Hi Adele, thanks for taking time to chat about your debut novel, Acting Up. It's a really fun read! Have to say that community theater has never been my personal bailiwick, but it's a fascinating world I never knew much about before picking up this book!
My pleasure! Also, LOL. Community theater is actually a different thing - that's amateur theater (which can be VERY good, I'm far from knocking it! But it's not a career.). Acting Up is set in the professional regional theater system that I really hope still exists when we're beyond this pandemic.
Yikes, my bad -- regional theater. Thank you for clarifying! What prompted you to write about a theater-based novel?
Well, my first career was in theater. I started acting at 10 and have a BFA in theatre from Syracuse University. In addition to being an actress, I also worked as a stage manager (fun fact: one of my college roommates is a professional stage manager for Broadway and Broadway tours). Just about every romance I've ever read that was set in the theater featured actors as protagonists. I wanted to show readers what happened beyond the performance - to feature the rest of the crew who works so hard to make the magic.
What was your favorite part about writing this novel? Or any novel?
I really enjoyed structuring this book around the events of the production process. The book begins in the audition room and ends on opening night, with a lot of milestones that add to the drama (for instance, tech week really is hell and nerves really do fray).
Least favorite part?
I don't remember a least-favorite part. I'm sure there was one.
Your hero and heroine are an interesting couple and have great chemistry. But I want to hear more about Susan, the diva villain. She's kind of terrible. Who did you base her on?
LOL. First of all, thank you! I can tell you that the inspiration for the main characters was partly my relationship with my college bestie (who, hopefully, will be co-narrating the audiobook with me - he's still a professional actor and singer in New York) and partly Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (I swiped Cath and Paul's quotation game directly from those two). Oh, and Paul is physically modeled on Geoffrey, the director in the Canadian TV theater comedy Slings and Arrows.
As to Susan, well. There's that disclaimer at the beginning of the book that these are fictional characters, and they are, including Susan. I did know a person who behaved somewhat like Susan in college, and that experience gave me a few ideas, but I can't really comment beyond that.
Why did you make her so deliciously snooty? As I'm reading along, I keep wanting her to forget her perfectly-memorized lines. That might not be so much a question as much as a reader observation.
The other inspiration for Susan is, literally, Austen's novel: Lady Susan. It's also why I put in the correspondence between her and Alicia (Lady Susan is an epistolary novel). Austen's creation is incredibly snooty and two-faced (hence Susan being such an unreliable narrator). And also, there are some really challenging personalities who are incredibly talented out there. It can make life as a theater professional...interesting.
If you could pick one job in regional theater, which job would best suit you?
Huh. I did love performing, but I think I'd love to direct. Or direct and teach kids. The joy for performing is pretty pure with the younger set. Adults in the business can get (quite rightly) jaded.
What's one thing about regional theater that most people wouldn't know?
Regardless of where the play is happening, most of the actors and designers are based in New York. That part of Acting Up is very true to life. People who work in regional theater are very familiar with the nomadic life, living out of suitcases. They take NY-based work when they can find it, but at a certain level, you have to be flexible and go on the road.
There's a lot of drama within the drama in this novel. Is that typical of the theater world?
Oh, for SURE. There are always some stable characters like Cath and Andrea, but a lot of people, regardless of what job they do, are drawn to the heightened emotion of a theater production. And Alicia is not exaggerating when she says "If [sleeping with someone else in the same production] is unprofessional, this entire business is amateur."
Would you ever want your novel to become a play -- OMG that would be the most meta thing ever for this particular book -- or TV adaptation? Who would be in the starring roles?
Oh, WOW. A TV adaptation would be so fun! I'll have to fan-cast it as if we had access to a time machine, because as I noted before, Paul is specifically based on Geoffrey in Slings and Arrows (https://67.media.tumblr.com/16b5a5fd23441d560d273fc8807447af/tumblr_inline_njxbnpBJJn1qiwkqo.gif) - so, actor Paul Gross would have to play him when he was in his mid-30's or so (and yes, that's how Paul got the first name Paul. Austen didn't specify a first name for Mainwaring in Lady Susan). Cath...hmm. Well, Megan Fox is more conventionally attractive than I envisioned Cath, but she does have a long, heart-shaped face and wide-set eyes... (https://data.whicdn.com/images/340330260/original.gif).
What's one thing about you that most readers wouldn't know from the books or from your social media presence?
That is a real toughie! I'm pretty open on social media!! I guess a lot of people don't know that I used to ride horses, both for pleasure and competitively. I was even on the equestrian team in college (don't get excited - it was a club team).
What other writing projects are you working on (assuming you have time while launching a debut novel)?
I have two works in progress that are kind of stalled out just now - marketing and preparing the next book (Alicia's story! - Method Acting) has taken over what is normally my writing time. One is a gothic set in a (possibly) haunted boarding school in Northern Maine, titled Northanger Academy (yes, I have a thing for Austen). The other is what I once dubbed "9 to 5 meets Charlie's Angels," a #metoo revenge comedy that, as yet, doesn't have a good title. But I have six more books already written for the pipeline for the next 2/2.5 years. So. I have some time (I hope) to figure all that out.
Lightning round questions:
Fifty thousand hours of free time or a million dollars?
I'd prefer the security. Show me the money!
Laughing: are you a snort, guffaw, or chuckle kind of person?
Depending on what's making me laugh, any of the above!
Tea versus coffee?
Mostly coffee, but my husband Mr. B (as Twitter knows him) instituted a mid-morning tea break during our work from home which is really lovely, so...both?
Twitter versus Facebook?
Ye gods. Twitter. It has its problems, but Facebook is not my thing.
Cats versus dogs?
All animals! We only have (3) cats at the moment, but I've also had dogs and love them. They're just a lot more work and Mr. B has vetoed getting another one... For now.
Stage right versus stage left?
Whichever one has a cute stagehand working the flies (the rigging that pulls set pieces up and down).
Community theater versus Broadway? (show your work on this one please)
For watching or participating? For watching, Broadway is so terribly exciting. We saw My Fair Lady with Laura Benanti two years ago during my (non-pandemic) annual trip to NYC. Breathtaking. What those productions are able to do (because MONEY) is incredible. For participating? I don't have the chops anymore, so give me something much lower-stakes!
Secret talent that you have but no one knows about?
I actually can sing.
Secret talent that you wish you had?
I wish I could draw. And for all the people who say, "Oh, just practice!" I did. For years. I...am not good. I am in awe of my cover artist, Marika Bailey.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
OSLO. We went to Norway a few years back and it was utterly magic.
Anything else you'd like readers to know about your debut novel and/or your writing life in general?
There are three more books in the Center Stage series, all hopefully coming out this year (depending on editorial and cover artist availability)! For those who thought the second book would be Freddie and James and are disappointed that they're not, never fear: their book (Acting Lessons) is #3. The fourth book contains characters readers will meet in book 2 (though they won't have met each other before that fourth book...)
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about your novel, Acting Up. All the best with your writing success and the new release!
Thank you so much! This was fun!
ACTING UP (Center Stage, book #1)
Back cover copy:The stage is set for the play of a lifetime: but it’s the romantic drama backstage that has everyone applauding.
Paul and Cath are the perfect creative team. He’s an up-and-coming theater director and she’s his unflappable, rock-steady stage manager.
If Cath’s had to bury her unrequited affection for Paul for ten long years to keep things professional, it’s just the price she pays for a career she loves, working with her best friend by her side.
Until he hires her old nemesis as the leading lady for a new play that’s their chance to make it big.
Handling temperamental actors is one thing, but watching this diva throw herself at Paul makes Cath miserable. It’s another complication when the leading man shows his attraction to her. Suddenly, an unexpected new job offer seems like a good idea.
But then Paul upends her world by declaring his love and sparking a passionate encounter.
It’s both a dream come true and a nightmare as Cath is convinced that personal and professional relationships don’t mix and getting involved could jeopardize the play—and both their careers.
Can Paul flip the script and set the stage to convince Cath otherwise or is their love always destined to wait in the wings?
Author, daydreamer, and practitioner of trying very hard to duct tape folks together and help when I can.