“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” – Lloyd Alexander
Anais Nin wrote that “we write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect,” novelist Abby Stern has embodied those words in her debut novel, According To A Source. Drawing inspiration from her time as a freelance reporter for outlets like People Magazine where she interviewed some of Hollywood’s top celebrities, Abby has crafted a fantastical narrative that really captures the voice of “Tinseltown.” According To A Source, is the perfect book to indulge in while lounging around the pool this summer. I suggest reading it with a chilled glass of Rose.
Abby Stern, According To A Source
Black Chalk : How would you describe the book’s genre?
Abby Stern : Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Black Chalk : Describe the story in one sentence for me.
Abby Stern : When an undercover celebrity reporter finds herself entangled in a celeb scandal, she must decide if saving her dream job is worth jeopardizing her relationships with her friends and family.
Black Chalk : Where does your best writing take place?
Abby Stern : At home, sitting on top of my bed in complete silence with a 6 six-hour chunk of time.
Black Chalk : Tell me what led up to you writing this book? What were you writing before breaking out with this book?
Abby Stern : I was writing and pitching television pilots with my writing partner and was working on the book simultaneously for years. I’ve also been a freelance writer since graduating college and have written for various publications throughout the celebrity and lifestyle spaces.
Black Chalk : What was your one biggest learning experience throughout the process behind writing this book?
Abby Stern : Nuance! It’s something that you are purposefully avoiding in screenwriting. I definitely had to re-train myself when I was writing According to a Source to add in those details and description. Writing always felt like writing to me but each medium is so specific. I feel like I got an on-the-job crash course in novel writing and am looking forward to taking that knowledge with me into my next book.
The second learning experience, which I haven’t yet mastered, is how to handle the isolation of writing a novel. Like I said above, I need big chunks of time when I’m writing which often means foregoing your social life for a long period of time. I wasn’t really prepared for the mental toll that takes.
Black Chalk : Favorite movie?
Abby Stern : Troop Beverly Hills
Black Chalk : Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break into the industry?
Abby Stern : I interned throughout the entertainment industry while I was in college. While in some ways it’s extremely different than publishing, it taught me about the marriage between the creative side of an industry and the business side. As an artist it’s important to prioritize your creativity and the quality of your work but you need to be aware of the business end as well. You have to be your best sales person and know how to explain why people should want to represent or buy your work. I knew that I had written a great manuscript and that there was an audience for it. When I was querying agents, I was able to present that not only was I giving them a great story, but it was a story that was commercial and they could sell. I think being able to speak to the business side of the industry gave me a leg up as an unknown first time novelist.
Black Chalk : On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
Abby Stern : Nothing. I have really given 110% of myself to this project. While I was writing I was always thinking of ways to make the story the absolute best it could be. Now that it’s out there, I’m still trying to come up with creative ways for people to hear about the book. I feel like I’ve done the best I possibly can and I have no regrets.
Black Chalk : What are some the difference between the main character in your book and yourself? You and the main character both work in the entertainment industry.
Abby Stern : Ella is a lot less self-aware than I am. I’m almost too self-aware. I’m also more ambitious than she is. At times Ella is lost but I’ve always had a very clear idea of exactly what I want to do and have gone after it.
Black Chalk : Craziest adventure in Hollywood?
Abby Stern : I would say dancing with Mick Jagger is pretty up there. One Saturday night, a nightclub promoter friend of mine texted me and told me he’d be coming to the club that evening. I was already in bed but being a HUGE Rolling Stones fan I got myself ready in record time and had some girlfriends meet me. We ended up at his table, which happened to be next to the cast of the TV show Revenge, and I danced with him. He couldn’t have been nicer. It wasn’t necessarily “crazy” but it’s the Hollywood moment that always sticks out in my mind.
Black Chalk : Biggest lesson you learned from your time in Los Angeles?
Abby Stern : If you talk the talk, walk the walk. Everyone in Los Angeles claims they’re working on something but few people are actually putting in the work. At a certain point, this town really separates the doers from the talkers.
Black Chalk : What is one message you wish your readers to get out of your new book “According To A Source?”
Abby Stern : Nothing is ever as glamorous as it seems and the person you might be jealous of that appears to have the “perfect” life is probably jealous of someone else.
Black Chalk : Favorite drink?
Abby Stern : This is like choosing your favorite child! Vodka martini, very dirty! Almost anything with Mezcal. And of course, my regular go to -Rosé.
Black Chalk : Celebrities… Why are we all so fascinated with them?
Abby Stern : I think it’s a form of escapism. Their lives look and sound more interesting than ours and it’s away to take a break from the monotony that can sometimes plague us.
Black Chalk : Any fangirl moments you want to share?
Abby Stern : Meeting Dick Van Dyke was pretty up there. When you’re around celebrities a lot the novelty wears off quickly, but meeting the actors that meant a lot to you as a child is still thrilling. I was so nervous interviewing him (I think I was shaking slightly), even though he couldn’t have been more kind. A lot of times the icons are more Down to Earth than young Hollywood.
Black Chalk : Best travel adventure?
Abby Stern : I love the time I’ve spent in Nevis. It’s an island in the Caribbean and wish I was there everyday. It’s not a party island at all. You go there for relaxation. There are hikes and ocean-based activities but I love disconnecting and doing nothing most of the time I’m there. I look forward to getting back to Sunshine’s for a lobster sandwich and Killer Bee (a rum punch).
Black Chalk : Best piece of advice for writers trying to break in?
Abby Stern : Write! I know it sounds trite, but the only way to get better is to sit down at that computer everyday when you don’t have a deadline and get words on the page. You’ll probably delete all if not most of them, but that self-discipline of sitting down to write improves your skills and helps train your brain for when you are on a deadline. I would also say that developing your voice is essential. It’s not only what you have to say but how you say it. Agents and editors can help you with the mechanics of your work but having a unique voice is what will connect you with readers.
Black Chalk : How did you persevere?
Abby Stern : This is a cop-out non-answer for me because I’ve never been the person that gives up- ever. It’s part of my personality, even though there have been days I wished it wasn’t. It’s never been a choice for me to persevere, it’s who I am.
Black Chalk : Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
Abby Stern : I love being a homebody. After spending so much time out on the town for my job, a perfect Friday night is cooking and opening a nice bottle of wine.
Black Chalk : What’s next?
Abby Stern : I’m kicking around a few idea for other books. I think Ella’s story is bookended nicely in According to a Source but I would love to explore Holiday more. I’m also starting to work on ideas for a psychological thriller, a YA book and an essay book. I’m still working on television pilots and have been writing humor pieces and gone back to writing poetry for the first time since high school. I hope to get back to performing as well.
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