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(36) Talking Shop with Emily

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Seasoned author, Emily Liebert, joins me to talk shop about writing, supporting other writers (or not), motherhood, friendship, and Real Housewives. She shares the greatest piece of writing advice she ever got, what she didn’t know when her first book published, and her refreshing take on the illusion of balance. Together, we give a candid, behind-the-scenes look at the glamourous writer life (ha!), even the stuff we’re not supposed to talk about.

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Brandy:                   Hello, Adult Conversation Podcast listeners. In this episode, I am joined by seasoned author Emily Liebert. We talk shop about writing, where our stories come from, and being supportive of other authors or not. She shares the greatest piece of writing advice she ever got, what she didn’t know when her first book published, and a refreshing take on the illusion of balance as a working mom or, really, any kind of mom. We also discuss a personality trait we both share that not only helps us as writers, but also makes us solid friends. So join us for a candid, behind-the-scenes look at the glamorous writer life (ha!) — even the stuff we’re not supposed to talk about. There’s plenty here for non-writers too. Did I mention that Emily knows some of the Real Housewives? Well, she does, and I ask her all about them.

Brandy:                   I need to give a quick shout out to my newest Patreon peeps: Fran Cooper, Alexandra Loginov, and Juana Maria Ayala. Thank you so much for your support. If you want to join these three heroes and many more in supporting me in this podcast, go to www.patreon.com/adultconversation. It’s way cheaper than you think. Also, some super generous people have just Venmo’d me a little something. Thank you, Jennifer Newsome.

Brandy:                   Also, I’m not sure if I mentioned that my book came out recently. Okay, I won’t this time. {whispers} Adult Conversation: A Novel. Buy it now {laughter}. Lastly, for those of you who have book clubs or who want to start a virtual book club and you choose my book as one of your reads, I am happy to virtually show up and lead a book/motherhood discussion with your group. I’m also happy to host the call on Zoom if you feel like you can organize the rest. Basically, I can’t do in-person events right now, and I’ve had to cancel my Vegas event. So, I’m at your service for anything virtual. Go to http://www.adultconversation.com, email me, and we’ll work out the details together. Onto the show —

Brandy:                   Today on the podcast, we have with us best-selling author and all around, awesome human being, Emily Liebert. Welcome, Emily.

Emily:                      Thanks for having me! “All around, awesome human being” — wow, I’ve never gotten that before.

Brandy:                   Well, we’re gonna get to that because you truly are, but it’s a part of your personality that I got to know immediately. We have to talk about it in a little bit because I think it relates to what we’re going to talk about today as well.

Emily:                      I have to get that out there immediately so that they don’t think that I’m a jerk later on. People are like, “Well, she was nice in the beginning.”

Brandy:                   {laughter} See, I’m setting you up. This is a character development. I’m setting you up so that the audience likes you. But really, you honestly are a stellar human being, and we’re going to talk about why in a moment.

Emily:                      Thank you.

Brandy:                   As someone whose first book just came out, I am dying to pick your seasoned author brain about being a writer and creative person, while also being a mom, and what you’ve learned along the way, which I’m sure is a lot. Maybe also, what it’s like to be friends with some of the Real Housewives from Bravo. I don’t know if we can go there.

Emily:                      We can. Sure.

Brandy:                   Okay, yes.

Emily:                      Why not? No holds barred in this episode, people. We’re telling it all.

Brandy:                   {laughter} Yeah, we leave it all on the table. But before we get to all of that, what is something that the listeners need to know about you?

Emily:                      Goodness, what are some good party tricks? I can do a split on both sides, a cartwheel, and a mean Running Man on the dance floor. That’s a few things, but there you go. I’m a talented girl.

Brandy:                   Wait a minute. A couple things here just to start off with: A) I have similar talents, but B) you being friends with the Real Housewives – the image that conjured up is Kyle from Beverly Hills always doing the splits up at parties. And so, is that something that you’ve learned from that crowd, or is it something you bring to the table all by yourself? {laughter}

Emily:                      I don’t know Kyle, so I did not learn that from her. And that was not something I took away from that crowd, even though there have been many wonderful takeaways. No, I guess another thing people may not know about me is that I have taught Pure Barre classes for many years. If people don’t know what Barre is, it’s kind of a mixture between yoga, pilates, and ballet. I’ve danced all my life. So, thus the splits. I’m very flexible. My husband enjoys that in the bedroom. Just saying.

Brandy:                   {laughter} Nice. Okay, good. This is the kind of transparency we need.

Emily:                      We’re just getting right off to a good start.

Brandy:                   We are. In my learning more about you, I saw that you teach Pure Barre. I had a question for you that was going to wait until the end, but I’m going to ask it to you right now.

Emily:                      Okay.

Brandy:                   I’ve taken some classes of Pure Barre, and I love it even though my thighs quake since it’s basically an hour of finding different ways to repackage squats. Like, “This one is squats, but on your toes. And this one is squats, but you’re holding a ball. And this one is squats, but you are lying down.” It seems like a little bit of a brainwashing. But anyway, I need to know some behind the scenes on this. Do you change the music or turn the lights off or whatever just so you can stop doing these hellish moves as the teacher? How do you sneakily get a break while the rest of us continue to do squats for another hour?

Emily:                      With Pure Barre, there is a very strict pattern you have to follow in the class, and there are actually times that you are supposed to turn the lights out or just dim the lights or turn them back on. I don’t know if you have ever realized this, but in a Barre class, usually the teachers are only supposed to do two or three reps of something to show you how it’s done. It’s not like a spin class where the teacher does the whole class with you. They’re supposed to only do two to three reps so that they can walk around the room and correct/help your form so that you are doing things right and getting the most out of your Barre experience. The whole class is about the core, and people don’t realize it’s actually a very, very challenging class.

Brandy:                   Yeah, for sure. And as a teacher, I would really enjoy that part of walking around helping other people with form so that I didn’t have to do the moves because I look at these goddesses, and I’m like, “Is this your, like, fifth class of the day? How do you teach this? How do you do these moves every day for hours at a time?” It’s nice to know that they get a break. That seems humane.

Emily:                      I mean, practice makes perfect. But as I say, anytime that I can be on a microphone and have twenty-five people listening to me for fifty minutes is a good day for me.

Brandy:                   {laughter}

Emily:                      I always say that I want the microphone at home, like, “Clean up! Make dinner! Set the table!”

Brandy:                   {laugher} “Alright everybody, I’m gonna turn the lights down, and everybody’s gonna pick up their stuff in five, four, three…”

Emily:                      That’s right. Exactly. “Ten to go.”

Brandy:                   Oh, my God, that’s great. One of the major topics here that I want to talk to you about is writing, and also how to be a good person while doing that and being in the business. Tell us how many books have you written, and what genres are they in?

Emily:                      Perfectly Famous, which comes out June 2, will be my seventh book.

Brandy:                   Wow.

Emily:                      My first book, called Facebook Fairytales, was narrative nonfiction. That was really just sort of a right place, right timing idea, which was twenty-five amazing stories that came from Facebook connections, right at the time that Facebook was exploding. Then I wrote four women’s fiction novels. And then I decided to make things a little bit edgier and thrill things up a bit, and I wrote two, I guess what would be called psychological suspense/thrillers. I think they also sort of straddle the line between women’s fiction as well.

Brandy:                   Yeah, I want to ask you about some of that because as I was reading a little bit more about Pretty Revenge and Perfectly Famous — I know Pretty Revenge was about vengeance. Tell us a little bit about what Perfectly Famous is about. I love these dark themes, by the way, and I want to get in your head about that in a second. So yeah, what’s Perfectly Famous about?

Emily:                      Perfectly Famous is about two women. The first woman, Ward DeFleur, is a very famous crime novelist. Think as big as like — she’s not a crime novelist but think as big as someone like Danielle Steel.

Brandy:                   Okay.

Emily:                      A really famous crime novelist who, while she’s about to launch her thirteenth novel, her daughter is abducted and killed — her teenage daughter, Stevie.

Brandy:                   Woah.

Brandy:                   Ward freaks out, understandably, flees her town in Connecticut, and runs away and goes into hiding, and reneged on all our future book deals. Nobody can find her or get in touch with her. Nobody knows where she went. She goes into, sort of, a depression. And then, there is a second woman whose name is Bree. She is a former journalist come housewife who is going through a divorce and is looking to fill a void in her life because she no longer has to do things like, you know, get her husband’s dry cleaning or make dinner for the family. Her daughter is seventeen years old, the same age as Ward’s would have been. She makes it her mission to find Ward because she is one of her famous authors, and in doing so, she gets entangled with Ward’s daughter’s killer.

Brandy:                   Oh, I like this. I’m definitely going to be reading this. And I’m wondering, as a fellow author, how much of our real life informs our fiction writing, and I would imagine that there was a lot there with making a character who’s also an author that you got to play with, or spear, or write out, maybe, things that had happened to you or things you’d seen happen to other people. Was that a gratifying experience to have an author character that you could put some of those experiences into?

Emily:                      Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely fun. Most all of my writing comes from either my life or my friends’ lives or the world that I live in. I’m not writing science fiction or anything like that. It’s funny because I related to Ward because she was an author, and then, Bree had come from a background of working as a journalist which I was doing before I became an author. I used to work at ABC News for a number of years, and I was a magazine editor and whatnot. And I’ve interviewed a lot of people. So, both of the characters, sort of, came from worlds that I had been a part of, but then there were big pieces of them that weren’t my life.

Brandy:                   Right.

Emily:                      I don’t have teenage children. My children are younger. I am still happily married. I wasn’t going through a divorce like Bree was, nor was I single like Ward was. But you pick up the pieces of things like that from other people’s lives around you and what they’re going through.

Brandy:                   Yes.

Emily:                      I have a couple of good friends who are going through divorces. So, I knew sort of what the stages of that were and what they were feeling like. I also have friends who have teenage kids.

Brandy:                   Totally, and I think that that’s what makes people good writers or at least good — what would be the right word I would use for that? Umm, like, witnesses almost. My husband and I always joke that we can go into a room for five minutes with three people, and he and I can have a two-hour conversation afterwards because we’re just picking up on so many little cues and things. And so I think, as a writer, you even just have a conversation with somebody and in the moment, I know, for me, I’m not thinking, “What can I mill from what they’re saying to make a book?” But there’s one little takeaway and months later, years later, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, I still remember that, and wouldn’t that be an interesting character thing?” So, is that kind of how you work too?

Emily:                      Uh-huh. A few years ago, another friend of mine, who’s a very well-known author, we were at dinner with a group of our friends for someone’s birthday, and somehow, the conversation turned to what everyone’s vagina looked like.

Brandy:                   Ah, as it does.

Emily:                      As it often does — dinner conversation.

Brandy:                   Wait, were you guys talking about The Goop show? Is that how it came up?

Emily:                      No, this was, like, years ago. This pre-dated The Gopb show.

Brandy:                   Oh, got it.

Emily:                      So, we were talking about vaginas, as you know, as women will do. And as we were leaving, we sort of both turned to each other, and we’re like, “Who’s using this material?” {laughter}

Brandy:                   {laughter} Oh, that’s amazing because I always feel like the weirdo when I’m having a conversation with somebody, and then I take a little note because I’m like, “That one piece is so interesting.” And then, I’m the creeper that’s like, “I might use that for a character.” But to be in a group of people where everybody’s just like, “Alright, who’s got that,” that feels very normalizing, and I love it.

Emily:                      Well, I often joke with people, “Don’t piss me off, or you’ll be the villain in my next book.”

Brandy:                   Yeah, that is some power. Truthfully, that is some power. Your last book, Pretty Revenge, that’s about vengeance. Was there a bit of a personal spin on that? Was there a situation in your life that, obviously you don’t have to get into, but was there something that felt cathartic for? Or was that just kind of like, “I thought it would be fun to write?”

Emily:                      You know, it’s funny, I did get asked that a lot which I think is natural when you write a book about revenge. I didn’t have one specific circumstance that inspired the book. That said, I’m someone who can hold a grudge. I should say that I’m someone who can forgive, but I never forget. I think we’ve spoken about this in our personal conversations that when someone does something that’s out of character or off-color that really eats at you, even though you can find a way to forgive them, it’s always sitting there in your chest and always ready to be freshly sprouted, should they ever do anything again. Or just when they ask something from you and you’re like, “Well, you kind of bullied me in high school, so I’m not really inclined to help you right now.”

Brandy:                   Right.

Emily:                      So yeah, I think there is a little bit of that inclination within me even though I would certainly not take it to the extent of uprooting my life and leaving my relationship and job and moving to another city in order to seek revenge on someone — I don’t think  —

Brandy:                   Yeah, okay, that seems healthy.

Emily:                      I mean, there’s always room for new things to happen, but I don’t think I would do that.

Brandy:                   What about putting on a diaper and driving cross country to catch somebody in the act? Wasn’t there some woman, with an astronaut involved or something about a woman who wouldn’t stop, and so she put on a diaper and was just like, “I’m driving to either get away from this motherfucker or to find this motherfucker?”

Emily:                      The diaper part eludes me, but I could see the impulse to try to catch someone in the act of something, for sure.

Brandy:                   She had no time to burn. She was going, in a number of ways. But what I was going to ask you is, with this not holding a grudge but this not forgetting when you’ve been wronged, I noticed that as I get older, my memory isn’t as great. There are times that I can have a big thing with somebody, and then seriously six months later, I can’t even remember what the thing was. And so, that’s a little bit weird. I’m also somebody who values an apology so highly. I think it’s so hard for people to apologize that anybody who even attempts, in a way, gets major points in my book. Maybe, it’s also my willingness or wanting to move past something, but I think my brain and my lack of memory helps me to not hold on to that stuff. Have you noticed a change in that, or are you like, “Uh uh, this shits a steel trap. I am still not forgetting on my deathbed.”

Emily:                      Yeah, no, it’s a steel trap. I’m still not forgetting on my deathbed. {laughter}

Brandy:                   {laughter}

Emily:                      Plus, like, aren’t you younger than I am? What’s wrong with your memory, girl? I think it depends how big the thing is too. If it’s a little, like, you know, not a big deal, someone made a mistake and they apologize, I move on from that, and I don’t hold a grudge with that. I so rarely, in my adult life, have issues with people anymore, so when there is something, I think it really sticks out today.

Brandy:                   Yeah, actually, that’s a really good point too.

Emily:                      And I’m a good friend. That’s one thing I pride myself on is being a really good, loyal friend who also understands. I’m not the person who, when you’re like, “I have to cancel lunch on you for the fifteenth time,” is like, “You know, I’m really getting sick of it, whatever.” I’m like, “Look, you got something to do. It’s okay.”

Brandy:                   Right.

Emily:                      I let a lot go, so I think when something does really bother me, it really bothers me.

Brandy:                   Yeah, actually, that makes total sense. And so, at this part of our lives, what do you think makes a good friend? When you say that you’re a good friend, what qualities do you look for in friendship at this time of our lives?

Emily:                      Someone who is authentic, someone who is self-aware, someone who will go out of their way to defend you to someone else (like, when someone says something that’s not nice about you), someone who doesn’t talk at all about you behind your back, and someone who is there for you during the good stuff and the bad stuff.

Brandy:                   Yeah, I think you nailed it right there. And actually, this gets to what I wanted to talk about in terms of you being an all-around awesome human being.

Emily:                      Yeah, let’s talk about that. {laughter}

Brandy:                   Let’s get back to that. {laughter}

Emily:                      Let’s talk about that for the rest of the time. {laughter}

Brandy:                   You’re one of these kinds of people who is, as I’m learning, a total supporter who likes to say ‘yes’ to helping fellow authors, even ones you don’t know. For example, through a mutual friend, I reached out to you asking if you would read my book, and maybe, if you liked it, if you would post about it, or whatever, which is a common thing that happens in the book world, which maybe people not in the book world are like, “That’s weird.” But you guys, there’s so much of this, like, sharing of your book, and if it hits somebody the right way, maybe they’ll post something. I don’t know. It’s this strange self-promotion thing. But not only did you say ‘yes’ to reading my book, which blew me away as somebody who’s written seven books, but you liked it enough that you wrote a blurb for me, which is the nice words that happened to be on my cover, but they can be on the back of a book too, for people who aren’t sure what a blurb is. I have friends and writing mentors who won’t even support me in that way, so that’s partially what makes you an amazing person to me. It really got me thinking about the difference between people who are helpers and true allies, and people who are not. I know that you and I’ve talked about this because I think we tend to be the same way, but (not to sound like Michael Scott from The Office) why are you the way you are? Like, how did you know to be this way? And is this a response to you being supported as a new writer or not being supported? Where does this part of your personality, this helpful nature, come from?

Emily:                      I think some of it was when — I think it’s who I am innately, but I think that some — and by the way, thank you for the nice words.

Brandy:                   Of course.

Emily:                      I think that some of it came from when, as I said, I started my career at ABC News, and that’s a very cutthroat world, specifically, for women. What I noticed there was that there were two types of women there. There were the types of women who would show me the ropes and try to help me grow in my career, and there were the women who tried to push me down because they saw a young blood coming up the ranks and they thought, “I don’t want her to get in my way.”

Brandy:                   Right.

Emily:                      And my feeling is that no one’s ever going to get in your way. They’re going to do what they’re going to do with or without you, so why not support and help them because you want to be supported and helped too? When I was first starting out as an author (and I think I’ve also told you this), when I would go around and ask for blurbs, there were some authors who were too big for their britches, and they would say, “No, I’m too busy,” or, “She’s not important enough,” or, “Nobody knows who she is.” Well, of course, nobody knows who my I am. It’s my first book, and how is anyone going to know who I am if people like you don’t support me?

Brandy:                   Right.

Emily:                      I vowed very early on to always help people promote their books, blurb them, do a giveaway, or whatever it is. Why would you not help other authors?

Brandy:                   Totally. I operate under the guise of, “Nobody owes me anything.” So, when I ask for blurbs or ask people if they want to read it and if they genuinely like it if they want to do something with it, that’s cool. I know that nobody owes me anything, so I feel like whenever anybody says ‘yes,’ it feels it’s just icing on the cake. And if people say ‘no,’ it’s like, “Well, they didn’t owe that to me.” Also, I know what that feels like to have people do that. I’ve had a couple of people ask me to blurb their books, and I’m kind of torn because my initial response is always, “Yes, I want to help you because I know what it feels like to have people not help me.” And then I get in this place where I’m like, “Okay, but how can I be authentic to what moves me or doesn’t move me and also be helpful?” As a new writer, kind of now in this position, that’s where I’m trying to figure it out, and so far, I definitely subscribe to the, like, “You can find something nice to say about it or a part that moved you — ”

Emily:                      I think that people can tell when someone blurbs a book – if you say, you know, “A fun read.” It’s like, “Okay?” But the more specific you get and the more effusive you are, I think, people can tell whether you really like something or not.

Brandy:                   Yeah, I think you’re right about that. That’s one of the pieces that I’m definitely navigating and trying to stay authentic but also stay supportive. I think different personality types grapple with that more. I respect the people who are like, “I don’t blurb anybody because it’s too much and then I have to say ‘no’ to people,” because I know that that’s a common thing with a lot of writers.

Emily:                      Yeah, and that’s okay. And by the way, it is okay for people to say ‘no.’ A lot of times, I think it’s how you say ‘no.’ I’ve had authors say to me, “I love your books. I have sixteen books that I promised to blurb, and there’s absolutely no way I can get to it by the date you’re giving me. Can I do something else for you? Can I do a giveaway when the book comes out?” “Yeah, no problem. No grudge. No need for me to move out of my city and come to your city and seek revenge on you.”

Brandy:                   {laughter} Totally. No need to put on that diaper and drive.

Emily:                      Totally. No need to get the Depends out. But also, I think in your case, I remember giving you a very effusive blurb because I loved your book and thought it was hysterical.

Brandy:                   You are so sweet. But it’s a tricky. It feels like a minefield. I saw this meme the other day that said, “A group of writers is called an anxiety.” {laughter}

Emily:                      {laughter}

Brandy:                   It just felt so true that there’s so much anxiety with writers.

Emily:                      Oh, for sure.

Brandy:                   There’s so much ego in different parts of that, too, and sensitivities and where people are at with their writing and how they feel about it at different levels of confidence. So, it really does feel like navigating a minefield with this whole thing in the way that you ask, but then the way that you receive the answer, but then the way that you give an answer. And so, I’m always trying to be super thoughtful because I just want to be supportive and do the best for people. I know how much work it takes to get to this point. And so, I want to reward people who can do that, but it’s not always easy because you can say something in the most thoughtful way, and it doesn’t always get received that way on either end. So, this is one of the, “Welcome to the publishing world. Welcome to the author world,” things that I’m trying to navigate.

Emily:                      {laughter}

Brandy:                   What else have you learned? What did you not yet know about writing, publishing, the ways of the world when your first book came out? What can I learn from you, Emily?

Emily:                      The greatest piece of information about writing that I have ever received is, “If each and every conversation, chapter, scene does not move the plot forward in any way, delete it.” Nobody wants nineteen pages of backstory unless that backstory somehow affects the current or future machinations of the plot.

Brandy:                   You know how I think that point is driven home — because that’s one of the things that I have learned as well (not saying that I do it well or flawlessly or anything like that. It was definitely something I had to learn), but I think the way that that really hits home is if you read something by somebody who gives so much extra that you don’t need, that when you read it, you feel so exhausted and you’re like, “But why? Why was I put through that? Because it never paid off, and I didn’t need to know all the ins and outs of this one specific thing that I read about for an entire chapter.”

Emily:                      You know when you can cut a complete character out, and it wouldn’t matter at all. I mean, a secondary character, not one of the main characters. I would start talking about one of my character’s childhoods and tell some story that I thought was so funny about some experience she had, and my agent or my editor would be like, “What does this have to do with anything? Like, it’s a great story, but what does –.” I’m like, “No, it’s just in there for, like, color.” And they’re like, “Yeah, no.”

Brandy:                   Right. Hmm.

Emily:                      And you find that when you pull that stuff out, it’s much tighter. And along those same lines, doing big drops of backstory is never good, but if you want to get that backstory in, you divide it up into pieces and drop little bits of information throughout, rather than one dump.

Brandy:                   Right. Yes.

Emily:                      There’s a lot of times writers are like, “Let me just explain everything that happened right up front so we can go from there.”

Brandy:                   Oh my gosh, that’s like in Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird. This part, specifically, that you’re talking about spoke to me when she said, “You don’t need to give them the blueprints for the submarine. They don’t need the entire blueprints.”

Emily:                      That’s right.

Brandy:                   I was like, “But, they don’t?” That was when I was writing my first draft.

Emily:                      I remember, I used to think, “Well, don’t I have to give this character, like, a mother and a father or a sibling? Where are these people in their lives? I know they’re not part of the book, but don’t you have to, like, say that they exist and who they are?” And then you realize that you don’t need someone’s entire genealogy when that’s not at all what the books about and they’re already a forty-five-year-old woman.

Brandy:                   Yeah. When you look back at your first book or books, because I’m already thinking to myself, if I write more in the future, I’m like, “What am I going to look back on in this book and be like, ‘Oh, man, that’s pretty cringy.’” I mean, I would try to have the compassion of like, “I was a new author. I was learning to write a book by writing a book,” but what do you look back on your first book or two and think? And is there anything that you feel cringy about?

Emily:                      The writing. I don’t feel cringy about the writing, but I feel that my writing has improved so much over time and probably certain words that I used to use all the time that I don’t use anymore. Also, I think, trying to use big words just because you want to use big, fancy words, but you don’t, actually, have to. Some of the best books are the most simply written. They just are great stories.

Brandy:                   Absolutely. When you started writing in the books that you’ve had published, did you have children when you wrote that Facebook book?

Emily:                      When I wrote it, no. When it came out, by that time, I had my older son, and I was pregnant with my younger son. So, when I went on book tour for Facebook Fairytales, I was pregnant.

Brandy:                   Okay, got it. So, the bulk of the books that you’ve written, you have done with either babies or small kids.

Emily:                      Yes.

Brandy:                   Okay, we need to talk about this. How in the hell did you do that?

Emily:                      {laughter} It takes a village. When my kids were very young, we had a babysitter who came during the day while I was sequestered in an office, two floors above.

Brandy:                   Okay.

Emily:                      And in the beginning, I wasn’t quite as busy because I was writing one book, and there were no other books to promote. Or I was writing my second book, and there was only one other book to promote. So now, it’s all a domino effect, and there’s so much stuff. There are always other projects going on. But in the beginning, I wasn’t quite as busy. So, I would say that I was really only working for four to five hours of the day. I would take that time in the morning until the early afternoon, and then I would have time to be with the kids in the later afternoon and the evening. Then, once they went to school and camp, it became much easier. No writing (except now), no writing happens, typically, when children are at home.

Brandy:                   Oh, yeah, right.

Emily:                      Unless, like, one kid is home and not feeling well, and I can just park them in front of the television, then maybe, some writing gets done. But all of my writing gets done between the hours of 8:00am in the morning and 3:30pm in the afternoon – but this is talking about life in a not quarantine world. Now, anything goes.

Brandy:                   Yeah. How, during that time, was it for you to switch between the writer hat and the mother hat? It sounds like you had a decent balance between those two parts of yourself. Did you find it hard to switch in and out of them? Or did it feel like a nice balance? Was there anything that you would have changed about that?

Emily:                      So, I don’t really believe in the word ‘balance.’ You can’t balance it all. There are days when I’m a great writer and author. There are days when I’m a great mother. But there are never really days when I’m 100% best at both. I think it’s a give and take. It may be more of like an overall life balance, but it’s definitely not a daily balance. There were two times when my kids were growing up that my books came out in September, and I was going on The Today Show for their first day of school. I couldn’t be there, and you know what? My husband was, and that’s okay.

Brandy:                   Yeah, how did you rectify that? Is your personality type like you don’t really have much mom guilt? Or did that get you a little bit? Or how did you make peace with that?

Emily:                      I don’t have a ton of mom guilt anymore, but I did at the time. I think I felt horrible about it, but I also knew that, “Mom has got to sell books, so if you want to eat those goldfish –.”

Brandy:                   Right. {laughter}

Emily:                      My husband is a very hands-on parent and fortunately, owns his own company, so even though he works very hard, long hours, he does have the ability if he knows in advance, for example, that he’s going to have to take the kids to school three weeks from now that he can make that time to do it.

Brandy:                   Isn’t it interesting that I asked you this question, but I don’t know that a dad has ever been asked the question, “How did you rectify missing your child’s first day of school for work?” {laughter}

Emily:                      Absolutely not. Never has a man been asked in an interview, “How do you balance it all?”

Brandy:                   Yeah, totally.

Emily:                      It just doesn’t happen, but that’s what I sort of love about women. We do do it all. We can do it all, or you know, I mean, quote unquote ‘it all.’ I always compare life’s balance to a diet. You can eat a donut one day, but you can’t eat sixteen donuts. So, you can be the best mom one day, but you can’t also be the best writer that day. And there have also been times where someone’s asked me to do something that I’ve wanted to do for work, but it’s been my kid’s birthday at school or it’s a field trip that I committed to or something like that. Unless it’s, like, Jenna Hagar or Reese Witherspoon calling, I pass on it.

Brandy:                   Right.

 Emily:                     They haven’t called yet.

Brandy:                   {laughter}

Emily:                      But if they do, I’m completely available. I just want you to know, no matter what else is going on.

Brandy:                   Yeah, at the end of this, we’ll give out your cell phone number just so that they can have an easier access. Yes.

Emily:                      Call me! Yeah, I don’t think you can balance it all, all the time, so I do my best. And I’ve been able to release the guilt a lot more over time. My husband has no guilt. If he has to do something for work, there’s not a modicum of guilt anywhere in his entire body about missing something that could be for the kids. It’s got to get done.

Brandy:                   Because he wasn’t brought up to feel that, and he probably didn’t see men feeling it. We absorb, from playing with baby dolls, that there’s guilt. I know this is so dumb, and I don’t know if anybody else feels this way, but I would sleep with all my stuffed animals and dolls. In the morning, if one had rolled off the bed, I was like, “Oh, my gosh, it’s gonna think that it’s not as important to me.” That’s probably just a weird —

Emily:                      Oh, you really are bleeding heart. Yeah, no, I definitely never felt that way.

Brandy:                   Yeah. It’s so funny because I haven’t taught my daughter to do that, but the other day, she said something similar about one of her toys feeling like it wasn’t important. And I was like, “Oh, God, you have my problem,” which is also a gift.

Emily:                      {laughter} Isn’t that great? “Oh, I passed my neuroses on to you. Fabulous.” But it’s also a nice way to feel. I mean, the fact that she has sympathy for an inanimate object is nice.

Brandy:                   {laughter} And I blame it also on the Brave Little Toaster, that movie from our childhood. So, there’s that. I’ll just put it all on that. That’s how I’m gonna handle that one.

Emily:                      Brandy has therapy later today, people.  It’s okay.

Brandy:                   Seriously. Since we’re talking about some of this gender stuff, what do you think about women’s fiction? Or “chick-lit?” Isn’t it interesting that fiction encompasses works from men and women, but we have to have our own subgenre because men wouldn’t want to necessarily read our books? But we, surely, want to read theirs. There’s not men’s fiction and women’s fiction. They get all of fiction. I was real pissed when I realized that.

Emily:                      It is the truth. I don’t get wrapped up in it. As I always say, “Call my book whatever you’d like to call it, just buy it.”

Brandy:                   {laughter} Right.

Emily:                      Call it ‘X-rated.’ I don’t know. Call it a children’s book. Just buy it. Chick-lit, women’s fiction, I try not to let stuff like that bother me.

Brandy:                   No, I get it. And you can because people like me who obsess about their stuffed animals that fall on the floor.

Emily:                      Right, I’ve got other people to obsess about that.

Brandy:                   I really believe, and that’s how I feel about certain political things too, when people are like, “What do you think about ‘blah, blah, blah? You like to talk about this kind of stuff.” And I’m like, “Honestly, I’m too busy in my lane. I can’t also worry about this other lane.” So, that’s what’s beautiful about everybody doing their own thing in their own work. It’s like it allows us all to kind of be in our lane and hope that somebody else has got the other lane covered.

Emily:                      I think generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of pigeon-holing books into categories, even though I did make this move to psychological suspense or thriller, whatever you want to call it. I don’t think my books are so far to one side of what a real ‘thriller thriller’ is. Even though in Perfectly Famous, Ward’s daughter is abducted and killed, it’s sort of something you just know, but you don’t see the blood and guts and gore of it. And it’s not something that really takes over the plot. When you get into the individual interactions between the characters, much of that feels (for lack of a better phrase) women’s fiction-ish to me. So, I would like for authors and books to be able to straddle lines between different genres. I think there are books, like for example, my friend Brenda Janowitz, writes books, and her earlier books were definitely considered women’s fiction, and then her last book, The Grace Kelly Dress, was sort of being called historical fiction, but that was only because there was a little bit of a historical aspect to the story. It wasn’t completely based in a different time period or a period drama. I thought that book straddled the line between historical and women’s fiction, and I would have liked to see it categorized in that way in two categories.

Brandy:                   Right. Yeah, it can be more than one thing. When did you know that you were a writer or that you wanted to be a writer? Was it something you were doing when you were younger, like, when you were a little girl? Or was it when you got older? When did that happen for you?

Emily:                      I’ve always been a storyteller throughout my life. I was always the kid who would come home from summer camp and regale my parents with every detail of everything that happened. Sometimes my stories were perhaps slightly exaggerated. {laughter}

Brandy:                   {laughter}

Emily:                      A foray into my future as a fiction writer. But I always was a storyteller, and very early on, I knew I wanted to go into journalism in some way. In the early years of college, and maybe, even at the end of high school, I very misguidedly thought that I wanted to be a sports radio host.

Brandy:                   Oh, wow.

Emily:                      The only issue with that was I really didn’t know much about sports.

Brandy:                   Seems like a problem. {laughter}

Emily:                      That was majorly integral to that job somehow. {laughter} I knew a lot about baseball at the time, but that was the only thing I really knew a lot about as far as professional teams. So, that fell by the wayside pretty quickly. Then I, as I’ve said a couple times, went into television. I worked at ABC for Peter Jennings for a few years out of college, and then decided that I didn’t really want to do that. But what I really wanted to do was write, and that was when I became a magazine editor-in-chief which I did for five years, and I did tons of freelance writing which I still do for magazines sometimes. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to sink my teeth into bigger projects. That was when I took turned my efforts toward books.

Brandy:                   Yeah, that’s funny that you knew when you were younger, that you just remember being this storyteller and really noticing these details. I think that’s what I was talking about at the beginning is, I think one of the personality traits of a good writer is somebody — which is so ironic here. Let me think. The word is — not ‘noticing.’

Emily:                      Observant?

Brandy:                   Observant! Thank you. Thank you for that. Yes.

Emily:                      That’s why they pay me the big bucks.

Brandy:                   That’s why you’ve got seven books, and I’ve got one.

Emily:                      I’ve always been an observer of life, and I’ve always been someone who is very attentive to people’s personality traits, quirks, characteristics, and motivation for why they do the things that they do. Something I’ve always paid attention which also ties in to the whole ‘why I remember everything that anyone’s ever done to me in life’ because I can think back to summer camp when I was like fourteen years old where someone called me out on something in front of other people. And I remember thinking to myself, “Why wouldn’t they have taken me aside and said that to me? Why do they have to call me out in front of other people?” So, even back then, I knew that — I couldn’t verbalize it back then, but I knew in some way (which I would realize now) that that was their insecurity, not mine. Not what I had done. They had to do that to make themselves feel a certain way. But when you’re thirteen or fourteen you don’t necessarily realize that, you just realize that it doesn’t feel right.

Brandy:                   That’s absolutely right. This observer of life, and for what I lack now with my memory, I feel like after having kids, any memories made now, they go in and out. And I mean, not all of them, but anything that can be dumped is dumped. My high school, childhood friends always laugh at me because I remember everything from that era. Basically, birth to high school, I have every moment. It’s like a Rolodex which is why I think my brain is so full.

Emily:                      I think long term memory is a lot easier when you get older than short term memory is.

Brandy:                   Yes, that’s exactly how I feel. But those are the moments — just even the way somebody’s hair was always the same way, or the choice of the ponytail holder they would use. I mean, those kind of observant, neurotic sort of noticings, I feel like panned out because then you can write a book and, hopefully, tell some of those stories. So yes, you have hit the nail on the head for me. That’s exactly where I feel like my personality is, and I think what we were talking about in terms of friendships and being a good friend. I feel the same way about myself. I think it’s partially because of this observant nature. Maybe, it’s too much sometimes? There are definitely pros and cons to being this way, but I feel like when I’m in a relationship with somebody (a friendship), I’m picking up on all sorts of things. I’m picking up on what they’re saying, but I’m also picking up on the nuance of where they come from and their backstory, you know, almost like a character. So, I feel like that gives me a little bit more empathy or compassion or understanding of people because I’m not just picking up on what they’re saying. I’m picking up on what else I’m hearing with my other senses, so to speak. Do you feel that way with friendships?

Emily:                      Yes, definitely. And that’s part of why I feel that I can be a good friend to people because I’m very attentive to what’s going on for them that may not be bubbling at the surface and digging in there.

Brandy:                   That’s right. I’m always thinking there’s so much more going on below the surface of everything. Maybe, that’s why I feel exhausted all the time because picking up on all of those and having my feelers out is probably a lot.

Emily:                      Yeah. {laughter}

Brandy:                   How is what you write and how are your books different from anybody else’s? What’s different about your voice or your style or your books?

Emily:                      I always try to incorporate humor into my books. Even if it’s a serious subject, I think there’s a foundation (I hope) of a dry sense of humor. I think, and this is at least something I’ve been told, that I create very authentic, real-to-life characters.

Brandy:                   Got it. Awesome. Yeah, I feel like humor should be in literally everything, even funerals. So, I’m on board with you on that.

Emily:                      Funny you say that. There is a very funny funeral scene in the book. I’m not even kidding.

Brandy:                   {laughter} Okay, amazing.

Emily:                      Or, at least, I think it’s very funny. {laughter} You can tell me whether you do, or the jury’s out on that.

Brandy:                   I mean, of course, you think it’s funny because you would have to in order to have it in your book.

Emily:                      Yeah, I wouldn’t put it in there if I didn’t think it was funny.

Brandy:                   Sometimes when people are like, “So, is your book funny?” And then I feel weird being like, “Well, yeah,” but I mean, I’m the one that wrote it. I wouldn’t have written it if I didn’t think it was funny. So, maybe I’m an asshole. But yeah, I think it’s pretty funny because I was laughing.

Emily:                      But your book is very funny. What I will say is that, because I’m so funny,

I don’t think that a lot of other people are that funny. So, I was very pleasantly surprised that your book was as funny. Truth be told, I think I’ve told you this also, that when our mutual friend said, “Oh my God, there’s this author/friend of mine, and she wrote this really funny book. She wrote it about motherhood.” I was like, “eyeroll.”

Brandy:                   “Uh, another one of these.”

Emily:                      Another funny book and self-deprecating about motherhood and about how it’s so hard and how you want to kill your kids and all this stuff. And when I read your book, it was nothing like what I expected. I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, even though I hadn’t seen the cover yet, but you know what I’m saying.

Brandy:                   Right.

Emily:                      I thought it was very funny and very authentic. So, no worries there for you.

Brandy:                   Aww, yeah, thank you.

Emily;                      I mean, if I thought your book was funny, then obviously, it must. It must be.

Brandy:                   Well, I just won — there’s these things called the IPPY Awards which are for books.

Emily:                      Yeah!

Brandy:                   I won a Silver in the Humor Category, and it was this funny moment where even though people had been telling me they thought it was funny and I’ve been reading reviews, I was like, “Okay, so I wasn’t the only one. When I was writing this in my daughter’s room, and I was laughing, maybe, I wasn’t so off base.” It’s nice to get some validation sometimes. So, thank you for your validation. I appreciate it.

Emily:                      No problem.

Brandy:                   Okay, so in closing, what is your best coping strategy for this pandemic? How are things going, Emily?

Emily:                      I am just, sort of, in the mode of getting started writing my eighth book. I wrote four chapters before the pandemic hit, and then I took a little break because I’m now launching Perfectly Famous in a couple of weeks, so there’s been a ton of stuff to do for that. I should also mention that Pretty Revenge, my last book, was optioned for a television show. They just hired writers who I just spoke to for the first time. I’m sort of consulting on that a bit, too, which is taking some time, but I will have to return to the writing of the next book, and it will probably have to happen during times when my kids are home because I don’t think quarantine is just disappearing anytime soon, although, I am really keeping my fingers crossed for day camp. Certainly, once the school year goes back, some kind of three days a week or whatever it is. I don’t know what it’s gonna look like, but I’m hoping for something.

Brandy:                   Something, right.

Emily:                      Fortunately, at this stage in my life, my kids are going on ten and eleven years old. So, they are at a stage where I can say, “You need to leave me alone for a couple of hours.” It’s not going to be a four-hour chunk. That’s not going to ever happen. It’ll depend on whether we can have our babysitter come back, and she can take them out to do things. My way to cope has been cooking a lot. I’ve always loved to cook, but I used to do this thing where I got the food for the day we were eating it, every day, which now seems so antiquated and crazy to me. Now, I’m going once and getting like dinners for the entire week, so I find that I love cooking much more when I don’t actually have to procure this stuff every day and it’s just kind of there. I’m making this shrimp and orzo dish tonight, and I also have an Instagram Live with another Bookstagrammer to do tonight. So, in knowing that, I already prepped the shrimp and the sauce this morning.

Brandy:                   Yeah, pre-prep is everything.

Emily:                      Which I wouldn’t have been able to do pre-quarantine because I would have been out at some Pure Barre class or I would have been running errands or doing things. But now that I’m home, I have all the time in the world. I will set the table for dinner at twelve o’clock in the afternoon, just so that later, when dinner time comes, I don’t feel like, “Oh, I need to set the table. I need to make the dinner.” It feels like everything’s prepped and ready to go. Then it’s just sort of the fun part, which is the cooking for me.

Brandy:                   Right, there’s so much more breathing room around everything now which is, actually, wonderful.

Emily:                      Yeah.

Brandy:                   So, where can people find you and your book online?

Emily:                      You can find me in my house in Westport, Connecticut for the foreseeable future. {laughter}

Brandy:                   {laughter}

Emily:                      As far as my books, you can find them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, any of your independent bookstores, and if you want a one stop shop, you can go to http://www.emilyliebert.com which is my website. It has all of my social media and links to buy the books. On Instagram, I am @emilyliebert, and on Facebook, I am author Emily Liebert.

Brandy:                   Awesome, and Perfectly Famous comes out any day now, right?  June 2, is that right?

Emily:                      June 2. Yep.

Brandy:                   Is it as exciting the seventh time around as it is the first time around?

Emily:                      You appreciate it in different ways. So, I think the first time around, it’s just pure, sheer excitement that you have brought a book into this world, and that any one singular person has read it, aside your family and friends.

Brandy:                   Right, yes.

Emily:                      But you appreciate it in different ways when it comes to the seventh time. Certainly, it will be a different experience for me this time because I am doing a virtual tour rather than an in-person tour. And if you do go on my social media, on Facebook, or on Instagram, you will see that I have posted my fifteen virtual tour stops.

Brandy:                   Awesome. I have to circle back here. Housewives. Okay, we at least have to talk as for a tiny bit. I mean, I don’t even know. It’s like, “Okay, tell me everything you know,” but also you can’t do that because you’re actually friends with these people. Tell me some of the best moments, takeaways, things that we wouldn’t know, any tea you have to spill here.

Emily:                      So, my closest housewife friends are Teresa Giudice and Margaret Josephs from Housewives of New Jersey. I also am friends with Kelly Dodd from Orange County. I’m friendly with Braunwyn, and I know Tamra, who used to be on Orange County.

Brandy:                   Yeah, these are all my peoples.

Emily:                      What I will say is they are all awesome, fun, great people. Teresa, Margaret, Kelly, and Braunwyn are so down to earth. Braunwyn has, I think, seven kids.

Brandy:                   I love her. I loved her from her season.

Emily:                      She’s unbelievable. She’s so generous. She’s always willing to help with anything.

Brandy:                   Oh, my God, her mom though. Her mom, though, real fast. Are you allowed to speak at all about her mom?

Emily:                      Braunwyn’s mom? I don’t know her mom at all. I think she’s adorable. She reminds me of Betsey Johnson.

Brandy:                   She has this necklace, though, that says “Ego.” It’s like this big, gold necklace that she wears, and it’s always so strange because it’s like, “Are you saying that you have a lot of that, or that other people have a lot of that?” I never know. But anyway, I really, truly do love Braunwyn.

Emily:                      I’m not sure, but I think you do you.

Brandy:                   Right, yeah.

Emily:                      Kelly’s a blast. She is madly in love with a wonderful, senior correspondent from Fox News named Rick Leventhal. They are engaged to be married. That has been really fun to watch. I wrote with Teresa. I collaborated with her on her most recent book called Standing Strong. So, we became very close through that. Teresa’s got four beautiful daughters who are the nicest, sweetest, just most quote unquote “normal kids” considering everything that that family has had to go through.

Brandy:                   Yeah.

Emily:                      I’m sure you know that their father was most recently in jail. He got out and is now in Italy. Teresa and Joe are splitting up. Teresa was in jail for a little while. It’s not been an easy life for them. They lost their grandmother. Most recently, Teresa’s father passed away. These are people who, although, they seem crazy and they’re doing all this stuff and they’re having throwdowns and all this stuff on television — while I’m not saying that is fake or put on, it’s not, but when you’re thrust into certain situations, it’s sort of inevitable with people who you wouldn’t, maybe, naturally be friends with in real life.

Brandy:                   Oh gosh, yeah.

Emily:                      But in their real lives, they are all very great, fun people and good friends. I am not looking to just be friends with Real Housewives. It’s happened to come about that way, and they’ve stayed my friends because they are great people and because I love having them in my life.

Brandy:                   Yeah, I can imagine that there are two different personalities that I think any of us would have, which is who you are in your real life when you have autonomy and privacy and you choose your friends and you’re that person, but then when you’re put on a show with people that the producers know, “Let’s put them together because they don’t get along.”

Emily:                      Yeah, because their personalities are going to clash.

Brandy:                   Right, like poking the bear. Of course, those things would happen. So, I can totally see how they who they are on the show, and then who they are in their own personal lives are quite different. Actually, I think we would all be pushed to our limits if we had to go on these vacations with people who we hate and then there’s lots of alcohol. I don’t think that would go well for most people. {laughter}

Emily:                      Exactly. No.

Brandy:                   Thank you for that insight. Well, Emily, I’m so grateful for you coming here and giving me the time. I mean, you have shown me how to be an author-ally in this publishing world. And thank you, seriously. This has been a blast.

Emily:                      Thanks for having me.

Brandy:                   I’m sorry if Emily and I ruined the published author facade for you, but the self-promotion/blurb stuff is no joke. I also hope that this episode was inspiring for those of you who do have writing aspirations. Emily talked about looking back and noticing that her writing got so much better over time. Do you know what that means? It means that a debut manuscript doesn’t have to be absolute perfection. I’m not saying it should be shit or you shouldn’t work hard on it, but we are always growing and learning and doing better. You don’t have to wait to write something until you are perfect at writing, paint something until you were perfect at painting, or whatever the thing is you’re dreaming of doing. We all have to start somewhere. So, start.

Brandy:                   I haven’t mentioned this in a while, but if you are enjoying this podcast, please make sure to subscribe and leave a rating and a review. These things help us creators so much, especially, with booking interesting guests. Thank you to everyone who has left a rating or review. I so appreciate you. As always, thanks for listening.

** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.