Irene Woodbury’s third novel, Pop-Out Girl (2017), pushes a lot of buttons. It’s a gripping look at the tumultuous life of a 23-year-old showgirl-wannabe named Jen Conover who pops out of cakes at special events in Las Vegas for a living. The novel offers riveting glimpses into the loves, lives, triumphs, and tragedies of Jen’s family and friends as well.
Irene grew up in Pittsburgh, and has lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Denver. The University of Houston 1993 graduate also called Texas home for seven years. Her writing career began In 2000. After five years as a successful travel writer, she switched to fiction. Irene’s first novel, the humorous A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis, was published in 2011. The darkly dramatic A Dead End in Vegas followed in 2014. Pop-Out Girl is another dramatic effort. With her husband, Richard, editing, Irene completed the novel in eighteen months. She hopes audiences will enjoy reading it as much as she enjoyed writing it.
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Title: POP-OUT GIRL
Author: Irene Woodbury
Genre: Commercial Fiction
Author: Irene Woodbury
Genre: Commercial Fiction
When Zane Hollister returns home to Las Vegas after two years in prison and discovers his showgirl-lover is with another guy, he goes ballistic. After stalking and taunting the couple for months, his toxic jealousy takes a darker turn. To wipe out Colton, Zane masterminds a devilish zip line accident and a terrifying car crash. When those fail, he resorts to kidnapping Jen and forcing her to marry him. And it gets even worse when Zane shoots Colton’s boss, Matt, by mistake as he aims for Colton in a horrific drive-by shooting.
With Matt lingering in a coma, Jen’s cocktail-waitress mother, Brandi, absorbs a seismic shock of her own. After hearing Matt’s name on the local news, she realizes he’s her first love of decades past—and Jen’s real father.
Will Matt emerge from his coma to reunite with Brandi and Jen? Do the cops nab Zane, who’s hiding out in Hawaii? And can Jen and Colton’s love survive Zane’s lethal jealousy?
There’s a happy ending for some, but not for all, in Pop-Out Girl.
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We welcome you to My Bookish Pleasures, Irene! Can you tell us how you got started writing fiction?
I was a successful travel writer for five years, and I noticed that when I needed to do something fictional in a story, I loved it. So I ultimately decided to write my first novel, and five years later it was published. I never went back to non-fiction, but I might someday. I miss it.
Describe your writing process. Do you come up with a plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?
I start out with the basic plot for a novel, but as I get to know the characters I develop the story in whatever direction it needs to go. Sometimes a character starts out in a minor role, but they emerge so strongly that you beef up their storyline. And other characters recede. Truthfully, you never know what’s going to happen because the characters drive the story and they can be a bit unpredictable.
I write in the mornings in a small bedroom at the back of my house. There’s a garden outside and I love to look out at my neighbors’ trees. It’s very cozy and relaxing.
Can you tell us about your most recent release?
Pop-Out Girl is a very intense novel. It’s basically the biography of a 23-year-old showgirl who pops out of cakes at special events in Las Vegas for a living. She has a steady guy she’s crazy about, but then her ex-boyfriend gets released from prison, comes back to town, and makes Jen’s life hell as he stalks her and her new guy. It gets very dangerous, with scary accidents, a kidnapping and forced marriage, and, ultimately, a drive-by shooting. Pop-Out Girl is an exciting novel with vivid characters and compelling storylines. It was hard to stop writing it, and I hope readers will find it hard to put down.
How did you get the idea for the book?
I got the idea originally as I walked around the Las Vegas Strip while writing my second novel. I thought it would be interesting to have a man come to Las Vegas and meet a sweet, beautiful showgirl, without knowing she’s his biological daughter from a long-ago first-love he was engaged to. She proceeds to get involved with a colleague of his, and everything evolves from there. That was the genesis for the book.
Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
Jen’s mother, Brandi, is a favorite. At age eighteen she leaves San Jose with another guy four days before her wedding because of major problems in her family and her fiance’s. She ends up in Las Vegas and finds out weeks later that she’s pregnant. And somehow she makes it work. Brandi is high strung, but strong. I feel sorry for her in some ways, but I also admire her.
A second character I have to mention is Zane Hollister. He has just returned to Las Vegas after two years in prison and discovered that his showgirl-lover is with another guy. He tries to get Jen back, but it doesn’t work. So he starts stalking and terrorizing her and her new boyfriend. It gets very dangerous; he commits some serious crimes, from kidnapping to attempted murder. In spite of all this, by the end of the book I felt that I understood Zane—and that if he had just grown up in a different environment, maybe he would have lived an entirely different life. Zane is impulsive and destructive, but he’s capable of love. He loves Jen. He loves his mother and children. He’s a hot mess of a dude, but so compelling he steals the book.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
Organizing the 42 chapters in a way that would be exciting, but easy to follow. I pulled the book apart and put it back together again three times. Each time, it was a lot of work and quite confusing. But all’s well that ends well.
What projects are you currently working on?
Promoting Pop-Out Girl is keeping me busy right now. I look forward to starting another novel in six months to a year. Maybe a humor book or a sequel to Pop-Out Girl.
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring fiction authors?
Pay as much attention to the final chapters as the first ones. Many writers start out fresh and full of energy, but the later chapters are weaker and not as sharp. Once you have your ending, work on those final chapters early so you have that confidence of knowing they’re there as you work on the rest of the book.