If you like Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and Liza Palmer, you'll love Ellyn Oaksmith!
Molly Gallagher does not like to be the center of attention. As the mysterious Diner X, her pseudonym for a restaurant review column, she thrives on blending in. But before you can say "medical malpractice," she wakes up from a routine procedure to find that her chart got switched with someone else's, and now her A cup runneth over.
Suddenly, unassuming Molly is turning heads wherever she goes. The man she's been pining for since high school is sitting up and taking notice, a very handsome stranger has captured her attention, and her lifelong dream of publishing a cookbook is about to come true. But Molly feels like an imposter. Will some advice from a very strange place help her figure out how to navigate her new, full-figured world?
Molly realizes her revamped shape might change her life. She just doesn't anticipate quite how much .
In the back of my drug-addled brain there is a tug of remembrance, a creeping sense of doom. Why did Angeli quit medical school? Because she was tired of her doctor parents pushing their profession, their immigrant drive, their Indian lives down her thoroughly Americanized throat. That was it, right? Then I remember: she quit because she fainted at the sight of blood.
“You’re squeezing my hand too hard,” I squeal.
This isn’t happening. I’m shot full of drugs, going down faster than the Hindenburg, and my best friend, the person who is supposed to drive me, tend me, and take the helm while I am out of commission, is teetering like a drunk. My lips numb Lovely soft fuzz fills my brain. I remember some comedian’s quip about why so many people become drug addicts: because drugs are fun. I give Angeli a squishy smile, trying to form a sentence in my soggy brain, something about how she’d better not faint because I need her to look after me. Then Angeli disappears from view. One minute she’s there, and the next, nothing but wall space and a dull thud.
I turn woozily to the anesthesiologist. He looks down at the floor, a deep frown creasing his brow.
“Nola, we got a fainter!” he yells.
Panicking, I realize that this surgery, which is supposed to rid me of the scars on my neck and chest, boost my confidence, expand my career, and maybe even jump-start my love life, isn’t going well. And I haven’t even left the pre-op room. The last thing that goes through my head is this: I’ve picked the wrong damn friend.
Medical errors occur in 17 percent of all hospital procedures. Most of them are caused by understaffing, fatigue, lack of communication, and staff error. My best friend caused mine. When it came time to pick my advocate during surgery, it came down to five people: my sisters, Trina and Denise; my best friends, Martin and Angeli; and my dad. Trina was out because I was using her plastic surgeon. She’d spend all her time agonizing over whether or not to get a quick shot of Botox instead of looking out for me. My younger sister Denise is too busy chaining herself to whaling ships and picketing outside the federal building. Besides, she’d view plastic surgery as antifeminist, lecturing me on embracing my scars and wearing them like a badge of courage. My dad, well, surgery would remind him of the worst night of his life, the night I got the scars. Martin was busy covering my job at the newspaper.
Angeli, who never mentioned anything about queasiness at the sight of blood, could easily get someone to cover for her at the Clinique counter at Nordstrom. She seemed the obvious choice.
I subscribe to the domino theory of life. One bad choice or event triggers a chain of events that then lead to an explosion in one’s life. In this case, Angeli was the first tilting tile. Nurse Nola, who rushed to pick Angeli off the floor, was holding someone else’s chart. In her haste, she dropped the chart on my bed. Three minutes later I was wheeled into surgery with another patient’s chart. I wake up in the recovery room three hours later feeling as if I’ve fallen off a cliff. It’s not so bad, though, because I’ve landed in a warm pile of drugs. A wan, tired Angeli is at my side, holding my hand, smiling in her surprisingly empathetic way. In a chemical haze, I tilt my head from side to side. The room swims pleasantly as though I’m underwater. Dimly aware of a faint ache in my chest and neck, I float above the pain, enjoying my little high. This isn’t so bad. My surgeon, Dr. Hupta, told me I’d have lots more pain after the drugs wear off. But then he’ll give me more to take home. Easy peasy.
Across from me is a teenage girl with bandages covering her cheeks and nose, sipping from a green juice box. Her mother, in a pink velour jogging suit, flips through a movie magazine. They watch me as I blink my eyes woozily, struggling to sit up. Angeli jumps from her chair to help me.
“Here, here, I got it.” She presses a button, lifting the bed. As my head becomes level with hers, she whispers in my ear, nodding at the teenager. “One guess what she’s in here for.”
Before I can answer, a nurse bustles in, her neon white smile fixed. “Well, hello there. And how are we feeling after our big day in surgery?”
I try to say, “Fine.” It comes out, “Fiiiiaaaay.”
The nurse takes my pulse, listens to my heart rate, and hands me a juice box. “We need to get your blood sugar up, or you’ll end up on the ground like your friend here when you try to walk.”
Angeli rolls her eyes behind the nurse’s back. As soon as she leaves, Angeli whispers about my roommate. “Nose job. High school graduation present. Can you imagine? Happy graduation; how’d you like a new schnoz?”
Slowly I drink my apple juice, my head clearing slightly. “I doubt it went like that. Nice disappearing act back there.”
She rolls her eyes and shrugs. “Now you know why I flunked premed.”
“You said blood used to make you queasy, not parallel.” I wince as the pain radiates into my neck and shoulders.
Interview with Author Ellyn Oaksmith
Thanks so much for taking the time to be interviewed by Toot's Book Reviews and answer a few questions. Hopefully this will be painless *grin*.
I noticed that you're an Avon author and seeing I'm an Avon Addict, I thought I'd start with a few Avon questions, if that's ok?
How did you become an Avon author?
My agent submitted the book to Avon and some other places and out of the offers I got, they were the most established, enthusiastic and as I am finding out every day, supportive, creative and all round good eggs. Is that cheesy enough? Just finished my next book, Divine Moves, yesterday so be warned: I am wired and tired.
What is your favorite part about being an Avon author?
The support and unflagging cheer. Writing is lonely and although I have amazing friends and readers who have been with me as a screenwriter and now novelist, having people in New York who not only can polish a manuscript into it's best possible condition and do it with with good cheer... That is really, really rare. And awesome. I worked in LA as a screenwriter and trust me, they don't get treated like that.
Now for some writing related questions.....
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor or influenced your writing?
Super tough question. The writer who I feel is most closet my male counterpart is one that most people wouldn't see but I do: Carl Hiaasen, because his characters are out there and in Divine Moves you will really see the similarities but with Adventures... I think people like Jennifer Weiner or Marian Keyes, who are both very funny, witty writers who can move a plot around like nobody's business. Sophie Kinsella is pretty darned hilarious too and can really get that plot clicking right along. All of these ladies are quite amazing and I'd be honored to be compared to any one of them. As far as who I admire and worship from afar: Maya Angelou, Harper Lee, Truman Capote and a bunch of dead Europeans. But they aren't in my genre. Ann Patchett too. Lots of people.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated and what made you decide to become published?
In 6th Grade a teacher said she was going to read someone's essay that really set the tone and helped the reader visualize the story. I was half asleep until I realized that she was reading my story about the hard luck life of an alley cat. I became a screenwriter first and went to AFI after Smith College because I didn't believe I had the talent to write books. It was so dumb. Writing screenplays is really, really hard. And life in LA is tough.
Current and future work questions.....
How did you come up with the title?
The first title was Knockers. Harper Collins came up with Adventures with Max and Louise which at first, to be honest, was hard to wrap my head around because it had this other title for so long. But when Avon sent me the cover I just fell in love with it. It was the perfect title and perfect cover. Live and learn. They know what they're doing.
In your own words, can you tell us about Adventures with Max and Louise?
This is a story about a girl stuck in her life. She has become the caretaker for people who, unbeknownst to her, don't really need taking care of anymore. But she's convinced that this is her place simply because she's comfortable. Her sister talks her into surgery to repair some scars from an old accident in the hopes that she moves on and believes in herself because everyone else in Molly's life can see that she's stuck. So she undergoes surgery. She takes that leap and literally opens herself up, via a surgeon. He makes the first mistake in his very admirable career and it changes all their lives forever. Everyone moves on. It's about being stuck in a rut and taking that first little step, which is the hardest part. Change is harder for some people than others but I think we're lying if we say it's always easy. It's just not.
Can you share a little of your current and/or future *grin* work with us?
Sure. Divine Moves. It's done. The rough draft anyway.
What's next for you?
My first readers are reading Divine Moves. Depending on what they say, I'll send it to my agent or work some more on it. It's about 3 generations of women and what happens when all their lives and one of their marriages fall apart. It's really out there in terms of what I've written. More out there than Adventures... in some ways. So we'll see. 6 main characters, one central to the main story line and a plot that took me by surprise. One Grandma, one estranged daughter whose marriage is falling apart and a 16 year old whose life is quickly going off the rails. Fast.
Is there anything you’d like to add about the book and/or to your readers before we get into the personal questions?
I hope you enjoy Adventures.... It's been a fun journey for me and I want people to read it and escape and laugh a bit. If you learn something along the way, great but I really think that the fiction I write should be entertaining first and foremost. That's my goal. If I can't make you laugh at least a couple times, then I have missed the mark. Fun is the first goal.
What book/s are you reading now? Any you would recommend to your readers?
I got up at 5:00 am to have a chance to read a bit more of State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. It's for my book club. As Always Julia by Julia Childs and Avis DeVoto is such fun if you like to cook. Ms. Childs was on the podium when I received my degree from Smith College. She was a grad ages ago and they were giving her an honorary degree. Hmmmm. Oh, another Washington State writer, Jess Walters, wrote this incredible book called Beautiful Ruins. I think it won some prizes last year. Or at least was nominated. It's super edgy so it's not for everyone but I loved it.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes a chord with you about their work?
Truman Capote and Harper Lee. Sorry, can't pick one. Capote just had an other-worldly way of throwing you into the story and making you fall in love with the unlikeliest of people. If you've read the short story, Breakfast at Tiffany's you know what I mean. Holly-Go-Lightly was far darker than Audrey Hepburn, for very good reason, portrayed. And Harper Lee? To Kill a Mockingbird has had enough people sing it's praises. It deserves all the hype. Every bit. For me it's as good as Gone With the Wind but some people would strongly, strongly disagree.
Lastly, let's steal an idea from the magazines.....What 10 things do fans not know about you?
1) I rowed crew for Smith College.
2) I enjoy my age
3) I love baking. Chocolate cake is a specialty.
4) My writing desk is covered in glass and I keep mementos under it: seating cards from weddings, ticket stubs, photos etc...It's very relaxing to look at.
5) I swim laps whenever I get the chance.
6) I think I can dance. Not everyone agrees.
7) I am half Canadian. The left half.
8) I am usually wearing one thing inherited from my Nana, who was born in England.
9) My parents are hilarious for all the right reasons.
10) I lived in Grenoble, France when I was 18. I try to speak French occasionally. It doesn't go very well. Not at all.
Thank you so much for your interest in my book. I really do appreciate it. Happy reading!