You’re going to love the hell out of today’s RNRHS with Cara McKenna. I just know it. It’s the perfect blend of rich musical musings and self-deprecating teen angst, two things with which I am well acquainted. And if you don’t love it, I’m afraid to say there’s something wrong with you, but it’s nothing a little good music won’t cure.
Coastal Maine, Class of ’98, Currently: Smut Merchant
Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: Nine Inch Nails. Make of that what you will, but I would not have survived high school without Trent Reznor’s help. At sixteen I was skulking full-time in combat boots and an army jacket and stripey tights, as what we would later coin a goppy—not a proper goth, not a proper hippy, but a confused and non-committal hybrid of the two. But come my junior year, I landed a job at my local indie record and video store—one part Clerks and one part High Fidelity—as the lone teen amid a mismatched gaggle of slacker twenty- and thirty-somethings. There my ears got opened to a transcendent mix of new-to-me music: Tom Waits, the Specials, Portishead, Elastica, Soul Coughing, Patty Griffin, the Toasters, the Pogues, the English Beat, Kim Lenz… And at some historic moment on some fortuitous night, the song The Other Side of Summer came up on random shuffle and changed my life forever, turning me overnight into a rabid Elvis Costello fangirl, and graduating me out of Trent Reznor’s gloomy—if formative—tutelage.
Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: Oh gosh. Surely my 12” vinyl single of Nine Inch Nails’ Sin, with its most inspired B-side cover of Queen’s Get Down Make Love. Bought it at cost, kept it in the shrink wrap, sold it a decade later for a tidy profit.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: The Grateful Dead. Circa 1995, every guy in my high school wore the same uniform: cords, Tevas or Birks, and a tie-dyed Grateful Dead skull tee-shirt under one of three distinct plaid L.L. Bean flannels. I never got it. Don’t see the appeal of the Dead at all. My loss, I’m sure.
Best show or concert you saw in high school: Oh, this is so sad, but I didn’t go to a proper concert until I was about twenty! There were a few random ska and punk bands I can’t remember the names of, at various and sundry all-ages shows in Portland, but nothing glamorous. My first real concert was during college, when I saw Elvis Costello in Boston, the first of many times. I should give the Orpheum Theater a shout-out. Their seats may be cramped, but I saw the Kids in the Hall there, and Janeane Garofalo, and Elvis quite a few times, among other excellent offerings that make me sound woefully piney-for-the-nineties.
Best high school make-out song: Hmmm… The only song I specifically remember making out to was Prison Sex by Tool. Romantic, right? If you’re familiar with the show Daria, I was a perfect mix of both Daria and Jane. Daria’s esthetic, with Jane’s snide artist sensibilities. Let’s just say I was not exactly rolling in eager, handsy jocks. But I bet if you’d asked what song I’d have liked to have been making it to, it might have been The 13th by The Cure, which I always thought was a terrifically joyful track. Or if we’re talking a real fraught, hot-and-heavy make-out session, then Natural One by the Folk Implosion. And later, Morphine’s Super Sex, and even later still, Tom Waits’ Jersey Girl or Little Trip to Heaven. But to be honest, I’d have made out to most anything, with most anything, at that age. Even my own hand, if I could be convinced it was actually Trent Reznor’s face. It’s just not a choosy age, is it?
Cara’s latest release is Coercion, the first of the Curio Vignettes, short follow-up novellas to Curio (aka the Parisian man-whore book). You can visit her at caramckenna.com or chat with her on Twitter @caramckenna.
This week is an important milestone in my writing life, but it has very little to do with me. This week is all about my critique partner, Karen Stivali, and her stunning novel, Meant To Be, which finally gets to have its book birthday!
Karen was polishing her first draft of Meant To Be when she and I met on former literary agent Nathan Bransford’s message boards. I remember it vividly…the story was fully written, but she couldn’t decide on a first chapter. My novel, Bring Me Back, was in a similar stage and I was relieved that there was someone else out there who was as driven to finish their first novel as I was.
When Karen and I went about getting to know and trust each other, we exchanged blocks of chapters from our books. I couldn’t read Meant To Be fast enough. Daniel and Marienne had me so firmly in their clutches (and please, Daniel, put me in your very capable clutches) that I couldn’t keep from thinking about them, wondering what would happen, marveling at the way Karen had assembled the story. I specifically remember sending her an email calling her a slut when she left me off on a very suspenseful chapter. She replied that she was only a tease for leaving me hanging and promptly sent me the rest of the book.
I can’t speak highly enough of Meant To Be. I absolutely adore Karen’s characters, especially Marienne and Daniel. Their complex and unconventional relationship rings true at every turn, allowing them to leap off the page and worm their way into your psyche. Karen left it all there on the page and the reader is richly rewarded with a compelling, funny and sweet tale that will break your heart and put it all back together. So, please, do yourself a humungous favor and buy and devour this book. You’ll be so happy you did.
Meant To Be
Sometimes you’re already committed to the wrong person when fate finally brings you the right one.
When NYU professor Daniel Gardner’s career-obsessed wife convinces him to move to the suburbs, he hopes it’s a first step toward starting the family he longs to have. Instead of domestic bliss he finds his neighbor, Marienne Valeti. She loves her freelance design job, but must contend with a growing sense of isolation created by her husband’s indifference. A penchant for good books, bad movies, and Marienne’s to-die-for brownies sparks a powerful bond between them. Passion simmers, but they resist its lure, surrendering only in the seclusion of their minds. Their friendship helps them weather every hardship, from divorce to widowhood, leaving them both secretly wondering if it can survive a first kiss.
Meant to Be is available from:
Karen Stivali is a multi-published author of steamy women’s fiction and erotic romance. You can learn more about Karen and her awesomeness at karenstivali.com.