First-Time Novelist Amy Sue Nathan: On Women’s Fiction Writing



I am happy to welcome first-time novelist, Amy Sue Nathan, author of The Glass Wives (St. Martin’s Griffin) and founder of a blog for women’s fiction writers,

Diana: So you published your first novel, The Glass Wives. Yay, you! You’ve mentioned that divorce and death and moves across the country sparked your redefining family and friendship. Can you tell us more about how The Glass Wives came to be?

Amy Sue Nathan: I’ve always been a writer, but after my divorce and the death of my ex-husband, many people suggested that was memoir fodder. I disagreed! I didn’t want to relive horrible times in my life. I also believed that my family’s story was private. But, I did realize that there were things I could pinch things from real life and make up characters and scenarios and dialogue that served a story that wasn’t mine, but was more universal. In fiction, authors can make things better or worse than in real life, turn around events and make things right. In fiction authors explore the familiar as well as the foreign, and that’s what makes it so great. In The Glass Wives, Evie loves to bake. I hate to bake! That was really fun to write. In The Glass Wives, Evie teaches American History on the college level. In real life, I always thought I’d be a teacher (but ended up a journalism major, quite fortuitous, wouldn’t you say?) so that was fun to write in another way.

Diana: You have a great blog, Can you share a bit about why you started the blog and some of the challenges that women writers face?

Amy Sue Nathan: Well, women’s fiction writers can be men! The blog is about fiction that explores the authors, books, and craft of women’s fiction, which by my own definition is fiction that’s about a woman’s journey. Lots of it is written by men. Sure, I interview mostly women and a lot of books that fall under that umbrella are written by women. I don’t mind the label because, let’s face it, I’m a woman, women buy more fiction than men, and I am proud to write books that appeal to women. That being said, I have a lot of male readers (who are not related to me) who have really enjoyed The Glass Wives. I started WFW in 2011 because I wanted to feature the kinds of books I liked to read—not romance novels or chick lit, not mystery or thriller. I have and do read all of those, but mostly I read stories of family and friendship and relationships that focus on women. To me, that’s what women’s fiction is. It runs the gamut in terms of tone, style and plot— but that’s what I enjoy most. I couldn’t find a place online to connect with writers like me. So I created it!

Diana: Now let’s take another step and narrow this down even more – your novel starts in a quintessential Jewish setting – during shiva, the traditional Jewish mourning period. Tell us about the Jewish angle of your writing.

Amy Sue Nathan: In The Glass Wives, the Jewish essence of the family was key to me. It was just “who they were” as they lived their lives. The customs, the food, even the way Evie always liked to feed her friends and family was very culturally Jewish to me. The fact that Evie takes in her ex-husband’s young widow who is NOT Jewish, brings up the whole issue of how we’re all more alike than different. I loved how the customs of this fictional family felt so real to me.

Diana: I wrote in my Jewish Book Council review of The Glass Wives, “Told with wit and humor, Amy Sue Nathan pulls off a story brimming with domestic details that make the characters’ dialogue sound like conversations overheard from next door.” I loved the immediacy of your writing. What are some rules you follow for your writing? Do you write an outline? Did you know the end of your novel before you got there? And what are you working on now?

Amy Sue Nathan: I am thrilled you enjoyed The Glass Wives and that it “hit home” for you. That’s the best thing an author can hear! Will you forgive me if I admit I don’t follow any rules? Okay, I have one rule. BE HONEST. And that doesn’t mean write truthful things from real life, it means bring honest emotion to the characters that bring them to life on the page. I did not have an outline for The Glass Wives, although I would write notes at the end of each writing session about what I wanted to happen next. It’s always best for me to stop before I’m done! That way, I’m excited to get right down to business next time.  I did not know the ending when I was writing. Well, sort of I did and sort of I didn’t.

During one of my massive revisions before the book sold I rearranged the novel and cut out fifty pages. The end was gone, the middle was the end and there were many new pages to write. It was as much the evolution of a novel as the writing of one!  And yes! I do know what’s next! Another novel for St. Martin’s Press coming out in 2015. It’s currently untitled, but about a divorced mom and anonymous blogger who lies about having a wonderful boyfriend, and then lands a plum job as a dating columnist, even though she hasn’t dated in years. It’s about secrets, lies, the internet, and what happens when all of it gets a little out of hand. Of course, most of the characters in this book are also Jewish, and it’s set where I grew up, in Northeast Philadelphia.  The Glass Wives is set in a fictional suburb of Chicago, which is where I live now (although I live in a real suburb, not a fictional one).

Diana: Finally, explores how to write your best chapter and also how to live your best chapter each day in the story of your life. What are some things you do to take care of yourself each day?

Amy Sue Nathan: It might sound cliche´ but I always make time for me. I’ve started reading every morning! By bedtime I’m too tired, so this was the perfect solution. I sit in my favorite chair, while it’s still dark outside, steamy cup of coffee by my side, and spend about thirty minutes indulging in my book of choice!

About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is the author of several books, including The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker), shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. Her novel, A Remarkable Kindness, (HarperCollins) was published in 2015. She is the First Prize Winner of Moment Magazine's 2019 Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, Glamour, The Forward, The North American Review, Times of Israel, and is a reporter for Israel21C, and many other publications. She is author of Big Up Yourself: It's About Time You Like Being You and The Mom Who Took off On Her Motorcycle, a memoir of her 10,000-mile motorcycle trip to Alaska and back to New York. She lives in a small beach village in Western Galilee, Israel, with her husband and family. She is a member of the local hevra kadisha, the burial circle, and a Muslim-Jewish-Christian-Druze women's group in the nearby town of Akko. And, she likes snowboarding and climbing trees.
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6 Responses to First-Time Novelist Amy Sue Nathan: On Women’s Fiction Writing

  1. Hi Diana and Amy,
    Thank you for sharing about your writing, Amy.
    I find this inspiring and the premise of a woman taking in her ex-husband’s widow is intriguing. 🙂

  2. Another interesting interview, Diana.
    Amy, congratulations on your book! I like the combination of things that ARE you and ARE NOT, a good blend for a fiction writer. GLASS WIVES is on my list!

  3. juliabarrett says:

    This looks like an amazing story – have to go find the book. There are very few of us incorporating Jewish themes into our fiction.

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