Last week, Jess Riley asked for people to help her pimp her new book, which comes out tomorrow! I immediately commented and said that I would love to read and pimp her book! I emailed her, she wrote back, we worked out logistics, and she offered to send me a signed copy of her book! And then, Nervous Tummy(tm Tessie) descended. Oh my God, what had I agreed to do? What if I got her book and didn't like it? (I've had that happen before. A friend of mine sent me her second book in a group email to solicit feedback, I printed it off....and it was awful. I couldn't get through it. Not that I don't love this girl to death, and she's wonderful and brilliant and has a Ph.D in Chemistry, but this book was simply unreadable. So I just emailed her a friendly email back and never mentioned her book again.) But, I love Jess' blog, her book has been endorsed by Jen Lancaster and Marian Keyes, so there was a good chance I'd like it. Then, on Friday, the book had not arrived when I got home from work and a new worry formed - what if I didn't get it in time to read it? But it all came together. The book arrived on Saturday, just as I was finishing Such a Pretty Fat, by Jen Lancaster (Loved it!), and I dove right in. And I am delighted to report that Driving Sideways, by Jess Riley, is fabulous! Here is the excerpt from the back cover:
Leigh Fielding wants a life. Seriously. Having spent the past five years on dialysis, she has one simple wish: to make it to her thirtieth birthday. Now, thanks to the generosity of the late Larry Resnick and his transplanted kidney, it looks like her wish may come true.
With her newfound vitality (and Larry's kidney) in tow, Leigh hits the road for an excursion that will carry her from Wisconsin to California, with a few stops in between: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the Rockies, Las Vegas - and a memorable visit to thank Larry's family for this second chance.
Yet Leigh's itinerary takes a sudden detour when she picks up seventeen-year-old hitchhiker Denise, a runaway with a bunch of stories and a couple of secrets. Add to the mix a long-lost mother, a loaded gun, an RV full of swingers, and Hall and Oates's Greatest Hits, and Driving Sideways becomes a hilarious and original journey of friendship, hope and discovery.
The characters are vibrant, the story has rocking momentum, and Jess has a terrifically irreverent voice. The story is true to life, by which I mean it's not always sunshine and roses. But Leigh is a resilient character and she grows and changes throughout the novel. And she learns so much about herself and her friends. By the end, I was totally ready to move to Wisconsin and become Leigh's new best friend. This book is the definition of being heartwarming without being saccharine or cloying. Hopeful without being corny. Realistic without being maudlin.
And today, I asked Jess to take a few minutes to answer a few short questions for me, just because I thought it would be so cool to have her on my blog! So here is my mini-interview with Jess Riley, author of Driving Sideways.
1. Your main character has polycystic kidney disease. Has PKD touched your life in some way? How did you decide to write about a character with PKD?
I actually arrived at PKD in a backwards kind of way: I started with the idea of a girl who convinces herself she's channeling the traits of her organ donor (only to find out nothing is what it seems)...I then needed a reason for the transplant, and after a ton of online research, stumbled across PKD--I was SHOCKED that it's more common than muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia COMBINED. I'd heard of all of the other diseases, but I'd never heard of PKD. It's actually the most common life-threatening genetic disease in the world, and there is no cure. In my own small way, I wanted to help put it on the map for others like me who hadn't heard of it ... later I learned that my editor lost her grandmother to the disease, and one of my good friends has a sister with PKD. Two young PKD patients read early drafts, and I'm very proud to consider them friends now as well.
2. The photos in the book are awesome! I noticed that all but two are by you. What kind of camera do you use? Do you do any professional photography?
Thanks! No, I'm definitely not a professional photographer. I took those shots with my husband's camera, a Canon S1IS, the last time I took the "Driving Sideways Road Trip." I think I drove my best friend crazy, because I kept telling her to pull over so I could take pictures. Sidenote: You'll notice there isn't an author photo in the book...this was a printer goof. So there are lots of photos by me, but none OF me.
3. On page 66, Leigh says that her cousin saw Kenny Rogers perform live and that "he was a crotchety old bastard [and] yelled at the crowd for not singing along enthusiastically enough and said he was too old to hobble back out for an encore". Is this true? I can't decide if that makes me want to see him in concert or not want to see him in concert. It's hilarious either way.
That's a TRUE STORY!! In the original draft, I actually called him a 'crotchety old fucker' but then I felt bad and changed it to bastard. Anyway, it happened to my husband's aunt, and I laughed so hard when she told me about Kenny's bad attitude that I knew I had to put it in the book.
I could not recommend this book more highly. I loved it! You can easily order it here: