Wednesday, September 06, 2006



“It’s Okay for a woman to know her place.  She just shouldn’t stay there.”  That’s Rule Number 48 Sissy LeBlanc’s SOUTHERN BELLE’S HANDBOOK.  I started every chapter in both my novels with a rule.  Some of them were satirical, some ironic, but this is the one I live by.    

I was a single mom in New Orleans scraping along in a cheap apartment when I decided to pack up my son in my old car and go out to Hollywood to break into show business.  Within two years I was writing for network television.  Within four years I’d written the most watched show in the history of TV (at that time) and had saved up enough to make a down payment on my own house in Malibu.

Was it scary?  You bet.  I knew a couple of people in the business from New Orleans and I thought they’d help me.  They didn’t.  Was it hard?  Did I sometimes think of giving up?  Of course.  But it was exciting, too.  

I didn’t know how to break in, so I did everything.  I’d worked in educational film, and I was able to hustle some free-lance educational film assignments, which allowed me to join an organization called Women In Film as an associate member.  

I made myself useful.  If there was an envelope to stuff, I stuffed it.  If there was a conference or a panel where I could learn, I was there.  I took classes at night and kept on writing.  I wrote three un-produced screenplays.  So when I finally got a break, (and I think that anyone who really puts themselves out there will eventually get a break) I was ready.  

My son cried he was so happy.  I took him skiing to celebrate.  It was our first real vacation since moving to Los Angeles.  Years later, I decided to stop writing TV to follow my new dream of writing novels about women, who think they’re stuck, but manage to take their lives into their own hands.  The heroine of my first novel, THE SCANDALOUS SUMMER OF SISSY LEBLANC is stuck in a bad marriage in a town too small for her.  In the end she learns as I did Rule Number 2: A smart girl can’t just sit on the porch and wait for her life to start.  

The heroine of my new novel, THE BAD BEHAVIOR OF BELLE CANTRELL, comes from an earlier, more repressive era, when women were fettered by the rules of propriety.  It was 1920 when Belle decides:  The most important thing about virtue is to talk as if you’re in favor of it.  (A rule some people in Washington unfortunately follow even today.)  But when she has to overcome her fear and rescue her friends, she screws up her courage and declares:  Sometimes a girl just has got to stop thinking and get going.        

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