Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Absolutely True Lies by Rachel Stuhler (Author Interview / Book Review)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Absolutely True Lies by Author Rachel Stuhler!

Author Interview

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Rachel! 

How long have you been a writer? 

I've been a professional writer since 2006, when I sold my first script. At the time, I was working as a Script Supervisor for a film crew that made TV movies for The Hallmark Channel. I stayed in my original job until I'd sold my third script (about six months later) and found I couldn't work on 4 hours of sleep anymore. I grew up fairly poor, so leaving a job with a steady paycheck was a tough decision.

Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career? 

This has been my day job for almost a decade and hopefully always will be!

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer. 

I've always wanted to write, from the time I was a child. I didn't have the happiest upbringing and we didn't have much money, but I always found an escape in books. I truly believe libraries gave me a future, even if I didn't know it at the time. In the beginning, I just made up little stories in my head describing the kind of life I wanted or when things went wrong, what I wish would have happened. As I got older, I began writing the stories down, much to the chagrin of the family members who were forced to read them! It never occurred to me that this could be a career until high school, when my English teacher – who is one of the dedications in my book – encouraged me to consider it. Even then, I knew it was a long shot. I became a script supervisor and wrote in my spare time for a number of years.

Please give a brief description/storyline about Absolutely True Lies

Absolutely True Lies is the story of Holly Gracin, a fledgling writer who loses her job at a third-rate entertainment magazine and considers moving back home until she “lucks” into ghostwriting the autobiography of Nickelodeon star Daisy Mae Dixson. It's a wild ride through Holly's introduction to the glitterati, sneaking out of five-star hotels and being trailed by tabloids. It's a job she's always wanted, but she quickly discovers that fame isn't all it's cracked up to be!

What was the inspiration for this story? 

It's an amalgam of my experiences both working on film sets and then later, as a ghostwriter myself. I took the jobs to make ends meet while writing my own projects and it didn't always go well! I had a few lovely clients and a few who treated me less than humanely. I started writing the book as a way to deal with my frustrations. Beyond that, I wanted people to see that the Hollywood they “know and love” is quite different, for better and worse. There are very normal people here, but we're paid to make things look shiny and larger-than-life; this sometimes warps our own perceptions, too.

How did it feel to have your first book published? 

Amazing – and terrifying! I've been writing for 9 years but no one's that interested in who writes TV movies. It was an odd experience to move into a space where I was my own “brand” (a word I hear a lot these days). The first few radio interviews were pretty anxiety-inducing, but I think I'm getting the hang of them!

Do you write books for a specific genre?

I don't. Coming from screenwriting, I've written all sorts of things. I tend to write about what I find most interesting at any given moment, and that varies. That said, most of my work is geared toward women. I grew up in a family that was pretty much all women, so it's the world I know.

What genres are your favorite(s)? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why? 

I am a certified book addict. I will read anything that sounds interesting to me, from chick-lit to sci-fi, and I have a definite penchant for historical non-fiction. My favorite books are all over the place. Harry Potter, because of the whimsy and heart of that series; Executioner's Song, for it's gritty realism; The Stand, because I love being scared and I love stories that are epic in scope; The Elegant Universe, for it's unraveling of the mysteries of the universe; and Mrs. Dalloway, because I'm still swept up in Woolf's ability to reveal so much through such mundane things.

Do you have a special spot/area where you like to do your writing?

I'm sort of a wanderer! I have a desk with a monitor and remote keyboard, but for at least half the day, I'm moving around the house. I write on the couch around lunch, our recliner late at night, and then I amble back to my desk.

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books? 

My interest is often sparked from small things. A conversation, event, or person, and then I start to imagine the threads that surround it. These ideas don't always go somewhere, but the ones I can't get out of my head usually do.

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes? 

It depends what I'm working on. When it comes to screenwriting, I'm often hired on a specific timetable and I must deliver on the date they need. Because of that, I can be pretty disciplined when it comes to work scheduling, including only taking 15 minute meals. The same goes for book rewrites and edits, but for manuscript first drafts, I try to allow myself the freedom to work however my brain wants to. Some days I listen to music and imagine for a few hours; others I'm typing almost as soon as I sit down.

What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most? 

My favorite part of storytelling is dialogue. I love listening to the way people talk and the different ways they relate ideas and thoughts. The one I still need to work on is showing rather than telling. It comes from working as a screenwriter for so long, where your direction must be explicit because you only have action and dialogue.

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing? 

Reading! I could read for days if left to my own devices. But at the moment, my favorite thing in the world is spending time with my eighteen-month-old son. I love watching him learn, discover, and experience the world in new ways.

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received? 

Just write. Don't worry about every line or whether someone might read it. If you have a story in you, get it all out on paper and revise it later.

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer? 

When people say that they identify with a character or feeling in my work. I love Twitter and Facebook for the connection it gives you to the audience. Now when one of my movies airs, I can participate with the viewers as they live tweet, and with the book, the audience has been so social media-vocal. I'm so grateful for their kind words.

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans? 

I always try to respond through social media when someone reaches out. I'm a fan of a lot of things myself, and I like interacting with their creators. It gives a new level to the experience!

Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination? 

Much of this book is based on things that actually happened to me over the years, but you'll have to guess which ones! As I said, I often get ideas out of conversations and events, so a version of those will pop up in my work, too.

What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer? 

So many. Virginia Woolf, J.K. Rowling, Norman Mailer, Michael Cunningham, Kurt Vonnegut, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

What is your definition of success as a writer? 

I'm not sure yet. I feel anytime you reach an audience, that's a success. I am ambitious by nature, so I'm always looking for the next mountain to summit, but I'm not always sure which mountain I'm aiming for until I see it.

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us? 

I am working on a new book and hope to have a first draft by the end of summer. I can't reveal too much, but it's a period piece and takes place in Europe. Hopefully, I'll be able to tell you more soon!

Thank you Rachel for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews, and sharing with us a bit about yourself and your writing career! 

About The Author

Rachel Stuhler grew up in Rochester, NY, so obsessed with movies and books that she spent as little time as possible in the real world. In her late teens, this obsession led her first to New York as a terrible production assistant and then to Los Angeles, where she spent four years working as a script supervisor (and pining after writing jobs) until one day an actor told her, “If you think you can do it better yourself, just do it.”

Within a year, Rachel had sold TV movies to Lifetime and Hallmark and because she doesn’t know when to quit, began dreaming of writing a novel. After forcing countless crew members, family, and friends to read manuscripts, Rachel came to write Absolutely True Lies. She continues to work on TV movies and plot her next move in world domination, or writing about world domination, which is more fun and a lot less work.

Author Website

Book Review

Absolutely True Lies by Rachel Stuhler
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Format: Paperback - 352 pages
               Kindle - 2273 KB
               Nook - 2 MB
ISBN: 978-1476763026
Genre: Chick Lit / Women's Fiction 

Buy The Book:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

A fledgling entertainment writer stumbles into the gig of a lifetime writing a teenage pop star’s memoir and soon realizes that the young celebrity's squeaky-clean image is purely a work of fiction.

Struggling writer Holly Gracin is on the verge of moving back home to upstate New York when she gets hired to write the memoirs of eighteen-year-old Daisy Mae Dixson, a former Nickelodeon child star who has moved seamlessly into both blockbuster movies and pop music.

Holly quickly realizes that Daisy’s wholesome public image is purely a work of fiction, as Holly finds herself trailing the star as she travels around the world on yachts, gets stalked by paparazzi, and sneaks out of five-star hotels in the dead of night.

As Holly struggles to write a flattering portrait of a teenage millionaire who only eats “nightshades” and treats her employees like slaves, Daisy has a public meltdown—and suddenly, her book is the cornerstone of resurrecting her image. But working at all hours trailing a pop star has taken its toll, and Holly must decide if becoming the ultimate insider is worth losing a starring role in her own life.

Fun, juicy, and inspired by Rachel Stuhler’s own stranger-than-fiction experiences as a celebrity ghost writer, Absolutely True Lies is an entertaining look at how the lifestyles of the rich and famous aren’t always what they seem.

Book Excerpt:

Excerpt Absolutely True Lies Rachel Stuhler

By 1:00 a.m., Camille and I were staggering out of the bar at the Chateau Marmont, where, if I hadn’t been drunk off my ass, I might have sworn that we were standing about twenty feet away from Adele. I could have just walked up and talked to her if I’d really wanted to be sure, but you learn quickly to ignore the celebrities in their natural habitats. That, and I’m just too chicken. It’s probably why, after four years, I didn’t have a single really juicy celebrity story.

Cam and I stumbled out onto Sunset Boulevard and got all the way to the curb before it occurred to either of us that we hadn’t called a cab. She pulled out her phone and loaded Uber, squinting at the swirling cars in the area. It’s one of the perks of living in a big city that you can find a local cab in the middle of the night just by pressing a few buttons. At least, you can on a smartphone. Mine only makes phone calls and you have to press the two halves together tightly to get that to happen.

“Do we pay more for a taxi or use UberX? I’m sure there are lots of people out tonight looking for a few extra bucks.”

“Taxi. I’m not getting in some rando’s car.” I couldn’t help but think how many torture porn movies start just this way, two girls alone on dark street, climbing into an anonymous car. Not that Sunset is ever particularly dark or empty, even in the middle of the night.

“Shit,” Camille said, rubbing her eye tiredly and smearing eyeliner down her face. “I told Donovan I’d be home by midnight at the latest.”

Donovan is Camille’s fake producer/poser/live-in boyfriend. He’s forty-two, his real name is Donnie, and the only thing he’s produced in the last ten years is a tuna fish sandwich. But like most people in L.A., he’s always got some “big project” in the works and wants toattach me as the writer. Every few months, he corners me in their apartment and tells me about what he’s supposedly working on, and each time, the roster of producers and so-called investors changes. I’m never sure if these are guys he met down at the Laundromat or if he’s just randomly picking names off the Internet. And though Cam refuses to believe it, Donovan’s been trying to knock her up for the last year, just so he knows he’ll never be alone. The guy’s a real winner.

“Oh, what does he care? He’s just on the couch watching infomercials and eating Hershey’s miniatures.” The man has an unnatural obsession with child-size bars of chocolate.

“He doesn’t like to be alone at night,” Camille whined, sympathy creeping into her tone. “And you know Donovan’s had a lot of trouble with his weight the last couple years. He says he feels more in control of his snacking with the miniatures.”

“He’s not in control if he’s eating the whole bag,” I replied, leaning on a streetlamp to keep from falling off the curb.

“I know, I know,” she said, shaking her head with a level of empathy I couldn’t understand. “It’s just that the financing on his latest project fell apart and he’s very depressed. He says we can’t afford to get engaged this year because he just doesn’t have the money for a ring. Like I care about a stupid diamond.”

They’ve been together for five years. Every year he tells her they can’t afford to get engaged, even though Camille makes well over a hundred grand. Usually I can keep my opinion of that bottom-feeder to myself, but on this night, I was too far into J├Ąger country to keep my mouth shut.

“What is it with you and that loser? There are, like, four million eligible men in Los Angeles and you can’t get away from a guy who thinks leather pants are appropriate funeral attire.” Understandably, this riled her up a bit. “Four million eligible men? This from the woman who hasn’t gotten laid since Obama’s first term? Where are all these eligible men? Huh?”

She had me there. I paused for a moment and put on my most serious, contemplative expression. “Well... I’m sure they must be around here somewhere.” I turned my head to the right and left, but all I saw were similarly inebriated Angelenos leaving the bars and clubs, most of them laughing or shouting obnoxiously. It wasn’t doing much for my cause. “If you’ll just give me a minute, I’ll find one for you.”

I spun around just in time to see a forty-year-old guy with slicked back, thinning hair pull up in a Bimmer. He lowered the passenger window and leaned over to talk to us. “Marmont’s played out for the night. Get in and I’ll take you to this after-hours in Silver Lake.”

“Is that the guy you were looking for?” Camille asked.

“Clock’s ticking, ladies.” No lie, the guy even held his wrist out and tapped the face of his watch. I think it was a Rolex, but for all I know, it was a fake—either good or bad. Fifty bucks or fifty thousand, they all look the same to me.

“No one’s getting in your car, asshole,” I told him.

Camille took things one step further, moving to kick the guy’s passenger door. As drunk as I was, I had the presence of mind top pull her back, lest she put us both on the receiving end of an arrest warrant. “And come on, loser, you’re forty! What are you doing at after-hours clubs?”

“Screw you,” Bimmer Man said. “There are plenty of hotter girls than you out tonight.” He gave us the middle finger before swerving back out into traffic.

There was a long moment as we watched him go before Camille gave me the annoyingly smug look I knew was coming. “Please, go on, Holly. You were telling me about these four million eligible men?”

“Shut up and pick a taxi.”

My Book Review:

What's a struggling, down-on-her-luck writer to do when she receives a job offer to ghostwrite an eighteen year old former Nickelodeon child star turned movie / music pop star's memoir?

In her debut novel, Absolutely True Lies, author Rachel Stuhler weaves a thoroughly entertaining tale that follows fledgling writer Holly Gracin's introduction to the glitter, glamour, and glimpses into the behind the scenes world of Hollywood's rich and famous.

Told in the first person narrative, sassy Holly Gracin takes the reader on a crazy journey as she discovers that the Hollywood lifestyle isn't always full of glitter and glamour. Through Holly's eyes as she shadows young Daisy Mae Dixson, the reader will discover the behind the scenes dark side of show business in Hollywood, a town that is filled with drama, secrets, lies, deceit, and betrayal. The reader will be easily drawn into this clever tale, it has a great mixture of humor, wit, hilarious trials and tribulations, and even a touch of romance that makes this a truly fun story to read!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the author uses her professional experience to weave a delightful tale full of laugh-out-loud moments that will leave you wanting more.

Absolutely True Lies is a quick paced and enjoyable story to read on a lazy summer day.


Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

August 3 - The Write Teachers - Review
August 3 - Chick Lit Plus – Review
August 4 - Chick Lit Goddess – Excerpt
August 4 - Jenn Farwell – Review & Excerpt 
August 5 - Living Life With Joy – Q&A & Excerpt
August 5 - Storm Goddess Book Reviews- Review & Excerpt
August 6 - Ai Love Books – Review & Excerpt 
August 7 - Oodles of Books – Review & Excerpt
August 7 - Mallory Heart Reviews – Review & Excerpt
August 10 - Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review, Q&A & Excerpt