I'm excited about this blog entry, and not just because I'm introducing a new interview format for my Girlfriends Cyber Ciruit posts, but because I get to tell you about a book I'm dying to read, THE PROFESSORS' WIVES' CLUB by Joanne Rendell.
To me, this looks like the kind of smart novel that's marketed as commercial women's fiction, but goes deep into the issues I love to read about. And from what I already know about the author, Joanne Rendell, I can tell it's going to capture me with its warmth and heart. Check out what she has to say ...
Joanne, how would you describe the genre of your latest book, and what pulled you toward it?
My book is considered commercial women’s fiction by the publishing industry and although commercial women’s fiction is rarely a subject of academic study, I’d say it was my PhD in English Literature which got me writing in the genre.
In grad school, I read literary fiction and poetry by day, and at night – or on flights to conferences and vacations – I’d always read books by writers such as Jennifer Weiner, Helen Fielding, and Emily Giffin. These books weren’t just escapism. I also loved that they were by women, for women, and contained within them wonderful stories about female characters eventually finding self-worth, independence, and happiness. Thanks to my graduate training in literary theory and feminism, I also understood the sexism and elitism of those book reviewers who too often dismiss today’s popular women’s fiction as “trash” or “fluff.” I also understood that books by women, for women, and about women have always been demeaned in this way (even Austen was in her time) and its something we have to fight against!
It was only when I finished my graduate studies and moved to the US to be with my husband and to have my son that I realized I could try writing one of these books – as well as just reading them and ardently defending them!
What can you tell us about the genesis of the idea for this book?
I found my inspiration for my book at the bottom of a large glass of wine! I was out with one of my girlfriends who, like me, is a professor’s wife, and after our usual catch-up, the cabernet began to flow and we found ourselves gossiping about other faculty wives. We talked about a wife planning a boob job; another pregnant with her fifth child. The best piece of gossip came last, however: a professor’s wife who’d just run off with one of her husband’s grad students. The very next morning I started to hammer out my first ideas for the novel. As I typed, the more I realized what intriguing characters professors’ wives would make. Even if they aren’t professors themselves (which many are), most professors’ wives are deeply connected and invested in the university where their husband or partner works. Like my friend and me, they live in faculty housing, they go to the campus gym, often their kids go to the same daycare. Yet these women often have little power when it comes to
I liked the idea of pitting these seemingly powerless women against a dean who in his little kingdom of the university has so much power.
What do you love most about THE PROFESSORS' WIVES' CLUB?
The underlying theme of the book is about standing up for what your believe in, and the power of friendship to help you stand up for those things. The women in The Professors' Wives' Club stand up for a garden they love and, in their fight with the dean and through the friendship that forms between them, they also find the courage to stand up for their lives and their dreams. I love a good tale about the strength and power of women - women who are friends and comrades and who can take on the world if needs be!
Is there a story behind the title?
I actually came up with the title for the book that night I was out with my friend. Just a few weeks later, I mentioned the title to my agent, almost as an aside, and she looked me dead in the eye and said “Write it, it will sell!” So I abandoned the project I had been working on (and the project which got me the agent in the first place) and started writing the book. My lovely agent read drafts and advised me along the way. Then, when it was done she sent it out to editors. Two publishers were interested in the book and there was an auction, which was all very exciting (especially because I was visiting family in Europe at the time and was therefore getting flurries of phone calls in the middle of the night!) The Professors’ Wives' Club sold to New American Library/Penguin in the end.
Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?
I had no input whatsoever and I adore the cover!
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Karen White’s The Memory of Water and on my ipod I’m listening to Diana Appleyard’s Too Beautiful to Dance. I’m loving them both. Your own book is next in the pile! I can't wait to get stuck into it.
Thanks so much, Joanne! It was a pleasure.
To buy THE PROFESSORS' WIVES' CLUB, visit your local chain or independent bookstore. To purchase online, visit amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Joanne's website at joannerendell.com.