[img_assist|nid=4380|title=Jennifer Weiner|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=200|height=284]Jennifer Weiner has fulfilled the dreams of many an aspiring writer: take an unfortunate situation, write a book about it, and watch it soar up the best-seller list (Good in Bed). Write another book, and have Cameron Diaz star in the movie version (In Her Shoes). Write a third book (Little Earthquakes), and watch it appeal to the challenges faced by thousands of new mothers.
Jennifer began polishing her writing skills as a Philadelphia Inquirer and Mademoiselle columnist. Her ability to capture the essence of human imperfection, and help us see the humor and beauty of those imperfections, is what makes her a successful storyteller. Philadelphia Stories asked Jennifer about her writing journey.
Your background is in journalism. How did you make the transition into fiction?
Long story short, I got my heart broken and, in an effort to get over it, wrote a novel in which the girl was a lot like me, the guy was a lot like Satan, and the girl got the happy ending I wasn’t sure I’d get in real life. I wrote Good in Bed on the nights and weekends over about a year and a half, then spent about three months in the winter of 2000 finding the right agent. We ended up in the very felicitous situation of having three different publishing houses bidding on the rights for Good in Bed, and eventually signed a two-book deal with Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Schuster.
How did you find time to write a novel while juggling another writing job?
Well, remember, I’d been dumped, so I found myself with a lot of free time! I don’t think there’s any secret ability to create more hours in the day, so it’s just a question of carving out time, the same way the experts tell us to do with exercise — make it a routine part of your day, and eventually, you’ll just automatically make time for it.
[img_assist|nid=4381|title=Little Earthquakes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=150|height=225]Your first book, Good in Bed, clearly strikes a chord with many readers. Why do you think so many readers relate to your character?
Honest to God, when I wrote the book I thought it would strike a chord with me and maybe six other readers, and I’d probably be related to four of them (and know the other two from Weight Watchers). I think so many people related to Cannie because I didn’t sugar-coat her feelings, or minimize the weight issue by turning her into a stateside Bridget Jones, fretting over five extra pounds. I didn’t begin with an organized plot, just the main character’s voice in my head, and some sense of where I wanted to take her.
What was the inspiration for In Her Shoes? Did you find a second novel easier to write than the first?
In Her Shoes was inspired by my real-life relationship with my sister. We’re very close, but as different as two people could be. The second novel was easier, in a way, because I knew what I was doing, and had learned some things about plot and pacing, but it was harder because, unlike Good in Bed, I had an agent, and a publisher, and readers saying, "Hey, where’s the next book already?”
The mothers in Little Earthquakes are varied and sympathetic, and they all seem very real. What was the inspiration for these characters?
There’s a little bit of me in all of the mothers (and probably all of the mothers-in-law!). Some of my real-life story is in there — the birth of my daughter Lucy closely mirrors Becky’s story — and some of my friends’ stories with their births, their babies, their husbands and their families. Some of it, as with all of my books, though, is just plain made up.
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
I write in a Center City coffee shop every afternoon from one to five, on a Dell laptop. I don’t use outlines, but I do have a general sense of where I want to take the story.
How does the Philadelphia area influence your writing?
I love living in Philadelphia and setting my stories here. I think this feels like a very real familiar place, even if you’re not a native, and I know my readers enjoy having their stories set somewhere other than Los Angeles and London.
Can you offer any advice to young writers?
I’ve got about ten pages worth of advice on my website (www.jenniferweiner.com), but the best advice I have is to read everything you can get your hands on, and recognize that every crappy thing that happens in your real life can be material some day!