Tuesday, September 09, 2008

GCC Presents… Joanne Rendell!

I loved this quote from Christina Baker Kline about The Professors' Wives Club: "…risk it all in pursuit of life, love, and green space in New York City…"

I've always thought Montreal was a smaller, "frenchier" version of New York City and I also attended one of those downtown University campuses where green space was coveted than prime balcony space during Mardi Gras in Rio. So I can see how a group of four very different women, each with her own secrets, can get their collective panties in a bunch when the ruthless Dean of Manhattan University tries to bring an end to the charming garden sanctuary where each woman comes to take refuge from the world. Also, like Rendall, I'm a sucker for stories that pit women with widely divergent points of view against each other.

Here's the author, in her own words:

Can you tell us about any real-life events that inspired a scene or two in your book?

I'm a professor's wife and my husband teaches at NYU – which looks a lot like the fictitious Manhattan U. in The Professors' Wives' Club - so real-life sneaks into my book a lot! One particular scene, however, which is very true to my life, is when the character Sofia gives birth watching Terminator movies. It is what I did when I gave birth to my son. No kidding! You can read about it on Mothering.com: http://www.mothering.com/articles/pregnancy_birth/homebirth/terminator.html

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? Do you have a writing routine you stick to or a special writing space that brings out your creativity?

I write while my five year old son sleeps. Thankfully, he sleeps late every morning which gives me just about enough time to go the gym, come home, make my cup of Tetley tea, and then sit down to do some writing. It would be great to have my whole days free to write. But, in actual fact, I think I'm probably more productive being limited to just a few hours in the morning. It makes me get down to work, pronto! If I had whole days stretching out before me, I would spend way too much time emailing and nosing through people's photo albums on Facebook.

I always try and write at least 500 words a day. I started doing this in grad school when I was writing my PhD dissertation. 500 words might not seem a lot but it definitely adds up and keeps you moving forward.

Do you have an agent? Can you tell us the story behind meeting and signing with him/her?

I do have a wonderful agent! I was working on a writing project with a friend of mine - another professor's wife, in fact! This friend was already published and was kind enough to introduce me to her agent. The agent and I hit it off and I remember during one conversation, almost as an aide, I mentioned my idea about writing a book called The Professors' Wives' Club. My agent looked me dead in the eye and said "Write it, it will sell." So I did write it and my agent was kind enough to read drafts along the way and give me advice. When it was finally done and it sold to Penguin, we really saw the book as "our" baby!

What's the next book, fiction or non-fiction, you're dying to read next?

Yours! Seriously, it's true. You just sent me an advanced copy of Cutting Loose and I'm dying to get to the end of another book I'm reading so I can start it. It sounds like it has all the ingredients of the kind of women's fiction I love - a tale about a group of interesting women, some good love stories, plus insight into places and cultures I know little about. I can't wait! [wow…I'm blushing right now…]

There are so many wonderful books out there like yours – books by women, for women, and about women. I wish I had more time to read them all. I also wish the reviewing press weren't so dismissive and demeaning about women's fiction. It makes me so mad that women's fiction so often gets labeled "trash," "fluff," or "formulaic." Women do most of the buying and the reading of books these days and thus it seems ridiculous that "our" fiction is so routinely denigrated…..Okay, rant over.

What up next for you?

My second novel is also being published by Penguin and comes out next year. The novel tells the story of two women, professors this time, who work an English Department. One of the women, Diana, is older, very serious, and extremely established in the academic world. She's only interested in very serious literature and has written books about Sylvia Plath. The other professor, Rachel, is new to the department. She's young, bubbly, and enthusiastic and her scholarship looks at popular women's fiction. Her research ruffles a lot of feathers in the academy, in fact, because people see the books Rachel looks at as throwaway and trash. Diana is particularly adamant on this point and really doesn't like it when the young professor comes to the department.

The novel looks at the tensions between these two very different women and shows all the repercussions in their department and in their lives when they are pitted next to each other. A handsome visiting professor from Harvard and some high-profile misbehaving students only serves to make sparks fly even more between the two women! [Hmm… I'm liking the sound of this novel already… I'm also sensing a theme : ) ]

Thanks Joanne, for a very interesting interview. Looking forward to picking up The Professors' Wives Club very soon!


Marilyn Brant said...

Wonderful interview, as always, Nadine :).

Joanne, I just love reading your answers to questions on other blogs... Terminator???!! That's fantastic!

Nadine said...

Thanks, dude : ) And where's my copy of of According to Jane???

Anonymous said...

The professors' wives club - I haven't heard a lot about this book (perhaps I am living under a rock?) I'm always on top of what's hot and what's about to be released.
Like the novel 'Letters Between Us' by Linda Rader Overman .
It's not released until after October 6, 2008, but I got my hands on a copy and was I ever happy.
It takes hold of the reader's eye and inspires the act of holding a long, forgotten letter in hand so realistically that we actually see the red lines on the page in living color and inhale the chocolate colored ink with ease.