Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 4 months ago

Friends & Fiction with Jennifer Weiner + Mateo Askaripour on the After Show

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The Fab Four are joined by blockbuster bestselling author and “the queen of fun, feisty summer reads” Jennifer Weiner. We hear about the origin story behind Jen's latest NYT bestselling novel THE SUMMER PLACE, the themes of motherhood and secrets in the book, and the Cape Cod setting. We also hear about how Jen found her own voice as a writer, her writing process, her activism on behald of body positivty and recognition for women authors, and her decision to travel her book tour by bicycle. On the after show we meet Mateo Askaripour who tells us all about his debut novel BLACK BUCK, his inspirations, the blend of fact and fiction in his work, how he devised the novel's structure, and what he's working on next.

Welcome to friends and fiction for New York Times bestselling authors endless stories. Novelists Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey and Patty Callahan Henry are four longtime friends with more than seventy published books between them. Together they host friends and fiction with author interviews and fascinating insider talk about publishing and writing to highlight and support independent bookstores. They discussed the books they've written, the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Hi, everyone. It's Wednesday night, so you know what that means. We are right here with you for friends and fiction. We have a really amazing evening ahead of us, so let's get this started. I am Patti Callahan Henry, I'm Christine Harmel, I'm Mary Kay Andrews, I'm Christy Woodson Harvey, and this is friends and fiction for New York Times bestselling authors endless stories, to support indie bookstores, authors and Librarians. Tonight we'll be talking with Jennifer Weiner about her newest book. This summer place, and we have so much to talk about with this book, and the Fund continues in the afterwords show, where we'll welcome the fan favorite at friends and fiction, Matteo Ascoro poor, who wrote Black Buck. Christie, you're muted, first time you did. Sorry. First, we are so grateful for your amazing response to our new behind the book partnership with our friends at fable, which is a free APP for your phone or tablet with loads of incredible book clubs to join. So I just finished hosting and got to talk to all of you, Um, pretty much every day over on fable about the hotel Nantucket, which, of course, is Ellen Hilda Brand's latest plotbuster. Um, and now it's time to announce our pick for next month. Drum roll please, I will be hosting not only tonight but at the fable APP as together, we all read the summer place by our guest tonight, Jennifer Weiner, will die, I know. I'm so excited. Um. There's so much to talk about in this book and we're gonna talk about some of it tonight, but on the APP we will dive deep into the themes, the characters and my personal thoughts about the book. So if you haven't joined our club, full up behind the scenes info you won't get anywhere else. It's just five dollars a month and Vibil, vibble, vibble. That was a new word. Visit Fable dot CEO friends and fiction. In the end is spelled out backslash friends and fiction to sign up today. And you know what I love about that is that, you know, we we get to talk to the author on this show and kind of get the author's point of view about the book, but then we get to kind of we get to dig in and discuss it with readers on the fable APP. So it's kind of, you know, they learn about it tonight and then there's another way to go and deepen their understanding of it later. I kind of like that. It's a double dip right. Um, yeah. So, so don't forget we continue to encourage you to support independent booksellers when and where you can, and one way to do that is to visit our own friends and fiction bookshop dot org page, where you can find Jennifer's books, Mateo's books and books by the four of us and our past guests at a discount. And also, if you have been watching, you know that we have been having a little section at the beginning of the show called ask US anything. So if you have a question that you'd like the four of us to answer or a topic you want to talk about, we're all ears or eyes because you put it on the facebook page. Just drop the questions in the comments now for future weeks, because we do want to hear from you. So this week we chose a question posed by Dorothy Morgen Schwab, who asks us this. What author from the past who is no longer with us would you choose to spend an evening with to discuss both writing and life? K start us off me mem I have to claim Nora Efron, but can I have more than one evening, because I don't think. I don't think one evening would be enough to no, I agree, but I like that choice, Nora e fron. It made me want to change my thoughts. How about you, Christie? You know there are so many that are just like flying around in my head. So this is not gonna shock anyone, but I think I'm gonna have to say Beattie Smith. You know, triggers in Brooklyn's my favorite book, but I've just always been really fascinated about her. I read Um we're reading a lot of...

...things about her and she moved to Chapel Hill, like where I went to school and absolutely love, like basically sight unseen. Um and and there's, you know, this quote from her about her like walking on to like Um c's campus and being like okay, I'm never leaving here again, like this is where I live now, and I just think that's really cool. She had a very fascinating life that goes well beyond the treagers in Brooklyn and Um, a lot of great loves and scandal and all the good things. So I would love to try scandal. Yeah, yeah, you know, for me it would probably be just a desire to return to nineteen twenties Paris. Will Not Return. I was never in nineteen twenties Paris, but to go to NIS. You Remember? Not that. I mean maybe I was in a previous life. Maybe I'm older than I present on screen. The filters on here are very good. Um. No, you know, I think Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald would be at the top of my list. Um and UM. You know, not that I necessarily think I would think they were the nicest people in the world, but man, they'd be interesting right. And basically, you know, when I lived in Paris I read a movable feast by Hemingway several times and that was his memoir of his time living in Paris with all those other writers. Um, so really just falling into that movie, that Woody Allen Movie, midnight in Paris. How I was going to say the one with Owen Wilson. Yes, yes, exactly, that would my dream. Yes, yes, okay. So, considering the books I've written, I bet most of you can guess who I would choose. But I really would like to spend an evening or two or ten with Joy Davidman. I mean I spent years writing about her and researching her, the genius poet and writer and wife of C S Lewis, but like most wives, she was kind of minimalized and given short shrift for her influence over his very famous life and work. And I think it would be really you know, what I think would be even more fun is to take all the people y'all picked and mine and have one a dinner party, and then we can ask do it like. Yeah, you know, I was sitting here looking I have like some pretty versions of all of Scott Fitzgerald's work, and I was thinking when I was like looking at those, when Kristen was talking and I was thinking those, that would be quite a party. You know, that would be really funny because I have heard from people who were like children when she was alive that Betty Smith could really throw down too. So we could talk. I was gonna say there's probably be a lot of alcohol at that party. Get US laugh and troy would like her wit would her bomb walls would take us down. So all right, we get we'd have to ask Nora she'd cook for us because she's quiet. She was quite an accomplished chef, I think. So. Well in, bite her over for dinner and tell her to cook, and Ernest will ernest still mix up the Dakeris well the good job. All right, you guys. Let's welcome our guest for the evening, Jennifer Weiner. Jennifer is a Number One New York Times best selling author of nineteen novels, including good in bed, misses everything, and that summer her novel in her shoes was turned into a major motion picture starring Cameron Diaz, Tony Collette and Shirley McLean. Her books has been over five years on the New York Times bestseller list, with more than eleven million copies in print across thirty six countries. She also wrote a nonfiction collection, hungry heart, adventures in life, love and writing, which was released in and was a finalist for the Penn Award for the art of the essay. The Washington Post said that Jennifer quote has made a major literary career out of writing engrossing at popular novels that take women seriously. The Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia also recognized Jennifer with the Anne Darnencourt award for artistic excellence in Jennifer Ames to use for social media platform to amplify women's voices and speak on topics including self esteem, body positivity and the way books by women are reviewed and consumed. She grew up in Connecticut and graduated Summa Cum laude with a degree in English literature from Princeton. Jennifer now lives in Philadelphia with her family. Sean, can you bring Jennifer on so we can welcome her? Hi, hi, everyone, greetings. We are so happy you're joining us. You have been a long time favorite of our watchers and they've been requesting you for a couple of years, so it's wonderful that you're here. So the summer place is not only our fable behind the book pick, but obviously many readers picked. So we're going to start off by asking you to tell us what the summer places about in a nutshell, and then, our favorite part, what it's really about. Okay, so the summer places the story of a family Um. It's set in the present moment as we're all kind of turning the corner of Covid God willing Um, and there's a wedding...

...approaching. We have a very young couple, sort of pandemic sweethearts that had one of these accelerated relationships where they dated for six weeks and then moved in together because they had to quarantine together and real estate in New York City being what it is, it was just easier to go home and live with the Young Woman's family than it was to find two places of their own. So they've gotten engaged. They're going to get married on Cape Cod at the step grandmother of the bride and our main character is the Stepmom, whose name is Sarah, who has been holding down the fort during Covid and now this wedding is looming, which she thinks is a really terrible idea, but can't say anything because she's the Stepmom, not the mom, and everyone in this family has some kind of big secret that is coming to the four as the wedding approaches. So what's it really what's it really about? Um? I think that it's about surviving the people we love, surviving the people we love, and also these horrible flip flops that my husband wore all through the Pant I was going to ask you, but I was like this is too specific to not be real. Yes, okay. So, just for those of you who have not read the book, Um, Sarah's husband is not doing well during covid he is completely checked out, he is totally preoccupied, he's not paying any attention to anything that is going on around him, and we, the readers, understand it's because he's done this horrible thing that he realizes is now going to be exposed. But he's also wearing these flip flops that he that these are orthotic flip flops that he believes are curing his planter or fasciitis, from which he suffers horribly, and I will share with you. My husband has these flip flops and I don't know why it is or what they are made of, but they sound so flip floppy, like the noise that they make as they slap the hardwood floors. I wanted to kill him and I love him a lot. I love him very much. He has my second and final husband. There will be no more. But I wanted to like burn the shoes and and burn him and burn him on the shoes and you know, and I was just like, if I can't, if I can't kill him, I'm at least getting some material out of this. I mean, all of us something like that towards a family member? Well, of course, yeah, I mean I think that there there are the you know, there are the people who will admit to loving their partners dearly, but you know, at some point everyone annoys you. So there's the people who either, you know, talk honestly about that or the people who are liars, like there's nobody who's never had a moment of those shoes or that shirt or that haircut or that clone or that thing you always make, that way you eat the soup. Sup some people should not be allowed to eat they should not be allowed to have anything that requires a slur about the people that use their spoon to scrape the bottom of the bowl also no good. I have a friend who has that thing that she's super sensitive to noises. And you, I mean she will, she will put a muffler on, a sock on your spoon. Should you wear to scrape the bowl? Okay, that's what it's really about. Yeah, I mean I could. I've had people over the years come up to me at readings and sort of like look deep into my eyes and say I loved your books so much because you say the things that I just think, and I'm like, what is wrong with me? Like why do I say why are the person who says them? Why don't I just think them too? But you know, you let there, let your characters say them exactly, and then was like plausible deniability rights me. It's a coincidence in my husband also has his annoying flip flops. Yes, well, the thing is my husband is one of my first readers, so obviously I knew that, like he was going to realize. I mean, you know he can be he can be a little bit dense about something, but he was obviously going to recognize the flip flops, and so before I gave him the manuscript, I was like, look, I need to tell you this. Like he he knows that they bothered me. Um, we'd had some conversations about I was like, your flip flops are in the book. Deal with it, and he did. He was, he was actually really fine about it. Um, the day the book was published on his instagram he published Um, he took a picture of the book on top of his flip flops and you know, there is a video of him walking around in all right, let's go ahead. So it's so generate.

Editor Lindsay sagnet says this. We're back to the beach, but with so many secrets, so much drama, so much on the line, so much to learn and discover, and that is so true. So let's talk about where this book came from. You were very honest in your acknowledgments about how this novel grew out of both the pandemic and the stunning loss of your mother, which I feel like we all, you know, really followed along and that really heartbreaking story with you. so you write about these fiercely strong women in three generations. Can you talk to us about the origins of this novel and also how your personal life affected it. So anything that's going on with me is going to find its way into whatever I'm working on, and I think this has been true from my very first book, when I was writing about being single and going through a breakup and sort of being in my late twenties and trying to figure out like who I was going to be in the world, to when I wrote little earthquakes, I had just become a mother and I thought I was ready for that and I was not ready for that. And then, Um, you know, watching kids get older, redefining your identity and and now sort of hitting that point in middle age where your kids are young adults or teenagers and they don't need you the way that they used to. Um, they still need you, just in very different ways. And your parents are are aging or in some cases they're they're dying. and Um, you know, I always knew that this book was going to involve a wedding and a family and it was going to be set on Cape Cod and it was going to involve secrets, Um, and and then my mom got sick and died and it just happened so fast. It was this like it was nine weeks from her diagnosis to her death, right and I was not ready, I mean like, especially because my mother's mother, my Nana, lived to be a hundred and one. Okay, so that was what I was thinking right, like I mean. And and to be fair, my Nana was somewhat pickled in the juices of her own unpleasantness and you know, she was just kind of like she was she was going to tell you exactly what she thought of you, you know, exactly what she wanted to say, and had been that way for more or less the last thirty years. So. But I really thought I was going to have my mom with me and maybe even more importantly, I thought my daughters were going to have their granny Frannie, for much more, you know, many more summers to come. And when that didn't happen, I knew that I wanted to write about that transition, that moment where my generation goes from being somebody's daughter to being really the matriarch of the family, the person who remembers all the worries. So that was how that piece of it happened. Wow, oh my gosh, I love that. That's such an yeah, so like such an interesting time, and you're right. I mean, I think about that too. My my grandmother just passed away at ninety five and I just always assume I'm going to have my mom for a really long time and I hope that's true, but you know, we do never know. And Yeah, we definitely see that in the story. Okay. And so, Um, can you tell us a little bit about a midsummer night's dream and mid its dreams? Uh, yes, yes, so I wanted to talk about enchantment, Um, and I really sort of felt like this this period that we've all been through together of quarantines and everybody's sort of sheltering in place and being at home, and the way the world that we went back out into felt fundamentally altered. And I love Shakespeare stories about, you know, a bunch of people end up, you know, in a forest on an island. There's some kind of enchantment. You know, it's very eventful and when the fog lifts or the enchantment lifts, everything has changed. Um. So there's references, there's little Easter eggs and breadcrumbs and and lots of Um. For people who are paying careful attention. You're going to see a lot of the midsummer's night's dream in there in terms of that feeling of enchantment and that feeling of kind of otherworldly transformation. Um. But you don't have to be a shakespeare scholar to Um pick up on the references or enjoy the story. I think, like I think that good books can sort of meet you at whatever level you're at. And if all you're looking for is just something sort of fast and page turning and escapist and immersive and you want to feel like you're at the beach and Cape Cod, I hope the summer place will give you that. But if you want to think about transformation and enchantment and sort...

...of the corporeal versus the other worldly lands, and you know, if you if you want to read the book on that level, there's plenty there to hunt for. So yeah, well said. You know. I think another thing that really comes through strongly in the book is sort of this theme of parenting, especially mothering. Um. You know, you have Veronica and your twins, you have Sarah and Ruby and Net and Ruby Gabe and Rosa. So the relationships, hidden truths, hurts and love all come through so strongly um the novel almost seems to ask if there's a right or wrong way to mother, and each character answers that question with their own strengths and weaknesses. Can you talk a little bit about that? Did you go in with this theme or did it arise naturally as you were working, as you were plotting this book or working through the motions of the book? So I'm divor worst and remarried and my husband has also my ex husband has also remarried. So my daughters have stepparents in their lives. They have stepmom, they have a Stepdad, and I think a lot about that relationship and how it's sort of similar to a parental relationship but also how it's different, and I think about I think one of the great themes of my work, if I can talk about that, is sort of the standards to which women hold themselves and the way that we are always made to feel like we're failing, like we're not doing well enough, like we're not pros. I was hoping that was just for me. I know I was like, she'll be she'll be bad. I know that was in the middle of something deep, though. I'm like remember sandlers. So many Um without giving yeah, sorry, I know, so so we we lost you when you were talking about women. And yes, okay, so like just feeling like you're never being a good enough mother, you're never being a good enough wife, you're never thin enough, young enough, pretty enough, well dressed enough, you're never balancing all of it well enough, you're never doing as well at your job and with your kids. And, you know, I think a lot about, like all of the Um, the way that capitalism plays into that, the way that there are lots and lots of people making lots and lots of money from women feeling those insecurities. But I think, Um, the most interesting character for me to write was Annette, who is somebody who really was never interested in becoming a mother, never wanted to be a mother, never wanted children, gets pregnant sort of lets herself be talked into this very conventional life that she knows that she's never wanted and realizes that she is miserable and that she's not doing a good job as a mother, that her daughter is not getting what she needs from her and that the most generous, most truly maternal thing that she can do is to leave, is to just be like I'm tapping out. I know my husband is going to find somebody wonderful, my daughter will have a wonderful stepmother and maybe at some point I will be able to give her the best of me, but I can't do that now and I think that, like all of the transgressive things that women could do or say, just acknowledging I don't want to be a mother, I'm not very good at this, this isn't what fulfills me is still the most transgressive, the most dangerous, and I really have an interesting time writing all of these women who are grappling with sort of questions of how do you have a big creative life, a big, fulfilling creative life, and how do you combine that with Motherhood, if it's even possible? And a net offers one answer, which is basically she couldn't do it and she had to leave Um, which it was really interesting to write about. That's such a taboo for a woman. I can't do this, I need something else, I need something bigger. The world judges you well, and what I said is that the world makes room for men who say that it offers grace to them. You know, the guy who gets divorced and takes a job in a different stage or has to move out of the country or, you know, remarries and has the second family or even the third. We make room for guys like that because we really don't have a choice. There's so many of them. I mean we'd be like at is communicating, you know, a significant chunk of the male...

...population if we didn't. But we judge women so much more harshly, and that was something I wanted to talk about. Yeah, you say, I even wrote the quote down here. The world forgave them. It gave them second and third chances. Women were not offered any such greats h and there's so many secrets in this book. Everybody has one. Everybody has one. Yeah, Patty mentioned recently listened to a podcast on the difference between secrets and privacy and she said somewhere there's a statistic that says we keep fourteen secrets at a time, and I think it's so fascinating in this book to be able to see straight into your character's secrets and their struggle with what to reveal and what to keep close. Did you know those secrets when you were going in? I knew some of them I knew Eli's secret, which is a pretty big one, um, that that basically this young man his daughter has brought home. He realizes there's a closer connection than he would prefer. Um, which is where I will leave it for people who haven't read the summer place yet. Um. So I knew that was what was going on with him. Um. And with Veronica. Um, I had some sense of like I knew that she was somebody who had had a creative life and stepped away from it, and then I had to sort of figure out why that was. and Um, that was sort of a secret that I came to as I was working on the book. So I would say some of the secrets I absolutely knew ahead of time and some of them I did not. Yeah, you know. Um. Let's move on to setting, because in a lot of ways I think this book feels like a love letter to Cape Cod, and I know that. Do you have a place there? Right, I did. Um, I bought it. So after in her shoes became a movie, I sort of had like my chunk of movie money to play with and I bought a house in Cape Cod because that was where I had gone to the beach as a kid. And it was my mom, frand's, favorite place in the world and I had just had my older daughter, Lucy, and so I had and my mom was a teacher, so she had her summers off and I had this idea that we would have these like idyllic summers at the beach, that my mom would get to spend time with her grandchildren, because when I was growing up we lived in Connecticut, my whole extended family lived in Michigan and so I only ever saw my grandparents, my cousins, my aunts, my uncle's like maybe once or twice a year. Um. And I wanted my kids to have a different experience. I wanted them to really know their grandmother. And so for eighteen years I had a place in Cape Cod. I spent every summer with my mom and with her partner, Claire. Yeah, and and then after my mom died, Um we had her memorial service on Cape Cod, on the beach. We scattered her ashes and everything, and it was what I found was Um, a couple of things, like one was just like my my older daughter, who was a newborn when I bought my first home in Kipe Cod, is in college now. My other daughter, my younger daughter, Phoebe is starting high school, so she has her friends and she's on a swim team. She has like her own ideas about what she wants to do with the summertime. And every every corner I turned in the House I felt like I could see my mom, like out of the corner of my eye, like I could see where she would sit and do the crossword puzzle in the New York Times and I saw where she would read her books at night with her dog curled up next to her, and it felt like the house was haunted in a way that I sort of write about in the summer place, where a per person who lives a life somewhere can actually become a part of the house and a part of the house's Voice. But like for me, it was like I don't think I can be here anymore, like I think that's it's time to sort of let another family enjoy this beautiful home in this beautiful place, and so I'll always come back. It's just I think now I'm going to be a renter for a little while. But you know, that was the beach that I went to as a kid and that was the place that my mom spent so many summers with my daughters. And so that was and you're right, it's this book is very much a love letter to Kape cod and too, I think, mothers and granddaughters everywhere and that relationship, which is so special and in many ways a lot less complicated than a mother daughter relationship, because I think granny's get the good stuff right, like they do fun, and then they can just like hand the baby or the hanger back and close the bedroom door. Yes, and Europe, mom, and so...

...you know, I um writing about Veronica and Ruby. Ruby is Veronica's step granddaughter, but to her, I mean that is that is as valid and real a relationship as anything and it's it's such an enriching piece of both of their lives where Veronica gets this young girl in her life and Ruby gets a grandmother. Yeah, now you difference, you differentiate in the book. Um, you're so specific about this setting. You differentiate between the pond people and the newcomers. How did those two groups influence the novel in the setting? So I'm always interested in, like the history of Jewish people, like wherever, wherever Jews are found, like how they got there. And my mom's partner, Claire, had spent many years of her life going to Cape Cod, but she went to Hyannis because there was one like beach in Hyannas that like one beach club that allowed Jews. A lot of them, a lot of them didn't. And then Wealth Leet on the outer tape became a very welcoming committee. It was the host of the American Psychoanalytic Conference. I think it still is like every summer, like everybody shrinks to send on wealthy the entire month of August, like the joke in the Jennifer Judith Rossner wrote a book. Judith Rosner in the seventies wrote a novel called August and it's set in wealth leet and it's just basically a story of all the shrinks. Because if you're in if you're in crisis and your therapist is a way like, chances are like drive to wealth Leet and you'll either find your person or someone's maybe better. What about what? What are we going to do about Bob? What about Bob? Yeah, what about Bob when he goes looking for his therapist? Uh Huh. But so wealth Leet became, you know, the Outer Cape was was a lot more welcoming than other places. In Cape Cod were Um, you know, which is sort of the history of like every beach community in America, is sort of you know there, whether you're talking about the Hampton's or, you know, Kip Cod Nantucket, Um, any of those places. It's like there's always sort of some place that's either they're not admitting blacks, they're not admitting Jews, they're not admitting Catholics, you know, and it's just Um. So yeah, I mean I'm always interested in those distinctions, whether it's about religion, race, money, privilege, whatever the status and the signifier is, I'm always wanting to kind of delineate those in groups and out groups and how they're interacting with each other. Such an interesting perspective. Well, speaking of interesting perspectives, you have your character, Veronica say this, attempting to change the kind of voice in which you wrote or the subjects that interested you. She finally decided was like trying to change your blood type. Instead of trying to turn herself into the kind of writer she would never be, she had decided to write in her own voice and tell the story that kept talking to her, urging her on, the one that made her both a writer and a reader. which like chills for you know, all of us, because that moment is such a big moment when you are a writer. So we sort of had the feeling that this was more than your character, Um, and you are kind of an expert on finding your own voice. So can you talk to us a little bit about finding your voice and how that happened for you? Well, I think that a lot of writers go through phases of imitation or sort of aspirational mimicry, Um, where you're trying very hard to sound like somebody you admire or the kind of writer you think is going to get respect or prizes or accolades or lots of readers or whatever it's going to be. Um, you know, and I think that it's it's a necessary process Um, where that's how you're figuring out what your own voices is. You're sort of trying other people's voices on, almost like costumes. But I really do believe that every writer has subjects that speak to her, has a style that feels natural and specific and not like anybody else's, and I don't think we want a world where everybody writes like Philip Roth or everybody writes like Kurt Vonnegut or whoever, you know, whoever I tried to imitate in college back in the day. Um, but you know, it's it's a process and it takes time to find that voice. I think, like you know, I'm the oldest of...

...four siblings and I grew up telling stories, like sitting around the dinner table telling, you know, what happened during your day. Where did you go? What did you do? Who Do you see? Who did you see? What did you learn in school today? And the deal was, like you had to be interesting, like you had to have a hook, you had to have your story, had to like, you know, beginning, Middle End College, you were out out, yeah, exactly, there were. There were three other there were three other kids waiting in the wings. So, like, if you were not and you weren't up to snuff, like mom and dad were moving on. Um. But I think that that's really good practice. It's just like telling stories, learning what you care about, learning how you sound and and knowing it's not going to be like anybody else. Um, you know, because I talk about this all of the time, especially when certain critics get on their high horses about popular fiction and you know, Oh, it's just it's, it's, you know, it's it's mind numbing, it's it's brain candy, it's whatever it is, and I'm like, you know, easy reading is not easy writing, and if this stuff were as effortless to produce as it is to consume, every single literary author in America would have a pseudonym and would be writing a book every summer and selling a million copies. It's not easy, it isn't. That's so true, absolutely right. Yeah, well, that's you know, I think people who are good at it, as all of you guys are, you know, but I'm sure every single one of us can attest. Like we are not turning in a first draft and publisher. That right, like there's editing, there's revisions, there's first readers, second readers, third readers, first draft, second draft, third dress. Like easy reading is hard work, absolutely, you know, which I think is why it's so doubly and so saying when people are so dismissive of it. You know what I mean, like it's this way intentionally, not because I couldn't make it a different way. Of course, what I wanted to be exactly, exactly. Yeah, when people talk about guilty pleasures and fluff. I just want to hit them with my box of Bros candies. That was specific. That's that's that's delicious, when right now I need chocolate. Okay, Oh my God, that's so specy. Some chocolate next time I see you, my goodness. Well, Jennifer, you mentioned a minute ago hooks needing to have a hook Um and to me the prologue of your book it has a definite Hook because it has US hearing from the point of view of a house, the walls can literally talk. What a fantastic idea. Can you tell as how you came to do that and how hard it was to get into the quote unquote, mind of the house? So I remember reading someplace that sound works because of vibrations. Right there are molecular there are particles that are vibrating on a molecular level, and that's what you're actually hearing, and that every conversation that we've ever had inside the walls of the house is still happening. Those particles are continuing to vibrate, not at a level that we can hear them anymore, but it's still happening. And as soon as I read that I was just like, I know, I have to use this somewhere. And so here's this House that has contained three generations of this family, knows all of their secrets, has literally contained every conversation that's ever happened inside of it. And you know, from there it was a really easy jump to imagine. Well, of course this place is going to have some opinions about people and what should happen and who should end up with WHO. That's fantastic. Yeah, talk about enchantment, Jennifer. Yeah, and it's almost like an enchanted house. So away from the House you have been traveling all I have been watching you all over the country book. I mean I've been watching you on Instagram, not like following you, for you didn't you need so you've been traveling all over the country for book, for on a bicycle. So I read in an interview in our newsletter. So those of you who don't get the newsletter, there's a great interview with Jennifer that your next book might even include a bike treck, but through rain and heat and cold. I mean you have been to all your events this way, sometimes writing great, great distances. So talk to us about that. I've always loved biking and...

I did it a lot before I got married and I rode with the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia and I would go out for like twenty or thirty or forty mile rides or fifty or sixty mile rides on the weekends. And then I had children and I discovered that leaving the house for four or five or six hours at a time is incompatible with mothering young children. So what happened was the pandemic happened, quarantine happened, every gym and Yoga Studio in the city was closed. I was like losing my mind because I exercise like it's one of the things I do to kind of, you know, Stay Sane, and I'm like what am I gonna do? And the answer was rejoined the bike club and start riding my bike again. So I had started doing that Um, you know, even before my my mom died, and then after that happened, it was really one of the things that was keeping me sane. And so I got the idea a sort of a young woman who's at this sort of crossroads, to use a total cliche, a Um in her life, and she's in this relationship that maybe is not the right relationship, but the guy is such a great guy and he's so nice, he loves her. And what should she do? And she decides to go on a bike trip and she meets all of these other people. There's a mother and a daughter, there's a family of four, there's these four senior citizens who all ride their bikes together and call themselves the spoken four, the spoken four, little joke there. Um, love that. And yes, but I you know, it's the idea of sort of a transformational journey, which I was really, really interested in, even before all of the Supreme Court decisions of the recent weeks and months, and after all of that happened. It was the idea that riding a bike is a feminist act. You know, I found this wonderful quote by Susan B Anthony that talked about like a woman on a bicycle like the most free and liberated version of herself, because she can get from A to B two c all on her own. She doesn't need a train, she doesn't need a horse and she doesn't need a man. And I love that idea. And so I love the idea of like this trip. You know, UM, everybody starts off one place, everybody ends up someplace else, but it really transforms the writers, especially the women who are on this trip Um, in a way that I hope is going to feel really interesting and fun and it's going to be very entertaining to spend time with these people. But I'm really hoping it's also going to feel especially relevant at this moment we're all in right now. Yeah, amazing. Well, Jennifer, you know we love a writing tip. We tell people it's for our listeners and our viewers. It's really for us, woman, and share with us. Well, I actually read this somewhere, and I don't know if it could be from some that on in this group, but somebody talked about parking on the downhill slope and what that means is instead of stopping for the day at the end of a sentence or the end of a paragraph or the end of the chapter, you leave off right in the middle while you still have some momentum, so when you pick up the next day it's like, Oh, here I am and I'm moving. So that's something that I've tried to start doing myself, is just Um, not not finishing for the night at what feels like a natural stopping place, but almost like an unnatural stopping place. So I can pick up the next day. Um. But honestly, the most important thing that I personally can tell you, and and this is something I started doing when my daughters were little, is get the help that you need. Like I was one of these women who was just like, Oh, I'm going to take a year off and I'm going to be a full time mother and I'm going to write while she's Napping, uh, snacking. Yeah, I was so stupid, I was so Nady. But I know, get a sitter, get, get your husband, get your partner, get your mom, get your friend, get, get some help in there, and then put as many sets of doors between yourself and your children if you're gonna be writing at home. Like I started writing in my closet because that way my kids would have to come through my bedroom door and my closet door, so they would have to really really want me. So, you know, just get some doors like that. I feel like that's like that. I feel like that's a tip I can't use anymore, but wish somebody had told me. Well, maybe it'll help someone. I'm sorry, I know why you but we admitted it's it's for us. But the first one, the downhill, slope that is. It's a good one. It's helped me and sometimes I remember that and I think I'm so...

...excited about this I should stop now and then. Yeah, it's a great idea. All right, Jennifer, if you wouldn't mind staring around for just a few more minutes. We have more to talk about, but first a couple of quick reminders out there. Just a quick reminder about our writers plot podcast. We will always post links under announcements each time a new one drops, which is every Friday, and on the last episode Ron talked to Christina geist about storytelling through picture books. This week, Ron and Patty, we'll talk to Laura mccowen, author of the memoir we are the luckiest, which is always something Patty says. So it's so appropriate that you that you interviewed her. Laura has her own podcast called tell me something true, and she sure did that in this conversation. Cool. So the friends and fiction official book club is having a blast. As you know. We talked about them every week, so it's a separate group from us. It is run by Lisa Harrison and Brenda Gardner. They are thirteen thousand strong. You guys. They have thirteen thousand members. So Brenda and Lisa, otherwise known as pebe and J choose the books. They host the authors every month for a monthly chat Um. They have happy hours with our writer's block podcast host, Ron Block. They keep everyone in the loop about suggestive reads and upcoming releases. It's just a fun kind of companion to friends and fiction and we really encourage you to join them. So this past Monday they had a lot of fun Um with Emily Henry Discussing Book Lovers and they had a great conversation with her. And then up next on August fifteen, they'll have the lovely sally help worth on to discuss the younger wife. So make sure you join the friends and Fiction Official Book Club if you haven't done so already. Now, before we asked Jennif for one more question, don't forget that we have the awesome Mateo Ascar apoor on the afterwards show. And don't forget that we are nearing the end of our spring and summer season. Hasn't it been like crazy, amazing this season has just been. I couldn't even imagined it. And we only have one more show this season with Jamie Ford and Jason Mott and after that we will take a two week summer break to prepare for an astounding fall season. Wait until you see what we have in store. So, Jennifer, one last question for you. It's one of her favorites. We love asking our guests. What were the values in your family around reading and writing when you were growing up? Ah, wow, um, I grew up in a house full of books and the deal was any child could read any book as long as he or she could explain what that book was about when mom or dad came by to ask. And so, oh great. And I remember my my reading career getting off to an early start with my father's medical school textbooks because there were naked people in them. Um, you know. And and and moving on to the Bell Jar, which I was like seven or eight. Probably should not have make that one, and I remember my mother coming by and saying, like, Jenny, what is that book about? And I said, Oh, mom, it is by this very sad lady named Saliva Plath. Yeah, but you know, yes, I ever see her name the same again, and you probably won't, but you know, I tried to carry that on. You know, I have also raised my children in a house full of books. That's great, highly recommended. Yeah, Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us. What a delight. In the book was amazing and people can find out even more about it Um on our behind the book fable APP and thanks for talking about the behind the scenes secrets and your husband's flip flops. Women, women, women not being forgiven. It's just this has been so much fun. Thank you so much for thank you, guys, have a wonderful night. I'M gonna go put out. I'm sure something's on fire by now, so have a great night. Thank you. Alright, y'all, that was so great. You can find all of our back episodes on Youtube. We are live there every week, just like we are on facebook, and if you subscribe you won't miss the thing. Be Sure to come back next week, same time, same place for our last show this season, as we welcome the amazing Jason Mott of the much talked about National Book Award Winning Novel, Hell of a book, and James, I'm not calling it that, that's its title, and Jamie Ford to introduce us to his much anticipated new novel, the many daughters of Angg Moy, and be sure to stay for our afterwards show and we'll see you in a minute. Hi Everyone, welcome to the after show. Oh my gosh, so interesting. And Christie, Summers in Cape Cod, couldn't you tell you and you and I both did. I know.

Yeah, it always Um so enjoyable to read about a place where you have such fond memories, because it really if the if the author doesn't right, which she has, um, it really takes you back. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I feel like we've had another fifty questions for her. Yeah, so much to say. It's never long enough. But we have more to talk about because we're going to welcome our friend Mateo ASCAR. Rapport in about one minute. We're so excited. Mateo is the New York Times bestselling author of black book. He was named as one of entertainment weekly's ten rising stars to make waves in one and he was a two thousand Eighteen Rhode Island Writer's colony writer in residence. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Entrepreneur Lithub and more. His debut novel, Black Buck, was a read with Jenna Book Club Pick and an instant New York Times bestseller. Shanda land called it a biting and brilliant novel through his work Mateo aims to empower people of color to seize opportunities for advancement, no matter the obstacle. He lives in Brooklyn. Sean, can you bring on Matteo? Hello, friends, how are you? I know it's been a few months. Patty, you're a regular van of White Wow, uh, this is amazing. I hear you doing the Intros. I was backstage. I got to catch the rest of Jennifer's amazing interview. This is so cool. We are so happy to have you. We've been trying for a while. So we all met you at the Savannah Book Festival and had so much freaking fun I wish it was next weekend again, and you had groupies everywhere, US being okay, including us. So readers are swooning over this book and you. For anyone who possibly doesn't know, can you tell our members what black book is a about? And then our favorite question, what is it really about? WHOA? Oh, I that bonus one. Hello, viewers, happy to be here. So Black Buck is about a young man named Darren. He's living in bed stylee Brooklyn. He has his loving mother, his Karen girlfriend, his supportive best friend, his neighborhood and his neighborhood has him. Now Darren is also working at a place that I think some of us have heard of, called starbucks in Midtown Manhattan, and one day this swab good looking CEO comes in and he says give me my regular, but for some reason Darren says no and he sells him on another drink. This man, impressed, invites Darren all the way up to the thirty six floor of the same building where his office is located, and he extends an offer for Darren to join his elite startup sales team. Darren reluctantly agrees and he soon finds out he's not the only black salesman there. He's the only black person in the whole company. So he goes through hell and back to make it at the top. Once he's there, he has power, status, money, but he says hold up, I don't want to be the token black guy. So he hatches a plant of other young people of Color Infiltrate America's Tech Startup sales teams, redefining what it means to be of minority in the workplace. That's a little bit. What is it really about? It is about chasing a very western version of success and the consequences that can ensue when you are trying to live someone else's truth. Um, the possibilities of losing yourself in order to gain what others tell you is the world, or or living into the version of who they want you to be. It is about mistakes, hopefully also about redemption power, and hopefully what readers take away, Um, is at least the basic knowledge and feeling empowered to advocate for themselves and those that they love, even if they're not going to walk into a workplace and try to be, you know, a superstar salesperson. Dang, Mattello, you just nailed that. Surprise, Patty, not surprised, but, like usually, when we say what it's really about, we get something you know really that you wouldn't get in like give us the nutshell, but that gave me chills. Man, that was awesome. Yeah, all right. So now, Matello, you gotta tell us about the origins of this story. I heard that the idea that you this, this idea came to you after, in your words, you hit creative rock bottom. In now, this novel is the opposite of a creative rock bottom. Please tell us how you made that happen. Yeah, well, you know, you've got to hit the bottom to bounce back up. If you do bounce back, Um, I had written two novels beforehand. That didn't go anywhere. Didn't get me an agent, no book deal. I don't have a formal writing background, no M F A or anything like that. I was a guy at a startup who became to illusioned with the world that he was in and when I...

...began to wake up, I looked to things that I'd always loved as a child or even as a young adult, writing being one of them. So I began writing essays and articles and then in two sixty one, I'll never forget it, I began writing fiction again. First Book didn't go anywhere. Had A lot of energy, wasn't really cohesive. Some agents looked at it and one agent said, Mateo, you have a voice, but you need to work on plot and structure. So I did this really thorough scientific way of learning plot in structure and I googled plot in structure and then a book came up called Plot in structure by a man named James Scott Bell. I used that book to better myself as a writer, to learn more about plot and structure, yes, but also about the mindset of a writer and getting out of your own way. With this knowledge now and more knowledge about the industry, I rewrote the first novel. I plotted it out from beginning to end, but that novel was lacking vigor. Was Lacking the energy of the first. Now, November seen I'm like, what am I doing? I'm back in my parents house, I have old friends being like you tried it, come back to the world of sales and start ups, where you thrived, where you were someone. But it was then that I said it doesn't matter whether it takes five months or five years, I'm going to do this. And after reading Stephen King's on writing, the idea for black buck popped into my mind, the intersection of things that were so close to me but I had avoided wrecking with, maybe because I wasn't ready or I didn't think I was good enough to yet, namely sales, race and startups. So the idea for black book was born. I began writing it in and UH, the number one question, you know, the people ask, is how much of it is real, and I used to troll people by saying thirty two point five percent eight. And then the guy from NPR said, Matteo, I've heard your other interviews. Don't lie to me. Uh, fact this is that I am drawing from some of my personal experience, but at the end of the day is a novel, it is fiction and Um, everything that the characters feel I have experienced myself and I had to go through my own emotional sphere to imbue them with those feelings. Yeah, that's amazing. Well, I also think this book is so much about reinvention. You know, Darren reinvents himself as buck so that he won't be kind of, you know, crushed, and Um, that was such a I think we all, you know, go through these periods in our lives where we're reinventing ourselves as humans or as writers or you know. It sounds like something that you definitely went through in the process of writing this novel. So can you talk to us about the theme of reinvention in this novel, but also about, you know, what have you had to go through in your own life, like how have you had to reinvent yourself to get where you are today? Wow, um, it's funny because this is related to Savannah, where we all met and part of the discussion that I had. It's Christie. It's crazy that you mentioned that because I've given talks called the art of reinvention as yeah, as it relates to back buck and my own life. Um, something I said in Savannahs that I believe in second acts, third acts and however many acts someone can muster in their life. I don't think anyone is ever too old or too far gone to try to reinvent themselves. In fact, some of the people whose careers I revere most have reinvented themselves time and time again. In terms of this book, Darren, when he's thrust into this startup called someone s U M W N, for those who haven't read it on the page yet, he is reinventing himself into this character of buck so that he does not succumb to the at time sadistic nature of other people in this workplace as looking to weaponize his blackness against him, to harm him and bring him down, to make him feel as though he's less than, something that many of us can relate to, regardless of your background, Um, based on, you know, gender expression and sexual orientation, religion and so forth, where you have been the only one or have been made to feel as though you don't belong for some reason. So he reinvents himself. He bends to the will of others so that he doesn't break Um, which in some ways turns the novel into a cautionary tale, but without ruining the ending. I'm hoping that some readers also find that he bends in more noble directions to reinvent himself yet again on the path of redemption. In my own life, you know, talking about how much of this book borrows from from my own reality. I lost myself as well in some ways when I was working in the world of sales and startups. I was young, I had a lot of power, was making more money than ever before and I got caught up in this very colonial manifest destiny of we are the pioneers, we are expanding and we are going to change the world by making a more ergonomic chair. Now you're not, but felt great to write. Was the...

...time and time again, I had to reinvent myself in ways when I left that world Um, and even before I could be the writer that I meant to be, I had to reckon with who I was and who I wanted to be. And I'll be honest, I didn't do it. I didn't do it alone. My family was there for me, my close friends were there for me and, uh, I'm just indebted to them. That's awesome. So, Mateo, the opening of the books an author's note, but it's not from you. I love that. That's just I think that is the same thing. That's like to anyone out there. That will make them want to pick it up. But can you talk a little bit about the structure at the novel and how it came to you or how you came to it? Yes, and see, a writer would say that, Christ, and how you came to it. It's like in conversations with people who don't do what we do. Um, it's sometimes hard to answer questions. Like the character just told me this is what they were doing. You know, I don't want to hear that. Um, and not to say that we're in some privileged position that other people can't get to, but it makes it easier to explain the ups and downs and the machinations of this all to, uh, people that do it as well and do it so well as all of you. So, in terms of the author's note, yeah, I remember these dates clearly January eight it hit me. It just I don't even write at night, but it hit me at night. I knew that I wanted to write this book. Remember, I told you the idea popped in my head around the end of seventeen, but I actually didn't begin writing until that night when the voice of Darren spoke to me and spoke through me, and this author's note was just me inhabiting this character as I was getting to know him, or as I I was introduced to him that evening. And Uh, there were some things that were changed, but largely from the night that I wrote it to when the book came out, it was the same Um. I knew that I wanted this book to be written in a way that was conversational. I knew that there was going to be many ups and downs, even though I was only privy to maybe the big twist when I began writing it, and I wanted this character of Darren to feel like a coach, to feel like a friend, to feel like someone who can say I know a lot of these things are really wild right now, but trust me, I'm going to be here to let you know that things will work out, whether work out for the better or not, I don't know. That's up to you. So the author's note was me setting the stage, the direct address, breaking the fourth wall, Um, having his voice be hopefully original but also energetic. Um, slightly brash but not too foreign if you've picked up self help books or memoirs. And in terms of the structure, I wanted it to feel like a sales manual. I wanted this character to be walking you through his story, the ups and downs, being vulnerable, not hiding the good, the bad and the ugly. But it wasn't until the fourth draft that I began to include those bolded direct addresses to the reader. It was with the fourth draft that I said I already have this notion of it being a sales manual. I've already broken the fourth wall in the beginning in this author's note, and the book is structured as though it's from this character, Darren, who's a few years older from when most of it's taking place. Why don't I include these very bolded direct addresses to the reader so that it will read like some of the sales manuals that were given to me when I got into the game, or it'll read like books that I had read in the past, like how to get filthy rich and rising Asia by MOS in Hahmed, or a book that I was reading at the time, the residue years, by Mitchells Jackson. So uh, that's how the structure came to be. That's awesome. That's awesome. But but what's so crazy is sometimes an idea like that will come to us and we'll be like no, it's too nutty. Ye, yourself as a writer, right, but yeah, that's how that probably wasn't in the plot and structure book you read. Know it wasn't that. I think, Patty, know, that brings up a really important point because me having been a big reader when I was writing black book, and like a moderate reader beforehand, but a big reader when I was a kid. You know, we all got distracted and pulled into the world of professions and this and that, but when I was writing black book I read dozens and dozens of books and I was consuming film and TV and documentaries and even plays Um with an analytical eye, an ear to understand the creative sensibilities of the of the writers. But because I wasn't so steeped in tradition and I hadn't been workshop to death, right to where that I was afraid to write. The idea of breaking the fourth wall was that's interesting to me, maybe it would be interesting to the reader. Why not? I didn't think about it too much to the point where I got like, uh, analysis paralysis. Well, that's the whole thing about getting out of our own way, right, like if we over analyze it will just work? Did it work in my last book? Will they like...

...it? Will my editor think it's stupid? Like by the time you ask all those questions we have, we've gotten in our own way, and if you had done that, we wouldn't have this astounding book. That's right. I also had no editor at the time. I had no readers, no one. It's amazing and Um, but the way you talk, your cadence, your rhythm, your language is so much like your book that friends. Yeah, you, we're among friends, and it feels that way when you read the book too. So please tell us you're working on something else right now. Oh, I am working or it's working on me. I don't know which yet. Yeah, book too is underway. I'm actually in the first round of provisions with my editors, so we'll see. Yeah, now you've got an editor and now you've got readers. That's right. And, as we all know, it's a bit different. Um, more cooks in the kitchen, more people that you have to get out of your mind as you're sitting down in front of the word doctor. Right, Um. But yeah, the second book. It is called invisible basis, but likely to be renamed. Um. It is about a young, invisible woman in a world in the future and invisible people are second class citizens, and her brother had abandoned her three years prior to when the book opens up. But she's moved forward, as much as anyone can move forward from a loss, and she has gained an apprenticeship with the biggest inventor in the land. UH, she had to work very hard for that spot, and she's there, she's learning, she's working with him, and then one day what we would call the president is announced that he was murdered and the chief suspect is her brother. So now there is a young political upstart who says I'm going to be the next president and we're gonna find this invisible within five days before the next elections. Then there's a law enforcement officer whose job is on the line. He says, no, I'm gonna find this invisible guy. He's not gonna one, not me. And then there's this young woman who a whole world would expect nothing from, who says I'm going to find my brother before time's up. So that's a bit about a book too, is it? What an original idea. I am, I'm in, I'm in. Yeah, yeah, Matteo, what a joy to have you. Hopefully we'll all be together in person sometime soon, but thank you for joining us and congratulations on all your success and for talking to us about the things that matter to you and to your story, and we're honored you came to see us. I'm grateful for all of you. Thank you so much for your time and what you do and uh much love. Oh, and thank you out there for being a part of friends and fiction, and we can't wait to see you next week. Right here, same time, same place. See You then, and that thank you for tuning in. You can join us every week on facebook or Youtube, where our live show airs on Wednesday nights at seven PM eastern time. Also, subscribe to our podcast and follow us on instagram. We're so glad you're here. He.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (234)