Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Interview with Janet Skeslien Charles and book giveaway!
**Giveaway is now closed**
Janet Skeslien Charles hails from Montana but has been living in France for the last ten years, after traveling overseas. She spent time in Odessa, Ukraine, which inspired her debut novel, "Moonlight in Odessa" (reviewed here).
How fitting that our names are Melissa and we're interviewing someone who won an award named after another Melissa? That's right, Janet Skeslien Charles won the highly coveted Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance this past summer!
Janet is very friendly and we enjoyed learning more about writing and traveling through her eyes. She has also offered to give away two copies of "Moonlight in Odessa" to readers anywhere in the world!
MA: How did you feel when you won the Melissa Nathan award?
JSC: When I learned that Moonlight in Odessa was six of 80 books to be shortlisted for the award, I was thrilled. When I bought Melissa Nathan's novel The Nanny, I learned that she died when she was only 37, and I could not stop thinking about her and her family, especially her young son. I am 39 and don't know what I would do without my mother...
The award ceremony was a charity gala in the very posh Cafe de Paris and it was lovely to meet Sophie Kinsella and Joanna Trollope, two of the judges for the award. It was an honor to win and to spend an evening surrounded by Melissa's family, friends, and fans. I was so honored when Sophie Kinsella said, 'The winner this year was Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles, which is a fantastically quirky, wry and funny story with some great characters. I highly recommend it.' What could be better?
If you would like to see some of the photos from that evening, you're welcome to check out my blog post.
MP: What is your usual writing routine?
JSC: I write in the morning when my mind is fresh. In the afternoon, I read and research, then in the evening, I answer e-mail pertaining to the novel.
MA: Do you have plans for another novel?
JSC: I would like to write another novel set in Ukraine, then move on to Montana and Paris as settings. To me, the setting of a novel is a character that shapes the story.
MP: How do you like to spend your time when you are not writing or working?
JSC: To be honest, if I am not writing, I am thinking about it. Perhaps revising a scene in my head or listening to people talk and making mental notes of the cadence of their voices, thoughts that seem important to them, or funny phrases that they say.
I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. My friend Anca and I meet once a week to write in a café, which is always a treat.
MA: If "Moonlight..." were made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?
JSC: Don’t you love the word ‘casterbation’ – dreaming about would play the roles of the characters of your favorite books? To be honest, I don’t think too much about it. For Tristan, I think someone like Russell Crowe, a brute, would be interesting. I would love to see my characters on the big screen. Who do you think should play Daria?
MA: Side note...I could see Emmy Rossum as Daria.
MA: Was Emerson based on the town in Montana where you grew up? If not, have you ever been to towns similar to Emerson?
JSC: Emerson wasn’t based on any specific town. I just wanted to show the positive and negative aspects of life in a small town through the eyes of a big city girl. Personally, I live in a city now and miss small-town life.
The name of the town came from a young woman I worked with when we attended the University of Montana with. Her name was Elizabeth Emerson. I loved her positive attitude and free spirit.
MA: What was your favorite thing about living in Odessa?
JSC: My favorite thing about Odessa was without a doubt, the fabulous people that I met there. I loved my friends, neighbors, and coworkers. They were so generous and open and kind.
I also loved the sea, the lush green parks and flowers, and the French and Italian architecture.
MP: Have you gone back to visit Odessa since you left?
JSC: Yes, I have been back several times to visit my neighbors and my students. The last time I went, my husband came with me, which was a real treat.
You have been living in Paris for over ten years, do you plan on staying there permanently?
I never planned on living here. Like many Americans who come to Paris, I meant to stay for just a year. Then I kept re-applying to stay as a teaching assistant. It is hard to believe that a decade has passed so quickly. My husband and I just take things one year at a time. It would be hard for me to think that I would never return to live in America. I would love to teach creative writing at a small college in America. I love American university towns, the friendliness of the people, and taking classes – I am a life-long learner.
My husband and I spend time in South Carolina each winter -- so many colleges and activities to enjoy. This year, we were in Charleston and loved the energy of the city. We wanted to move there!
MP: What is your favorite thing about living in France?
JSC: I love that everyone, whether they are a CEO of a huge company or a waitress, has paid time off for vacation (five weeks) and health care. That may not be very romantic or sexy as an answer, but it does mean a lot to know that you don’t have to worry about how you will pay your medical bills or your children’s medical bills if disaster strikes.
MA: I read that you met your husband on your first day in France. What was that first meeting like?
JSC: The short story is that we met on my first day in France. The long story is that I had helped his brother, who was working in Montana. When I got a job in France, his brother asked him to pick me up at the airport and to drive me to Mulhouse, France, where I had a job teaching English.
I had spoken to my husband once over the phone and loved his French accent. The way he said ‘ah leetle’ instead of ‘a little’ was so charming! I was looking forward to my new job but also looked forward to meeting my friend’s older brother. We spent the day in Paris – just walking the streets and stopping in little cafes – before driving five hours to Mulhouse. At the end of the day, I was already in love and knew that we were meant to be together. And he says that knew it, too.
I think these first moments of falling in love are universal, we can all relate to them and appreciate them. That’s why I wanted to write about different kinds of love in Moonlight in Odessa, and to show the different ways we can meet and the vast impressions we can have of someone at first. Can first impressions be right? Can they be changed? It was a fun idea to explore.
Special thanks to Janet for answering all our questions and providing the books for the giveaway.
Thanks also to Melissa P. for asking such thought provoking questions.
How to win "Moonlight in Odessa":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted.)
For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Please tell us: What is your favorite thing about the country/province/state/city where you live?
2. Please tell us: What was (or is) your most favorite job?
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4. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it.
5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)
Giveaway ends Monday, September 13th, at 6 pm EST.