pop culture in novels

Fact:  I am somewhat of a television junkie. 

I can make a television reference to almost any real-life situation.  For instance, I’m headed out to Seattle soon and told a friend I was going to hunt down McDreamy and McSteamy (from the television series, Grey’s Anatomy).  If I sneeze in front of my sister, Marjorie, I’ll fake concern that the sniffles mean I’ll probably need to get my tonsils out like Cindy Brady on The Brady Bunch.  If I leave my comfort zone of making a tuna fish sandwich and heating up soup for dinner and attempt something more sophisticated, I might compare myself to Jack Tripper when he prepared his coq a vin at Jack’s Bistro.  (A Three’s Company reference for those of you not in “the know.”) 

I also have a sick photographic memory when it comes to television.  Marjorie once randomly asked me who played the mom in Mr. Belvedere.  I immediately answered “Ilene Graff.”  I just pictured the theme song in my head and her name came to me.  If friends are playing Trivial Pursuit (or more often a drinking game requiring knowledge of pop culture), they’ll often send me a text asking something along the lines of: “Remember that show with that guy who used to be on Mary Tyler Moore and had two daughters and there was some really stupid guy that used to hang out with them?”  And I’ll respond within minutes, “Too Close for Comfort.  The stupid guy always wore a striped rugby shirt and his name was Monroe.”  And they’ll text back “I KNEW you’d remember!”

My love of television dates back to when I was practically a baby.  I remember watching episodes of That Girl with my Nanny Tessie and Poppy Charles on afternoons I didn’t have kindergarten.  And I used to act out scenes from Eight is Enough and the Facts of Life with Marjorie and my childhood friend, Ronni. (Marjorie always got first choice of what character she wanted to be, but we were just happy she wanted to play with us.)  While my older sisters watched Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley with my mom in her room, I would watch it from the hallway.  If my mom had to cross her bedroom to use the bathroom, my sisters would warn me to run back to my room so I wouldn’t get caught being up past my bedtime.  I used to love watching The Love Boat and Fantasy Island while babysitting on Saturday nights.  My sister and I were obsessed with Degrassi Junior High and used to watch it while eating bagels on Sunday mornings.  I rushed home from school on weekdays to watch General Hospital at 3 and Oprah Winfrey at 4.  And my college roommates and I never headed to the bar on Wednesday nights until Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place were over.  And we’d drool over Kyle Chandler in Homefront.  Some of my favorite old shows through the years (in no particular order) included Who’s the Boss, Growing Pains (loved Kirk Cameron.  LOVED), Beverly Hills 90210, Knots Landing, ER, Will & Grace, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Felicity, Ally McBeal (the first season at least), Party of Five, My So Called Life and, of course, Seinfeld and Friends.

While writing my first novel, Just Friends With Benefits, I inserted a lot of my own characteristics into the main character of Stephanie.  So it wasn’t a surprise to friends and family members who read the book that, like me, Stephanie was somewhat of a television junkie and made many pop culture references.  She met a guy reading a book written by Marcia Brady for peat’s sake!  Throughout the book, there are references to The Brady Bunch, Three’s Company, The Love Boat, Saved by the Bell and 90210 among others.  I really enjoyed including these pop culture references because a) as indicated above, I’m a television junkie and b) I think it added another dimension to Stephanie’s personality.  Additionally, for people on or about my age, the references were probably familiar and brought back memories to the reader.  I know that I love reading books that bring me back to a different, yet familiar, time and place.  And I received many positive comments regarding the fun pop culture references.

On the flip side, the pop culture references likely went over the heads of those readers significantly younger or older than me and I know that if I read a book chock full of references that meant nothing to me, I’d probably feel a bit left out and maybe put off.  Furthermore, 40 years from now, most of those references will go over EVERYONE’s head.  While I never imagined my book to be a “classic”, I’d like my children, grandchildren and great nieces and nephews to read Mommy’s/Grandma’s/Great Aunt Meri’s first novel someday and, in hindsight, wish I hadn’t included quite so many pop culture references from the 1970s, 80s and 90s that will be considered ancient by then.  

It is not rare to see multiple pop culture references in light women’s fiction novels like Just Friends With Benefits.  And my second novel contains them as well, only not nearly as much.  The main reason I didn’t include as many in novel #2 is because the book is also written in the first person and since the main character is not a television junkie/trivia queen, it wouldn’t have made as much sense for her to compare everything to a television show.  Although I didn’t give it much thought when writing my second novel, now that I have more experience as a writer, I think I will include even less pop culture references in my third.  But I’m curious what you all think?  Do you enjoy pop culture references in the novels you read?  Do you get annoyed when you don’t “get” them?  


That time of the week!

It’s that time of the week!  For writing a blog, of course.  Thankfully, that other thing only comes once a month 🙂

I’m hiding out in my boss’s office while he’s out to lunch.  I’m eating a really good salad from Hale & Hearty.  It has tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms (my friend Abbe just winced.  She hates mushrooms…), walnuts, golden raisins and my personal favorite, avocado.  I can’t believe I never ate avocado until I was out of college.  I never even knew what avocado was!  Maybe because my family didn’t eat Japanese or Mexican food growing up and our homemade salads contained pretty basic ingredients like lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.  Good thing I didn’t know what I was missing or I’d have been a very sad child. 

Good news!  I’ve come up with what I think is going to be the plot of my third novel.  I was running on Saturday morning, lost in a daydream like always, when the idea came to me.  I’ve shared it with a few choice people who agree I might be onto something.  I’m very excited and relieved.  I was really afraid that I would not come up with anything, but just like that, an idea was born.  I highly recommend going for a run to get your creative juices flowing.  I also like that running allows me to eat as much fattening avocado as I’d like without getting fat.  At least so far.  I am getting older and have been told Ad Nauseum that it will be harder to maintain the same shape.  *sigh*. 

Speaking of getting older, I keep getting emails in my junk folder for “dating seniors.”  And they don’t mean high school or college seniors, although that would be inappropriate and perhaps illegal.  But seniors.  Really?  The emails say “50 and up.”  First of all, I’m a pretty long way from 50 and second of all, I don’t even consider 50 senior.  Note even close.  60, ok, but 50 is too young to be labeled “senior” and I think some of my hot 50-something friends would agree.  Yikes.  Not very good marketing.  I’m also wondering how they got my email address, although the emails always go to my junk folder and get deleted without opening.  I am currently dating a younger man, although not too much younger, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But I guess it’s good to know those emails will be waiting for me in case things don’t work out and I decide to try things out with a “senior”!  So nice of my junk folder to look out for me like that.

So, what else?  Not much!  Work is busy, waiting for final comments on the last revision to my second novel before sending it out.  Query is done, but still need to write the dreaded synopsis.  I’ll start that tomorrow.  I have a cold and am hoping it makes its exit quickly because I have a vacation coming up next week.  Also looking forward to Oktoberfest this weekend.  I haven’t been to any Oktoberfest celebrations so far this season and, as a lover of the fall season and German beer, I can’t wait.  Other than that, same ‘ole!  Hope everyone reading this (mom) is having a great day.  Until next week…

Bossy People (sort of)

I’ve been meaning to post a blog for a while now. But between working full time as a paralegal, revising my second novel, writing guest blogs for other blogger’s websites, dating someone new, judging a writing contest, trying to maintain a social life, eating, sleeping and general personal hygiene, I just didn’t have the time. Calgon – take me away!!!

Besides being too busy to blog, I couldn’t think of anything to write about.  But I was determined to start blogging again, especially since my mom told me she checks my website regularly and really misses my blogs. I threw a question out to the folks on the JFWB Facebook page asking for suggestions. I wasn’t really expecting any feedback but a few people did respond. (Thank you to Doug, Amy and Marian.)  Marian suggested I write about bossy people-  I’m guessing she was having a bad day.  Marian, I hope you told that bossy person (people) to shove it, but in any event, thanks for the idea.   I’m not going to write about bossy people, but I realized something about myself. I’m not a good boss. Presently, I am not anyone’s boss, but there was a time not too long ago when I was the head paralegal in my department and entrusted with delegating work assignments and general supervision of the junior paralegals. I didn’t like it one bit, probably because I wasn’t very good at it. I was good at my job and I liked doing it, but I didn’t like telling others to do their jobs, how to do their jobs and that they weren’t doing a good job. And I’m sort of a control freak and didn’t like seeing the work I delegated get done poorly or in some cases, just not get done.  Just put me in an office, give me work and let me do it. (And then praise me at the end of the year with a fat bonus check.) But don’t make it my business how others do their jobs.  I’m just not interested.

So, yeah, I don’t like telling other people what to do. But I can take very good direction. If someone tells me what to do, I’ll do it and I’ll probably do it well. (As long as it doesn’t involve hopping on one foot, cooking, singing or cursive writing.) At the same time, I like some freedom in how things get done. I like my voice and opinions to be heard and I don’t like being micro-managed. 

This brings me to the status of my second novel. (Amy suggested I write about that so, thanks Amy!) My second novel is finished and it’s time to decide what I want to do with it. (Besides publish it and sell the movie rights to Nora Ephron.) Do I publish with a small publisher again, try to secure an agent and a sale to one of the big NYC publishers or do I go Indy?

Although I’ve read some great books in my genre that were self-published recently and see the potential to make a lot of money that way, I’m just not ready to be my own boss. I like the idea of someone else setting deadlines for me as well as doing the legwork for editing and cover art and formatting. Either way, I know I’m on my own for promotion, but I don’t want to deal with setting the price, uploading etc.  So, at least for this book, going Indy is out.  I think my preference towards lower maintenance bosses suggests that I go with a smaller publisher again since I liked having a say in the cover art, title and a right to veto certain editing suggestions. I assume with a big NYC publisher, I’d have zero control or say, not to mention how long it might take to a) get an agent, b) have said agent sell the book and c) ultimately publish. Things move quicker with smaller publishers and I don’t want to wait 5 years to get my second book out there.  Of course, there are benefits to going that route like an advance, wider distribution, perhaps a bit more help with promotion and just knowing that I published with the Big Six. 

I have a big decision to make soon, along with my full time job as a paralegal, writing a third novel, continuing to promote JFWB, hopefully continuing to explore a relationship, seeing friends, eating, sleeping, general personal hygiene… damn, I can really use that bubble bath right now!!  Too bad my low maintenance boss is calling… Be right there… 

Blogging for someone else…for now.

Hi there,

I’ve been very neglectful of my blog of late and for that I apologize.  I’ve been very busy revising my second novel and keeping up with my day job as a trademark paralegal.  I am pleased to report that my second novel is completed and I plan to start the submission process in the next month – wish me luck!!  And I also hope to resume my weekly blog soon. 

In the meantime, the ladies at Chick Lit Central were kind enough to host me on their blog and I have attached the link for your enjoyment!  Leave a comment to win a copy of Just Friends With Benefits!

Special thanks to Melissa and Amy 🙂