Thursday, October 5, 2017

New interview with novelist Jeanette Watts

Returning author Jeanette Watts is here to catch us up since her last interview and chat about her new romantic comedy Jane Austen Lied to Me.

During her virtual book tour, Jeanette will be awarding a doll dressed in Regency clothing that she handcrafted to a randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Jeanette Watts is a restless soul who has been a library assistant, a secretary, a television producer, a dance instructor, and a museum theatre assistant. Through all of it, she has been a writer. But even as a writer, the restlessness continues: she has written 2 historic fiction novels, a textbook on waltzing, several screenplays, and now a modern satire set on a college campus. She's still trying to decide whether her next book is going to be more historic fiction or a children's book about the guardian angel who lives downstairs.

Welcome back to Reviews and Interviews.
Thank you for having me back!

Please tell us about your newest release.
Jane Austen Lied to Me is a modern satire. The time: today. The place: somewhere in America. The heroine: just your average American girl with a huge crush on Mr. Darcy.

What inspired you to write this book?
My husband and I were driving back from the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville. I mentioned that I was stupid in my choice of era for my historic fiction - it's set in the Industrial Revolution, and there aren't any re-enactors playing in that era. I should have done something in the Civil War, or Jane Austen's time, then I would know how to go about finding the people who would want to read my book.

"So, why don't you write one?" my husband asks.

That did seem to be the obvious next course of action, but as we drove and I thought about it, the story that I wanted to tell wasn't set in the past. It's about me as a Jane Austen fan, not about Jane Austen herself.

Excerpt from Jane Austen Lied to Me:
This afternoon I got further confirmation that I’ve been seeing an awful lot of Michael. I was wandering back to the apartment, when Lon hailed me from one of the couches inside the lobby doors.

“I have a message for you from your boyfriend,” he said, kind of stiffly.

I looked at him stupidly for a moment. “My what?”

“Your boyfriend was here. He said his phone was dead, so he couldn’t call or text you to tell you that he can’t stick around for dinner tonight. He has a late meeting with a new client and he had to rush back to the office.”

I was still having trouble with the boyfriend thing. “Wait – do you mean Michael?”

“If that’s the guy you’ve been seeing the last couple of months,” Lon said with a shrug. “The one you’re always having dinner with.”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” I protested. “He’s an old friend of the family. We grew up together.”

Lon's head was back at his computer screen. “Boyfriend, friend. The guy who kisses you goodnight all the time after he takes you out for dinner. He’s not coming tonight. I’ve delivered my message, that’s all I’ve got.”

Right then Allie walked up. “Hey, Lizzie! Waiting for Michael?”

“No, he’s not coming tonight.” I headed to the elevator with her.

“That’s a shame. I know how much you enjoy having dinner with him, even if he does aggravate you a lot.”

“Yeah. It’s kind of a love-hate relationship,” I agreed.

What’s the next writing project?
As I mentioned in my biography, I'm torn between two stories. I've found a fascinating woman who lived in New York for the first half of the 20th century, and I want to write her story. If there are legal problems with using her real name, I might have to invent a fictional character who coincidentally is a lot like her.

But, my landlord from my days living in Pittsburgh passed away recently. The man was my guardian angel. We lived just upstairs from him in this building that had 2 apartments. It was like living with your favorite uncle. I would come home from work, and not make it upstairs for another hour because he'd be sitting on the front porch. He was wise, and funny, and I always learned something talking to him. He taught me how to negotiate when buying a car. He was also kind; when both of our cars were having problems, he lent me his truck so we could get to work, and gave me the name of a retired mechanic who fixed both our cars for half the price of the mechanics in the area. He swore like a sailor, and shoved the snow for the 80-year-old lady who lived across the street. He loved gardening, and grew basil for me. I would turn it into pesto, and give him jars of pesto.

He was a lovely soul, and he needs a children's book about him. I'll kind of have to leave out the swearing part, of course.

What is your biggest challenge when writing a new book? (or the biggest challenge with this book)
Time. Always time. I'm in the process of relocating from Dayton, Ohio to Charlotte, North Carolina right now. We got my husband an apartment so he could start the new job, and I've spent the past year cleaning out the basement of things we shouldn't have bothered to move INTO the basement 18 years ago. And plastering. And painting. And making sure my dance companies have everything they need to continue without me. And giving away closets full of costumes from my dance companies. And throwing out my scrapbooks from 4th grade. Trying to get this book finished in the midst of all this has been crazy -- or maybe it's the only thing keeping me sane.

If your novels require research – please talk about the process. Do you do the research first and then write, while you’re writing, after the novel is complete and you need to fill in the gaps?
All of the above! I have an idea, it requires some research to get the book started. While writing, things come up. Got to ask some questions, get some answers. After the novel is done and the editing process starts, the people who read the "finished" draft always have questions that require more research.

Funny thing is, I wrote Jane Austen Lied to Me to be sort of a mental vacation from the historic fiction. But it turned out to be just about as much research required. I have been out of college for a long time, and even though I teach at the college level, there were still things I don't know about being 17 in 2017. Fortunately, since I teach at the college level, I had plenty of primary source material when I needed questions answered.

What’s your writing space like? Do you have a particular spot to write where the muse is more active? Please tell us about it.
Actually, I like a variety of spaces. I like to write in pretty places; looking at the ocean, hiding in a cabin in the woods, on the veranda of a winery overlooking the vineyards. Hotel lobbies can be wonderful places to write, if the hotel is unique and has some comfortable seating. I do the majority of my writing at home, sitting at my messy desk. But when I find the emails and phones and distractions of home getting in the way of getting any writing done, I create a writing retreat for myself.

What authors do you enjoy reading within or outside of your genre?
While I write historic fiction, would you believe I don't read it much? I adore biographies. Just read Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton a little while ago. (I still have yet to see the play, although I can sing all the songs!) Writing historic fiction is just an excuse to read biographies. I know the people I write about. My previous book, Brains and Beauty, is a romp through the Who's Who of 1880s Pittsburgh and New York. There are cameos with Clay Frick, Andy Carnegie, his less famous brother Tom, Andy Mellon, H.J. Heinz, George Westinghouse (the most underrated industrial genius America has ever produced, by the way), Alva Vanderbilt, and THE Mrs. Astor. I've read all their biographies. I've read multiple biographies on most of them. I'm a vintage dancer, I have danced at Beechwood in the ballroom of Mrs. Astor's summer cottage at Newport in Rhode Island. You can call that research if you like, but for me it's all for pure joy.

While the topic draws by attention more than the author, I do love Allison Weir and David McCullough and Shelby Foote.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers today?
Actually, I'd appreciate it if the readers would share with ME: if anyone wants to find my Jane Austen Lied to Me Facebook page, and tell me their favorite restaurants in Charlotte, or favorite things to do, I would appreciate some recommendations!

Website | Facebook author | Facebook book | Twitter

Thank you for coming back to Reviews and Interviews!

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Jeanette said...

Good morning, and thanks for having me! I'm writing this while the movers are taking the contents of my bedroom out to the moving van, then they are coming for this computer! My apologies for anyone checking in this afternoon, if I can't steal my neighbor's Wifi, I'll try to check in again tonight from the library or some other place with Wifi...

pailofpearls said...

Nice interview. I love memoirs about women set in the first half of the 20th century, so I'm hoping you write it. :D

Jeanette said...

Thank you for the encouragement!