Monday, November 17, 2008

TLC Tour Stop--Jennie Shortridge, author of Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe

I am honored to be joined by novelist Jennie Shortridge, whose third novel, Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe, is out in paperback (and which I review in yesterday's post). Her earlier two novels are Riding with the Queen and Eating Heaven, and she also has a new novel coming out next year, entitled When She Flew. She kindly agreed to answer a few questions for me.

First, let me say that Jennie has already answered many good questions on her website, where there is lots of interesting information about her background, and about the genesis of her writing career. So if you’re curious about how Jennie got started writing, or just want to read more about her, check out her site here.

Jennie also has some great guest posts at Books on the Brain, one an open letter to book bloggers, readers and book clubbers, and another entitled The Power of Women Who Read.

Here's our conversation:

GR: Reading about you on your website, I see that you had a band as a teenager, wrote songs, and formed an acoustic duo with your husband Matt. This, of course, reminds me of Mira’s rebellious musician daughter Thea, which made me wonder how much of you is in that character. I personally found myself relating very much to Mira, as a wife, as a mother, and as a woman of a certain age. So my question is, how do you relate to both Thea and Mira?

JS: I love to write about music and musicians, as I did in my first novel, Riding with the Queen. I was so glad to be able to again in Love and Biology. I think I probably relate more to Lannie, the former rock and roller, than Thea. I have a niece who is Thea’s age and very musical, and I only realized after finishing the book that I was probably channeling her for Thea! I also relate to Mira, even though I’m not a mom. I set out to write about this crazy-making period of life called peri-menopause, and the things we do to get through it!

GR: The settings in your book are so real that they are really almost characters in themselves. The small coastal Oregon town Mira escapes from, Pacifica, and the place she escapes to, the Fremont section of Seattle, are both quirky and beautifully drawn. I know you live in Seattle, and have lived in Portland, Oregon, but what made you choose these particular settings, and what kind of research did you do to make them come alive?

JS: I’d been spending a lot of time on the Oregon coast, writing at the Oregon Writers Colony house, and I really love everything about it. I wanted Mira to be from a small town, and they’re ALL small down there. Plus it’s just so beautiful and idyllic there. It would take a lot to make someone leave it. When I started this book, I lived in Portland, and I thought Mira would end up there, but then I moved to Seattle, so Mira did too! She discovered Fremont pretty much as I did, because I live on a hillside looking down on it, and I hear that little bridge rise ever so often and watch the seaplane drone by from my home office window. I often go down there to take breaks, stroll around, have a coffee at one of the many coffee shops. I wish there really were a Coffee Shop at the Center of the Universe, but there are several others that are wonderful.

GR: One of my favorite things about this book is your exploration of the family dynamics, the relationships between mother and daughter, grandmother and granddaughter, father and daughter, and even between best friends. What is your favorite relationship in the book, and why did you enjoy writing about it?

JS: Well, that’s hard to pin down, because I love them all. I particularly love the relationship with the grandmother, and how it changes just enough by the end to know that in spite of her strict rules, Nonna has a human side, too. And I love the relationship between Lannie and Mira, and Lannie and Thea. I think we’d all like a friend like Lannie, who can just be there for us, and still be totally her own woman (which is quite a woman).

GR: After I finished this book, I realized it was really about a successful midlife crisis, and I really admired the way Mira came to terms with her past, stopped living in denial, and came to a more accepting place. Have you had any sort of midlife crisis? If so, how did you resolve it?

JS: I absolutely love that description, a successful midlife crisis! I will borrow that, if you don’t mind. ☺ I am definitely in the throes of midlife, and I’m sure I’ve done many crazy things because of it, but nothing so dramatic. I think that by writing about it, I get to do it vicariously through Mira. (For which my husband is grateful.)

GR: I love to ask writers about their practice of writing. What is your writing routine?

JS: Every weekday morning, I’m at my desk with my second cup of coffee first thing, and I write (on a Mac) until I feel done, usually around lunchtime. Then I edit or do other book-related tasks (there are MANY) in the afternoons. Or I volunteer with kids at 826 Seattle, helping them with their writing.

GR: Do you have a plan for your next book, and can you tell us about it?

JS: I’m just finishing the new book, When She Flew, which will be released in November 2009. It’s a bit of a departure for me, in that I fictionalized a true story about a father and daughter found living in the woods near Portland, Oregon. In my VERY fictional version, I write from the point of view of the 13-year-old girl and the policewoman who breaks all the rules to try to keep her out of foster care and reunite her with her father.

GR: One final question: coffee or tea?

JS: Triple tall nonfat latte! Hey, I live in Seattle—it’s essential.

Thank you so much, Jennie Shortridge, for stopping by, and TLC Book Tours for letting me join in. Here is the schedule for Jennie Shortridge's TLC Book Tour Stops:

Saturday, November 1st: Estella’s Revenge e-zine
Monday, November 3rd: Booking Mama
Tuesday, November 4th: Booking Mama
Wednesday, November 5th: She is Too Fond of Books
Friday, November 7th: Curly Wurly Gurly
Monday, November 10th: Fizzy Thoughts
Wednesday, November 12th: Tripping Toward Lucidity
Friday, November 14th: Literarily
Monday, November 17th: Shelf Life
Wednesday, November 19th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Friday, November 21st: Bookshipper
Monday, November 24th: Minds Alive on the Shelves
Wednesday, November 26th: Book Addiction
Sunday, November 30th: B & b ex libris


Anonymous said...

Great interview! I liked learning about Jennie's inspiration for various characters.

I'm a chai latte (full-fat or it doesn't taste right!)

Gentle Reader said...

dawn--I was really interested in hearing about Jennie's inspiration, too. And my coffee order is really sad--decaf nonfat latte, with two shots :)

Lexi said...

Oh, I love seeing that Jennie volunteers with 826National! I'm thinking about doing the next Read-a-Thon to benefit them!

Gentle Reader said...

Lexi--I've heard about the San Francisco-based one that Dave Eggers started--I'm so glad that it's all over now!

Anonymous said...

What good questions you ask! Very clever to think of asking about the author's identifications with her characters. And yes, I love knowing about the writing practice too!

Gentle Reader said...

litlove--I'm always curious about the writing process, and always love the opportunity to ask writers questions. And thank you for your kind words :)

Anonymous said...

I have read your blog for a long time, Gentle Reader -- I'm such a fan. This is my first time commenting. I really enjoyed your interview with Ms. Shortridge -- I love her writing, and the interview just made me appreciate her even more. And my the way, I am a Decaf Misto fella myself!

Keep up the good writing.

Bellezza said...

It's been so fun to read about this book all over the blogosphere and here! Lucky you to be doing the tour and conducting interviews. My interest is so piqued, I went from wanting to read it to knowing I have to read it! Thanks.

Gentle Reader said...

hiambaruch--thanks so much for commenting! Great to have you stop by :)

bellezza--I really enjoyed doing this--the interview was fun!

lin said...