Anne: Our interview today is with Jen Turano, author of the delightful book I reviewed yesterday, A Change of Fortune.
Anne: Good morning, Jen. Inquiring minds (like mine) want to know: What inspired this book?
Jen: This book actually just flashed to mind, almost in its entirety, while I was cleaning the house. One minute I was scrubbing the shower, and the next, Eliza was stomping around my brain, causing all sorts of mayhem. By the time I finished cleaning, I knew most of the main characters and their stories. I got up the next day, gathered all the post-it notes I’d scribbled on while I was cleaning, and wrote up my outline.
Anne: So--I know a lot of authors do character sketches of their principle players. Did you do that? What would your character sketch of Eliza say that doesn’t actually come out in the book?
Jen: I don’t do extensive character sketches. I always have a vague idea who the character is, but it’s not until I sit down and begin to write, do they take life. With Eliza, I really thought she was going to be a little bit snootier, but then once she got on the page she didn’t want me to write her that way.
Anne: I’m falling in grandma-love with the little boy, Ben. Is he modeled after any particular child you know?
Jen: Ben is modeled after my son, Dominic, who was a complete terror when he was a toddler. He went through a biting stage, and would just do drive-by bites for no apparent reason at all. My husband and I were completely baffled as to what to do with him, because he wouldn’t stop. Finally, when he was four, he just didn’t do it anymore – but that is one of the main reasons he’s an only child, and he certainly was my inspiration behind Ben. Even though Dominic was a terror, he was still too adorable for words, much like Ben.
Anne: Would you say any of the characters in your book resemble your character?
Jen: I think I resemble all of them--well, at least the female ones to a certain extent. Gloria Beckett is the perfect match-making mother, and I have to say I do tend to give my son subtle suggestions in that area. Eliza is a lady who does what needs to be done, and I think most women these days can relate to that. Agatha--well, she’s got a bit of mischief in her, and my husband will tell everyone that occasionally that suits me to a tee. One of my favorite characters is Piper, but Piper is very self-assured for such a young girl, which was not me when I was her age. She’s the character I would have loved to have been.
Anne: This is a fascinating time period. How did you find out all the necessary ingredients for the 1880s?
Jen: I headed off to my local library, The Parker Library, and luckily for me the librarians took me under their wing and set me up with a ton of research material. They also pointed me to this fabulous historical data base on their website, so I was able to sit at home at my leisure and lose myself in the fascinating time of 1880 New York.
Anne: Did you find things in your research that led you to change anything in your manuscript?
Jen: I had to change a lot of my phrasing. For example, when Eliza and Agatha get carted off to jail, I first had them in a paddy-wagon – well, that term didn’t come about for quite a few years later. The same thing happened with “springing them from jail”- not in use in 1880. Those things are why I’m so glad I have such an excellent editor – if I don’t catch them, she does.
Anne: Enough about A Change of Fortune. Tell us a little about your next book.
Jen: I would love to tell you about my next book. A Most Peculiar Circumstance is Arabella and Theodore’s story [Anne's note: two of the characters in A Change of Fortune] and it was a blast to write. Arabella is a strong, independent lady who works tirelessly for the women’s suffrage movement. Theodore Wilder, on the other hand, is too handsome for his own good, but he’s old-fashioned and set in his ways, and certainly cannot appreciate a lady like Arabella. When they’re thrown together sparks fly, and not the romantic type at first, but their bickering begins to change, and then things really get interesting. It’s set to release June 2013.
Anne: Thanks so much for being here today, Jen. I appreciate your time, especially given all the activity that goes on when a book goes live (book launches, booksignings, TV and radio spots, etc.).
If you'd like to know more about Jen's book and where you can get it, go back to yesterday's blog or go to http://jenturano.com/.