Lynn Schnurnberger on life, writing, and the Best Laid Plans
Tru Newman, a wealthy stay-at-home mother and Upper East Side New Yorker, laps up her lavish “M&M” (maintenance and mothering) lifestyle, funded mostly by her investment banker husband, Peter. But when Peter loses his job and debt starts to mount, reality doesn’t so much hit her as deliver a knock-out blow. Especially when she discovers Peter actually lost his job three months ago and has been carrying out his 9-5 in the local coffee shop. Who now will cover the cost of their apartment, or their 14-year-old twin daughters’ private tuition? Not to mention the injection of cash for Tru’s regular Botox boosts.
So when Tru’s best friend, Sienna Post, loses her nightly newscaster position, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to start a business together: an escort service with "working girls" all over the age of forty. Their initial anxiety about the illegality of their entrepreneurial genius is soon forgotten when the money starts coming in. The “Veronica Agency” is a huge hit, and their escorts are in greater demand than both Tru and Sienna could have dreamed.
But with more unpredictable twists and turns in Tru’s path of success than a Twilight love tryst, it’s no wonder things don’t fall in to place quite as she imagined. Add to the mix an over-amorous neighbour who’s developed a crush on her husband; a mother who tackles tact with a power tool; twin daughters locked in warfare over the affections of the same boy; and a DA threatening to topple Tru’s agency, life is certainly anything but dull.
Reviewers have called the book “touching and laugh-out-loud funny,” “frothy, pure wish fulfillment,” and “a madcap story of a zany heroine that will make you laugh on a cold winter night.”
Schnurnberger’s own background is no less interesting or admirable than that of Tru, her main character. Her experience ranges from writing Broadway musicals for children (while still a teen) and creating artwork for the Museum of Modern Art, to being an on-camera reporter, an NBC talk-show producer and a media spokesperson for the hosiery industry. She’s also the founder of a successful non-profit organization called Foster Pride, has been featured on bestseller lists, completed editorial stints at More and People magazine, and starred on Oprah. Best Laid Plans is her fourth novel (Lynn is also the bestselling co-author of Mine Are Spectacular! and The Botox Diaries).
Having experienced so many achievements in so many areas (including conquering the pinnacle of an Oprah appearance) what does success now look like for Schnurnberger? Asked if Schnurnberger has any challenges left, she responded, "right now I’m concentrating on our non-profit, Foster Pride, which gives opportunities and mentorship to foster children through art."
Foster Pride started with just 35 children but now reaches between 300 and 400 New York City children each year. There are two recent Foster Pride success stories of which Schnurnberger is particularly proud. “We’ve just had a young man go to a program at Harvard and another who experienced depression but who has turned himself around and now has a job. Both of these success stories are just so heartening.” As Schnurnberger explains though, Foster Prides requires constant funding and caring, so for the time being this is where her attention is focused.
So what advice does she have for female writers with similar aspirations? “Meet other writers and editors and go to events," Schnurnberger said. Her own writing group has been instrumental in her success and provides her with the opportunity to hang out with like-minded people. It’s something she recommends to all writers. That and, “have a strong story. Know what that story is in just a few sentences. For example, ‘It’s a story about a young woman who….’ Once you’ve got that, just write between 500 and 1,000 words a day. Don’t get hung up on them being great words. If there’s a sentence and you don’t know where it will go or what might happen, just write something anyway.”
What you write isn’t always going to be what people are looking for, though, and when it comes to rejection, she admits that it can be hard to take. “Rejection sucks," she says. "You can’t really know if the person rejecting you is wrong or right because so many books that went on to do well were first rejected by gazillions of people. But sometimes it’s just not your book. I once wrote three chapters of a book that my agent said, ‘just wasn’t right’ but couldn’t say why. There are times when you’ve got to trust your gut and times when you should listen to other people.”
Stepping back from a book for a few months or even a few years can also sometimes be a good thing. If Susan Jeffers hadn’t first set aside Feel the Fear and do it Anyway before revisiting it, she might never have achieved international bestseller status. Even Richard Bach, Rudyard Kipling and Dr Seuss all faced rejection at one time. To this point Schnurnberger advises, “Having given it pause, if you really believe in it, then push it.”
When immersed in her own writing, Schnurnberger avoids reading other fiction so that she can maintain an authentic, untainted voice. “That first month of development, when you’re finding out who your characters are and how they tick, is an important time,” she said. But outside of her own projects, she's often immersed in other work.
It seems life for Lynn has been an inspiring journey because of her openness to opportunities and the unpredictable paths created by their pursuit. And, just like the main character in Best Laid Plans discovers, it’s these unforeseen adventures that sometimes bring the very nicest of surprises.