Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Beauty Shop For Rent by Laura Bowers

Abbey Garner has it all planned out. Become a millionaire by the time she's thirty-five and avoid making the same mistakes the other women in her family made. School Library Journal says of debut author Laura Bowers' warm and funny novel "This deceptively simple book reveals Abbey as a wonderful character who will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. Her quiet, almost folksy lifestyle demonstrates the powerful impact of a loving family and good mentors."

We're delighted to welcome Laura to the Cafe to talk about Abbey, writing and why you should never give her nice jewelry.

Melissa W.: What is your favorite line, passage, chapter from this book?
Laura B.: My favorite chapter from BEAUTY SHOP FOR RENT has always been the final one, because the setting was inspired by my county's annual 4-H & FFA fair. A close second would be the first chapter that was set in the beauty shop. I love the sassy, fun, "let your hair down" conversations that happen when it's just the ladies around and how this chapter shows the close, unique relationship between fifteen-year-old Abbey, Granny Po and the other Gray Widows. But my favorite lines are from chapter twenty-four, when my characters are driving into Ocean City: "But now the town didn't cast the same spell. Instead of enchanting, it seemed noisy and cheap, almost tacky, like I was no longer childlike enough to see its beauty."
Melissa W.: Do you remember writing the first words? Are they still the same?
Laura B.: I do remember writing the first words. It was for the opening scene in chapter one, where Abbey is stuck in the middle of another one of the Gray Widows' many tiffs. Writing that scene was one of those rare, wonderful moments when the words tumble out so fast your fingers can't keep up. The main points and concept of this chapter have always remained the same, despite the many rewrites, but my original opening line was, "I'll be dead. Dead and done buried by the time this shop is ever rented." I've since changed it to the first of many "hypothetical questions of the week."
Melissa W.: Tell us something about you that no one knows.
Laura B.: Well, my husband is perfectly aware of this, but not too many people know that I cannot be trusted with fine jewelry. Seriously. We've been married for fourteen years and in that time I've already lost my diamond engagement ring, my original wedding band, my replacement wedding band, and a diamond tennis bracelet. But, my husband is a lovely man who doesn't get upset over material things, (my character Gena is based on him,) and I'm happy to report that it's been a while since I lost something. Why? Because I hardly wear jewelry now out of fear of losing it! ;)
Melissa W.: If you could be anything else besides a writer, what would it be?
Laura B.: I would be a photographer. And, after the kids go to college, my dream assignment would be to travel the country with Bob taking beautiful pictures of historic main streets, town festivals and county fairs that could be used for a super-thick coffee table book. Talk about a cool job! That or someone who's sent to different hotels and resorts to rate them. Being paid to travel? I'm in.
Melissa W.: That does sound ideal! Can I come along? What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Laura B.: At the beginning, I think the hardest part of writing for me was viewing it as a job rather than a hobby. Before, I would only allow myself time to write after the laundry was done, my to-do list was finished, the house picked up, etc. While I still have the occasional lapse, I view my writing as a full-time job now and I no longer feel guilty about editing during my boys' baseball practice if I have a tough deadline! ;)
Melissa W.: Good for you! Thanks so much for stopping by the Cafe. We wish you the best of luck with your wonderful new book and many more to come!
~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Laura, send them now! She'd love to hear from you!


Lisa Yee said...

Great interview, thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Your book sounds like a lot of fun! I know this is your debut novel, but is it also the first novel you've ever written? I might have to hurt you if it is. : )

Also, did you always intend to write for a teen audience or is that something that happened in the writing of the book?

Laura Ruby

Sara Z. said...

Laura, I'd love to hear more about the transition from writing as hobby to writing as job. What kind of schedule do you keep?

Melissa Walker said...

I think your cover is just CHARMING. How much input did you have in that department?

MarPerez said...


I'm with Sara Z. I'd love to know more about how to transition into writing as a full-time job (something I'm working on right now.)


Paula said...

Laura, we're jewelry clutzes together. I'm notorious for losing it or breaking it. My wedding ring is only still around b/c I can't get it off!!

Congrats on BSFR.

Please do share about your writing schedule? I'm always toying with how to make it a mandatory part of my day...but I always fail unless I'm on deadline.

Love to hear how you handle it.

Laura Bowers said...

Thanks, Lisa! I appreciate it!

Laura Bowers said...

Hey Laura! Thanks so much for your question!

BSfR is the third novel I've written, but the first one I felt passionate about. My first attempt was a young adult novel based on my experiences with horses as a teen. I love the plot, and I do plan on rewriting it--but with a new cast that's not related to my family! ;)

My second novel, LIGHTEN UP, LILLY . . . well, let's just say there's a very good reason why it's still sitting on a shelf! No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't fall in love with this story and, as you know, if a writer doesn't love the story, how can the reader? I've marked this one down as a learning experience.

When I first started writing, I went through a mystery novel phase, and then a very unsuccessful picture book phase. Then, after reading HOPE WAS HERE by Joan Bauer and discovering how wonderful the young adult genre is, I felt as though I found my home! While writing Beauty Shop, I would sometimes wonder what side it would land on--young adult or adult, because there's such a strong multi-generational cast. But from the start, I viewed it as a young adult novel because of its strong, determined fifteen-year-old protagonist and her story!

Thanks again, Laura!

Laura Bowers said...

Thanks Sara, Marlene and Paula for asking about my transition from writing as a hobby to a job and about my writing schedule!

I have to admit this took me a long time. Before, my writing wasn't a high priority and I would only take time to write after my monster 'to-do' list was completed. But, by the time I've done enough to not feel guilty, I'd be too tired to write, or there'd be a baseball game to haul my boys to. I did manage to buckle down while writing (and rewriting) Beauty Shop, but it wasn't until I was offered a contract from Harcourt that I started to take my writing seriously as a 'career,' and not just something Mom would tinker with when there's time.

I'm still a compulsive list-keeper. (Seriously, you should ask to see my Day Runner if we ever meet in person!) So one thing that really helped me--and I know this sounds silly--is to put writing on my to-do list. If I have "Write 2,500 words" on my list, then I'd be more likely to do it because I'm very anal about crossing off as much as possible by the end of the day. ;)

I still stumble--a lot, and I'm not always as consistent as I need to be, but I do have a schedule I try to stick to. In the morning, I answer emails, blog, do various marketing work on the computer and put out any major fires. I write or edit in the early afternoon until the boys get home from school. And, seeing we have baseball nearly every day between my two boys, I do a ton of editing between innings or at practice!

My next goal is to learn how to balance marketing and writing, so if anyone has any great advice for that, I'd appreciate it! ;)

Thanks so much, Sara, Marlene and Paula!

Laura Bowers said...

Thanks, Melissa, I love the cover as well!

My editor did ask for my input, and I gave her examples of covers I loved and why. I did have a few specific ideas, but after seeing the finished product, I'm so, SO glad they didn't use them! ;)

There were two things I hoped and prayed would be on the cover: The title to be shown as a sign, seeing how it was an actual sign with the words BEAUTY SHOP FOR RENT . . . fully equipped, inquire within that inspired my novel in the first place, and a seated hair dryer. I was so happy to see both, and my favorite part? The cute floral coffee cup because coffee is a major part of my characters lives!

I also love the model they used, who has the cutest smile ever. She's so Abbey!

Little Willow said...

Hi Laura! Glad to see you here.

Did earlier drafts of this book ever have an alternate ending, or more involvement with Abbey's father?

By the way, I woke up singing Baby, Wait by Jonatha Brooke in my head. I think this just might be because I played the CD on repeat earlier this week while I wrote an epic article. :)

Anonymous said...

Great interview M., thanks for posting it.


I am a ridiculous list keeper, too and I started laughing when you said you put "Write 2,500 words" on your list, because I do the SAME EXACT THING.

What I was wondering, really, is how you deal with all the marketing pressures/worries that come with being a debut novelist, how you figured out how to do a blog tour, and if you think May 1st is a super cool day to have a book released? ;)

-Carrie Jones

Laura Bowers said...

Thanks so much for your question, Little Willow!

Even in my first draft, I had the very same ending and final chapter. From the start, I loved how it brought the story full circle, with Abbey ending up exactly where she belongs.

The biggest change is how she got there. At first, I had Abbey track down people from her mother's past in an effort to understand her actions. With help from Mitch, Abbey visited grandparents she never met from both sides of her family, and a prior roommate of her mother's. But I came to realize that people from her mother's past weren't important to the story. What was important was how Abbey learned how to forgive her mother without knowing all the details.

There is a bit more involvement with Abbey's father in the final draft, but not very much. While he's not one of the major characters, I do admire how he tried to be a part of his daughter's life without pushing her before she was ready.

Thanks for your great question! And now I'm going to have Baby, Wait running through my head for the rest of the day. ;)

Anonymous said...

Now that you're famous, would you consider being seen having lunch with your mother in town like you did when you weren't famous? I wanna wear my sandals . . . I wanna go out to lunch!

Your mother wants to know if you're seriously considering writing a sequel to this book. I'd love to know if Abbey's mom, Grace, was able to turn her life around and if she and Abbey end up having a close relationship like we have.

Also, when are you going to go back and finish that horse novel? You know it's my favorite.

Betty Barnes

stephhale said...


Okay, can I just say that the post from your mommy gave me goosebumps? How wonderful that you have such a close relationship! It reminds me of Sally Field & Julia Roberts relationship in SM! :)
I can't wait to read your book, from the minute I heard the premise I knew it would be adorable.
ps- I'm calling your husband to tell him he should only buy you cubic zurconia from now on! :)

Laura Bowers said...

Carrie, you and I need to get together and compare to-do lists! I'm curious to see if you put 'take shower' on your daily list as well. Not that, uh, I do that or anything. *Sheepish grin.* ;)

And I absolutely do think May 1st was the super coolest release date! Why? Because I got to share it with super cool people like you! I can't wait until life settles down and I can kick back with my copy of TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (ex)BOYFRIEND.

Okay. How I feel about the marketing pressures/worries. Well, in the days leading up to my release, I couldn't help but feel panicked over whether or not I did enough marking. But then again, I think I'd still feel that way no matter how much marketing I did. My biggest problem is balance. I haven't quite figured out how to strike that balance being a writer and being a publicist.

But as I'm sure you'll agree with, Carrie, one thing that has made this process a lot easier is the Class of 2k7. It has been such a blessing to belong to a group of so many other talented debut mid-grade and young adult novelists who are all going through the same experience as me! Another thing I'm grateful for is how there are so many in the young adult community who support and promote each other's books. Like, for example, the lovely owners of this blog!

Regarding my blog tour, that was super easy to set up. I already had arrangements to do interviews with the folks who participated and it was just a matter of asking them to post it on a specific date. I really enjoyed doing it and when else can you go on a tour while wearing pajamas!

Thanks so much, Carrie, for stopping by to ask me these great questions!

Laura Bowers said...

"I wanna wear my sandals . . . I wanna do lunch . . . I wanna be NORMAL again!"

Hehe, hi Mom!

(And for those who don't recognize it, the above is our favorite line from the movie Private Benjamin!)

As for lunch . . . perhaps so. Call my agent and she'll set something up. Well, okay. How about this week, same place, I'll pay, because Lord knows I owe you a few. ;)

As for the sequel, hmm. It would be so awesome to revisit the characters I've come to dearly love and who are like family to me. But, I would have to be 100% convinced the second book would be just as good as the first. So, I'm not saying yes or no, just who knows?

I do promise to rewrite the horse novel just for you. And, happy mother's day!!

Laura Bowers said...

Steph, I have an idea. Why don't you have my husband lie and tell me it's only cubic zurconia, because I seem to have no problem holding on to my costume jewelry! ;)

I am super lucky to be close to both my parents. In a way, the relationship between my mother and I mirrors the one between Abbey and her great-grandmother, Granny Po. Granny Po can be strict, but they have an unique compatibility that goes beyond a typical mother/daughter relationship.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Steph!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Melissa--I want to come along on your photography tour! That sounds like the ideal compliment to a writing life.

Congratulations on the pub of Beauty Shop, Laura! Can't wait to read it!

Little Willow said...

I can go back to Keep the River on Your Right if you prefer. :)

I _love_ hearing that you had the same first and last chapters throughout the writing process. LOVE IT.

Laura Bowers said...

Okay, Melissa and Mary, we're all going on a photo tour once my boys are in college! Which means I really should take that photography class rather than just talk about it . . . ;)

Thanks so much, Mary, and I hope you enjoy my book!

Laura Bowers said...

Thanks, Little Willow!

And it's funny. I never gave much thought to it before, how I kept both the original beginning and ending. That is pretty cool!

Laura Bowers said...

Shannon has asked me this question:

"How much do you feel that you and Abbey are alike?"

Thanks, Shannon, great question!

On some levels, Abbey and I are very much alike. When I was younger, I had the same tenacity she does. If I said I wanted to win a Dressage competition, then I would train every single day--even if I had to ride my horse in snow or rain. What I wouldn't do to get some of that tenacity back! Then maybe I would exercise more rather than acquire a huge collection of unused workout tapes. ;)

In my twenties, I was sometimes resentful like Abbey, and I would let my bitterness hold me back. We've both learned that nothing good really comes from holding grudges. That doesn't mean we're doormats--but there is a certain peace when you learn to forgive and move on.

Also, while my mother is NOTHING like Abbey's mother, I can relate to their relationship. As a teen, even if Mom and I had the biggest fight, I still loved her and couldn't imagine her not being in my life. When Abbey's mother hurt her all those times, Abbey still desperately loved her and wanted to be a part of her life.

Thanks, Shannon!

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