21 March 2007

Author Answers with Melanie Lynne Hauser

Author Answers returns this week with a Q&A with author Melanie Lynne Hauser, whose second "SuperMom" book recently hit shelves. You can learn more about her on her website and her blog.

WN: How did you come up with the idea for the SuperMom book?
HAUSER: I had two previous novels that made the rounds of publishers; both came close to selling, but didn't make it out of the marketing committee. They were good books, but in retrospect I see now that there wasn't really anything innovative or fresh about them. This experience taught me that publishing is a tough, tough business, and novelists really do have to bring something new to the table these days. So I thought about what I was trying to say - basically, I wanted to address women's issues, particularly those of mothers of a certain age - and I spent some time in trying to come up with a new way to say them. And then one day - Eureka! I decided to write women's fiction from a superhero's perspective. And that's how it started. But I have to say the superhero concept really evolved from being just a device into becoming a powerful metaphor for the journey all mothers take.

WN: Explain how the sequel came about.
HAUSER: Um, because it had to? Seriously - I had written what I thought was a stand alone book. When it sold, though, the deal was for a sequel, too. Well, I panicked about that. I didn't read very many series books so I didn't have a clue how to write them. And I was concerned about having to write another book with the same cast of characters; I have a short attention span! But soon enough I was excited about the possibility of exploring these characters' relationships on a deeper level, taking them to new places. And that's what I did - I looked at where they were at the end of the first book, and took them further down the paths of their lives. And then I had to come up with an evil villain - someone or something that was threatening the children. Unfortunately, there are so many things out there to choose from! I decided that this time it would be organized sports, and the ridiculous extremes some adults will go to in their desire to have their children live out their own fantasies in this area.

So basically in the sequel - Super Mom falls further in love, finds that blending families isn't like the Brady Bunch, deals with further teenage traumas, and is up against a town gone crazy with Little League fever, with potentially explosive results. Plus, she starts to have lustful thoughts about Mr. Clean!

WN: You’re a mom of boys… was it fun to give Birdie a teenage daughter? How did you capture the character of teenage girl?
HAUSER: It was interesting to explore that relationship, since it's not one I have in real life. But you know - I WAS a teenage daughter myself. And I have friends who have girls. I think the drama of the mother/daughter relationship is one that's so perfect for novels; there are so many things to explore. Especially when it's a situation where there's a divorce, and you have Daddy's little girl living with Mommy now. It's so hard, and so real - and a lot of fun, as a writer, to explore.

WN: You do calls-ins for book clubs… is this fun for you to talk to people who are reading the book? What do you enjoy about it?
HAUSER: I love book clubs! (And there's a special page on my website - http://www.melanielynnehauser.com/ - just for them, where they can get lots of free stuff and enter contests.) Of course, as an author, you're always humbled and a bit amazed that there are people who are not related to you who have actually read your book! The thing I enjoy most, though, are the questions. They make me think about the book in ways I never have before. For example, once I was asked why Birdie had suffered a Horrible Swiffer Accident in order to get her superpowers. Why hadn't I had her suffer a Horrible Baking Accident instead? And that made me realize that in the books, you never see her cooking. And my only answer was that I, personally, hate to cook. While cleaning soothes my soul (not to mention, takes up the most time). So that's why I have her so obsessed with cleaning and cleaning products. But until I was asked this question, I'd never stopped to think about it. That's why I love book clubs.

WN: What’s the best part of being a writer to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
HAUSER: Well, living in different worlds, becoming different people - that's what I love about writing. Having permission to sit and daydream all day. That's the best. Also, meeting other writers. The most challenging part is separating the publishing, business part from the writing part. The business of publishing is very tough on writers, and there is always rejection and disappointment, no matter where you are in your career. It's challenging to put that part out of your mind when you're writing, but it's something you have to learn how to do.

WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
HAUSER: I have another manuscript - not Super Mom related - that I'm excited about; right now it's a bit too early to tell what's going to happen with it. Meanwhile, I'm starting something else again. I have so many stories to tell; I hope to always be able to find an audience for them.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
HAUSER: This is so tough! I've read so many wonderful, wonderful books! I guess I'd have to say GONE WITH THE WIND. It was the first book I read, and then re-read, and then read again; I was swept away into this entirely different world and I wanted to stay there. That's what I want to do, as an author; invent wonderful, real worlds in which readers can escape.

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