Message From The Author
"Reading With Ripa" Book Club Gives Rise to New Star!
Sometimes the happy ending to the story is different than what you'd dreamed. I always dreamed of hitting the New York Times bestseller list, but I never thought beyond that. Honestly.
When The Bachelor was chosen by TV talk show host Kelly Ripa for her "Reading With Ripa" book club, my longtime critique partner, and fellow romance author, Janelle Denison, said, "Your life is going to change." I didn't believe her. I told her that I'd have my 15 minutes of fame and it would be over. That's all I expected. But you know what? Janelle was right, and I'm so grateful.
Who's A Smart Cookie?
It all began while I was watching "Live With Regis and Kelly" one morning, and Regis informed Kelly that Oprah had given up her book club. He jokingly told her, "You should start a book club." Their banter led to Kelly saying she'd want light reading, romance, sex and Fabio on the cover! I was sitting home at my desk, my heart pounding, saying to myself, I've got the book for you! In my heart, in my gut, something felt right. I called my publicist and suggested we send my first single title. We laughed, we brainstormed, we ran up phone bills and finally the idea of the Cookie Basket was born. It was a specially crafted cookie basket from www.clevercookie.com (you have to try them, they are awesome cookies!) in the shape of lips from the book's cover. Each lip had a different saying such as "A Panty Thief," "A Foreign Correspondent," "An Erotic Lingerie Store Owner." There was also one with a quote from the book. We included a copy of the book, a list of reader's group questions we'd created and a nice pitch letter, then crossed our fingers.
I didn't find out about the selection until about a month later, when my 6-year-old picked up the phone and yelled, "Mommy, it's your friend." My editor told me, "I have great news, sit down." Never did I ever dream she'd be telling me I'd be on T.V. I screamed. Since I am not a screamer—unless I'm yelling at the kids—my children came running, asking what was wrong. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, my editor told me the worst part. I couldn't tell anybody—OK, save my kids and husband and my publicist. Over the weekend I had to go to a huge party with all of our neighbors and friends, with everyone asking me about how the writing was going, and I couldn't tell them. It was torture!
Insanity ensued between the time of the announcement and my appearance on the show. I checked the Amazon.com numbers obsessively those first few days. When I hit number two, my husband asked if I printed it. I laughed and joked that I was waiting for number one. I really couldn't believe what was happening. Every hour, someone would send an e-mail update, or a phone call would come with more numbers, more stats, more information. I felt like I was living someone else's life!
Green With Anticipation
I barely slept the night before the show. The alarm rang at four the next morning. My publicist and I were picked up by a limo from the studio and driven into New York City to my hairdresser. We then caught a yellow cab to the studio. The security guards didn't know who Carly Phillips was, and didn't want to let us inside. It took some maneuvering and foot stamping… but we got in.
Once I was in the infamous green room, nobody knew I was there. Worse, nobody seemed to care. I'd been told "Live" would do makeup and hair touch-ups, but it quickly became obvious they wouldn't notice if I was wearing a brown paper bag. I was scared to death.
I looked around the green room, which was filling up with readers from the book club. Nobody famous shared my breathing space. Thank goodness for my editor, Karen Kosztolnyik, and my publicist, Theresa Meyers, who held my hand. Finally, a girl wearing very little clothing walked into the room. I wondered who she was. "She" turned out to be Ryan Starr, from the television show "American Idol."
They quickly shuffled the readers, along with me, to the studio for a rehearsal on the empty set. I still hadn't seen either Regis or Kelly. They adjusted cameras, ran through the script on the cue cards, argued about name cards on the table for Regis, then shuffled us back into the green room, where we were given strict instructions. I was not to mention any of my other books or that this was the first in a trilogy.
I think the biggest eye-opener for me was when the producer came in and handed all the readers little blue cards with questions to memorize. All the spontaneity we see on the show is carefully orchestrated and planned. A lot of work goes into this production.
It was reinforced when we all found out at the same time the audience did that the Antonio Banderas segment was taped! Here I thought maybe he'd had his own personal green room to wait in and was dying to know if he was gong to be sitting at the table with me. A huge chorus of boos and moans echoed from the studio audience. I desperately hoped they would be over it by the time my segment arrived.
When the moment came, everything just seemed to blur. Afterward, I received a lot of congratulatory notes telling me how calm and collected I looked on air. In reality, I was on autopilot; it was a surreal experience. If it hadn't been for the extensive media training from my publicist, I'm not sure what would have come out of my mouth. I probably would have just gushed over Kelly—something I still do at home, all the time!
The Real Deal On Reege
Nearly everyone has asked me, "What are Kelly and Regis really like?" Let me give you the inside scoop. I've always been a huge fan of Kelly Ripa. I've followed her on "All My Children" for nearly 10 years, and it was a dream come true to find out I'd be meeting one of my favorite soap stars in person. (To tell the truth, I was almost as excited about meeting her as I was about having my book chosen!) Unfortunately, I didn't have as much time to schmooze with Kelly as I'd hoped. For me, that was one of the most disappointing parts. But I did get to meet her quickly in her dressing room and snap a picture. Kelly was truly everything I had imagined and more. She is beautiful, articulate, funny and sweet. Regis, on the other hand, was a complete surprise.
The famously grumpy host was charming and kind in person. All that bashing he does on the air, at least in my case, was written on cue cards that he had to read. I had so many people mention afterward about the awful comments he made about "beach trash," but off air, he was very kind. Regis and Kelly had a warm camaraderie and showed no signs of professional jealousy or bickering as the tabloids would have you believe.
As expected, "Reading With Ripa" introduced me to a whole new brand of reader. Many of my regular readers and other romance authors were outraged that the producers selected a non-romance reader to sit at the discussion table. But instead of disappointment or anger, I saw opportunity. This young lady had never read a romance before, and she loved it. I saw it as a great statement. If she enjoyed The Bachelor, how many others would now try romance for the first time and discover a new genre to enjoy?
Enjoying The Afterglow
With the success of The Bachelor, I'm facing new challenges. The future looks wonderful and scary all at the same time. THE HEARTBREAKER, the third book in the Chandler brothers series, will now be released in August 2003 in hardcover first. I have a new agent, Robert Gottlieb at Trident Media. I also agreed to a new two-book hardcover deal with Warner. To say the tidal wave following the show has been good to me would be an understatement. Thank goodness The Playboy was already written before this happened! I'm also glad I didn't know The Heartbreaker was going to go into hardcover when I was writing it, because the pressure wasn't quite so intense during the creative process.
What I discovered after my moment as Cinderella (with Kelly Ripa as a fairy godmother) is that happy endings are really only new beginnings. Now, I'm a New York Times bestseller, and that carries a heavy responsibility to your publisher, and mostly, to your readers. I'm not complacent and I know it's going to take hard work to maintain any momentum Kelly has graciously given me. The most exciting part is that I've reached a new group of readers, many of whom had never picked up a romance before, and I'd like to keep them coming back for more.
I wish everyone could live his or her dreams. It's a phenomenal feeling. The most interesting thing I've taken away from this experience is that real "happily ever afters" are deeper and more intricate than those in any book. Along the way, there were new things to learn, choices to make that I'd never considered before and wonderful surprises in store.
Visit the newly redesigned www.carlyphillips.com for book news, excerpts, interactive features and great contests, like the martini-themed one for this month's Warner release, THE PLAYBOY.
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