June 2011


Stephanie Stiles is a professor of English at a New York college. Her first novel Take It Like a Mom is released in July. She is also the author of several creative writing guides and lives with her family and two children in New Jersey. Her website is

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  1. 1. What inspired you to write a novel and why did you go down the chick lit route?

    Inspiration seems like the kind of heavy-duty word that should be reserved for writing a Russian novel in the nineteenth century – and, to be honest, I don’t live in the nineteenth century. Or speak Russian. So, I’m not sure I qualify as eligible to use that term to describe what got me started. The truth is, I had some free time during my summer break, and I figured, what the hell? I’m an English professor; I may as well give this a go. And, to avoid being ridiculed for attempting to produce The Great American Novel like a hack or a poseur, I figured I’d have some fun and write a story I just plain enjoyed telling. With characters I like. No pretence. So, as I think about it, this was all just an attempt to avoid being made fun of. Classic middle child stuff, really.

  2. 2. Being an academic, do people think you should write more “serious” tomes?

    Probably, but they’re not very likely to say so to my face, right? I mean, that’s kind of like telling the class loser you’re surprised he got a date to the prom (even if it is his own cousin). Maybe my next book will be an epic saga of a family of Hungarian peasants who emigrate … zzzzz. Or, maybe I’ll just stick to light women’s fiction. For now. At least it gets me a date to the prom.

  3. 3. How similar are you to Annie?

    Not as similar as I’d like, given that my kids’ doctor is about as hot as a bag of peas frozen together into a lump, slowly defrosting on the kitchen counter. And I could definitely use her sense of humor and perspective. But we both have blonde hair. And I definitely get annoyed by people who take themselves too seriously – and by people who make every sentence sound like a question.

  4. 4. Why do you think mothers around the world will be able to relate to Annie’s story?

    Around the world? Really? I hadn’t thought about that! Given that the farthest I typically travel is to the SuperSaver or the laundry room downstairs, I’m hardly an expert on the nuances of international motherhood. I guess I just hope they think she’s funny.

  5. 5. How did your book deal come about?

    Would you believe me if I said through my skilful negotiations and narrative artistry? Because it really wasn’t either of those. I suppose, actually, it was just luck, in large part. I found an agent who liked the story, and a couple of weeks after I signed with him, he’d sold the book for me. But I think I’m going to use that “narrative artistry” line again – it sounds good, doesn’t it?

  6. 6. Could you see yourself writing a sequel?

    I would be so mortified if I said “yes” and then discovered that the world hates this book, these characters, and the author who devised them – so, can I say that I’ll get back to you on that? I’ll keep my fingers crossed, in the meantime.

  7. 7. How important is humour to your writing?

    I’ve been laughed at, ridiculed, mocked, mimicked, and teased my whole life – so I can’t say for sure I’d recognize if people were laughing with me. But if people read Take It Like a Mom and laugh – I don’t mind one bit if it’s with me… or at me.

  8. 8. What was your favourite scene to write?

    When I fight with my husband in real life, there are shouts, screams, invectives, and insults – and all without so much as a small donation on his part. So, my favorite scene was with Annie and Alex together in the kitchen when they come as close as they ever get to an argument, which then gets quickly derailed by a discussion of 80s television programming. Because, man, if I could write my own real life scenes like that? Well, let’s just say, that that’s why I’m a fiction writer.

  9. 9. How are you going to celebrate your book being released?

    As anyone who knows me can attest, my life is one huge, never-ending party – or, should I say, par-tay? So, let’s see … what first? Probably dinner at Chez Microwave, followed by a luxurious bubble-bath (that I give my kids), then tumbling into bed with my best friend – the television. Somewhere along the lines, Eric (my husband) will provide me with champagne, a massage, and an exquisite gift – and that somewhere is after he reads this sentence.

  10. 10. Tell us about your novel-in-progress Quitting Time.

    This is the one about the immigrant Hungarian peasants. Just. Kidding. It is another novel in the vein of humorous women’s fiction. At least, I hope it’s humorous. Or, I guess, more importantly, I hope you all think it’s funny. It’s about a woman who quits her high-powered job in finance to stay home with her brand-new babies. She has to forge a new life for herself as a stay-home mom amidst the ambivalent feelings she has about having left the workforce. It’s a real tour-de-force, sure to be short-listed for all sorts of awards that I will then look up on Wikipedia and pretend to have known about (and probably, as an English professor, should have known about) all along. I’ll get back to you about “who” I’ll be wearing to those awards, assuming those kinds of awards require getting dressed up. Do they? Does anyone know the answer to that? If so, can you email me?

  11. 11. What’s the best and worst thing about being a mum?

    Finding out that I am, in fact, The World’s Best Mom, as stated indelibly on the ceramic mug my son gave me for Mother’s Day. Who knew? Really, all the mothers out there in the world, and I am the best. It’s actually quite humbling. And the worst thing? Pretending that the Cheetos I’m eating are baby carrots, trying to pawn off the actual baby carrots on them, getting busted for the carrot-Cheeto-switcheroo, and then, ultimately, having to share the freakin’ Cheetos.

  12. 12. What superpower would you most like to possess?

    The power to make laundry visible to the other members of my family. Is there another power that could beat this? Cuz, if so, I’d love to hear it. Oh, maybe to run into a phone booth and come out looking like Elle Macpherson in Sirens. That’d be a close second. But, still, I’m going with the laundry one.

  13. 13. Which other authors and books have inspired you?

    I know David Sedaris and I have some hurdles to overcome (like the fact that we’ve never met, or that neither one of us wants to make out with me), but I swear I love him enough to Make It Work. If only he’d call. Or text. Or Facebook me. Or come by, knock on my door, and ask to borrow, let’s say, a cup of sugar or an egg or, maybe, some laundry detergent. I have a lot of detergent, Dave – trust me. You’re free to have some any time. I’ll even sort your darks and lights for you.

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