Rian: First off, how old were you when you discovered you loved writing and wanted to become a writer? How did it all start?
Jennifer: I’ve always loved writing, but never saw it as something I could make a living at. My father was a lyricist and died struggling and penniless at 49 years old. (The writing didn’t kill him, it was the massive amounts of drugs he took to cope with the disappointment.) So I always thought if I wanted to have a long, happy life, writing wasn’t the best career path. Nonetheless, I loved writing and when I was five years out of college, started to take on more writing assignments at my job in a non-profit women’s health care center. When my daughter Katie was born, I decided to take the leap and began freelancing for newspapers and magazines. A Press Club judge awarded one of my articles first place and said I reminded her of a young Erma Bombeck. I was then that I decided it was time to stop fearing that I’d live my father’s life, and start living my own.
Rian: I loved Mona in Reinventing Mona. She was funny, slightly naive, very likeable and smart. Where did you get your idea for her? Is she based on someone you know?
Jennifer: I think every character I write is a small part of myself — from tragically insecure Mona, to Vicki the stripper to Mike “the Dog” to Greta, the annoying hyper-analytical shrink. So I’m glad you loved her. I love you too, Rian!
Rian: Where do you find that you get your best ideas for plots?
Jennifer: Eavesdropping. Honestly, I don’t have that great of an imagination, but I do have a good ear for humor so when I hear my friends (or complete strangers) talking about their ideas on how to appeal to a guy, move ahead in their career, or whatever, I write it down and put it into a file to be used in a book. I was in a writing class once and a woman said, “I started writing my memoirs, but lost interest midway through.” I thought, What?! She lost interest in her own memoirs! That’s too funny not to share, so it’s a line from Prudence’s first date, Anna in The Wife of Reilly. My family is also delightfully eccentric so they give me endless fodder.
Rian: What are your thoughts on the chick lit genre, and the people who put it down?
Jennifer: I love chick-lit. It’s what I read, and thank God it’s a burgeoning genre because it’s the way I write, so there’s a place for my work. People who belittle chick-lit should just get a grip. No one’s forcing them to read it, so they should spend their time reading the oh-so-terribly important literary fiction they enjoy instead of railing on chick-lit. Chick-lit has made readers out of a whole new generation of women who didn’t hear their own voices in books before. How can that be bad?
Rian: Who are your favorite authors and books, and why?
Jennifer: Marian Keyes, Lynda Curnyn, Jane Green, Whitney Lyles and Tova Mirvis (not a chick-lit writer) — because they rock. They make me feel something when I read their books — laughter, anger, frustration or sorrow.
Rian: When you are writing, do you have a set schedule and routine? If so, what is it?
Jennifer: I usually write at night because my brain doesn’t kick into gear till noon. I try to write one 2000-word chapter each night and get a draft done in two months. I let it sit for a week, go back and revise. After that I send it out to my chick posse and get their feedback before making any revisions and sending it off to my agent.
Rian: Which of your books was the easiest to write, and why?
Jennifer: I just finished my third, TALES FROM THE CRIB which was the easiest to write, and my favorite so far. I think it came easily because so many of the characters were like my own family. I had so much fun writing this one that my fourth will be a sequel to it.
Rian: Do you have any other books in the works? If so, what are they about?
Jennifer: In November, my sequel to The Wife of Reilly, called THE SECOND WIFE OF REILLY (novella) will be included in my publisher’s Christmas anthology, THIS CHRISTMAS. I’m not allowed to say who the headliner is, but she’s a HUGE chick-lit writer and I’m lucky to be in the same book with her. SECOND WIFE is the story of Sarah, Reilly’s new wife, who would feel much more comfortable if Prudence were married and off the market. So she decides to secretly find Prudence a new husband. I thought it was going to be a gender-swapped version of the first, but it took an entirely different direction. It’s a comedy about depression. In March 2006, TALES FROM THE CRIB will be released. It’s the story of a woman who finds out she’s pregnant on the same day her husband asks for a divorce. The two decide to live together as friends and raise the baby (that’s where the comedy comes in). Draft readers say the protagonist’s mother and aunts steal the book. I’m very excited about this release!
Rian: Do you have advice for someone who wants to write chick lit? If so, what is it?
Jennifer: Marry someone with a real job.