Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jennifer Weiner, Certain Girls

I read Jennifer Weiner's first novel Good In Bed back in 2002 along with the rest of the world. After GIB she became a household name and followed up with one of my all time favorites, In Her Shoes (the only book I've read twice). Jennifer is an author we all adore and wait for her books with high expectations. She updates her SnarkSpot regularly and here and there we learn about her life, both personal and professional. She is not only funny but intelligent. I've seen her on television, in magazines and of course on all the best seller lists. Her's is the kind of career I wish for myself. And here is where I start to drool:

Best-selling novelist Jennifer Weiner has inked a two-year overall deal with ABC Studios. Under the seven-figure pact, she will create and executive produce series projects for the studio. Several of Weiner's books have made the transition to the big screen. "In Her Shoes" was made into a 2005 feature starring Cameron Diaz. "Little Earthquakes" is in development at Universal, while her short story "The Guy Not Taken" is in the works at DreamWorks.

She is living my dream! Congratulations on the success, Jennifer. Or can I call you Jen?

Certain Girls catches up with Cannie, the heroine of Good In Bed. Cannie is mother to Joy, a fiesty hearing impaired teen. The book alternates between Cannie and Joy so we can understand both points of view and sympathize with them. Joy discovers a novel written years ago by Cannie which may or may not be based on real life events. It's quite a steamy, emotional read. Joy tries to put the pieces together and figure out who her mother really is at the same time she struggles with her own identity. Oh, the joys of being a teenager. Joy and Cannie are at odds on planning Joy's Bat-Mitzvah and the center of their squabbles is a sexy ( for a thirteen year old) designer dress. Seriously, mothers and daughters will fight over anything and everything. And in Certain Girls, they do.

Cannie is dealing with her own crisis of whether or not to hire a surrogate to carry a baby for her and her husband Peter. Of course just when we think Cannie has it all under control, life unravels like a cheaply knitted sweater. I know this book is going to sell millions of copies and everyone will be carrying a copy of Certain Girls no matter where I go. To be honest, that will be a nice change from seeing people toting around A New Earth. Fans of Jennifer Weiner's will love Certain Girls. I bet its only a matter of time before Dakota Fanning is cast as Joy and we see an A- lister play Cannie. But who will play Nifkin?

Which of all your characters is your favorite?

You can’t ask me to pick! It’s like asking a mother to tell you which kid she likes best!
That being said, though, I do like writing some of the supporting characters, like Mrs. Lefkowitz in IN HER SHOES, or Janie in GOODNIGHT NOBODY, or Samantha in CERTAIN GIRLS.

Are any of Cannie's experiences based on your own life?

Let’s see: I’m not married to a doctor, don’t have a thirteen-year-old, still have a uterus (not that I’ll be doing anything with it anytime soon), have not lived through my kid’s bat mitzvah (but oh, it’s coming) and have not hired a surrogate to have my baby. I’d say that Cannie’s voice is a lot like mine, and the general contours of her life have things in common with the general contours of mine, but as far as specifics, she’s her own girl.

I think I'll be okay if I never see the word Nifkin again. What made you name the dog after that particular part of a man's anatomy?

Basically, I have the sense of humor of an eight-year-old, and I am endlessly amused by fart jokes, anatomical references, and menstruation humor (there’s a whole riff on that in CERTAIN GIRLS, when Cannie’s asked if she wants to be the spokesperson for a new brand of tampons, and she keeps asking, “Does this offer come with strings attached?”)

So where did Nifkin come from? A long time ago, I heard my brother Jake say the word, and I was so taken by the sound of it that I basically tortured him until he told me what it meant…and by then I was so in love with it as the name of a fictional dog that I was kind of stuck. But (spoiler alert!) Nifkin dies in CERTAIN GIRLS….so you won’t have to worry about that word ever again.

How have you changed since Good in Bed was published?

Girl, I’m old! Old, old, old! When I wrote that book I was twenty-eight, single, and broken-hearted. Now I’m thirty-eight, married, and exhausted. (Well, not always, but my four-month-old only sleeps through the night about half of the time, so I am pretty tired these days). I just did a podcast with my editor when we were reminiscing about the good old days when we first met, and when we colored our hair because we wanted to, not because we had to!

But essentially, I don’t think I’ve changed too much at all. I still live in the same neighborhood as I did when I wrote GOOD IN BED (although now I’m in a house, not an apartment), I have the same friends, go to the same restaurants, do a lot of the same things. I still get frantically jealous of big-deal literary authors and all of the publicity they receive, and I go around gnashing my teeth at the unfairness of the attention lavished on someone like Charles Bock. Then my husband reminds me that my books sell okay, too, and that’s even without me having tattooed their first sentences anywhere on my person. Then I eat a cupcake, and everything’s okay again.

What is the last book you read?

I tend to read a bunch of books at a time, so, recently, I’ve finished THE JEW OF HOME DEPOT, a short-story collection by Max Apple, ATTACK OF THE THEATER PEOPLE by Marc Acito (madcap coming-of-age-in-1980’s-New-York story), and SO THAT’S WHAT THEY’RE FOR, which is a breast-feeding guide.

Currently working on the new Jonathan Kellerman and the new Jhumpa Lahiri, with new Suzanne Finnamore on deck. Happy happy!

Do you think the publishing industry is more open towards male writers? In other words, do you believe women have a harder time breaking into the industry?

Breaking into the industry? Not so much. Women still read the vast majority of fiction in this country, so I don’t think it’s harder for a woman to get published than it would be for a man. However, I do believe that women have a much harder time becoming critics’ darlings, or seen as the next big new thing on the literary horizon. Those slots are still mostly reserved for the Jonathans.

I write a beauty website too so I am compelled to ask about beauty products! What are some of your favorites?

Just promise me that if you ever got one of the Jonathans to answer your questions, you’d ask him this, too! Right now, I’d have to say that the Shu Uemura hair-care line is genius. I have really fine hair that basically lies there doing nothing (it is the follicular equivalent of a drunk guy on a couch), so I need a lot of product to coax it into any semblance of style, and their stuff is great.

I finally splurged on a BaByliss blow dryer and a ceramic straightening iron, both of which have improved my life and appearance immeasurably. Also, now that I am old, it’s all about the Laura Mercier concealer.

Once you write a book, do you go back and obsess over it? Are there things that you would change in Certain Girls if you could?

I am definitely the obsessive type, so I try not to even read my finished books. I’m certain that if I did I’d find a few hundred things I’d want to re-do so, in general, I stay away (if you come to one of my readings, you’ll probably notice that the passage I read is from the advanced reader’s copy, not the finished product).

What do you remember most about being Joy's age? The teenage years were the absolute worst. I looked like Ugly Betty!

I was actually looking at my own bat mitzvah pictures not too long ago. Thirteen was so tragic. I had the short, feathered hair – with bangs, of course, because what short, feathered ‘do isn’t improved by bangs? I also boasted the double-thick helping of braces, and my boobs and nose had both attained their adult proportions while the rest of me had not. It was not good. I have vivid memories of begging my parents for a subscription to Seventeen, thinking that if I used all of the products and did all of the things the advice columns said to do, I could be magically transformed into one of those girls. Which didn’t happen…and now it’s probably too late to get my money back.

What are some movies that you would watch over and over again?

“Working Girl” is one of my all-time favorites (Harrison Ford never looked better). Lately, every time “Primary Colors” or “Trading Places” comes on TV, I’m like, “Oh, I’ll give it five minutes,” and end up watching until the end.

As an outsider looking in, your life is pretty spectacular. Is there anything else that could possibly top all of your success?

I have to say, things are pretty good. I’ve got two healthy, funny, sweet girls, a wonderful husband, great friends and a great neighborhood, and I get to spend my working days making stuff up. I’d have a hard time imagining how things could get much better. Hmm…maybe I could host a game show?

What's next for you?

Immediately next is my daughter Phoebe’s baby naming. The ceremony will be at our synagogue, then we’re having about 70 people back at the house for a party with a bouncy castle for the five-year-old set.

Work-wise, I’m playing around with a few different things, fiction and non-fiction. I’ll see what shakes out in the next month or so.

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