook theme—that nobody’s life is as perfect as the filtered pictures they post!
YOUR PERFECT LIFE by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke/June 10/Washington Square Press