But when it comes time to cut some of your “little darling” lines from the book, it can be painful. Sort of like setting boundaries in family relationships. Necessary but hard.
Christina Julian – 30 October 2017
The Back Flap
Here I am, on my knees in front of the Trevi Fountain, hoping like hell the legend is true. That the fountain gives you solace and love by a mere toss of a coin.
Why am I here, exactly? Let’s see…
It started with my parents telling me to get married. Of course, being the good Catholic girl I am, I did.
Needless to say, that marriage nosedived, and my parents weren’t exactly happy about it.
Newly ditched and shamefully disowned, I decided to follow the advice of Babs, a tart-of-a-mentor, who offered me a job in Colorado.
Her advice? Sex…and lots of it.
The temptation of freedom, to do whatever—whoever—I wanted was too damn strong for me to say no.
And that’s how it all started. The men, the sex, the journey…
The dating bender.
Because everybody deserves a do-over
About the book
What is the book about?
The Dating Bender is a romantic comedy about a woman who is unhinged and at a crossroads. The book explores dysfunctional family relationships, women who love the wrong men and one epic hunt for happiness! Samantha Serrano, the heroine, is on this quest to find true love. She thinks the race is a sprint, but it’s really a marathon. Let’s just say she makes a lot of mistakes along the way. Samantha is a hot mess of the highest order, which is where the humor comes in. She desperately wants to find what she is looking for, but gets seriously lost along the way. Mishaps and misadventures ensue as she travels from Maryland to Florida, Colorado, Manhattan and ultimately to Rome.
When did you start writing the book?
Well that depends. I didn’t know I was writing a book at first. I had just moved from New York City to Los Angeles, where I was living the single life. It was crazy! My girlfriends and I would get together over wine and swap stories about the wild dates we had been on, lots of men behaving badly sorts of things. I started writing things down because so many of the happenings were just too insane to let go. Like the one about a closeted snake tamer. Those chronicles began more than 10 years ago.
How long did it take you to write it?
On and off again for 6 years. I had twins in the middle of writing and revising so things went on hiatus until I got a handle on life with the wee ones.
Where did you get the idea from?
I continued journaling about the single life and also started exploring the idea of how being raised Catholic can wreak havoc on your relationships. I liked the humor in those contradictions. Sex is the antichrist—sex is fun and essential for a thriving relationship! Soon enough I realized I was onto something. I took it a step further and penned an essay entitled: Fire Your Family! It was a playful piece about how nice it would be to hand your family a pink slip whenever they interfere with your life in non-productive, and if you are a Catholic, guilt-inducing ways. All of these intersecting threads became the genesis of The Dating Bender.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
I tend to overwrite things. Just dumping it all out on the page. This is a wonderful and liberating way to write. But when it comes time to cut some of your “little darling” lines from the book, it can be painful. Sort of like setting boundaries in family relationships. Necessary but hard.
What came easily?
The voice of the book. I knew straight out of the gate that Samantha would be a snarky, funny, and a hopeful, hopeless romantic. It was also a given that she would be clumsy and self-deprecating.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
Samantha Serrano is a reflection, of the “every woman,” who is trying like hell to figure it, but failing with aplomb in the process. She is an amalgamation of myself and every female friend and force in my life that came along for the rollicking ride that was my 20s and 30s. Her journey explores what it means to fight fiercely for your place in the world, one bad date and relationship misadventure after the next. Until she finally figures out what her (and not her family’s) idea of happily ever after really is.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Maria Semple is one of my favorite authors. She writes about the flawed everywoman, and does so with great humor that punches you in the gut with glee in one moment and makes you cry in the next. As women, we cannot all be fabulous all the time, her work celebrates this notion. Her writing also showed me that women can be painted in a less than perfect light and something amazing can happen—readers will relate! I also love Jonathon Tropper’s work for these same reasons, though his books focus on flawed men. These two are the king and queen of biting sarcasm at its best!
Do you have a target reader?
My readers range anywhere from the 20s to 30s singles set on up to 40+ women like myself, that lived that singles life and look back on it with fondness (and in some instances horror!). My readers also tend to like a side of sarcasm with their rom-coms, because I serve up a hefty dose of that! I also find my work resonates with recovering Catholics (or those brought up in a strict religious environment). Anybody that nods their head in a knowing way about this moniker will relate to my work. Plus, fans of the HBO show Girls and Sex and the City tend to enjoy the book.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I have a very haphazard writing process, which I guess technically, is a non-process. I hail to the house of what writer Anne Lamott calls “shitty first drafts.” I just write with abandon, no censorship, just stream of consciousness on the page. I’m in a race with myself to the finish. Then I go back and shape and craft the story during the revision process. We are talking countless revisions. Upwards of 20 to 30 rewrites, or more!
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
Absolutely not. If I outlined my book, I would have never finished it. I’m as Type A as they come, but not when it comes to writing.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
Nope. I get through the draft then I worry about everything else afterwards.
Did you hire a professional editor?
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Absolutely. I cannot tap out a single word without music blaring. Sympathy for the Devil from The Rolling Stones is a favorite, the ultimate rev me up song! Anything by Bruce Springsteen inspires me. And lots and lots of Classic rock! Green Day and Eddie Vedder work too. Anything that gets my brain roaring.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
This is a super long story but here’s the CliffsNotes version. I gave myself an ultimatum to find an agent in a year or else! Right as the one-year mark approached, I was lucky enough to find and sign with an agent. Happy dance ensued. After some editing, pitching and nail biting, the book was out there in front of Big 5 publishers. The verdict was in, they loved the writing, loved the story and the voice of the lead character. But for an assorted number of reasons most of which included, not right now, later maybe, but not now, the book did not sell. Pity party ensued. The agent was ready to “take a break.” I thought about slowing down and starting again months later and opted to be the breaker-upper instead. The agent and I parted company amicably and I gave myself 3 months to go it alone and began self-submitting to smaller publishers that were open to submissions directly from authors. After a round of submissions I had two houses considering, and right before my self-imposed deadline ended, I got an offer and signed with one of them.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
See the above ;0)
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
The publisher designed the cover. I completed a memo with my vision for the cover and within that I provided a detailed data dump on my book because in most cases the people designing the cover have not read the book. I overwrote my cover memo to make sure that they got the essence of the book. The first round of designs came, which I was quite happy with. There was some back and forth and in a couple weeks’ time the cover was done!
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
My background is in marketing and advertising so I developed a massive, very calculated, grassroots marketing plan that I worked on for several months leading up to my release. This also included building a professional social media platform (beyond my own personal dabblings). This took months. When I began I had 5 Twitter followers and no fan page. At my release date, nearly seven months later, I had 10,000 Twitter followers and 3700 fans on Facebook. Publisher or not, the marketing onus is most definitely on the author. It was a ton of work but worth it!
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
My advice is tried and true but worth repeating. Never under any circumstances give up. You keep going when you want to quit. Take a break when you need to but then get back on that horse and don’t stop until you get to where you want to be. My second piece of advice is to start building your following now. You may think you have nothing of value to say, but you’re a writer, so start crafting your story and online persona, bit by bit, post by post, tweet by tweet, and assume people will want to hear what you have to say.
Where did you grow up?
I’m an East Coaster at the core, but the weather ultimately lured me westward. I moved from Maryland where I grew up to Florida, Colorado, Manhattan, Los Angeles and ultimately landed for good in Napa Valley. I was a restless one, until one day I wasn’t ;0)
Where do you live now?
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’ve been called a bulldog a time or two when it comes to going after what I want in life. The moniker fits. I’m fierce when I need to be but oh so loyal. If you do good by me, I’ll do good by you.
What are you working on now?
As a wine and food columnist I’m always sipping and swirling in the name of research and at work on next month’s column. When that hat comes off the novel writing one goes on. I’m also at the beginning stages for my next novel.
End of Interview: