Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Interview with Author Mary Carlomagno: Jersey Girl Writes Novel "Best Friend for Hire", Gives Advice for New Writers and Talks about her Time on Oprah's Show

Interview by Suzanne Ordas Curry

Best Friend for Hire by Mary Carlomagno is about a Jersey Girl, Jessie DeSalvo, who was living her dream life working at a glitzy ad agency in New York City, or "the city" as Jerseyans call it, until she gets the boot. Her life takes some twists and turns as she retreats to Hoboken, NJ, becomes a professional "best friend" and has to deal with the inquisitions of her large Italian-American family. The book is funny with meaning, and of course, since it's written by a Jersey Girl, has a storyline about Bruce Springsteen.

I asked Mary about how the book came to be, and how others could start writing. And knowing she was on Oprah, I had to ask her about that.

How autobiographical is it? 

Mary Carlomagno: In many ways, Best Friend for Hire is the culmination of all that I have done, I worked in publishing for many years before becoming an author, I am of Italian American descent, a life long New Jersey resident, having left the state for only two weeks at a time, I also spent many years in self help as a professional organizer. All of these experiences set the backdrop for the novel.  As a writer, you write what you know and these are things I know... 

Did you want to be a writer when you were a child? Or is it something you gravitated to later in life?

 Mary Carlomagno: I always wanted to communicate, to speak, to write in an effort to reach people.  I was a journalism minor in college and eventually made my life in book publishing, so short answer yes.  The journey to get to write was a bit longer... 

Tell me about the writing process. How long did it take you to write this book? Did you write this one in 30 days?  Physically, do you type on the computer, speak in to the computer, write on paper? How many hours a day do you spend writing?

Mary Carlomagno: I am a spontaneous writer who uses a laptop.   I like to get everything out in a flurry and that is how I wrote this book. In fact, I did the first draft through the Novel Writing in a Month program. The book took longer to get finalized and published than expected because I wrote the first draft over ten years ago.  I let my fears of writing fiction delay the process.  I went back to writing about organizing.  I have three books on the topic, once I felt that area was exhausted in book form for me, I knew I had to go back to the novel.  Today, I write on assignment only for magazines and newspapers, but when I am doing books, I usually write for 3-4 hours a day and leave a lot of time for editing too. 

Do you ever have writer's block? How do you get over it?  

Mary Carlomagno: Just hit the laptop and let whatever flows out of me, flow out.  I know that I can always edit or make it pretty later.  My strengths come from my editing skills more than my writing skills.  That is where the organizer in me takes over. 

The world of publishing has dramatically changed since the advent of the internet and Amazon. Do you think this is a plus or challenge for new authors? With so many options for publishing, and self-publishing taking off, what are traditional publishers looking for these days?

I think it is a plus for many, social media has opened up so many new channels for telling people about your books and selling books.  I am more of a traditional publishing person who finds comfort in the old ways of publishing, for example, I  have never self published.  I have the utmost respect for editors and publishers.  I think traditional publishers look for people that bring a platform with the book, for example a following on a blog or social media.  The numbers are more important now than they were in prior years.  And I think that makes getting published traditionally far more competitive and honestly less about the work and more about the profit.  

Mary Carolmagno on the Oprah Winfrey show
You were on Oprah. Tell me what is was like behind the scenes there.  Were you nervous?  How did you get on that show? What kind of reaction did you get after being on that show? Did it make a difference in your life?

Mary Carlomagno:  
"Oprah is an amazing person who has the best people working for her. "

She is gracious, kind and one of the people you meet who is bigger than life!  Yes, we had many pre interviews, the pre show process took about two weeks of back and forth with her producers. At the time of the show, I had just had my first child, so I was a bit distracted.  I spent several weeks talking to the show producers about the segment and they graciously let me have a lot of input so that when I was finally flown out to be on the show, I was totally informed.  I ended up being on the show for the entire program rather than a small segment from the audience.  It was thrilling and surreal at the same time.  I got on the show because my book, Secrets of Simplicity was featured in the magazine and the editor of the magazine sent it over to the Harpo producers.  It was all great timing!  Being on Oprah has changed my professional life, I am so honored to have been selected for that show, because I realize how rare an opportunity that was and yes it has opened many doors for more media for me too! It is the first thing people ask about me...

You are a queen of organizing and simplicity. You told Oprah "don't love things that don't love you back". Can you tell me what you mean by this?  When you write, is your space clean and organized?

Mary Carlomagno: Inherent in a love relationship is reciprocity, if you love something and get nothing in return, love can be misplaced.  We often love our shoes and our clothes, but that's really a one sided relationship.  When we vest love in our relationships and in people, we are more likely to get love in return and that is much more fulfilling than coveting a coach bag.  My writing space is always clear. I can't write unless it is!

What can we expect from you in the future? You can promote anything here, and talk about your past books as well. 

Mary Carlomagno: I still do a lot of freelance writing, speaking and spokesperson work.  My goal now is to sell the television writes for Best Friend for Hire and to be part of a writing team.  I have always wanted to write with a team for television so I am pursuing that right now! 

Tell me about your roots in Jersey. Where did you grow up? What is your favorite beach? What is your favorite Italian restaurant? What do you think NJ offers that other places do not?

Mary Carlomagno: I grew up in North Plainfield and went to Montclair State College.  I lived in Hoboken for most of my life and now live in New Providence.  I have been all over the state!  I love Avon by the Sea and Long Beach Island for beaches.  Favorite Italian restaurant is Augustinos in Hoboken.  New Jersey offers everything, close to NYC, close to the beach and mountains.  I think it's perfect in that way, you are never one hour away for anything and where I live, nestled in the Watchung Mountains affords me a more country like setting... 

To order Best Friend for Hire and for more info: 

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