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Monday, March 25, 2019


photo credit: Parvathisri
By Lois Winston

Today I’m continuing my series on where I’ve gotten the ideas for my books and characters. Even though it wasn’t the first book I wrote, Talk Gertie To Me was the first book I sold to a publisher. It debuted in 2006 at the height of the chick lit craze, but the book wasn’t chick lit in the Bridget Jones’s Diary sense. It was a genre hybrid, combining chick lit and what came to be known as hen lit (chick lit featuring older heroines). Because chick lit is the genre that must not be spoken in the world of publishing nowadays, today we call such books humorous women’s fiction.

Talk Gertie To Me featured Connie Stedworth, a kinder, gentler menopausal Martha Stewart, her rebellious daughter Nori, and Nori’s acerbic imaginary friend Gertie. The book received critical acclaim and was the recipient of several awards.

When it comes to “write what you know,” I know crafts. I had a long career in the consumer crafts industry as both a designer and craft book editor. So it wasn’t a stretch for me to create Connie. But I wanted Connie to have a rebellious streak of her own. So I decided I needed her to come up with an outrageous craft project, one that would get tongues a’wagging in her conservative Iowa hometown. I needed to look no further than one of my fellow crafters.

For years I belonged to the Society of Craft Designers. Every year we held a conference where designers, craft book editors, and craft kit manufacturers gathered for several days of workshops and networking. One designer I got to know quite well was Priscilla Hauser, the queen of decorative painting. One night over drinks Priscilla told a group of us about her quest to appear on The Tonight Show.

Priscilla had developed an outrageous craft project involving plaster of Paris and a certain body part (No, not that body part!  My, you all have dirty minds!)  She wanted to demonstrate the technique on The Tonight Show.  Unfortunately, Johnny Carson’s people weren’t interested. Fast-forward quite a few years: I’m wracking my brain for a zany craft, and I remembered Priscilla’s story. Johnny Carson’s people might not have been interested in Priscilla’s craft, but David Letterman’s people are definitely interested in Connie’s craft. She winds up demonstrating it on Late Night, using a certain sexy movie star from Down Under as her guinea pig. (Of course, I gave proper credit to Priscilla and sent her a copy of the book when it came out.)

Ever since Talk Gertie To Me, crafts and some of my experiences in the crafts industry, have featured into many of my books, especially in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series.

Talk Gertie To Me
Two years ago Nori Stedworth fled the conservative mentality of both her parents and Ten Commandments, Iowa, for Manhattan. She loves her new life -- until one devastating afternoon that culminates with the arrival of her mother. Mom is suffering from middle-age meltdown. Her only identity is as a wife and mother, but her husband is a workaholic, and her daughter is halfway across the country. Grandchildren would give her life new purpose. If only Nori would come to her senses and marry town mortician and most eligible bachelor Eugene Draymore.
To that end, Mom sets off to bring Nori home. But when she meets Nori’s neighbor, her plans take an unexpected twist, and she’s thrust headfirst into a career as the next Martha Stewart. Suddenly, she’s a somebody in her own right and reconsiders returning to her old life.

As a coping mechanism, Nori resurrects Gertie, her adolescent imaginary friend. A laptop mix-up lands her musings in the hands of Mackenzie Randolph, a talk-radio station manager on deadline to boost sagging ratings or lose his job. He knows he’s found the answer to his prayers when he reads Nori’s make-believe correspondence. 

And maybe he’s found much more.

Meanwhile Dad, with Eugene in tow, comes in search of his AWOL wife. Tempers flare when Mom refuses to return home. However, when she and Dad hear Nori on the radio, they unite to “save” her from the corruption of both Mac and Manhattan.
And that’s when things really get interesting.

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Kathryn Orzech said...

I often think of those seeds of ideas that grow and develop years and even decades later. Makes me wonder how and when a long-ago minute might surface. I especially enjoyed the Carson/Letterman story. Thanks for this Ideas post.


Thanks for stopping by, Kathryn. The brain is an amazing organ in the way a long buried memory can all of a sudden pop up just when we need it to.

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

I have major jealousy right now. Being involved in all the crafting--nirvana. I would have loved to been a fly on the wall in some of those meetings. Love how you kept that spark and used it later on. You never know.


Vicki, I have it on good word from Lois that the meetings weren't nearly as much fun as the after-hours time at the bar!

Hywela Lyn said...

What a fascinating post, and what an original idea for a book it sounds like amazing.(I had to smile when you said 'chick lit' is a genre 'that must not be spoken of.' I write science fiction and fantasy romance - in no way chic-lit or even humerous, but for some reason the audio versions of my books on Audible are listed as 'chick-lit'. Still trying to figure that one out!


Thanks for stopping by, Hywela. You should probably contact Audible to get that fixed!