In JFWB, readers are introduced to an easily likable main character, Stephanie Cohen, who is determined that this is the year she will find love. (This idea totally reminds me of an episode – or I guess season – of Sex and the City when Charlotte declares to all of New York City, in a somehat dreunken state, that this is the year she will be married.) Stephanie has tried all kinds of ways to meet men, from going out to bars, to dating on the internet and the more traditional “set-ups” between friends. When she decides to go a completely different route to get her man (by looking into her past), she feels that she is ready to move fast and forward. Of course, life is never that simple and the target of her dreams does not fall into place so easily. And so sets up a rollercoaster of love and emotions, friendship and the opposite sex and in the process, Stephanie learns a lot about herself, life and love.
Read the novel in its entirety to find out if Stephanie's blast from the past turns out to be the One for her. You won't be disapointed. I was really surprised that this was Meredith Schorr's first novel and can't wait to read more from this budding author. 4 Stars
***If you can't get enough of JFWB or Meredith Schorr, please read on to the Q&A I got to do with Meredith Schorr. I hope you'll find it just as fun as I did learning more about her and her novel. If you still can't get enough, please check out more of her blog tour stops across the Internet.***
Q. I often hear “write what you know” and read that your novel, “Just Friends with Benefits”, was inspired by real life. How much “real life” is in it? Where do you draw the line between fiction and reality?
MS: JFWB is definitely fictional. Nothing in the story really happened, at least in the context in which I wrote it but many of the characters are based on people I know or have known. Stephanie's friends from college were loosely based on a group of people I met when I went on vacation with a guy I was dating one summer. And Stephanie is very much like me. My friends and family will not let me dispute that statement! I think the scenarios that played out in the book are true-to-life and that was because I drew from my own experiences when writing them - I know a lot about friendship (fortunately) and also about mistakes and misconceptions many women make in dating and relationships (unfortunately).
Q. You refer to your novel as “chick lit”. How would you define the genre? What does it mean to you?
MS: I define chick-lit as light reading, generally targeted to women who read for entertainment and escape. What separates it from "women's fiction", in my opinion, is that the tone and voice are more "easy-breezy" and the plot usually centers around a woman (or women) who is struggling to find her place in the world, whether it be relationships, career, friendship etc. She does not have to be in her 20s or even in her 30s in my opinion as long as she is learning something about herself and the tone is light. I do not limit the term "chick-lit" to novels about brand name shoes, fancy cocktails, cruel bosses and dating disasters. I like to refer to my novel as "realistic chick lit" in that even women who do not typically read what might have been defined as "chick lit" in the past will likely relate to and enjoy my book. And I have been told that is the case!
Q. Just Friends with Benefits doesn’t take on the stereotypical/traditional roles and scenarios of most chick lit novels. What made you decide to go this alternative and unique route?
MS: Thank you for noticing :) I actually never made a conscious decision to leave out stereotypical scenarios of many chick lit novels. I simply wanted to write a story that was not only humorous, but relatable and since, as mentioned above, Stephanie is much like me, I wrote the story with my own experiences and thought processes in mind. I'm a very down-to-Earth, albeit quirky at times, chick. And much like Stephanie, I was a late bloomer - I like to think I'm still blooming!
Q. Can you explain a little about how you became a writer? Did you have any specific influences (people, events or other)?
MS: I honestly had no idea I wanted to write until I was a full-fledged grown-up. In fact, my sister used to write speeches for me in high school! It wasn't until writing became an integral part of my job as a Trademark Paralegal that I realized how much I enjoyed even writing emails to clients. I was told I was a good writer and ate it up and so I dabbled in fiction. I started with a children's story but it wasn't for me and then I began to blog and was hooked. People actually enjoyed my blogs and would comment on how well I expressed myself in writing and I think it was probably their encouragement that made me pursue it further. That and the fact that I loved doing it.
Q. I read that one of the first things you did in your writing career was take a class at one of the Gotham Writer’s Workshops online. How was it? Would you recommend this or any other preparatory steps to aspiring writers out there?
MS: I actually took two courses with Gotham. Both classes were "live", not online. I took the first class just to try something different. When I started the second class, I had already started writing JFWB and I learned so much even from the first critique session. I have to give a lot of credit to the teacher and students in that class for everything they taught me about plot development, conflict, and pacing. Extremely helpful! I'm not sure a class is for everyone and I honestly do not think someone can really be taught to be a good writer - an author's voice should be natural and unique to them and I'm not sure it could be taught nor do I think it should be specifically modeled after someone else's voice. But I do think all writers can learn from constructive criticism and the opinions of others. I think it is important to have someone objective read and critique our writing.
Q. Do you have a specific routine or process to your writing and/or what does your writing space look like?
MS: My writing space can look like a table in Starbucks, the waiting room at a doctor's office, a seat on the train etc. - I tend to write in short increments of time, whenever I get the chance. But when it comes to editing, it's my two-person kitchen table, overlooking 2nd Avenue in NYC!
Q. Are you working on any other books at the moment or have plans for more in the future?
MS: I completed my second novel this summer and it's currently in final revisions. I hope to begin the submission process in September. I have a few ideas floating around in my head for a third but nothing has stuck yet.
Q. What are some of your other favorite books to read? Genres? Authors?
MS: I read a lot of chick lit and women's fiction - shocking! Some of my favorites include Something Borrowed, Love the One Your With, Jemima J, The Opposite of Love, 29, Save as Draft and Skipping a Beat. (I could go on...) I love Emily Giffin. LOVE. A new favorite is Adena Halpern. And Julie Buxbaum is brilliant.
Q. I love your blog and how you “put yourself out there” for others to read and share in your experiences. Do you have any suggestions to other bloggers?
MS: In full disclosure, now that I'm trying to build my name as a writer, I find blogging to be tricky since I don't want to be anonymous anymore and yet am not comfortable letting it all hang out. At first I thought I had to blog about writing and publishing and not only did I struggle coming up with topics, but I did not enjoy the process very much. I decided recently to stop putting so much pressure on myself and simply write what was on my mind regardless of whether it was centered around writing.
My target audience is readers not writers and I have a feeling my personal blogs are more interesting to them anyway. I still have to reign myself in from putting anything in my blog that I wouldn't want read by total strangers, friends and family, an ex boyfriend or a current crush, but at least I enjoy the process once again. My advice to other bloggers is to blog about something that is interesting to you so that your passion shines through in your writing. It also makes sense to know your target audience and what topics would draw them in. Finally, I would advise bloggers to be comfortable about the material they are putting out there on display. Oh, and I am glad you love my blog - thank you!
Q. What are your interests/hobbies outside of writing?
MS: I love to exercise, particularly running. I'm running my first half marathon in September. I'm a baseball fan - New York Yankees all the way! And I cannot live without music or television, or my friends and family. I am endlessly interested in my friends and family.
Q. What is something that most people wouldn't necessarily know about you (that you would be willing to share here, of course!)?
MS: I am incredibly hard on myself. Even in my proudest moments, I often have doubts and questions. I drive my closest friends crazy, but I have gotten much better at enjoying the moment, accepting credit and kudos and talking myself off of the self-doubt ledge! Late bloomer - I told you!