All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle BrownJanelle Brown is a wonderful and promising novelist. All the glowing reviews about her book ring true. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is the story of Janice Miller, a scorned wife whose husband runs off with her best friend when he makes millions of dollars. Its about Maggie the older daughter who is trying to save her failing feminist magazine and is in debt so deep that she hides from her creditors, and Lizzie, a fourteen year old who has spun a sticky web of boys and sex.
While the book is not comedic, there were some sentences that made me laugh at loud. Janice, Maggie and Lizzie are at three different stages in their lives, each with her own terrible secret. I could not put this book down and with all good books, I mourned when it ended. I'm so excited to bring you an interview with this talented author.
If you had to cast roles for the feature film which will happen, who would play Janice, Maggie and Lizzie? I'm casting Diane Lane as Janice because she is one of my favorite actresses. Maggie and Lizze have me stumped though.
I like Diane Lane a lot too, though she's a wee bit young for Janice – who's almost 50. Joan Allen is very echt-Janice, too: gracious and charming but a little distant and tightly wound.I've always envisioned a Maggie Gyllenhaal-type for Margaret, and for Lizzie, I always think of Abigail Breslin's character from Little Miss Sunshine, but six years later….
How long did it take you to write the book and find an agent?
I started the book in the fall of 2003. By the summer of 2006 I had a draft that I was finally ready to show agents; it took me about four months to find the agent that I signed with. And then, once I'd signed with her, I spent another six months doing revisions before we sent it out to editors. So, all told, the version that you see today took about four years of writing.
The character of Paul, the husband, is not very sympathetic. Did you want the reader to like him at all?
I think it's a function of being an author that you always have more empathy for your characters than a reader would – I've spent the last five years with these characters, and so I care for them all even in their flaws. That said, Paul is a real self-centered jerk, most concerned with his own best interests, and I certainly don't expect people to like him; but what I do hope is that they are able to understand how he thinks. I've encountered people like him in the real world, and I'm always curious what their justifications are for living the way they do.
If you had to step into a character's shoes from the book, who would you chose and why?
That's a tricky question – it's not like any of them have charmed lives that would be simple or pleasurable to live. I think, though, that I'd step into Janice's shoes: I've never done anything as reckless and self-destructive as she has, and I'm fascinated by how it must feel to just let everything go the way she does. Her life is the farthest from mine, so it would be the most unusual experience to try on.
What are some novels that you could read again and again?
Here's a few books that I've read multiple times – Blindness, by Jose Saramago; The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen; On Beauty, by Zadie Smith; Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov….
You live in Los Angeles, what are some of your favorite places to eat?
That's a question I could spend days answering: I am definitely a closet gourmand. For a fancy meal, there's this terrific gourmet chophouse called Jar, which I go to for special occasions; and I love the California-Mediterranean restaurants Lucques and AOC.In LA we have amazing ethnic food, and I love Korean BBQ at Parks BBQ, or dim sum at Triumphal Palace way out in the San Gabriel Valley.
There's a little taco shack called Yuca's near my house that makes the most amazing carne asada taco; and a Vietnamese place called Viet Noodle Bar which makes a dish with turmeric fish and home-made noodles that is my favorite comfort food.
Who do you admire and why?
It's funny – I've been asked the "who do you admire most" or "who is your hero" question for years, and I've never had a good answer. I remember being asked it first at a live interview when applying for college, seventeen years ago, and being stumped even then. (I think I said Winston Churchill, for no other reason than that seemed like an answer a very well-educated person would offer).
In general, I admire anyone who has a passion for something that they actively pursue, no matter how challenging that pursuit may be – whether that means starving while you make your paintings or climbing the Himalayas in a blizzard or living in a filthy tent while helping refugees in Sudan.
Are you working on another book at the moment?
Yes. But I'm not ready to talk about it yet - too soon!
Writing is a solitary activity….are you a person who likes to be around a lot of people or do you enjoy your quiet time?
I definitely like to be around people. Too much time alone and I get very antsy. I find I work best at cafes with lots of people around, with my headphones on to tune out the noise. Somehow the presence of other people helps me focus more. Also – being far away from the Internet helps, too.
What's next for you?
My second novel, and, hopefully, the screen adaptation of my book...