Roxanne Wilder has multiple personalities—albeit multiple personalities that are all charming and have high-profile careers. Along with being an accountant turned PR consultant, she is a television sports reporter in Tampa who has covered everything from the World Series to the Super Bowl. Recently, she also took on the identity of Sabrina Simon to author the chick lit novel, In the Stars. The book follows sports reporter, Lyla, after an unexpected break-up gives her the freedom to find herself, and her soulmate, while "researching" and writing a book on dating, sex, and astrology. I found Wilder at a teashop where I hoped to separate the television reporter and author from her fictional characters.
At one point your protagonist compares the locker room of professional sports teams to the atmosphere of a strip club: “The vibe Lyla got from some of the men she encountered in professional sports arenas was similar to the vibe a dancer would feel from patrons in a strip bar..."
I love the story of a female in a man’s environment, and I love the high profile nature of professional sports, which is why I made her a sports reporter. I wanted to make Lyla a very sensitive character and a little paranoid in regards to men, so that description is an exaggeration. That is how Lyla feels, but not necessarily how I feel.
Having said that, when you are one of a few women in any environment, there's always going to be more attention on you. There have been situations where guys hit on me, but, like I always tell people, in ten years of covering sports and doing hundreds of interviews, I’ve probably only walked away from an interview with an athlete three times and said, "That guy is a jerk.” I do get hit on occasionally, but flirting does not make an athlete a bad person.
Lyla's friend, Marissa, gives the advice that a classy strip club is a great place to meet men. Where did that odd piece of advice come from?
These are characters. Their personalities are influenced by things my friends say, but these characters are truly their own people. As a fiction writer, your characters really do start talking to you. When I was in bed at night, I would imagine these characters in various situations and they would talk to me. As a writer, sometimes it's good to have voices in your head.
How did you create Lyla's group of girlfriends?
To set the main action of the story in motion, each girlfriend takes Lyla to a different setting to meet men, so each girl had to have a very different background. There is Ava who has a family, but who is an adulteress and kind of like the CEO of the group. Marissa is the former adult entertainer turned interior designer. As the story takes place on South Beach, Clohe is a model/actress.
How do you feel about Lyla's statement that break-ups are less about moaning over a broken heart and more about salvaging pride?
My impulse is to answer on Lyla’s behalf. For me, that is not really how I feel. I would rather be broken up with than be the breaker-upper. That statement was a bit of a reveal of her character early in the novel to show how hardened she had become. She is more interested in saving face than she is in learning from her failed relationships.
Why are so many women intrigued by astrology? Do they want to believe that their life is charted by the stars or that the cosmos hold secrets about how they will meet their soulmate?
That is what the book explores. I don’t read my horoscope everyday. I don’t believe in the predictive nature of it, but I definitely think there is something to astrology. If a person is an Aries, I can see that about them. It's uncanny. It's like my cousin says, "I don’t believe in astrology, but I’m such a Virgo." As far as describing how people get along, and describing certain attributes, I think there is a lot of accuracy to astrology.
I exaggerated my own beliefs about astrology in Lyla. It’s like she puts on these glasses when she leaves the house in the morning and she views everyone in terms of their sign. She puts them in a box. In the beginning of the book, she starts off writing a snarky version of how men of the various star signs stack up in bed. As the book progresses, she starts to realize that she should be learning from every person she dates. If a guy is not the one, she should at least learn something about herself from the experience of dating him. That is what I want readers to take away. Even if a guy is not your soulmate, he appears in your life to teach you something about yourself.
Also, I love astrology because it is the one area where we can make fun of each other and no one takes offense. You shouldn’t stereotype based on sex or race, but you can totally rip on someone for fitting the mold of their star sign.
Lyla's favorite quote is, “The only real valuable thing is intuition." Is it a coincidence that this comes from Albert Einstein, who, like astrologists, searched for order in the stars?
Lyla is a Gemini. Geminis are kind of like twins. They have an emotional and mental side. I thought the quote was appropriate as it was from a rational scientist yet it regards this sixth sense.
Is intuition more of a magical sixth sense, or do you think it is more of a biological system of subconscious pattern recognition? For instance, a woman may subconsciously learn to recognize the signs of a cheating boyfriend and have the intuition that he is unfaithful.
The second choice is very true. I think people have argued and proven that is the case. If I remember correctly, in The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talks about a neonatal nurse who could accurately predict which children needed the most critical attention based on their cries alone. Is that a magical intuition or is that a skill developed from experience? The same can be true of having an intuition about a guy.
But, I will say this. Women, by and large are more intuitive than men. Maybe this has something to do with how women get together more and analyze their relationships. Or, maybe it is a biological trait; as the primary caregivers of children we must be better at interpreting nonverbal cues.
Lyla writes a book on astrology and love under a pen name, partially to protect her from retaliation from former boyfriends. Was the same thought process involved in your decision to use a pen name?
I can’t emphasize enough how I am separate from Lyla. She and I have worked in the same industries but she is fictional. My imagination takes elements from reality and spins them in weird new directions. For instance, I was on a plane recently that did an emergency landing. It dipped down then flew back up. The pilot did not come on the PA for a few minutes to explain what was happening. While I was sitting there, I was convinced he was flying us to a foreign country to sell us into sex slavery. I think that is what a fiction writer does. You have these seeds of reality that explode in ways you would never expect.
Lyla has a fear of ending up as a crazy cat lady, which is a sentiment I have heard echoed in many women. Why is the ultimate fear for many women to end up old and alone? Are men afraid of becoming the crazy dog guy?
I don’t think men have the same fear. It is totally cool for guys to be single at any age. When you are a woman and you are single, many people are like, "Hmm, why isn’t she married?" I don’t like that. I don’t think any woman does. It all has to do with biology. If you want to have children, you have to do it by a certain age. That pressure is what puts some single women into panic mode. For men, there is no deadline. Maybe you don’t want to be an 80-year-old dad, but many guys feel like they have all the time in the world to meet someone.
The friendships and girl talk portrayed on that show really influenced a lot of chick lit, as did the question the show kept asking: "Can you have it all?" Can you have romantic happiness and a career? Is all of that attainable, or do we have to sacrifice one area for the other?
"Independent women," is often used to describe the characters on Sex and the City. But even in that show, as with so many romance novels and romantic comedies, the end point is marriage. Is it possible to create an independent female character in a romance novel or work of chick lit who has no interest in getting married?
Yes, absolutely. I’m working on another book now where the main character goes through a traumatic experience that forces her to become a strong, independent woman, which sort of primes her for meeting the right person.
So becoming an independent woman allows you to meet a person who you are not dependent on, someone who is an equal partner?
That is a good way of putting it. Not to say you can't be single and also be happy, fulfilled, have wonderful friends, a family, and all of those things. There is something empowering about being single and knowing it is you against the world. If you are single, you should savor it. After my divorce, sometimes I would complain to my friend, saying, "Am I ever going to find the right guy?” She told me, "Enjoy being single because before you know it, you’ll be settled down like the rest of us." She was right. You should enjoy being single as much as you enjoy being in a relationship.
Why are so many protagonists in novels writers? Is it just a consequence of writing what you know, of wanting to romanticize your profession? Or, does writing provide an easy way of accessing the main character's emotional state?
The most obvious reason is to write about vocations that you know. It makes it authentic. I would like to write about astronauts but I have never spent any time in space. I can’t recreate that and make it realistic enough without doing a whole lot of research. So, in that sense it is probably a short cut.
But novels rarely describe the reality of being a writer, of sitting alone in your underwear at your writing desk until noon.
That's true. I write in the morning and there were days that I would get so into it that I would write from eight in the morning until three without taking a break. My eyes would be bloodshot and my hair wouldn’t be brushed. My boyfriend would come home and I’d be like, "Who's your sexy writer?"
As someone who is a stickler for grammar, do you have to get a sentence exactly how you want it before you move on or are you a revisionist?
I write like a basket case, like, I’m all—if I am literally in mid—that is why the editing process takes so incredibly long. I will be in mid-sentence, and if something else occurs to me that I want to have later in the book, I will stop, go to the bottom of the page, and write it down. I’m all over the map. My first drafts are brutal, then they get better and better. I do hate that in movies when an author finishes a book and writes, "The End," presumably on a typewriter because she never has to rewrite.
Most times I just vomit all of this stuff out. Other times I am almost hypnotized while writing. I’ll go back and read it and I almost won’t remember writing it. Everyone has their perfect cadence in which to communicate. My fingers move on the keys at exactly the pace at which my brain thinks. Typing is when my best ideas come out, more so than when I am speaking. That is why writing is ideal for me. Tons of garbage comes out at first, and then I go back over it and search for the good stuff.