I’m honored to have Jennifer Coburn as a guest on Chick Lit Goddess! After reading “Tales From The Crib” and loving it, she is my new favorite author! As I am a Chick Lit Writer in the making, this talented and kind woman is a true inspiration. Once anyone reads just one of her books, you will want to continue on with the others — I know I do!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I’m a native New Yorker living in San Diego with my husband and 14-year-old daughter. I love nothing more than a good story – whether it is told at a dinner party, in a book, on stage or on screen. I also love traveling with my daughter, which is always like experiencing a good story in real-time.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? I’ve always loved writing, but never really though it was something I could do as a career, so I went the sensible route and got a “real” job. Even there, I found ways to incorporate writing, but it was always about politics or social issues. I enjoyed that immensely, but really found my own voice while I was on my (12-year!) maternity leave. It was then when I let myself start writing from the heart instead of just the head.
What’s it like in a day of Jennifer Coburn? Crazy. Two years ago I returned to work as the director of communications at the non-profit agency I left when my daughter was born. I leave at three o’clock to drive a carpool, shuttle Katie to activities and then write articles and novels from 7 PM to midnight. Some days I get to the gym, but no often enough.
How long does it take you to write a book? The fastest one was Tales From the Crib, which took four months to complete. Reinventing Mona took nearly a year.
Which do you prefer, Kindle or paper books? As a reader, I really like the feeling of a book in my hands. I tried the kindle once and it was fine, but I’m a very late adopter of technology. (I just learned how to program contacts into my cell phone.) As a writer, I prefer ebooks. Kindle and nook have provided a place for readers to access some of my older books that are no longer in print, so for that, I am eternally grateful.
What do you love and hate about the writing process? I love seeing how a story unfolds. I always think I know the story I’m going to tell, but it inevitably changes along the way and I really enjoy that experience. In my first novel, The Wife of Reilly, I realized three chapters before the end that if I finished the book the way I’d outlined, my character would have learned nothing. I really enjoy getting to know characters and figuring out what they need to become a fuller, more self-actualized person.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Have a rejection ritual – something you do every time you get bad news from an agent or an editor (or a bad review). I used to set a stopwatch for 15 minutes of hard-core grieving, then I’d drive to the Hotel Del Coronado and sip a cup of tea in the lobby. Something about being in this luxurious setting made me feel successful. It was the emotional boost I needed to return to writing.
How do you come up with the titles of your book? Authors actually do not have final say on their titles; it is the publisher. I was very lucky that my publisher let me name three out of four of my books. The Wife of Reilly and Tales From the Crib just came to me before I’d even started writing them. Calling my second book Reinventing Mona occurred to me after I’d finished it. And The Queen Gene was a compromise title. I wanted to call it Tales From the New Crib because it is a sequel to Tales, but my publisher did not go for it. I suggested Family Haunts because there’s a comical paranormal element, but my publisher wanted the title to focus on the mother-daughter relationship. They suggested a title I did not care for at all, so I put out an emergency email asking friends for suggestions. My friend, Vince Hall came up with The Queen Gene, which my publisher (thankfully) accepted.
Are any of your characters based on any people you know? Yes, quite a few, especially in Tales From the Crib and The Queen Gene. I gave my eighty something Aunt Bernice the manuscript to review before it was published and she insisted that I call the characters based on her and her sister by their real names. (I had originally changed Bernice and Rita to Beatrice and Rena. Slick, huh?) I told her that I was working on a sequel and the characters would be doing things neither she nor Rita would ever consider, such as going to a strip club and getting a bikini wax. She insisted on the change, and was a great sport when I wrote about her character giving weekly “Snatch Reports.”
Who or what inspires you? People who have been through the shitter, never gave up. I love hearing about an actor who couldn’t get an audition last year, and twelve months later is winning an Oscar. Those stories always bring tears to my eyes.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you handle it? I convince myself that the story is already written, and that I am just the person charged with getting it on paper. So if I’m blocked, I tell myself that the next part of the story is out there waiting for me to find it. (I realize this sounds a bit airy fairy, but it helps take the pressure off me, so what the heck.) I go for a walk or grab a bite to eat and inevitably, while I’m out of my house, I see or hear something that fills in the story gap.
Can you tell us anything about any upcoming projects you’re working on right now? I just finished a book called Brownie Points, which is a comedy told from the POV the mother of a 13-year-old boy who wants to join the Girl Scouts. When the organization refuses, the boy sues for gender discrimination, setting off a firestorm of national media coverage. I had a lot of fun writing about this.
**Jennifer loves to hear from her readers:
**Click HERE to read my review for Tales From The Crib!