Q&A: Jane Green

Westport author Jane Green talks about life as a writer—including interviewing Hugh Grant, raising six kids and living in Figless Manor—at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret Theatre Sept. 22.

 

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Author Jane Green appears at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret Theatre Sept. 22 at 7 p.m., as the finale of the Eastern Connecticut Libaray Consortium's summer 2011 Connecticut Authors Trail. For info, call (888) 226-7711 or visit sites.google.com/site/connecticutauthorstrail2011/.

How did you get involved with the Connecticut Authors Trail?

It's not a terribly dramatic story—they asked me. Unless I have a huge conflict, I always try to do anything that is local: supporting my town, supporting my state. So I was just completely thrilled they thought of me.

Do you have a plan for your speaking appearances?

Yes, and it's usually a last-minute one last minute, because I'm not terribly organized—I do quite a lot of public speaking. It isn't a case of one speech fits all; I always tailor them to a specific event. But I try to have the same rules apply to all of my speeches: There has to be honesty. I try to inject pathos, humor and celebrity stories in some way. I talk about life as a writer, the pros and cons, what it's like. My biggest pro remains being asked to interview Hugh Grant a couple of years ago. I throw in a little bit of everything and really try to give an insight into where we get our inspirations, how we write.

What was special about interviewing Hugh Grant?

When I started writing novels many years ago, my first three or four books were much more strongly about romance. Now that I'm a married mother in my 40s, my books are much more about life and all the things it throws at us. But in the early days when I was writing about single girls my age who were looking for their Mr. Maybes, I always held this picture in my head of the perfect romantic hero. And I have to admit, it was always based on some version of Hugh Grant. So when Parade magazine phoned and said, "We know you must be terribly busy, but would you have time to interview Hugh Grant for us next week?" my answer was, "Let me think . . .Yes."

And what was it like?

Interviewing celebrities is always surprising in many ways, because we have a vision of who they are from the roles they play. They are usually quite different. I will say he was spectacularly charming. When I googled him I found out he's not a huge fan of interviews and journalists. Though I'm not a journalist, that made me very nervous. So I ended up cooking for him. But I'm not going to spoil the story any further because I'm sure I'll talk about this at the event. It was an experience.

Any other experiences like that?

After I submitted that interview, Parade called again with another opportunity. They told me, "We think you're the celebrity whisperer. We have someone else we'd really like you to interview.' I thought, "Whoever it is, no one can possibly be as exciting as Hugh Grant; I'm going to be disappointed." So I asked who it was and they said, "Harrison Ford."

Because I find straight interviews very, very dull, I thought, "Rather than sitting at a table with him and asking questions, I'd much rather do something where he's comfortable. So I asked his assistant if Harrison would take me up in one of his planes. The assistant said Harrison would take me for a helicopter ride, and that's what we did. It was wonderful.

I assume you haven't interviewed George Clooney yet?

Not yet, but that would be the trifecta. That's what I'm hoping for.

I was a journalist for many years, and interviewed a lot of well-known people, but they weren't Harrison Ford and Hugh Grant. The most exciting thing for me way back then, 100 years ago, was David Hasselhoff. Actually, I didn't interview him, I just met him. I thought that was so exciting.

Now, sadly, I'm spoiled, because I'm deeply unimpressed. Interviewing someone is such a false premise—you can't get a real sense of someone in this very unrealistic situation, sitting across a table firing questions. Really, you only see who people are not by what they say, but by what they do. So, I'd much rather watch someone in action.

What else have you been working on?

I finished my novel this year—the one that will be coming out next spring. And then I went a did a cooking course at the French Culinary Institute in New York. It was a full-time, intensive, six-week cooking course—I loved it. It was amazing. But when I finished, I decided I was going to take two weeks off. I spent two weeks lying by a pool and on the beach with books. It was amazing. I don't think I ever did that before in my life. It was really hard, but after awhile it was really lovely to be switched off.

How did you first get interested in writing? I know you worked for the Daily Express.

I was always an avid reader. As a child, nothing made me happier than escaping into a book. That was really where I found my solace. I would read anything; that really gave me my love of stories. I never thought I'd grow up to be a writer, but I fell into it. I studied fine art and thought I'd be an artist, but then I fell into journalism. I wasn't actually a very good journalist—I was working for a tabloid, and now everyone knows how tabloids operate. The Engliah tabloids are notoriously difficult; I wasn't on the news desk, thankfully.

As an interviewer, I never wanted to write anything but lovely things. I would never ever write anything negative—if I didn't like something, I'd try not to do it. But it was the writing I loved; I loved just losing myself in words. When I was in my late 20s, a girlfriend of mine who wasn't a writer suddenly wrote a book in her spare time. Lo and behold, she announced she'd gotten an agent, gotten a publishing deal and her book was coming out. I remember thinking if she can do it, so could I. It never occurred to me I couldn't. I wrote my first book, and within three months there was a bidding war. It was sickeningly easy. Looking back, I'm astonished at my naivete. I left my job to write a book, and it worked.

Talent is important, but it's amazing how much timing and luck come into things, isn't it?

Oh, 100 percent. And there's also this wonderful quote by Goethe: "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." I think there's a lot of truth to that—that boldness, combined with luck and timing, can open up everything.

Q&A: Jane Green

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