Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Adventures with Max and Louise by Ellyn Oaksmith


Book Blurb

This novel was originally published as an e-book in 2011 under the titleKnockers.

If you like Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and Liza Palmer, you'll love Ellyn Oaksmith!
Molly Gallagher does not like to be the center of attention. As the mysterious Diner X, her pseudonym for a restaurant review column, she thrives on blending in. But before you can say "medical malpractice," she wakes up from a routine procedure to find that her chart got switched with someone else's, and now her A cup runneth over.

Suddenly, unassuming Molly is turning heads wherever she goes. The man she's been pining for since high school is sitting up and taking notice, a very handsome stranger has captured her attention, and her lifelong dream of publishing a cookbook is about to come true. But Molly feels like an imposter. Will some advice from avery strange place help her figure out how to navigate her new, full-figured world?

Molly realizes her revamped shape might change her life. She just doesn't anticipate quite how much . . .
Author Links



“Here we go,” says the anesthesiologist. Poking the needle into my arm, he withdraws a tiny bit of blood into the clear drug he’s about to shoot into my vein. Red blood blooms in the benzodiazepine. I squeeze Angeli’s hand, grateful to have an ally in the room. She squeezes back hard, too hard. From the bed where I rest, prone in my unisex surgery gown, I can see that Angeli’s brown eyes are scary huge, like melting chocolates. She stares at the needle, transfixed, her lush coffee-colored skin now ashy pale. She clasps my hand until my fingers tingle. I want to say something about my hand being strangled, but the drug is taking effect. My brain floats three feet above, watching Angeli wobble unsteadily. Her skin fades further to a weird hue, lips purplish white. I haven’t seen her this shade since high school, when we drank all my dad’s Crown Royal and threw up on my mom’s prize Tropicana rosebushes. She’s going to faint.

In the back of my drug-addled brain there is a tug of remembrance, a creeping sense of doom. Why did Angeli quit medical school? Because she was tired of her doctor parents pushing their profession, their immigrant drive, their Indian lives down her thoroughly Americanized throat. That was it, right? Then I remember: she quit because she fainted at the sight of blood.
“You’re squeezing my hand too hard,” I squeal.

This isn’t happening. I’m shot full of drugs, going down faster than the Hindenburg, and my best friend, the person who is supposed to drive me, tend me, and take the helm while I am out of commission, is teetering like a drunk. My lips numb Lovely soft fuzz fills my brain. I remember some comedian’s quip about why so many people become drug addicts: because drugs are fun. I give Angeli a squishy smile, trying to form a sentence in my soggy brain, something about how she’d better not faint because I need her to look after me. Then Angeli disappears from view. One minute she’s there, and the next, nothing but wall space and a dull thud.
I turn woozily to the anesthesiologist. He looks down at the floor, a deep frown creasing his brow.

“Nola, we got a fainter!” he yells.
Panicking, I realize that this surgery, which is supposed to rid me of the scars on my neck and chest, boost my confidence, expand my career, and maybe even jump-start my love life, isn’t going well. And I haven’t even left the pre-op room. The last thing that goes through my head is this: I’ve picked the wrong damn friend.

Medical errors occur in 17 percent of all hospital procedures. Most of them are caused by understaffing, fatigue, lack of communication, and staff error. My best friend caused mine. When it came time to pick my advocate during surgery, it came down to five people: my sisters, Trina and Denise; my best friends, Martin and Angeli; and my dad. Trina was out because I was using her plastic surgeon. She’d spend all her time agonizing over whether or not to get a quick shot of Botox instead of looking out for me. My younger sister Denise is too busy chaining herself to whaling ships and picketing outside the federal building. Besides, she’d view plastic surgery as antifeminist, lecturing me on embracing my scars and wearing them like a badge of courage. My dad, well, surgery would remind him of the worst night of his life, the night I got the scars. Martin was busy covering my job at the newspaper.
Angeli, who never mentioned anything about queasiness at the sight of blood, could easily get someone to cover for her at the Clinique counter at Nordstrom. She seemed the obvious choice.

I subscribe to the domino theory of life. One bad choice or event triggers a chain of events that then lead to an explosion in one’s life. In this case, Angeli was the first tilting tile. Nurse Nola, who rushed to pick Angeli off the floor, was holding someone else’s chart. In her haste, she dropped the chart on my bed. Three minutes later I was wheeled into surgery with another patient’s chart. I wake up in the recovery room three hours later feeling as if I’ve fallen off a cliff. It’s not so bad, though, because I’ve landed in a warm pile of drugs. A wan, tired Angeli is at my side, holding my hand, smiling in her surprisingly empathetic way. In a chemical haze, I tilt my head from side to side. The room swims pleasantly as though I’m underwater. Dimly aware of a faint ache in my chest and neck, I float above the pain, enjoying my little high. This isn’t so bad. My surgeon, Dr. Hupta, told me I’d have lots more pain after the drugs wear off. But then he’ll give me more to take home. Easy peasy.
Across from me is a teenage girl with bandages covering her cheeks and nose, sipping from a green juice box. Her mother, in a pink velour jogging suit, flips through a movie magazine. They watch me as I blink my eyes woozily, struggling to sit up. Angeli jumps from her chair to help me.

“Here, here, I got it.” She presses a button, lifting the bed. As my head becomes level with hers, she whispers in my ear, nodding at the teenager. “One guess what she’s in here for.”
Before I can answer, a nurse bustles in, her neon white smile fixed. “Well, hello there. And how are we feeling after our big day in surgery?”

I try to say, “Fine.” It comes out, “Fiiiiaaaay.”
The nurse takes my pulse, listens to my heart rate, and hands me a juice box. “We need to get your blood sugar up, or you’ll end up on the ground like your friend here when you try to walk.”

Angeli rolls her eyes behind the nurse’s back. As soon as she leaves, Angeli whispers about my roommate. “Nose job. High school graduation present. Can you imagine? Happy graduation; how’d you like a new schnoz?”
Slowly I drink my apple juice, my head clearing slightly. “I doubt it went like that. Nice disappearing act back there.”

She rolls her eyes and shrugs. “Now you know why I flunked premed.”
“You said blood used to make you queasy, not parallel.” I wince as the pain radiates into my neck and shoulders.


Interview with Ellyn Oaksmith

Today I'm very lucky to be interviewing the talented Ellyn Oaksmith about her new release Adventures with Max and Louise! So tell us a bit about your story-
What was your inspiration for this story?

I have always been very "streamlined" physically (think cup size), so when I was nursing my 7 months old, and was getting dressed up, I felt really different. And I thought "Could I ever have breast implants?" I really did think about it for a while but then decided no, it would be like being another, sexier person, who I couldn't really identify with. I am one of those frenetic, sometimes awkward people always trying to do 10 things at once, unless I am writing, which really, really focuses me. But also the book is about being stuck, which I was in my 20's, when I was a screenwriter. I ended up working on a fishing boat as a cook in Alaska, which is what re-set my life. That was pretty radical but then again so is Molly's story.

Do you see a little bit of yourself in any of your characters?
Yes, since chose to wrote Molly in the first person and tell the story from her point of view, I really had to identify with her story. My 20's were rewarding and fun but also very trying. If it weren't for my family it would have been much, much harder to center myself. I left LA and came to my family in Seattle and my parents didn't ask me why I left, they just took me in and made me amazing meals and waited for me to ask for help. Which I did. And they gave it unquestioningly and with great generosity. So the sense of family in the story is personal.

About how long did it take you to write the story?
Probably all told 2 years but there were a lot of different versions. I had a hard time figuring out the best point to jump into the story. I could have saved a lot of time if I knew the beginning earlier but I suppose all that time I was building the characters up so it worked out fine. My goal now is to write a book a year. We'll see what happens.

Did you have any trouble writing it at all?
Ha! Depends on the hour, day or second. When things are clicking I am the happiest person on the planet. When I am stuck, I am awful to live with. I try not to let it show and throw a lot of energy into being a good mother and wife but I can't fool my family. I wrote a blog about it. It's basically a love letter to my family.

Tell us a little bit about you as a writer-
Do you have any kind of writing schedule?

Absolutely. 10-2 every day. Even if I am sitting there, picking my cuticles and talking to the dog, I am at my desk, trying.

What is your writing environment like?
My huge desk, a gift from my parents, and a lamp. Some reference books. Very simple. If I had anything at all interesting within my reach, it wouldn't work. I do not see how JK Rowling wrote in a cafe. She has amazing discipline. Obviously.

And what would your ideal writing environment be like?
The same. I am a creature of habit.

If you’re ever stuck for an idea, how do you go about finding inspiration?
I go through many, many ideas and vet them out before I write. If a plot isn't working, I never abandon it (unless it's not my genre, which is always a bad idea) because I do many, many plot outlines before I write. And sometimes even when I am reworking a section that doesn't flow, I'll do another outline. But if I am stuck within the plot, like I was in my new book, Divine Moves, I usually find myself getting very tired spinning my wheels trying to fix it. When I relax, and get away from it, I think clearly. Vacations work wonders. Or a walk.

Did you always want to be a writer?
Since 6th grade.

What’s the first thing you can remember writing?
Back to 6th grade. Mrs. Holcomb said "Okay class, now I am going to read a story that is a good example of setting up the scene and the feeling of the story for us." And she read my story about an alley cat who was lost and scared. I was half asleep and when I heard, "Ellyn Oaksmith" I just about fell out of my chair. Someone thought I'd written something good. I will never, ever forget it.

Do you have any advice for new writers?
Lillian Hellman wrote something I will never forget. "If you want learn about writing, don't listen to other writers." I think her point is funny but also, it's about living your life very aware of other people, their foibles and inner grace, finding your own personal voice and even if no one ever publishes you, don't give up. It's your journey. If you are enjoying the process then that's the important part. You have to enjoy writing.

Tell us a little bit about you as a person-
How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

Cooking, walking in the woods. Reading, reading and more reading. I love swimming laps when I can get to the pool. I ski with my kids too. Right now I have a cake cooling and a quiche in the oven. My parents are coming over for lunch. (I'm not writing because I just delivered my new book to my proofreaders. Yipeee!!!)

What’s the best way for you to unwind if you’ve had a hard day?
Cooking. I love chopping, folding, figuring out what works with what. I'm like my dad that way. He used to call my mom and tell her he was stopping at the store on his way home from work. She's a good cook too. My husband says that we are the only people he knows who will talk about meals we've eaten while we're eating. It seems perfectly normal to me.

What are you currently reading?

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Very interesting. She's such a good writer.

What was the last thing you watched?
A DVR'd Downtown Abbey. And a wonderfully sad/funny old movie directed by Steven Soderburgh called King of the Hill. Loved it. Sadly you can only see it streamed on Netflix.

What, to you, would be a perfect day?
I'll go with a winter theme since it's February. A lovely dinner that I woke up and stuffed into the crockpot right before a swim or a walk with my dog. A couple hours reading. My kids are around but they don't ask me for a single thing and want to hang out with me for a couple hours. Dinner with my family. Early to bed. Ideal.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go, and why?
India. I have been a huge reader of Indian literature for a long time. A Fine Balance is one of my favorite books and Salman Rushdie is, well, he's Salman Rushdie. Midnight's Children is one of the most unforgettable books I've ever read. So I have this vision of the country through many, many writers' eyes, both English and Indian. One of my dearest friends, who designed my website, is Indian and we plan on going once our children are older. I really hope it happens. She's so much fun.

And finally where can my readers find you? but I have a lot of fun posting on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is really interesting for me because I've gotten to know readers over the last year, through their comments and likes. It's so cool to have that interaction. I love it. Twitter is more for jokes, which of course, I love. And I blog on when I have time.

Thanks for your time and enjoy reading! I really appreciate your interest in Adventures With Max and Louise.

Well thank you, Ellyn! It's been a pleasure having you here.

To find out where else Ellyn Oaksmith will be stopping on her virtual book tour, check out her page at Tasty Book Tours!

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