Jennifer Close whose latest book is The Smart One, answered our five questions.
IFOA: Tell us about something new you tried while writing The Smart One, your second novel.
Close: Well, I don’t know if this is something new, but it’s something that I became very aware of while writing this book. I started taking breaks from looking at it—sometimes for a week, and once for a month—and then coming back to it with fresh eyes. Part of the reason was just circumstance, because my first book came out and I got married in the middle of writing it, so it was a really busy time. And while I did take the manuscript with me on my honeymoon, I only peeked at it once. It makes me a little nervous to step away from a project for so long, but what I learned is that it helps a lot. Sometimes things would just click into place while I was taking a break, and sometimes I’d come back to it and realize that a whole scene or chapter needed to be cut or added. Now, with the new stuff I’m working on, I’m less afraid to take a little break if things are getting confusing.
IFOA: Is your protagonist Weezy Coffey (great name, by the way) based on someone you know? Who or what inspired her?
Close: The first character that came to me in The Smart One was Claire, followed shortly by Martha. Once I had those two, I knew that their mom (Weezy) would be a narrator as well. I just felt like I couldn’t write about sibling rivalry, or the feeling that one child was favored over the other without giving Weezy a voice, a chance to explain herself.
Weezy isn’t based on anyone I know. What’s funny is that a lot of the character of Weezy reminds me of myself. I don’t have children yet, but I think often about what kind of mother I’ll be. I’m a big worrier—anytime that I have to leave the dog in someone else’s care, I worry he’ll die. (I’m hoping that I’ll loosen up a little when I have kids.)
I really feel for Weezy—she just wants the best for everyone. She wants her children to be happy and healthy and feel safe, and she’s still struggling with realizing that she can’t control that. And I think that what you start to understand when you get to know her is that she’s rooting for all of her children to succeed—she just has to root a little harder for Martha. Weezy is also really funny, I think. And I was a little surprised to learn that she was my husband’s favorite character!
IFOA: What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Close: My perfect non-working day would go like this: I’d sleep in, and then get some coffee and snuggle up on the couch or maybe back in bed to read a great book. Then I’d have a lazy brunch with my husband, and take the dog for a nice long walk. (In my perfect day, it’s also about 70 degrees out!) I’d read a little bit more in the afternoon, and possibly scribble down some writing ideas. Probably watch some TV on the couch with my husband and dog. To end the day, I’d meet some friends for drinks or dinner.
My perfect working day is a little different. I’d get up at a decent time, take the dog for a good walk, drink some coffee and answer emails. Then I’d read over what I wrote the day before and I’d feel great about it, like it’s going somewhere. I’d write some new stuff for a few hours, taking a break for lunch and maybe yoga or a quick run. Then I’d come back to my desk and write for a few more hours. I’d end the day making dinner with my husband and having a glass of wine. And if I had a great book to read before I went to sleep, that would be ideal! I’ve had perfect working days like this one, but they don’t come around too often! So when they do, I really appreciate them.
IFOA: What are you reading right now?
Close: I just finished The Engagements by Courtney Sullivan, which was fantastic. It comes out in June. And before that, I read The Good House by Ann Leary, which I can’t stop recommending to people—it was so funny and sad and just wonderful all around. I’m currently reading Wise Men by Stuart Nadler and really enjoying it. I’m only about halfway through, but whenever I look forward to getting into bed to read, I know I’ve got a good book.
IFOA: Finish this sentence: It’s hard to believe, but…
Close: I’m even more nervous for this book launch than I was for my first book.
Close will read at Authors at Harbourfront Centre on April 10 .