Jennifer Weiner talks The Next Best Thing
New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner never ceases to amaze. Her upcoming novel -- The Next Best Thing -- which fans have been waiting breathlessly for will be released July 3 -- just in time to take on your summer vacation. Jennifer took time out of her uber-busy life to sit down with SheKnows and have a very honest conversation about, well, everything! We just love her... Plus, we have exciting details about a sweepstakes and Jen's Cupcakes Across America book tour.
SheKnows: You're active on Twitter. In fact, The Wall Street Journal named you a "top celebrity tweeter" and Time Magazine named you as one of its 140 Best Twitter feeds (@jenniferweiner).Tweet us a blurb of your novel, The Next Best Thing (in 140 characters or fewer, of course)
Jennifer Weiner: Girl TV writer gets her show green-lit, and then things fall apart.
SheKnows: You've said The Next Best Thing was loosely based on your year in Hollywood, when you co-wrote and co-ran a sit-com. So, give us the scoop: hottest celebrity you met/came into contact with? Biggest perk you received? Biggest lesson you learned? And anything else you'd like to share about Tinseltown!
Jennifer Weiner: Oh, I have so many funny Hollywood stories! Where to begin?
I met Liz Phair, who’s sort of a hero/idol/role model to me. Liz and her team actually did the music for "State of Georgia," the sitcom I co-wrote and co-produced. We met at the Chateau Marmont, and Liz is tiny in person, and beautifully dressed — I remember boots and scarves and shiny hair — and of course I went into total country-mouse shut-down mode and could not say a thing, after I blurted out that her music kind of saved my life when I was in my 20s and broken-hearted. I did, however, manage to steal a few chunks of fruit from her fruit plate.
We also auditioned a lot of big 1980s/1990s stars for the role of Aunt Honey, Georgia's Auntie Mame-ish protector in the big city. Loretta Devine ended up with the part, and she was fantastic, but people like Frances Fisher and Loni Anderson came in to read, which was amazing and crazy — like, I'm actually sitting in a room with these people?!?
Biggest perk: I rented a house in Los Feliz, because I knew I'd have my daughters with me a lot of the time, and my mom and my sister when they were with me, and the house had a swimming pool and its own orchard of fruit trees. We had lemons, avocados, plums, tiny strawberries, pretty much everything you could want growing a few feet away from the pool. That was nice. And the weather was gorgeous.
Biggest lesson: I think, looking back, that there were things I agreed to that I probably should have pushed harder against. But I try not to be too hard on myself. It was my first time out there, I really wanted the show to get on the air and succeed, and so I was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen. In retrospect, was that the right attitude? Maybe not. But would things have gone any differently if I'd tried to put my foot down? I'm not sure.
So I guess that what I learned is that maybe, in spite of the fruit and the weather, I'm an East Coast girl after all... and that maybe books are the right place for me to tell my stories. With books, you don't have to worry about advertisers, or audiences watching your pilot with dials in their hands, or executives telling you that the actress you love isn't a big enough name to get people to watch your show. Yes, publishing's a business, and ultimately your product, whether it's a book or a movie or a TV show, is judged in the marketplace... but it feels like a much less brutal business than show business.
SheKnows: What are five things on your desk/in your workspace, that would give us some insight to who you are?
Jennifer Weiner: Ooh, good question! Let’s see. On my desk right now there's a Tupperware container of granola that my daughter and her babysitter made. It's delicious, and reveals that I love delicious things. Especially hand-made or homemade ones.
There's my Kindle, of course, loaded with books I'm reading, and books I'm re-reading, and a stack of monogrammed note cards so I can write thank-you notes.
I always try to keep scented candles around — one of my favorite things is a fire in the fireplace and, if I can't have that, I like the glow and the smell of a candle burning. I also try to keep flowers, either fresh or faux, near my workspace, just to have something pretty and remind me, on the rare days I need reminding, that my work is a joy — that I'm not stuck in some grim cubicle doing a job I hate, but that I get to do work I love, that I get to be what I wanted to be when I grew up, and that the work I do brings pleasure to people, people I'll never meet, maybe people who haven't even been born yet, who live in countries I'll never visit and speak languages I don't know. That's still amazing to me.
I have pictures of my daughters, who are funny and smart and beautiful, and who delight me every day with their observations and humor (the other day, my four-year-old pulled my highest high heels off the shelf — a pair of gorgeous Kate Spade stilettos that I bought for a Today Show appearance, knowing I'd only have to hobble 25 yards from the green room to the set and back again.) "What are you doing with those, Phoebe?" I asked, and she put them down and announced, "I will bring these when I go to be on The Bachelor!"
Finally, there's a little encaustic portrait of a boxing woman with her gloved fists raised. It was a gift from an artist named Amy Goodwin, who's done portraits of both of my daughters, and it's a reminder to be brave, to stand up for what's right and fair, even if it's not easy. My little boxing lady reminds me of some of my favorite Warren Zevon lyrics: "Some have the speed/And the right combinations/If you can’t take the punches/It don’t mean a thing." I never set out to be a crusader for equality in the way women's work gets treated by critics, but I'm not the kind of person who can sit quietly when she notices injustice. It's not the way I'm wired, and it's not the way I was raised. I speak up, even doing so sometimes feels like it's causing the entire internet to stand up and roar "Your books suck and you're just jealous!" That's not fun to hear or read... but the numbers don't lie. We know, statistically, that men are disproportionately published, disproportionately reviewed and, in general, treated better than their scribbling sisters. I really believe that needs to change.
SheKnows: What are you reading right now/planning to read next?
Jennifer Weiner: When I'm stressed or busy, I go back to old favorites. I liken comfort reads to comfort foods — familiar and delicious, guaranteed to satisfy. I read a lot of quote-unquote women's fiction, but I'm actually a big speculative-fiction reader. I just finished Stephen King's A Wind Through the Keyhole, which is part of his Dark Tower series — I loved it, of course — and I'm dipping back into George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones books, in part for the sheer enjoyment, in part to marvel at the skill it takes to keep all of those plotlines and characters straight.
SheKnows: We LOVE your live tweets during The Bachelor. Thoughts on the latest Bachelorette, Emily?
Jennifer Weiner: During Brad's season, Emily struck me as very pretty and very sweet... and that was mostly it. I'll be interested to see if she shows more dimensions now that she's the one handing out the roses. My guess is, there has to be more there. Anyone who'd put herself, and her young daughter, on TV multiple times in a quest for love, or another televised gig, clearly has some ambition... and, honestly, I'd love to see a more scheming/ruthless/fame-hungry side to Em. I'm not sure we'll get it, but I can hope, right?
SheKnows: It's probably like asking you to pick your favorite child, but, c'mon, of the books you've written, do you have a fave?
Jennifer Weiner: You're right — asking an author to pick a favorite book is just like asking a mom to pick a favorite child. Maybe some moms actually can — or are foolish enough to do it in public — but, for me, all the books are special, because they all speak to where I was at that moment in my life. The honest answer is, whatever book I'm currently working on is my favorite. Even if it's killing me at the time!
SheKnows: Are you working on your next novel/project? If so, can you give us any hints?
Jennifer Weiner: Right now I'm putting the final, final touches on The Next Best Thing, and just starting to think about what I want to do after that. Nothing definite yet — I've got this sort of dystopian science-fiction Handmaid’s Tale thing I've been kicking around forever, writing bits and pieces of between other projects, and then I've got an idea for a story about online envy and its consequences, but nothing definite yet. Of course, when there is something definite, I have no doubt I’ll be tweeting all about it! So stay tuned...
Jennifer Weiner's sweepstakes
Enter a sweepstakes for Jen to personally visit your book club: If a customer pre-orders any version of The Next Best Thing between now and July 1, 2012 and sends Weiner the receipt, they're entered to win a visit from Jennifer Weiner to their book club (or dinner with Jennifer and a group of friends)!!
Cupcakes Across America
What's the next best thing to a perfect summer read? A summer reading with cupcakes! To celebrate the launch of The Next Best Thing (July 3, 2012), Jen will be embarking on a "Cupcakes Across America" tour to bookstores across the country — as thanks to all of her fans for their enormous support, she will be bringing delicious cupcakes for the audience catered by local bakeries!