I’m so pleased to meet you…

I got these flowers for Mother's Day. Pretty, right?

Let’s start with introductions. I’m Lisa Takeuchi Cullen. You probably have some burning questions for me. Because I am the type of person who hates to start sentences with “I am the type of person who,” I’d like to begin our relationship with candor and TMI. Here, below, are some queries I imagined you might have for me, and, also below, my answers:

Q. All so-called writers who have websites are trying to sell something. So. Are you? Selling something?

A. True! And yes! Sometimes, what we’re selling is a book. Other times, it’s our services as writers for hire. Yet other times, it’s what’s fashionably known as a personal brand. Like: “swashbuckling war reporter.” Or: “charming romance author.” Mostly, these days, it’s a relationship. You know…writer + reader = besties. I know. Creepy.

Q. I’ll say. On the off chance I want to know you better, I’m going to have to know you better. Is it true you’re from Japan?

A. True! I was born and raised in Kobe, which is a port city in the southwest. You know how the main island of Honshu is shaped like a sock? Kobe is located around the ball of the foot. You’ve heard of it for our beef, but as I learned only recently, the “Kobe beef” you think you’ve been splurging your annual bonus on isn’t even from Kobe. It’s illegal to export. Which begs the question, what is the stuff we’ve been savoring in our $28 burgers? Pink slime?!

Q. Red meat is gross. What brought you to America?

A. College! But I stayed for your world-class television programming. I love Japanese TV, but it’s pretty bad. Oh, and my husband. I stayed for my husband. (Hi, honey!)

Q. Oh…kay. You never did say what you’re selling.

A. A book! I’m selling a book. It’s a novel called “Pastors’ Wives,” and it’s about pastors’ wives. It’s going to be the lead title (!) from Plume, an imprint of Penguin, for summer 2013. It’s a beach read!

Q. Are you a pastor’s wife or something?

A. Nope! I’m married to a classical musician. He plays the clarinet. Real good, if you ask me, but then again I can’t tell Mahler from Mozart. Strangers assume I’m a musician because a) I’m married to one, and they tend to intermarry, and b) I’m Asian. Though my Tiger Mom made me take piano lessons for like 12 years, I can’t even bang out a decent set of Chopsticks. Isn’t that tragic?

Q. So what in heaven’s name moved you to write an entire novel about pastors and their wives?

A. An article! My article, so you don’t think I lifted the idea. Which would be a terrible thing to do. To back up: in 2007, I wrote this article for TIME magazine, where I was a longtime staff writer and foreign correspondent. (I say “longtime” because my friends who still work there get irked when “TIME writer” gets thrown around by, like, summer interns. But now that I think about it, maybe what it really says is that I never got promoted.) It all began when my editor, Jan Simpson (who now writes this wonderful blog about Broadway), told me to cover a convention of pastors’ wives. (I’ll write a lot more about all this in future posts.)

Q. So you already wrote an article. What’s the novel about?

A. Here’s what it said in Publisher’s Marketplace:

DEBUT: Time magazine writer Lisa Takeuchi Cullen’s debut novel PASTORS’ WIVES, following three women whose lives converge and intertwine at an Atlanta evangelical mega-church, a dramatic portrayal of the private lives of pastors’ wives, caught between the demands of faith, marriage, duty and love, inspired by her magazine reporting.

Q. I can’t wait. No, really. What will you be writing about here?

A. Stuff! I love blogging. Truly. I blogged extensively for Time.com and True/Slant (now Forbes.com), but I quit over a year ago to concentrate on writing books and TV pilots. I’ll post here with news about “Pastors’ Wives” as we prepare it for launch next spring. I’ll post about the swirling slop bucket of frustration that pretty much defines my so-called career as a TV writer. I’ll post anything I think might be useful to other writers out there looking to a) publish books, b) get into TV writing, and/or c) work in journalism. I’m not gonna lie: I’ll promote friends’ books and projects. I’ll post the deep thoughts of a New Jersey mom who every morning marches into her attic office to write something she hopes does not altogether suck.

I’m so very, very happy to meet you. Please come back. And next time you see Kobe beef listed on a menu for the price of a tank of gas, call the manager over and very sweetly demand an explanation.

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Comments

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