So very happy to have the lovely, talented Brenda Janowitz with me today!! I’m so excited about her new release, The Dinner Party and can’t wait for you to know Brenda and learn more about her new book!
Jane! Thank you so much for having me here. I’m so delighted to be visiting your blog. I remember meeting you a month after my first novel came out in 2007. We were at the Harlequin Book Expo party, and it was my first big publishing party. I was so star-struck meeting you, you were already one of my favorite authors (Flirting with Forty, OMG!), and you were so lovely and down to earth and just generally awesome. What a thrill it is to be here now.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself that is not commonly known.
I’m Brenda Janowitz, the author of five novels, including The Dinner Party, which came out on April 12th. My work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Salon.
But what a lot of people don’t know about me is that I used to be a lawyer. I worked at a large Manhattan law firm and clerked for a federal judge, but I would wander the halls, thinking about the stories I wanted to write. When I turned thirty, my best friend Shawn had all of our friends chip in to send me to a writing class and the rest, as they say, is history.
My mom is still heartbroken over the fact that I don’t practice law anymore. At my readings, she likes to tell people that I’m still a lawyer, could still go back to practicing law tomorrow. She also likes to tell people that when I was in third grade, I starred in Ms. Kostecki’s production of Really Rosie. (I still know all the words.)
Please tell us about the premise of your new release.
It’s the story of three very different families getting together for a holiday meal they won’t soon forget. It’s about love and forgiveness, status and success, family and the ties that bind us to each other.
Look for The Dinner Party at these online retailers:
What sparked the idea for this novel? Do you draw inspiration from real life for your stories?
I wanted to write a book about letting go of the past. It’s something I have trouble with, this idea of letting go. I can never throw anything away, be it a Playbill from a Broadway show, an old pair of shoes, or even hurt and angry feelings from an argument, so I did what all writers do when they have something that’s bothering them: I wrote about it.
I wanted to set the novel around a holiday meal. Since I was writing about letting go of the past, Passover seemed like the perfect metaphor for this idea, “let my people go” and all that.
I don’t purposely draw from real life. But I do think that life has a way of seeping into every book. After all, I’m the author, so everything comes from me.
When it comes to inspiration, I always say that I’m inspired by everything and nothing. Every experience that I have, everything that I see, inspires me. But I don’t specifically draw from things in my real life.
What message would you like readers to take away with them once they read this story?
I’d love for readers to have a great reading experience. That’s the first thing for me, always: I want to entertain. Take people out of their busy lives for a few hours. Life is so hard these days (isn’t it hard?!), so if I can give people a laugh, or a cry, or just take them out of their own heads, then that’s a win for me.
But on a larger level, I’d love for readers to think about their own families and how they relate to each other. At its core, this is a story about family, about mothers and daughters. How we hurt each other. How we heal each other.
What’s your writing process? Do you have a set routine? Do you work every day?
I just do whatever works. I write whenever and wherever I get the chance. Usually, I try to get right to work after I put the kids on the school bus, but sometimes, it’s on my laptop while the kids are in the playroom (sort of like right at this very minute!). I’ve even been known to dictate full chapters of my books while I’m at pick-up in the nursery school parking lot!
On Facebook the other day, Allison Winn Scotch wrote that she’s been hitting her word count every day before 9 a.m. She got up and just wrote. No fooling around on the internet, no checking email, just writing for a solid hour.
I was insanely jealous.
And then I got inspired. This week, I’ve been waking up at 6 a.m., before my kiddies get up, and hitting the computer. I write for a solid hour before my children come downstairs with my hubby at 7 a.m. And you know what? I’ve written at least 1,000 words a day that way. And this morning I wrote 2,400 words. So, I may have a new routine after all.
Does your main character have any characteristics (personality quirks) that are similar to your own?
Sylvia Gold, the matriarch of the family that hosts the Passover Seder in my novel, is created completely from my imagination. She’s meticulous, and she cares about her family, what other people think, and can be described as a little bit of a control freak. People on social media are poking fun at the way she set her table with place cards for the Passover Seder. A relaxed family meal this was not.
As I prepared for my own family Passover Seder this year, I realized that I was a little more like Sylvia than I cared to admit. When I found myself making place cards for my table, I emailed my editor: I think I may be Sylvia! And she immediately wrote back: Oh, honey, I think we all have a little Sylvia in us.
What are you working on at the moment?
Besides promoting The Dinner Party, I’m working on my sixth novel and I’ve also been doing a lot of freelance work, like the book roundups I do for PopSugar.
For my sixth novel, I’m writing about marriage and parenthood. I wrote my first novel when I was single, before I even met my husband, but now I’m married with two kids. As my life has changed, so have the topics I want to explore with my writing. So has my writing voice.
Describe your personality in 5 specific words.
Ooh! That’s a tough one. I’d have to say: Funny, quirky, silly, thoughtful, and kind.
You’ve got to take a trip suddenly, with just twenty minutes to pack and you don’t know how long you’ll be gone. What 5 things would you absolutely have to take with you – besides clothing?
Okay, this is just too much fun! (Are we going somewhere?! I could be ready in ten.)
The first thing is books. I cannot survive without books. When I go away on vacation, my husband has to put a few books in each suitcase, to even out the weights of each bag!
I also cannot survive without writing. So, I’d need to bring either my laptop or a notebook, something to write in.
Next is a camera. I’m a big picture-taker. (Though, strangely, not a selfie-taker.) I love documenting happy occasions and making photo albums of my family each year.
I also love makeup. So, I really can never leave the house without concealer, lip gloss, and blush. For a trip, I always bring miniature versions of everything.
Finally, I’d have to bring my family. The biggest and best accomplishment of my life is creating my family—my husband and our two sons. So, if I’m leaving and I don’t know when I’ll be back? I’ve got to have them with me.
How may fans contact you?
And of course, there’s always good old-fashioned email. I’m at BrendaJanowitz [at] gmail [dot] com. I’d love to hear from you!
Jane, thank you so much for having me here! This has been a blast.
Brenda Janowitz is the author of five novels, including THE DINNER PARTY (St. Martin’s April 2016). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, the New York Post, Publisher’s Weekly, PopSugar, Mom.me, Hello Giggles, Writer’s Digest Magazine, WritersDigest.com, and xojane. You can find Brenda on her website, www.brendajanowitz.com, and on Facebook and Twitter at @BrendaJanowitz.
Brenda attended Cornell University and Hofstra Law School, where she was a member of the Law Review. Upon graduation from Hofstra, worked for the law firm Kaye Scholer, LLP, and did a federal clerkship with the Honorable Marilyn Dolan Go, United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of New York.
Brenda, I am so glad you were able to spend time with us here today. Readers, do pick up a copy of The Dinner Party. It’s a fantastic read. Leave a comment below and you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win an awesome box of women’s fiction novels from Brenda, me and more! This is a book lover’s dream giveaway. Don’t miss it!