Lian Dolan is a mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, novelist, writer, and talk show host. She writes and talks about her adventures in modern motherhood for her website, www.chaoschronicles.com and her weekly podcast, The Chaos Chronicles. Lian spent a decade hosting Satellite Sisters, an award-winning talk show that she created with her four real sisters. Satellite Sisters has won 11 Gracie Allen Awards for Excellence in Women’s Media, including Talk Show of the Year in 2006. Lian is also a writer. Her first novel, Helen of Pasadena debuted in November 2010 from Prospect Park Books. She is also weekly relationships columnist at oprah.com. Previously published books include Satellite Sisters UnCommon Senses published in 2001. Her writing has been featured in many national magazines including regular columns in O, The Oprah Magazine and Working Mother Magazine. She lives in Pasadena, California with her husband and two sons. Her dream is to ride on a Rose Parade float.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Lian. Can you tell us what your latest book, Helen of Pasadena is all about?
A: Love to! Helen of Pasadena is a romantic comedy about a forty-ish mom who finds herself suddenly widowed, broke and having to reinvent herself. Set amidst the old money and new traditions of Pasadena, Helen Fairchild scrambles to hold onto any kind of a life for she and her teen son. What she uncovers, along with a sexy archaeologist named Patrick O’Neill is the women she was before she got married and had kids.
Q: Is this your first novel? If not, how has writing this novel different from writing your first?
A: Yes, Helen of Pasadena is my first novel, but I have written non-fiction books before. And writing fiction was so much more all consuming. I couldn’t turn off my brain even after power-down my computer! The book took over my life, in the best way. It was free-ing and exhausting.
Q: How difficult was it writing your book? Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?
A: I started by taking a writing class on mediabistro.com to kick-start the process. That really worked for me. I paid money, got assigned 30 pages and had to post or be publically humiliated. My kind of motivation. From the class, I formed a writers group with a few other women who kept me on track over the course of the yearlong process. I never had writer’s block; I don’t really believe in that. You can always write something, even if you have to trash it the next day. Having been a paid writer for a long time, I know you juts have to sit down and start typing.
But I did face days where my personal mojo was low because of other issues going on in my life. During the process of writing Helen of Pasadena, both my elderly parents suffered severe health setback, for instance. I didn’t feel funny for a couple of months there! On those days, I did research or read fiction to keep the juices flowing even if I could write because of life circumstances.
Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel? Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?
A: Totally. My “real” job is as a writer and broadcaster for satellite Sisters and The Chaos Chronicles, two properties aimed at women. I included my audience in all aspects of writing Helen of Pasadena, from my decision to give it a go to finding an agent, then a publisher. By the time the book was actually published, they felt hugely invested in the success of Helen. With a little online publicity—like podcast mentions and blog posts-we staged an Amazon.com pre-order day to generate a little buzz for the book. My ranking went from #44,000 to #61 in one day! I spent the whole day communicating with my audience through Facebook updates! It was fantastic. Hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, rooting and cheering for me. And, buying the book. From all their supportive posts, they felt like their book had hit #61!
Q: What is your daily writing routine?
A: I need to get up and get going, taking advantage of my most effective hours of 9 to 2. Before my coffee, I’d lie in bed, visualizing the scene I was going to tackle that day. The, I’d get the kids out the door and walk the dog. At 9, I’d sit down and write until 2. A short lunch break. One or two peeks at e-mail and that is it until I finished out the scene. I wrote 4 days a week like that, suing the other days of the week to do my other writing and podcast. .
Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?
A: I live in a house of men, so I have no choice but to engage in sports! I walk, play tennis, swim, you name it. I also love to cook and garden. If only somebody else would do the clean up!
Q: What book changed your life?
A: I’d have to say The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. I read it in high school at exactly the right age when I was looking for an out from my suburban Connecticut existence. After reading the book, I graduated from high school early and moved to New Orleans at 18. That was the beginning of a terrific ten- year period of adventures, learning, living in lots of different places. Reading The Moviegoer kicked off that peripatetic period even though that book itself is kind of about a guy stuck in his life!
Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?
A: Don’t Worry, I’ll Clean Up My Desk Tomorrow
Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”
A: I am not Helen of Pasadena!
Thank you for this interview, Lian. I wish you much success on your latest release, Helen of Pasadena!