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Chick lit, loving it (charisma carpenter mention)

Ray Routhier

Wednesday 22 February 2006, by Webmaster

Melissa Senate lived in a Manhattan skyscraper for 15 years and says she still loves New York.

But she uses much stronger language when talking about her current home, the town of Cumberland, which she moved to in 2004.

"I’ve fallen in lust with Maine and my beautiful town: endless forests and winding trails, grazing horses and mooing cows in a field down the road, crickets all night long . . ." writes Senate on her Web site.

Senate is no stranger to writing about loves. She has written four successful novels that she herself describes as "chick lit." One of those, "See Jane Date," was made into a TV movie for the ABC Family cable channel, starring Charisma Carpenter. A repeat aired right before Valentine’s Day, and the cable channel usually airs it about once a month.

Senate’s most recent book, "The Breakup Club," came out in January. It looks at breakups through the viewpoints of four very different characters, including a male one.

Q: Would you describe your books as "chick lit?" How do you define that term?

A: My books are "chick lit," which means an entertaining, light novel about the modern female experience, whether that be single life, married life, office politics, playground politics or all of the above.

Q: You’ve written about dating and relationships, breakups, etc. Do you draw upon personal experience for that?

A: I didn’t marry until the ripe old age of 38. That’s what - 20 years of dating. Oh, do I have stories to tell. I never use an exact experience, more what I discovered about dating or men or people or life from the experience.

Q: Do you see the lead character in "See Jane Date" as being based on you. Or is she someone you’d want to be? Or maybe someone you would not want to be?

A: Jane is her own woman, but I did use my experience as a twentysomething living in New York City, working in publishing, living in a tiny studio apartment, dating, dating, dating, and trying to figure it all out. I like Jane a lot.

Q: Why do you think "See Jane Date" was so popular?

A: Hundreds of letters poured in from women who identified with her. She voiced what many single young woman feel: pressure to want this or that, do this or that, be this or that, while trying to figure out what they want, who they are, how they feel.

Q: The movie version is on TV like once a month. Do you see a spike in book sales when it’s on?

A: Yes!

Q: It must be weird in a way to watch a movie of a story you created. What surprised you most about the movie? What pleased you the most? What made you scream?

A: I loved the movie. It captured the spirit of the book and the character. Things were changed/omitted, but that was my Jane up on the screen. What pleased me most was the opening credits: Based on the book by Melissa Senate. That also made me scream.

Q: Why did you want to come to Maine? Has living here changed the tone of your writing at all? It seems like stories about dating and romance and breakups are more easily adapted to urban environments.

A: My husband I were living in a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan with a very active 2-year-old. We knew we needed wide open spaces, so we did some research, and Greater Portland kept coming up as the best place (for so many reasons) for us to raise our son. We love it here. As for inspiration for writing, that comes more from within, so I can still marvel at the big red barn in my backyard while envisioning a singleton on a date in the city. My next book is set in Maine, mostly in Portland, but with a funny section in Caribou, where I’ll be heading for research soon. I’ll get to see so much of Maine along the way!

Q: If "The Breakup Club" becomes a movie, do you think any of the actors from "The Breakfast Club" would be right for parts?

A: I was an ’80s girl and saw that movie at least 20 times. I just turned 40, and I’m pretty sure The Breakfast Clubbers are too, if not close. The oldest main character in "The Breakup Club" is 34.

Q: Where do your ideas come from, generally? Do you write stuff down when you’re out and about, when an idea strikes? Or do you sit down and say, "Now I’m going to write" and then start creating storylines and characters?

A: I get snippets of ideas from everywhere - books, magazines, conversations, my life, the Internet. Ideas are everywhere. I know I have an idea to explore when it grips me, when I want to think about all the possibilities. A character and a situation come hand in hand. And then I sit down and write a paragraph about the idea, then a page, then 10 pages. And then I have something to submit to my editor.

Q: What is you favorite thing about writing?

A: That you can fix anything you want. I can change the ending to anything.

Q: What is your least favorite thing?

A: When the words won’t come. They often don’t.