What genre do you write?
That should be a simple question, but it’s pretty complicated! My publisher (Kensington/Lyrical Shine) labels my books contemporary romance. But that’s such a broad classification! So much stuff under that umbrella. It’s the same with women’s fiction, which I shy away from, because it sounds more serious than what I write. The only genre classification that guarantees a book is a comedy with a happy ending is chick lit, but American publishers won’t even think the words for fear of being turned to ash. So I prefer to describe my books as “romantic comedies.” Calling a book a “rom-com” effectively communicates that it has romance, laughs, and a happy ending. I think all of us disenfranchised chick lit authors should be able to use the term “rom-com” instead. Come on, publishers! Let’s do this!
My first two books were standalones, then I wrote Down on Love, which was also going to be a standalone. After it was finished, my editor asked me if I’d like to make it a series. I certainly wasn’t going to say no! So Down on Love became the first Marsden novel, named after the fictional small town in the Catskills where the books are set. The second Marsden novel is Picture This, which came out last year, and Lucky for You, the third in the series, is publishing next month, on August 18.
Who is your favorite character to write about?
Aaaaggghh I can’t pick just one! I love all my characters—even the villains, because they’re so much fun to write. I love all the peripheral townspeople in my Marsden novels—they’re 31 flavors of crazy. I’d have to say I’m particularly fond of Amelia, who’s Georgiana’s (the main character from Down on Love) niece. Amelia is a baby in DoL, around four years old in Picture This, and closer to five in Lucky for You. The older she gets, the more of a hellion she becomes. Plus she swears like a sailor without actually swearing. I love that kid, but she’d be a nightmare in real life.
Can you tell us what brought you to writing romantic comedies?
When I decided to write my first novel, By Design, I was so intimidated—it was such a huge undertaking. I mean, I’ve been a writer all my life, but I’ve never set out to write a 90,000-word story with the end goal of having it published. Anyway, I figured that if I was going to spend that much time with a bunch of characters living in my head, they’d darn well better make me laugh. Plus—not to sound maudlin or anything—there’s already so much misery in the world, I couldn’t imagine adding to it. I’d much rather make people laugh. You know—put something positive out into the world. That’s better karma. :)
Who influences your writing?
If I need to get into “the zone” for writing, I’ll watch my favorite funny movies or TV shows. I prefer the ones with clever wordplay—they get my mind thinking along the same lines, and then I’m off and running with my own stuff. I absolutely worship Amy Sherman-Palladino’s dialogue-writing skills (Gilmore Girls, Bunheads). She’s a genius. I can only aspire to her greatness and yet I accept that I will inevitably fall far short. I also bounce ideas off some romance writer friends: Glynis Astie, Tracie Banister, Tracy Krimmer, Kathryn Biel. They always help me sort out my tangled thoughts.
What type of books do you like to read?
I find myself reading romances by default these days, because so many of my friends are romance writers and I want to keep up with their stuff, but honestly, I’ll read just about anything, from YA to NA to classics to current best sellers. My deep, dark secret: I actually miss reading to my son before his bedtime. When he was younger, I got to read all the Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson) and Wimpy Kid books. Now I have to steal them when he’s finished with them!
What do you do when you’re not writing?
...There are other things to do besides writing?! Why wasn’t I told? Seriously, it seems I’m always writing—or plotting beforehand or editing afterward—plus doing promotional work and keeping up with social media. When I put the laptop away...ah, who am I kidding? I never put the laptop away! (And that explains my generous expanse of backside, as I spend so much time sitting and exercising only my mind.) No, I do get up...occasionally. I spend time with my family and try to keep the house clean—the usual “life” stuff. From October through March, I’m an Odyssey of the Mind coach. My team is in division II (middle school) now. During the OotM season, everything else comes to a screeching halt. That program takes tons of time and energy, but the kids love it—they get to be so creative!
If you could take three things to a deserted island, what would they be?
Hmmm...food, water, and Chris Pratt. I’m sure that’s all I’d need.