Patch Q&A: Jennifer Weiner, Best-Selling Novelist

March 13th, 2011

Bradenton Patch

By Jason Bartolone | March 13, 2011
The acclaimed author of “Good In Bed” and “In Her Shoes” will be speaking at the Library Foundation’s annual luncheon this Wednesday in Bradenton.

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Bradenton will welcome Jennifer Weiner, best-selling author of “Good In Bed” and “In Her Shoes,” on Wednesday for an author luncheon hosted by the Manatee County Public Library System’s Library Foundation.

Weiner, 40, a former journalist and magazine writer, made her 2001 debut with “Good In Bed,” a New York Times bestseller. Her 2002 follow-up, “In Her Shoes,” was made into a major motion picture starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine. There are more than 11 million copies of Weiner’s novels in publication in 36 countries.

Bradenton Patch caught up with Weiner via e-mail over the weekend for a Q&A session in advance of her speaking engagement, to be held at noon Wednesday at the Bradenton City Centre Auditorium. Tickets are $35 a person. Call 941-748-5555, ext. 6306, for ticket availability.

PATCH: Your work has been described as “chick lit.” What do you think of that title?

Jennifer Weiner: It doesn’t thrill me — honestly, who spends four years as an English major and ten years as a reporter reading and writing and honing her craft to write books that are called by the same name as not-very-good gum? But it doesn’t bother me that much, either. The truth is, my readers know what I’m doing. They know what they’re getting with one of my books— something funny and entertaining, with a lead character they can relate to, and a more or less happy ending, but also a book that deals with some of the serious stuff that all of us face. The term “chick lit” ends up mattering much more to thin-skinned authors, and above-it-all critics, than it does to the busy mom who just wants something great to read in the fifteen minutes of free time she’s got every day.

Patch: How much of your own personality and experiences goes into your protagonists?

JW: A lot of my own life makes it into my books, but it rarely makes it there unchanged. Something will happen to me, or I’ll see something or read something, and think, “Oh my God, this is perfect! I must use it!” But by the time it makes it into the book, and through draft after draft after draft, it’ll be changed to the point that I barely recognize it as having happened to me. My personality — my voice — that’s a different story. People tell me I write the way I talk. Sometimes, they even mean it as a compliment.

Patch: How is your latest book, “Fly Away Home,” different from the others?

JW: It’s my first attempt at quote-unquote “ripped from the headlines” storytelling. I was so struck by what was going on in 2009 and 2010, the Years of the Cheating Politician. Between the sagas of John Edwards and Mark Sanford and even the allegations about Al Gore, you couldn’t open a paper or click on your browser without reading about a politician cheating on his wife, usually in some spectacularly outlandish way that involved spectacularly outlandish excuses (Hiking the Appalachian Trail? Really?) I’ve long been fascinated by Hillary Clinton, the choices and compromises in her life; the question of how you stay married in the wake of an affair the whole world knows about, so I wanted to write about a political marriage, its breakdown, and the impact of that breakdown not just the husband and wife, but also the children. Like all of my books, it’s also the story of a woman finding herself … a coming-of-age story for a woman in her fifties.

Patch: What’s the latest on your TV project, “The Great State of Georgia”?

JW: I wrote “The Great State of Georgia” back in 2008, with a very smart and funny TV writer named Jeff Greenstein. It was the first thing I’d ever written for TV, about a larger-than-life, non-size-zero actress leaving her small town in the South and trying to make it in New York City with her best friend. We shot a pilot last fall, and ABC Family ordered nine episodes in February … so I’m now out in California, in my first-ever writers’ room, working on those episodes, telling Georgia’s story. The show will star Raven-Symone, and will premiere at the end of June. Set your DVRs!

Patch: How is writing for TV different from novel writing?

JW: I have to say, right now, I’m liking TV writing a lot. It’s definitely a lot more collaborative: you’ve got a whole room full of hilarious writers to pitch jokes, and tell funny stories from their own lives, and keep you laughing all day long. Novels are lonely — it’s just you and the people you make up for a year on end, sometimes longer. But novels are exclusively your own vision — you don’t have to incorporate network notes, or, for example, make a character a doctor because the network’s already got three shows with lawyers. So there’s pros and cons to each kind of writing.

Patch: Have you been to Bradenton before?

JW: Never.

Patch: What do you like about these kinds of speaking engagements with your readers and fans?

JW: Like I said, writing a novel is lonely … and when you’re in the throes of it, you can forget that there’s ever an end-point, that people are going to read it and, you hope, enjoy it. I really like talking to people.

Patch: What will you be working on next?

JW: My next book will be published this July. It’s called THEN CAME YOU. My “elevator pitch” is that it’s about four women trying to have a baby … in other words, a very modern pregnancy that involves an egg donor and a gestational surrogate, the parents-to-be and the potential father’s very skeptical stepdaughter. As the book progresses, you meet all of the women involved, and get to know their stories, and their motivations. I like it a lot — I hope it’s funny and entertaining, and that the characters feel real, but I also think it takes on some of the really interesting issues that surrogate pregnancies bring up.