This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
A #1 New York Times bestselling author, Jennifer Weiner’s books have spent over five years on the New York Times bestseller list with over 11 million copies in print in 36 countries. Jennifer joins us today to talk about her new novel, Who Do You Love.
I get up at around 6:30 to get Kid Number one on the bus. Kid Number Two doesn’t go out the door until 7:45, so sometimes I go back to bed and read. I try to exercise in the mornings – if I don’t do it first thing, it’s easy to procrastinate, and I always feel so much better if I’d done something, whether it’s yoga or a barre class or a bike ride. Writing typically commences between 11 and noon, and I go until four or five, when the kids come home. Most of my writing happens in my closet. I have a ridiculous closet – basically, the Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City: The Movie closet…except, insofar as I do not have the Carrie Bradshaw body, I do not have the Carrie Bradshaw wardrobe. My closet’s turned into an office/library/clothing storage facility, and I write on my laptop on what was meant to be the vanity. From six to nine, it’s dinner/bath/TV/stories with the girls, and then I’ll read for an hour or two before bed. Not bad!
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Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere. I might read a newspaper story, or see a photograph of, say, a beautifully-dressed white woman standing on her meticulously manicured lawn in the Hamptons, while, behind her, a uniformed black nurse holds the infant that a surrogate carried. I can see a picture, and think, What’s the story here? Who are these people? And that becomes the impetus for a novel. Of course, sometimes it’s more personal: I have a sister, and I wanted to write about that relationship. I reconnected with an old flame, and wanted to write about that.
Do you write from beginning to end or plot the storyline and build on that?
Generally, I go from start to finish, and I have an outline that I try to keep as a map (and usually end up veering wildly off course).
What's your favourite part of the publishing process?
A lot of writers hate having to go on book tour. I actually love it. Writing is very lonely and isolated, and after all that time in my closet (see above), I’m actually really glad to be out in the world and able to talk to people. By the end of it, of course, the 4:30 a.m. wakeup calls and having to navigate airport security gets old, but I really like public speaking, and hearing from people who’ve read my work and want to talk about it.
How did the characters of Rachel and Andy come to you?
After my marriage ended, I emailed an old boyfriend – the one who got away – on his AOL account. I couldn’t bring myself to look at Facebook – what if the first thing I saw was his beautiful wife? – so I sent him a note that said “Is this still you?” It was still him, and we had dinner, and things progressed. I wanted to write about that experience – being in love with someone at one stage of your life, then falling in love when you’re a different person – when you’ve grown up, when you’ve had kids, when life has knocked you around. That’s where Rachel and Andy came from. I wanted them to be young lovers who came from very different places, and couldn’t let each other go.
Who Do You Love is a wonderful love story – did you set out to write such a weepie?
Honestly, yes! I thought of the love stories that I love best – Almost Paradise by Susan Isaacs, The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, even books like The Notebook and The Bridges of Madison County and wanted to push myself to write something as emotionally involving and heartbreaking as those stories were.
Your books offer insight and understanding about serious issues as well as delivering wonderful characters and huge emotion. How do you research your themes?
I’m blessed with the world’s most amazing assistant, Meghan Burnett. She’s the one who reaches out and finds me the people I need to talk to, whether it’s a woman who’s lived with the same heart condition that Rachel has, or a college track coach, or a social worker who got her training in New York City, so I know what Rachel’s work life was like. Anything I got right is thanks to Meghan. Anything that’s wrong is on me.
What do you like to read for pleasure?
Everything. Honestly, everything from classic Young Adult titles – I try to keep up with what my twelve-year-old is reading, and am so glad I finally got her to read A Wrinkle in Time – to steamy New Adult titles (I just discovered Sarina Bowen and Colleen Hoover), to experimental fiction (Kelly Link is fantastic, and I I loved Helen Charles’ The Beautiful Bureaucrat, which I guarantee is the weirdest thing you’ll read all year).I read big best-sellers – All The Light We Cannot See – and fierce feminist fables – Dietland will slay you. I’ll read anything by Lauren Groff, and am delighted she’s got a new book out – about a marriage! With a twist! And I just started Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, because one of my friends said I must, must, must read it. I loved Bill Clegg’s memoirs about addiction, so I bought his debut novel, Did You Ever Have a Family, and Lauren Fox’s Days of Awe, which sounds like perfect Rosh Hashanah reading.
I’m so bad at this. I’m terrible with actors’ names, especially all the young ones, and I normally end up saying things like, “You know! The cute guy! The guy in the thing with the spaceships! He’s dating whatsherface!” My kids stare at me with such scorn and pity on their faces. It’s devastating.
If there was going to be a movie of this book, I think there would be actors playing Young Rachel and Young Andy – in their teens and twenties – and then Rachel and Andy in their thirties (notice I did not say Old Rachel and Old Andy).
In my head, I imagined Andy as looking like a young Justin Guarini – great, not only am I dating myself, I’m letting you all in on how well I remember Season One of American Idol – or sort of like Corbin Bleu from High School Musical. (Shut up). Rachel, in my imagination, looked like a mean-girls-era Lacy Chabert. That’s all I got. Are Justin and Lacy available?
Is there a message you would like to send to your readers?
I’m not sure that Who Do You Love had a message, besides be true to yourself…but that’s a good one! In general, if I could tell people anything, I’d tell them not to be ashamed of their taste in reading. There’s endless shame and scorn out there. A lot of it used to be directed at women who read romance, and then the stuff they called “chick lit,” and now it’s being aimed at YA. A literary writer gave a recent interview where he sniffed that all popular fiction was actually YA – that it is morally simplistic comfort food because, at the end of a long day, people just to don’t want to wrestle with the complexity and moral ambiguity of the high-literary authors he prefers. I’m calling bullshit on that. Most readers I know might have a favorite genre or author, but they read widely. For me, that might be Alice Munro in the morning, K.J Charles in the afternoon, and Sharon Olds’ poetry at bedtime. Read whatever you want, as much as you can, and don’t ever let anyone make you feel ashamed for loving what you love.