Monday, September 07, 2009


By Joanne Rendell

Apologies for getting so behind on my blogging. I never posted my Friday update last week, but that's not the worst of it--I'm late in telling you about this wonderful new book from an outstanding GCC writer, Joanne Rendell.

CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE sounds like a perfect book club read. Nicola Kraus, co-author of The Nanny Diaries, called it "A charming, witty, and cerebral novel." Here's the description:

Across Washington Square live two very different women …with their very different love of books.

Some women follow their hearts; others follow their minds. In this second novel from the acclaimed author of The Professors’ Wives’ Club, we return to Manhattan University, where two strong-willed women are compelled to unite their senses and sensibilities.

Professor Diana Monroe is a highly respected scholar of Sylvia Plath. Serious and aloof, she steadfastly keeps her mind on track. Professor Rachel Grey is young and impulsive, with a penchant for teaching popular women’s fiction like Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Devil Wears Prada, and for wearing her heart on her sleeve.

The two conflicting personalities meet head to heart when Carson McEvoy, a handsome and brilliant professor visiting from Harvard, sets his eyes on both women and creates even more tension between them. Now Diana and Rachel are slated to accompany an undergraduate trip to London, where an almost life-threatening experience with a student celebrity will force them to change their minds and heal their hearts…together.

Joanne was good enough to answer some of interview questions, so please give her charming answers a read ...

What's the basic premise of CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE?

Crossing Washington Square is a story of two very different women and their very different love of books. Rachel Grey
and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds and when a brilliant and handsome professor from Harvard comes to town and sets his sights on both women, sparks really fly!

What was the inspiration behind it?

The idea for Crossing Washington Square evolved over a few years. As someone who has lived the academic life (I have a PhD in literature and now I'm married to a professor at NYU), I've always loved books about the university - novels like Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys, Richard Russo's The Straight Man, Zadie Smith's On Beauty, and Francine Prose's Blue Angel. But what I noticed about such campus fiction was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Even the female authors like Francine Prose and Zadie Smith's novels focus on male professors. Furthermore, most of these male professors are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students! I wanted to write a novel with women professors taking the lead and I wanted these women to be strong and smart and interesting - instead of drunk, despondent, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons!

Is there a scene in the book you're especially proud of?

Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds. Rachel is young, emotional, and impulsive. She wrote a book about women's book groups which got her a slot on Oprah and she uses "chick lit" in her classes. Diana is aloof, icy, and controlled. She's also a scholar of Sylvia Plath who thinks "beach" fiction is an easy ride for students. My favorite scene is where these two women face-off in a department meeting. Neither of the professors is a shrinking violet and thus sparks really fly! The scene was such fun to write.

If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE, who gets the call?

Crossing Washington Square loosely echoes Austen's Sense and Sensibility - with one professor being led by her sense, the other by her sensibility. I love the Ang Lee adaptation of Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet playing the two very different Dashwood sisters. I'd love Emma and Kate to play my professors too!

Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?

I received the first draft of the cover via email. I opened it and instantly fell in love! I really had no suggestions to make it better. I thought it was perfect and really captured the spirit of the book. It kind of looks like a Penguin classic (with the square title box and the particular typeface), but it is coupled with the very modern photo of the girl. This juxtaposition really captures what the book is about. In other words, how some people love classical books, other like modern, popular books, but how all books - whatever kind - can unite people in the end.

Actually, I recently contacted Melody Cassen who designed the cover for Crossing Washington Square and the cover of my first book The Professors' Wives' Club. I told her how much I loved her work. She was so pleased and said that she rarely hears feedback from authors about their covers. So, tip of the day for authors, if you like your cover, drop the designer a line and tell them!

What's next for you?

I'm working on final edits for my third novel (which was bought by Penguin last fall). The novel tells the story of a woman who thinks she might be related to the nineteenth century writer, Mary Shelley. On her journey to seek the truth and to discover if there really is a link between her own family and the creator of Frankenstein, Clara unearths surprising facts about people much closer to home - including some shocking secrets about the ambitious scientist she is engaged to. The book is told in alternating points of view between Clara and the young Mary Shelley who is preparing to write Frankenstein.

Thanks, Joanne!

CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE is available in trade paperback at your favorite chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber bookseller. For more information visit Joanne's website at

1 comment:

Rooney said...

I chanced upon to view your blog and found it very interesting. Great ... Keep it up!