Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Kim Gruenenfelder to HJ!
Hi Kim, welcome to HJ!
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title of the book should be? Why?
“Happily Clueless”. Because I am so much of the time. Nothing in my life has ever worked out how I thought it would, and many times that has been a good thing. Although I’m still working towards that house on the beach…..
If you were stranded on a deserted island…
I would want my husband and son with me, plus a five star resort. (There are deserted islands with resorts. I’ve seen them.)
Let’s talk about your newest release: KEEP CALM AND CARRY A BIG DRINK
If you had to summarize the book for the readers here…
In this delicious sequel to “There’s Cake in my Future” Mel, Seema and Nic are back, ready for another cake pull to ruin… ahem, guide… their lives.
So now that I’ve gotten the marketing out of the way… In this novel, Mel is our main character, and she goes on a journey which changes her life. Her best friend Seema is getting married, her other best friend Nic is about to have a baby, and everyone’s life seems to be on track and moving forward but hers. When a cake charm tells her that her destiny involves nothing more than making money, she decides to ignore it, and follow Seema’s brother (a crush from college days) to Paris.
Please tell us about the characters in your book.
Mel is a teacher who had her life completely planned out, but is now in her early 30s, and questioning everything. Seema is a perfectionist bride trying to plan 2 weddings, one Indian (for her family) and one Western (for her groom’s family). She is just coming to terms with the next part of a relationship: when the insanely hot guy you had the hots for 24/7 slowly turns into the guy who can not put his dishes in the sink, and for God knows what reason won’t sleep in beige sheets. Nic is still happily married, but about to become a new mom, and she has no idea what she’s in for.
Two new characters from the sequel are Jeff, an old college friend of Mel’s (and technically an ex-boyfriend, but he’s gay so there’s no real tension there.) and Vijay, Seema’s brother, who Mel has had an unrequited crush on since college. I had fun with these guys for a few reasons. With Vijay, I was able to bring in the dynamic of a family member, which I miss having in my books. My first two books (“A Total Waste of Makeup” and “Misery Loves Cabernet”) had a lot of family relationships, and I missed doing that.
Jeff was fun to write. I’ve always hesitated to write a gay best friend in my books, because I feel they are frequently clichéd cardboard cutouts. But I also have gay friends, one in particular, who I feel aren’t always represented accurately in the media. My guy drinks beer, not Cosmos. He will talk about Mel’s sex life, but really he’s more interested in his own. He doesn’t always have the zinging one liners – sometimes he sets them up for others. Jeff is also loosely based on my friend Jeff, and it’s always easier when you can pull material from real life.
As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
When I was writing the runaway groom scene, I initially had Seema go after her groom, Scott (spoiler alert, he rides away on a horse right before the wedding). But then I realized… no. Mel would be compelled to do it. She’s the maid of honor, and therefore needs to deal with this unfortunate wedding detail.
It’s the first time in her relationship with the other two women when she’s ever taken control, but as she’s watching her friend get jilted, something inside of her gets very protective, and she can’t help but go after Scott, possibly to kill him. 😉
What scene did you most enjoy writing? Why?
The opening scene was pretty fun. Anytime I get the three girls together, it’s always fun. Here’s a snippet. (Note to editor: use as much or as little as you want.)
I can think of several things a bride does not want to hear on her wedding day: The orchids being flown in from Ecuador have frozen. Her future mother-in-law is already tanked on Vodka gimlets in the lobby bar – and hitting on the bride’s father. The caterer is out of Yukon Golds, and is wondering if he can replace the garlic mashed potatoes with tater tots.
But perhaps the worst thing a bride can hear on her wedding day just came from me, her maid of honor: “Okay, I need to tell you something. But you have to promise me you won’t freak out.”
Seema, the bride, radiant in a bright red silk sari with sparkling beading, Swarovski crystals, and heavy gold embroidery, keeps her eyes fastened on me as she turns her head sideways. “Has there ever been a good conversation that started with that statement?”
“Um.. well….” I begin, looking up at the ceiling as I struggle to find some comforting words. “There have been some productive ones.”
Nicole (Nic), Seema’s bridesmaid, elbows me hard in the ribs, then bulges her eyes out at me.
“Ow!” I yell, doubling over and nearly dropping on the carpet. “How is that helping?”
Nic chastises me, “Mel, I told you not to say anything yet.”
I rub my belly and struggle to breathe. Yeah, this whole “maid of honor” thing is going splendidly. “Uh-huh. So we’re going with the “utter denial” card? You think that’s going to work better?”
“We played that card all the time when Seema was dating,” Nic reminds me. “What’s it going to hurt for a few more minutes?”
Seema juts out her lip at us, but stays calm. “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” Seema tells Nic with preternatural calm. Then she turns to me. “What’s going on?”
I look down at my beautifully beaded royal blue Indian short sleeved choli top and matching royal blue lehenga skirt and try to find a way to let Seema down easy. “There is the remotest possibility that your groom is M.I.A.”
Nic shoots up her arm to elbow me again, but I instinctively jump back and point my finger at her. “You are eight months pregnant. I could totally take you.”
This is true. Nic is so huge, her taut belly looks like it’s trying to smash through her beaded gold Lehenga and matching choli. Nic narrows her eyes and swerves her head at me ever so slightly to indicate… Oh you think so?
I step another foot back. No, actually I do not think so. I think I am the weakest woman here, both physically and emotionally.
Which is okay, actually. Being the beta dog is highly underrated. Sure, you don’t get the first bite of the buffalo. But then again, you’re free to just sort of let things happen to you, which requires much less energy than the uphill battle most women call “life.” Plus, the alpha bitches inevitably waste their time on…
Seema snaps her fingers in front of me, breaking my train of thought. “Mel, eyes on me. What do you mean M.I.A.?”
“Missing in action,” I explain.
Seema raises her eyes to the ceiling. “I know what M.I.A. means,” she tells me with excruciating patience. “What happened?”
Nic’s cell phone beeps a text. She quickly starts reading, then typing back, as I tell Seema, “Apparently, everyone in Scott’s family gathered to start the baraat…”
For those of you who, like me, are clueless about Indian weddings, the baraat is the first part of an Indian wedding ceremony – where the groom’s family, in our case assembled in front of a hotel a block away, dances in a parade towards the bride’s family. We all greet each other during what’s called a milni, then we all dance towards the mandap (basically a canopy for the wedding), set up in the courtyard of a trendy downtown LA hotel, and begin the wedding ceremony. It’s all very festive and colorful.
Except when the groom gets cold feet.
I continue, “Then Scott walked out of the lobby, got on his horse, and promptly galloped away.”
Did I mention the groom leads his group to his bride by riding a white horse down the street? This initially struck me as incredibly romantic, and very Prince Charming. Of course right now, not so much. I don’t remember Prince Charming charging down Figueroa Street on a trusty steed named Deathray, trying to get the Hell out of town. But maybe that’s how Snow White’s or Cinderella’s weddings began, and they just left that part out when they told the children the story about how Mommy married Daddy.
Seema’s eyes widen. “I have a runaway groom?”
“Now, we don’t know that…” I try to reassure her.
Nic reads the text from her phone as she informs us, “He’s been spotted racing down Olympic Boulevard, heading towards Staples Center.”
“Are they sure it’s him?” I ask her.
Nic looks up from her phone, “How many thirty-three year old men wearing white sherwanis and riding white stallions do you think are in downtown today?” Nic’s phone rings, and she picks up immediately. “Talk to me.”
Seema grabs her chest and begins to hyperventilate, “Oh my God. I’m being left at the altar. Who does that actually happen to? I’ve never heard of someone really having that happen to them.”
“Okay, calm down. This is not the time to panic,” I try to reassure her.
“Are you crazy? This is the perfect time to panic!” she snaps at me. “It’s one of those FOAF stories you hear, the Mexican rat, and the friend of a friend who gets left at the altar after her groom leaves her for her slutty maid of honor.”
“Well obviously, that didn’t happen. Your slutty maid of honor is still here.” Nic chimes in.
I turn to Nic and put up my hands, palms up, “Really? Now?”
Nic waves me off, “What? I meant that as a good thing.”
Seema continues to monologue, in her own world. “And the bride ends up marrying the geek who loved her in High School, who she wouldn’t even give the time of day to back then, because what other options does she have so late in life?”
Nic covers her phone, “You’ve just described Ross and Rachel. That never happened to anyone in real life.”
“It’s happening to me now!” Seema exclaims. “Oh my God. I’m going to end up spending the rest of my life with a Milton or a Leonard.” She collapses onto an overstuffed white satin chair. “I can feel my gut clenching,” Seema says, grabbing her stomach. “Oh God, please don’t let me throw up all over my wedding sari.”
Nic covers her phone. “The cops tried to pull him over, but he galloped onto the sidewalk, then escaped diagonally through the square in L.A. Live’s courtyard.”
I rush up to Seema and put my arm around her. “Everything’s going to be fine,” I reassure her. “Scott loves you. This is just some horrible misunderstanding.”
Seema starts gasping for air like a trout just yanked from the river. Nic absentmindedly hands her a white paper lunch bag while she listens to more groom updates. Seema immediately grabs the bag and breathes. The bag puffs up, then contracts, puffs up, and contracts….
“Okay, the cops have him down…” Nic says triumphantly, giving us a thumbs up.
“Down?!” Seema exclaims just as her iPhone plays “Highway to Hell.”
Scott’s ringtone. And a joke she’s probably regretting right now.
Seema keeps exhaling and inhaling into her paper bag while I rifle through her purse, grab her phone, and pick up. “Hey,” I say, attempting to be casual and breezy with Scott. “So what’s going on?”
Scott sounds worried. “How’s Seema doing?”
I watch Seema continue to hyperventilate into the bag. My voice is squeaky as I eke out, “Well… you know… every wedding has its little glitches.”
I’m hoping I’ve given Scott a great lead in for a joke, followed by an apology, and a new estimated time for his arrival. Instead, Scott says the absolute worst thing a bride could hear on her wedding day. “She is going to hate me for this. I have fucked everything up. I tried, but I just couldn’t do it.”
Little did I know that a few hours later, I would decide that it was time for me to stop being the beta dog. That I would be tired of letting life happen to me. That it would be time to be active in my life choices, maybe even aggressive, and get the life I wanted, not the life I thought I was supposed to lead. And who knows – maybe that first bite of buffalo will be the best buffalo I’ve ever eaten.
But that realization didn’t happen for a few hours, and first I have to go back a week….
What scene was the hardest to write? Why?
I really don’t like writing sex scenes. It’s more of a trend lately, so the book may be a little sexier than my other novels.
But I think the hardest scene to write was describing the sights and sounds of Maui during the first time in many months that Mel goes for a run. I love Maui. There is a calm there, a feeling there, that I found very hard to describe. And it’s not in the honeymoon hotels – although those are great too. It’s the day to day life of the natives: the library, the poke, the Spam aisle at the grocery store. I hope I captured that.
The following morning, I awaken to sunshine streaming right into my eyes. I look over at the alarm clock on the nightstand: 10:15.
We didn’t get out of the bar until around three, and I probably didn’t get into bed until nearly four. And I didn’t really sleep in the twenty fours hours leading up to landing here.
I should be dead right now.
I glance out of my window, pitch black the night before, and have to adjust my eyes to the brightness of both the sun and the colors. Jeff’s house rests slightly on a hill, so from my room, I can see nothing but bright green palm trees, greenery of all sorts, white and yellow flowers, and a few roofs from neighboring houses. Wow – and this is only the guest room.
I climb out of bed, and put my feet down on his polished hardwood floors. Then I go to my suitcase, and rummage around for a T shirt, my UCLA workout shorts, and my running shoes.
Jeff won’t miss me – he’ll be asleep until at least noon. So I take the spare key he gave me and write him a note, which I tack on his refrigerator.
Might never stop. ☺
And for the first time in over a year, I run for miles.
You see things differently when you’re in a new place – you notice details that haven’t registered in awhile at home. My run (or should I say, my run, followed by walk, followed by run – it has been awhile) was glorious in that I happily soaked up what to the locals is mundane.
I delighted in everything I looked at, just in Jeff’s neighborhood. People coming out of their houses to get the Sunday paper (Who knew there were people walking out to get an actual paper in this day and age?) families dressed for church or a beach day piling into the car, the kids laughing and happy and not even realizing they’re growing up in the prettiest place on Earth.
I jog down to the beach, completely empty even though it is a magnificently beautiful day. I watch a woman sip her coffee in a paper cup while walking her Golden Retriever. Another woman, with a stroller, jogs up to her and gives her a big hug. A woman walks out of the grocery store, carrying her canvas bags filled with food. Older men play chess at a table near the beach.
I keep running.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book were optioned for a movie?
Jennifer Lawrence or Mila Kunis as Mel. Freida Pinto or Mindy Kaling as Seema. Kristin Bell or Kaley Cuoco as Nic. All of these women are funny, which I think would be key to the movie.
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be and why?
Seema: Be nicer to your fiancée. You have this idea in your head of what marriage is supposed to look like. Let it go. You’re the same two people the day after the wedding as you were the day before.
Nic: The first 6 weeks of motherhood SUCKS. You never sleep, you rarely shower, and the baby isn’t even smiling yet. It will get better.
Mel: Don’t go through life as the Beta dog. The decisions you don’t make can be just as important as the decisions you do make. So, quit hiding and go after what you want.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2014?
I’m currently taking a little break from writing novels to work on a couple of TV pilots, one of which is based on my books, “A Total Waste of Makeup” and “Misery Loves Cabernet”.
Where can readers get in touch with you?
Ah… love that question. Love when readers get in touch with me. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
GIVEAWAY: 2 print copies of KEEP CALM AND CARRY A BIG DRINK
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and post a comment to this Q: In Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink; Desperate for travel, Mel asks for the passport charm. If you were pulling a “Cake Charm” at Seema’s bridal shower what would you want it to be and why?
About the book
In Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink, Kim Gruenenfelder’s delicious follow-up to There’s Cake in My Future, Seema, Nic and Mel are back, adjusting to their new lives as a bride-to-be, a mother-to-be, and a recently single girl looking for love
It’s been almost a year since Mel, Nic and Seema pulled their magical charms out of the cake at Nic’s bridal shower and most of their happily-ever-afters seemingly came true. Seema is about to marry Scott in an elaborate three-day affair. Nic is glowingly pregnant. And Mel… well, Mel feels as if she accidentally veered off the rails of her life at some point and isn’t sure how to get back on. She recently became single again, she’s been threatened with a layoff from her teaching job, and she has to find her own place now that Scott is moving in with her roommate, Seema.
Nic thinks Mel just needs a new cake charm to bring her good luck. . . and decides to rig the cake pull at Seema’s bridal shower. Desperate for travel, Mel asks for the passport charm. But, once again, the cake proves to have a mind of its own, and she pulls a charm she doesn’t want, and can not use. Rather than be bound by the charm’s prophecy, Mel realizes she, and she alone, is responsible for her destiny. A spur of the moment decision takes her to Paris and then Maui, where she finds herself on an adventure that she never could have imagined, experiencing the trials and tribulations of a life suddenly and perfectly unplanned. And, along the way, she begins to learn that, however nonsensical it may seem, the cake is never wrong…