Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Today, the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit brings Melanie Lynne Hauser, author of CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM, to our doorstep.

The story sounds like great fun:

Birdie Lee is an average hard-working single mother of two teenagers, PTA lackey, and mild-mannered grocery clerk at the local Marvel Fine Foods and Beverages. One morning, while getting ready for work, Birdie is sidetracked by a stubborn Stain of Unusual Origin on her bathroom floor. Unable to let the stain get the best of her, she tries to annihilate it with every household product she can find –to no avail. Angry, hot, light-headed (and forgetting to turn on the exhaust fan), she makes one final desperate attempt to eradicate this vile, dastardly stain: she loads her Swiffer Wet Jet with every household cleanser she owns, aims, and fires….

And passes out, overcome by the fumes. After regaining consciousness (and reminding herself to scrub the bottom of the toilet since from her perspective — flat on her back — it was looking a little dingy), Birdie realizes something’s amiss. Her ears begin to buzz and her senses are aquiver. Eventually, aided by Martin, her geeky thirteen-year-old son and trusty sidekick, Birdie understands that she now possesses extraordinary powers— superpowers, to be exact. Birdie soon learns, however, that, to quote Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility and she finds herself
struggling to balance a new onslaught of challenges, both at home and in her community. While trying to keep her distant 15-year-old daughter’s heart from being broken (something not even a superhero can do), and dealing with her smug ex-husband and his over-achieving new wife, she must manage her job, PTA responsibilities and a budding romance– all the while trying to rescue her beloved town of Astro Park from an evil force that threatens its children.

The book is receiving all sorts of raves, including this one from Publishers Weekly: "Like its title character, this debut novel has a secret's unexpectedly poignant and packs an emotional punch despite the cheery veneer... at the heart of this story is a narrative about a lonely, wronged woman who just wants to do right by her children and stand up to an uncontrollable world. Hauser slips in soliloquies on motherhood and womanhood that, though brief, are moving, showing us Birdie Lee's heart and in that, the wishes and dreams of super moms everywhere. "

I had the pleasure of a virtual sit down with Melanie; here's our conversation:

--What inspired you to write Confessions of Super Mom?

I had written two previously-represented novels that made it to the marketing committee level at major publishers, but never sold. These were "quieter" novels, or so said some of the rejection letters! And so one day my agent and I were talking it over and she said something that struck me. We were talking about what it takes to break into publishing today, discussing the concept of "the hook," and she said that maybe people today want their characters in fiction to be larger than life. So later that day I had a eureka moment - I said to myself (and to whoever else happened to be around), "You want larger than life? Then I'm gonna write about a superhero! How much larger than life can you get than that?" And really, it all fell into place; I'd still write about the issues that were important to me as a woman, a mother; the only difference was, I'd write about them from a superhero's perspective.

--Booklist writes: "This silly but fun twist on the superhero tale comes packaged with a socially responsible message about consumerism, but it doesn't get in the way of the high jinks." Did you set out to include a "socially responsible message about consumerism" in your novel, or did this arise as you were writing? Could you share any thoughts about writing and social responsibility?

This arose while I was writing. I had all the elements down - the parts that were pure "women's fiction," the superhero origin - but I didn't have the requisite archnemesis nailed. So when thinking about that subplot, knowing that it would have to somehow endanger children, I eventually hit on a plot to brainwash children, via videogames, into buying patriotic junkfood. Initially I was satirizing a lot of the post 9/11 jingoism. The videogame is about a heavily-armed Abe Lincoln taking out terrorists on top of Mt. Rushmore. But the consumerism angle was a natural extension of this - and I was thinking about how so many things have been wrapped up in the flag, post 9/11, and people don't even stop to think about them. All those magnetic ribbons and flags, for instance, that we see on cars these days. Does anyone think about the people profiting from them? Do they even question their intent? I'd have to say the answer is "no" on both of those counts, and I did want to write about that, just a little. But - and this is a big but - I was determined to wrap up my message not in a flag, but in a joke, a sly wink. I don't think that it's my job to be preachy. It's my job to tell a good story, to entertain, and if there is something under the surface that makes you think, just a bit, that's great. But I wouldn't let that something get in the way of a good story.

--If you could choose a super power, what would it be?

The ability to eat what I want and never, ever, get fat, while at the same time, supermodels would suddenly develop a tendency to pack on pounds just by breathing.

--Any advice for aspiring writers?

Don't get too attached to your work. It drives me nuts to hear authors refer to their manuscripts as their "babies." They're not. They're words. And there's a good chance you'll be able to come up with more of them. Learn to move on to the next project, and the next, and the next after that.

--What's next for Super Mom? And what's next for you?

I'm working on the sequel, which is due in to my editor very soon, and which will be published in 2006. Beyond that, I don't really know - and I haven't had time to really think about it. I'd love to keep writing about Birdie and her family, and the parade of evil villains I have in mind for her, as well as other novels, too.

--I always ask a question about fruit--In your opinion, what fruit has the most super powers, and why?

Blueberries. I don't know why, exactly, other than the fact that I crave them all the time, lately, mixed up with yogurt and granola, and I feel extremely, powerfully, healthy after I eat them.

--Thanks so much, Melanie! May Super Mom's powers (and your own!) continue to flourish...

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