Today I am thrilled to announce the release of PETIT FOUR: Four Stories Frosted with Love! I had the privilege of working with three amazing writers, Sue Watson, Lucie Simone and Joel Zlotnik! We had a great time writing about cake + love and the end result is this wonderful anthology that should feed your appetite for great reading and delicious cake.
Today I decided to interview the lone guy in our anthology, who according to our editor is also the most romantic of the bunch!
Let’s welcome Joel Zlotnik!
Where did you get the inspiration for your story premise?
The story is largely about how the endless stream of competing influences in our lives – our friends and neighbors, our surroundings, our past, and the little voices in our head – can often work for or against us as we do our best to make decisions that will lead to acceptance, happiness and peace in the worlds we carve for ourselves.
As far as the premise and really the story-telling device, I had recently lost a dear friend and mentor and was helping his family take care of his affairs. I’d been thinking a lot about the not-so-obvious things we save and what we leave behind. Sure, we’ll all have our family photos and watches and jewelry and saved letters or cards, but what about that one champagne cork sitting on the bookshelf? Or that sailboat charm? Or that Hot Wheels car? Why did he choose to keep those? I like to believe there’s a special story behind each one of those objects, I’ll just never know what they are. As for the cupcakes … well I love cupcakes and was lucky enough to have someone special bring me one once for St. Patrick’s Day and how can you not take inspiration from that?
Is this your first foray into chick lit and if so, what did you learn about writing Her Charms?
I have to admit, before this I wasn’t all that familiar reading very much chick lit, let alone writing it. And most of my writing – whether during my previous life as a journalist or creatively since then – has been geared toward essays, memoir and some short fiction. So part of what I learned was how much harder it is and how much longer it took to create characters who hopefully are real and whose actions and reactions make sense, and trying to put them in a place that readers can clearly see. That was a much more challenging and time-consuming effort than I thought, but it also was very rewarding.
What was the biggest challenge to making this story come to life?
Knowing that chick lit readers are primarily women, I found myself doing a regular check of how something could be perceived by a man vs. a woman and whether or not the story and the characters were on track. I had to stop at times and question: would a female reader react differently than a male reader to this or that and how might it impact the story? I typically try and write without a specific audience in mind (it helps keep the number of voices in my head to a manageable chorus) so that was definitely different for me. Thankfully, I have a few very talented writer friends who are women and they were kind enough to help me as the story shaped up.
Where are you from? And what’s your writing background?
I come from a very creative family and I can’t ever remember a time when writing hasn’t played a significant part of my life. I guess that includes when I’m writing and also trying to figure out sometimes why the hell I’m not writing. I’m originally from Chicago and grew up in San Diego before heading to the University of Arizona in Tucson. I started college as a business major and they explained to me that I would have to pass calculus and statistics for a business degree (this was after it took me two semesters to squeak by Algebra with a D). I decided I might want to find a way to actually make a living and decided to switch to journalism. I spent the first dozen years of my career as a newspaper reporter and editor in San Diego and Orange County. Creatively, what I love most is being able to make someone laugh out loud (without any emoticon assistance) through my writing, it’s one of the best feelings I know.
We have to know, what’s your favorite kind of cake?
I love a simple New York cheesecake.
Can you bake? do you bake? have you ever baked for a woman? and if you have, what did you make her?
I’m honestly not much of a sweets person and now that you ask I don’t think I have ever baked for a woman. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong … to the kitchen!
Joel Zlotnik is a former Southern California journalist who was lucky enough to find a second career on the other side of the notepad, answering questions instead of asking them. He recently cancelled his cable so he would write more and quickly discovered online binge watching. You can find him living at the beach in South Orange County, where he listens to records, reads and watches the waves.
Find Joel: on Twitter: @mindofzlotnik