It's summer reading time and for many, past beach reads have included such books as "Good In Bed" and "In Her Shoes." But what you might not know is the popular author of those best-selling books, Jennifer Weiner, hails from Simsbury and has a hot-off-the-presses new book out for the summer called "All Fall Down."
Weiner is coming home to Connecticut on Saturday, June 21, to be the keynote speaker at the March of Dimes Brunch for Babies event at Belle Terrace in Avon. The 44-year-old Simsbury High School graduate can't wait to visit as she shares her memories of growing up in the valley and her take on social media, newspapers and her writing style as she Spills the Beans with Java.
Q: You are from Simsbury coming back to Connecticut this week for the March of Dimes brunch! Where in Connecticut must you stop by while you are here?
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A: I must go to the Mandell JCC in Hartford to swim with my mom. She lives in Berlin and we used to go there to workout. It's a little weird because I know she met her first girlfriend there. I graduated from Simsbury High School in 1987 but the town has changed. It has gotten so built up and is fancier but my old schools are still there.
Q: Chick lit. Compliment or criticism?
A: I don't mind when people talk about books as beach reads or fun. I think people do tend to judge books by their covers and the covers on my books are usually pastel. Looking like a good time is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to a book. I think my readers know what I am up to. I tell a story in a funny, breezy voice but with some serious stuff going on.
Q: How much of you are in your books?
A: There is a little bit of me in every protagonist and even in the villains in my books. I imagine the motivation is necessary to write it. When I wrote "Good In Bed," I was 28 and now I am 44. I look back and so much has changed. The beauty of fiction, from my perspective, is in real life you always think of the greatest things to say a day later in real life. When you write, you can give your characters those zingers. But you can't get too caught up in the books. My job as a writer is to make the next book as good as it can be without any eye toward Hollywood. I wanted to be a writer when I grew up and see my books in a bookstore. That thrill never gets old.
Q: Your new book "All Fall Down" came out this week. Heady stuff, don't you think, trying to make addiction into a beach read, no?
A: I don't really feel like I am in much of a box as far as what my books should be. I write the books I want to. I don't want a publisher saying 'make it funnier or sexier.' I really feel like I have a lot of freedom. I write characters I care about and I want to know what happens to them. "All Fall Down" is about a woman and her addiction, one she develops with prescription drugs. In a larger sense it is about something so many women are dealing with. The pressure we feel to have it all look good while we are doing it, raising happy, well-adjusted children, keeping a house that looks right and having a happy marriage. There are pitfalls to trying to live like that.
Q: Are you writing about you?
A: I'm divorced but there is a gentleman in my life. Certainly what happens in "All Fall Down" was not my marriage. I have never written specifically about my ex-husband. He is the father of my children and he is terrific. I would like to get married again. My six-year-old daughter would like nothing better because she wants a wedding so she can get a new dress.
Q: Who was the first author you latched onto when you started reading as a youngster?
A: Susan Isaacs. I read her when I was 12 and always go back to her work. I really like that she is a role model. She writes smart funny engaging characters. Her women win the day not because they are beautiful but because they are smart and resourceful. She is somebody who influenced me and my writing. Everything I read about her is about her being grounded and down to earth. She wrote her first novel while she was raising her children.
Q: Where do you like to go to write?
A: If you go to my Facebook page you will see I write in a closet, a really big closet, "A Sex and the City'' kind of closet. There is no way I could ever have enough clothes to fill it so I write in it.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
A: I think I always knew it and my teachers in Simsbury knew it, too. I remember when I was at Central Elementary School one of the high school English teachers came to work with me. It was the greatest public school. In high school I had the best English teachers who would push me in terms of writing and were so encouraging. I was so lucky to go to public schools in Simsbury because the teachers did recognize very early that I had talent.
Q: What will you be reading this summer?
A: I just finished reading "Off Course" by Michelle Huneven. It's about a woman trying to finish her dissertation and she moves to a cabin and has a disastrous romance. I am going to move on to Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel "You Should Have Known" about a psychologist in New York who gives women advice but whose own life is falling apart.
Q: Thoughts about books vs. e-readers and newspapers vs. online and social media?
A: I love my e-reader even though for a long time I was convinced I would be a paper person and they would have to pry real books out of my cold, dead hands. Now reading is reading. As far as social media, I love it even though there are a lot of writers who think it is the end of everything. I was a reporter in college and in Philadelphia and I worry about the demise of newspapers. We are going to be lost without them. It is that work that makes elected officials accountable and protects people as far as how government is spending their money. There is great value to newspapers. I was actually in the Hartford Courant. I was the graduation speaker at Simsbury High and it was in the paper. I am sure my mother saved it.
Q: What is something most people don't know about you?
A: I can parallel park a mini-van on the first try.
Tickets for the March of Dimes Brunch for Babies are $50. Information: www.marchofdimes.com