Authors tell you what inspired their work

Leslie Schnur, author of "Late Night Talking"

I am obsessed, to say the least, with rude behavior. My kids beg me to ignore it, my husband thinks I'll get shot one day. I have, sometimes, gone too far, and have been rude myself in the quest for justice. But, for some reason, I think it is my duty, my calling, to rid the world of rudeness, one annoying person at a time. Like people who talk on their cell phones at the movies, or who clip their nails in public, or who don't say "thanks" when you hold a door open for them, or who cut in line.

I know that poverty and war and hunger and disease will exist even if people hold the door open for each other. But by treating each other with respect, with kindness and deference, by being people who are considerate of others and the world around them, we can make the world a better place to live each and every day.

So when it was time to write my second novel, I knew I wanted to write about a woman who is frustrated by rude behavior and wants to stop it. But I had to find a way to do that and still keep her realistic, sympathetic and complex. I first thought of making her a regular woman whose anger transforms her into a superhero but that didn't work. Having done some late night radio appearances, I knew from experience that it's a wacky world and one that would serve as a good vehicle to get my character where I wanted her to go. She'd have a platform from which to act and a real reason to do so. So, using His Girl Friday, with Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant as inspiration, I devised a story about love and righteousness, about pursuing justice while fulfilling the desires of the heart.

My protagonist in Late Night Talking is Jeannie Sterling, who is from Berkeley, where I grew up in the 60's and 70's. Though my family experience was quite different from hers, the father in the book is a lot like my dad, especially his humor, adventurous spirit and ability to yo-yo, but otherwise he's very different. Many references to growing up in the 70's in the Bay Area come from my memories. Having grown up in a time and place of social activism influenced this book heavily.

As a writing teacher once said to me, "It all goes into the stew."

There's a crazy dog in the book who is based on Milo, my dog in real life. When I wrote The Dog Walker, we had Charlie, the most wonderful dog in the world, who was like a human, deeply sensitive, intelligent and expressive. He told me so. When he died of old age, the kids wouldn't stop nudging and we gave in and went to the shelter to get them a new dog. Milo is our rebound dog. We adopted him and our lives have never been the same. Every terrible behavior of Mouse's in the book --like eating Jeannie's panties-originated with Milo.

As a friend said recently, "Think how much calmer your family's life would be without Milo," which gave me a good laugh. You could say that about my kids too. And my husband. Yes, life alone would certainly be calmer. But without the cuddle, the pee on the rug, the jumping on all fours on the dining room table to eat the hummus, where would we be?

This book is only my second novel and writing it was difficult. The first novel you write on hope and a dream. You have few expectations, except that maybe someone will publish it. Then when you find a publisher, you pray that someone will read it and maybe even like it. Though you may find yourself secretly fantasizing that it'll be a bestseller, you're exhilarated simply being called an "author."

The second novel is about your life. You're a real writer now and if this book doesn't sell, you have no career, no future. That's the thinking of someone like me who knows the inside scoop about publishing, having spent twenty years of my life on the other side, with my last ten as Editor-in-Chief of a major company. I know how difficult it is. And it's harder now than ever, with more competition from other media, higher corporate expectations in terms of the bottom line and less time to build an author's readership. So, when I worry my book won't sell, I see myself begging friends for a job, and wonder what in the world could've made me even think I could write in the first place, for crying out loud.

The truth is, it's hard to write a book. Any book, every book, for everyone, I imagine. Each time you're struggling with your own voices--creative, neurotic, poetic, ridiculous--and you have to learn which to listen to, which to ignore. More than anything, you simply have to believe.

So now I'm working on my third novel, which has to do about a new obsession of mine. My daughter is entering adolescence just as I am about to enter menopause just as my mother is becoming elderly. Three generations of women at critical moments in our lives--this has captured me. Our fears, our worries, our hopes and dreams and regrets, the things we pass on from one generation to another. It also has to do with modern art, another passion of mine, and a mystery involving a real-life famous painter. And, of course, romantic love.

That's all I'm going to say. Because I find when I talk about my next book, it makes me feel like I've actually worked on it, when all I've done is talked about it. So, can we talk some more? Because it's so much harder to write!

To learn more about Leslie Schnur and her latest novel, Late Night Talking, please visit her website.

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Saturday July 28th 2007, 6:58 AM
Comment by: Susan D.
Interesting to hear an author talking about 'the second book'. It does seem that many authors only had one good book to write, and should have quit writing and then gone on to something else. In this case, the second book sounds very interesting. I'm also driven crazy by rude behaviour [and bad or deliberately wrong spelling: my angry woman turned superhero would be roaming the world changing Kiddie Kamp to Kiddie Camp, and adding the 'u' to color and flavor, just because I like the English spelling]. Good luck with book three, and get writing!
Saturday July 28th 2007, 11:20 AM
Comment by: Amy O.
I really enjoyed your sense of humor. Now I'm going to go check out your other work to read more. thanks.
Saturday July 28th 2007, 1:16 PM
Comment by: Steve C. (Glenmont, NY)
Thank you Leslie Shnur! I too cannot keep my mouth shut when I hold a door open and someone walks by as if it is their right and continues on without a word. I used to live in Kingston, Jamaica in the 1970's and will never forget the courtesy they showed one another on the roads while driving-and you know what? It was contagious so I began doing it too-type A personality that I am.
Now there are two of us to "un-rude" the nation.
Sunday July 29th 2007, 10:29 AM
Comment by: gary B.
Oh boy,Oh boy, do I get a charge out of "observational commentalism". People who can't get past the need to point out short comings and foregoings of day to day life, make life tedious.
The idea behind doing for someone is the notion that you did it, not that it was recognized as being done. This is the basis upon which so much energy is wasted today. Get over it! Don't let someone you don't know have that much power over you. You sound as though you hold that door open almost daring the person to not acknowledge it. Wow. I'm thinking that the next person who holds the door for me (not likely since I am 6'1" and 230lbs.)is just daring me to not say "Gracias". Maybe I should write a book about people who think that people who don't acknowledge the good deeds that people perform are not good people. Whew! Too confusing.
Wednesday August 1st 2007, 10:46 PM
Comment by: Dennis R.
Here's how I see this issue. When someone does something polite for you like holding open a door or allowing you into traffic when they didn't have to do so, I really believe that it is an acknowledgement of their kindness to say or wave "thank you" to them. I honestly do cringe a bit when people don't recognize good deeds that are done for them. The more that we lose touch with these little acts of civility and respect is the less of both that we have in this world and that really is a pity.
Take care.
Thursday August 2nd 2007, 8:10 PM
Comment by: Regina H.
Being kind is simply "right." It takes nothing from no one and gives something to everyone. Bad behavior is applauded enough. Kindness deserves its day and what better platform than in a novel. Leslie, I look forward to your second book.
Saturday August 11th 2007, 7:41 AM
Comment by: WordyGerty's girl
Reading the above comments prompt me to recommend an entertaining book on civility, The Ice Palace that Melted Away (Bill Stumpf) which has become a staple in design education ~ may his people-loving somewhat curmudgeonly, RESEARCHED (rather than reactive)observations live on! (Thanks Gary: you've revealed something for Lynne Truss of Eats, Shoot, & Leaves: a jump-off for a book on syntax (or even spelling): short comings vs. long comings. I often hold the door open for my 6'5" husband and others of his height (whether using cane , a great doorstoper or the walker need for 50 yrs. of crippling conditions, knowing how infrequently anyone does that for his kindness, returning favor to all who do it for me. WHile I have lack statistics to support your "observational commentalism"(?) theory ...I live a more exciting life than one would suppose depite lifelon medical conditions, I have little time to rant/record such "slights". Some look at (or even read, is my plan for this engaging author) at the glass as neither half full nor hall empty ~ but flowing over, life itself being so wonderful considering the alternative. Bread on the water always comes back: we just do not control those timetables. Smiles are so envigorating and contagious...and aren't blogs/writing about observational comments? Open your hand, then heart and life will follow.

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