Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Oh, yes, a Reece's Bookclub Pick! Amanda Eyre Ward talks about THE JETSETTERS, reinventing the writing wheel, families, comedy and so much more

Ward nails how family expeditions are ruined and saved, over and over again, by fleeting moments of connection and the consensus to survive without killing one another.”
— The New York Times Book Review

I've been lucky enough to know Amanda Eyre Ward for years. You can't find someone warmer, smarter, and more supportive and so, I am breaking out the champagne because yep, yep, yep, her latest novel THE JETSETTERS is a Reece BookClub Pick!

Amanda is talso he author of Sleep Toward Heaven, How to Be Lost, Love Stories in This Town, Forgive Me, Close Your Eyes, The Same Sky, The Nearness of You, and The Jetsetters. Her bestselling novels have been featured in People Magazine, The New York Times, and more. Amanda's work has been optioned for film and television and translated into fifteen languages.

Thank you so much for being here, Amanda!

I always think that writers are haunted into writing their books, that they are looking for answers to something and hope to find it in a novel. What was haunting you?

What a great question!

Last year, I saw an Oprah video explaining how to create a “vision board.” As instructed, I ripped out pictures in magazines that spoke to me, without really thinking. When I lay them all out on my living room rug, I realized that they were all photos of Europe: Greece, Spain, France, Italy. In my life as a working mother of three, I longed for the glamour of travel, the tastes of Europe. I thought, “Someday, I will write a bestseller and take my children to Europe.”

But the next morning, I woke with the story of The Jetsetters. I saw Charlotte, yearning to reconnect with her adult children. (I saw her in a terrycloth beach cover-up and gold earrings, with strappy sandals she’d bought in Athens.)

As the book developed, I found myself thinking of my childhood. My mom (like Charlotte) had raised me and my two siblings as a single mother. We’d taken on roles within our small family, and I wondered if we were destined to remain in these roles, or if we could ever break free of them.

I’ve had some crazy trips with my sisters and mother, and there’s something about close proximity that forces long-buried secrets to the surface. I wanted the Perkins family to lay their truths bare, and then to emerge feeling peaceful.

I also wanted Charlotte to fall in love!

I absolutely love that your protagonist Charlotte is seventy years old, giving us a great new perspective on love, life, family, and the possibilities that life can show us, no matter what the age. Can you talk about this please?

I’d love to. I wanted to inhabit a seventy-year-old woman, to know what she would love physically, and to understand her (and OK, my) desire. Women’s desire is so complicated and individual—for some, feeling safe is the ultimate turn-on. Charlotte might be seventy, but she is also still the teenage girl who discovered sex with a famous painter, who has long had sexual fantasies that she’s felt ashamed about. I wanted her to love herself enough to lea into a deep kiss…and more.

You’ve written so many critically acclaimed novels and I was wondering, do you feel that you build on what you’ve learned in writing one novel when you move onto the next, or is it like starting brand new? And what did writing this particular novel teach you?

For me, it feels as if I’m re-inventing the wheel every single time. (How about you?) I always think I have a foolproof method—I use index cards, story arcs; I use long afternoons lying still and listening—but every single time the characters just laugh. It takes me many, many drafts to fully realize a novel.

I actually thought a comic novel would be easy, but it was not. My editor, Kara Cesare, made me really take apart each character, forcing me to go deeper into who they were…the memories that made each adult, the past selves who rose up at inopportune times. I needed to learn to write in a different way: this book required slow, deep insights to be written on the page, unlike the spare style I’d used in previous novels. I am very thankful to have an editor who saw what I could do, and pushed me (with great intelligence and kindness) to get there.

The best part about my career is that I can write to amazing authors such as you, Meg Wolitzer, Doug Dorst, Lisa Cron, Allison Lynn, Vendela Vida, Masha Hamilton, and Leah Stewart and ask them, “How the hell did you do this?” I probably have another whole book of emails and letters about the writing of The Jetsetters.

In fact, I wrote one of my best friends, the Pulitzer-prize-winning Andrew Sean Greer, when I was close to abandoning The Jetsetters. I sent him the Prologue, saying, “Is this any good? Should I give this up?” and he wrote:

“I LOVE the prologue, love it love it love it. This is some of your best writing, Amanda, you must know it!”   

I did not know it. I thought I couldn’t write this book. But honestly, Andy’s e-mail got me back to work. And I am so proud of this novel.

What kind of writer are you now? How has it changed for you?

I have just finished my first nonfiction book, and am back to work on a novel. I’m one lucky writer, and that’s for sure! I wrote every day in my pajamas until I pick up my seven-year-old daughter at three o’clock. And then my two boys and my husband come home and I try not to think about work until the next morning…but I am a terrible insomniac, and often find myself scribbling in a notebook at 3a.m.!

What’s obsessing you now and why?

My husband is a Geophysicist working with sequestering CO2 to keep carbon emissions under control. I think a lot about climate change and human rights violations and the unaccompanied minor kids I met wile researching The Same Sky.

The novel I am just beginning is the story of three mothers who think they can be vigilant enough to keep their children safe. One mother sells doomsday bunkers to tech billionaires in sweatpants. One mother is Mexican by birth, but believes that her money and American husband separates her from the influx of migrants at the Texas/Mexico border. The last mother is a single mother who believes that if she can keep her shameful past from her son, he will grow up without the anxieties that plague her. Needless to say, all three women are wrong!

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

I love all of these questions, but here is one: Amanda, what was the best thing you ate during your “research trip” to Europe? And the answer is grilled octopus on Santorini Island, Greece!

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