Monday, October 7, 2013

Interview, Excerpt And Review: Renee Swindle

 Welcome to the blog! Today, I have Renee Swindle in the spotlight!  

Tell me about yourself, and your writing. 

My first novel, Please Pease Please, was based on a short story I wrote while getting my MFA in Creative Writing. My latest novel, Shake Down The Stars, grapples with a woman trying to overcome a tragic loss, but she does so by drinking and seeking out unsuitable men.  It’s an intense story, but I’ve learned that I enjoy writing with humor and also like to make sure my scenes feel fast-paced.  While the story is hopefully moving, it has lots of quirky characters. I love the feeling of not wanting to put a book down and that’s always my goal when I write. I also enjoy writing stories I don’t see out there much. I like characters who aren’t perfect and who make mistakes.

Do you write in multiple genres or just one? If just one, do you ever consider straying outside your genre? 

I write contemporary fiction or contemporary women’s fiction.  I read a wide variety of books, but I like telling stories where we get to see women overcoming their struggles.  That said I like to add twists to my story and keep things well paced and funny.

Are you a plotter or do you write from the seat of your pants? 

It depends.  My first two novels I wrote by the seat of my pants.  For my next novel, I wrote a description that described all the major plot points. 

What is something you'd like to accomplish in your writing career next year? 

Great question! I guess like most writers, I would absolutely love for someone to by the rights to one of my novels and make a movie of it.  Oh, and making the New York Times Bestseller list would be great, too.  J

If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be? 

Hmmm… This is probably boring, but I would love to have the ability to fly.  And I would fly to outer space. 

Tell us a little about your latest release.

As I mentioned, Shake Down The Stars involves a woman overcoming a tragic loss. Five years before the start of the novel a car accident took the life of her young daughter. Ever since, she’s been sleeping around and “dating” her ex husband.  She’s a teacher but she’s not attentive to  her high school students. Piper’s mother, married to a celebrity evangelist, and her sister, immersed in plans to wed a professional football player and star in a reality TV show, are both too self-absorbed to sympathize with Piper’s angst.  They tell her to get a grip.  When Piper’s ex-husband announces his new girlfriend is pregnant, Piper is forced to take stock. And despite what she thinks, Piper can’t do it alone.  Lucky for her, a couple of crazy, funny new friends are ready to step in when she needs them most…and show her how to live and laugh again.  There’s actually a lot of laughter in the book, by the way.

Could you ever co author a book with someone? If so, who would you choose, and what would you write? 

I don’t think so.  I really love losing myself in my stories and I don’t think I’d like having to discuss every detail with another person.

What are some of your other hobbies outside of writing? 

I really like to bake.  I enjoy it so much I decided to make the narrator of my next novel a baker. 

If you were on the staff to have a book adapted to movie, what would you pick? 

Shake Down The Stars, of course!

What is a talent you wish you had, but don't? 

I would love to be able to play classical piano.  I’m a total nerd that way.

Favorite place to read? 

Just one favorite place?  Okay… My bed… Or my rocker… Or the park…Or my couch.  J
Favorite non-alcoholic drink.

Tea! I love it.  I don’t spend money on much except books and fine teas. My dogs and I are total tea snobs.

When you’re in trouble and sinking fast, whom do you call?

Piper Nelson is stuck. She can’t quite stay away from the husband she divorced. She isn’t always attentive to the high school students she teaches. And even she admits that she’s been drinking too much and seeking out unsuitable men. Piper’s mother, married to a celebrity evangelist, and her sister, who's immersed in plans to wed a professional football player and star in a reality TV show, are both too self-absorbed to sympathize with Piper’s angst. They tell her to get a grip. But how can Piper ever really recover from the blow she suffered five years ago, when a car accident took the life of her young daughter?

When Piper’s ex-husband announces that his new girlfriend is pregnant, Piper is forced to take stock. Realizing that it’s time for a change is one thing, but actually making it happen is quite another. And despite what she thinks, Piper can’t do it alone Lucky for her, a couple of crazy, funny new friends are ready to step in when she needs them most and show her how to live and laugh again.


“We can take advantage of my room,” he says. “The view is something to behold. Come on,
baby. You look like you could use a little fun. And trust me; Selwyn P. Jones is a whole lotta fun.
Ow!” He jumps back with a yelp.
Startled, I jump back, too. “How drunk are you?”
“You like James Brown?”
“I love James Brown. Check this out.” He kicks his leg and jumps into a furious spin. “Ow!”
he yelps. “Hit me!”
I consider doing just that—hard over his head—but instead I look around the room for
hidden cameras. Surely Margot is playing a joke on me. But no. No cameras.Just me and a drunk
troll imitating James Brown.
I take two swigs from my drink as I watch him dance. It’s probably the alcohol distorting my
judgment, but from the little footage I’ve seen of James Brown, Selwyn’s imitation seems pretty
good. After another gulp, I’m smiling.
“Good gracious me,” he says, “look at that smile. Baby, you’ve got a five-hundred-kilowatt smile.” Seeing that he has me, he speeds up—pushing his pelvis out and back, swiveling his small
hips this way and that. “Ow!” he yells. “Hit me two times.” He kicks, but, suddenly winded, he
bends over at the waist with one hand resting on his knee while clutching his stomach with the
“You okay?”
“I sure am feeling those crab cakes I had earlier.” He pauses long enough to gaze up at me.
“Come on, baby. What do you say? Let’s spend some time together.”
I kind of half shrug and half smile. “Okay. Sure.”
“Yeah. Why not?”
“You’re serious?”
“Yeah, I’m serious.”
“Serious serious?”
“Is there another kind of serious?”
“Wow,” he mutters. “I can’t believe my luck. Hey, we don’t have to stay here, you know.
We can go into the city if you want. Have a real night together. This is great. What time should I
pick you up?”
“I think you misunderstand. I’m not interested in a date, but if you want to come up to my
room, you’re welcome to.”
“Excuse me?”
“I’m in the Queen Anne. Give me ten minutes and you can come up.”
“Hold on, now. Let me get this straight. You’re inviting me . . . up to your room?”
“Yes. Now. Only thing, you have twenty minutes from the time you arrive. After that, I want
you out.” I go for the bottle of scotch on the table, leaving him with a dumbfounded expression hanging off his face. Four years ago, during my short stint in therapy, my therapist told me that
my drinking and sleeping around served as nothing more than a Band-Aid that would only cause
deeper pain in the long run. She added that my wounds ran deep and were crying out for my
attention. I dumped her soon after, telling myself that I couldn’t take another second of her banal
metaphors. Deep down, though, I know she must have been right on some level. I’m not an idiot,
after all, and know perfectly well I’m acting out. What I don’t know is how to make myself
stop—or even if there’s a point to stopping.
Selwyn claps loudly. “Goodness gracious. I am one lucky man. I have to tell you, though,
twenty minutes isn’t gonna be nearly enough. You’re gonna want more soon as I—”
I hold up my hand. “Twenty minutes, and then I don’t know you and you don’t know me.”
“Okay, okay. Fine, baby. But I should warn you: The ladies go crazy over Selwyn P. Jones,
and you’re gonna want way more than twenty.”
I pick up the bottle and head toward the door. “Doubt it.”

Review Rating: 4 LIGHTNING BOLTS

Review: Where do I even begin? Wow!

This story took me on a journey I didn't expect. This story is as real and raw as they come. You want to talk about characters that feel real? Yeah, right here in this story. As I did, if you read Shake Down the Stars, you might hate, love, want to throttle, cheer for, cry for and so many other emotions for Piper.  VERY well done on the characterization. There's no sugar coating here. What you see is what you get, and that's what I absolutely loved about this novel. It took me places I had no idea I was going on. It's kind of like being thrown around in a curvy road without seeing what's ahead of you.

Piper is a little rough around the edges. But considering she's going through so much, okay yeah, I can understand. or at least, sympathize. She makes a series of not so good choices which only takes her further down a path of destruction.  I wondered many times how she was going to redeem herself.

I enjoyed this author's style. Swindle takes a lot of chances in this book and I was hanging on for the wild ride of Piper's life. Great job and I'll be looking for more of this author's books in the future! 

Author Bio:
Renee Swindle is the author of  Shake Down The Stars (NAL/Penguin) available now.
Her first novel, Please Please Please, was published by the Dial Press/Dell. Please Please Please was also published in Germany as Mehr Mehr Mehr and published in Japan.  Please Please Please was an Essence Magazine bestseller.

Renee Swindle earned her BA from UC Irvine and MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. She lives in Oakland, California 
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