Friday, January 9, 2009

The Women of Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcome Berta Platas, Guest Blogger

For those of you who don’t know Berta, author of six chica-lit novels, here’s the scoop. Berta was born in Havanna, Cuba and has lived in several major cities in the US before coming to her current home in Atlanta. She’s married, a mom to four, and still keeps her day job in marketing. In addition to producing her rave-review books, Berta is the new in-coming president of Georgia Romance Writers, a 200 plus members writer’s group.

So Berta, tell us about your exciting new release, Lucky Chica!

Lucky Chica is the story of a young woman, Rosie Caballero, who’s had nothing but bad breaks in her life, but thinks that she’d be fine, if only she had a little money. She plays the lottery every week, and plans for the day when she wins. But when she wins the biggest lottery in US history, she finds that she can control her spending, but not her relatives, or the press. She has to decide what’s important in her life.

I read that you like to play the lottery on occasion. Do you have a favorite type of lottery ticket or your own special numbers?

I try to play the big games every week, and limit it to a dollar a week. For fun occasions, like birthdays, I’ll buy twenty buck’s worth of scratch-offs and hand them out to familiy members. It’s a lot of fun. So much fun, that I’m doing it for my book signings. Everyone who buys a book will get a ticket. One of my readers might get rich! I’ve been instructed by my publicist at St. Martins to immediately notify her if that happens!

And just what is it that you would do if you were a real-life version of Rosie Caballeros?

Spend a loooooot of money. But I hope I’ll be wiser, and plan carefully. Travel would be high on the list, and a helping out causes that need help. All of my relatives would be debt-free, but first I’d have to decide who is really a relative. Folks who win big pots of cash acquire lots of cousins they’ve never met before!

For our aspiring and published writers out there, tell us what inspired this story and about how long it took you to write Lucky Chica?

The idea started to swirl around after I read about a guy who won 30 million, but lost it all. He went nuts, carrying around a metal suitcase stuffed with thousands of dollars so that he could gamble whenever the mood struck him. He used drugs, let people steal from him, became estranged from his family. The lottery cash ruined his life.

At the same time, I had just left a job in Chamblee, Georgia, a nexus of cultural diversity just north of Atlanta. As with all areas where recent immigrants gather, it’s brimming with energy, both good and bad. Many residents are just passing through, because as soon as they get ahead a bit, they move to other neighborhoods. There was a growing gang presence at the time, and lots of Section 8 housing, and apartments stuffed full of single men trying to save cash, sometimes as many as fifteen to a small apartment. No way to live, but these guys were cheerful, hardworking, and sent just about every penny they made home to help their families. And in the midst of this there were families who were stuck. They needed to live off of Buford Highway, where they could walk to the store, the Laundromat, their work, and couldn’t afford higher apartment prices or cars and insurance.

So I wondered, what if a girl stuck here was given not just the money she needed, but an obscene amount of money. What choices would she make? What would she want? I spent months on research while I was writing Cinderella Lopez, and then I wrote the book in a year. It was the option book for a two book contract, and I had a change of editor in the middle of writing it. My new editor and her assistant are both wonderfully bright and creative women who had great ideas about how the book could be improved. So after I turned in the manuscript, I spent another six months editing, and then it was done.

Don’t be discouraged by the long timeline. While I was writing this I was also taking notes on my next two books, and started writing a young adult book with one of my critique partners, which we subsequently sold as a trilogy. I wrote two YA’s with her while I was writing and editing Lucky Chica, and I’ve also got another single title book done, which I’m editing now. That one’s about a psychologist who ends up working as a fortune teller.

So, tell us the real details of writing. What do you do to set the mood for the writing muse?

The writing muse never stops by my house. Instead, I was assigned the whip-cracking writing drill sergeant. With a day job, a husband, four kids, two big dogs, a cat, two ferrets and two contracts, I don’t have time to wait for inspiration to strike. I plan ahead so that each project has a detailed synopsis and chapter outlines. I do collages so that I instantly remember which characters are in each book, or what that special dress looks like. All of this planning, along with daily page count goals (five pages a day on weekdays), means that when I sit down to write, I know just where I’m headed.

Do you have a favorite junk food that you munch when you write?

No junk food for me, but if I get started on coffee I’ll drink two pots of the stuff before I realize it, usually when my fingernails start to vibrate. Munchies at the keyboard means the dogs nestle up to me and give me the puppy dog eyes, or the cat gets more obnoxious than usual about walking up and down the keyboard.

What’s playing on your IPod?

Right this second? Calabria 2007, by Enur. The club mix. It’s a really sexy Jamaican dance tune. Also, Def Leppard, the Chieftains, the Clash, Benny Goodman, and Scott Joplin rags, lots of Prince, and an odd mix of songs that I like, but I’ll probably never listen to anything else by the artist, like House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” I’m a Gemini, what can I say?

Berta, I know you’ve been at this for a while, so tell us, which of your previous books is your “baby” and why?

They’re all my babies, really. And my favorite is the one I haven’t written yet, because my favorite part of writing is getting new ideas and starting to write. The editing part is torture to me.

Those of us who know and love you are aware of your love for martinis. Care to share your favorite martini recipe with us?

Aw, I love to be known and loved. Thanks! I really like Gibsons – vodka with a couple of drops of vermouth, and an onion on a skewer, preferably a little sword. I love swizzle sticks and cocktail skewers and collect them, and love to use my favorites when I’m at home. I also like vodka martinis with a big olive and a big splash of olive brine. That’s what makes it “dirty.” I’m not a sweet martini drinker, although I love an occasional Lemon Drop. Ask Rita Herron about those. And I like to drink them while munching cheese and crackers.

Any last thought for us?

Writing is part of my soul, as I’m sure it is for many of you, but unless you write with a partner, it’s a solitary business. It’s important to belong to a community of writers, people who totally understand what you go through when you write.

Ok. Now tell us about the contest. How do we win an autographed copy of Lucky Chica to start or add to our Berta Platas collection?

Just leave a comment here – the top three things you’d do if you won the big millions. If you don’t win the copy of Lucky Chica, you’ll have another chance to win at my website, Or if you’ve got a Christmas gift card burning a hole in your pocket, come by one of my two Atlanta signings. The 17th at 3pm at Eagle Eye Book Store, and the 24th at 2:30pm at the Barnes and Noble at The Forum in Norcross.

Thanks for inviting me to your blog! Where are the petit fours? I just got a fresh cup of coffee…

Okay readers, get busy with your comments. We'll take entries up to midnight tonight. One entry per person please. Winner to be announced in the morning. Don't forget to stop by Berta's website for a second chance to win.


Debbie Kaufman said...

I know I'm not eligible, but I still wanted to thank you for doing the interview. I can't wait to head to the bookstore and get a copy of your new book!

Marilyn Baron said...

Berta, great guest blog! I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to reading your latest book.

You know, when you posed the question I thought I'd easily be able to come up with three things I'd do if I won the big millions and I had to think long and hard because if I'm honest I already have everything I want, which is a really good feeling. But if I had to come up with three, I guess it would be:

1) Take a trip around the world
2) Buy a house in Bermuda
3) Spend it on my daughters' weddings when the time comes. I have two daughters. They're not engaged but one can hope. (I hope they're not reading this).

Actually, I hit the Big Jackpot last night because my team, "The Florida Gators," won the national championship. Go Gators!

CiCi Barnes said...

Thanks Berta for stopping by and giving us pre-published authors some encouragement. Can't wait to read "Lucky Chica".

As for my big three:

1) Get out of any debts I've incurred
2) Help my children with their debts
3) Build my sunroom so I can write in the cheery bright sunshine instead of the dark study

Have a great weekend.


Marin Thomas said...

Berta--your books sound like great fun! I'm so impressed with how well organized you are when you plan out your stories--amazing.

Okay here's what I'd do with millions!

1) Set up education funds for my kids, my eventual grandkids, my nieces and nephew and my cousins' kids and close friends' kids if they need help.

2) Buy my kids a new car and myself a 1959 Bubble Gum pink convertible Cadillac with the big fins in back.

3) Send my husband to one of those "Dream Sports Camps" for adult men with a huge check to sponsor other sports camps for underprivileged kids

Marin Thomas
RT Top Pick
The Cowboy and the Angel (Nov 08)

Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Berta,

Thank you so much for taking time from your busy schedule to share your insights (and your heart)with us. And a big thank you for agreeing to be our new President.

I wouldn't have to think too long about what I'd do with the money. I have almost everything I could want, so I'd be looking to help others. (after I got back from a 2-week cruise)

1) Share enough with my children that they would be out of debt...even if only for a short time (if they were stupid and got back into debt I'd figure they didn't deserve a bail out again)

2) Put money in trust accounts for each of my grandchildren to cover education and a little to get started on a home of their own some day.

3) Set up a trust where I could anonymously pay for things like needed surgeries that insurances won't cover (for instance a child that has dumbo ears and insurance considers correcting it as cosmetic vs necessary)and medicine or utility bills for the elderly who are living in the cold and eating almost nothing in order to pay for heart medications, or any other worthy cause that came to my attention.

I liked the comment about deciding who your family is. For me, it would be my children and grandchildren and I'd say no to anyone else...although the trust might anonymously pay for something if it was really a necessity item vs them just wanting to go on the cruise with me.

J Perry Stone said...

Berta, Prince??? We are SO going to move our grove thaaang at next year's Maggies again! I didn't know you'd seen the light (Prince's special brand o' funk).

Wonderful interview. I don't know why, but learning about people's writing approach is always so inspiring. 5 pages a day though? After a long day at work and seeing to 4 kids, 2 dogs, one cat and husband ... and a partridge in a pear tree???

How do you do it all??

From what I've heard of Lottery winners, they say if you change your standard of living too much, that's where the problems come in. After doing the following three things, I'd save most of it and live off the interest.

1) Buy houses for my people (including a temple for my Sangha)

2) Travel 2/3 times per year. On my immediate list:
-North Africa


3)Finish my basement. We would not move. We'd follow Warren Buffet's example--gabillionaires living in a modest, middle-class home.

Barbara Goss said...

Your book sounds awesome. Looking forward to reading it. My 3 things are.

1. Build a new church with a beautiful sanctuary for Eagles Way Church (my church)

2. Be debt free and put some aside to live comfortably for the rest of our lives.

3. give the rest away to family, friends and others..& I will be able to move my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren back home.

Buffie said...

looking forward to reading your book. I would do the following:

1. Secure my children's future.
2. Take care of my dad's financial needs.
3. By an RV and take the kids around the country.

Berta said...

You guys! Your hearts are in the right place. I'm taking notes, so if I win the gabillions (as Julianne said, LOL)I'll add all of your stuff to my list. I'm writing that here in case my husband wonders why I'm endowing trust funds, paying off debts for strangers, buying finned pink cadillacs, building temples, and grabbing up the round trip tickets.

And Buffie - you reminded me of the RV! I totally want an RV. Add it to my list.

Lisa Hendrix said...

Berta-- In one of those examples of synchronicity that I love, I just read your name yesterday for the first time in an old RWR article on multicultural romance. (It probably wasn't the first time I read it, actually, but it was the first time I absorbed it and it stuck). Then I find you here.

Anyway, top three things I'd do with megabucks:

1. Consult a great financial planner and get things set up so I'm out of debt and have my old age taken care of.

2. Set up things so my kids have "enough that they can do anything, but not so much they can do nothing." (Warren Buffet)

3. Use whatever's left over to travel, give to various charities, purchase land to establish a wildlife preserve, which I'd leave to Nature Conservancy in my will.

Linsey Lanier said...

Wow, what a great post to start the new year! Congrats on your new book, Berta. "Lucky Chica" sounds like another winner. Your vivacious and upbeat style is just what readers need right now.

And yes, J Perry, getting down with Berta at the Maggie’s dance at M&M was one of the highlights of 2008 for me.

My top three list if I won the lottery?

- Pay off ALL my bills.
- Quit my job.
- Hire a housekeeper, a cook, a gardener, an accountant (an honest one), and a secretary to write “rejection” letters to all those mystery cousins asking for handouts.

Only three? I’m just getting warmed up…. :)


Betsey said...

I love the idea of your book, and would love to read it. As for the lottery, I'd do much of what many of the above bloggers would do. Pay off one last debt, save monies for children, tithe to church, give to favored community charities, travel, and not change much about my lifestyle.

Kelly L Stone said...


Congrats on the release of your book! I can't wait to read it! You are a great writer and a wonderful inspiration to all of us. I would like to borrow your whip cracking drill sergeant muse from time time if you don't mind! :-)


Anonymous said...

Here are my answers to the question-- forgot to include this on my last post:

1) Put a lot in savings to secure financial future for self and family

2) Travel to some locations that are on my wish list: Tibet (is that even possible?), India, Hawaii, Alaska, S. Pacific area

3) Give money to grass-roots animal welfare groups


Nancy said...

Berta, I love the post, and I'm eager to read LUCKY CHICA!

With a huge lottery win, I'd:

1. Secure my future, inc. old age
2. Set up trust funds for children and grandchildren
3. Help some particular family and friends out of difficulties

And those are only the beginning! :)

All the best in your career!

Nancy Haddock
La Vida Vampire

One/Six Photography said...

I can't wait to read the new book! And I enjoyed your guest blog!

Three things to do with lotto winnings:

1) I'm with Barbara, build EWChurch and new wonderful worship center.
2) Put away money for my parents and my husband's mother to live with us when they are older.
3) Secure my child's future by using the money to build our photography business.

Good luck with the new book, looking forward to winning it :)

Lara Lee said...

Lucky Chica sounds like a lot of fun! Who wouldn't want to win the lottery?

1) Buy a little house in beautiful, peaceful place where I can have my own office and write full time.
2) Set up accounts for my daughter and granddaughter for their education and necessities, and ones for my mom and mother-in-law so they can live comfortably in their retirement.
3) Give lots of money to all my favorite charities who do such wonderful work on a shoestring.

Fun blog!

Buffie said...

Hey Berta! Looking forward to meeting you at this year's M&M Conference. The book sounds wonderful!! I think if I won the lottery I would

1) payoff all my debt.
2) pay my kids school tuition for the next 5 years.
3) buy the hubby a new car.

BTW -- I find it totally great that there is another Buffie posting here. And I love that she spells her name correctly ;)

PJ said...

Hi Berta! I enjoyed meeting you at last year's M&M conference. Great interview and good luck with the new book. I'm looking forward to reading it.

I have a lot of things I'd do if I won the lottery but three of them are

1) Get a really good tax attorney and financial planner.

2) Lease a villa in Tuscany and fly my brothers and their families there for an Italian vacation then later in the year do the same for my girlfriends.

3) Make sizable contributions to my favorite charities especially the no-kill rescue group where I adopted my sweet dog, Cassy.

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Berta,

You totally rock!!! I love your books and can't wait to read this new one.

Wow! I had to really think about these three things. (Especially after reading some of the other posts... I figured I shouldn't be so selfish...grin....)

1. I would make sure all my family (I'd have to really think about who falls under that family thing) is taken care of.

2. I would love to travel. My hubby isn't into traveling, so we'd have to figure out a way to do it where he didn't feel like I was dragging him all over the world.

3. And I LOVE the idea of creating an anonymous account to help people out...

I, too, thank you Berta for posting with us today... I admire you so much. Thanks for being such a supportive mentor to all of us!!!

Have a fabulous weekend.


Berta said...

Thanks so much for all the nice comments, ladies! Hugs to you all! And if you didn't win the book, mosey (or merengue) over to my website and sign up there, because I'm giving another one away at the end of January.

Marin Thomas said...

Berta--I'm so excited to have won your book! I'm always looking for a new writer to try and Lucky Chica sounds like great fun! Thanks so much!

Marin Thomas
RT Top Pick
The Cowboy and the Angel

Mary Marvella said...

Berta always does a great interview! good job, Debbie.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Just "thanks" for enriching the life of a northern MN gal!

What would I do if I won millions? I have pondered that question over and over.

1. The first thing I would not allow a windfall to do is change the person I am today. I would continue to honor my God and try to be humble.

2. I remember that the Bible says things like "Feed my lambs." I love animals and would stop out in the barn with a few more gumdrops and licorice sticks for the sheep. I remember that man was made last and not first.

3. The needs for my family and community would be addressed and hopefully filled. I know that it is by sharing that I receive. I would let the blessings spread. In this rotten economy, kindness is still free and so I would spread it around.