I’m so happy to welcome author Emily Liebert, a fellow NAL/Penguin Random House author, to my blog. Emily’s new novel, You Knew Me When, is a touching tale of a childhood friendship between two fascinating women whose lives take different directions and tear them apart–until circumstances force them to reconnect and face the hurt each inflicted on the other. It’s a fast, emotional read with some surprising humor that made me laugh right out loud and startle my poor husband. (Don’t even get me started on the scene where one girl coaches the other about using feminine products.) I read the book in a single day, and I bet you will, too!
Q. Emily, you’ve had the kind of celebrity life many people only dream about, working as an editor and author, and appearing on national television shows like The Today Show and Rachael Ray. You’re also raising a family. So who’s the real Emily? A thoughtful writer in pajamas, a suburban soccer mom, or a TV personality?
Celebrity? Ha! I get that often, but it couldn’t be further from the “real Emily.” I’m no suburban soccer mom; that’s for sure. But I’m definitely, at least in part, a thoughtful writer in her pajamas. I work from home, so no need to get dressed up! (Or wear makeup). The real Emily is a devoted mom, wife, sister, daughter, granddaughter, and friend to those I hold dear. I’m also a businesswomen. And, fine, I’ll admit there’s a little slice of the “real Emily” who’s a TV personality. What can I say? My mother is an actress!
Q. What’s your typical workday like? (In other words, how the heck do you juggle everything you do?)
Every day is different for me. It depends where I am in the cycle of book writing. When I’m in full-blown writing mode, I wake up at 7:20 am and take my kids to school (Jax-4 and Hugo-3). Then I come home and write for about 4-5 hours. After that, I pick my kids up and return home to work some more—mainly returning emails and having conference calls. When I’m in publicity mode, my days are more hectic. I’m in and out of NYC for appearances, interviews, and meetings. I do have help in the way of a nanny, so when it’s time to buckle down, she’ll take the kids to the library or the park while I work. I think it’s important to implement strategies. For example, I set things up the night before, so that—in the morning—when we’re rushing to get out the door, there isn’t that feeling of being completely frazzled. I also set things up for dinner in the morning, so that when the witching hour is upon us, I’m not running around like a crazy woman. You do the best you can. You can’t be everything to everyone all the time, though I do try!
Q. Tell us a little about the inspiration for your first novel, You Knew Me When. What’s the story behind the story?
I’ve always been interested in the bonds of female friendship. When I was younger, I had a best friend who dumped me when I met my first serious boyfriend. And I’ve had other friends who’ve either been disappointing or quite the opposite–who’ve stuck by me through the best and worst of times. I wanted to explore this. I also wanted to present two women–one with a husband and child who was unhappy with her job, and the other with a big career but no family to speak of. It raises the age-old question: can women really ” have it all?” My answer to that is no. I believe you can have a lot of everything, which may be your all. It’s the same with dieting. You can have it all, just not at once!
Q. With all of the fiction and nonfiction writing you’ve done, I’m sure you must have met some challenges and hurdles along the way. What kept you going as a writer during difficult times?
I’m an innately driven person. I’m not going to lie. There have been rejections. There have been people who’ve been discouraging, but I do my best to ignore the haters (not always easy!). My motto is: If someone slams a door in your face, kick it in!
Q. What strikes me most about your career as a writer is how many different types of writing you’ve done. Do you have a different process for writing nonfiction than fiction? Do you prefer writing one over the other?
For me, it’s easier to write nonfiction. It’s clinical. That said, I far prefer writing fiction. I’ve always had a vivid imagination and when I’m inspired, it’s the best feeling in the world! When I write nonfiction, I don’t need an outline. When I write a novel, I need to map everything out ahead of time, though so often things shift along the way.
Q. You worked as an editor for a number of years. What has being an editor taught you about writing?
It has helped keep my writing very clean and concise. My editor at Penguin is always amazed at how error-free my first manuscripts are. When You Knew Me When came back from the copy editors, there were ten changes. Ten. Kind of unheard of. At the same time, editing yourself in this way can be limiting. I’m not the author who sits at her computer and lets the words flow free form, which—sometimes—I think can really help the creative process.
Q. With all of your television and radio experience, do you have any good tips for new writers who quake at the very idea of having to be on air, either on TV or on the radio?
Be yourself. People pick up on authenticity. They also pick up on artifice. Pretend you’re having a conversation with your friend and relax!
Q. What sorts of books do you choose to read when you’re just chilling out?
I’m a huge Jane Green fan! I can’t wait for her novel, Tempting Fate, to come out in March. I’m also partial to Judy Blume, Jill Kargman, and Sarah Pekkanen.
Q. Tell us about your next novel, When We Fall.
I’m so excited about When We Fall, which comes out in September! It follows the lives of two women—Allison and Charlotte. Allison lost her husband in a tragic accident 11 years earlier and found out two weeks after the accident that she was pregnant with her son Logan. Now she’s moving back home to a suburb of NYC. She runs into her dead husband’s best friend, Charlie, from summer camp, where they all met, and ends up becoming good friends with his wife Charlotte. Unfortunately, Charlotte and Charlie are in a tumultuous marriage and that leads to a whole set of problems. Like You Knew Me When, it’s about women who are trying to find their way and their happiness.
Q. If you could list three unbreakable rules for fiction writers just starting out on their journeys, what would they be?
1. Write what you know 2. Write what you’re passionate about 3. Write as often as possible