I must confess that I rarely read political books (an exception is always made for Ann Coulter’s latest). Instead I gravitate toward humor, “chick-lit” and fiction. Author Jen Lancaster covers all of those genres and has become one of my favorite writers.
Lancaster fell into blogging and writing after being laid off from her corporate job just after 9/11. In her first book, Bitter is the New Black, she chronicled her soul-searching after circumstances took her from a six-figure income to the unemployment line. She followed that book with several other memoirs, several of which were New York Times bestsellers. In 2011 If You Were Here was her first foray into fiction. Her second fiction book, Here I Go Again, was released last week. I devoured it in less than 48 hours. It’s about a 30-something woman who realizes her perfect life is no longer perfect, perhaps because of the mistakes she made as a high school mean girl. She goes back in time to do better to get better, a sort of time-traveling Goldilocks who has to try a couple times before she gets it just right.
Her next book, The Tao of Martha, isn’t out until June 2013, but already has the Fox network and Martha Stewart as executive director on board to produce a sitcom based on it. The show is about a former party girl who finds herself single after her husband decides he can’t deal with her domestic defaults. She decides to improve her life by immersing herself in the Martha Stewart way of life.
Lancaster occasionally nods to her conservative beliefs in her books, but doesn’t overload them in a way that becomes distracting or alienating to non-political or liberal readers. It’s a case study for conservatives who want to make a difference in the culture – put entertaining content above politics and an audience will follow. Lancaster once told me, “No one’s going to be won over by my spouting dogma in my books because that’s not why people buy my stuff. I don’t write essays on why liberalism doesn’t work or why Obama’s taking us down a slippery slope. People read my books to laugh, so that’s my goal. But if my goofy little stories just happen to emphasize conservative values like morality, self-determination, and liberty, well… let’s just say that’s not unintentional.”
Each week the De Pasquale's Dozen asks political figures and free market-minded writers and entertainers to take a break from politics and talk about their pop culture obsessions.
1. What one thing would you do as President "just because you could"?
Don't get me started on the flat tax... instead, I'd be selfish and implement my own personal Malaysia when it came to chewing gum around me. Seriously, that sound is my own, idiosyncratic nails-on-a-chalkboard. Also, I'd find a way to disable texts while driving. Kids, please stop endangering my life with pithy lines like OMG WTF BBQ. Because I will haunt you if I die.
2. Tell me about your favorite teacher and how he or she influenced your life.
When I was a kid, we moved from an incredible school district in Bergen County, NJ to the... less impressive system in Huntington, IN. However, I didn't realize this at first because of Mr. Hauenstein, my ridiculously talented sixth grade teacher. He turned the quest for knowledge into a game, and when my class performed to his liking, he'd have us sit with our eyes closed and he'd either read to us or tell stories. So precious were these moments that our whole class worked to earn them.
3. If you could be paid to do anything besides your current job, what would it be?
I would love offering my opinion Dr. Laura-style. My catchphrase would be, "Do you want my help or not?"
4. What was the first rock concert you ever went to?
Is Rick Springfield rock? If so, him.
5. What's your current “guilty pleasure” non-news television show?
I can't get enough of “The Bachelor,” largely because I'm such a cynic. I adore how the women are all, "This is magical! This is amazing! This is love!" Oh, honey, no. You're on a roller-skating date with 12 other chicks and one guy who plans to grope the lot of you; this is not what love looks like.
6. What’s the best present you ever received as a child?
A pony. Oh, wait. Never got it, even though one was promised for not arguing about the move to the boonies. That likely explains all the cynicism.
7. What’s the best present you ever gave?
I've been working on a memoir where I live a year of my life following Martha Stewart's dictates, so for Christmas, I gave everyone scarves I knitted myself. I did it kind of as a goof for the book, but seeing how much people loved them made this grinch's heart grow three times in size that day.
8. What advice do you remember your mother or father giving you? Did you take it?
When I was headed to college, I wanted to study journalism. My dad told me I'd graduate and make $17K/year, so I changed majors. Years later, I became a writer anyway and my first year? Yep, I made $17K. Fortunately, it grew more profitable after that.
9. Who would be on the perfect "Red Eye" panel?
I've yet to see an imperfect “Red Eye” panel. Please, change nothing!
10. What books are on your reading list?
Just bought the new Dave Barry book, Insane City. Everyone knows how brilliant he is with non-fiction, but his novels are equally, if not more, funny. Also recently finished Rowling's Casual Vacancy and The Night Circus. Both were riveting.
11. What would you like tomorrow's headline to say?
RONALD REAGAN IS BACK!!
12. Tell me about the moment you decided to become more vocal about your political beliefs.
Ironically, as soon as I started earning more than $17K/year.