Jennifer Weiner, author of In Her Shoes, recently returned to the best-seller list with Certain Girls, her long-awaited sequel to Good in Bed. Here Spark Networks President, Greg Liberman, confabs with Jenifer about her alter ego Cannie, the “un-chosen chosen people” and why she’s more Jewish than she thought she’d be.
Greg Liberman: Your latest work, Certain Girls is the sequel to Good in Bed, what made you decide to write a sequel?I grew up in a town in Connecticut where there were not a lot of Jewish people. I think that gave me a stronger Jewish identity because it did set me apart … it made us think hard about who we were and what kind of choices we were going to make.
Jennifer Weiner: I always had in my mind that I’d want to come back to the main character Cannie some day. But I knew I didn’t want to do it six weeks after the first book ended and find her basically in the same place, dealing with the same problems. I wanted to catch her at a different moment of her life, and I wanted to see her being a mom.
Greg: Why do you think your protagonist Cannie resonates so much with readers?
Jennifer: I hear from people and they’re like “She says what we think” and I’m like, “Wow, that’s fantastic!” Then I think, “Oh my god, what’s wrong with me?” Because I feel like I say a lot of those things too! I think that Cannie is very identifiable because she thinks about issues both big and small. She is tremendously concerned with raising a moral child and she also worries that she’s not dressed right for whatever party she goes to. That sounds to a lot of women like the concerns in their lives.
Greg: I noticed that one of the stories you wrote when you were working for the Philadelphia Inquirer was about your grandmother’s gefilte fish.
Jennifer: My grandmother actually makes her own gefilte fish! She goes to the fish store, gets the fish and boils the bones up and grinds her own fish in like a fish mill. It’s a very old-world process that involves a lot of complaining and funny stories.
Greg: How important a role has Judaism played in your life and in your career choices? Clearly it’s played a role in some of your books and articles.
Jennifer: I grew up in a town in Connecticut where there were not a lot of Jewish people. I think that gave me a stronger Jewish identity because it did set me apart, and I think that for me and for my siblings, it made us think hard about who we were and what kind of choices we were going to make. And today, we all lead Jewish lives. It’s interesting, I’m almost more Jewish then I thought I’d be!
Greg: So you got to write in you most recent book about Cannie’s daughter Joy’s Bat Mitzvah.
Jennifer: As a writer you always want to catch your characters at a moment of rapture, you want to get them at a moment where there’s something going on in their lives. Bat Mitzvahs are perfect because things change for the child as they enter into Jewish adulthood. Things also change for parents because that’s one of the first real tangible milestones showing that your kid is going to leave, become an adult and you’re not going to be a parent to a little kid forever.
Greg: In Certain Girls Cannie’s single friend Sam goes to a website called AJew4U.com to meet the “un-chosen chosen people.”When I speak to Jewish audiences and do the “un-chosen chosen people” line it gets a big laugh. It’s like everyone knows somebody who has met their spouse on JDate.
Jennifer: AJew4U.com, I was wondering when we were going to get to this.
Greg: Before you were married, did you ever think about or join JDate or have any of your friends?
Jennifer: JDate was a little bit after my time. It was just starting to get huge right around when I met my husband. But my best friend met her husband on JDate. She had been on it for a while and had some dates that never really went anywhere. And then, just after my wedding, she decided to give it one more try. She had seen this guy’s profile and so she emailed him, and when I came back from my honeymoon and was getting in the door with my suitcases and checking my voice message, she left me a message saying “I met the man I’m going to marry.” They’ve been married four years now. They’re so happy!
I also have a cousin who met her husband on JDate, so I am a huge proponent. When I speak to Jewish audiences and do the “un-chosen chosen people” line it gets a big laugh. It’s like everyone knows somebody who has met their spouse on JDate.
Greg: That’s definitely the way we feel and what makes it so fun to have the job that I do! I’m very popular at weddings, “The JDate guy is here! The JDate guy is here!”
Jennifer: I can imagine. Oh that’s so funny!
Greg: Do you have any plans to break out of the “Chick lit” genre and write something different?
Jennifer: I feel like the only real genre that my books fit into is that they’re all Jennifer Weiner books. I’ve done mysteries, a short story collection, I’ve done books that don’t adhere to the classic “Chick lit” formula of girl in the city finds guy, gets happy.
Greg: Certain Girls leaves the reader with a feeling that Cannie and Joy obviously have a lot more to experience together. Are there any plans to continue their story?
Jennifer: I think someday. I joke about writing Cannie: The Hot Flash Years or something like that. But I always want to leave my characters in a good place. I am just going to see if there is more of the story I want to tell. There is an element of subconscious or divine intervention where sometimes a story will land in your lap and that’s the story that you have to tell at that particular moment. I’ll just see what lands.
Greg: We’ve read about your recently announced deal with ABC Studios to create and produce a series. How did that come about?
Jennifer: My brother Joe, who is an entertainment attorney, asked me if I was ever interested in getting a development deal. And then he showed me some of the pitches that have been bought in recent years. One of them was literally like two cops are buddies and one is really quirky. And somebody bought that. I’m like “okay, I can do that!” So I met with the people at ABC, I liked them a lot; I think they are doing some of the best stuff on TV right now. So we signed this deal in the fall and then like 10 minutes later the writers strike happened, so I couldn’t do any work.
Greg: Any new books in the works?
I don’t try to write my books with an eye on Hollywood. If I did I would never write about full-figured women anymore, because there aren’t any actresses who look like that.
Jennifer: I’m working on a book that is going to be called Best Friends Forever. It’s about two women who were best friends all through school and then had a friend break up and how they come back together on the eve of their 20th high school reunion.
Greg: After In Her Shoes was adapted into a film have you taken a more cinematic approach in your writing?
Jennifer: I think that as a writer of fiction you can like really get yourself in trouble if you’re sitting at your computer thinking, who could play this character? Or I want to make this really cinematic, like I want there to be a big thing happening here because it’s going to look great on screen. I think your books have to be books. And if somebody wants to then take that story and tell it as a movie, my attitude as a writer is let that be their thing, not mine. I don’t try to write my books with an eye on Hollywood. If I did I would never write about full-figured women anymore, because there aren’t any actresses who look like that.
Greg: It seems like you were pretty pleased with the way the film adaptation of In Her Shoes came out.
Jennifer: I let the movie be the filmmakers’ story to tell. And it was this rare moment of mental health in my life and it worked out really well. I was really, really pleased with the way the movie turned out and I was pleased that I was able to move on to the next thing, as opposed to worrying about who they were casting. And I was happy that they kept the Judaism that was in the book in the screenplay. I wasn’t sure they would and I was happy they did.
Greg: That’s great. Well thank you so much for spending the time with us. I really appreciate it. I know I will be a very popular guy when I get home tonight.
Jennifer: Oh good, that’s why I’m here.