2010 Creative Careers Interviews : Jennie Nash Interview
Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews
Author Jennie Nash Talks About 'The Threadbare Heart'
By Molly Anderson-Childers
Last year, I interviewed author Jennie Nash about her book, The Only True Genius in the Family. It was so much fun I had to ask her back for a second chat. When I heard that she was releasing a new novel, The Threadbare Heart, I contacted her for an interview right away to dish the dirt on her latest creation!
Q: The last time we spoke, you'd just released The Only True Genius in the Family. The Threadbare Heart, your new novel, is a bit of a departure for you. Can you discuss what makes this book so unique?
A: It's the first book I've written in the third person, and it's written from the point of view of multiple characters. That was a big challenge for me, and I had fun working it out.
Q: What inspired you to write The Threadbare Heart? It's a fascinating story.
A: Thank you! I was inspired by a number of things. One of the most prominent was a character in my first novel, The Last Beach Bungalow. She was a widow who had lost her husband of 48 years. I didn't get to spend as much time on her in the story, and I felt like I wasn't finished with her yet. I wanted to find out what happened to her. The other thing that inspired me was my own mother's love story. She actually married the man she met on a blind date her first weekend in college, so I "borrowed" that story for The Threadbare Heart.
Q: Who is your favorite fictional character in this book, and why?
A: That's a hard question! I love them all for different reasons. I love the two sons of Tom and Lily because, as a mother of two girls, I was scared to write boys; I'm proud of those boys. I also love the dog Luna because I'm not actually a dog lover, and I think I probably fooled a lot of people. But my favorite? I think if I had to choose, I would pick Nadine, the avocado grower. She was present for two of the best scenes, and I have no idea where she came from she just sprang into my head, fully formed.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of writing The Threadbare Heart? Was it difficult to deal with the main character's grief for her husband?
A: You know, oddly, it wasn't. Once I committed to telling this story about grief and my working title had the word grief in it, so there was no question about the topic I didn't have any trouble. I knew what I was facing, and I was okay facing it. One of the great joys of writing is that you get to "experience" certain emotions without having to really go through them. I have to admit that I am terrified of ever losing my own husband, and getting to "pretend" lose a great love was a good exercise for me. Not that I would ever compare the two real life grief and made-up grief but just being in that territory and facing those situations on the page made me feel what? Stronger, I guess, maybe relieved? That's what I mean by saying that dealing with grief brought me a certain amount of joy. Oh boy, now I just sound crazy .
Q: I feel that this novel is a significant and telling work of fiction that deals gracefully with some very dark subject matter. What do you hope readers will learn from the main character of this book?
A: I love that you used the word graceful. I'm honored by that. I think that Lily shows people the folly in becoming complacent about love. Love is sometimes dull. It often demands compromise. But it rewards perseverance.
Q: What is the overall message of the story? What do you hope readers will learn or experience by the time they've finished reading The Threadbare Heart?
A: This book is about the idea that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I hope readers feel that, even a tiny spark of it. It's something I believe very strongly.
Q: I really enjoy the way you take imperfect, all-too-human characters and make them into something almost noble, or heroic, as you did with Ryan. Can you discuss the ways your characters are formed, and how you weave this transformative magic into your stories?
A: I always start with a character's job. I can't do anything else until I know what they do all day, and once I know that, I can start to understand them. What kind of person would be a math teacher, or run a multi-national company? What kind of person would coach a swim team or transcribe medical charts? The next thing I do is figure out how they got into that line of work. Was it by accident? By design? Was it something that had been done for years in that family, or was it something entirely new? I love figuring out how characters met the people they are connected to, and why they decided to stay together. That was the thing that finally helped me wrap my hands around Ryan when I realized that he got his girlfriend pregnant by accident and didn't feel that he was ready to marry her. Once I had all that his job, his reason for being in this marriage and having this child I totally got him. I got his bitterness and his sense of being trapped and the agony he felt that he would never live up to his dad's example. For beginning writers, you'll notice that none of this has anything to do with what we traditionally associate with "character" the color of his eyes or his hair, or what kind of car he drives. My editor has commented that I write very little about the physical nature of my characters, and it's true. I guess I feel like I know their souls pretty well, so I don't really need to worry about what kind of shoes they wear.
Q: What's next on the horizon, Ms. Nash? Any upcoming events, new writing projects or book signings we should be aware of?
A: I'm working on a new novel with the tentative title, Faith in God and Joshua Bell. When I say "working," I mean that I've written about a page. But you can follow along in the creation of this book on The Huffington Post. I'm writing about the process of writing the novel for the Books page. Just go to huffingtonpost.com and look up Jennie Nash and you'll see all the entries. I'm trying to post every weekday, and I'm excited about the possibilities for this project. I'd love people to stop by and comment, and ask questions.
Q: How did you make the transition from your day job to your dream job?
A: My day job has always been writing or editing or something to do with story. My first job out of college was at Random House. I worked for a magazine in New York, and then freelanced for a wide range of magazines. Writing books has been a natural progression from all of that. I've been very lucky to make a living with words.
Q: What's the best advice you've ever received about writing?
A: I think I'd have to say that it was something my first agent, Loretta Fidel, told me. She said, "Set the timer for an hour a day, and just write. In a year, you'll have a book." There is so much wisdom in that idea the idea that writing takes discipline and perseverance. You just have to sit down and do it. Sounds like a Nike ad Just Do It. But it's so true.
Q: Any final words of inspiration for our readers?
A: Follow your creative spark. If something is making noise in your brain, or calling out to your soul, don't ignore it. That something is the story you need to write. •
© 2010 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.
Molly Anderson-Childers is a a highly creative writer and artist from Durango, Colorado. More »