Friday, March 11, 2011

The Interrogation of Jenny Gardiner

Today we have Jenny Gardiner author of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver and Winging it (to name but a few of her works!) with us. ("Jenny Gardiner American author" - not "Jenny Gardiner Australian Politician", just in case any of you Aussies got confused...)

Good morning Jenny,  I hope you’re comfortable. (Or as comfortable as can be expected sitting in that rickety old chair, please excuse the water lying on the floor and the burnt hair smell… it’s nothing.)

What’s your favorite type of takeaway? (take-out in American speak)
--Probably Chinese, mainly because where I live we don’t have a lot of great choices for carry out. It’s pretty much that or pizza…Now if I lived in a big city it would be something like Afghani food or maybe some good Italian, maybe Spanish tapas…

Describe your current mental status.  
--Frazzled. Seriously frazzled!

Do you have a favorite coffee?
--While I LOVE coffee, I can’t have caffeine—I hit my limit when I was about 23, so I can only do decaf. I adore cappuccinos, however! (oh and HATE the smell of hazelnut coffee—it actually makes me gag)

You’re quite the prolific author, Jenny. Will you give us a quick over view of your books.

***Sure! My first novel, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, is sort of a coming-of-middle-age novel, what happens after the Happily Ever After, about a woman who married Mr. Right only to wake up as she’s approaching mid-life to realize she actually married Mr. Always Right…The house that published SWWC was teetering on bankruptcy so stopped printing books and only do e-books now. I have the rights back to it and plan to put it up on Amazon very soon, hopefully in the next few weeks.
My second book is called Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me, sort of Marley and Me meets David Sedaris, with a deadly beak.

I then published two novels through my literary agency’s digital imprint, Diversion books. The first, Slim to None, is available both digitally and in print form on Amazon. It’s the story of the premier food critic in Manhattan, who is outted on Page Six of the New York Post, and so everyone knows what she looks like and that she is so large she won’t be able to go incognito to review restaurants. Her boss gives her six months to lose weight or she’s out of a job. I loved the idea of taking a person who has to eat for a living and make it so that she cannot eat in order to continue to be able to eat for a living ;-). The other novel I e-pubbed is called Over the Falls, about a woman trapped in an abusive marriage who goes out to pick up her husband’s dry cleaning and instead picks up a handsome hitchhiker, with whom she embarks on a road trip of self-discovery.
I have a short story in an upcoming anthology that is slated to be released in September called I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship, a book spearheaded by Wade Rouse who is a lovely, hilarious memoirist. In this anthology he has assembled stories from a star-studded collection of writers, including 11 New York Times bestselling authors, two Emmy award-winners and a Tony award-winner. It’s a collection of funny and poignant dog stories, proceeds slated to go to the Humane Society of the US. My story is about my pseudo-dingo dog, titled My Dog the Dominatrix ;-) . I’ve got a few other books I’ll be uploading to e-book versions within the next couple of months so keep looking for them!

Walk us through a typical day. (Do you make sure you’re wearing your lucky underpants before you sit down to write, or perhaps you prefer commando?)
***I still have one kid left at home, two in college, so it all depends what is up with whom, who do I have to pick up at college and bring home or vice versa, etc. As soon as my daughter gets off to school I get to the gym, the run errands, come home and try to write for a few hours before I have to go in to work (I’m working part time at a cupcake shop—how fun is that?!). Writing time has sadly been squeezed out so much by time spent with social networking, but I’m  making a concerted effort to back off of that because it’s become such a time-suck and I really want to write!

Do you ever see yourself writing a vampire story? (Perhaps a vampire parrot?  Pretty sure parrots don’t sparkle – so maybe a diamond stealing vampire parrot?)
---Okay, I SWORE I’d NEVER write a vampire novel. Then, alas, toward the end of the vampire craze, I came up with a funny idea for one so despite my hesitation, I started writing it. I think it’s a really funny story, I wrote about 100 pages, had an editor very interested in it, it went to ed board and unfortunately they decided that humor in vampire stories either works or doesn’t work, and in this publishing climate they weren’t going to take a chance. Grrr. I might finish it and put it up myself on Amazon because I think it’s a terrific novel. Even though I’m not a fan of vampire novels ;-)

Who would you turn gay for?
--Ha! Well, having been glued to American Idol lately, I guess if there was someone it might be J Lo –she’s pretty smokin’ hot even at her ripe age

Who are your favorite writers?
--Right now I’m totally literary crushing on Allison Pearson. Granted she’s not a literary writer, I just coined that out of nowhere. But I love her writing, love her voice, she’s a terrific writer. Her latest, I Think I Love You is fabulous. Going back in time, I was inspired as a youth by the voices of JD Salinger and by James Joyce, Oscar Wilde even. I love sassy, clever writing—Jonathan Tropper comes to mind for instance. But I also devour really well-written literary works, Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone comes to mind. I don’t tend to read books just because the publicity machine tells me they’re all the rage—too often I’ve found that I don’t tend to care for those books that have been overflacked. I go by recommendations from friends and fellow authors a lot.

Who inspires you to do better?
---Professionally? Anyone who writes a kick-ass book.  As I read Allison Pearson’s novel, I’m inspired to kick it up a  notch this week. Who inspires me as a person in general? People who are kind, thoughtful, generous, those who do good works for others without seeking attention or praise for it. My daughter attends a Quaker school and I’m really inspired by the wonderful works that these schools do and by their goals to help raise global-thinking, sensitive, caring human beings.

Do you ever put pants on your dog? (And if by chance you have dressed your Dingo – can we see the pictures?)
---NEVER! When I was growing up, we did that all the time though. My brothers had these hideous white acrylic cable-knit tennis sweaters—the V-neck with the crimson and blue stripes along the V. They would put them on the dogs along with neck ties and then have them sit up on their haunches and beg for food, then they’d feed them peanut butter bread that would stick to the roofs of their mouths and they’d have to lick and lick and lick to get it all. I always felt badly about that, so I never dress up our pooches. They’re far too dignified ;-)  (p.s. putting pants on my dingo girl would be like trying to put a muzzle on her—it would not go over well…)

Describe your ultimate day?  
--It would definitely be on a catamaran in the British Virgin Islands. Hanging near the Soggy Dollar Bar. Man, I’d love that right now…Oh wait, in the middle of all of that intensive relaxing, I’d get a call from my agent that the editor of my dreams is buying my novel for high six figures (trying not to be greedy here). We can fantasize, right?

Who is your favorite fictitious villain? Or are you all about the hero? Who do you love to hate?
--Darn, recently I thought of a fabulous fictitious villain I loved, but now I’m drawing a blank. Usually I’m more about the hero. I tend to go for happily ever after in my reading—I hate reading depressing tomes with everything falling to pieces, totally never going to read dystopian fiction..

Tell us your publishing story.
--I had the great fortune of being selected for a national fiction contest called American Title contest, in which 10 finalists vied online each month over a 6-month period to garner the most online votes. I was able to win the contest (this was with Sleeping with Ward Cleaver) and the prize was a book deal. The added bonus was that the contest prepared me greatly for the future of marketing/publicity, a duty that has pretty much been dumped unceremoniously in the laps of all authors now. I was ahead of the curve on it because it’s precisely what I had to do in order to garner enough votesàthis was before the days of all the social network sites, so it involved lots and lots and lots of emailing. The downside to that is that I ended up being regarded as a spammer in the eyes of the internet, and to this day my emails get stuck in spam folders, especially with AOL and Yahoo. Makes me CRAZY!

Do you have any quirks?
---Give me time and I’ll make you laugh at the multitude of them. I’m really picky with food, putting things on the side, having half the things in the entrée excluded from the one I order, that sort of thing. Oh, here’s another thing I do all the time. I adore accents and I’ll listen to the BBC and imitate the many world accents of those on the programming. My kids think I’m insane, but I invariably get them laughing when I do it, so it’s all good.

All time favorite movie and why?
--this is another one I thought of recently and now can’t remember what it is. But I always love When Harry Met Sally—sort of the quintessential chick flick and I do love a good chick flick (and sadly most of them suck these days).

What’s your preferred medium when it comes to writing – pen and paper, computer, typewriter, dictation?
--computer. I can’t even read my own handwriting these days.

How did you enjoy the editing process?
--It’s great to collaborate with a really talented editor. Though I always prefer to have my work not needing much in the way of editing, because it takes a lot of brain power to reassemble a book once you *think* you’ve put it together properly. Like you assembled the 2000-piece puzzle and then someone has come in and jumbled 2/3s of the pieces and you have to fit them back again. It’s also nice to have someone who can sort through the quagmire when it gets murky and help you to regain your vision.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
---Italy. I ADORE Italy, the food, the language, the wine, the scenery, the lifestyle is really appealing to me (provided the internet connection is realllllly good).

What is one thing you know about New Zealand?  (The voltage will be cranked up at first mention of anything LOTR or Hobbit related – just sayin’))
--Rotorua is supposed to be gorgeous! My old neighbor grew up on a sheep farm there. I’ve just head many times that New Zealand gorgeous. I’m so sad about the latest earthquake in Christchurch—terrible suffering and destruction.
How many novels have you written, both published and unpublished?
---Oh man, I dunno, maybe 8-1/2? Well, there are a slew I’ve started, maybe done 2 -3 chapters, I haven’t counted them.
What were you before you became a writer?
---A mom. Well, I’ve always been a writer but was being purely a mom when I started writing again. And before kids I was a photographer, before that publicist for a US Senator. Before that aspiring for career as TV reporter till I realized I’d have to live in small towns until I broke out, and back then that was so not appealing to me.

What can we expect from you next?   
--That’s the million dollar question. The publishing industry is such a mess right now, it’s hard to come up with the book idea that will win over not only an interested editor but also an entire editorial board as well. The decision-by-committee-with-no-one-wanting-to-risk-potential-of-failure has done a great disservice to so many writers out there, and leaves the reading public with a real dearth of variety in the book world now. I’ve got a couple of things I’m working on, so wish me luck.

Do you carry a notebook or keep one by the bed for those sudden brilliant ideas?
--All of the above! I make myself write down those middle-of-the-night inspirations because too many times I’ve said “Oh, I’ll remember it in the morning,” and I never do

What is the most random thing you have ever written with and on?
--It’s not particularly random but I was at a bat mitzvah a few years back and it was a high holy day so it was a doubly long service, all in Hebrew. I get super fidgety even at like the best of Broadway shows, so you can imagine how fidgety I was getting with a ceremony in which everyone’s backs are mostly to the audience and a droning succession of prayers are being chanted in a very foreign language. So I pulled out a small notebook and a pen and started to write a book idea, which ultimately were the first four chapters of Winging It. Luckily at the time I didn’t realized you weren’t supposed to do anything like writing while in the temple—I grew up Catholic and we didn’t have that rule as far as I knew, so it just didn’t even cross my mind LOL.

If you’re not writing, what are you most likely to be doing?
---Doing stuff with the family, working out at the gym, road-tripping (usually with the family), caring for our many pets. Ideally I’d be traveling all over the world, but that requires money, so that’s only in my dreams…

Red or white wine?
---Ha! This is the first question I answered: Red, most definitely!

Thank you for stopping by Jenny! 

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