Interview With Kim Gruenenfelder

~ Interview Complied by Elle Filz

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that if you’re a bridesmaid enough times (especially in weddings taking place south of the Mason-Dixon line), you will eventually encounter a delightful tradition called “The Cake Pull.” As delicious as it sounds, it involves the bridal shower guests lining up to pull brightly-colored ribbons from the bottom layer of the day’s cake in the hopes of receiving a small fortune-telling charm.  These little keepsakes can represent upcoming engagements, impending births, new jobs, monetary windfalls, and even true love.

The best brides – say, those who’ll put you in a dress you’ll want to wear again and sit you next to their single Clooney of a cousin – will also find a way to rig the cake pull so that each member of the party gets the best possible charm for her current situation.  When it works, it’s an absolutely brilliant plan; when it doesn’t, you get a story like Kim Gruenenfelder’s delicious literary confection, There’s Cake in My Future.

In There’s Cake in My Future, bride-to-be Nic attempts to be one of those “good brides.”  She rigs the cake at her shower to bring the best, most needed, charms to each of her friends but somehow manages to still mess up the order by which the charms are distributed. Things go from bad to worse for Nic and her best friends, Mel and Seema, when they discover that not only do they have the last charm they could possibly want for themselves, but that the fortunes for the other guests have all begun coming true.

Kim, a Hollywood screenwriter who’s also the author of the hysterically funny A Total Waste of Makeup and Misery Loves Cabernet, sat down to answer a few questions for us.

Welcome, Kim!

The cake pull is a little known (mostly) Southern tradition. How did you come to use it as inspiration?

My friend Dorothy was at a cake pull a few years ago, and everyone who pulled charms started having their charms come true. Dorothy is a fellow screenwriter, but didn’t have time to write about such a tradition, so she suggested I write a book about it.

The three girls have such vibrant personalities and share equal billing at the top. Of the three, who was the easiest to write and who did you like the most?

Hm….. I’ve been wrestling with this question, because I feel like all of them were hard to write and easy to write depending on the moment. I am a Mom, so Nic’s household frustrations were easy – but trying to get her out of that damned bathroom took me 3 weeks. I was cheated on back in college, so writing about Mel’s discovery was actually kind of hard because it brought back all of those hideous feelings of low self-worth – but then her attitude about getting back out there was kind of fun because I know how it turns out – I eventually got a guy way better than the one who cheated on me. Seema was easy, but I had to edit myself – you can’t obsess about a guy all the time without boring your friends (or your readers.) I like all three girls for different reasons: Seema has the best lines, Nic has the best work ethic despite being unemployed, and I think Mel is the most loyal (although she risks being a doormat).

How do you think your career as a screenwriter has helped with your novel-writing?

Screenwriting is mostly about dialogue and character to me. Or at least my screenplays are. So every scene (or chapter) starts with, “What does my character want in this scene (or chapter)?” In screenplays, it’s all about the action you see a character doing. In books, the answer can be as simple as “She wants to obsess for 5 pages about her crush.” Or “She just wants to bitch about doing dishes.” Yes, at some point I need to describe wedding gowns and hotels in vivid detail, but I do that later. It all starts with the character for me.

You use one of most iconic, squeal-worthy, scenes in cinematic history as a major plot point. Without giving too much away — nobody likes a spoiled cake 🙂 — how did that scene come into being?

Would be hard for me to give much away – I had to ask you which scene you meant. Those kinds of scenes are fun to write – I have no idea how I write them, my characters just start talking in my head and I type it up. But I do love it when a plan comes together. And that movie you refer to is one of my favorites – it’s all about dialogue!

Which of the charms best describes where you are right now in terms of what you want to accomplish in your writing career?

In terms of my writing career, I suppose the shovel – since it represents hard work. Although I also like that typewriter. In terms of my life, I wouldn’t mind the money charm! There’s also a travel charm that would be nice. What I want to accomplish in my writing career has varied throughout my career, so the charm would change. If you had asked me at 20 what my goals were, I would have said create a TV series – books hadn’t even entered my mind. My first novel was my take on turning 30 – love it or hate it, this is what I think. “Cake” was about some things that go on in your thirties. I suspect I will continue to want to explore things as my friends and I age and go through them. Hopefully my audience stays with me.

What do you say to those who claim “chick-lit is dead”?  What do you call the types of books that you write?

I am very saddened to hear “chick-lit is dead” because that attitude is keeping books from being bought by the publishers right now, which is keeping them off the shelves, which means no one can buy them. I do think the market got inundated for a while there, but the pendulum has swung too much the other way. If you ask me what I write in front of my editor, I will say I write “women’s fiction”. At a party, I say I write chick-lit. The term was originally coined as an insult: a teeny bit of gum that has no significance. I believe we need to own the term: I write comical fiction for women and gay men. It’s what I do. I adore Jonathan Franzen, but I will never be him. If you want to laugh out loud on vacation or on the subway, I’m your gal. Will it be thought provoking 20 years from now? Not sure, but hopefully you can relate to something now.

What are you working on now?

I am hoping to be writing a sequel to “Cake” and will know in the next few days. For the past 6 months, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from novel writing – I’m jotting down notes and coming up with character ideas, but not so much sitting down and writing. I recently saw an art teacher on TV who said, “Sometimes you have to let the ground be fallow for a bit before you can grow again.” I’m working on a few TV pilots – we’ll see if anything happens with any of them. TV’s even harder than publishing: even if you sell a script, there is no guarantee it will ever get filmed, and even if it does, no guarantee it will air. But it’s fun to work on something different.

Thanks, Kim!  Best of luck on the new pilots, and hopefully we’ll see another slice of Cake soon!

*Update: Kim just began working on the “Cake” sequel! 🙂

Kim Gruenenfelder lives with her husband and son in Los Angeles. Her latest novel, “There’s Cake in my Future” is doing well, and St. Martin’s has bought the sequel, “Let Me Eat Cake” due out in 2012.

2 thoughts on “Interview With Kim Gruenenfelder”

  1. Kim,
    I enjoyed the interview and really love the quote [“my characters just start talking in my head and I type it up”] because that’s the way I feel about my favorite scenes in the six manuscripts I’ve completed (as yet unpublished).
    Allow me, however, to take exception to one comment (which seemed awfully limited in its generalization): I believe ‘straight’ men with a great sense of humor can ALSO enjoy — and write — romantic comedy.

  2. Hi Kim,

    I loved “A Total Waste of Makeup” and I look forward to reading “There’s Cake in my Future”. Congratulations on all of your success so far. It is so nice to see writers who continue to write chick-lit (I mean “women’s fiction…) in the same light, comical manner now as they did before the alleged death of the genre. And even nicer to see them succeed!


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