Driving Sideways is a just-released novel written by a blogging buddy of mine, Jess Riley and I'll be giving away a brand new copy of her book one week from tomorrow.
I first stumbled onto Jess's blog about 2 years ago while blog hopping around, and became an instant fan of her smart humor, hysterical references and easy writing style. At that time Jess was on a journey to get her freshly-written novel published and I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along as she went from final edits, to being published, to being selected as a Target Break-Out Book due out on their shelves on June 19! In the meantime you can pick it up at all the other major bookstores.
The other journey I followed was the story in the book itself. Driving Sideways is a deliciously funny story of a woman who, after receiving a kidney transplant, also receives a new lease on life - and fueled by the energy being channeled to her from the deceased donor himself, suddenly decides she wants to take a road trip from Wisconsin to L.A. in hopes of meeting her donor's family and her long-lost mother who left her when she was a young girl.
During this adventure the title character, Leigh, winds up picking up a stray hitchhiking companion, hooking up with old friends and lovers, and getting slapped in the face by hysterical calamities, characters and surprises.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jess for this post. Here's a little insight into her experience with writing Driving Sideways.
1. Based on the level of detail you write about during your character Leigh's journey westward, it seems obvious you've taken this trip before. Is that true?And now - on to the contest! If you would like to enter, simply leave a comment that you would like a copy of Jess's book. I will do the drawing next Tuesday, June 10 and the winner will receive a new copy (not the one I spilled my coffee in) of Driving Sideways, complete with an autographed name card AND postage paid by me!
True! I took the trip before I wrote the book, and again afterwards, to make sure I got it right. Also, to take all but two of the photos at the beginning of each chapter. I even bought some auto bingo tiles at the Corn Palace, and posed with my own head in the Getting’ Corny at the Corn Palace cut-outs. Later we stopped at Wall Drug, where I experienced a mildly sweaty case of “Ineedtogetthehelloutofherenow.”
I was a supreme nerd on the second trip, actually taking notes in a little digital recorder, and I’d type them up each night in our motel while my best friend gave the room a cautious inspection, always finding the inevitable stray hair or skidmark that led to threats to sleep in the even filthier (but familiar) car.
2. In your book, Leigh has Polycystic Kidney Disease which is the backdrop of her story. What is your connection with PKD?
I arrived at PKD during my research as I worked backwards from my premise about cellular memory. I was shocked to discover how prevalent it was—affecting more people than Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and muscular dystrophy combined, and there is no cure. I’d heard of every one of the other conditions, yet I had never heard of PKD. So I wanted to do my small part to put it on the map for others who may not have heard of it, too. Later, I became friends with two amazing young PKD patients, and I’ve also learned that it affects other friends and colleagues in my life. PKD research is now one of the causes I support.
3. How has your life changed now that you have a novel on the shelves?
My family now knows for sure what a warped mind I have. Some of them may start avoiding me at get-togethers, and who could blame them. (Rip VanGina, anyone?) But in all seriousness, life hasn’t changed much—I still polish my diamonds one gemstone at a time, and my ears still pop when I fly to Europe on my private jet, just like everyone else.
4. Name one scene from the story that has actually happened to you in real life.
You know, I could probably open the book randomly and land on an anecdote that really happened. The bar in Vegas is actually based on a piano bar in Milwaukee, and I had a sassy cocktail waitress just like the one that serves Leigh and Chris. But at the real piano bar, they are very protective of their microphone, and would never let just anyone get up and sing.
Also true: a nineteen year-old creepy stoner ski bum sneaking up on me while I slept on the couch at my friend’s apartment in Colorado. I gave him a stern talking-to, just like Leigh did.
And this: breaking down in the middle of nowhere out west. We were rescued by a filthy tow-truck driver, though—no hot state trooper or RV of ‘swingers.’
5. I know you've thought about it... so who would you want to play your characters in the movie?
This is WAAY too hard to answer, but I would love to see Lauren Ambrose or Kelli Garner (from Lars and the Real Girl) as Leigh, Paul Rudd as James, Vince Vaughn as Wes, and Ellen Page as Denise in a film version of the book. This is a hard question! I wish there were a posse of bawdy yet vulnerable young actresses, like the female version of the Judd Apatow crew from Superbad and Knocked-Up.
In the meantime, I encourage you to stop by Jess's blog and read some of her stuff. As a sample, I've selected 5 posts below that made me chuckle, which was hard to narrow down since everything she writes cracks me up.
So have fun checking out Jess. You'll be glad you did!
Advanage - without the T
Baby Got Back
Drive on over here for some other sideways humor