My guest today is Marilyn Brant, a girlfriend from the Girlfriends Book Club Blog. Her second novel, Friday Mornings at Nine, comes out on October 1 from Kensington Books.
Every woman remembers her firsts: Her first kiss. Her first lover. And her first time contemplating an affair…
Each Friday morning at the Indigo Moon Café, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara meet to swap stories about marriage, kids and work. But one day, spurred by recent e-mails from her college ex, Jennifer poses some questions they've never faced before. What if they all married the wrong man? What if they're living the wrong life? And what would happen if, just once, they gave in to temptation?
Soon each woman is second-guessing the choices she's made -- and the ones she can unmake -- as she becomes aware of new opportunities around every corner, from attentive colleagues and sexy neighbors to flirtatious past lovers. And as fantasies blur with real life, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara begin to realize how little they know about each other, their marriages and themselves, and how much there is to gain -- and lose -- when you step outside the rules.
Marilyn has been a classroom teacher, a library staff member, a freelance writer and a national book reviewer. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and son, surrounded by towers of books that often threaten to topple over and crush her. A proud member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Marilyn's debut novel featuring "Jane," According to Jane, won the Romance Writers of America's prestigious Golden Heart Award. When not working on her next book, she enjoys traveling, listening to music and finding new desserts to taste test. You can visit her website HERE.
Marilyn was kind enough to answer some questions below:
What was most important to you in the writing of this story?
I’m always trying to be honest about the complexities of human emotion, particularly in regards to relationships. I would say with Friday Mornings at Nine, the biggest issue I wanted to explore was not so much the concept of “cheating” as a theme but, rather, the far less titillating subject of “choosing.” The idea that a woman can really only be in a relationship fully -- marital or otherwise -- once she understands how and why she’s chosen to be there, and that she has to look closely enough and listen deeply enough to know who she is and what she wants. And, also, that in every romantic relationship or good friendship, she chooses over and over again (either consciously or unconsciously) whether she wants to stay. I believe that’s true of all of us, and I wanted my characters in this story to move from unconsciously living very unexamined lives to consciously, actively making a choice about where they were headed.
Is your relationship with your friends similar to or different from the relationship between the women in the novel?
For the most part, it’s different...and thank goodness! While my friends and I often get together for coffee to talk about our lives, just like the women in the book, the friends in Friday Mornings at Nine have a few things to learn, not only about each other but about themselves. (Big time!) I think they make a fair bit of progress during the course of the novel, but I also think it’s pretty clear that it’s difficult to be a good friend -- or a good spouse, for that matter -- if you’re not examining your needs and your motivations with a clear eye. I've certainly been in group situations with other women where there were secrets and hidden agendas, where the people involved still had so much personal stuff to work out that they couldn’t be honest -- even with themselves -- about who they were and what they wanted out of their lives.
By contrast, my friends and I, while we’re hardly Zen-like creatures of calm and poise (although I can hear one friend saying, “What?! I am too Zen-like!”), we tend to be pretty straightforward with each other. We have varying levels of comfort when it comes to revealing deeply personal information, and our personalities are different, but we also know each other well enough by now to trust that we have each others’ best interests at heart. None of us would do anything intentional that might hurt another. That sort of trust allows for a great deal of candidness in our conversations. And while we spend far more time talking about baked goods than about any subject someone might consider racy (it’s the truth -- talk of hot, muscular guys sadly takes a backseat to discussions about caramel brownies), I’m so grateful to them for being people who know the over-analytical geeky girl that I am and still want to spend so much time with me.
What is the inspiration behind this novel?
I’ve talked with a lot of women about their marriages -- and, in some cases, about their affairs. Sometimes these revelations came in the form of random comments thrown out unexpectedly. Other times they were part of well thought-out discussions about whether the women in question should or shouldn’t stay married. I met my husband 20 years ago and we’ve been married for almost 18 of those years. I consider us to be happy, but I don’t know anyone who’s been married that long who hasn’t experienced some ups and downs. I think the fortunate couples are the ones who keep choosing to be together and work on their relationships despite all of those years and the inevitable changes. Of course, it takes both people to do that, and it also takes a lot of time and effort. The individuals involved have to want to get to know these people they married and who they are now as opposed to the different creatures they may have been when they met a decade or more before, and they need to really pay attention to their own needs and desires, too. Sometimes, in the process of that kind of deep analysis, it turns out there was a profound disconnect somewhere along the line. In some cases, it’s possible to reconnect -- in others, not so much.
So, essentially, I wanted to write a story about three women who have marital disconnects to some degree that make them wonder what would have happened if they’d chosen differently. Then I wanted them to finally take the time to examine their lives so they could choose mindfully where to head next.
Did you run into any challenges or roadblocks while writing this book? If so, how did you overcome them?
There were the usual writing challenges -- especially that pervasive author fear that I’d never finish it or it wouldn't make sense to anyone but me [Ed.: I’ve been there!], etc. -- but the only really big hurdle was in trying to tell this story the way I wanted it to be told. I’ve read and enjoyed novels where thoughts of infidelity were contained in one woman’s perspective and were these really intimate, deeply personal portrayals. With Friday Mornings at Nine, I wanted to feature three individual women, but also show the group of friends as almost a fourth character. In fact, in my earliest draft, I even wrote the first chapter as “we” and “our” instead of “they” and “them” (i.e., “We met on Friday mornings at nine because that was when...” etc.). In the end, I decided to write those group chapters with more of a traveling third person/omniscient point of view, but I hope it still gets across that, in a way, the group of friends is an entity unto itself.
Friday Mornings at Nine is a Doubleday Book Club & Book-of-the-Month Club Featured Alternate Selection for October 2010. Congratulations!