With September now upon us, I'm excited to tell you about a new release by one of my Girlfriend Cyber Circuit buddies, Joanne Rendell.
Her new novel, Crossing Washington Square, is drawing rave reviews, and seems like the perfect book to curl up with as you watch the eaves begin to turn and the kids head back to school.
Across Washington Square live two very different women …with their very different love of books.
Some women follow their hearts; others follow their minds. In this “charming, witty, and cerebral” second novel from the acclaimed author of The Professors’ Wives’ Club, we return to Manhattan University, where two strong-willed women are compelled to unite their senses and sensibilities.
Professor Diana Monroe is a highly respected scholar of Sylvia Plath. Serious and aloof, she steadfastly keeps her mind on track. Professor Rachel Grey is young and impulsive, with a penchant for teaching popular women’s fiction like Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Devil Wears Prada, and for wearing her heart on her sleeve.
The two conflicting personalities meet head to heart when Carson McEvoy, a handsome and brilliant professor visiting from Harvard, sets his eyes on both women and creates even more tension between them. Now Diana and Rachel are slated to accompany an undergraduate trip to London, where an almost life-threatening experience with a student celebrity will force them to change their minds and heal their hearts…together.
Let's hear from Joanne in her own words:
How did you come up with the idea for this book? Are you more driven by plot or by character?
The idea for this book evolved over a few years. As someone who has lived the academic life (I have a PhD in literature and now I’m married to a professor at NYU), I’ve always loved books about the university – books like Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys or Richard Russo’s The Straight Man. But what I noticed about such campus fiction was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Even the female authors like Francine Prose and Zadie Smith, who’ve written campus novels, they too focus on male professors. Furthermore, most of these male professors are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students! I wanted to write a novel with women professors taking the lead and I wanted these women to be strong and smart and interesting – instead of drunk, despondent, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons!
Who's your favorite character in this book and why?
That’s a tough one! My knee jerk response is to say Professor Rachel Grey because, out of the two female leads, I identify most with her. Rachel teaches chick lit in her classes and has to defend her work and the genre to her stuffy colleagues who think only the classics and literary fiction should be studied. As a grad student, I would be reading classical literature and poetry by day, but then secretly read popular women’s fiction at night (Bridget Jones’ Diary, I have to say, is one of my all time favorite books!). Rachel is also flawed and emotional, yet good and honest and brave. I like that about her.
Every time I revisit the book, however, I like Professor Diana Monroe more too. She’s super smart and has great poise and grace as a teacher. She’s the kind of uber-professor that every academic secretly wants to be. She’s also pretty darn scary in her austerity and brilliance. But she has a vulnerability too and her life started out pretty tough and therefore, every time I revisit the book, I like her more.
What's your writing process/writing environment like?
I write early every morning while my six year old sleeps. I try and write a minimum of 500 words a day. It doesn’t always happen, but that’s my goal. I write at my desk at the front of our apartment. We live on a very busy street in Manhattan so my writing is “lulled” by taxis honking, firetrucks hooting, and jackhammers pounding. With all this practice, I could probably keep writing through a meteorite shower!
What's your favorite part of writing?
Sharing book ideas with my husband. He’s my biggest fan and my inspiration.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about writing?
Write 500 words a day. It doesn’t matter if they are complete rubbish, you can always edit them later, just try and get 500 words down.
Good advice, from a fabulous writer who's written a wonderful book!