Jane Mendle

Rian: First off, how does it feel to have “officially” joined the chick lit genre? Are you a big reader/fan of chick lit?

Jane: I think that in many ways, it’s pretty hard not to be a fan of chick lit. It’s women writing for and about women. Plus, I love cheesy romantic comedies and chick lit is essentially the readable equivalent. I’ve always been a speed reader and will read just about anything (except sci fi), so chick lit is one component of my bookshelf.

Rian: I see from the short bio on the back of your book that you have worked in both film and publishing in New York, but are now studying to get a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. That’s a pretty interesting combination. What draws you in particular to that field?

Jane: I’ve always liked psychology. Although I took time off after college and played around in other jobs, I always knew that I would eventually go to grad school. What I perhaps like best about psychology is its focus (don’t laugh!) on the minutia that comprises daily life. As a discipline, it has a way of recognizing how even small events and emotions are personally significant. I like that validation of our experiences. I also do a large amount of clinical work, including working at a state mental hospital and seeing individual clients for therapy. For me, clinical work is gratifying. But, because therapy evolves over time, it also tends to be constantly stimulating.

Rian: What do you think of people that bash the chick lit genre? Any particular thoughts? (Sorry, I ask everyone this.) :)

Jane: I’ve unfortunately been exposed to a lot of people who bash all sorts of popular or genre writing. My opinion is that such inflexibility is generally unwarranted. Good writing exists in all genres and, conversely, so does bad. With particular regard to chick lit, the field became so popular so quickly that a lot of bad books ended up getting published. However, I suspect that, like other instantly hot genres, chick lit will revise itself in a more permanent way. I also believe (snooty critics, listen up!) that chick lit is not a new phenomenon, but rather traces its roots to Jane Austen. There’s a focus on dialogue, particularly women talking to each other, traumas of everyday life, and characters who are intelligent, interesting, independent, single, and often a little bit older than prime marriageable age.

Rian: Have you always known you wanted to be a writer? What events led up to you writing your first novel?

Jane: Bizarrely, I’ve considered myself a writer without much justification for a long time now. Prior to Kissing in Technicolor, I hadn’t written much fiction at all: just two stories for a college class and a third on my own. I’d been in grad school for about a year and a half when I started KIT. When I lived in New York, I talked about books and writing with friends and co-workers constantly. But there weren’t a lot of people in the psych department who shared those interests. In a way, writing became a way for me to reconnect with that. I also started KIT because I came up with a great first line, a line that established a character’s whole identity. Once I had that line, everything followed, like tugging the right thread on a loose sweater.

Rian: Being a sometimes geeky intellectual myself, (shhhh) I loved how your main character Charlie was an intelligent, “thinking” person. Is that character based on you at all? If so, in what ways?

Jane: Charlie and I share a sense of humor, a love of opera, and certain physical characters (b/c I’m not sufficiently advanced as a writer to imagine what it’s like to be tall and blonde). As an academic, I was also determined to have a main character who was both geeky and sexy. Ultimately, however, I was surprised at how much she evolved into her own person as I wrote. I’d heard certain writers talk about plot choice as out of their control (J.K. Rowling, for instance). Until KIT, I hadn’t quite understood how that happens. But Charlie was placed in so many situations that I would never be part of that I was forced to give her some independence and see how it all turned out.

Rian: Do you have any other novels in the works? If so, what is it about? (If you don’t mind sharing.)

Jane: At present, I have a dissertation proposal in the works. But please ask me again in three months and I might have a different answer.

Rian: Who are your favorite authors or all time, and why? (Or books.)

Jane: The list is pretty lengthy at this point, but here are some books I love: LOVE MEDICINE, the PADDINGTON series, CONFESSIONS OF NAT TURNER, INTERPRETER OF MALADIES, THE BELL JAR, THIS SIDE OF PARADISE, FRANNY AND ZOOEY, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, HIGH MAINTENANCE, THE NOONDAY DEMON, and mysteries by Sara Paretsky and Robert Parker.

Rian: Why did you choose to base your book on the movie/screenplay business in particular? Or, where did you get the idea to write “Kissing in Technicolor”?

Jane: I wanted to write about a grad student, partly because (as I said) I wanted a geeky love interest. Also, as a student myself, I’ve has plenty of time to observe how school is such an embryonic time. People aren’t where they want to be, but they’re in the process of reaching their goals. They’re generally poor, and often frustrated, but in the middle of tremendous growth and learning. Unfortunately, most academic disciplines � psychology included � are pretty boring on a daily basis. Much as I love my work, it’s hard to make reading large stacks of articles or running statistics interesting or accessible to a reader. Film seemed more dynamic and most people have some basic knowledge of it. Since I worked in New York for a film company after college, I knew a little about making movies and a lot about the city.

Rian: What did you find to be the hardest thing about writing a novel? The easiest?

Jane: I sold Kissing in Technicolor off a partial manuscript, which was very important. As a grad student, it would have been very difficult to justify the amount of time necessary for writing a novel if I hadn’t known it was going to be published. Because I was so thrilled to have sold a novel, the entire writing process was charged with a certain exuberance. I loved writing this book. What I found difficult was remembering that writer’s block stinks, but it never lasts forever. Also, it somehow never occurred to me that people might actually someday read what I wrote. I have to confess that I find it completely nerve-wracking to know that people, especially people who know me from another context, will read and judge my book.

Rian: In closing, do you have any advice for a would-be writer? (Chick lit, screenplay, etc.)

Jane: Well, this is pretty embarrassing, but the best writing advice I can give anyone is to read your work aloud. Whenever you write something, you’re too enmeshed in it to have the same sort of initial reaction that a reader will have. The best way to simulate that is to hear your words aloud. It works, especially for dialogue. I promise.

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