Archive for the 'psychology' Category

Everyone Else’s Girl

Today I’m delighted to introduce my cybergirlfriend Megan Crane with her new book, Everyone Else’s Girl.

everyone-elses-girl-uk-coverAbout the book:

Meredith does things for other people. She irons clothes for her boyfriend, she attends her ex-best friend’s horrendous hen party for her brother (who’s about to marry the girl) and she moves back to her parents’ house to look after her dad when his leg is broken. She’s a good girl and that matters. But when she gets back home, all is not as Meredith remembered. Especially Scott, that geeky teenager from her old class at school. He’s definitely different now. And so, it seems, is she. One by one, her family and old friends start to tell her some home truths and Meredith begins to realise she’s not so perfect after all. Maybe it is time she stopped being everyone else’s girl and started living for herself…

Praise for Everyone Else’s Girl:

“Megan Crane rules! Cancel your evening plans: You won’t want to stop reading until you’ve devoured every delicious word.”
—Meg Cabot

“Amusing, heartfelt and emotionally sophisticated chick-lit.” —Kirkus


What got you writing in the genre in which you write?

I started writing chick lit/women’s fiction because I was living in England at the time and had discovered Anna Maxted and Marian Keyes, and I thought: yes.  And then: I wonder if I could do something like that?  I’d grown up on romance novels and the first person, confessional tone was like a light being switched on for me.  I had to try.

Favorite thing about being a writer?
I get to make up stories in my head, and then tell them, and make my living that way.  It’s more than a dream come true.  And I don’t, in fact, need algebra, as I told my math teacher in high school long ago!

Least favorite thing about being a writer?
The blank page is usually filled with all my doubts and fears, and that’s not a whole lot of fun to sift through to get to the words I need to write.  And you can never really take a vacation, because the work is always in your head.  And I become a little bit of a crazy person as a deadline approaches.  But I wouldn’t give any of it up.
Which comes easier for you – beginnings or endings?
Definitely beginnings.  I like to launch myself into the beginning and write until I hit a wall, then go back and figure out what I’m doing.

How many drafts until the final draft?
I am one of those desperately linear writers, who can’t go forward if I know what’s behind me is a big mess.  So I usually write the day’s words, then set it aside to pick up and read the next morning.  I revise it before starting the next day’s writing.  So when I have a full draft, it’s usually pretty tight, and then I go over that at least once or twice.  So…  three?
What is one thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since getting your first book deal?
There is writing, and then there is publishing, and there is only one part of that I can control: the writing.
What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel  published?
Just write.  No one can tell your story the way you can, and no one will get to read it until you write it.
What’s your favorite food?
Chocolate.  Seriously.  I’m a complete addict.  I like it dark, rich, and life-altering.
Do you have a muse, good luck charm, writing vice?
I am pretty sure my extremely fat and ill-behaved cats feel that they are both muses and charms; they are not.  I don’t really have either, I don’t think.  Though I have written every single one of my books on this very same desk, and I’m kind of attached to it, if that counts.
What’s your writing process/writing environment like?
I’m pretty fierce about my daily word quotas, which are really the only way I can write as much as I do.  (I wrote five books last year and will write at least four this year.) I usually write 2,000 words a day–although at a certain point last fall I had to write 3000 a day to hit a particular deadline, and I found that dizzyingly difficult.  The internet is my greatest time-waster.  I’m starting to use Mac Freedom to turn it off for stretches here and there, because I can’t be trusted–and I will often look up to see that hours have passed and there I am reading Jezebel and hitting refresh on Twitter…  Not good.
I have written all my books (I’m on number 15!) on the same desk, which I’m a little superstitious about these days.  It’s currently located in the office I share with my husband, overlooking a pretty sweep of trees and mountains and the Hollywood sign here in Los Angeles.  It’s filled with books and pictures, and somehow, helps the words come.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten about writing?
Just do it.  Just write.  Everything else is smoke and mirrors.
Thanks Megan for taking the time out of your 2000 words a day (!!) quota. Read more about Everyone Else’s Girl at her website.

Forgotten Books Friday

Patti Abbott asked me to write a smallish essay on a mystery I thought hadn’t received the attention it should have after publication.  Sadly these days, there are so many of them! Many of the writing buddies I started out with have either closed up shop or moved on to writing something else. (And I still miss my first protagonist, Cassie Burdette!)  I chose to talk about SW Hubbard’s debut novel, TAKE THE BAIT:

“When I read SW (Susan) Hubbard’s first mystery TAKE THE BAIT, I was ready to settle in for a long ride. Hubbard’s writing promised everything I love in a series–an engaging, realistic protagonist with a complex backstory, humor that never borders on slapstick, a town loaded with interesting secondary characters, a good story, and great writing.”  Read more here

And then on another topic and strictly for fun, click over to this link on the top ten sexiest professions, sent to me by my pal Lori Avocato. What a surprise to see that psychologists made it onto the number nine slot!

Say Hello to Jessica Brody

I’m delighted to introduce another great book from my cybergirlfriends: THE FIDELITY FILES, by Jessica Brody.

A gripping story of one woman’s quest to come to terms with her past, find her future, and—most of all—rediscover her faith in love, THE FIDELITY FILES (St. Martin’s, 2008) was chosen as one of USA Today’s hottest summer reads and has recently been optioned for television. St. Martin’s Press and Random House UK have already purchased the sequel (yet untitled) to be published in the fall of 2009 and Jessica has recently sold two young adult novels to Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

ROBERTA: Welcome Jessica! Tell us about your latest release and the inspiration behind it.

JESSICA:  The Fidelity Files is the story of a beautiful, L.A. woman who works as an undercover “fidelity inspector,” hired by suspicious wives and girlfriends to test the faithfulness of the men in their lives. Except no one in her life knows what she does. Her friends and family all think she works for an investment bank.

Before I became a full-time writer, I worked in a very corporate environment.  And like all corporate jobs, there were a certain number of “alcohol-related” events that I was expected to attend.  I would often find myself at work happy hour functions in nearby bars, observing the interactions between single and non-single co-workers as their behaviors gradually declined from professional to something else entirely.  Something hardly capable of being described as “appropriate.”

Witnessing these “indiscretions” upset me on a profound level. I secretly wished that someone would tell the “conveniently” absent significant others about what their husbands/wives/boyfriends/ girlfriends/fiancés really did while attending these “obligatory” and supposedly “uneventful” work functions. But I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to do it. I was brave enough to think it…but not exactly brave enough to go knocking on people’s doors with bad news. You know what people tend to do to “the messenger.”

So instead I created a character whose job and purpose in life was to do just that. To reveal the truth to anyone who wanted to know.  To knock on all the doors that I never had the courage to knock on. An invincible superhero-esque woman whose quest is to fight against the evils of infidelity. But of course, she soon finds out…she’s not as invincible as she once thought.
ROBERTA:  Dr. Rebecca Butterman, the protagonist in my advice column mysteries, is a clinical psychologist (like me.) If your protagonist made an appointment to talk to Dr. Butterman, what would that first session be like? What deep dark secret or problem would she be there to discuss and how much of it would she tell?

JESSICA:  First of all, my main character, Jennifer Hunter, would be there very reluctantly. Although she probably needs a shrink more than most people, she would never admit that. But if she were to visit a clinical psychologist, I think the first secret she would hesitantly divulge would be that she leads a double life. Her friends and family all think she’s an investment banker while in reality, she is an undercover fidelity inspector, hired by suspicious wives and girlfriends to test the faithfulness of the men in their lives. And after further interrogation, she would admit that she sees herself as kind of like a mini super hero, ridding the world of infidelity, one cheater a time. And I’m sure at that point, Dr. Butterman would ask her why she feels the need to bear that kind of huge responsibility to which she would shrug and reply, “It’s the only way I can make amends with what happened to my mother …”

And…oh look! We’re out of time. Perhaps it’s best if you read the book to find out more!

Same time next week, Doctor?

ROBERTA:  Hey, wait a minute, that’s my line! What advice would you give to other writers trying to get published?

JESSICA:  Take criticism. Believe in your work and stand behind it, but don’t be afraid to make changes. Try to be as objective as possible when it comes to your writing (I know how impossible that sounds) but it will only help you in the long run. Use rejections to evolve yourself as a writer, not just to line your waste basket. When someone rejects your work and offers a reason, don’t just blow it off and claim that they “didn’t get it” or that they clearly didn’t read it closely enough, dissect it and try to figure out if what they’re saying makes sense and if it will inevitably help your work. There a lot of people in this industry—agents, editors, other writers, etc.—who know what they’re talking about and know what it takes to make a book work. After all, that’s what they get paid for! Listen to them with open ears and grateful hearts. There’s a fine balance between staying true to your art and being open for suggestions, try to stay somewhere in the middle. If they “didn’t get it,” chances are, readers won’t get it either. And you won’t be there to explain it to them in the middle of Barnes and Noble.

ROBERTA: Great advice! thanks for stopping by. Be sure to check out Jessica’s book trailer which just won “Best Author Made Video” from the New Covey Book Trailer awards.  And read the first chapter of the Fidelity Files right here.

“A smart, funny and sexy debut…”
—Cosmopolitan UK

“A sexy plot with a main character every woman would like to have on speed dial.”
—Rocky Mountain News

Why we vote for who we do and can we change?

Here’s an interesting article from neurologist Robert Burton on why we vote for who we do and what the chances are we’d change our minds. Be sure to read the second page on the kind of thinking he’d like to see in a leader. It’s fascinating!

What to read next…

My great friend Hallie Ephron reviews crime fiction for the Boston Globe. I love to visit her not only because she cooks for me and the company is great–she allows me to root through her stacks of Arc’s so I can decide what to read next. this week I’m planning to whip through Diane Mott Davidson’s SWEET REVENGE,  then on to the newest thriller by psychologist/writer Jonathan Kellerman. These authors are both role models for me–I get a big kick out the way Davidson’s character cooks–she was an inspiration for my own Dr. Butterman. (I must admit I tore the recipe for shepherd’s pie out of the back of the book…) And Kellerman uses his psychology training in surprising and realistic ways.

Meanwhile, my toes are tapping in anticipation of Sheila Curran’s next book, coming in June. She has Rebecca Butterman visiting over at her blog this week–please do stop by!

Shrink to shrink

Today fellow psychology type, Liz Zelvin, interviews me at Poe’s Deadly Daughters. She asked some terrific questions so please stop over for a visit:

Liz: With the third Dr. Rebecca Butterman mystery, Asking for Murder, just out, I’m delighted to have Dr. Butterman’s creator, Roberta Isleib, visit us on Poe’s Deadly Daughters. As a therapist myself, I get a big kick out of Dr. Butterman and her adventures. Roberta, what prompted you to make Rebecca an advice columnist rather than having her sleuthing come out of her therapy practice?

Roberta: besides being a psychologist, I’m an advice column junkie—my fave is “Can this marriage be saved?” in the Ladies Home Journal. When I was looking for a hook, the column seemed like a natural. As it turns out, clues come to her in both kinds of work—advice and therapy. More…

September Sizzle

Here are a couple of photos from my amazing trip from Istanbul to Athens, which explains my silence last week:

Meanwhile, while I’ve been out of touch with the world, my blog tour starts tomorrow for ASKING FOR MURDER! Coming home to new reviews was a fabulous re-entry. Here’s one from Bella DePaulo’s blog in Psychology Today. She’s a research psychologist interested in adult friendships, especially among singles–I had promised her that Rebecca Butterman’s friendships loom large in her life and the books:

“There’s a lot to like about Asking for Murder. I’m a research psychologist, not a clinical psychologist, so listening to the therapist-talk throughout the book was like having access to some secret shrink society. Rebecca has a thing about food (as do I), and as she talked her way through the culinary offerings she was preparing for herself and her friends, I was ready to dig in. I also liked the writing, the evocative descriptions and the sensibility. I even liked the mystery, which I guess was supposed to be the point.

Most of all, though, I loved how the author really got it about friendship and single life.”

Lk Hunsaker from Sandplay Voices also weighed in on the book. She said: “In a story full of twists, including the therapist dealing with her own family-related issues and failing relationships, Rebecca is not what “people who aren’t in our profession” would expect from a clinical psychologist. She is human – fallibly and laughingly human while jumping to conclusions, searching everywhere she looks for possible suspects, admitting she doesn’t have a clue about what a sand scene could mean or even what sand therapy is all about, and ignoring advice she would give clients when it comes to her own affairs of the heart. She is a delightful character, full of energy and ambition with a charming mix of arrogance and insecurity, and leads the search for a killer through routes we can’t guess, up until the time of revelation.”

And the fabulous Hank Phillippi Ryan wrote a review for Writers are Readers.  Here’s a snippet of that: “An endearing and intelligent heroine. An original plot. A surprising ending. Red herrings galore. (And I fell for every one of them.)  All in all, Roberta Iselib has concocted a completely satisfying mystery. It’s delicious, and not only because of the tantalizing recipes included. (I’m still thinking about chicken chili.)  ASKING FOR MURDER is maybe the best ever from an author who only gets better.”

More to come and be sure to visit Jungle Red Writers tomorrow for a discussion about how our books can surprise us….

Whirlwind tour: New Hampshire!

I had a wonderful though quick dash to New Hampshire over the last two days, starting with a visit to Sally Sugatt, a sandplay therapist in Exeter. Sally was a huge help to me as I wrote ASKING FOR MURDER. She advised me on many fascinating details of what her office looked like, how she works with her clients in sandplay therapy, and the meaning of certain arrangements of figurines. All of this will be revealed as Rebecca Butterman’s good friend Annabelle Hart takes center stage in ASKING FOR MURDER. (Coming September 2…)

Sally Sugatt in her amazing officeHere’s Sally in her amazing office…

Next I made quick visits to two gorgeous independent bookstores, Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, and River Run in Portsmouth. Look for your advice column mysteries there and support your local independents. If you happen to be in Exeter on friday, stop in and say hello to Julia Spencer-Fleming, signing her newest Clare Fergusson mystery, I SHALL NOT WANT.

I capped the visit off with a book group meeting at the most adorable Blaisdell Library in Nottingham. Librarians Rhoda Capron and Donna Bunker made me feel most welcome–and there was a healthy crowd too! This kind of night is what an author lives for! And for the lady who was salivating for Dr. Butterman’s cornmeal/cheddar scones, here’s where I found the recipe.

Shrink Links

Last week I began to wonder why I don’t have any psychology links on my blogroll…which gave me license troll the Internet. Result: some really cool links in the sidebar, including websites on new psychological research, procrastination, forensic psychology, the musings of 3 shrinks, and more. Go have a look. I really enjoyed the latest podcast from Dr. Dave on Shrink Rap Radio in which he interviewed Dennis Palumbo, former screenwriter, now psychotherapist to creative types. Palumbo is the author of “Writing From the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within” and a new book of short stories, “From Crime to Crime.” Click on episode #159.

Also, another grand book to recommend: SWEETWATER by Roxana Robinson. Falling into the category of literary fiction, the book follows the trail of one woman’s first marriage, and in alternate chapters, the exposure of the fault lines in her second. Just about the point where I was thinking I might set it aside as slow read, all hell broke loose. Masterful really! ( This morning Robinson’s latest book, COST, was reviewed in the NY Times Book Review.)

I’ll be heading up to the Blaisdell Library in Nottingham, New Hampshire this week for a book group. I was delighted to have this wonderful review by Rebecca Rule about PREACHING TO THE CORPSE come out in the local paper. Come join the discussion if you’re in the area.