Bookpleasures today is excited to have as our guest Jennifer Coburn. Jennifer is a USA Today best selling author of six novels and contributor to four literary anthologies.
Over the past two decades, Jennifer has received numerous awards from the Press Club and Society for Professional Journalists for articles that appeared in Mothering,Big Apple Baby,The Miami Herald,The San Diego Union-Tribune and dozens of national and regional publications. She has also written forSalon.com, Creators News Syndicate and The Huffington Post.
Jennifer lives in San Diego with her husband, William, and their daughter, Katie.She has recently publisher her first memoir, We'll Always Have Paris.
Good day Jennifer and thanks for participating in our interview.
Norm: How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
Jennifer: Thank you for
having me as a guest on your site. I have always been a storyteller.
I come from a New York family of Italians and Jews so our holiday
meals were very festive (and loud).
There were arms flailing, fists pounding on the table, and uproarious laughter. If you wanted airtime, you had to earn it. You needed to tell a story that entertained, or else a cousin -- or your own father -- would jump in and grab the spotlight.
There was nothing mean-spirited or competitive. More like Darwinian. My father was a lyricist and my mother worked at the New York Times so my relationship between spoken and written word evolved very naturally.
Norm: What do you want your work to do? Amuse people? Provoke thinking?
Jennifer: It is enormously
gratifying when people tell me that they had an emotional connection
with We'll Always Have Paris.
An Emergency Room nurse emailed and told me I made her laugh, which
was just what she needed after a long shift at the hospital. Another
person wrote and told me that she also lost her father very young,
and that she identified with some of my ambivalent feelings about my
father's cancer. She said she appreciated the honesty because she
felt less alone in some of her more complex emotions.
I also get a huge kick out of moms who send me photographs of their travels with their children. One mother sent a note and said they are strapped for cash and won't get to Paris anytime soon, but they can go camping and she appreciated the reminder that time is the greatest gift we share with our children. Another mom send a photo of she and her daughter in front of the Eiffel Tower with a note reading, "Thanks for the push."
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing? As a follow up, do you have a specific writing style?
Jennifer: My upbringing has affected everything, including my writing. But it has also affected the way I dress, my neuroses, and my penchant for cake.
My writing style is very straight-forward, easy-to-read, conversational prose. I never try to write beautifully because I just don't have that gift. I want to tell a good story in writing that is grammatically correct (enough) to make sense to the reader.
Norm: What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Jennifer: Typically I write contemporary women's fiction. We'll Always Have Paris was my first foray into memoir.
Norm: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Jennifer: In writing We'll Always Have Paris, I challenged myself to be honest over being funny. It was tough not to go for the laugh sometimes, but I was glad I did it because raw, naked truth sometimes leads to a different kind of humor.
Norm: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Jennifer: Always from friends or people I know dropping a one-liner or funny idea. My first novel is about a woman who tries to find a new wife for her soon-to-be ex-husband. My friend didn't actually do this, but she made an off-hand comment about finding a replacement for herself so she could divorce her husband guilt free. The two words "what if" are some of the most inspiring to a storyteller.
Norm: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Jennifer: Whenever I tell people I've written a book, I am always surprised at how many other people tell me they want to pen a story too. I think many of us have a strong need to be heard, to be known in a way that can only be done through writing and storytelling.
Norm: What motivated you to write your first memoir, We'll Always Have Paris and could you tell our audience a little about the memoir?
Jennifer: We'll Always Have Paris is a mother-daughter travel memoir about my daughter and my adventures through 12 European cities starting and ending in Paris. We begin with Katie at eight years old, and end with her as a 16-year-old young woman. Readers tell me they enjoy watching how we changed in our approach to travel and in our relationship with one another.
It was actually my mother who gave me the idea to write the book. We were having lunch on Christmas Eve in Coronado and I was telling her about the night Katie and I spent at the Shakespeare & Company Booksellers in Paris, and about the time we sang Korean folk songs with elderly tourists at the Alhambra in Spain, and she suggested I write a book.
Norm: Which country that you visited with your daughter Katie was your favorite and why? How long did you stay in each country?
Jennifer: Each trip lasted three to four weeks, and each was our favorite for different reasons. I would love to spend a year living in Barcelona or Paris. I just loved how Europeans seemed to value enjoying life over making a buck.
Norm: What purpose do you believe your memoir serves and what matters to you about the memoir?
Jennifer: On our first evening in Paris, a Frenchman told me that in order to know Paris, one must simply relax, have a glass of wine and enjoy life. I try to keep this in mind with all things I do (minus the wine). I've learned to slow down and be in the moment. I've learned that there is an alternative to our workaholic achievement culture. If someone reads my book and that message resonates with him or her, I've accomplished something worthwhile.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
Norm: What is next for Jennifer Coburn.
Jennifer: A nap. After that I'm having dinner with my family before we all start our workweek again. As for my next book, I'm not sure. I've got a few ideas I'm playing with.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Jennifer: I wish you had asked what I was wearing. Not because I'm a naughty little vixen who likes to cyber-slut it up during interviews, but so I could show off one of the things that absolutely rocks about working as a writer -- working in my jammies.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors