I am so excited to welcome Jenny Gardiner, author of WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO'S DETERMINED TO KILL ME. I read WINGING IT a few days ago and I was pleasantly surprised by this touching and heartfelt memoir (my review.)
Jenny is a fellow Penn Stater as is her husband, and they lived in the Northern VA area after graduation (just like me and my husband!), but I swear that has nothing to do with my adoration for her! She is an incredibly funny woman as well as a terrific writer, and I hope you'll enjoy getting to know her a little better.
Booking Mama: I absolutely think the title of your book is perfect -- WINGING IT. How did you come up with the name? Was there ever any question as to what the title would be?
Jenny Gardiner: Thanks! My original idea was Bite Me ;-) , but that wasn't such a viable book if we wanted it to be something even kids could read. And then, long story made very, very short, we had another fabulous title as well, but a really unpleasant person who had too much time on her hands decided that she owned a word in the title even though a) you can't own a word, b) book titles are protected by the first amendment, and c) we were entirely within the right to use it, but this person was a really aggressive, vociferous type who would have just hounded me to the gates of hell and frankly I had no time/desire in my life to deal with negative people like that, so I agreed when my house just decided the path of least resistance was to change it. Hated on the one hand that this person's egregious ugliness sort of prevailed simply because we didn't want to be bothered with her haranguing, but I figure she's got to live with herself and so be it.
As it was, this title is fabulous, so all good!
Booking Mama: I was expecting WINGING IT to be a funny book about your parrot Graycie, and it was. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much deeper this book ended up being. Ultimately, I thought WINGING IT was really a story about the strength and love of your family. Was it difficult to write about your family's personal experiences? Did any of your family members have any issues with you writing about them?
Jenny Gardiner: I'm glad you liked that about it! It was tricky. I have a column of humorous non-fiction essays in our paper, so I've certainly written about our lives before, but I've always been really mindful about not stepping on toes at all. I guess originally I envisioned this as purely Graycie's story, but as I wrote it I realized that we were all inextricably tied to the story, and it sort of unfolded into much more than I'd anticipated. I try to be very respectful of my family--I don't want to invade their privacy or embarrass them or anything, so it is a really delicate balance, and I hope I came out on the right side of it.
Booking Mama: When you decided to write about Graycie, did you always know that you would end up writing a book about your entire family?
Jenny Gardiner: nope! see above!
Booking Mama: Your last book SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER was a treat to read too, but it was entirely different than WINGING IT. Is it more difficult to write a memoir than a novel? What are some of the challenges in writing a memoir?
Jenny Gardiner: The great thing about fiction is you can just make it all up. It's very freeing to write a novel. I came up as a writer trained in journalism, though, so I'm very used to writing factually, so it wasn't as if I had to learn the discipline. It was tricky though that the spotlight became on us. Also I was so very mindful of timelines and trying to be sure I had accurately re-pieced together what occurred when. The bad news is I save a lot of needless junk. The good news is I was able to rely upon some of that not-so-needless junk to help me document our lives over the past 20 years, so that was a bonus. But outlining all of that took a good bit of time and I hadn't thought it would be such a project.
Booking Mama: I think you are an extremely funny woman. Were you always so funny even as a kid? Or is your humor something you developed through the years because of what life threw at you? Jenny Gardiner: Thanks so much for saying that! I seriously have forgotten so much about my childhood, maybe that was by choice LOL. But I don't remember being particularly funny. However in the past year or so a lot of old high school friends have shown up on Facebook and a number of people have referred to my wit, so maybe I was more entertaining than I realized!
Booking Mama: You were one of the members of the 2008 class of Debs at The Debutante Ball, one of my favorite sites! How did that experience change your life and help you as a writer?
Jenny Gardiner: I was so fortunate that Kristy Kiernan and the whole original Founders group of the Deb Ball chose me to be in it that following year. It was an all-around WONDERFUL experience. That debut year for an author is fraught with anxiety, anticipation, a great deal of unknown, many, many ups and a good handful of downs (plus a few dope-slaps of reality tossed in for good measure). And we had this added bonus of being able to share it with others in the same boat, use each other as sound boards, and also piggybacking readerships a little bit. We consider the Debutante Ball a sort of literary sorority and we all help each other out frequently and provide support as we progress in the business.
Booking Mama: Now that you've published a humorous novel as well as a touching memoir, what's next for you? Are you currently working on anything?
Jenny Gardiner: Ha! Am I working on anything? I've always got several pots I'm stirring on the stove. I have a funny novel my agent's been shopping, I really hope it finds a home soon as I adore this book. In addition, I've got to whip together a proposal for my agent to submit to S&S for my option book. And my agent has an editor patiently awaiting a novel I've been playing around with, it's a bit of a departure subject-wise, but I can assure you it will be funny. So fingers crossed I can sell something soon--the industry has been in a bit of a tailspin, and women's fiction has been particularly hard-hit--so it's become a bit more of a challenge to keeping selling to pub houses these days. I will keep you posted! Thanks so much for your support!
I'd like to thank Jenny Gardiner for taking time from her very busy life to answer a few of my questions! If you'd like to get to know Jenny better, you can check out her website and follow her on twitter (@jennygardiner).