Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus ask the questions
Chick Lit co-authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, whose first novel, The Nanny Diaries, was a runaway sensation and whose sequel, Nanny Returns, hits bookstores December 15, are helping SheKnows Chick Lit launch a new feature, SheKnows Chick Lit: Girlfriend Gab.
We're tapping some of our favorite Chick Lit authors to interview other authors -- other women who write in our favorite genre and adore Chick Lit as much as we do.
It's like being a fly on the wall in the coffee house where these lovely authors and fab women grab a latte and start dishing.
McLaughlin and Kraus, bustling around promoting their highly anticipated Nanny Returns novel (check out an excerpt!), chatted up our very own SheKnows Chick Lit frequent bloggers, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, about their debut novel I'll Have Who She's Having, their popular Chick Lit is Not Dead blog and how these writing BFFs manage the stress of writing novels together and still maintaining their long time friendship.
The Nanny Girlfriend Gab
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: First off, it is very exciting for us to be talking with another literary partnership. Go teams! We are so curious to hear all about how you work together.
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: Go teams is right! We can't tell you how exciting it is for us that we're being interviewed by the two of you! Um, thanks!
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: We hear all the time what an unusual thing it is for two people to want to pool their creative process, which people typically think of as a
private, introspective thing. How did you start writing together?
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: Well if you don't count the one act play we tried and failed miserably at writing together in college (dorm room doors slammed, word processors -- yes, word processors- were thrown…). We officially began writing together four years ago. Lisa was on a trip to Hawaii and as she basked in the glow of the Maui sun, a lava flow in one hand and a pen in the other, she said out loud to no one in particular, "It's time for us to write our damn book!" Upon returning back to the mainland with a chapter about a girl called Kate (it ended up on the cutting room floor), we conceptualized the premise of the book and began writing together as if it was what we'd always done and we knew we'd found our passion.
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: Although you tell the story of I'll Have Who She's Having from multiple perspectives it has an overall seamless voice and fluid tone and
humor. Can you share with us a little about your creative writing process as a team?
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: When we wrote our book, we had absolutely no idea what we were doing! And let's just say our creative writing process has evolved quite a bit. With I'll Have Who She's Having, we didn't outline, we didn't think about word counts, we didn't track our changes in a word document (instead we printed and handwrote all notes!) the list goes on. But our process was our process and it worked for us. We wrote separately and collaborated once our individual chapters were done. We had a rule, if Liz didn't want to make one of Lisa's proposed changes to one of Kelly's chapters, she didn't have to and vice versa. But almost all of the time, we did what the other suggested. So our editing process was very collaborative. With the book we're working on now, we're much more, shall we say, organized?! And by organized, we actually outline a few chapters ahead. We've had deadlines (so far, met all of them!), a writers retreat in Palm Springs that was very successful (not only because we hit our 25,000 word count, but also because we did not succumb to the pressures to crash either of the two weddings that were happening below our window) and we now share our manuscript on the computer and track our changes in word. (We like to think we've saved a tree!)
Chick Lit is not dead!
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: You also partner in multiple ventures, a hilarious blog -- Chick Lit is Not Dead -- and participating in the Chick Lit section of B&N.com. How
have you learned to divide up those responsibilities over the years?
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: We're so glad you like the blog! We've known each other for so long that it's almost like we have the same brain sometimes. (Scary, we know. In fact there was once a major identity crisis when we felt like we'd slowly morphed into the same person everyone called Liz. We can tell you about it some other time.) So, it's always been relatively easy for us to divvy up the duties. For example, we decided that we'd each write one blog post per week for Chick Lit is Not Dead and that's worked out very well. And when one of us gets crazy busy (Liz with a kids crisis or Lisa jetting off somewhere fabulous) we cover for each other. We know they say, never mix business with pleasure, but we like to think we're closer than ever before. And that's saying a lot since Lisa moved 2,500 miles away from Liz last July!
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: You are passionate advocates on your blog for our genre. Why do you think Chick Lit is so important?
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: How do we count the ways? It's entertaining. It makes us feel good. It makes us think. It helps us escape. It's fun. It's relatable. It has a happy ending. We think it's okay for smart women to love books that give their brains a vacation from all the daily stresses in their lives. (God knows our brains need one almost daily!)
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: No partnership comes without conflict. And one of the themes of your novel is about how sibling rivalry carries over into adulthood. How do you deal with conflict in your partnership when it arises?
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: We're not going to lie, there's been some tears. Believe it or not, there was a battle over the length of a blog post. There was also the time Lisa stormed out of Liz's house and slammed the door so hard it woke Liz's husband. Lisa had just been dumped (yet again) and Liz was post partum (yet again). It was not pretty. But we're happy to report that we can count on one hand the number of times we've had a conflict worthy of calling a conflict. The way we deal with it when it happens is simple, we talk it out. And the way we make sure it rarely occurs is simple, we never communicate in any way shape or form unless we've both had our coffee! (And by the way, we had to learn that lesson the hard way…)
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: Who are the authors who have most inspired or influenced you?
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: We're not just buttering you up, but the two of you were very instrumental in why we made our decision to finally write the novel we'd been talking about writing for 10 years. When we saw that two authors could collaborate as successfully as you, it inspired us. We've read Nanny Diaries and Dedication more times than we can count. And we loved The Real Real. Liz is a sucker for YA novels, TV and movies. (Why else would she be caught dead watching the new 90210?) We also love Emily Giffin, Allison Winn Scotch, Laura Dave, Sarah Dunn, Stephanie Klein and Judy Blume. Reading their work makes us strive to be better.
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: We just had two friends who have run a business together for ten years essentially get divorced and it was gut wrenching to watch (and put the
fear of God into us). How do you handle growing and nurturing the business side of your relationship? How do you make sure you are on the same page about goals, hours, commitment?
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: That's so hard and scary to hear because when they started out, you know your friends probably never thought that would happen -- the same way that we don't. We're best friends but we're also business partners. We have an unsaid understanding that we have to be very clear with each other about expectations and goals. We also don't push the other when it's obvious she isn't feeling as "on" about her writing. We let each other breathe when it's necessary. Because, let's face it, other things come up that sometimes have to be the priority- kids, husbands, family- did we mention kids, husbands, family? And we're both pretty good about understanding that we can't be "on the same page" all the time.
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: Liz, you are married with two children and Lisa, you are single. For the first seven years Emma and I wrote together she was married and I was single. Which led to awesome TV moments: "Emma, you're married, right? Now, Nicki you're not married. Why not?" How was I supposed to answer that? Um, I'm, uh, fundamentally flawed? How have you balanced being in different places in your lives over the years? Is there ever conflict if Liz is trying to juggle pediatrician appointments and Lisa is able to focus more on the work?
Making it work
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: There were times when it was very hard for Lisa to watch Liz have a husband and a family while she couldn't even get a guy to pay for her meal at the end of a date. In Lisa's weaker moments, there were baby showers she didn't attend because she was just so tired of answering questions about why I was so single. And when we were doing signings for our book, Lisa was in a relationship but still unmarried. And there were times after those signings that she wondered why all the women only seemed to have questions about Kelly. Did anyone relate to Kate? Was anyone still single?
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke (continuing): But miraculously this difference in our lives never caused problems between us. In fact, Liz was Lisa's pseudo counselor (She's earned her degree by now!) and helped Lisa through all of her heartbreak. Let's just say she has a very patient husband that didn't mind Lisa "third-wheeling" with them just about everywhere-even their 10-year high school reunion! And now that Lisa's engaged (Nicola, sounds like you and Lisa have a similar timeline as Liz has been married eight years), it's definitely an exciting time. One that she's certainly earned!
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: If you weren't writers what would you want to be doing with your lives (other than The Amazing Race)?
Lisa Steinke: I already worked in the television industry for 14 years and since that chapter is now closed… I think I'd become a professional chef (I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with Top Chef). To eat my way through life would be truly amazing.
Liz Fenton: I would love to be a personal shopper. (After I win The Amazing Race, of course!) I have a knack for finding designer brands at discount prices. (Did I just
sound like a Loehmann's commercial?) Lisa was amazed by my skills while shopping for the wedding!
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: What advice do you have for women who want to partner up and turn their great friendship into a great business?
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: Always be honest with each other. Be willing to take constructive criticism and remember not to take things personally! And don't forget to have fun.
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: Thank you for taking the time to answer our nosy parker questions!
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: Anytime!
Chick Lit fans, you tell us: Which of your favorite or new Chick Lit authors would you like to see chat each other up for SheKnows Chick Lit Girlfriend Gab? Comment below.