Guest Chick: Debra Goldstein

We’re thrilled to have author pal Debra Goldstein making a return visit to the Chicks. And not only does she have a fun post to share with us today, she will generously give away a copy of her new book to one lucky commenter on today’s blog! Five Belles Too Many, the fifth entry in Debra’s delightful Sarah Blair Mysteries releases in just a few days! Take it away, Debra.

Because I love competition, the pitting of one person against another, I am addicted to game shows. Not only have I watched them, tried out for them, but I’ve even been a contestant on one. Consequently, I have become familiar with some of the behind-the-scenes manipulation done to make a show seem more exciting. 

It may be a matter of who the contestant mix is, having a rehearsal before the real show is taped so that everyone is comfortable with the camera and game clickers, the flashing of an applause sign so that the studio audience amps up their reaction, or editing the film shot to make one seem sinister or kind. The serial reality game shows, like Top Chef or Chopped, are experts at editing sequences to manipulate the at-home audience. Many of the single game shows tape four or five episodes in a day requiring contestants to bring a change of clothing in case they win, and it needs to appear that they have returned to the set (fact – women often need a full change of clothes, men can get away with simply changing their ties).

When I conceived of my most recent Sarah Blair book, Five Belles Too Many, I decided to spotlight a reality competition where a New York television show would come to Wheaton, Alabama to film five finalist couples vying to win the perfect Southern wedding. The segments would air over a week but be taped in a few days. First, I needed to define the finalists in a way that would appeal to different viewers. Being set in Alabama, I knew one couple had to be die-hard Alabama fans while the other had to be Auburn devotees. I also needed a couple that evoked the fallacies people often have of the South – hence, one pair of finalists evokes memories of the Clampetts of Beverly Hillbillies. For balance, I added one more couple who used Day of the Dead trivia to qualify for the competition and as dark horses, an older couple – Sarah’s mother, Maybelle, and her friend, George. They submitted their application for a lark and because Maybelle was convinced the show would need a few old fogies.

Of course, I had to bring Sarah into the mix. To do this, I made the show require every would-be Southern Belle to have a chaperone – even sixty plus year old Maybelle. Sarah isn’t thrilled to be juggling her day job, furry pets RahRah and Fluffy, and being required to stay at the bed and breakfast of her greatest nemesis, the bimbo Jane Clark who broke up Sarah’s marriage. She’s less thrilled when after the producer of the show is found dead with Jane crouched over his body and Jane begs Sarah to help clear her name. Being TV, the show must go on, so while it continues to be filmed, Sarah must find the real killer before any more of the contestants or crew are permanently eliminated.

Because of the death and the requirements of when certain segments must air, the taping isn’t done in sequence. Hence, the show must be edited to make the spliced footage seem natural. As a writer moving the plot along, I, too, had to edit the scenes in order to plant red herrings, mix paragraphs and chapters so readers will be suspicious of different characters at various times, and sprinkle details to make one want to turn the page.

The liberal editing of reality game shows is designed to engage viewers in both the competition and identifying with the contestants. The same is true for how an author writes and revises a manuscript. In the end, the success of both come down to Editing 101.

The game show I was on (where I had to bring a change of clothing and went through a dry run) – Jeopardy. The book that mimics some of my experiences behind the scenes of various shows and from interviewing people who work in the industry – Five Belles Too Many.

Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair cozy mystery series (The fifth book in the series, Five BellesToo Many, releases June 28. She also is the author of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (2016) and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus. Her short stories and essays have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Her writing has been honored by being named as finalists for the Agatha, Anthony, Derringer, and Silver Falchion awards.

Debra served on the national boards of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and was president of the Southeast region of MWA and the largest SinC chapter, the Guppies. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where she is an active community volunteer, with her husband, whose blood runs crimson. Connect with Debra on Facebook and Twitter.

Have you ever been on a game show? Wanted to be on one? And what do you think of how authors manipulate you through their words? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Five Belles Too Many, hot off the press next week.

**There’s a winner in the drawing for Five Belles Too Many. Congrats to commenter Hestia Athena! Debra has made contact and the book is on its way!!

46 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Debra Goldstein

  1. Thanks for the comparison of the game show and writing edits, Debra! Hmmm… Manipulation or entertainment? Ah, to look into the motivations of those who write.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Big time congrats on your upcoming release, Debra! So exciting! I’d love a crack at Jeopardy, though I’ve taken the text twice had haven’d done well enough. A guy can dream! 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. And, I’m sure the guy will make it on one of the tests. It was a lot different when the test was in person. If you can imagine a room of sweating individuals…. Dream on and thanks for the congrats on the new book.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Debra, what a fascinating post. Showing how you book was driven by real life adventure. Making up a game show must have been crazy work to do. I’ve seen one movie where they did a reality show of couples trying to win something related to weddings, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was. All the hallmark movies Ron together after a while.
    I created a jeopardy competition at work when I was a trainer for n00bs. It’s not as easy as people think!
    I’ve never been on a game show. If I were to, maybe wheel of fortune cause you don’t need lots of brains for it.
    My dream would be a contestant on this new show called Crime Scene Kitchen. But I don’t have a cohort.
    Can’t wait to read this book!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hestia,
      It was a lot of fun to create the gameshow. I’ve often used game shows as a way to teach because people remember things — one of the fun ones was a paraody of Jeopardy that I created to teach new judges medical acronyms. Those who weren’t the contestants would do the sound effects during the thinking time (the theme music). Hope you enjoy the book when you read it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fun post, Debra! Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and Five Belles Too Many sounds hilarious! I’ve been to 2 TV game show tapings in New York–one as a kid, when my friend’s mom took me to watch my friend on a kid show. Darned if I can’t remember the name of it right now, but I will–it was a famous one and I was very, very jealous. As a grownup I was in the audience for 100,000 Dollar Pyramid (I think), and was surprised to learn that they taped the whole week’s show in one session and the audience members were NOT allowed to use the ladies room during breaks. Also, the host who seemed so congenial on TV ignored the contestants. My dream as a game show participant: Wheel of Fortune, because it’s the only game I win at casinos. (Hestia, you are dead wrong on the brains, ha!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lisa,
      like you, i got hooked watching a taping of a game show as a kid in New York. It amazed me that the stars (it was To Tell The Truth) were just there or getting make-up touched up in between commercial break times. When I taped Jeopardy, for the real taping, I had to bring a change of clothing because what a women wears is noticed (that show, too is taped in rapid succession). A man only had to bring a different tie.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How did I not know you’d been a Jeopardy contestant, Debra? So cool!

    I would be awful on a competitive show–not only am I exceedingly conflict averse, but I’m terrible thinking on my feet (the reason I never wanted to do trial work), so I’d be the one finally coming up with the answer around the time they’d already moved on to the next one.

    Congrats on number five, girl–it looks super fun! And thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. i bet you’d be a natural on the cooking shows — figuring out complex dishes out of simple recipes (as well as the brainiac shows). For me, I think part of the fun is the adrenaline rush of coming up with answers — much like why I was a litigator.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m thrilled to be back visiting Chicks on the Case today. It is one of my favorite blogs (because I love the books of all the authors, as well as their individual and collective wit) that I read (although I tend to be a lurker) daily. Thanks so much for having me today and for letting me talk about Five Belles Too Many. Not only was it fun to write, but it is one of my favorite books in the series.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Congrats on the new book, Debra. I shouldn’t be surprised that there is so much prep behind the “spontaneous” game shows, but I am — a little bit.

    And of course men have the easier wardrobe change. Don’t they always?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I enjoy watching game shows, and it is often obvious how they manipulate us, even on “reality” competition shows. I fall for it anyway.

    Don’t think I’d want to be on one. I don’t do well under pressure, and I take everything much too seriously. It’s a bad combination. (No need to enter me in the giveaway.)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Debra, thanks so much for hanging out today with the Chicks! Some days I kill at Jeopardy (from my sofa, anyway) and some days I bomb. But I’m sure I’d bomb under the studio lights.
    I did do an audition once for Family Feud with my sister, my aunt, a cousin, and her husband. Alas, we didn’t get picked as contestants. But, it was fun squaring off against another family!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Vickie, that must have been a blast. That’s when you learn which member thinks fast and which one is out to lunch. Under the lights, it still is the same…some shows you’d have a great day on and other days, the categories would seem like they came from Mars.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Debra, I had no idea you’d been on Jeopardy! How cool. I’ve never been on a game show but when I was a kid, when all the shows were still shooting in NY as opposed to LA, a popular day camp trip was to a game show taping. I went to a couple, but I couldn’t tell you which!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Living in Jersey, but coming into New York often (107 bus), seeing game shows made was an occasional trip… I distinctly remember seeing Arlene Francis and Kitty Carlisle on To Tell the Truth tapings and thinking they looked better (and younger) on screen then when someone was fluffing them up.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I don’t think fast enough to be on Jeopardy, although I often know the answers. Congrats on your Jeopardy appearance! And the comparison between the two types of editing is interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I don’t think fast enough to be on Jeopardy, although I often know the answers. Congrats on your Jeopardy appearance! And the comparison between the two types of editing is interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What an intriguing idea for plot, Debra, and nice that you could mine your own experience. My husband loves game shows, especially Jeopardy. Best of luck on 5 Belles!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Debra, so glad to have you hang out with us, and congrats on the latest!!

    What a fascinating idea and post! I’m a big game show fan and have always wanted to be on one–namely The Price Is Right. I force my family to guess prices and totals when we’re grocery shopping. I consider it practice-haha!


    1. That’s a great game, but I’ve never been good at pricing. I’m going to a virtual baby shower this weekend and I was put in charge of creating a Price is Right game. I only picked 6 items for the guests to guess, but as most of us have been out of baby buying for awhile, I expect the others will be blown away by the prices as much as I was prepping the game.

      Liked by 1 person

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