Friday, October 7, 2011

Interview with Janice Thompson

Janice Thompson is a seasoned romance author. An expert at pulling the humor from the situations we get ourselves into, Thompson affords an inside look at TV land, drawing on her experiences as a screenwriter. She is the author of the Weddings by Bella series and lives in Texas.

1. This is the second book in a series; can it stand alone or do you need to read Stars Collide first?

Hello Hollywood can be read alone. However, the story’s heroine (Athena) is introduced in Stars Collide. So, if you want to get to know her (and the backstory about the sitcom) it would help to read Stars Collide first. This would also give the reader insight into the characters of Kat, Scott and Lenora.

2. In addition to being a popular author, you’ve also worked as a screenwriter; how much of your experience did you draw from to create the character of Athena?

Whether I’m writing a screenplay, a stage play or a novel, the process is much the same. I always see the story in my head, much like a movie! It’s great fun to translate what I see to the page. What bliss! I should add that my time in L.A. (writing the movie Liar’s Moon) was such a blast! That experience played heavily into my decision to write the “Backstage Pass” series.

3. Athena comes from a large, wacky Greek family and there are certain stereotypes associated with that; are you Greek or do you come from a big family?

I am not Greek, but I do have a large family (and chaos ensues whenever we’re all together). Our family is of Scottish heritage. We are the “Hanna clan” (with our roots trailing all the way back to Sorbie Castle in Scotland). When we all get together, there are nineteen and eleven small children (average age three). You can imagine what fun that is! Like every family, we have our “wacky” characters. Some in the Hanna clan would argue that I’m the wackiest of all. I’m definitely one of the few who has talking characters in her head.

4. Fans of My Big Fat Greek Wedding may see some similarities with Hello, Hollywood! was this intentional?
I’d just finished promoting my (very Italian) “Weddings by Bella” series when I started writing the “Backstage Pass” series, so some of the ethnic eccentricities in those books translated well to Athena’s story. I tried my best to shy away from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, (because I didn’t want to copy-cat). That said, it is one of my favorite movies, so I suppose some of the flavor rubbed off. Years ago I had a good friend whose family owned a Greek restaurant. I used much of what I learned from her in the sandwich shop scenes. Hope the readers are hungry for Greek food after reading!

5. Athena has a very prestigious position but also is somewhat childlike; how did you go about balancing these two seemingly opposing qualities?

Athena is a writer. We writers live half the time in the real world and half the time in an imaginary one. Keeping a childlike frame of mind is key to keeping the imagination open/active. Writers (even prestigious ones) are paid for their stories. So, shifting back and forth between the professional world and the creative world is a must for any writer, especially one in Athena’s high-profile position.

6. Athena and her writing team love classic television; is that something you find inspiration in as well?

Oh my goodness, yes! I grew up on the sitcoms and often teach on comedy writing, using sitcoms as the basis for my teaching. I’m still inspired by the antics of I Love Lucy. And I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m nuts about the Dick Van Dyke show. Those old TV shows shaped my view of comedy and of life, in general.

7. There’s a lot of detail about Stephen’s good looks and very little attention given to Athena’s aesthetics; was this a conscious choice on your part and why?

Yes. As a writer, she’s keenly aware of the details/physical descriptions of those around her. It might not make much sense to non-writers, but we writers hone in on those around us…every detail. (After all, we’re crafting characters based on the physical descriptions of those we meet.) It makes sense for Athena to notice every detail about Stephen’s looks but overlook her own in the process. Also, I wanted the reader to know what Athena was up against. She’s not just concerned that Stephen will sweep in and steal her job…she’s got to deal with the very real issue of his handsomeness in the process! (This makes hating him so much tougher!)

8. Stephen is a single father and his daughter, Brooke, takes to Athena and her family instantly; why did you choose not to make this a point of conflict for the characters?

I couldn’t get too deep into the conflict this causes between hero and heroine because this is a first person POV book (only in Athena’s POV). If I’d added Stephen’s POV, I could have really played this out. Mostly, this story is about the tension caused on the set/in the studio.

9. Athena’s mother inherits, Zeus, a terrorizing canine from Greece; where did you get the idea for this character?

After signing the contract for this book, my editor called to ask if I would add a dog to the story (so that they could put a dog on the cover). I was told this would help sales. Ha! I had to laugh because I’m SUCH a dog lover. My friend Heather was at my house at the time. She’d been puppy sitting my two dachshunds while I was away on a trip. She helped me locate the perfect breed for the dog: the Greek Domestic dog. Made sense, because Athena’s family is from Greece. The dog-lover in me had a blast adding Zeus’s character. (Side note: Two days ago I received a call from a reporter in the D.C. area who is running a feature article on Gus, the dog who posed for the cover. Isn’t that cool?!)

10. There’s a scene in which Athena pokes fun, tongue-in-cheek, at the general perception of the Romance genre; how does Hello, Hollywood! fit into that genre?

Hello Hollywood is definitely a romance, but fits more into the romantic comedy genre than the general romance category. Most general romances are written in third-person (he said/she said). Hello Hollywood is more like the chick-lit novels of the past—written in first person and seen only through the eyes of the heroine. This provides further insight into your earlier question about why so little attention is paid to Athena’s physical attributes. Because this story is only from her POV (point of view) the “eye of the camera” (as it were) focuses only on what she sees/hears/feels, etc.

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