Thanks to the site Netgalley, I was provided the opportunity to read a really great book called Goddess of Suburbia, by Stephanie Kepke. This novel is the perfect example of this generations ability to use social media to create something out of nothing. I absolutely adored this book, partly because it was a bit of a mix between the Real Housewives television franchise, and also a little of the author Liane Moriarty’s novels, without the murder mystery aspect.
Stay at home mom, mother of four, former pastry chef, PTA member, sex tape star. Wait what? Maxine wasn’t planning on having that last one on her life’s resume, but there it is. Thanks to one little romp in the sack with her husband his and camera phone, their entire love making session (even though it’s only four minutes long) is all over the internet. The only thing is, Max doesn’t know how it got there, and is only privy to the information because she walked in on her fourteen year old daughter watching it. Now Max has to figure out who got the video, and why they posted it all over the internet for everyone to see. When she finds out who is behind it, she feels very betrayed and doesn’t know who she can trust or turn to, thankfully her best friend is by her side through the entire ordeal. Not only can she not trust others, she finds it hard to not care what other people think of her. Especially with the paparazzi following her, and the entire world watching. Max finds it difficult to get back into the swing of things after the scandal becomes headline news. This book is one of my favorites of the summer, and there are many reasons why. First of all, it’s very connected with today’s society. We are always on Facebook, or twitter, doing things with our phones, and that is what the back drop of this book is, social media and all the good and bad things that can come from it. Also, I love that it’s taken in a more charming and funny way than you would normally think a book about such a serious topic would be taken. I like that the people in the book are very real, every day mom’s and children. They aren’t perfect, they have cellulite, they worry about their gray hair, and they have houses that aren’t perfect Mcmansions in a gated community. Lastly, the characters are very intricate, and they are all different in subtle ways. You get a feel for their personalities from the very first page. I was so deeply immersed in this book, I was rooting for Max from the beginning like she was my next door neighbor, or sister.
Thanks to Twitter, I was able to connect with the author of the book Stephanie Kepke, who did a Q&A with me! I love the fact that I am able to get in touch with people that are inspiring and creative, and I am able to talk to them, get to know them, and pick their brains a little bit! Read on to get a glimpse into Stephanie’s mind:
Kerrie: Is this your debut novel, or have you written something before Goddess of Suburbia?
Stephanie: Goddess of Suburbia is my debut novel. I do have a short story that came out as an ebook this past February. It’s called A New Lifeabout a young couple who are new parents. It’s the story of how their marriage changes after their baby is born and all the challenges they face.
K: This book deals a lot with social media, are you a social media addict like myself, or do you try to stay away?
S: Good question! I’m kind of in between. I love interacting with readers on social media, but when I’m working, and especially when I’m on a deadline, it can be too much of a distraction, so I’ll stay off for a few days. And then I’ll binge tweet, as I call it. I try to catch up on all of my mentions at once, because I really try to answer every mention and thank people for retweets. That could take me an hour and then I won’t go on again for a few days and concentrate on just writing. Facebook is a bit quicker to catch up on usually, but I also put effort into my writer page there. It’s a great way to interact with readers. I started writing this book when I first joined Facebook several years ago and I found it so fascinating – how you could see people you hadn’t seen in years with just a click. I actually added in the scenes with Twitter later on. I had never even heard of Twitter when I started writing Goddess of Suburbia!
K: If you could choose an actress to portray Max in a movie, who would you choose?
S: That is a fantastic question! My first creative writing teacher in college told me that my stories read like movies and suggested that I take a screenwriting class, so when my books get turned into movies, I can have control. She had a lot of faith in me! It actually took decades for my first novel to be published, but I’ve always thought of my novels as possible movies. I even did a “dream cast” Pinterest board for Goddess of Suburbia. I’ve always thought Kristen Wiig would be the perfect Max. She’s gorgeous, but you can believe that she might not realize it – just like Max. Plus, she’s shown sensitivity and depth in her movies, while being hilarious, of course. I also think Leslie Mann would make a great Max. She’s also gorgeous and can be vulnerable. She seems real, which Max definitely is. I think they both could play an imperfect heroine perfectly.
K: Who was your favorite character to write about?
S: Hmm – another good one! I liked writing Andi – she gets a lot of the good lines. She’s cooler than I am and way taller. Andi was inspired by my strong girlfriends who will have my back and cheer me up and “smack” some sense into me, if needed (not literally, of course). One of her stories actually happened to me – but I can’t say which one! Not on the record at least… I always liked the sidekicks in movies and I wanted Andi to be a strong, fully realized character in her own right.
K: What is a day like in your life?
S: I get up, make lunches, get my kids off to school (and then generally have to drive to one or more schools to drop off something they forgot). I try to work in the morning after my kids are in school. I’m a “pantser,” not a plotter, so I can work anywhere – I don’t have boards with post-it notes or outlines. If it’s nice out, I try to sit in my backyard and work. If I don’t have any errands to run, I’ll try to work from about 9:30 or so until my oldest son gets home at about 2:30. Then the afternoons are crazy – I have to drive my kids to various activities, catch up on laundry, perhaps do some food shopping. The evenings get equally hectic. One thing that takes up my time, but is very important to me – I have a rescue page on Facebook called Lucky Dogs (and Cats) and I post animals in need on it. Most are in the New York City kill shelters. It’s never ending – there are always dogs and cats on the euthanasia list who need homes, so I work that into my day. I write again after my kids are asleep. Somewhere along the way, I need to weave in promotional work, as well (social media, planning launch parties, etc.). I know – not very interesting! I wish I could spice it up a bit!
K: What is one of your all time favorite novels? And what is one that inspired you to write?
S: Oooh, my favorite thing to talk about – books! It’s so hard to pick just one. I’d have to say Tending to Virginia, by Jill McCorkle. Everything she writes is amazing, but this book is so layered, so brilliant. It’s about family, secrets, leaving home and going back. It’s emotional and humorous. I read it once and then I read it again a year later when I was pregnant for the first time. The main character is pregnant and returns home to be cared for by the women of her family. I was living far from my own family during my first pregnancy and this novel was just so comforting. I will add that Jill was my writing teacher (but this isn’t biased, it’s really good!). She influenced my writing more than anyone.
A book that inspired me to write – that’s even tougher to choose, but a great question! I was a voracious reader as a child and I loved escaping into a good book. I’ve wanted to be a writer since second grade, so I’d have to say Anne of Green Gables. I remember feeling like I was really in Prince Edward Island and thinking that Gilbert was so romantic. Or perhaps it was The Phantom Tollbooth that inspired me or The Secret Garden. Ugh, that’s three. Sorry!
K: I love Max’s personality, she reminds me of myself a little bit, did you create her after you or is she completely different than you?
S: I’m so glad she reminds you of yourself! That’s my favorite thing to hear about this book. I’d say she’s more like me than different. I’m also a tired PTA mom who is always behind on laundry. She has one more kid than I do and I have all boys – that’s one difference. I basically wrote a character I’d like to read about. Most heroines have a perfect house – their living rooms don’t look like a Toys ‘R’ Us exploded in it. Typical love scenes in books don’t involve the heroine worrying about buckets of laundry ruining the moment, but to me that’s real and every mom who has read it told me that they relate to Max. I have a tendency to ruminate on what other people think of me – that’s a similarity. Another thing that is like me – Max dresses a lot like I do. I did try to give her a different physical appearance – blonde hair, rather than dark brown. BUT – my hair is blonde now too! I became allergic to my “espresso” hair color last year and have been blonde ever since. I never anticipated that my author photo would resemble Max’s description of blonde hair and brown eyes. I do tell everyone that the book is not autobiographical – I’ve never been a tabloid darling with a sex tape whipping around cyberspace, thankfully!
K: What is one thing that you want readers to get out of this novel?
S: Very thought-provoking question! I’d love for readers, especially women, to realize that they don’t have to be so hard on themselves. We are our own harshest critics. Max worries constantly about what everyone else thinks about her and it drives her crazy – until she realizes that the only thing that matters is how she feels about herself. She was exposed in the most unflattering light and yet, she didn’t die of shame.
K: There are recipes at the back of the book, which was a very interesting and original touch, are you a baker like Max?
S: I’m so glad you like them! I do enjoy baking, but I don’t do it nearly enough any more. The apple cake was always my go-to dessert to make. I would even put it in holiday gift baskets. It looks really nice when it’s sliced. It’s my mother’s recipe. Orange juice is the secret ingredient that separates it from other Bundt cakes. The rugelach is my late grandmother’s recipe. I chose those two recipes, because they are original and there were no copyright concerns. Also, the act of making rugelach was perfect for deepening the scene. It’s a very intricate process and requires a lot of concentration.
K: When you’re not writing, what is your favorite thing to do?
I like to spend time with my family – I have three boys and two dogs. (And yes, I consider my dogs part of my family
) My dogs are my best stress relief. They are rescue dogs from Puerto Rico and so sweet, even if they are slightly crazy (or maybe a bit more than slightly). If I can spend time with my family by the water, that’s even better. I love being on the water – the ocean or the Long Island Sound – just like Max. Her favorite ices stand is based on a real ices stand called Bonanza in Oyster Bay, NY.
Goddess of Suburbia is a great summer read, I guarantee that you will be rooting for Max the entire way through the book. This one gets 5 out of 5 stars from me!