I attended the Susan Jane Gilman book talk at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta a few weeks ago and (if it is possible) grew to love Gilman even more. Her intelligence, humor, and determination are sure to keep her on best-seller (and my personal favorites) lists for years to come. Here are some of the best parts of her interview with journalist Melissa Long:
SJG's previous releases:As a child, SJG created her own imprint and made her own books out of Woolworth's notebooks, the top half of each page was the story and the bottom half was an illustration. When she was writing a feminist humor column she asked herself, "How do we talk back to a culture that tells us to live 'The Rules', consume 1200 calories a day, and be fake?" So she wrote "Kiss My Tiara." Then she set out to write The Great American Novel but September 11 happened and everyone wanted short stories and humor. She started collecting stories and published "Hypocrite in a White Pouffy Dress." Next she traveled to China and thought she would write a book like "Eat, Pray, Love" or "Under the Tuscan Sun", but found that "travel is not about conquering, it's about surrendering." Her experiences of being over her head on the other side of the world is told in "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven."
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard StreetInspired by the backstories of Tom Carvel, Haagen-Das, and Ben and Jerry and recognizing that "we haven't had a lot of female anti-heroes in literature" SJG created Lillian Dunkle by drawing from Paula Deen, Martha Stewart, and Scarlett O'Hara. Noting that "Scarlett is beautiful and she uses that. What if I take that away?" SJG very deliberately wrote a woman who is 75 years old so she could show the quest for youth and that women get tougher as they get older.
Research:SJG worked at Carvel and traveled to Italy to make gelato (tough research!)
Her High School English Teacher:
Like so many writers, SJG's high school English teacher believed in her and pushed her to write. Maintaining a correspondence as she continued publishing, he contacted her to send her a little bit of his galleys to read. Something called "Angela's Ashes." Yes, her high school teacher was Frank McCourt!
SJG: "I don't read Amazon and Goodreads reviews. The approval of your parents and your hometown paper are not important to me....but Oprah's accolades were pretty good."
SJG: "I need a sensory deprivation tank to write. Not at a Starbucks."
SJG: "I'm a damn good writer. But my first draft isn't as good as my fourth draft."
SJG: "Amazon is controlling the intellectual and literary access of a nation."
Favorite Ice Cream Flavors:
Mint Chocolate Chip and Chocolate (Mine, too!!)
The Orphanmaster's Son and The Goldfinch
Read my review of "The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street" here
***All quotes are taken from my handwritten notes and may differ slightly from original spoken statements. However, I did my absolute best to stay true to the interview***