My new book, Night Night, Sleep Tight, comes out in March. It's
done, "in the can" as it were. Only galleys remain to be edited.
I'm so happy with the cover. You're seeing it first. Glamorous, yes? I may have to buy myself a strand of fat pink pearls to celebrate the launch. (Almost as much fun as the green-glass swan I scored off eBay to celebrate the publication of Never Tell a Lie.)
Now I'm wrestling with a short story that will come out just before. And can I just say, writing a short story -- any short story -- is excruciating. I mean, it's so short! So little time to futz around. No cover for flabby plotting.
And this one is doubly hard because it's also a lead-in to my novel. It tells some of the back story from the viewpoint of a Joelen (pronounced Joe-Ellen) Nichols, the daughter of glamorous movie star Elenor "Bunny" Nichols.
So, here's the setup. It's 1963 and two fifteen-year-old girls -- a movie star's daughter and her daughter's best friend -- get all dressed up and hang out at a glamorous Hollywood party, only to get caught up in its tragic aftermath. Anyone who reads the short story will be privy to insights that people who only read the novel won't. Tricky: to intrigue and tease without giving anything away that will spoil the novel, and at the same time to create a satisfying standalone reading experience.
I'm still struggling with the ending, so I'll just give you a taste of the beginning:
Throwing a party was a production for Joelen Nichol's mother, actress Elenor Nichols, and getting dressed was its first act. Joelen and her best friend, Deirdre Unger, sat on the plush white carpet watching Bunny (Elenor liked everyone including her daughter and legions of fans, to call her that) eye her own reflection in the full-length mirrors mounted on the sliding closet doors in her dressing room.So am I the only one who finds short stories a challenge? We have so much less rope to hang ourselves with than in a novel.
The wall behind Bunny was mirrored, too, so she was presented with an infinitely repeating version of herself, silky black hair skinned back and the porcelain skin on her famous face shiny with skin cream, flanked by a receding chorus line of sparkling crystal, wall-mounted sconces.
With a grand gesture, Bunny swept her arm out and slid open one of the closet doors. Then she stood for a few moments, tapping a lacquered nail against her chin, assessing the row of gowns. She performed even when her audience was just a pair of fifteen-year-olds.
"What to wear, what to wear? Not too glitzy. It's just a party." She smiled--just the mouth, no eye crinkle."Even if it is one of my famously fabulous parties." From downstairs came the clink of plates, or maybe silverware, as caterers prepared for the onslaught.
In the mirror, Joelen saw Deirdre had her hand over her mouth as if she were trying not to crack up. Joelen caught Deirdre's eye and gave her a warning head shake. Bunny never did comedy.
"What about this old thing?" Bunny reached into the closet and pulled out a blue chiffon dress. The skirt swirled and Chanel No. 5 wafted from it as she whipped around to face Joelen and Deirdre. "Too demure? Or -- "
Bunny broke off, startled at what sounded like something small and solid smacking into a a pane of glass. Bunny's gaze traveled toward the partly open door to the adjoining bedroom where the sound came from. Her smile broadened, this time reaching her eyes, and her pale cheeks flushed.
She turned her attention back to the dress."Or maybe a bit clichéd? Right?" She nodded, agreeing with herself. "We are not Princess Grace."
Chaste and regal Bunny was not. Most often, she was compared to Ava Gardner--not surprising since Bunny had shot from chorus girl to rising star after she captured the attention of Gardner's ex, Howard Hughes, who liked his women dark, sultry, and shapely.