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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Author Interview: Jane Porter (Flirting With Forty)

I would like to start by thanking Ms. Jane Porter for agreeing to take the time to participate in this interview. Her book Flirting With Forty has just been made into a Lifetime Movie, that will air on Saturday December 6th at 9:00 PM / 8:00 PM Central time.

Flirting With Forty, a coming-of-age book that tells the story of a newly divorced mother of two, who has given so much of herself to others that she no longer knows the real her! She goes on a vacation to Hawaii, where she takes a surf lesson and begins to find happiness in the woman she is. Finding romance in a long-distance relationship is challenging, but fascinating to read about, especially as Jane herself has a similar relationship! I simply adore Jane's book and look forward to reading more from her!

If you haven't read my review of Flirting With Forty, click here.

Special Note: I tried to keep this interview short as Jane is up against a book deadline, so I skipped some of my normal questions in order to focus on the book-related questions.

Book Specific:

The opening scene of the book with the Christmas tree had me in stitches – I couldn’t stop smiling and chuckling! It was so true! And so great! Its never sunny when we go pick out a tree, and the tree NEVER just slips into the stand so you can proceed to decorate until your heart’s content! What has been your best Christmas tree memory?

I have had so many difficult tree experiences! I honestly don’t know if I have good tree memories but I certainly have several tree horror stories—and I think I put all of them into the opening tree scene in Flirting. I did once buy a tree that had a double trunk and later fell over, shattering my favorite German ornament heirlooms. I’ve had a tree that I dropped on my son and cut his chest deeply. I’ve had a tree that just wouldn’t stand in the stand so I ended up tying it to a window sill and my bookshelf. It’s funny how much I hate putting up the tree because a beautifully decorated tree is one of my favorite parts of Christmas.

I think it was around page 60 or so that I flipped to the back of the book to see where you live. You see – I was amazed that you got “us” – Seattle-ites! No – we don’t pull out umbrellas at the first sign of rain, we have to buy at least one pair of sunglasses every year because we lose them due to not using them. . . it is green, and then its gray for about 5 months! Then as I read on I found that you added Hawaii to the story – Oh the wonderful trips I’ve had there! This was my perfect book – most of the things I love in one place, but with the benefit of a great sense of humor! After browsing your blog (needed to know something to not feel silly and blunder through a quick interview!) I found that you are a very well-travelled person, a world traveler in fact! What has anchored you here in Bellevue/Seattle?

My kids. I’m here until my kids go away to college. This is home, and this is their home. Although I love to travel, I think its important kids feel a sense of security and stability and that’s what Bellevue gives my boys.

I no longer dread turning 40 (I’ve still got about 8 years to go, but every now and then my age surprises me – I can’t believe I’m already in my early 30’s!), but instead look forward to it with a new outlook thanks to you! You have so many gems of advice or “ah-hah” moments in the book. One of them is on page 88 where Jackie says, “I don’t know if it’s life, motherhood, or marriage, but women start giving pieces of themselves up. Little by little, year after year, and then one day you wake up and you’re not even there anymore. All the things that made you fun and fiery and hopeful . . . are gone.” What advice would you give to your readers about re-creating some of those pieces – becoming that fun and fiery person they are meant to be, even after sharing so much of yourself with others?

I think women have to be as good to themselves as they are to their children and spouses. When our significant other has had a bad day, we try to do something special for them, treating them somehow whether it’s a favorite meal, a kind word, a fun outing, or just a hug or backrub. But we women don’t do that for ourselves. After awhile we don’t even know what makes us feel good. We forget how to feel good, so busy trying to make sure those close to us don’t feel bad. But it’s important to take that time and figure out what we need and try to meet those needs so we’re dynamic and fulfilled.

While you were writing the story of Jackie, did you learn anything that surprised you, that gave you that “ah-hah!” moment?

Just that I missed the old me, the one that had once felt so hopeful and optimistic, the one that thought big things, wonderful things could happen in life. And it made me sad that I had become so disillusioned and I thought if I feel this way, there must be others. I can’t be the only woman who works so hard and yet feels so numb. And that became the aha moment for me. Do we as adult women have a right to be happy? What do we have to do to be happy? Is it possible once we’re wives and mothers? Just being able to ask—and answer—those questions for myself changed me and my attitudes, making me feel empowered instead of passive and helpless.

For anyone who has experienced a miscarriage, it is a very touchy subject, and one that hurts deeply. I was amazed to read about Jackie’s two miscarriages prior to Jessica’s birth, and then the final one. You put so much fact and feeling into what happened, that I can only guess you or someone you know has experienced such a loss. It is something that wounds the heart and shakes self-confidence. As I was reading the experience, it was so real to me. I had a miscarriage almost three years ago, and then was blessed with a beautiful boy (after 4 months of bedrest – 3 in the antepartum department at Evergreen Hospital – and he still arrived a month early), but I could relate so closely to Jackie, it was almost like reliving the experience through someone else – my heart broke for her, and I cried for her! How did writing that moving, heart-breaking section affect you?

I’ve had a miscarriage as well as failed IVF attempts, and there is nothing worse than losing a baby, or failing to conceive a baby, that is desperately wanted. What made this scene extra poignant for me was that as women turn forty, our fertility window narrows and we don’t have the options, or ability, to bear children forever. I knew at forty that I wanted one more baby but it’s taken me nearly four and a half year to conceive it!

If you could give Jackie one piece of advice today, what would it be? If the tables were turned and Jackie was the one doling out advice, what do you think she would tell you?

If I could give Jackie one bit of advice it would be to listen to herself and trust herself. She’s a smart, strong woman, and she’s doing fine. If Jackie were to give me advice I think she’d tell me to savor my pregnancy and the baby and just enjoy being a mom.

[Picture is of Jane and Surfer Ty, linked from her site] I absolutely loved your book and look forward to seeing the movie on Lifetime and reading more of your books! Ok - - - so I stayed up until midnight (well, really closer to 1 AM, but who’s counting) to browse your site and I stumbled onto your blog – which is absolutely delightful – so I continued reading! It seems that in your case, life imitates art, at least where Flirting With Forty is concerned! Let me see if I’ve got it right: You travel to Hawaii for a much needed vacation. You decide to take a private surf lesson. You enjoy visiting with the cute instructor (dare I assume it is surfer Ty?). Inspiration hits! You return home to Bellevue/Seattle. Flirting With Forty is a huge and wonderful hit!! Surfer Ty happens to become a regular boyfriend – long-distance, just like Jackie’s Kai. Five years later – one house in each state, still going strong with Surfer Ty, and now expecting beautiful Surfer Baby, and Flirting With Forty is now going to be a Lifetime Movie starring Heather Locklear. Have I got it right??

You pretty much have it right except I never took a surf lesson and I wasn’t on vacation. I went to Hawaii to finish a book and while there I got an idea for a new book and interviewed a surfer for insight into the surfing world. I go home, pitch new idea to agent and editor. They both sign off on it, but I can’t write it for a bit as I have a couple other books to write first. Surfer and I stay in touch, he eventually becomes long distance boyfriend, and while I write the story I’d already pitched and sold, my life becomes the book, or the book becomes like my life. It’s surreal and yet wonderful.

Assuming my assumptions above are close to correct. . . now that your life is far much more interesting than Jackie’s, do we dare hope for a sequel to Flirting With Forty – find out what becomes of Jackie and Kai’s relationship – see how it matures and grows?

I hoped early on to write a sequel for this story but my publisher doesn’t want one from me. Maybe someday they’ll change their mind.

Lastly, do you have any last thoughts or questions you would like to share with readers?

Nope. You did a good job!

Ok – so I lied! One more – purely selfish question. I’ve never gone to a book-signing before, but I see that you will be at the Bellevue Barnes & Noble on December 5th, the night before the movie airs! Is it appropriate for me to bring my much-broken-in, dog-eared (I’ve NEVER done that to a book before *gasp* I don’t know what came over me!) and much-enjoyed copy for you to sign?

You can always attend a book signing—especially my book signings—just to say hello. Readers should know that authors are just grateful for the support so you can bring a book you already have, buy a new one, or just come by to introduce yourself. Personally, I always love to meet readers and hope you do stop by on the 5th!

About the Author: (from the publisher's site)
A UCLA grad with an MA in Writing, I am one of those original book geeks, the girl with the coke bottle glasses that sat with a novel next to the classroom door rather than play during recess. I wrote my first story in first grade, my first picture book in second grade and my first novel in 4th, and I've just continued to write from there—bad poetry, passionate essays, romance rich novels and poignant, bittersweet contemporary fiction.

But writing doesn't always come easy to me. I have to work at it. To go below the surface and find the real story in each story, the heart of the novel, the one the reader will hopefully remember long after the story is through. Writing makes me a bit mad which is why I work very hard to have good hair.
When not writing, what do I do for fun? Travel. I don’t know if it's from growing up in a small Central California town, or living abroad with my family when I was 13, but I crave change, travel, adventure. Put me in a car, a ship, a plane and send me off. I subscribe to countless travel magazines, have a library of travel books, and am always interested in where people have been.
Then of course, there are my kids. Being the mom of two boys I watch a lot of sports, and do goofy boy things with them like create slug habitats and nurture baby geckos. It's not the life I expected—I was such a Barbie doll girl—but its full of Tom Sawyer moments that surprise, delight and absolutely exasperate me but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The boys and I live in Bellevue, Washington, six miles from downtown Seattle, and with the plethora of pro sport teams, rugged mountains, coffee houses and bookstores, it's the perfect place for a writer to call home.

Visit her at http://www.janeporter.com/

Special Note:
This wonderful book has been made into a movie that will air on Lifetime December 6th at 9:00 PM / 8:00 PM Central Time. The movie stars Heather Locklear as Jackie and Robert Buckley as Kai!!

[The photo below is of Heather ('Jackie'), Jane, and Robert Buckley (Kai) on the final day of the shoot, and is linked from Jane's site.]

This interview has been added to the About the Author Index! Click here to read more author interviews.


Anonymous said...

Your post is wonderful Wendi. Great interview and layout.

Anna said...

What a great interview!!! Now I definitely must read this book!!

Diary of an Eccentric

Nely said...

what a great interview. the book/movie sound fun. i can't wait to read.

Luanne said...

Wendi! Great interview!! Loved it!

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous week of posts, Wendi! Thanks!

Toni said...

This was a fun and interesting interview. Awesome!!!

Amy said...

Great interview Wendi! Jane really seems like such a fabulous person.

Unknown said...

Great promo, review and personally can't wait for the movie.

Check out Hollywood Today for review of movie and book by Gabrielle Pantera.

Donna said...

I want to read this one. I have seen it on so many blogs. I will record it tonight since we will be at the parade and activities afterward.

Ali said...

Nice interview, I love the way the events in her life and the book overlapped.

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