LB: Your first novel, Scot on the Rocks, published when – about eight years ago? And I read your latest novel, Recipe for a Happy Life, this past summer. How has your writing changed between those two books? And how has the experience of publishing a novel changed?
BJ: My first two novels would be classified as “chick lit,” which is to say they’re smart, funny novels with heart about a single girl living in the city. And that’s exactly what I was at the time. But just as I’ve grown up, my writing has grown up, too.
With RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE, I was looking to do something different. Something more grown up. Something deeper. The idea for the book—a granddaughter and her grandmother out in the Hamptons for the summer—was originally played for laughs.
I did the first major overhaul of the novel while I was pregnant with my first son. Everything was different for me—I was changing as a person, my voice was changing, and so, too, did this novel. I began thinking more deeply about the ties that bind mothers and children, grandmothers and grandchildren. How we hurt each other. How we can forgive. What that means.
Since RECIPE was published, I sold my fourth novel, THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB, to Jason Pinter at Polis Books. Jason’s created a new independent publishing house that only does e-books. When my first novel came out in 2007, I didn’t even know what an e-book was! But in the time since then, e-books have completely taken over the market, and I’m so delighted to be a part of it.
LB: In Recipe for a Happy Life, the heroine, Hannah, has a glamorous grandmother who has been married six times and knows a thing or two about life. I fell in love with this character. Was she inspired by anyone in real life?
BJ: My own grandmother, of course! One summer, when I was single, Grandma Dorothy informed me that she would be renting a house in the Hamptons. No more of these silly share houses I was doing with my friends each summer. They were getting me nowhere (read: still single and over thirty). Instead, I was to stay with her and she would help me meet someone. The only problem with this scenario was that I was sure she’d meet a man before I did. She had sparkling crystal blue eyes and a killer figure. My own hazel eyes and good birthing hips were no match for her easy glamour and style.than the gross national product of some countries, the idea sort of fell apart. But it gave me an idea—what if a young woman spent the summer out in the glamorous Hamptons with her even more glamorous grandmother?
Both of my own grandmothers really inspired me to come up with the character of Vivienne, the glamorous widow six times over. Neither was a widow six times over, but both of my grandmothers were very glamorous ladies. When I think of my childhood memories, I’m not likely to picture them in aprons baking cookies. I picture them in evening gowns.
LB: You were a lawyer before you became a novelist, and I feel like a lot of excellent female novelists come from law careers. Emily Giffin. Julie Buxbaum. Is there something about the career that primes you for writing fiction?
Being a novelist takes the same discipline you need to be a lawyer—you have to be able to sit at your computer, by yourself, for hours on end and write. You also have to do a ton of reading. If that’s not law school, I don’t know what is. And that’s the writing life, too.
LB: Your early novels really give the experience of reading a romantic comedy. And reading your reviews, I know I’m not the only one who experiences them this way. Are you consciously influenced or inspired by rom coms? If so, what are your favs?
Thank you! I so appreciate that. I absolutely adore romantic comedies. I have so many favorites: 13 Going on 30, She’s All That, Never Been Kissed, Clueless, Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Wedding Singer, While You Were Sleeping… The list could go on and on! And, as a child of the 80s, I still love: Sixteen Candles, The Cutting Edge, and Moonstruck.
LB: What’s the most challenging part of writing novels – crafting the book, or dealing with promotion?
Without a doubt, the business end of things. It’s funny—but our very nature, we writers like to sit by ourselves and put our thoughts on paper. We’re a solitary bunch, very introverted. But then suddenly, we have a book out, and we’re expected to promote ourselves, to go out and tell the world to buy our books.
I think I’m like most writers in that I just want to write. I don’t want to self-promote, or think about marketing. Though I must admit, it is a lot of fun meeting new people through Twitter and Facebook, so maybe it’s not all bad!
LB: What’s on your TBR list?
So many different books! The list is truly endless. I just put FALLEN BEAUTY by Erika Robuck, SAFE WITH ME by Amy Hatvany, and HOW TO EAT A CUPCAKE by Meg Donohue on my Kindle last week. And I have piles upon piles of paperbacks and hard cover books on my shelf, just waiting to be read!
LB: Tell me about your next book. Will it feature another spirited matriarch?
My mother is a big part of my life, so I think there’s always a place for a spirited matriarch in my work! My fourth novel, THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB, is a New Adult book that will be coming out on May 6, 2014 in e-book format only. It’s the story of a singer-songwriter who inadvertently starts an anti-love movement that sweeps Manhattan. Spirited matriarch? Check!
And then I have the second book on my two-book St. Martin’s deal. I’m working on another women’s fiction novel called THE LAST SUPPER, and yes, that one has a very spirited matriarch, too. Actually, it’s got three of them. I love writing about strong women, so I think my books will always reflect the sort of woman I grew up around, and the sort of woman I strive to be.
More on Brenda’s first novels, Scot on the Rocks and Jack with a Twist here.
Recipe for a Happy Life by Brenda Janowitz is available now.