Can you believe it? I’m here on my own blog being interviewed by New York Times best selling author, Eleanor Brown, in celebration of publication of THE GLASS WIVES (available everywhere books are sold)!
I met Eleanor in 2011 at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago. Since that day—when I was a fan-girl extraordinaire (just ask my dear friend and critique partner, Pamela Toler)—Eleanor has been a cheerleader of mine. I’m so honored she took the time out of her crazy-busy schedule to ask me amazing, thoughtful questions. And of course, if you haven’t read her NYT bestselling novel, The Weird Sisters, you should.
NowI have to welcome myself to Women’s Fiction Writers, don’t I? And I thought this week couldn’t get any more spectacular!
I know there are many, many lurkers out there (hundreds and hundreds of you). I hope you’ll step out of the cyber shadows today and say hello!
Turning The Tables At Women’s Fiction Writers: Author Eleanor Brown Interviews Amy Sue Nathan (Me!)
Eleanor: The premise of The Glass Wives caught me right away – bringing together an ex-wife and a current wife. Where did the idea come from?
Amy: From realizing—with much relief and satisfaction—that things in my life were not as bad as they could be. I had divorced, my ex-husband had died, and there was this nagging sensation that as a family, things just couldn’t get much worse. My kids didn’t have a dad, our sense of family and place and normal were turned upside down, we were dealing with grief and the everyday lives of kids, because they do intertwine. And then at some point I just wanted to feel like IT COULD BE WORSE. I guess I was just trying to make myself feel better. The idea of having a woman in the same basic situation as me—a suburban divorced mom, but giving her a slew of things I didn’t have to deal with, like—a trophy-wife/widow and needing her to move in in order to pay the bills, not to mention some not-very-well-meaning neighbors, and a know-it-all sister. I ended up relieved I was not Evie Glass—and with the idea for my novel.
Eleanor: I am fascinated by names and the way they help form who we are. The last name of both women in your novel is ‘Glass’ – what is the importance of that name in the context of the story? Do their first names have equal importance?
Amy: I wanted a Jewish name for the family since Jewish culture plays an important part in the story. But, I didn’t want anything too “-This-stein” or “-That-gold” or “Generic-ishkiwitz,” so I settled on Glass. The fact that Glass also connect transparency and fragility, well, I’d like to say it was intentional but it was more like besert (meant to be).
Eleanor: Even if I’m not aware of it at the time, I find I am writing to answer unanswerable questions in my own life, and those become the themes of the novel. What are the questions you wrote The Glass Wives to answer?
Amy: That’s easy. I wrote The Glass Wives to figure out what makes a family, and why some kinds of family are frowned upon or treated differently than others. While suburban single-mom family might not make headline news, as a single-mom who’s steeped in a white picket community, I know that I’ve been treated differently than married moms. Everything here revolved around moms AND dads, or couples. I was always grateful my daughter’s school didn’t have a daddy-daughter dance, but my daughter’s Sunday School class did start a father-daughter project. In a class where there were only a handful of students, in a small Jewish community, I found it disrespectful and disheartening and totally not kosher. It’s hard to convince yourself and your kids that your family isn’t one with a missing part when something like that happens. I’m sure it won’t surprise you that I spoke up. Writing the book reminded me to always view families without qualifiers or quantifiers and to be as inclusive as possible. Nobody’s perfect but we have to start somewhere.
Eleanor: I absolutely love the cover of The Glass Wives – it’s so eye-catching and evocative. How did you and your publisher come to that design?
Amy: When I met my editor last summer, I was fortunate to also meet my cover designer. The only thing I was stuck on was that the cover be reflective of the content. I didn’t want the cover to mislead the reader. And, though I never mentioned having a window on the cover, it’s what I always imagined. And the cups are perfect—literally because there’s a lot of coffee drinking going on, and metaphorically because there are many similarities between the women, but they’re also different.
Eleanor: Your work on the Women’s Fiction Writers blog and your freelance career make you seem enviably organized – is that true? Does it extend to your fiction writing?
Amy: I’m a list maker. I have weekly lists, daily lists, morning lists, grocery lists. Lists of calls to make, interviews to write, emails to send, bills to pay, friends to make plan with. And when it comes to fiction writing, that’s on the list too. When I get into the writing, now that I have an outline to guide me, I guess it makes me comfortable because guess what? It looks like a list! I do list characters and things I want to accomplish in a scene. I figure the more I write my lists, the less I have to actually remember. As long as I remember where my lists are!
Eleanor: I spent the month leading up to my publication date waking up every night with terrible stomachaches from the anxiety. You’ve interviewed so many writers here on the Women’s Fiction Writers blog – does that mean you’re feeling confident about stepping into author-hood? What have you learned from the people you’ve interviewed?
Amy: I’m comfortable in the author community. How could I not be? I have found authors to be welcoming and generous and inclusive (and not care if I’m a single mom). But confident? Not really. The publishing world is so noisy today, that it takes a lot for a book to rise above that noise, and especially for a brand new author voice to be heard. I know that, and it worries me. The way I allay my own fears is to do everything I can possibly do to get the word out. And to do that, you guessed it, I make lists.
The authors I’ve interviewed have taught me many things—mostly that generosity is common among authors and that there is no one way to write a novel. Whether someone writes a book in three months, or ten years, uses an outline or dictates or writes everything long hand, we all have one thing in common. We are storytellers using written words. It connects us to each other and to our readers.
And authors have taught me another important lesson—to give back with gusto.
Eleanor: Are you part of a community of writers, formal or informal? What has that done for you?
Amy: Being part of writer groups has taught me more than I could have learned on my own. Ever. I’ve been a member of Backspace since 2007, and I was always taking online workshops which become temporary communities of their own. As a debut author I’m part of The Debutante Ball. The support of the other four “Debs” is fabulous. I’m part of a group of debut authors called Book Pregnant. More than anything it’s online author therapy without the couch or a bill. Some of those authors have become dear friends. I’m also active on Writer Unboxed Facebook Group and the new Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Add to all that the fact that this blog has taken on a life of its own and created a community as well.
Eleanor: Your editor, Brenda Copeland, is so lovely on Twitter, and has such incredible authors on her list. What’s it been like working with her?
Amy: Working with Brenda has taught me more about my own writing than anyone else. Making me the best writer I can be is what makes her a great editor. She makes me get under my own skin, if that makes sense. Brenda is also very funny (as I’m sure you’ve surmised) so amidst the formalities and editorial notes and deadlines, there have been a lot of laughs. Her confidence in me has been both humbling and motivating.
As has this interview, Eleanor. Thank you! xo