Her new book is CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE. (Love the cover!)
Here's some advance praise: “Rendell’s second novel is thoughtful and open, with plenty of interesting academic debate for truly bookish readers.” Booklist
"For every reader who has ever wondered why nineteenth century novels about women are called ‘the canon’, but contemporary novels about women are called ‘chick-lit’ comes a charming, witty and cerebral novel about Rachel Grey, an Austen-worth heroine fighting for love and respect in the academic shark tank." Nicola Kraus, New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Nanny Diaries (I for one have wondered.)
And here's what the lady herself has to say.
What was your inspiration behind your latest novel?
The idea for Crossing Washington Square evolved over a few years. As someone who has lived the academic life (I have a PhD in literature and now I’m married to a professor at NYU), I’ve always loved books about the university – novels like Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, Richard Russo’s The Straight Man, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and Francine Prose’s Blue Angel. But what I noticed about such campus fiction was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Even the female authors like Francine Prose and Zadie Smith’s novels focus on male professors. Furthermore, most of these male professors are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students! I wanted to write a novel with women professors taking the lead and I wanted these women to be strong and smart and interesting – instead of drunk, despondent, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons!
(Um, Joanne, are you saying we shouldn't like drunk, despondent and sexually preoccupied women?)
Is writing your main job?
When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my six year old son who is homeschooled. Although, “homeschool” is somewhat of a misnomer as we spend a relatively small amount of time schooling at “home.” We live in New York so are lucky enough to have an amazing array of fun and educational places on our doorstep. Benny and I, together with his homeschooled friends, are always out on trips to the Met, the Natural History Museum, aquariums, zoos, galleries, libraries, and parks. When we’re not out and about, Benny and I love to read – either together or separately. I’m so thankful he loves books like I do! Also I’m learning so much as a writer through Benny’s books and his homeschool experiences in general. Inspired by another homeschool family, we recently started a loose history curriculum in which we’ve studied dinosaurs, early man, Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt followed by Ancient Greece and Rome. We’ve combined relevant story and picture books, with many trips to museums. Benny has learnt a lot, but it’s amazing how much I’ve learned too about Greek myths and Egyptian gods, ancient texts and lost civilizations. I feel my mind – and my writing – expanding because of these studies. Homeschooling isn’t just for six year olds, apparently!
For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?
Settling down to write. Once I get going, I love it. But there’s just that hurdle of getting going which is so hard -- especially these days when there are so many demands on authors to go online and promote our books. It is wonderful to meet people and connect and learn through the internet, but the web is also a huge procrastination vortex! I sometimes kid myself I’m doing promo work, but really I’m just wasting time snooping around on Facebook or reading other people’s tweets about what they ate for breakfast!
(Well, if you end up writing a novel about tweeting, it will have all been worthwhile.)
Do mothers play any role in your novel?
The two main characters in my novel are female professors, but they’re not (also) mothers. The only mom we see in the book is the wife of an assistant professor.
There are, of course, plenty of professors who are moms. But it is a big challenge to do both and I hugely admire the women who pull it off (my best friend is one of them). Motherhood is a 24/7 job so to add writing lectures, grading papers, going to faculty meetings, writing journal articles etc. on top is just a very hard thing to do. It clearly involves a lot of juggling, scheduling, toughness, and support.
(Any prof. moms out there want to add anything?)
Joanne Rendell was born and raised in the UK. After completing her PhD in English Literature, she moved to the States to be with her husband, a professor at NYU. She now lives in faculty housing in New York City with her family.
I can't wait to read it, Joanne!