Monday, June 09, 2008

Win one of 5 free copies of --THE FIDELITY FILES!!!!!!!!

One of the best perks of my job is getting to read advanced copies of books. This was especially true when I got an early read on Jessica Brody's debut novel, THE FIDELITY FILES, which just so happens to debut TODAY (June 10)!

To say it's a-- sit down and make yourself comfortable because you won't be walking away from it anytime soon-- kind of read just doesn't seem to suffice. What Ms. Brody manages to do in those 300 pages is to create a character so real and engaging, you can't help but fantasize about what it would be like to be her.

In short, Jennifer Hunter is smart, savvy, and beautiful, with a killer wardrobe, a great apartment, and a dedicated group a friends--friends who think she's an investment banker and have no idea that she's actually funding it all with her secret job/identity as Ashlyn, a much sought after fidelity inspector- a woman hired by suspicious girlfriends and wives to test their partner's, um, fidelity quotient . . .a job she's so dedicated too, it just might stand in the way of her own chance at love . . .

I first met Jessica Brody, a few months back, when she drove down to Laguna Beach and we lunched at a restaurant of my choosing that ended up giving her food poisoning! And she's so genuinely nice and gracious, she didn't even hold that against me (or the fact that I talked for nearly four hours straight!)! And she's since become one of my favorite people. She's just one of those smart, kind, sweet, funny, talented, gifted people with a resume that would make anyone's palms sweat-- fluent in French? Mais oui! A professional singer? Check! An economics major, film producer, novelist, guitar hero rock star, and gorgeous too? You bet. Basically, the kind of girl you'd just love to hate-- if only you could. But don't even waste your time trying-- it's completely impossible!

So, without further ado: I bring to you the official Jessica Brody interview-- but like any good feature- there's a sneak preview for you to view first (trust me- watch it--it rocks!). And those of you who leave a comment will be eligible to win one of five signed copies of THE FIDELITY FILES-which means you have a very good chance of winning- so don't be shy-- comment away! (deadline Friday June 13, midnight, Los Angeles time, winners will be chosen at random).

Tell us a little about THE FIDELITY FILES—what sparked the idea?

Everyone wants to know where I got the idea to write a book about a woman who tests men’s loyalty for a living. I wish I could say I used to do it myself and that this is my memoir, but alas, my life is unfortunately not that exciting. But the idea came from some witnessing some pretty interesting things I had a few years ago.

Before I became a full-time writer, I worked in a very corporate environment. And like all corporate jobs, there were a certain number of “alcohol-related” events that I was expected to attend. I would often find myself at work happy hour functions in nearby bars, observing the interactions between single and non-single co-workers as their behaviors gradually declined from professional to something else entirely. Something hardly capable of being described as “appropriate.”

Witnessing these “indiscretions” upset me on a profound level. I secretly wished that someone would tell the “conveniently” absent significant others about what their husbands/wives/boyfriends/ girlfriends/fiancés really did while attending these “obligatory” and supposedly “uneventful” work functions. But I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to do it. I was brave enough to think it…but not exactly brave enough to go knocking on people’s doors with bad news. You know what people tend to do to “the messenger.”

So instead I created a character whose job and purpose in life was to do just that. To reveal the truth to anyone who wanted to know. To knock on all the doors that I never had the courage to knock on. An invincible superhero-esque woman whose quest is to fight against the evils of infidelity. But of course, she soon finds out…she’s not as invincible as she once thought.

What sort of research did you do to create the character and her world?

In researching this character, I reached out to friends, family, and long-lost acquaintances who had either been the victims of infidelity, or had been the unfaithful ones themselves. I also spoke to many men who had never cheated but who had admittedly thought about doing so or had come “extremely close” at various times in their relationships, and I asked them to explain their motivations and their thought processes. I wanted the people in this book to be realistic, and I felt that in order to do that, I needed to fully understand how someone would think, feel and react when put in a situation like a fidelity inspection. I wanted the clients that hired Ashlyn as well as the men that she tested to jump off the page and strike a chord in people. The book is entirely a work of fiction, but my goal was to make the characters’ fears and emotions feel real so that readers could relate to them.

In a sense, the Ashlyn character of the book is the mask that I always wanted to wear. The woman that I never had the confidence or audacity to be. A façade behind which I could hide as I watched my fantasies of exposing the truth come to life on the page. I believe we are all afraid of feeling vulnerable on some level. We all fear the painful emotions that come with betrayal. My greater purpose in writing THE FIDELITY FILES was to explore these fears so that I could offer a message of faith and hope despite them. Because if someone who makes their living as a fidelity inspector can believe in love despite everything she’s seen, it shouldn’t be that hard for the rest of us.

I love your protagonist Ashlyn. She’s so smart, savvy, independent, and yet vulnerable and relatable too—not to mention she has a killer wardrobe I was totally drooling over! Is she based on anyone you know? Yourself perhaps?

Haha! I wish she were based on myself. I, too, would LOVE to have her wardrobe. But I’m afraid I’m just not as confident and alluring as Ashlyn is. Although I have to admit, she does possess a lot of qualities that I’ve fantasized about. You know when you’re alone in front of your bathroom mirror wearing sweatpants and a ratty old tank top and you picture yourself in some beautiful designer cocktail dress walking into a bar as everyone stops to stare. That’s who Ashlyn is.

I never really had a specific person in mind when creating her. I always knew she was very attractive. But I also never wanted to overdo her attractiveness or represent her as someone who was obsessed with her looks because I wanted her to still be relatable to female readers. It was a tough balance. Most of the successful women’s fiction books you read have very flawed protagonists, physically and emotionally. Jennifer/Ashlyn is clearly not flawed in a physical sense, so I had to make sure she was flawed enough in other ways so that readers would sympathize with her. Because let’s face it, it’s hard to sympathize with someone who’s so beautiful that men simply flock to her wherever she goes. I’m hoping some of her other personable attributes and her internal struggles will keep her grounded in the eyes of readers.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading this novel?

I hope readers will find some entertainment in the scandal and allure of such a controversial and unusual career path such as Jennifer/Ashlyn’s. But I also hope readers will get something out of the human aspect of the story as well. Even though it’s a work of fiction, I’d like to think the character of Jennifer Hunter believably comes off as a real person, with real emotions and real trust issues. This life has definitely taken its toll on her, and yet she still finds reason and motivation to keep at it—through the good times and the bad. In writing this book, I really wanted to inspire people to think and question their beliefs about infidelity. What really constitutes cheating? Is it forgivable? How does it change you? The answers are not always as simple as you might think.

At what point did you decide to become an author? Who or what were your earliest influences?

I’ve wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. In second grade I used to “publish” my own books with cardboard, wallpaper and electrical tape. Writing just always came natural to me. But I didn’t exactly take the most direct route to achieving my dream. Somewhere along the way, I decided that a career in finance and number crunching was the way to go. You know, steady paycheck, stylish suits, dental insurance. So I majored in Economics in college and then got a job doing strategic analysis. And although I did enjoy that job a lot (I’m very equally left and right brained), I knew my heart wasn’t in it. Plus, I was still writing on the side. So when I got laid off from my job after a corporate merger, I took my severance package and vowed to make it last until I sold my first novel. And a year and a half (and many random craigslist jobs later), I did.

My earliest influence was definitely Judy Blume. I know, generic answer. EVERYONE says Judy Blume! But it’s true! Her work was so inspiring. When I read Just as Long as We’re Together, I wanted nothing more than to create characters like Stephanie, Rachel and Alison. Later in life, it was Helen Fielding and Bridget Jones’s Diary that would get me back into writing. I knew that if I could write something that could make people laugh aloud the way Helen Fielding did, then I would be happy.

What was your road to publishing like? Overnight success or path loaded with land mines?

Um, I think I’ll go with door number 2…the landmines. But getting published has definitely been something worth waiting for…and fighting for. My first novel, which I tried to get published for two years, never sold. But it was eventually a critique about that novel that inspired me to write The Fidelity Files. Everyone told me that my first novel didn’t have enough story, so when I set out to write my second novel, I knew it would have to be ALL about story. But The Fidelity Files didn’t exactly sell right away either. It took about two and a half years of writing, rewriting, and constant rejections before I finally found my agent. She had rejected one of my previous versions with some very insightful critiques as to how I could possibly improve the manuscript. And her comments immediately triggered an idea for a complete overhaul of the story and main character. So I wrote her back and told her I wanted to try a rewrite and asked if she would be willing to re-read the first 100 pages. She agreed. I was so inspired by her comments and willingness to reconsider it, that I wrote those first 100 pages in about two weeks. I sent them back to her and she signed me on those pages alone. It took about three months for me to finish the book and it sold to St. Martin’s a week later. Although the eventual sale to the publisher happened really fast, the path it took to get to that point was very long and bumpy. And I don’t think I would be anywhere close to where I am today if I hadn’t had listened to my agent’s critiques and acted upon them.

Any writing rituals you care to share? Lucky sweatpants? A magical talisman of some kind?

I’ve actually never told anyone this story before, but since you asked…

I have this necklace that I wear all the time. I got it, actually, from an ex-boyfriend I had in college. I know, sounds really weird and sort of stalker-ish right? I promise, it’s not like that. After we broke up, I put it in a box somewhere and totally forgot about it. Then one day, five or so years later, which happened to be around the time I was trying to come up with an idea for my second novel, after yet another rejection on my first one, I found the necklace at the bottom of the box. I was suddenly reminded how pretty the necklace was and thought maybe it’d be cool to wear it again. And since the ex-boyfriend was way out of the picture and totally forgotten about, I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal to wear it. But the chain was all tangled and impossibly knotted up and I was already late to my number crunching job so I put it in my pocket and decided to work on getting the knots out throughout the day. Once I got into the office, I set out trying to untangle the chain with the tip of a safety pin (yes, this is what I was doing in my cubicle when I was supposed to be working). Finally around 2:00 pm, I untangled the darn thing and was able to actually put it on. Twenty minutes later (I’m not kidding), I got the idea for The Fidelity Files. Seriously, it just sort of came to me. And I immediately started to write a synopsis for the idea (yes, more time spent not working). I finished it in literally 30 minutes. A seven page synopsis of the ENTIRE book in half an hour. I knew immediately that it was a story I had to write. And that it was a necklace I had to wear.

Now, I wear it all the time as my writing “muse”. I guess it just had to be “untangled” (literally) from its past association with my ex-boyfriend so that it could be used to inspire me instead. And once I untangled it, I somehow unblocked an idea that had been clearly lying dormant inside of me, waiting to come out.

I know you also have a YA deal, the KARMA CLUB, coming out in Spring 2010 with FSG. Did you find it difficult or easy to make the transition to YA?

I actually found it really easy to transition to YA. The voice and style felt very natural to me and I had a blast writing it! But, I must admit, once I started writing in my YA character’s voice, I found it difficult to transition back! She was so much fun to write. There was such a genuine innocence about her that didn’t quite fit my adult characters. Plus, I really loved putting myself back into the shoes of someone who is still in high school. I didn’t necessarily have the best experience in high school so it was fun to relive it again as an adult, knowing what I know now and infusing that kind of learning curve into my YA characters.

What can we look forward to next?

Ah, yes. The big question. What’s next??? Well, first will come the sequel to The Fidelity Files in summer of 2009. I know, such a long ways away. But I still have to finish writing it!

But I’m very excited about the sequel. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Without giving too much away, in the next book, Jennifer Hunter is somewhere she’d never thought she’d be in the first book…in a committed relationship! And there are all sorts of fun things to delve into there.

The book will still center around Jennifer Hunter’s life both at home and at work, but she no longer does fidelity inspections. Now she has a whole team of people who do them for her! She runs an agency called “The Hawthorne Agency” (a nod to The Scarlet Letter) and she has four beautiful women and one beautiful man that work for her. I think the most entertaining part for me about writing the sequel is getting to create all sorts of new and scandalous assignments for Jennifer’s staff of employees. And now that there’s a male fidelity inspector onboard as well, women are being tested too!

But once again, Jen will come face to face with a lot of challenging obstacles in her new life. Because you can’t break up relationships by day and try to keep one together by night without running into a little drama. And Jen will ultimately have to decide if her blinding dedication to her life’s work is worth possibly destroying her chances of living happily ever after?

And now for the speed dating round:

Favorite color- Purple. Without a doubt. I know you can’t see how fast I answered that question because of the whole written format thing, but believe me it was fast. No hesitation. Purple is the bomb.

Lucky number- 11. And to go with that. 11:11 is favorite time of day. Whenever I look at the lock and it reads 11:11, I make a wish. I think it’s a very magical time.

Most unusual hobby- Guitar Hero. But that’s neither unusual nor a “hobby” exactly. But it is the number one procrastination method I employ. When I’m standing in my living room, rocking out to Pearl Jam on my little plastic guitar, I actually feel very cool.

Okay, how about this one? I’m obsessed with Tudor England. Anything to do with the history of Henry VIII, his six wives or his line of successors fascinates me. The Tudors, is obviously one of my favorite show.

Dream Vacation- A world cruise. But not in one of those tuna can staterooms. In a suite with a balcony and a bathroom where you don’t have to shower over the toilet. Oh yeah, that’s the life.

Favorite saying- I have two. “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” - Henry Ford. And “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein.

If you won a gazillion dollars you would…buy world peace. No, sorry, that was a lame cop out. Let me try again. If you won a gazillion dollars you would….make sure no dog or cat was without a loving home. I’ve got a huge weakness for the furry friends. Oh yeah…and take the world cruise mentioned above.

Strangest thing you ever ate just to be polite- I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything really that “strange,” but when I was living in Paris with a host family, the mom used to make this really gross cheesy noodle dish with this disgustingly strong and potent French cheese. Think Mac and Cheese left out to rot for a week. It was SO nasty. But I didn’t want to be rude, because you know, I was a guest in their house for 9 months. So every time she made it (about twice a month), I forced it down with a big swig of Coke (or “coca” as they call it in France). Ick! I grimace just thinking about that stuff.

Celebrity crush- That’s easy. Jon Stewart. What can I say? I’m a sucker for those funny types. I know, I know, Alyson, you love him too. Look, let’s not fight about it. I’m sure there’s enough JS to go around.

Anything that I didn’t ask that you’d like people to know?

I think the rest of my answers are long enough! I’m pretty sure it’s all covered. Thank you, thank you, thank you for hosting me on your blog! You are the best!

Jessica will be starting off her book tour by signing copies of THE FIDELITY FILES today (!), June 10 at 7:00 pm at:

Barnes & Noble
1201 Third Street (Third Street Promenade)
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Not in California? Not a problem! For future appearances click HERE

Hope to see you there!


Amanda Ashby said...

Great interview, I remember seeing the book trailer for this ages ago and thought how great it looked! Also, I love the story about untangling the necklace!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think it sounds really great! If I don't win it, I will be picking it up for sure!

Keri Mikulski said...

Great interview. Sounds like a great book! Can't wait to get my hands on it.

Kay Cassidy said...

Terrific interview, Alyson! I love the premise of the book. And amen on Jon Stewart - can't live with The Daily Show. :-)

Jessica Brody said...

Thanks Amanda. Your book looks awesome! GREAT title!

Jessica Brody said...

Alright, so it looks like me, Alyson AND Kay will have to share Jon Stewart. That's okay. I'm not greedy.

Kay Cassidy said...

So nice of you to share, Jessica. What a team player. ;-) (And that should've said "Can't life WITHOUT The Daily Show"... d'oh.)

Brooke Taylor said...

"a bathroom where you don’t have to shower over the toilet. Oh yeah, that’s the life. "

I used to work on a cruise ship (5 years +)--I had many intimate encounters with all of the bathroom--the shower curtain and I were particularly close. LOL.

FF sounds like an amazing read!

Aimee said...

What a wonderful interview and the book sounds GREAT! I love the necklace as muse story.

Jessica Brody said...


I can't believe you worked on a cruise ship! What did you do? I have a couple of friends who worked as dancers and said it was very unglamorous but that the crew parties were crazy!

Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

What a great interview. And I'm so hooked on the idea of this book I'll make sure I get one, one way or another!

Thanks Alyson and Jessica.

stephhale said...

Congrats on the release, Jessica. I've been waiting for this one! :) I also loved the necklace story. At least your ex was good for something, right? :)

Great interview, Alyson. :)

Gerb said...

Great interview and very intriguing premise. I've been anticipating this book for a long time. Yay for the release!

Brooke Taylor said...

LOL Jessica--yeah, the crew parties were great--and the cruise ship experience on the whole is great--but then again so is dorm living at college for the first year--you can only do it for so long and still be "normal". (I probably stayed too long, LOL, but you can't beat it for the travel opps!)

Jessica Burkhart (Jess Ashley) said...

Nice one, girls! The books sounds great! :)

Anonymous said...


I read the excerpt on your site and WOW. I almost never finish those excerpts, but I read every word and was so bummed when the entry came to an end! And yes, I was meant to be working, but everyone needs a break!

Emily Marshall said...

Great interview, and the book sounds wonderful.

Kiki said...

Great interview.
I love the nasty food story! And I love the cover.

Alyson Noel said...

Hey Everyone!
Okay, so last night I went to Jessica's book signing/party and had so much fun! There were a ton of people- a ton of books were sold (WTG Jess!), and there were cupcakes! Beautiful, delicious, red velvet cupcakes featuring the "A" from Ahslyn's calling card (read the book, you'll understand!). And I was hoping to catch it all on film so I could share it with you, but when I turned my camera on-- it flashed "battery exhausted" and went dead/ :-(

Anyway, keep those comments coming-- you have until Friday, June 13th!

Jessica Brody said...

LOL, Stephanie.

Yes, that was about all he was good for! Just goes to show...even the crappy relationships are meant for something...

Jessica Brody said...

Peg, thanks for reading the excerpt and I'm glad you liked it! I hope you enjoy the rest of the book just as much! :)

Jessica Brody said...

Thanks so much for coming out Alyson. It was so great to see you! And don't worry, I got some photos of the yummy scarlet letter cupcakes. I posted them on my blog. www.thefidelityfilescom/blog.html

Anonymous said...

One last question for Jessica if you're still there--have any men read your book and what did they think of the premise? I'm thinking that most men would be screaming "entrapment" although your character makes it clear that it isn't...

PS I'm not really anonymous...just can't remember my password having been a super lazy blogger of late

Jessica Brody said...

Dear Not-Really Anonymous ;)

That's an interesting question because I would think that guys would shy away from this book, but in the past day I've gotten two emails from guys who said they picked it up randomly in the bookstore and read it in one day and loved it. So go figure. Also the AP reviewer who reviewed my book even made a point to say it's "a fun read (even for guys)." But yes, I do get my fair share of men who think that it's entrapment. Some guys have said to me. "Well, that's just not nice." And I usually respond, "Well, neither is cheating on your wife!" Haha.

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

That book trailer is one of the coolest things I have ever seen! The books sounds awesome and I will be reading it for sure!:)

Keri Mikulski said...

Hi, Alyson -

Just wanted to let you know, I'm receiving this book to review for my magazine column.. It looks so good. I can't wait to read it!

Have a great week,
Keri :)