TAKE 5: Dee DeTarsio and All My Restless Life to Live

PorterKath and Therese stepping in with a special introduction. As you know, Take 5 interviews at Writer Unboxed are generally dignified affairs, allowing authors to reveal details of their latest novel–the backstory, inspirations and writing process–via five pithy questions. We are proud that T5’s have become something of a classic.

When we send T5 questions to our authors, we always invite them to rewrite any of them–in case there’s something in particular they’d like to reveal about the book that our questions don’t invite. Occasionally an author will do a nip-tuck on a few T5 questions, but it’s never been anything drastic.

Until now.

In a WU first, Dee DeTarsio–one of our original Reader Unboxed reviewers, now contributing to our newsletter–rewrote all of the questions meant to showcase her new novel, ALL MY RESTLESS LIFE TO LIVE. Then she sent the finished Q&A to us. Then we had to pick ourselves off the floor, helpless with laughter, and contact our lawyer.

If you followed our Reader Unboxed site while it was still alive, you will likely remember the camaraderie that developed between the contributors there. Much like it has here. Except over there, there was a special raillery evident whenever Dee and Porter Anderson (who was also an original Reader Unboxed contributor) got together in a thread.

We are pleased to share Dee’s Q&A with you today, another salvo in Dee and Porter’s battle of wits. (And, yes, Porter gave his stamp of approval, and sent us the picture you see here, proving he has an exceptional and truly unboxed sense of humor.)

Grab a box of tissues to wipe away tears of mirth, and enjoy!

TAKE 5: Dee DeTarsio and All My Restless Life to Live

Disclaimer: I can’t promise that you will like this interview or learn anything, but I can issue a money-back guarantee it will be shorter than a Porter Anderson post. (Hey, Porter!)

1. How has Porter Anderson influenced you? 

Every time I want to comment on a post, I ask WWPD—What Would Porter Do? And then I get scared of making a fool of myself and edit it a million times. See, being part of a tribe is awesome. (Can’t you just picture Porter, with a Campari in one hand, raising that bar high, toasting industry insiders?) He recently shared an agent’s perspective from the Muse conference in Boston last month: “Self-published books almost need to be better than traditionally published work.

Oh boy, I’ve learned that the hard way. All My Restless Life to Live is my sixth indie book. It was critiqued and edited by a NYT best-selling author. Copy-edited by a mean ol’ red-penned slasher who seemed to get almost sexual satisfaction from all the errata. (Right? Errata not erotica.) I raffled off a child to go with a publicist. (Hey, Crystal!)

2. Who are you, how old are you, how much do you weigh, and how much money do you make?

I didn’t teach myself to read at an early age. I didn’t write my first story in kindergarten—I was still busy wetting the bed and playing in the can cupboard. I had the same back brace that Joan Cusack wore in Sixteen Candles, and I would have traded being fat for having clear skin in a heartbeat. I read a lot.

I lost my ego along with the placenta of my first-born, making writing a natural career choice. More than seven hundred rejections, three agents, and close-but-no-cigar publishers toying with my affections, I perversevered. (I know that’s not a real word, but it should be.)

Full disclosure: while I am not making enough to pay for LuluLemon writing pants, I could probably spring for a pair of LuluLychees. (I would buy those.) My best month on Amazon was December 2011, when I earned $3000. It has been harder to reach those sweet, sweet payoffs, but I am trying.

3. Favorite Oprah “aha moment?” (It’s a thing, it’s in the dictionary.)

For every lousy cover, disastrous social media interaction, *whistles innocently* and “ews” from douchebag reviews, I learn a little more about the business of reading. I like books that laugh in the face of the sadness of life. (Hey, The Fault In Our Stars.) While I don’t know what’s in the secret sauce of success, I know this much is true: Every book I’ve ever read (including indies) is written with every author’s best.

4. How much TV do you watch? 

No, really. What’s the book about?

Life is a soap opera, especially for Elle Miller, who writes for one. (Ellen dropped the “n” in her name in hopes of finding a better ending for herself.) When her laptop crashes, she borrows her recently deceased dad’s computer and gets way more than she bargained for.

Elle unravels mysterious communications from his computer, while her mom decides to give Internet dating a try. As Elle tries to save her career at I’d Rather Be Loved with a storyline featuring a trip through Atlantis, she takes a trip to the Emmys, and finds herself in the middle of a romance between a real doctor and a hunk who just plays one on TV. Friends, family, and clues from “the other side” all help Elle figure out the difference between living the good life and living a good life.

Fans of Marian Keyes and Jennifer Weiner will delight in Dee DeTarsio’s sparkling prose and lively dialogue as she takes readers into the heart of women’s lives. Filled with friendship, love, loss, betrayal, and challenges that force her characters to find their place in the universe, Dee’s novels give us that hopefully-ever-after we’re searching for.

I always wanted to be a soap opera writer. I do not understand people who hate TV. Some of my best friends are on TV, including my second husband, Jon Snow. (If you think about it, Game of Thrones is the most epic soap opera of all time.)

I write chick-lit which is another word for nothin’ left to lose.  My cover has pink on it, and heart-shaped sunglasses. The title is clunky and ridiculously long. I have a prologue! The writer police are already after me, so I went all out and made that prologue a secret with the readers that the protagonist never learns about.

I am doing KDP Select on Amazon, as well as paperbacks to help with marketing—for reviewers, Goodreads giveaways, and for never making more than .28 cents per copy.

I’ve finally stopped querying agents, because even armed with sales figures and a robust, international fan base of seven, it’s not good enough. With more than 150,000 books sold* (*Sold is such a strong word—since it can also mean free, and sometimes, with paid promos, actually end up costing $), it’s still not good enough.

5. Do you have advice for other writers? 

My goal over the past few years has totally shifted from yearning to be traditionally published, to finding the indie joy. I no longer stutter and give long-winded explanations about what kind of writer I am, as if I were in some sub-species mutant category.  Indie authors do have to try harder, and sometimes, it’s a swing and a miss. (Have you met me?) But, that’s okay.

My mother, of “Be nice and don’t eat sugar” fame, still tells me to suck in my stomach and stand up straight. That is pretty sound advice for anyone, especially writers.

Hey Porter, your smoking jacket called and wants its Erudite Word-of-the-Day calendar back!

Readers, you can learn more about Dee and her latest book, All My Restless Life to Live, on her website, and by following her on Facebook and Twitter.


About Dee DeTarsio

Dee DeTarsio is a TV writer living in southern California. She is the author of THE SCENT OF JADE, THE KITCHEN SHRINK, and just released, ROS.


  1. says

    Love this Take 5, but I have to say, you’ve made me laugh-cry at least twice in this interview, that is, laugh while I have tears in my eyes because something you wrote hit home (the trading being fat for clear skin and your description of your publishing path). If you can do that for me in a brief interview, you have just sold me your book!
    Natalieahart´s last blog post ..I Will Not Should On Myself

  2. says

    Oh-no, you made me laugh so hard, I ruined another pair of LuluLychee writing pants (have you noticed? They’re sweet, but they don’t hold up in the wash so well).

    Praise be, to your second husband’s old gods and the new, for having you in my tribe. If I hadn’t perversevered the errata to get to this point, I would never have experienced the secret sauce that is Dee DeTarsio fiction! Since I’ve got nuthin’ left to lose, now that I’ve lost my pants, I’m going to spend All My Restless Afternoon to Waste reading my hero’s book!
    Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Life’s Too Short

  3. says

    I love this woman! Girl, you had me at “WWPD–What Would Porter Do” and I don’t even know nothing of this Porter? I do plan to go back & read the links you provided & his photo is hysterical, but sorry, Porter, I am relatively new to WU & wasn’t around its UNBOX back in that day, like yall. I was alive, just not conscious or reading. Anyway, I stopped counting the choice phrases in this post at “Copy-edited by a mean ol’ red-penned slasher who seemed to get almost sexual satisfaction from all the errata” with its catchy parenthesis “(Right? Errata not erotica.)” Oh but then the ba-dum-de-dum: “I raffled off a child to go with a publicist.” Love it. I hope you take this as a compliment (cuz its meant to be one, in my old-age) but you are the new Erma Bombeck. Okay, forget that compliment, it was lame. I HAVE to get your book & I HAVE to get on the “Games of Thrones” bandwagon, which is more like a chariot-race frenzy. I will read & watch, before I get more grey hairs than I can cover up with peroxide. What a fun post! Actually, I found it very informative too, from the indie writer, don’t follow those silly rules perspective. Hurray for YOU!
    Diana Cachey´s last blog post ..Grand Canal Ride near Rialto Bridge

  4. says

    This is the most perfect description I’ve ever read: “I write chick-lit which is another word for nothin’ left to lose.” Thanks for making me laugh out loud! (Probably goes without saying, but I am also an indie published chick-lit author).

  5. says

    Dear Diana,

    You need to know about Porter! (Though perhaps it should be WWPD–What Would Porter Drink?) (As you can clearly see, the correct answer would be Campari.) (What is that stuff, anyway?)

    Thank you for your Erma Bombeck compliment!! And as for the Game of Thrones bandwagon, be warned, Jon Snow is taken!

    Have a great weekend!
    Dee DeTarsio´s last blog post ..My Publisher is So Obnoxious!

    • says

      Now you’re getting it, DeTarsio. (She learns fast.) What Would Porter Drink?

      And I’ll have to introduce you to Campari, Milano’s Gift to the Writer, next time we find ourselves under the same table.

      It can put a lot of meaning into orange juice.

      On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson
      Porter Anderson´s last blog post ..From Writer Unboxed: Agreeable Disagreement

      • says

        From shirtless to sh*tfaced; a natural progression when viewed through those Campari-tinted spectacles. Am now looking forward to indies in undies, when one or other of you has time.

        Many hearts, Dee, for a tickling post and for bringing out our good friend Porter’s inner Everage.

  6. says

    More evidence for my claim that the everything in the world is better with Campari. I’m also a television addict and if I were as honest as I try to be, I wouldn’t claim my iMac as business equipment when it is only ever used for viewing TV shows on Netflix and Hulu… white noise for my writing day.

    “chick-lit which is another word for nothin’ left to lose” gets the award for the best damned non-condescending definition of my favorite entertainment genre when I need to get off the world and take a break!

    and of course, as soon as I read she dropped the n from her name in hopes of finding a better ending for herself, I cheered and bought the book. I plan to use an adulterated version of that line every single time someone asks me why I dropped all the vowels in my name online (actually, just lazy)
    CrizGzr´s last blog post ..Farmer in the dell, writer in the Bechdel

    • says

      CHRISTINE! Where have you been all my life?

      Wait a minute, where have *I* been all my life?

      At last somebody at WU who knows Campari. Brava, Cara, Devo dedicare il mio prossimo libro per voi, cin-cin.

      You ladies and your chick-lit jokes.

      Say no more, Porter.

      OK, Porter.

      Ciao, Christine, have one for me.
      On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson
      Porter Anderson´s last blog post ..Authors in the Inferno: Dan Brown and Books

  7. says

    What a hoot–and, oh, the comments too. Love meeting new-to-me writers, and if your books match your post, they’ll be huge fun.

    I think we can all sympathize with your journey, even those of us whose grey hairs came in droves while we accumulated the rejections and waited for the day. (So glad my son’s no longer at home to pluck out the grey. I’d have bald spots if he’d continued.) How brave of you to have tackled this as an indie author. I’m barely keeping my head above the marketing waves as I slog the traditional route.
    Normandie Fischer´s last blog post ..BECALMED’S COVER UPDATE

  8. says

    Huzzah for this undignification (that should be a word, too) of a Q5. I agree on the Erma Bombeck comparison, Dee. You’re a livewire. If there were writer-police, I envision you teaching them how to do the can-can mid-arrest.

    As for WWPD? Apparently demonstrate his ability to be a good sport on a Saturday morning. My only regret is that your cover doesn’t feature a shirtless man kissing a beautiful woman. But that’s okay. Gotta give him something original to handle when I’m finally published. ;)
    Jan O’Hara´s last blog post ..Not Dead Yet. Not Even Mostly Dead (+Writer Unboxed Redirect)

    • says

      Thank GOD somebody has said “Shirtless Men Kissing Beautiful Women,” so I don’t have to. O’Hara, you still rock, even on weekends (how does she do it?).

      Clearly, DeTarsio got the cover wrong, I agree. What was she thinking? Now we have to wait for the next one.

      Fortunately the Italians tell me they’re able to produce a lot more Campari where this came from.

      Which is Milano.

      So see you at the airport. Got anything to read on the plane?

      On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson
      Porter Anderson´s last blog post ..BEA Cup­cakes: ‘Women’s Work’ About Books?

  9. Bernadette Phipps-Lincke says

    Hysterical post. The book sounds like a hoot, going to read, and the bonus is you got Porter to pose like he’s an extra from that Time Warp scene in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    (I keep seeing him under a table at some important critic’s banquet, wearing those sunglasses and pouring CAMPari into his orange juice.)

    Thanks for the laughs, both of you.

  10. says

    CAMPari, Bernadette, you phrase-turner, you. Perfect.

    And how funny, I keep seeing myself under a table at an important critics’ banquet, too. Thank God I now have my DeTarsio Sunglasses to take along, the things I’ve seen under there … nobody knows the things I’ve seen under there.

    Let’s do the time warp again sometime,

    On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson
    Porter Anderson´s last blog post ..When Amazon Sat Down With the Lambs

  11. Jeanne Kisacky says

    Great post Dee! My question is whether or not Porter is going to be able to let you get the last word in on your own post. :-)

  12. says

    Porter put me in the hot seat not too long ago in the comments section of his Writing on the Ether columns (“Are Your Books’ Covers Sexist?); he called into question the practice of romance writers writing to other romance writers, not fully examining the social message of their narratives (“tropes”), particularly those that don’t exactly empower women.

    It’s really hard for me to be politically correct. But it’s even harder for me to be politically correct about tropes that are politically incorrect. Put me on a popular book blog, and I’ll open my big mouth and get myself into trouble. See, I (generally) assume that readers are influenced by social messaging and that the message I convey through my writing needs to be positive and healthy for women — empowering. D’you know how difficult this message is to promote, especially as an unpublished writer?

    Examining one’s message is something that every writer of this particular genre — indie or published — should ask him/herself before putting their work out for mass consumption. So, WWPD? I dunno, Porter. What *should* I do? :)