Thursday, June 21, 2012

Looking for a Great Romantic Comedy to Get Lost in? Have you met Tawna Fenske?

Tawna Fenske’s debut romantic comedy, Making Waves, was nominated for Best Contemporary Romance in the RT Book Reviews 2011 Reviewers’ Choice Awards. Her second romantic comedy Believe it or Not, was released March 2012 and dubbed “another riotous trip down funny bone lane,” by Library Journal. She also writes active fiction for Coliloquy, including the serialized, quirky romantic caper, Getting Dumped. 

A third-generation Oregonian who can peel and eat a banana with her toes, Tawna traveled a career path that took her from newspaper reporter to English teacher to marketing geek. She currently lives in Bend with a menagerie of ill-behaved pets. You can find her on Twitter at @tawnafenske or blogging daily at tawnafenske.blogspot.com.


Praise for Believe it or Not

“Fenske hits all the right humor notes without teetering into the pit of slapstick in her lighthearted book of strippers, psychics, free spirits and an accountant.”

RT Book Reviews

“Fenske’s sophomore effort (after Making Waves) is another riotous trip down funny bone lane, with a detour to slightly askew goings on and a quick u‐ey to out‐of‐this‐world romance. Readers will be enchanted by this bewitching fable from a wickedly wise author.”

Library Journal "Sexually charged dialogue and steamy make‐out scenes will keep readers turning the pages.”

Publishers Weekly

Praise for Making Waves

nominated for Best Contemporary Romance, 2011 RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Awards

“Fenske's wildly inventive plot and wonderfully quirky characters provide the perfect literary antidote to any romance reader's summer reading doldrums.

The Chicago Tribune

“A zany caper... Fenske’s off‐the‐wall plotting is reminiscent of a tame Carl Hiaasen on Cupid juice.”

Booklist(starred review)

“Hilarious! A wild, sexy romp with a fresh, fun take on love.”

—Lani Diane Rich, New York Times and USA Today Bestseller


Believe it or Not

Do you believe in...accounting?

Numbers never lie, so Violet McGinn found safe haven in the most boring profession she could find. Until her renowned psychic mother lands in the hospital and Violet has to run her business. Now you can have your taxes filed and your aura read, in one convenient location.

Do you believe in...music?

Drew Watson is the jaded owner of the local hot spot next door, and doesn't need a single thing except a good crowd to dance to what he's spinning on Saturday night.

Do you believe in...love?

The only thing Violet and Drew seem to have in common is that neither believes in that psychic hoo—hah. Except Drew seems to play exactly the right song at exactly the right time. And truth be told, it makes Violet's heart dance just a little ...


The Excerpt:  This scene takes place very early in Believe it or Not, shortly after Violet (a straight laced accountant turned reluctant fake psychic) meets Drew (the divorced owner of a bar that features male strippers).


She watched him juggling the toilet paper for a few more minutes, disgusted with herself for being so strangely amused, so fixated on his hands.

Hands reserved for his partner, Sam, she reminded herself. Knock it off, Violet.

Did you know Oregon is the most active juggling state in the U.S.?” she blurted.

He stopped juggling and stared.

“What?”

“Yes. Approximately fifty-three percent of the state’s population can juggle. Portland is also home to the only retail all-juggling store in North America.”

“This data fetish you have is fascinating.”

Violet blinked, not sure if he was teasing or genuinely fascinated. He was smiling, but that could mean anything.

“Well, I knew about all that because I’ve been con­tracted to do some accounting work for the guy who runs the juggling shop,” she said. “But there really are a lot of interesting statistics related to Oregon. Have you heard that Oregon has the highest concentration of strip clubs in the nation?”

“I’ve heard that,” Drew said slowly, studying her with something that was either amusement or the expression of a man trying to remember if he had mental-health services on speed dial.

“It’s not true,” Violet said. “Oregon actually has the second highest concentration of strip clubs in the nation. West Virginia beats us.”

“I didn’t realize we were competing.”

“It has to do with the Oregon Supreme Court rul­ing that adult bookstores, nude dancers—it’s all con­sidered free speech, so it’s protected. It’s part of why Portland thrives on the whole offbeat counterculture thing. Legalized medical marijuana, physician-assisted suicide, bacon-wrapped doughnuts—”

“I never thought I’d hear doughnuts and suicide in the same sentence,” Drew said. “At least not in a way that made sense. You really are a wealth of wacky data, aren’t you?”
 
Violet bit her lip. “I can’t help it. Part of being an accountant, maybe.”

Drew’s eyes were locked on her mouth, and Violet stopped biting her lip and stared back.

He shook his head and turned away from her. “Hope to see you to­night, Violet.”

He walked away juggling his toilet paper.

I confess I followed Tawna on Twitter and her blog long before her first book was released because she's hilarious. Let's get to know her a little better...

Susan: I love St. John. In Making Waves, part of the story takes place there. Have you been? How much do you love it?
Tawna: I’ve actually never visited St. John, which is why I didn’t set very much of the story there. I’m a research junkie, and that location made sense from a geographic/logistical sense, but I knew up front that most of the story would take place on a boat at sea. Many of those on-ship details were inspired by a sailing trip I took near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. I’ve also spent time on several Caribbean islands, so I felt pretty comfortable creating the scenes that take place on Barbados, for example.


You probably wouldn’t guess it from reading, but this book required a ridiculous amount of research into powerboats, ocean currents, nautical speeds, and shipping laws. I may have fudged a few details here and there, but I was proud when the book’s copyeditor told me she’s an avid sailor, and that it was clear I’d done my homework.

For the record, yes – the Strip Battleship scene was very thoroughly researched.

Susan: Getting Dumped is active fiction, right? Can you explain to us exactly what that is?
Tawna: Well, here’s the official definition I ruthlessly stole from Coliloquy’s website:

Coliloquy is a digital publisher of active fiction. Our proprietary platform lets authors create episodic content, branching narratives, and interactive environments that deepen reader engagement.  The result is innovative new forms of digital fiction that move beyond traditional publishing.

I adore Coliloquy and everyone there, but that description kinda makes my head hurt. Each Coliloquy author is using the technology a little bit differently, and I liken the way I’m using it to those old “choose your own adventure” books I loved as a kid. The difference is that these are strictly for e-readers, and authors get weekly data about what readers are choosing. We can use that to help us craft the next episodes of the story. 

For instance, in the first episode of Getting Dumped, the key choice point surrounds which of three potential love-interests the heroine calls in her moment of crisis. I’ll admit that of the three men, I had a definite favorite. My agent and publisher had a different favorite. I was stunned when the data started rolling in and a large chunk of readers actually preferred the third guy—a character I’ll confess I didn’t particularly like. Seeing the way readers responded to him made me take a step back and make some changes in how I’d planned to write the second episode (which is slated for release in late-June).

Susan: Are you planning to write more active fiction?
Tawna: Definitely! It’s been tons of fun. The second episode of Getting Dumped will be released in late-June, and is available for all Kindle formats, for Nook tablet, and for Android. I know they’re working on a ton of additional platforms, so others will be available shortly.

Susan: What do you do to unwind and relax?
Tawna: Er, didn’t you say we’re supposed to keep this PG-13?

Susan: What is your biggest vice?
Tawna: While I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, I need to be eating constantly. I tend to crave things like raw sunflower seeds, frozen peas, air-popped popcorn, and Sen-Sens, and I have to have a selection of those items in front of me at all times. I’m not happy if there isn’t something in my mouth. (Insert your own filthy joke here, if desired).

Susan: Moving right along... Which of your characters is most like you? How?
Tawna: Juli in Making Waves has a serious history of job-hopping (though readers learn the mysterious reasons for it about a third of the way through the book). During college, I funded my education working a crazy variety of jobs, and I used many of those to create Juli’s résumé. There was one summer I worked five jobs simultaneously – bakery clerk, dog washer, newspaper ad sales, phone book delivery, and salesperson in a roadside fireworks stand. All of those are jobs I gave Juli, along with several others I’ve held over the years.

JJ in Getting Dumped was created as a result of my lifelong fascination with landfills. In that story, JJ is laid off from a cushy marketing job and ends up “repositioned” to a job driving the compactor at the dump. She absolutely adores it, much as I imagine I might. Researching that book was a fantasy-come-true for me, and I loved getting to crawl around on heavy equipment and ask people about the weirdest things they’ve found in the pits.

While I won’t claim I bear much resemblance to any characters in Believe it or Not, I described Drew as looking a lot like John Cusack. Writing that story gave me the chance to indulge my huge crush on him, so I managed to insert myself into the story that way!

Susan: Be honest, when reading (or writing)...do you put yourself in the heroine’s role?
Tawna: Strangely, no. I tend to think of my heroines as close girlfriends whose puppet strings I get to pull. I might fall in love with my heroes a little bit, but I want my girlfriends to have them!

When it comes to writing love scenes though, I frequently pester my gentleman friend to help with logistics. Nothing filthy (well, mostly) but little things like, “if someone your height was standing there, and someone my height was leaning against the counter, how would all our parts line up?” These encounters often aren’t particularly romantic, since I might hit him with a request while we’re both brushing our teeth. He probably deserves a medal for being such a good sport about it.

Susan: What drew you to write Romantic Comedies?
Tawna: I come from a family of hysterical people who are always cracking jokes and laughing, so you’d think it might have occurred to me earlier to try writing comedy. Hey, I never claimed to be the sharpest meatball in the pot. I started off writing women’s action/adventure several years ago, sold a book to Harlequin/Silhouette’s Bombshell line, and wrote two follow-ups that hadn’t made it to contract when I got “the un-call” from my editor saying the line was being canceled a month before my scheduled debut. It was my 32nd birthday. And the day my cat died. Oh, and the same day my employer threatened to fire me if I kept disobeying the hosiery policy (I did, they didn’t). As all this stuff was hitting me, I thought, “it’s actually kinda funny.” Realizing I could find the humor in something like that was part of what helped me find the humor in my writing, too.

Susan: What is Drew Watson’s (Believe it or Not) “kryptonite” – in other words, what will bring him instantly to his knees?
Tawna: Drew wants to believe he’s not attracted to whip-smart women with a mild crazy streak, and he’s done his very best to date the exact opposite of that ever since his divorce. But his resistance is futile once Violet enters the picture with her razor-sharp wit and kooky fondness for data.

I’ve seen more than one review describe my writing as “smart girl romance,” which always feels like a bit of a backhanded compliment. Who’s writing the dumb girl romance? But in all seriousness, I get what they’re saying. I love writing super-smart heroines who will never, ever cause a reader to hurl the book at a wall and declare her too stupid to live. Obviously there’s a lot of sex-appeal between my characters, but in both Making Waves and Believe it or Not, I think I make it pretty evident both couples are attracted to each other’s intelligence, too.

Susan: One of the most active labels on your blog is “Tawna’s Social Awkwardness.” Really? You’re gorgeous and successful. I’m skeptical. What’s your most socially awkward moment ever?

Tawna:  Thanks for the “gorgeous and successful” comment (and here’s that $20 I promised). I couldn’t possibly name my most socially awkward moment ever, since there are too many. There’s the time I attended a fancy luncheon and I spit gristle into my napkin, accidentally dropped it into the purse of the woman seated beside me, and got busted trying to retrieve it. There’s the time I waxed off a hunk of my eyebrow and tried to draw it back in with green eyeliner. Or the time I shoved a massive spoonful of butter in my mouth at a formal dinner because I thought it was whipped cream. Or the time I threw up in my underwear at school. I’m pretty much a magnet for ridiculousness, but it gives me good fodder for writing comedy.

Susan: What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
Tawna: I could finally buy that salad I’ve been saving for.

Susan: What will always make you smile, even on a bad day?
Tawna: You really want me to break that PG-13 rule, don’t you?

Susan: What would you say is your most interesting quirk?

Tawna: I am horribly phobic about shopping carts. I can’t stand to be near them. It’s not a germ thing – it’s something to do with a fear of them blocking my path or getting in the way if I need to make a quick ninja getaway.

Susan’s GOTTA ASK: What is your favorite scene in Believe it or Not?
Tawna’s GOTTA ANSWER:   Great question! When I was doing final revisions for Believe it or Not, my editor asked me to chop a few things. One of those things was a scene where Violet’s mother sends a kooky, dreadlocked stranger to help Violet build a wheelchair ramp at the house. Drew and another potential love interest, Dr. Abbott, also show up, and the result is a goofy scene involving male rivalry and some hints at what Violet’s mom has been plotting behind the scenes. My editor felt it didn’t add much to the story, but I felt strongly that it did, and argued to keep it. The scene stayed put, much to my relief.

Now here’s the funny part – I’ve visited with maybe 20 clubs about Believe it or Not via Skype, phone chat, and in-person meetings. Every single one, without exception, has mentioned that scene as one of their favorites. That warms the cockles of my heart (er, are cockles PG-13?)

UP NEXT--When is your next release due out?: The very next release is the second episode of GETTING DUMPED, which comes out later this month.

If y'all love Tawna and her sense of humor as much as I do, and I just know you will, you can connect with her here:

Facebook               Twitter               Website           Goodreads  Blog (Don't Pet Me, I'm Writing)

Tawna has a question for you...

What's YOUR most socially awkward moment? (Commenters who leave an email address in the body of the comment will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Believe it or Not.)

Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only unless specifically mentioned in the post. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants. Winners of drawings are responsible for checking this site in a timely manner. If prizes are not claimed in a timely manner, the author may not have a prize available. Get Lost In A Story cannot be responsible for an author's failure to mail the listed prize. GLIAS does not automatically pass email addresses to guest authors unless the commenter publicly posts their email address.

21 comments:

  1. Welcome Tawna! So glad to have you on GLIAS today. Your writing sounds amazing.

    I have to admit that I met someone face-to-face that I'd known on-line for years. I asked when she was due. OOOO MMMYYY... she wasn't. I was sooo embarassed and still feel socially awkward every time we're in the same room.

    ~Angi

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  2. Oh sounds like a terrific book! Love romantic comedies! :)

    Hmmm... there are a lot of teenage moments that I would never want to even think about! Dating was pretty bad too..... Gosh am I glad that I no longer have to go through those times again!

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  3. Angi, her books are amazing--so much fun!

    Umm...wow...my socially awkward moments are almost always about putting my foot in my mouth. Thing just sound different in my head sometimes than they do coming out of my mouth. :)

    Thanks for doing the interview, Tawna!

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  4. Interesting interview Susan and Tawna. I've been curious about active fiction for a while now after I saw an agent tweet how excited she was about this project. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Your books sound like a lot of fun. Anyone who would ever try to eat a banana with her toes must have a great sense of humor.

    One time I got my slip and skirt caught in my panty hose coming out of the ladies room. But that's happened to everyone, right?

    cwj@windstream.net

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  6. Tawna, welcome to Get Lost in a Story. You just had to go and ask THIS particular question. I've had so many awkward moments. But let's go with this one.

    I was learning to ski, and had gone up to Purgatory (Durango) with a couple I know. Now the couple, all googly eyed, and me an afterthought, left me to go up the chair lift (a new skier) ALL BY MYSELF.

    I could do this I reasoned. People go up chairlifts all winter long, right? So there I was shouting the required, "Single" so that someone could ride along with me. Well, as it turned out no one was single at the moment so me and my cumbersome skis sidestepped onto oncoming chairs. Now don't ask me how it happened, but in the next second, and to my profound horror, I came between a mother and her adolescent son.

    Knocking over the mom, and taking her place, I ended up riding up the chairlift with this little kid who glared at me the entire time, while his mom, glaring equally, rode in the chair behind us.

    "You're a terrible skier," the kid says to me. "I've been watching you. I'm ten times better than you are."

    I'd already apologized the size of an avalanche, but this kid was determined to point out my shortcomings ALL THE WAY UP THE MOUNTAIN.

    Finally I said the only thing I could think of at a glamrous time like this "Well, you may be ten times better than me, but you're short."

    Thanks for being with us today and best wishes on your books. I love to laugh and it takes such a gift to do humor!

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    1. Oh, Donnell, what a mean little kid that was! Bless your heart!! (Okay, most times that REALLY does mean, "I feel for you." Occasionally, it means other things, depending on the context. Here it means, "Poor Donnell!")

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    3. I can't spell. Try try again.

      Ha, the old Bless Your Heart line. I hope that kid or his mom weren't too traumatized. I imagine I'm still talked about over family gatherings -- Remember that dork skier--I think she may have been a terrorist

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  7. I love the excerpt from Believe it or Not! I'll definitely check it out. And I've never even heard of active fiction before. I loved those choose your own adventure stories as a kid. How cool to hear they've grown up too!

    As for my most socially awkward moment. . . there are so many to choose from . . . The most recent one being when I saw a "lost" dog close to the road and tried to be a good citizen and load him into my car to take him home. I didn't see his owner who was standing right there in the shadow of a tree and right next to the dog . . in front of his own house no less! I make a lousy dog thief!

    aniserae@gmail.com

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  8. Socially awkward, huh? Anyone who knows me would just roll their eyes at that because there are so many (you wouldn't think a size 9 1/2 foot would fit in my mouth so easily).

    However, I did almost die on the sidewalk eating a peppermint patty once. I somehow managed to inhale it ('cause that's just a talent of mine) and I couldn't breathe. I knew I was in trouble when a passerby stopped to ask me if I was okay. I couldn't answer (no air). I absolutely knew this was a sign I was choking and needed the heimlich but I was so embarrassed I just nodded and continued down the sidewalk. Fortunately, peppermint patties melt.

    I loved your excerpt - can't wait to read!

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  9. What a great interview! Thanks to Tawna for delivering some great LOL moments as I read this from my phone on a road trip. I needed that!
    I feel your pain in humiliating experiences, particularly in high school. I had a similar vomit story except mine took place fully clothed on a CloseUp trip to DC. At breakfast. In the Department of Transportation's banquet room. In front of a couple hundred high school students from all over the US. Including a cute boy from Alaska who didn't know i was a geek at home & spent the previous night talking to me. All over his plate of scrambled eggs.
    Love your books & can't wait to check out Getting Dumped! Thanks!
    Larissa
    ReinhartLarissa@gmail.com

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  10. I loved your excerpt. So funny. I have had so many socially awkward moments. I was having dinner with a group of friends. I came out of the ladies room with my dress tucked into my pantyhose and my butt exposed. So mortifying.

    yenastone at aol dot com

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  11. So, when you tried to retrieve the gristle from the woman's purse at the fancy luncheon, did she think you were trying to lift her wallet? I can't top that...

    Worst thing that comes to mind is...no, I can't tell that.

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  12. Thanks so much for inviting me, and for all the cool comments. This was a really fun interview! I love everyone's socially awkward stories, and laughed out loud at the peppermint patty one!

    Anonymous, yup, I'm pretty sure she thought I was trying to lift her wallet, so I gave up. To this day, I wonder what she thought when she found the gristle in her purse.

    Oh, and if anyone's looking to try one of my books at a super-cheap price, the Kindle version of MAKING WAVES is on sale through June 24 for only 99-cents :)

    Thanks again for reading, guys!
    Tawna

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  13. Nice interview. I can't think of any now.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  14. I love the sound of active fiction. I'm def going to check that out. Great interview! On my way to Amazon to buy Making Waves! Thanks!

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  15. I love Tawna's books! I laugh until I'm crying while reading them too! As for a socially awkward moment for me - it would have to be during my senior year in high school many years ago. I was one of only four girls in our senior math class. Our teacher loved to give little "pop quizzies" at any time. One day, he gave a particularly difficult one. As he went out in the hall for a drink of water, I loudly whispered to the many males around me, "If this is one of his quizzies, I'd hate to see one of his "testies" - not realizing what I was saying until it was too late. Of course, I was red-faced and half of the room was snickering when the teacher walked in and asked what happened. I'm not sure he ever found out - unless there was a brave student who told him later.

    klawson5@roadrunner.com

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  16. Karen, bwaahahahahahahahaha!!!! I absolutely LOVE that story!

    Tawna

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  17. Tammy Yenalavitch, you are a winner! I've sent you an email. Please respond with your mailing address so we can make sure you get your copy of Believe it or Not!

    Congratulations!

    Thanks, everyone, for visiting Get Lost in a Story!

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