Tomorrow is the official launch date of my new novel, THE WISHING HILL, and I’m celebrating it in part by having breakfast with author Amy Sue Nathan. What’s special about this is that I’ve never met Amy, whose new novel, THE GLASS WIVES, was published just two months ago and is receiving fabulous reviews, but I’ve been a fan of hers ever since discovering her online. I live in northern Massachusetts and she’s in Chicago–which is where my family happens to be stopping on our way to Wisconsin for my mother-in-law’s birthday bash. Naturally, Amy and I have to meet for pancakes!
For those of you who don’t know Amy’s popular site, Women’s Fiction Writers, leave this page right now and SIGN UP to follow her blog and newsletter! You’ll find interviews with some of the world’s best writers there talking about themselves, their work, and their publishing journeys. Each post is enough inspiration to get you through your writing deadlines, I promise!
Today, I’m very pleased to turn the tables on Amy and interview her here about Women’s Fiction Writers and her novel, THE GLASS WIVES, recently published by St. Martin’s Griffin.
Q. This is one of those chicken-and-egg questions, I suspect, but I’m going to ask it anyway: What gave you the idea to start Women’s Fiction Writers? Were you already working on your own novel when you started it?
I spent about a year trying NOT to start my own women’s fiction writing site or blog, believe it or not, but I just couldn’t find what I was looking for anywhere. So I had to create it. It took me a long time to take the leap, but I have never looked back and it’s been the best experience ever.
Q. How has reading interviews by other women’s fiction writers informed or transformed your own writing process?
I’ll tell you a secret. I feel like a hoarder sometimes because I get those interviews and guest posts a while before they’re posted. So I soak up all the information and insights and then just about burst to get them out there to everyone. The main thing I’ve learned in the past 2+ years of hosting and writing Women’s Fiction Writers is that authors are incredibly generous, not only with the talent they share, but with the hand they reach out to bring other writers along in the process.
Q. Tell us about the premise of The Glass Wives and what inspired you to write the novel.
Inspiration is a twofer for me. I had a story I wanted to tell AND I wanted to prove to myself that I could write a book. The Glass Wives is about a divorced mom who takes in her ex-husband’s young widow and baby. The springboard for the novel was the fact that my ex passed away. I didn’t take anyone into my home, though (I keep checking the basement, no one is there). The fact is that 99% of The Glass Wives is fiction, but I leave it to the reader to figure out the 1%, and everyone has different ideas.
Q. You once mentioned to me that a reader complained your novel “wasn’t Jewish enough.” What did you think the reader meant by that, and how did you respond?
Oy! My honest reaction was that I had considered some of the things the person (a RABBI) mentioned when she asked me this. I’d considered sending the kids (Sam and Sophie) to Sunday School (but did not), and I also told the rabbi that a novel is selective in what it tells, and the more religious things she mentioned just weren’t part of this particular story. When I do freelance editing I call this “walking the dog.” Just because there’s a dog in the story doesn’t mean you have to walk it. Just because the story is about a Jewish family doesn’t mean they have to go to synagogue. You write the story that needs to be written with the details that move the story forward, and are imperative.
Q. How has your own definition of women’s fiction changed during the process of writing and publishing THE GLASS WIVES?
I’ve always embraced the notion of women’s fiction. I am okay with the fact that The Glass Wives might appeal to women more than men (although men—not related to me—have read it and enjoyed it). I enjoy writing about women, and with women in mind. Why wouldn’t I? I am one. As for being offended by the label? No way. Does it mean some people will stay away from the book because it’s not labeled another way? Maybe. But we can’t control how others see our books.
Q. I know you’re a single mom. How do you even manage to find time to write fiction? More importantly, how do you convince yourself that your fiction is worthy of the time you give it?
My kids weren’t little when I started writing again after a long hiatus, and they’re much less little now (how’s that for a new way to say they’re 21 and 18?). I was bound and determined to write a novel and have it published, and once I set my mind to something, there’s usually no way to stop me. I’m well aware that the only sure way to fail is to not try.
Q. If you could list three unbreakable rules for writers of women’s fiction, what would they be?
Since I write realistic women’s fiction, I’ll go with that (no magic, etc).
- The main character has to be flawed (physically, emotionally, socially, whatever works).
- The main character has to have a BIG problem and a reason to need (not just want) to solve it.
- The main character has to change within the context of the story with still retaining who she is (she can’t become who someone else wants her to be).
Q. I know you’re working on a new novel now. Can you tell us a little bit about it, and how the process of writing it differs from what it was like to write THE GLASS WIVES?
My new novel is currently without a title! I now have pages and pages of brainstorming notes for a new one. No title, but I can tell you that it’s about thirty-nine year old, divorced mom, Izzy Lane, who is an anonymous blogger. Izzy lies about love life online (and a little bit in real life too) and those stories land her job as a relationship columnist for a popular website–so she chooses to continue perpetuating the lies until she has to come clean and face the consequences. Underneath all that, the story is about secrets and lies, who keeps them, tells them, and why, as well as how our online lives connect and sometimes overrun our real lives.
For this novel I’m working off a twenty-page synopsis, which I did not do for The Glass Wives. I love having a road map for the story, but also find I tend to go “off road” a bit too. And that’s the really fun part.
Liz Flaherty says
One of the (many) things I loved about THE GLASS WIVES was that, even though it was Jewish, it wasn’t SO Jewish that a Methodist couldn’t easily identify with it at the same times she was learning something. So, what disturbed your rabbi made it reader-friendly for some of us.
Great observation, Liz! Yes, one of my favorite things about The Glass Wives was that the characters were so well drawn, I felt like they lived in my own neighborhood–and I wanted to be friends with them!
Amy Sue Nathan says
Thank you Liz and Holly!
That question from the rabbi felt more accusatory than inquisitive, if that makes sense, but I think I handled it well. The truth is, I’m not very religious but I am very culturally Jewish, so that will probably remain a part of my fiction in some way.
I appreciate the reassurance (as writers always do)!