Thursday, January 26, 2012

Unscripted part II: Interview and guest post with the authors!

Are you ready for more?  I've interviewed Natalie and Marla, the authors of Unscripted!  I've learned some interesting things about the writing duo, and hope you enjoy this interview.

Welcome! I'm so glad you're here today! It's always exciting to get to know new authors, and what better than asking some questions! Here we go!

So to start off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Natalie:  I was born in Wichita, Kansas and raised on the quick wit of “The Simpsons.”  Since I had absolutely no idea what to do with my life, I saved some money, packed up a U-Haul and moved to Los Angeles. (Ahh, youth.) After sleeping on a friend’s couch for a week, I rented an apartment, answered a want ad for a production assistant from the “Hollywood Reporter” and was hired on the spot because I was a Virgo (only confirming that what I’d heard about L.A. was true).  I worked as a PA on music video shoots and commercials (digging through cereal boxes to find “hero” breakfast flakes isn’t as fun as it sounds) until I was hired on my first real TV show – “Taxicab Confessions.” My luck continued from there and I was able to make amazing contacts and keep working.  I always had dreams of being a writer but it wasn’t until I met Marla that I made those dreams a reality.

Marla:  I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but spent several years studying and working in England.  Originally, I was dead set against doing anything in the entertainment industry, since its all anyone seems to do when growing up in LA, and so I majored in Art History.  After completing a Master’s Degree in Medieval Studies, at the University of York, England, I returned home with lofty aspirations of working at the Getty.  I soon realized, that every art historian has that very same dream and opportunities for a historian are few and far between.  I was lucky to land myself a job at Steven Spielberg’s Survivor’s of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, as a historical cataloguer of Holocaust testimonies.  From there, I moved over to working as the head researcher at Dreamworks Animation, which eventually transitioned into a job for a feature film writer/director.  Yes, I was working in “the industry” but I was still putting my degrees to work.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, I took a very sharp left turn and long story short…I ended up working in reality television as a producer.  My degrees are collecting dust, as is my once astute research techniques and knowledge of Anglo-Saxon art.  I often wonder what happened and how I ended up doing what I do.  But I was lucky enough to meet Natalie along the way, and had the time of my life writing this book with her.

How long have you been writing?
Writing has always been a part of our lives.  Turns out, when we were kids, we both wanted to be writers - Natalie was writing poetry and Marla was writing horror stories.  (We spent a hilarious afternoon sharing our early works – prodigies we were not!) As adults we both took stabs – Marla attempted to write a book on her own and Natalie wrote several spec scripts – but nothing really clicked.  We never really committed to being writers until we decided to write together.

I'm always curious by writing teams. So I want to ask a few questions on that.  How did the two of you meet?
We met back in 2001, while both working as segment producers for a massive, five-hour clip show. It was a monster of a job with a tight schedule that left us working Christmas Eve. We bonded over our daily dealings with crazy agents and managers, thousands of photographs and slides that we had to sort through, endless amounts of research, and late night/early morning edit sessions.  At the time, Natalie was planning on writing a novel with another producer.  Fortunately, that never panned out and Marla swooped in and stole Natalie’s time and talents. 

How did you decide to write together?
We have the same sense of humor – we tend to like the same movies, TV shows and books and we were voracious Chick Lit readers.  After passing our books back and forth in our private book club of two we decided to give it a shot.

What's your writing process like?
We definitely went through some trials and errors there.  At first, we thought we could talk in general terms about the overall plot and characters and somehow make magic when we sat down at the computer.  We’d sit side-by-side fidgeting, wondering aloud what should happen next.  We couldn’t imagine finishing a paragraph let alone an entire book and eventually one of us would suggest cookies as a possible answer. After a couple weeks of cookie time we decided we needed to find a new system.  Luckily, we discovered the joys of outlining.  Over the course of three or so months we outlined every detail of the book.  We had extensive character profiles, a breakdown of every scene in every chapter…hell, we even made production schedules for the shows so we knew exactly what we were doing.  Then we’d pick scenes and go off on our own and write.  We wrote over the course of a week (nights and Saturdays because we were both working) and then we’d email each other the chapters.  We’d make our edits and get together on Sundays to go over everything.  It’s a system we’d highly recommend to any struggling writing partners out there!

What's the best thing about teaming up?
Having someone to ride the roller coaster with is probably the best thing about teaming up. We shared the ups and downs, we actually were forced to write lest we piss each other off, and we ate a lot of chocolate.

What's the hardest thing about teaming up?
We joke that Marla’s husband probably had the toughest time with it. 

How did the idea for “Unscripted” come to be?
Since we were both producers, we knew Unscripted would be set in the world of reality TV…it was just a question of finding the right setting. When we first started, it was going to be a he said/she said type of thing. Well, we tried, we failed and we wish we could find those early drafts so we could mock them.  We had some other complicated scenarios going (Abby was originally Nicola – a spunky miss from the UK.  Blimey, Guv’nor!) until we finally realized that Abby should just be a normal girl – like the people we work with every day. 

Besides writing, what are some other passions and hobbies you have?
Natalie: Music, movies and books – before the digital revolution I was able to keep my buying impulses somewhat at bay but now…let’s just say iTunes and Amazon love me.  I also make a lot of soup (see the upcoming Talent question).

Marla:  I wish I could say something like, “creating intricate origami flowers,” or “I’m working towards my black belt in Karate.”  That would make me a terribly interesting and well-rounded person.  But alas, these days my passions are about spending quality time with my daughter, husband and friends.

What do you like to read? Favorite authors?

Natalie:  I like to read a little bit of everything and I tend to have a few novels going at once. “Bossypants” is a recent read that I loved.  As to my favorite authors, let’s see - Jonathan Franzen, Suzanne Collins, George R.R. Martin, Emily Giffin, Dave Eggers, Susanna Clarke, David Sedaris, J.K. Rowling, Jane Austen and Michael Chabon to name a few.

Marla:  Well, chick lit of course.  But my other go-to genre is historical fiction – particularly books set in England.  Some of my favorite authors….that is a tough question.  How about a list of authors I have read recently that I loved?  Sara Gruen; Jane Green; Sarah Waters; Kathryn Stockett; Augusten Burroughs; and of course, Helen Fielding.

Do you stick with writing just one genre? If so, do you ever think about another genre?
YA is definitely a genre we’d love to explore.

What's the strangest thing you've ever had to do/ask for research purposes.
Luckily, we didn’t have to do much research for this book since it was one of those, “write what you know,” scenarios.  Between us, we have over ten years experience working in reality television.  We’ve seen a lot, experienced a lot, and heard many horror stories from friends.  We already had a cornucopia of material to work from the moment we started this project so our research was minimal.

What is a talent you wish you had?

Natalie: Besides wanting to write without constantly editing myself, I wish I could cook.  I would love to be the kind of person who understands the chemistry of cooking – who can throw together a meal without consulting a recipe. My desire to be a master chef is so strong that even when I have a recipe, I tend to add my own ingredients to try to spice it up.  It almost never works out. (Fish Sauce. Don’t ask.) Basically, I like to make soups.  I wish they were edible.
Marla: To be 100% honest, I wish I were more talented when it comes to my writing.  I would love to be one of those prolific writers who think a 30-minute respite is actually writer’s block.  Oh, and I wish I could cook. 

What is something you'd like to accomplish in 2012?

Natalie: I have a few things on my list - lose weight, write more, save more money, make an actual retirement plan and try to read more books!

Marla: Is it a cliché to say, “lose weight and get healthy?”  Oh well, it’s the truth.  I’m ready to start working out again, get rid of my baby weight (which has now turned into toddler weight) and just make a life change for the better!

How do you/did you celebrate book release day?
We decided to keep it really low-key – we ordered in Indian food and cracked open a bottle of champagne.  

If you could read the mind of one famous person, who would it be, and what would you want to know?

Natalie: I feel like I should say Stephen Hawking but I’m going with Michele Bachmann.  I want to know what it’s like to live in crazy-town.  Does she believe her own nonsense? And how did the chutzpah gaffe happen – does she throw that word about willy-nilly or did some naïve speech writer expect her to know how to pronounce it? Enquiring minds want to know… 

Marla: Henry VIII – couldn’t you have just divorced them all?

What is something you absolutely can't live without? (Other than loved ones, of course!)

Natalie:  My DVR.  I came a bit late to the game - I was a naysayer who believed I couldn’t improve on my complicated VHS taping system.  Let’s just say that after I hit the “pause” button on live TV for the first time, my VHS tapes were soon gathering dust in the closet.  R.I.P. Battered Collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Marla: Oh my goodness – chocolate, coffee, pasta and Diet Coke of course!!!  Probably not a great answer since I am starting a cleanse/diet as my New Year’s resolution.

What's next for you? Are you working on something new?  New contract? Any hints of what's to come in your writing career?
We’re still working that out! We’ll let you know when we do!

What fun! This has really been a blast. Thank you for the great responses. 

Now, I've also invited the ladies for a guest post, and that is below. 

First off, we want to say thanks to Nikki for being part of our Chick Lit Plus blog tour!!

Writing a new blog is always a little daunting.  It’s not like writing a scene or a chapter in a book.  It’s about opening yourself up to strangers to see a little bit of who you are and the person (or in our case the persons) behind the pages.  What makes you tick?  Or, alternatively, what makes your book tick.  So coming up with intriguing topics is always a fun challenge for us.  

Thankfully, while sitting down to write this particular blog, there’s a constant interruption of booming music and the sound of two people kissing – over and over and over again – ad nauseum.  That’s because there is a dating show that is being edited next door, and this (and other variations of raucous laughter, conversation and making out) is what is heard all day long in our jobs as TV story producers.  Working in this industry can sometimes be a bit soul crushing when it comes to the ideal of romance.  It is dissected, analyzed, and agonized over by producers, directors and editors, all for the sake of entertainment.  Don’t get us wrong, we still love watching those shows once they are complete and on the air - especially when viewing them with friends and an adult beverage.  But it still takes some of the mystery out of the whole thing.

Therefore, when it came to writing about love for our own storyline we decided to hark back to, shall we say, a more Edwardian form of romance.  We are devoted fans of the recent hit series, “Downton Abbey” because of the unhurried route the characters take to actually fall in love.  But in our eyes, that is what makes the pay off all the more delicious!   We adore the propriety and lack of indulgence of it all.  And the same goes for those timeless heroes, Darcy and Elizabeth.  Their chemistry is so infectious that it has remained a touchstone for countless contemporary love stories.  This is also probably why we are huge fans of sweetheart teenage films where the couples don’t actually get together until the very end.  Who wouldn’t want to end up with gorgeous but aloof Jake Ryan from “Sixteen Candles,” even if it does take him forever to make his move?

So, because of all of the ‘in your face’ type of romance that we deal with on a day-to-day basis in reality TV, we really wanted to create a sense of subtlety between our two main protagonists.  We wanted a slow build of tension and emotion.  We wanted a happy ending.  Hopefully we succeeded in doing so. 

Who are some of your favorite romantic couples?  We’d love to hear from you!

Visit our website at 
Follow us @Unscriptedbook

 Very insightful.  Well, it has definitely been a blast to know you through reading Unscripted, and talking with you here today. I wish much success in the coming years and can't wait for more books I can but with your names on them! 

Friends, readers, I hope you enjoyed today's post, and if you haven't already, check out the review I posted yesterday for the book, Unscripted. It's one that I enjoyed and hope that you will, too.

Don't foget to leave a comment! We'd all love to hear from you.

Until next time, 

Storm Goddess


  1. We've taken over your site :) Thank you so much for having us - we had a blast!

    Natalie & Marla

    1. Lol, that's ok! I don't mind you taking over my site! Come back anytime :)

  2. Excellent post--I enjoyed reading it!

  3. Haha...Nikki-be careful what you wish for!

    Thanks Brenda - we're so happy you enjoyed reading it!

  4. Ladies - Your book sounds fun! I love the premise. Congrats on the release.

  5. Very fun interview, ladies! How cool to write as a duo. Can't wait to read the book. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Thank you Casea and Jennifer! We had such a fun time writing it together (Thank God!!) :) Have a great day!

  7. Great post, ladies! And Natalie I think I can help tease out your inner chef! I teach hands on cooking classes where measuring implements are banned and we toss away the recipes. Check out Hipcooks - we even have a workshop on soup making!!

  8. Khbeid - hahhaha!! Okay that sounds good! Just keep me away from the extra ingredients!

  9. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all people you really know what you are speaking approximately! Bookmarked. Kindly also consult with my web site =). We may have a hyperlink exchange contract between us!
    Kamik Women's Jennifer Rain Boot