Friday, October 7, 2011

Interview with Janice Thompson, author of Hello Hollywood


1. Hello Hollywood is book two in the Backstage Pass series. Should readers pick up a copy of Stars Collide first?

Hello Hollywood can be read alone. However, the story’s heroine (Athena) is introduced in Stars Collide. So, if you want to get to know her (and the backstory about the sitcom) it would help to read Stars Collide first. This would also give the reader insight into the characters of Kat, Scott and Lenora. Good news! Stars Collide is currently free in e-book form. Check it out at amazon and/or Barnes and Noble

2. How much of your screenwriting experience did you draw from to create the character of Athena?

Whether I’m writing a screenplay, a stage play or a novel, the process is much the same. I always see the story in my head, much like a movie! It’s great fun to translate what I see to the page. What bliss! I should add that my time in L.A. (writing the movie Liar’s Moon) was such a blast! That experience played heavily into my decision to write the “Backstage Pass” series.

3. You actually lived in L.A. and worked in the movie business for a while. Can you tell us about your time there?

If I close my eyes, I can flash back to a kinder, gentler era. No, not the fifties. Not even the sixties. My "kinder/gentler" era took place in the late 70s, when my father decided to move our family from the Houston area to Los Angeles.
Yep, it's true. I lived in L.A. when I was eighteen. Why? Because my father had illusions of grandeur. Like gazillions who had walked the road before (and after) him, he wanted to get in the movie business. Unlike most, my father actually had connections - writers, directors and so forth. He was also filled with ideas. So, off we went, traveling from Houston to L.A.
I still remember the home we rented--a two-story, five-bedroom house in Bel-Air West (directly off of Mulholland) with a fabulous pool and hot tub in the back yard. The area behind our home was a canyon (one that actually caught on fire)!
While writing "Liar's Moon" (the movie that would go on to be filmed starring Matt Dillon and Cindy Fisher), I worked at Tele-Credit (a check verification company on Avenue of the Stars in L.A.). I also (of course!) spent time at Malibu Beach. (What eighteen-year-old wouldn't?) My favorite thing to do, however, was to drive through Hollywood Hills. Oh, how I loved looking at those houses!
Jump ahead from 1977 to 2010:
I came up with the idea to write Hello Hollywood (book two in the Backstage Pass series). The goal? To relive my time in Los Angeles and to pay tribute to my dad. Over the next several weeks I'll be sharing more details about my time in L.A. (as well as a host of other things related to the book). I hope you'll enjoy this journey with me. In the meantime, click the link below to purchase a copy of Hello Hollywood for yourself! (By the way, the cover below is the original cover. It has been changed, due to a copyright issue. Look for a blog entry in a few days about the dog on the cover!)

4. Tell us about your fascination with sitcoms.

"Hello. My name is Janice and I grew up addicted to sitcoms."
Oh, how I loved 'em as a kid! Side-splitting laughs, crazy characterization, a rollicking good time. Who could ask for more? Why, I could hardly wait to get home from school to watch some of my favorites.
Here are the ones at the top of my list: 
  • My Three Sons
  • Leave it to Beaver
  • I Love Lucy
  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • The Brady Bunch
  • The Courtship of Eddie's Father
  • Family Affair
  • Newhart
  • The Flying Nun

On and On I Could Go!
So, what captivated me? Why did I spend countless hours watching these television shows? Simple. They placed quirky characters into exaggerated situations...situations that caused those characters to squirm!
Many people ask why I write comedy. The reasons are many, but near the top of the list is this one: I love putting quirky characters into sticky situations. What fun! And that's exactly what I did in Hello Hollywood,

5. I hear there’s a funny story about the dog on the cover of Hello Hollywood. Could you tell us a little more about that?
When I set out to write Hello Hollywood I hadn't given thought to adding a dog. A phone call from my awesome editor changed my mind in a hurry. Her opening line: "Hey, what do you think about adding a dog to the story?" was met with a resounding "Yes!" on my end. (I'm a dog lover, after all.) Because the story is about a Greek family it only made sense to add a Greek dog. With the help of my awesome friend (and dog-sitter) Heather Tipton, the "Greek Domestic Dog" breed was chosen. Little did I know what havoc this decision would wreak with it came time to shoot the cover of the book!
I found out in the fall of 2010 that the photographer was having trouble locating a Greek Domestic dog and might have to go with another breed. Bummer, right? Wrong! While browsing the Internet, he happened to locate just the right dog--a Greek Domestic dog named Gus who'd been rescued from a shelter about an hour outside of D.C. Ironically, the photographer happened to be going to D.C. for Thanksgiving. (Go God!)
Gus sat for the cover (and did a fine job, I might add). Then, just a couple weeks ago (right after the book's release) I received a note from a newspaper reporter in Virginia, wanting to do a story about Gus and his big "break" as a cover model. What fun! The reporter put me in touch with Gus's owners and we exchanged emails. I'm indebted to Gus and his owners! In fact, I decided to put together a little gift package for my canine friend. It was sent (along with a photo of my two dachshunds, Sasha and Copper) just this week. A thousand thanks, Gus!

6. I’ve noticed that most of your books have a comedic flair. Why do you write comedy?
From the time I was a little girl, I was the happy-go-lucky sort. Giggly. Goofy. My mom always called me a ham because of my overly-dramatic style. Not that I minded. Oh no. Drama was my thing. And performing comedy on the stage was the thing that made me happiest. Then I grew up. . .and life happened. Unfortunately, some of the events of my grown-up life weren’t funny. In fact, they were pretty tragic. Still, through my faith and my innate desire to keep on keepin’ on, I managed to keep my smile intact much of the time.
When I began to think about writing books for a living about fourteen years ago, I decided to take the humorous approach because I believe that “laughter doeth good, like a medicine.” In many ways it’s just he “ointment” we need to get through a rough time. Not only do these humorous stories transport readers, they lift my spirits, as well. And frankly, I’ve needed my spirits lifted. The next time you pick up a book that I've written, I hope you see my sense of humor shining through. I've particularly enjoyed adding humorous elements to my first person stories
7. Athena comes from a large, wacky Greek family and there are certain stereotypes associated with that; are you Greek or do you come from a big family? 

I am not Greek, but I do have a large family (and chaos ensues whenever we’re all together). Our family is of Scottish heritage. We are the “Hanna clan” (with our roots trailing all the way back to Sorbie Castle in Scotland). When we all get together, there are nineteen and eleven small children (average age three). You can imagine what fun that is! Like every family, we have our “wacky” characters. Some in the Hanna clan would argue that I’m the wackiest of all. I’m definitely one of the few who has talking characters in her head.  

8. Fans of My Big Fat Greek Wedding may see some similarities with Hello, Hollywood! Was this intentional?
I’d just finished promoting my (very Italian) “Weddings by Bella” series when I started writing the “Backstage Pass” series, so some of the ethnic eccentricities in those books translated well to Athena’s story. I tried my best to shy away from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, (because I didn’t want to copy-cat). That said, it is one of my favorite movies, so I suppose some of the flavor rubbed off. Years ago I had a good friend whose family owned a Greek restaurant. I used much of what I learned from her in the sandwich shop scenes. Hope the readers are hungry for Greek food after reading!

9. There’s a scene in which Athena pokes fun, tongue-in-cheek, at the general perception of the Romance genre; how does Hello, Hollywood! fit into that genre?

Hello Hollywood is definitely a romance, but fits more into the romantic comedy genre than the general romance category. Most general romances are written in third-person (he said/she said). Hello Hollywood is more like the chick-lit novels of the past—written in first person and seen only through the eyes of the heroine. This provides further insight into your earlier question about why so little attention is paid to Athena’s physical attributes. Because this story is only from her POV (point of view) the “eye of the camera” (as it were) focuses only on what she sees/hears/feels, etc.

10. I’ve noticed several reviews of the book online. Can you share a few of those reviews with our readers?
Here's what a few people are saying:
"This fun entry in Thompson's comic Hollywood series (after Stars Collide) features humor, romance, and breezy dialog. Those who enjoy Rene Gutteridge's "Occupational Hazards" novels for their quirky humor and characters will appreciate this new series." – Library Journal
"Romance, drama, fun--Hello, Hollywood! has it all."--Jenny B. Jones, award-winning author of Save the Date and A Charmed Life series
"Thoroughly delightful! A blend of contemporary life and romance with nostalgic snapshots of Hollywood's golden age. Thompson writes with warmth and humor, creating a world we can all escape to for a little while."--Rachel Hauck, bestselling and award-winning author of Dining with Joy
Comedic timing is an art form, and Janice Thompson is a master. Her romantic comedies keep getting better and better. I laughed all the way through Hello, Hollywood! The story is reminiscent of the old Hollywood sitcoms - the days of I Love Lucy and Dick Van Dyke. If you like to laugh--and who doesn't?--treat yourself to a rollicking good read. Novel Rocket and I give it 5 stars. A must read! - Ane Mulligan, Sr. Editor of Novel Rocket
For those that remember the old Dick Van Dyke Show from back when sitcoms were in black and white (you can catch reruns of the show even now) you will enjoy how the writing team our heroine belongs to uses that show, about a similar comedy writing team, as role models. It made me want to flip on the television and find some of those reruns. - Reviewer Pam Meyers
Hello, Hollywood! is a fun easy read, and I really loved the Zeus, the Greek Domestic dog. They are quite a fascinating breed, and as an animal and dog person myself, I had to look up a bit more about them. All the characters were strong. Family, friends, God and solving problems were integral parts in this book. Overall I just liked it, it was fun, well written, fast paced, and sweet. I liked the ending screen play as well.  - Reviewer Carol Keen

11. How can my readers learn more about you and your books?
Blog: I would love to have readers follow my blog, where I’m currently blogging on Hello Hollywood.
Facebook: JaniceHannaThompson

It Is Finished - Thanks

Thank you, Randy, for wisely keeping your mouth shut when I freaked completely out the first time you mentioned the word "homeschool"...and thanks for thinking I could do it, for your undying, unconditional love and support (and foot rubs). Your godly example sets a standard for us, and we love you. I'm grateful to you for so much - mere words cannot express. P. S. I love you:)

My fellow homeschool moms: East Texas -  Janice Pearson, Cathy Pearson, Susie Rutledge, Billie Jordan, Beverly Burchett, the ladies at New Covenant Fellowship, Michele Theriac, Tana Stapp... and West Texas - Susann Hall, Susie Lacy, Angie Craig, Tanya Shuttleworth and family member Susan Quattrini: What can I say? I love you guys. Thanks for all the encouragement, listening ears, wonderful ideas, and such good times through tears (mine), tantrums (mine too), and sigh, it was something, wasn't it?

 All the Days and Baileys: We appreciate your love and support all these years. The affirmation of Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins is so important to homeschool families, and you all were great cheerleaders! We love you!

Two special ladies who were always there for us: Miriam Atchley and Brenda Roden.  You both served us unselfishly and with such love and support.  We love you.

Thanks to Andi Martin for providing learning and performing opportunities at the Fort, encouragement and hugs.

I'm sure I'm leaving out someone. This thank you post is by no means comprehensive.  There is no way I could mention all the people who touched our lives in a positive and/or sandpaper way - all serving to shape us into what God wants us to be. May God richly bless you.

And last, but most important:

Father, you always keep your promises. You said you'd never leave me or forsake me and you didn't (Heb. 13), You said they'd get what they need for Your purpose and will for them, and they have (Romans 8:28). You helped me soar on the good days (obedience, understanding, "thank You for teaching me to read, Mommy") and helped me endure and persevere on the bad days (not going there, but thank You for the infallible Word of God) (and chocolate and foot rubs). What I first felt reluctant, even resentful, to do, I now feel unworthy to have been allowed to do.  Thank You for the greatest privilege of my life so far; the most stretching, worthwhile, thing I've ever done, and the most rewarding.  Thank You for using my failures to show me how much I need You, and how faithful You are.

Soli Gloria Deo! and ONWARD!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It is Finished - 4

Those Were the Days

Jessica and Armando Ontiveros

Natalie and Sarah
Now?  Now Randy and I very much enjoy that our position of authority has morphed into a position of influence on our adult children.  Now we benefit from the hard choices we made early on.  Our children all serve the Lord, their churches, and their communities.  It is a blessing to see them make choices that reflect the values that we poured into them.  Have they always made the right choices?  No, certainly not, but to watch them fall upon the foundation of their faith when faced with troubles, whether external or self-imposed, is a great comfort and joy to a parent.  The spouses that they have brought into our family are awesome, godly people.

Rachel, Anna, Elijah, Wayne, and Noah Nix

       Grandchildren!  What a reward.  Could there be higher compliment that my daughters are homeschooling their own children?   I hope that the joys are multiplied and that the struggles are lessened.
Micah and Liliana Ontiveros

Micah Stegasaurus

Elijah Nix Kinder Graduation

Natalie, Sarah, Emily, Nathan, and Jessica at Paisano Baptist Encampment

Noah Benjamin Levi Nix

Jeffrey and Emily Brantley

Natalie, Sarah, Emily, Randy, Jessica and Armando, Me, Nathan, Elijah, Wayne, Rachel

Princess Anna Nix

And many, many heartfelt thanks to....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It is Finished - 3

....and then the amazing joys:  reading God's Word together, reading the classics together, watching my children grow into their spiritual gifts and callings, dramatizing history, ministering to and serving our community together, cooking and sharing, performing music, making messy science experiments, learning to be flexible and available, writing stories, poems, letters, and just generally learning every day TOGETHER! 

(We don't talk about math.  Math is the reason I use Miss Clairol - dark brown.  But by the grace of God and a tutor here and there, we got through it.)

Our homeschool was not just an 8:00 to 3:30 event, five days a week.  It was a 24/7 lifestyle.  Everything was a learning opportunity.  Dad has a wreck and breaks his leg?  Anatomy.  Rental house gets sold out from under us (again)? Contracts and Agreements.  Babysitting for a friend for a week? Child Development.  The possibilities and opportunities were endless.  One of the benefits of that is that my children are life long learners, even as adults.  It pleases me to see them continue to learn and grow...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It is Finished - 2

I have to admit that I loved it most of the time.  We actually had a lot of fun accept when we, uh, weren't having fun.  It's not for the faint of heart, let me tell you.  Sometimes we had to adopt the attitude 'tho' hell should bar the way!" (Rachel's favorite line from 'The Highwayman', a poem she memorized; thowing her fist up the same way Anne does when she recites it at the White Sands concert in Anne of Green Gables.)

"Tho Hell Should Bar the Way!!"

In other words, we were going to get it done no matter what.  And we did.

I always had a plan, but you know what they say (or what Burns said); the best laid plans...well, let's just say that it didn't always work out the way I wanted it to.  But early on, the Lord spoke to my heart very clearly...

"They will get what they need for what I have for them to do."  So I barreled through, not comparing our school to public school, or even other home schools.  That promise has come true in every case, and I am so grateful.

So pressing on through criticism, lack of finances for curriculum (thank heaven for the world wide web), a quiver getting full, extreme 'you had to be there or you wouldn't believe it' external pressures, full time ministry, a large piano student studio, moving eight times, a million miles to music, etc., lessons (have homeschooler, will travel)...

Monday, October 3, 2011

It is Finished

I really never thought this day would come.  No, seriously, there was no end in sight.  My next five posts will feature a few thoughts on the end of an era in the House of Day.

The day Randy first mentioned 'homeschooling' to me is indelibly seared into my brain.  We were engaged and were returning from a date one night when he began to wax philosophical and prophetic about our future life together.  When he said, "And we will homeschool our children..." I scooted very far over to the passenger side door and considered jumping out. No, really.

"What?!?" I said, none too gently.  I think he was surprised at my reaction.  I began to wonder what kind of crazy man I had gotten myself engaged to.  How was I going to get out of this?  The invitations were already in the mail.  He very wisely refrained from saying anything else about it.

A ton of prayer and a few Bill Gothard seminars later, I finally felt the call.  O.K, I'll do it.  It's a good thing that faith and obedience don't include knowing the details sometimes because, well, jumping off a cliff might look better. 

So when the time came, we began.  My friends in Kirbyville will remember the little red apples taped to those giant windows in our house on Main Street...

Five Ways to Combat Monday Blues

Even people who love their jobs have a hard time with Mondays. Sometimes we just do too much on our days off.  Monday slaps us in the face-we are not ready because we haven't had any down time. This is what I've tried lately in order to chillax on my day off.

1. Make a list of your normal 'day off' chores. Divide them up between the work days. Instead of doing all my laundry on my day off, I do part on Tuesday morning, and part on Thursday morning. It keeps us going. It's worth getting up a little earlier in order to have the free time on my day off.

2. Make Monday morning as easy as possible.  Gather every thing you need to get out of the house in one place, decide what you (and the children) will wear the night before.  Fix lunches, etc. ahead of time. Stress free mornings set the stage for a much more pleasant day.

3. Block off a part of your day off as 'unscheduled'. Yes, schedule to be unscheduled.  Do whatever you want during that time, or do nothing.

4. Renew your spirit in worship and fellowship. Don't hit your work week with an empty vessel. Fuel your spirit with the love of Christ and you will overflow on your family and others.

5.  Be grateful you have a job. So many don't in these hard times. Smile! "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thess. 5:18

What can you add to these suggestions to have a great start to the week?