ATTENTION READERS: WE HAVE A CONTEST! Check out the interview, then leave a comment to be entered in a drawing to receive a copy of Quinn's book. We'll select one name, drawn randomly from a plastic cup imprinted with a local restaurant logo in a totally unscientific and non-audited method. I'm reading it first, so please take no offense at dog-eared corners or cracker crumbs.
From Quinn's publisher: In Notes from the Underwire, Quinn's smart and hilarious debut, she tackles the domestic and the delightfully absurd, proving that all too-often they're one and the same. From fighting off a catnip-addled cat to mortal conflict with a sewing machine, Quinn provides insight into her often chaotic, seldom-perfect universe--a universe made even less perfect when the goofy smile of past celebrity shows its occasional fang. The book, like the author herself, is good hearted, keenly observant, and blisteringly funny. In other words, really good company.
Let's talk to Quinn.
WWW: Forget the thirty-second elevator pitch. Imagine you're sitting across from a fairly new acquaintance at a great Mexican food restaurant (probably with Margaritas or iced tea flowing freely), and she says, "What's your book about?" How do you answer? You can stumble over words and even give the long version! (This happened to me last weekend.)
Quinn: Oh, this has been happening for two years and I have yet to get better at it. The book is about how I'm an idiot, about how I try to live way up here (waving arm around my eyebrow), being a good person, but usually end up right about ... here (slapping hand against nearest table, usually breaking a nail in the process). What's it about? It's about two hundred and seventy pages of, ideally, your most lunatic friend pushing a cart next to you in Target, telling you the embarrassing thing she did that morning. I serve that purpose for a great many people.
WWW: A common grumble among writers about "celebrity books" is that the celebrity didn't have to do any writing before they got the deal. Your publishing story is quite different and pretty unique in how it went down as a result of your blog. Tell us how your book deal happened.
Quinn: The blog began because I was writing to multiple friends at once, filling them in on the details of my life and I noticed I was cutting-and-pasting freely. It was starting to feel as if I were regifting my emails. So as not to feel regifty, I decided to write a single blog, tell my friends about it and let them get caught up with us as they were inclined. Two months later, a friend suggested it to Newsweek "Blog of the Week" column and they included it. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Sometimes, in a moment of hallucination, I imagined getting a column in a newspaper out of this, which is adorable because even in 2006/7, papers were already starting to look really unwell. And then I was in a story in USA Today and an editor at Hyperion saw the story and found the blog and an absurdly short amount of time later I was being offered a book deal. For the person reading this with the MFA and the file full of polite turndowns from agents and editors, I know. I'd hate me, too.
WWW: No, no. I think they'll be delighted to learn you got the deal based on your actual writing. Quinn, you've said one reason you quit acting was to start a family and raise your daughter out of the limelight. We've definitely seen a lot about celebrity kids being in the limelight lately with Michael Jackson's death. Was your decision to go forward with the publishing deal difficult in this respect? Did you worry about being back in the spotlight and how it might affect your child? What does she think about mom having a book published? Has she read the book? (So many questions! You pick and choose.)
Quinn: She has read a chapter; she would be happy to tell you that her mom is mean and won't let her read the whole book. Well, guess what? It's not for kids. Not even mine. She's so terribly proud of me that it makes me grin to think of it. This is what her father and I had hoped for when we had long and exhaustingly self-reflective discussions about whether I did this at all. It came down to him saying, "She gets to see you create something and that has to matter." She won't be part of the publicity, I'll promise you that.
WWW: You'll have to give her an autographed copy on her 18th birthday. (Or maybe 16th? Please, Mom!) I've heard it said two people could write a book with the same title, same subject matter, and same chapter headings, and they'd still be completely different. What about Quinn Cummings made you the "only person" who could write this book?
Quinn: I can agree to that premise right up until the time I fell up a flight of stairs and landed on my own fencing foil, removing a chunk of shin bone. I really believe I'm the only person who can tell that story. But as far as the book goes, I'm a special stew of eidetic memory of my own foibles, acute self-consciousness, and a weird habit of standing in the middle of the worst situation and being really happy because it's going to make a great story.
WWW: Ouch. That sounds painful! Pamela here at What Women Write ended up with stitches from going down the stairs and falling over her dog. And I sprained an ankle once falling off the edge of a bathtub. I guess what we're trying to say here is that weird falls and morbid curiosity are the perfect combination of experience/personality trait to be a writer. So, Quinn, give us the short skinny about the book cover. Our readers can also browse to Sara J. Henry's post to get the long version and see the other hilarious covers you and your publisher considered.
Quinn: It's glorious, isn't it? Brenda Copeland, my editor, remembered the "I dreamt I..." ads from Maidenform and found the one where the woman appeared to have made the most amount of bad choices. You'll note the car is off the tracks.
WWW: Now that you've written one book, almost by accident, have you thought about writing another in the future? Have you thought about writing fiction?
Quinn: There might be another book in me. There might not. There's a blog, that's for sure. I doubt I'll write fiction.
WWW: I've noticed many writers seem to be animal rescuers by nature. Your blog posts about your rescue animals are moving, entertaining, and often funny. (Gassy cat, anyone?!) How did this particular obsession begin?
Quinn: My mother's nickname for me was Saint Francis; we'll overlook the gender issue. I've always kept a leash in my glove compartment, in case I saw a dog running down the sidewalk. Thank God for Consort and his allergies, which will keep this a mere quirk and not a character defect.
WWW: What's your favorite deadline snack?
Quinn: Whatever causes me to have to get into the car and leave the house and that horrible computer with all that empty space.
WWW: And we can't get away from here without at least one more child star question. When I was a kid, I wanted to BE Quinn Cummings (and Melissa Gilbert, Tatum O'Neal and Kristy McNichol, of course. Am I dating myself?). When you were a little kid, who did YOU want to be? Quinn: By the time I was in "The Goodbye Girl," I wanted to be one of the reporters on "60 Minutes." Yeah, my dream was to be an old white man.
WWW: Wow. On that note, our interview comes to an end. (Really, it was just my last question.)
Thanks so much for stopping by What Women Write, Quinn, and best wishes for great success with Notes From the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life. Here's to a life filled with much happiness and more crazy stories to share.
Readers, don't forget to let us know you stopped by to be entered in our drawing. After we select a winner, we'll announce it here and obtain your contact info so Julie can mail her "like new" copy to you!
EDIT: Forgot to say, we'll leave comments open through Wednesday, July 15 at 5 p.m., North Texas time. That would be Central Standard Time! I'll draw a name Wednesday evening and announce our winner Thursday. Thanks for all the participation so far. We're enjoying your comments.
From Hyperion: Quinn Cummings is a former child actor. By the age of ten, she was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Her blog, the QC Report, has received accolades from publications like Newsweek and USA Today. She is the creator of the HipHugger, a stylish sling for carrying a baby, and a full-time mom. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.