Sunday, April 29, 2018

Jane Green talks about her incredible new novel THE SUNSHINE SISTERS, chosing flying as her superpower, and more!

I first met Jane Green at a big, so-crowded-you-could-not-breathe, literary party. I remember her because she said, "Don't you feel like sticking an ice pick in your eye?" and I burst out laughing.  I adored her for that. And then later, she invited me to be videotaped for her book club and I told her I loved her books and then we both cried a little. Meeting Jane in person was amazing. First, she has an accent! Second, she's hilarious and smart. Third, I felt so comfortable with her, she could have done the interview with both of us in our pajamas. I love Jane Green. 

She is the author of nineteen novels, including seventeen New York Times bestsellers. She has over ten million books in print, is published in over 25 languages, and has several books in development for film and TV.So, she's written THE SUNSHINE SISTERS, a fantastic novel about the ties that bind us, the ones that garrote us, too. Three sisters have to face the lives they've created as their mother is losing hers. And here come the starred reviews:

"Another perfect beach read for sisters, estranged or not." Kirkus

"Green does a wonderful job of creating realistic and lovable (despite themselves) characters." Library Journal

Thank you so much for letting me badger you with questions, Jane! (And for teaching me English slang that isn't rubbish.)

I’m a sucker for novels about sisters, and fractured families, and by page 2, I was in love with The Sunshine Sisters. But you’ve said that you abandoned it for a while, and then went back to writing it? Why? What was it about the book that made you unsure where it was going? And what made you able to pick it up again and finish it?

I wrote a large chunk of it in a tiny cottage on the beach in Guilford, Connecticut which I rented for a week as a writing retreat, determined to get my new book off the ground, but something about it wasn’t right (not least that it was freezing). Towards the end of a week of pure slog, I realized I had no idea who the characters were, so when I got back home I decided to abandon it to write Falling. But a year later I found myself thinking about it, and had a quick read through to check it really was a waste of time. And what I found was that I had the eldest daughter Nell, very clearly, and I had Ronni. And there was so much there that worked. I realized that if I put the work into the two other sisters, Lizzy and Meredith, the book would then tell itself. And second time around, it completely came alive and wrote itself, and was an absolute joy – I would look forward to sitting at my desk every day to see what my characters would do that day.

I absolutely loved Ronni, the not-so-great mom who calls her adult daughters home when she discovers she has a serious illness. I loved all of the daughters, too, and because every one was so complex and alive, I wanted to know how you go about building a character. Do you map the changes out or do they happen organically?

Nell came to me organically, but I had to map out Lizzy and Meredith, and first time round, I didn’t get them. Second time round, however, their voices shouted at me from the page, especially Lizzy’s. She was so vibrant and alive, she really took the story in all kinds of directions I hadn’t intended.

Every time I start a new novel, I get writers’ amnesia and forget how to do it. I don’t learn a thing from previous novels, it seems. Is it that way for you? Does every novel you write feel different than the one before?

Every time I start one I wonder how in the hell I’ve ever done it before, and am convinced that this is the one where I will run out of juice halfway through. Every one does feel different, although I will be honest and confess I am ready for something of a new challenge. I suspect this is probably less about the stories and more about my life – seventeen years in suburbia has taken its toll. I’ve been mired in suburban stories for a while and I think I am done with that, but we shall see what the future holds.

You have over ten million books in print, 19 novels, published in 25 languages, have books in development, you run a brand new amazing book club (Thank you for hosting me!), you have zillions of animals, and you’re an amazing cook! How do you manage to do all that you do?

I have two modes: on, and off. I’m either running around like a crazy woman, or I’m in bed. And when I say I’m in bed, that can mean for days. I also don’t have much of a social life. I was once told that after the age of forty you can divide your life into work, family, and friends, and you do not get to successfully juggle more than two. If that is true, the two I have chosen to juggle are work and family. I adore my friends, but my priorities are family and work, and I daresay an active social life would prevent me from doing all that I do.

Plus, you’re so respected and beloved in the literary community, and so generous to other writers, that I wonder if you can give two of the most important pieces of writing advice you know here?

Coming from you, the most generous writer I know, that’s the highest praise of all! I would say that writing is a discipline, and a job; that however you feel and whether you are inspired or not, you must sit down and write, because that is the only way books get written. The other essential piece of advice is get an agent who is passionate about your work, and who believes in you wholeheartedly. I have made the mistake, more than once, of having an agent who is entirely disinterested, and in one case, clearly thought my work beneath them. Someone who is not passionate about you, or who doesn’t “get” you, will never be able to do a good job selling your work.

What’s obsessing you now and why?

I am still obsessed with Big Little Lies. It is rare for a television show to be as good as, or perhaps even better than, the original book. The adaptation of Big Little Lies just blew me away – the setting, the actors, the music; I don’t know how they got it so right, and I wish someone would pour some of that secret sauce on me.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

If you had a choice of flying or invisibility as a secret superpower, which would you choose? I would choose flying, because I don’t want to hear what other people are saying about me – whenever you lurk, you generally hear something you do not want to hear. Flying would be excellent, especially given my increasingly bad night vision.

1 comment:

LitPark said...

This is wonderful. That last answer made me smile and smile.