Sunday, May 13, 2007

An interview with the American Title 3 winner...Jenny Gardiner!

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I contacted Jenny Gardiner and asked her to do a post RT interview. (I interviewed her earlier this year for the blog. You can read that here.)

Here is what she says:

Wow, congratulations go to Jenny Gardiner for winning Romantic Times magazine's American Title 3 contest with Sleeping with Ward Cleaver! It is scheduled to be out in early 2008 from Dorchester. One can only imagine the fun and excitement you had at the RT convention this year!

Thank you so much, Patti. It's been an incredible experience. RT was a blast--quite a wild time. It was wonderful meeting all the RT folks, who were terrific, and my editor, Chris Keeslar, and all the other Dorchester folks, who were as sweet as can be. They gave me a tiara when they announced the win, so I took advantage of the situation and sported my tiara for much of the weekend ;-) . I figure after that I'll not have much occasion to wear it.
I also had the pleasure of getting to meet in person four of my fellow finalists--Judi Fennell, Kim Howe, Raz Steel and Linda Thomas-Sundstrom, as well as last year's AT II winner Gerri Russell, who has been fabulous. We all had a great time together and have become each other's best cheerleaders.

When did you find out you had won and was it hard to not tell everyone the news?

I found out the day after the voting ended, I think on March 5, so it was hard to keep from telling people for that six weeks or so until the RT convention. Sometimes I almost let it slip by accident.

Did you go out and celebrate with your family after you found out?

I found out around 11 in the morning so my kids were all in school--I texted them (highly illegal!) so I got text congrats from them all, and went out to celebrate at lunch with my husband and a very good friend of mine. I think it was one of those crazy days in which my kids didn't end up home until well after dinnertime, due to soccer games and practice, play practices, etc, so we didn't do anything huge that night. Ah, the exciting life of a mother of teens!

Give us a blurb about Sleeping with Ward Cleaver.

Here's the back cover copy:
Wham, bam, no-thank-you, ma'am. That about sums up the sex life of Claire Doolittle. Not-so-happily married to Jack—once the man of her dreams but now a modern-day version of the bossy, dull Ward Cleaver of 50's sitcom fame—Claire is at the end of her rope. Gone are the glorious days of flings in elevators and broom closets. Jack? All he needs is a cardigan and a billowing pipe to become the domineering father figure Claire never wanted. And looking at her body in the mirror, Claire would cast herself as Lumpy. They’d once had a world of color, of wanton frivolity. Now, life’s black and white: a sitcom in reruns. A not-very-funny sitcom. Cue an old boyfriend—the "one that got away"—throw in a predatory hottie who's set her sights on our leading man, and watch Claire's world spiral out of control.

In the old TV show, the Beaver always got a happy ending. Claire wants one, too.

How long have you been writing?

I've been writing in various forms for my whole life, really. Like when I was bombing in 4th grade math, I was the one who wrote the extra credit paper to keep me from getting a "D." I had ambitions to be a journalist from early in high school so wrote for the paper, the yearbook, etc, in high school, and that is what my formal training ultimately was, in broadcast journalism. I worked in radio and TV and then in PR on Capitol Hill. I got sick of that and became a freelance photographer for a while, which was a lot of fun, but when my kids were born, that put the kebosh on the glamorous photog career, as so much of it was last-minute--you know, calls wanting me at a press conference in 30 minutes, which is impossible with small children at home.
So I didn't write much of anything for a long while then. Just grocery lists and Christmas letters each year. I started writing again about four years ago when we had a drought in my state that got so bad we had extreme water restrictions--had to catch extra water in the showers in buckets in order to flush toilets, etc. I was so bummed when it dawned on me that no one would have holiday parties that year because who could host 100 people for drinks and then not let them use the bathroom all night?
I decided to write a funny essay about it and subbed it to a local paper. Luckily they bought the piece right away, which gave me the false confidence that it would be easy to get published! I then started writing essays and commentaries, usually humorous slice-of-life pieces, for regional publications, and then started writing more serious pieces that got picked up in such publications as Washington Post, Ladies Home Journal. I was doing radio essays for a regional NPR affiliate as well, and even got an essay on NPRs Day to Day.
All this time, I had become a voracious reader again, after having relegated myself to reading a paragraph of People magazine at bedtime when my kids were little and I was too exhausted to do much more than that. But after reading hundreds of books I started seeing what I loved and hated in books that were out there, and decided "Oh, I can do that!" How often do you hear that from writers?! We get motivation from others. Having come from a journalistic background, I didn't think I'd be capable of just making things up, but once I started, I realized that it was quite liberating to not be bound by truth and facts any more, and really started having fun with writing. All that was the long way of saying I really only started writing fiction about two years ago, but everything I'd done to that point was preparing me for it.

Any advice for someone interested in entering American Title 4?

Absolutely--go for it! When I submitted to the contest I really didn't very know much about it. I just saw that I could get my writing in front of editors, maybe without having to wait in a 1-year slush pile. That I was accepted as a finalist was a huge bonus, and that I was able to win it is still hard for me to wrap my head around. I am living proof that miracles do happen ;-) and I hope this inspires other writers to throw their partials into the ring. This contest has been nothing but remarkable for me--I have met so many wonderful writers, readers, industry professionals, and it sort of gave me license to get my name out there--the exposure has been invaluable. I am so enormously grateful for it, and a year ago at this time I was relatively in the dark about the contest, and most people hadn't heard of my name and certainly not the name of my book!

What's up for you now and after the publication of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver?

I've got all sorts of manuscripts in various states of revision and/or completion. My agent and I are figuring out what to submit next and see what happens from there. In the meantime, I've got revisions on Ward to get to Chris, plus a number of other ancillary writing deadlines (I have a column of humorous essays in our local paper, and I've got some freelance writing jobs I'm trying to get to, as well as some speculative pieces I'm writing for other publications). Enjoying also getting back to my WIP, which has been waiting for me to decide what's going to happen next for months now (I'm a total seat of the pants writer). And there will be a lot to do to prepare publicity-wise for the release of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. And I sure hope that people like it when they finally get to read it!

Thanks, Jenny, for being with us and the best of luck on your future projects.

Thank you Patti for inviting me in!

You can visit Jenny's website at
Jenny is one author to keep any eye on and don't forget to pick up Sleeping with Ward Cleaver when it comes out next year!

I think it's a book that a lot of people can relate to, so I hope you'll give it a chance. It's pretty funny, and poignant at times as well.

Thanks, Jenny! Can't wait!


Anonymous said...

Great interview, Patti and Jenny. It sounds very much like a book we middle aged moms can relate to.

Jenny Gardiner said...

Hi Patti! Coming late here--it's been a bit of a harsh week. First my hard drive crashed so I've had no computer, and then my son got hit by a car (he's okay thank goodness). So apologies for not posting sooner, and thanks for the interview!