STEELE INTERVIEWS: Jane Green

Recently I read Jane Green’s latest novel Second Chance in which she follows a group of friends after a tragedy. These are friends who have not seen each other in a decade, in most cases, but fall back into the easy rapport of past times when they reconnect. The death of Tom bonds them and keeps them moving forward with his memory strong in their heads and hearts. Green examines grief, loss and transition with wit and genuine characters. She always creates the type of characters to which one can relate on at least one level. There’s the couple who cannot conceive and desperately desire a child, the alcoholic film star, the single woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and the woman who embarks on an affair to free herself from a marriage that has been over for years. Second Chance is a satisfying, easy summer read.

I conducted this interview via email which is unusual, rare and needless to say, not my favorite mode of interviewing [in person, then phone, and as a last resort, feeding questions through a publicist]. I’ve done it a few times. I find it strange that Ms. Green would not comment on the fact that I lived in her current hometown of Westport, Conn., that I too am a journalist and that my brother lives in that area and has four children, including twin boys, just like her.

Amy Steele [AS]: Jane, We have a few things in common: though you are successful and I am not quite yet. We are the same age. I lived in Westport, Conn. until my parents’ divorce when I was 8 years-old. I live in Boston now and grew up in a suburb outside Boston -my mom re-married about four years after her divorce. My brother lives in the Westport area and has four children, including a set of twins. I have a master’s in journalism and am trying to write a book-I just do not know whether to go the fiction or non-fiction route.

AS: How did you make the transition from journalist to fiction writer?
Jane Green: With a whole lot of nerve. The part of journalism I enjoyed the most was always the writing, and the discipline of journalism served, and
continues to serve me, incredibly well, but I left my job with just
enough money to get by for a few months, and sat down to write Straight
Talking. Within three months there was a bidding war and I signed a two
book deal.

AS: When did you realize that is would be possible to have a career as
an author?
JG: As soon as the first bid came in, which was about twice my
annual salary!

AS: Why do you tell stories?

JG: Because I can, because I enjoy it, because
I love making a difference in people’s lives. The earlier novels were
pure entertainment, but as I’ve grown and changed, I think the books
carry a message that I hope resonates with my readers.

AS: What do you want readers to take from Second Chance?

JG: That we only get one shot, and that if ever we are stuck, far better to take a deep breath and a step in a different direction, and that it is never too
late to redefine our lives and ourselves, to go out and find true happiness. [AS: We only get ONE shot but we can take a different direction? Isn’t that contradictory?]

AS: What is the most difficult aspect of writing?

JG: Discipline. As a single mother of four running the lives of small children, operating a household, having a career, there are always a million other things to be done, and it’s always so hard to focus solely on the writing.
[AS: I’m sure my sister-in-law would love to have play dates!]

AS: What is the most rewarding aspect of writing books?

JG: Going out on the road and meeting the readers, hearing their stories, and receiving their emails, all of which I read, even though I’m not able to respond personally anymore.

AS: When is your favorite time/best time to write?

JG: Mornings only, from my local library, and then it’s back home to be Mom.

AS: How do you get your ideas? Do characters or story ideas come first?

JG: A general theme or idea is always the first thing for me, and then the
characters. I never outline in detail because too often the characters
dictate the story, and they take it in all sorts of unexpected
directions.

AS: With Second Chance, I imagine there’s a bit of you in each
character, based on your experiences. How much of yourself do you put
inyour characters?

JG: A huge amount, but almost always unconsciously. I am
always stunned afterwards when friends tell me how much of me they see,
but when I go back and re-read, I usually see what they are talking
about. It’s very difficult to write what I’m writing, and the sorts of
emotions I’m writing about without having lived it. Having said that,
none of the books are about me, and none of them are my story – I am
just able to draw on my life experience.

AS: Why did you decide to focus on grief and loss?

JG: I lost a friend in the Tsunami and was utterly blindsided by the grief I felt, and as a writer the best way I know to process anything is by sitting down and writing about it. [AS: writing can be rather cathartic]

AS: What influence did your own divorce have on this book and on your
writing?

JG: A huge amount. Holly and Marcus came in after my husband and I
had separated, and I was able to use the writing experience as a way to
fully understand what I was going through and how I was feeling. My
editor didn’t want me to write about my divorce, she felt it would be
too raw and too angry, but in fact, although Holly’s story isn’t mine,
I was able to write about an unhappy marriage and a separation with, I
hope, understanding and empathy.

AS: What does it mean for you to be part of the “chick lit” phenomenon/
genre?

JG: On one hand I am proud to be one of the founders of chick lit,
although I think there is a terrible misconception of what the genre is
– too many people think that it is always a frothy light tale of a
twenty something single girl looking for Mr. Right, when in fact I would
argue it’s simply commercial women’s fiction that is an accurate
reflection of the lives real women are living today, whether they are
in their twenties, thirties, forties or older. What is difficult is the
younger women who loved Jemima J and Mr Maybe now pick up the more
recent books and feel betrayed that, in their eyes, I’m no longer
writing chick lit. My writing reflects my life and the lives of those
around me, and will continue to grow, change and evolve the older I
get.

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  1. #1 by Henri de Montmorency on July 16, 2007 - 01:39

    Great interview! Jane probably missed the question because the first one might have run into the second. I’ve seen this happen before. Don’t take it personally. I’ll get Jane to run over here and comment if you’d like.

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