Friday, February 15, 2008

Writers in their own words-GCC

I've been buddies with the folks over at The Debutante Ball from the beginning. So, it's been fun to get to know this year's group of Debs. I met Gail last October at the Wisconsin Book Festival, and I'll be meeting Jenny in March when we're both presenting at the Virginia Festival of the Book (fellow Ballantine Babes Therese Fowler and Carleen Brice will be there too!). I also grew up with Leave it to Beaver (I much prefer the early years!). Can anything top when the Beav and Whitey get stuck in the tea cup? I think not. So, it's fun for me to introduce you to Jenny Gardiner, author of the "fun, cheeky, often candid and thoroughly engaging" Sleeping with Ward Cleaver.

Here's a quick intro: Claire Doolittle is not a happy camper. The married mother of five seems to have lost her way in life. Swept off her feet years earlier by Mr. Right, she’s dismayed that husband Jack has turned into Mr. Always Right, and the only sweeping happening in her life involves a broom and a dustpan. Jack’s officious, perfunctory way has left fun, spontaneity and laughter at the doorstep, and Claire is beginning to wonder if she’s actually married to a modern-day version of Ward Cleaver, the stuff-shirted father figure from Leave it to Beaver sitcom fame. . . . Jenny Gardiner’s novel, winner of Dorchester Publishing’s American Title III contest, is sure to lure you into the mundane yet compelling world of Claire Doolittle and will leave you cheering for her marriage.

Here's Jenny in her own words:

1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book? Are you more driven by plot or by character?

I always liked the idea of exploring a disintegrating marriage, ever since my parents marriage ended up in very bitter divorce after 25 years of marriage. The title came to me when we'd been talking about some guy we knew and I sort of laughed and said "Sheesh! He'd be like sleeping with Ward Cleaver!" And then I kept thinking how catchy that sounded. So I had to write a story to go with it, which is when I started compiling so much that had built up in my thoughts over the years...

2.) Who's your favorite character in this book and why?

I am partial to Claire. I loved that she was in a state of despair and decided to not let it rule her life, instead chose to fix what was wrong. I also liked that she did it with humor. And I have a little spot for Todd, because he was such a jerk and he redeemed himself and proved that he didn't have a heart of glass after all.

3.) What's your writing process/writing environment like?
Oh, my God. You should see! Grand Central Station. My desk is smack in the kitchen/living room/dining room in an open floor plan Three teens, two barking dogs, a loud and deliberately annoying parrot and a cat who walks across my key pads. Phones, television, husband who works at home. I have had to learn to focus, which is amazing for me as I'm not a really focused person! But it's great because I really can work anywhere. Sort of like a soldier in the desert learns to sleep everywhere, I can just plunk myself down wherever and write!

4.) What's your favorite part of writing?

The creative process is so empowering and so much FUN. It's really a privilege and a thrill to be able to write. I always wished I could draw or play an instrument well, but it was not meant to be. So I really appreciate that I have that ability to write.

5.) What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about writing?
believe in yourself. It is a brutal business fraught with rejection, and there might be a day in which people are slathering at your feet. But to get to that day, you'll be chewed up and spit out repeatedly, so you need to have the faith in your ability to get through the hardships.

So, I think, on this first post-Valentine's Day weekend, this is the perfect read.

Next week, I'll wax eloquently on two fantastic releases by some Ballantine Babes.

* * * * *

A heartfelt thanks to all of you who commented on my post last week and/or e-mailed me. Your concern, care and support meant more than you can imagine.


jenny gardiner said...

Thanks, Judy, for inviting me over. So looking forward to meeting you next month!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Judy, for sharing Jenny with us. Her writing routine scares me, though!!! The cat walking across the keyboard is really just too much, don't ya think?

Sounds like a fun read, thanks!

Carleen Brice said...

Jenny & Judy, I'm so looking forward to VA Book! How much fun are we going to have?!

Jenny, I'm very impressed you can work in the mayhem you described. My house is quiet (no kids) and I have an office and it's still hard work! More power to you!!!

Daisy said...

The title cracks me up! Didn't Ward and June have twin (and separate) beds?

jenny gardiner said...

Carleen--will be great to meet you at Va Book! Are you guys going to go to the reception Saturday night? Free food and drink, lovely ambience LOL

Yeah, my work environment is odd at times. Though I *do* work on my front porch swing when the weather is nice and that is lovely. Except then the neighbors always choose then to take turns cutting their grass and sawing down trees with chain saws...
And I also plop down in the living room with a fire in the fireplace when it's cold, which is nice till the miserable bird takes over and tortures me with plunking noises on the cage (think prisoner dragging tin cup till sheriff's deputy releases him).
My kind husband just bought this great couch for me and we put it in the junk room that has actual doors. Still on the main floor but I'm out of sight, out of mind a little so can focus. The good thing is all the distractions in my life are perfect for ADD me LOL
p.s. Yeah I think June and Ward had separate beds, along with Rob and Laura Petri ;-)

Therese said...

I was so tickled to see Jenny's book very prominently displayed on a paperback tower in my local B&N--right at eye level!

The VA Fest should be a blast--hope we remember we're also there to work!

jenny gardiner said...

Yay--love when my book is at eye level ;-)

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Jenny, it's great to host you--and I love how so many of us can relate to the book.

Carleen and Therese--we will have a blast at VFB--and, keep in mind, playing counts as work for us at these affairs!

jenny gardiner said...

So we have to coordinate an evening out--who's free on what night? I'm speaking at 6 so free after that and will be in town. There's a FABULOUS little asian tapas martini bar just off the downtown mall that I love if you guys are interested...also a new champagne/wine bar downtown. Lots of great restaurants around there. Off the beaten path is a spanish tapas restaurant that's awesome...