Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dancing Naked in Dixie: Interview with Author Lauren Clark and a Giveaway!

On tour now is Lauren Clark with her book Dancing Naked in Dixie (get your mind out of the gutter). This book may not be what you think and I happen to think it sounds like a lot of fun. But we'll let Lauren tell us more about it. Welcome Lauren!

Please, tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in a small town in Upstate New York and now live in the Deep South in a mid-sized city near the ocean. We own a historic home, which is constant need of fixing (the porch, a window, the fence). I have the friendliest neighbors and both the elementary and high schools are only a block away. I'm the mom of two fabulous boys, the wife of a smart, generous man, and the daughter of two wonderful parents. Of course, I didn't think my mother and father were wonderful as a child, when they turned off the television all summer, every summer.

This decision, however, turned into one of life's biggest blessings because that is how I developed my love of books and reading. It was a gift. Though I am not as strict with my own children, television time is limited, and my boys are both huge readers! The younger one loves Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House Series. My older son is a big Rick Riordan and Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games) fan.

What is your favorite non-writing pastime?   
I love spending time with my children, who are 7 and 14 - both boys! I also love yoga, Pure Barre, riding my Electra Townie bike (retro look), reading, having lunch or coffee with friends, going to the movies, and dreaming up new story ideas.

When did you decide to take that step that made you a published author? 
I was offered a contract from a small publisher for Stay Tuned. I ran the paperwork by my attorney, who immediately told me to RUN in the other direction and self-publish. I hired a publicist to walk me through the process...editing, cover design, formatting, uploading, marketing, etc. It was an invaluable experience and I learned sooooo much!

Is writing a full-time career for you? If not, how else do you spend your work day? 
Yes, I am a full-time writer and mom. I write or blog/outline/etc from 8 am - 2 pm, then when the clock hits 3 pm, my writing stops and I turn into a MOM again.. LOL. This summer, I'll be spending time with my kids at the pool, hosting play dates, going to neighborhood events, and traveling to visit family and friends.

If you had to sum it up Dancing Naked in Dixie in 30 or less words, what would you say? 
Dixie is about finding happiness in the most unlikely of places.

What inspired the idea behind your book? 
I lived near Eufaula, Alabama for several years and always enjoyed attending the Pilgrimage. It's a magical time of year--everything's in bloom--the weather is great! I always thought that the city would make a wonderful setting for a novel. In fact, the movie, "Sweet Home Alabama," (Reese Witherspoon) used shots of Eufaula's historic district!

Do you have a favorite character in the book? Who and why? 
Julia is smart, resourceful, and energetic--she always has the best of intentions--but often acts before she thinks. That impulsiveness gets her into a LOT of trouble!!

Will you share with us a short preview?  
When the story begins, New York City travel writer Julia Sullivan is sent to Eufaula, Alabama to cover the annual Pilgrimage and she's not happy about it! When she arrives, though, she's soon charmed by the quaint area -- only to discover that a developer is planning to raze the city's historic landmarks.. She ends up loving the community and people and is drawn to one of the long-time residents who is distraught over the construction proposal. Julia realizes that her job might help save the city

What message do you hope readers take away from the book? 
I think we’re all somewhat guilty of having preconceived notions or ideas about people and places we haven’t visited. The fun of this storyline involves Julia discovering how wrong she was about the Deep South. It’s a life-changing experience for her. It’s my hope that readers feel that Dixie honors and celebrates cultural differences.

What three words would best describe Julia?  
Klutzy, Well-meaning, and Scattered

What is your favorite scene in the book?    
I love the scene in which Julia tells a little white lie to two wealthy women in order to score a seat in their taxi!

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?  
I used to live less than an hour away from Eufaula, Alabama so the setting and many of the historical homes in the novel are very real. I did make up Roger's B&B, the Honeysuckle Diner, and the Jordan home.

Do you share any personality traits with Julia? 
My experiences and personality are definitely injected into my novels. Like Julia in Dancing Naked in Dixie, I'm a klutz and a big coffee drinker. Unlike Julia, I am terrified of flying. It's completely irrational--and because I live so far from my parents--travel is a necessity. My iPod comes in handy for relaxation, as does holding my husband's hand in a death-grip. I'm still waiting for a shot to knock me out for the entire flight!

What kind of research was involved? 
I lived near Eufaula, Alabama for several years and always enjoyed attending the Pilgrimage. It's a magical time of year--everything's in bloom--the weather is great! I always thought that the city would make a wonderful setting for a novel. In fact, the movie, "Sweet Home Alabama," (Reese Witherspoon) used shots of Eufaula's historic district!

Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?   
BOTH!  Alone and quiet!

What has been your greatest pleasure in writing this book?   
The people of Eufaula have really embraced the novel and its concept. Dixie was recently featured in the local newspaper there, The Eufaula Tribune!

What do you have in store next for your readers? 
I am researching for my next novel, The Pie Lab, which is a real restaurant in Greensboro, Alabama. This story will follow a girl who’s gone off to a big city (like Atlanta or New York) and vows NEVER to come home. She’s forced to return to Greensboro, though, when her romantic relationship falls apart. Since she’s burned a lot of bridges, it will be interesting to see how she makes amends.  The Pie Lab, as a business, is a great concept, as it offers on-the-job training and the owners are very active in the community. Added bonus…the pies are delicious! The Pie Lab has been featured in Southern Living and The New York Times.

What has been your greatest pleasure or personal success as an author?   Talking with readers through blog tours, via email, or on my website. I answer every email and love to talk about writing, publishing, and reading!  

I also adore getting reviews from readers who really enjoyed Dancing Naked in Dixie and Stay Tuned. It's such a wonderful compliment when someone takes the time to post a review!

How do you unwind after a long writing session?   
Yoga, Pure Barre, playing with my kids, dinner with my husband, seeing friends.

Who or what has most influenced your writing?   
My parents, as they turned off the TV all summer, every summer -- I spent my time at the library as a result -- lugging a stack of books back and forth every few days!

Do you have a favorite author? Who and why? 
Love Sophie Kinsella...she's so funny! I adore Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin, as well as Lisa See, Abraham Verghese, and Michelle Richmond. I think Stephen King is brilliant, though I'm not a horror fan. The Green Mile is so moving, as is the short story he wrote which was made into "The Shawshank Redemption" movie. His book, On Writing, is witty and truthful.

What are you reading now? Why did you choose that book? 
I was really impressed by James Patterson's Guilty Wives. It's not his usual serial killer repartee and I was captivated by the story. Prior to that, Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers was amazing, detailed, and very moving. I am about to start Jen Tucker's "The Day I Wore my Panties Inside Out." Jen is a fabulous person and is so hilarious!  I can't wait to begin reading her stories!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers today?    
Thank you so much for checking out Dixie!  I hope that you enjoy Eufaula and Julia's story!

Travel writer Julia Sullivan lives life in fast-forward. She jet sets to Europe and the Caribbean with barely a moment to blink or sleep. But too many mishaps and missed deadlines have Julia on the verge of being fired.
With a stern warning, and unemployment looming, she's offered one last chance to rescue her career. Julia embarks on an unlikely journey to the ‘Heart of Dixie’—Eufaula, Alabama—home to magnificent mansions, sweet tea, and the annual Pilgrimage.
Julia arrives, soon charmed by the lovely city and her handsome host, but her stay is marred by a shocking discovery. Can Julia's story save her career, Eufaula, and the annual Pilgrimage?

I’m a travel writer at Getaways magazine. Paid for the glorious task of gathering up fascinating snippets of culture and piecing them into quirky little stories. Jet-setting to the Riviera, exploring the Great Barrier Reef, basking on Bermuda beaches. It’s as glamorous and exhilarating as I imagined.
Okay, it is a tad lonely, from time to time.
And quite exhausting.
Which is precisely why I have to get organized.
I sink into my chair and try to concentrate. What to tackle first? Think, think.  
“Julia Sullivan!”                 
Third reminder. Uh-oh.
Marietta rolls her eyes and jerks a thumb toward the inevitable. “Guess you better walk the plank,” she teases. “New guy’s waiting. Haven’t met him yet, but I’ve heard he’s the ‘take no prisoners’ sort. Hope you come back alive.”
I grope for something witty and casual to say, but all of a sudden, my head feels light and hollow.
            I’ve been dying to find out about the new editor.
Every last gory detail.
Until now.
“I’m still in another time zone,” I offer up to Marietta with a weak smile. My insides toss from side to side as I slide out of my chair.
Marietta tosses me a wry look. “Nice try. Get going already, sport.”
I tilt my head toward the hallway and pretend to pout. When I look back, Marietta’s already disappeared. Smart girl.
“Fine, fine.” I tug a piece of rebellious auburn hair into place, smooth my wool suit, and begin to march toward the inevitable.
Our new editor.
My neck prickles.
I’m not going to worry. Not much anyway.
            My pulse thuds.
            Not going to worry about change. Or re-organization. Or pink slips.
            Focus, Julia.

The Author

Lauren Clark writes contemporary women’s fiction set in the Deep South; stories sprinkled with love, family and friendship, and the challenges that life unexpectedly throws at all of us!

Her characters are real women; smart and sassy, who tackle complicated issues with tenacity and intelligence. Readers will empathize and relate to her flawed yet likable heroines. A former TV anchor and journalist at WWNY and WTVY, Lauren’s stories allow us an insight into the excitement, drama and fast- paced world of media.
Lauren is a reformed news junkie, a non-reformed coffee drinker, and an official library geek. Her big loves are family, paying it forward, eight hours of sleep a night, and homemade macaroni and cheese. She lives near the Florida Gulf Coast where she is surrounded by family and and true-blue friends that inspire her writing and keep her sane.

Stay Tuned is Lauren’s debut novel. Her second book, Dancing Naked in Dixie is due for release in May 2012.Sign up to Lauren’s newsletter to stay in the loop with all of Lauren’s book news!

If you’re a fan of Sophie Kinsella (author of “Confession of a Shopaholic”) and Emily Giffin (author of “Something Borrowed”), then I think you will be truly enjoy this novel.”
- The Romance Bookie

There will be a grand prize giveaway for a signed print of Stay Tuned , her first novel, and 2 $15 Gift Cards. Comment for a chance to win!


  1. MK - Thank you so much for hosting Dancing Naked in Dixie on your blog today. Great interview questions -- I hope that everyone enjoys the answers and the excerpt from the novel.

    All the best, Lauren

  2. Lauren - thank you for being here with us on your tour. The book sounds so fun and the excerpt leaves a person wanting to know what's going to happen next!

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