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Sarah Mlynowski

by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2002-04-24

Sarah Mlynowski

Author Sarah Mlynowski

Mills And Boon, the publishers best-known for their historical romances and tales of true love, are about to get a major image overhaul with the launch of subsidiary label Red Dress Ink - at least they are if Milkrun, the first book to be published under the label, is anything to go by.

It's the hugely entertaining story of Jackie, a twentysomething editor of romance novels who has to adjust to single life once more when her long term boyfriend leaves her - something she does with the help of her girlfriends (including Jewish pal Wendy, and Wendy's eccentric grandmother Bubbe Hannah)

Milkrun's author, 25-year-old Sarah Mlynowski, grew up in Montreal's Jewish community and until recently, worked for Harlequin Publishers in Toronto. Now based in New York, she's about to start working on her third novel, but still found time for a chat with jewish.co.uk, on a recent trip to London.

How much of Milkrun is based on your own personal experiences?

It's more based on my lifestyle than my personal experiences, I'd say. I mean some things, certain events inspired me to write something, but the character isn't me.

Do you find that since the book friends come to you for romantic advice?

They'll come more to me and say 'this is what happened to me, you're not going to believe it, it has to go in a book,'. They come up with stories which they think are right for this genre, and a lot of them are, they're pretty crazy.

Was Bridget Jones something of an inspiration? Definitely inspired by Bridget, but I think the reason Bridget appealed to so many women was because so many women saw themselves in that character. They don't necessarily need heroines who are perfect and gorgeous and fabulous and always classy - our heroines these days are a little more realistic, a little more likely to fall over, to lose something, to not be able to string a perfect sentence together. So definitely inspired by Bridget but that's the way women are.

What advice would you give anybody who wants to follow in your footsteps?

I think for me the toughest part was finishing the book. I meet so many people all the time who say they've always wanted to write, but the hardest part is finishing the novel, working it out and not stopping halfway. This novel took me about eight months, and I was working at the same time. So I'm hoping now I'm not working I'll be able to write more often. Because I wrote at night and on the weekends, basically gave up life. But it's hard when you're writing a book like this because I still needed to see my girlfriends and go on dates to get inspiration, so I wouldn't get mad at myself if I was going out for drinks with friends because I would say 'this is research, I have to do it.' It's hard because you have to make time to do it and you have to stay focused, otherwise you're going to become one of these people who started the book and never finished it.

What are you up to at the moment?

My second novel Fishbowl is coming out in North America in October, Spring 2003 in the UK, that's very exciting - it's about three flatmates who accidentally burn down their kitchen and then have to come up with different ways to raise money to repair it. So that was very challenging to write, because I wrote it from three different perspectives in first person, so it has to alternate with every chapter. I'm just about to start my third book - I don't know what it's called yet. Something like It Girl, I'm not sure yet. And that'll be coming out a year after Fishbowl, around Spring 2004.

Is it quite important to you to have Jewish characters or themes in your books?

Well, it was hard for me because I couldn't decide whether or not to make the protagonist in the first book Jewish, but I'd love to do Jewish characters and stories - I'd love to do a story about Montreal because it's a very funny Jewish community there. I'd love to write that, but there are a lot out there, a lot of the Jewish writers are writing about Jewish heroines so I thought I wouldn' make her Jewish. A lot of the Jewish sensibilities come out anyway, I don't know if you could tell from the character. But I made her pretty neutral - I'm not going to start writing about a religious character from another religion because I don't know so much about it, and I'm not going to leave religion out of it, but it's true, a lot of my cultural references are Jewish so they end up in the character anyway. Like if I call someone a schmuck, it'll end up in the book, or they'll have bagels. I won't even think twice about it. There isn't someone in my second book, I think, but I'm going to space it out a bit because I don't want every character to be the Jewish heroine. She'll definitely appear, because I definitely want to write about her.

One of the most popular parts of our Web site is our dating service. How would you recommend our single readers go about meeting a nice Jewish boy or girl?

A lot of people I know do Jdate, in Montreal and Toronto a lot of people have met great people through that. And in Toronto I used to do speed dating - you should start that here because it's huge there. What it is, there's about 10 guys and 10 girls - it started basically as a Jewish trend. All the girls sit and all the guys get up, and you have seven minutes to talk to someone - then a bell goes off and you switch. And all the while you have a piece of paper, and you tick off which guys you would want to call you or not. So if there's a match afterwards, then the agency gives out the woman's number to the guy and he calls. It's a lot of fun, it's almost like ten blind dates.

What's your own Jewish background?

One side of my family is from England, although I don't even know where because it's so far back, and the other side is from Poland. They left there after the war and moved to Montreal, and they started a new life in Montreal. I'm a big cultural Jew, I went back to Poland once and I've been to Israel a couple of times, and I went to a Jewish High School. And both my parents are Jewish. I go to synagogue for High Holydays, especially when I'm visiting my parents, but I don't keep kosher. A lot of my friends are Jewish in Montreal, I went to Jewish High school and Jewish camp, so I ended up being around it all the time.

Which high school did you go to?

It was called Bialik High School in Montreal. We actually learnt Hebrew, Yiddish, French and English. A lot of my Hebrew I don't remember but I did speak Yiddish fluently at one point.

Do you have a grandmother anything like the one in the book?

I do, she feeds me a lot! Bubbe is very much like Bubbe Hannah in the book - she still lives in Montreal, she loves to feed me and give me presents, and all she wants is for me to get married! The funniest story I remember was that I called her and said, 'Bubbe, guess what? I'm publishing a book!' And she said 'Oh, that's nice. Do you have a boyfriend?' It doesn't matter, I could become president and it wouldn't matter, especially if I'm not married.

Jewish men or gentiles?

I've always dated Jewish men. Like my boyfriend now is Jewish. I've never dated a non-Jewish guy but I would have if I'd met someone..I just think you need to have certain things in common, and this is one more thing that you have in common that makes you guys click. Because otherwise I'd have to meet someone who loved writing, or something else that would make us click. Also, I grew up with a lot of Jewish guys, so of course the guy I thought was the cutest in high school, that's become imprinted on my head as to what's good looking, what is attractive, what values are important, so I generally do find Jewish guys are more attractive to me.

Where's the best place in Toronto to buy bagels?

Toronto has the worst bagels, OK? Montreal has great bagels, I hate the bagels in Toronto! There's a place in Montreal called Real Bagels which is good. The bagels are much smaller there. Toronto bagels are really large and they're missing the hole in the middle, it's terrible!

What's your favourite Jewish...holiday?

Um..Purim! I love Purim, it's great! We always used to dress up, I would always dress up like Vashti, every time! Because she was the pseudo-feminist character who was cast out, and nobody really pays attention to her, she's Lilith-ish. And also I always thought she had dark hair, and I had very dark hair growing up so I could never be Queen Esther. Love Purim, it was fun. Then one year a friend of mine convinced my mum that we had to drink, it was a mitzvah to drink, we had to have alcohol. We were like twelve. So she bought it, she was like 'OK, you can have a glass of wine!' We were all very excited.

...food?

Bagel, lox and cream cheese - does that count? And I love gefilte fish also, big fan of gefilte fish, which I just had at Passover, which was amazing. We had a Seder night this year at a friend of ours in New York and one in Montreal.

...author?

It's interesting, because I find that a lot of these chick lit authors in the States are Jewish, Jennifer Wiener for example. There's been tons and tons of Jewish women writing chick lit, which is amazing. I love Jennifer Wiener's stuff, although she doesn't really deal with Jewish themes. I love Elie Wiesel - his books are outstanding.

...actor?

Gosh, I don't know, who are some famous Jewish actors. Oh, I like Ben Stiller, he's very funny. And he's very cute too. Can't think of any others.

...comedian?

Jerry Seinfeld. And he's good for actor as well, I think he's hilarious, he's great. I love Woody Allen too, and Mel Brooks - I just saw The Producers, which was hysterical.

Milkrun is out now, price £5.99