By Olga Bayer, Community Relations Specialist, Community Relations and Marketing
Stephanie Evanovich comes with baggage—for a good reason. The popular author of Big Girl Panties, a New York Times best-seller, has been on tour promoting her latest book, The Sweet Spot, since it was released in July. Visiting as many as 10 states in two weeks, her schedule is not for the faint of heart—or feet. Fortunately, the self-described “Jersey Shore girl” is bringing her humor and larger-than-life personality, matched only by her generous spirit, to the Southeast Regional Library Oct. 17 and Southern Women’s Show in October 18.
Evanovich didn’t start out to be a writer. It was only after trying “every possible way” to become an actor for 30 years and never “making the right connection” that she got serious about her craft. It also helped that she was surrounded by a supportive family and creative friends—actors, writers, directors—“birds of a feather flocking together”—who encouraged her to spread her wings.
“I dabbled,” Evanovich said. “I never had the dedicated discipline to develop a story and characters. I had fun writing scenes but never put my nose to the grindstone and tried.” Until Big Girl Panties, that is. Her first book took more than three years to complete. The novel, the first of a three-book deal with publisher William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, has become a huge success since its debut in 2013.
When Evanovich decided to write Big Girl Panties, she was working full-time in accounting for government contractors. Despite having a great job close to home, with a good boss and coworkers, she craved more. “I’d pull up to work in a cloud of doom thinking, ‘this cubicle maze is going to kill me,’” Evanovich said. “I needed to be creative, and unfortunately if you get creative in bookkeeping, the only thing you get is a jail sentence.”
Keeping her day job, Evanovich worked on Big Girl Panties in the evenings, slumping over the keyboard in exhaustion. On weekends, she’d write from 5 till 9 a.m. because “nobody wants to talk to you at six in the morning.” When Big Girl Panties made The New York Times Best-Seller List, she described it as “surreal,” and felt “incredibly honored and humbled.”
Big Girl Panties and its prequel, The Sweet Spot, are fun, humorous, romance romps, filled with “flawed and accepting” characters that fans relate to, and can’t get enough of. Evanovich insists her books aren’t based on real life, but an element of fantasy. “If I got bogged down by reality it wouldn’t be either romantic or fantastic,” she said. “I almost want to go away from real life as much as I can.” However, she does draw on her knowledge of sports to create strong male characters. Being married to a sports fanatic, and having raised two grown sons, Evanovich is bound by “family honor” to the New York Yankees, Giants, Rangers and Knicks.
Evanovich said she isn’t sure any writer knows when they are totally finished—or satisfied—with their writing. Still, she never sleeps so well as when she’s had a good writing day. On the rare occasion she experiences writer’s block, she follows her editor’s advice to “barf it out.”
Her advice for aspiring authors: never give up, be confident in your own voice, and don’t look at your reviews too often. “It’s not good for your soul,” said Evanovich. “If your work is out there, people judge it, and you have to know going in you’re not going to please everybody. People have a right to their opinion. If it’s all good reviews, you don’t want to get caught up in that hype either. You always want to expand yourself as a writer.”
With a third book in the works about a football quarterback and sports reporter, Evanovich admits it’s a challenge to read other books for pleasure. Still, she emphasizes the importance of keeping up reading skills during the writing process. She credits her tae kwon do training—she has a black belt—in helping her maintain a Zen-like aspect so she can focus on reading for pleasure—even when she’s writing.
Evanovich enjoys reading books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. As a child she loved Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family series, and books by Judy Blume. Author S. E. Hinton made a huge impact on her as a teen, helping her realize the “power of words” with books such as The Outsiders and the coming-of-age novel That Was Then, This Is Now. She fondly recalls her love of reading and many trips to the library.
“I loved my library growing up,” Evanovich said. “A/C was a luxury in the ’60s and ’70s. On a rainy, icky day, you could get cool at the library. I come from a family of teachers also so education and knowledge were important. My parents loved to read and instilled that in us, and I have great feelings and stories from my library.”
Evanovich is thrilled to visit the Southeast Regional Library to sign books and share her entertaining and inspirational story. She is thankful for her fans and the many people who put in so much hard work on her behalf. She is forever grateful for the path she took.
“I’m so glad I didn’t stay stubborn,” Evanovich said. “I was willing to let life alter my dreams. Now I get to do all of those things I wanted to do as an actor when I visit people as a writer. Talk about a crazy path.”
Quick Takes on Stephanie Evanovich
What authors do you read? “Susan Elizabeth Phillips is my all-time favorite. I always fell for her heroes, especially a guy named Bobby Tom Denton, he’s the ultimate. I also like Laura Kenyon and Susan Gloss.”
Favorite movie you’ve seen lately? “22 Jump Street… Channing Tatum is a walking sweet romance. All I have to do is see him on screen and I got the rest. I saw it twice.”
As the niece of Janet Evanovich, do you think you were destined to become a writer? “It’s hard not to be inspired by an icon.”
What’s your most interesting writing quirk? “The music I listen to depends on what I’m working on. For romance, its Barry White and old ’70s style artists. If I’m working on tension or drama, I like Nine Inch Nails—something that causes you angst.”
What do you consider the key ingredients for a good story? “Humor, fun characters, and for me personally, a happy ending.”
What impresses you about people? “I’m a real sucker when I see people being nice to each other. I can cry 10 times a day.”
How important is it to laugh? “If I don’t laugh every day I feel like I’ve missed something.”