Totlandia by Josie Brown is, in a word, addictive. Learning about the cut-throat world of a competitive moms and tots group in San Francisco is as indulgent as any reality TV show. But that’s all I’ll say now – we’ll have a full review shortly.
For today, I’d like to introduce you to author Josie Brown. Josie and I chatted recently about kids, Totlandia, and – of course – her favorite wines.
Chick Lit + Wine: As a woman with no children yet, I have to say that Totlandia scares me. Is this based on real interactions with mommy groups? What was your inspiration for the Pacific Heights Moms & Tots Club?
Josie: HAHA! Nooooooooo! Don’t be afraid…
Okay, maybe just a little.
Having had two children of my own, I was determined that they cultivate friends as early as possible. When they were young, play groups and mommy meet-ups weren’t so structured. You didn’t find them online, you just went to the local park, let your children gravitate to other children, then strike up a conversation with their mothers and exchange telephone numbers or email addys. Nowadays, with so many extracurricular activities being offered, even to tots, play dates are also scheduled and so structured!
And yes, some mommy meet-ups have spoken, and unspoken criteria, such as no single moms, no working moms, no dads allowed, etc.
What I’ve done with the Totlandia series is take these rules to the extreme. Hopefully, no meet-up is as draconian as The Pacific Heights Moms & Tots Club, and no founder is as sadistic as Bettina. I’m glad we can giggle at the goings-on of this group. My goodness if we were actually living it, I’m sure we’d find it hella harder to laugh out loud, right?
Chick Lit + Wine: Bettina sounds like the pinnacle of “frenemies.” Did you have a person in mind while you were writing her character? Who would you pick to play her in a movie?
Josie: WOW! Super great question!
I think of Bryce Dallas Howard, who so aptly portrayed Hilly Holbrook in The Help. I’d be honored if she did it for a film version of Totlandia, too! I’d also love to see Rachel McAdams in the role, or Anne Hathaway. Come to think of it, this would make a great contest! “Who should play all of Totlandia’s main characters?”
Chick Lit + Wine: Each character is distinct and loveable in their own way. Jade – a former stripper among the elite mommies – cracks me up. Who was your favorite character to write?
Josie: HAHA! So many readers love her! I guess there is a bit of Jade in all of us. We all have some bit of shame in the past. Whereas the other probationary moms have secrets, none are shameful, like Jade’s.
The joy of writing a book with 4-6 main characters (by six, I include Bettina and Brady as well, since we sometimes get in their heads, too) is that the author is allowed to come up with so great motivations, as well as show the full dimension of the character. “What drives this person?” is always the question I ask myself.
I guess I’d have to say that Jillian is a lot of fun to write, because she is truly a victim of circumstance, which makes her the series’ “Everywoman.” How many of us have had a broken relationship, or broken marriage? How many of us have found ourselves without a means of income, but with children to care for? How many of us have had a financial fall from grace?
None of this should keep her from joining a club, but unfortunately this particular club has such strict criteria that any woman who doesn’t live an ideal life (at least, an ideal life as deemed by Bettina) could never be allowed in.
On the other hand, two of the probies – Jade and Ally – must hide their pasts; and Lorna’s son’s condition is her future.
My goal was to create a group of women who share our pasts, futures, and experiences. As they grow, we will cry for them, and cheer for them.
Josie: Yummy! Now we’re getting to the GOOD stuff!!!!
Okay, certainly Layer Cake Wines, in this order:
Cabernet Sauvignon: Described as having “prominent nose” and “elegant structure .” Ally, perhaps?
Chardonnay: Jillian. Described as “clean and crisp” and “ lingering enough to make you want another sip.” She wants everything in its place, but her life is such a roller-coaster that we certainly want more of her.
Malbec: Lorna. Described as “brooding” and “elegant.” Yep, that’s her!
Pinot Noir: Definitely Jade! Described as” spice and layers of dark” berries, and “ripe plums and big juicy black cherries wrapped in a glycerol creamy mouth feel.” (Talk about sultry!) A touch of smoky earth lingers in the background with the faintest wisp
Granacha: Bettina. Described as “rich and powerful”, and “will definitely lead to more babies.” Well, she is the founder of PHM&T, is she not?
Primitivo: Brady. Any wine described with such double entendre “layered, and rich in the mouth” and “by far, the most versatile” is definitely him!
Chick Lit + Wine: Who are your favorite authors, chick lit or otherwise?
Josie: I’m very old school: Margaret Mitchell, Edith Wharton and Jane Austen are at the top of my list, as is Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope. I love over-the-top melodrama and rich prose, with a saga of a story. I also like historic mystery and espionage, which I find in the novels of John LeCarre, Martin Cruz Smith, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In fact, right now I’m re-reading Agatha Christie, and discovering some of her stories that I missed the first go round. As far as dialogue and capturing the time and place, it’s pure gold.
Chick Lit + Wine: I’m just starting to read the sequel to “Totlandia.” Any other book recommendations for readers who love Totlandia as much as I do?
Josie: Personally, I love Kristin Harmel’s books, and those of Kate Perry and Stephanie Bond. If you’re looking for more mama drama, go pick up my novel, The Baby Planner. It also takes place in San Francisco, but is a darker, stand-alone story. Also, my novel, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, is a take on marriage that is funny and bittersweet at the same time. I’m proud that it will soon be a TV drama on NBC, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.