Author Interview with Jennifer Greene

Jennifer Greene has been writing tales of romance since the early 1980s. In the past twenty years she has published over 80 novels under three different names, and is still going strong today! Not only is she nominated for an RT Reviewers' Choice Award this year, Carina Press is re-releasing her early as e-books. Now RT’s Whitney Sullivan catches up with the author to get a unique perspective on the many ways the genre has evolved and get a special look at some of the re-releases from Carina Press that have received *Web Exclusive Reviews* on the RT site this season.  

Whitney Sullivan: Carina Press is re-releasing several of your best-selling stories from the eighties; which tale are you most excited to see back in reader’s hands? 

Jennifer Greene: Actually—Carina Press is issuing all l5 of my earlier Jeanne Grant books—all under my Jennifer Greene name this time. There’ll be two out, every two weeks, through April 2011. Several of these were award winners, and quite a few were bestsellers….but I’m not sure I can pin down just one book as being a favorite.

Each book was a ‘book from my heart’ back then. I’m just thrilled to see them available for readers again.

WS: In l984’s Trouble in Paradise, you focus on the challenge of blending families, especially for new wives who are becoming first time moms. What is one of your favorite aspects of Susan and Griff’s story?

JG: Great question. I have two answers. The first—is that I personally come from a blended family. My mom was the most wonderful person in the universe to me….but my dad’s wife became incredibly special to me—and still is. The "wicked stepmother" stereotype always troubled me, and that was my motivation for creating a stepmother/heroine.

And the second answer: I believe that all couples (then, no different than now) who are diving into a blended family situation face incredible challenges. Children come first. They have to. They should. But the couple has to discover and affirm how to keep their love alive, vibrant, and real.

WS: That same year you also wrote Silver and Spice as a sensual tale of love-conquers-all, in which free-spirit Jakes takes conservative Anne on a road trip to convince her he is marriage material. Do you have a spot they stop along their trip that particularly speaks to you?

JG: Okay, okay, already I have to admit to a fib. I DO love this story more than many others. Jake really ISN’T a normal definition of marriage material…but he has to convince Anne that he IS the man she needs and wants in her life. He gave her years to find herself the kind of gray-flannel-suit kind of guy she thought she wanted. She found plenty of them, but no one ever succeeded in getting a ring on her finger. The man she loved, really loved, was him.

Like in all romances (at least the good ones)….she has to find a way to make THEIR relationship work. On their terms. Their way. Traditional "rules" won’t help her find that path. She has to listen to her heart.

You also asked if there was a spot in the book that speaks to me—and the answer is yes, the first chapter. I love writing first chapters, but through all my years of writing, this first chapter is my favorite.

By the way, Silver and Spice won the RWA Golden Medallion in 1984.

WS: Just a year later you wrote Ain’t Misbehaving. In that tale, you pair Mitch and Kay, who meet after volunteering at the hospital. Who came into your imagination first your virgin hero, Mitch, or the commitment-shy Kay?

JG: What came into my mind first was that no one was likely to buy this tale. Heroines can be virgins—but heroes, never. (Or that was the perception at the time—that a virginal hero couldn’t be sexy.) So it was creating Mitch that first interested me, both as a writer and a romance reader as well.

It also troubled me that so many love stories stressed the experience of the hero as a definition of his masculinity, virility, and overall sexual appeal. I suspect most women know that men who indiscriminately sleep around aren’t particularly good in bed—fast, maybe—but sensitive and skilled with a woman? Not so likely. So I wanted to write a story that refuted that old fantasy/stereotype…I wanted to write a man who was ‘sexy’ because of the attitude he brought the heroine…how he treated her, how he felt about her, how he listened to her, and yes, of course, how he touched her. “Experience” does not make a hero. (Or that’s the book I wanted to write.)

WS: You’ve written over 80 contemporary romance tales over the past 20 years. How do you think romance readers’ expectations have changed since you began writing?

JG: I think romance readers’ expectations change all the time. In the early 80’s, women were struggling for jobs that had always been dominated by men…they were struggling for the right to be honest about their sexual needs and feelings. They were redefining what “being a good woman” meant to them.

Books from that era had more than a few women-plumbers…and women in gray striped ‘guy’ suits in the white collar work place. Some of those books date themselves, for sure…but that’s not a crime. The job of a romance writer (I strongly believe) is to support women with whatever struggles they’re going through…NOW. Whatever “now” means to them at the time.

And right NOW….I think readers’ expectations and needs are quite different than they were in the 80’s. A good book is always a good book. But I see readers as lonelier today. They don’t believe in “love” –that love can last—that they won’t be abandoned and hurt. Personally, I think women today have been scarred by their parent’s divorces…and by a world that’s far crueler than it was in the 80s.

I see today’s reader as needing different things in the current books. They seek more of the fantasy—never mind about whether it’s real or not, they want to be swept away, enjoy a break from real life stresses. I also see that the truly old fashioned alpha hero is back. Our readers, I think, are sick of the selfish guys. They want a man who’ll stand up for what’s right. A man who’ll stand up for the woman he loves. A man who’ll be faithful.

Maybe we writers and readers wanted that back in the 80’s, too. But right now, I think women need to believe in honor (even if that’s an antiquated word.) They want heroes who have honor and integrity—in all the genres and subgenres—and yes, of course. He needs to be beyond belief sexy. But that isn’t new.

WS: How are your 80’s heroines different from the contemporary women who you are writing about these days?

JG: Tough question. I’m not sure. Women (and women readers) seem more comfortable with their sexuality today—virginity isn’t the issue it was when I first started writing. But in the 80’s, I saw women as grabbing onto the future with both hands, excited to cross new barriers, to create a different lives than the women in their parents’ and grandparents’ generation.

Right now—right or wrong—I see women as much more vulnerable. They have a more sophisticated shell. But they seem more isolated, more lonely, to me. They can earn more, do more, have many more educational and career possibilities than did the women in the 80’s. But I think they’re lonely for people in their life that they can count on—REALLY count on—and for sure that includes the men in their lives.

WS: Are there any elements that your fans might see in a Jennifer Greene romance that you are currently writing, which would not have been in one of your early stories published under Jeanne Grant. (Or conversely, something that fans will no longer see in the novels you’re writing today?)

JG: I think today’s romances are faster-paced—readers have less free time than they used to. But an author’s voice is still the same voice, no matter how styles or content changes in other ways.

WS: Do you have a favorite read from the early days of the romance genre that you would like to see reprinted?

JG: The authors I started reading in the 80’s—when I started writing—have often become life long friends. I still love them. Still love whatever they write. But one of the earlier authors that I fiercely loved---every one of her books is on my keeper shelf—is Sandra Canfield. (She wrote for Jove under Karen Keast.) When she died, we all lost an irreplaceably wonderful author….but for the sake of readers everywhere, I wish her books would be reprinted.

WS: Can you share a detail that RT readers can look for from the novel you’re currently working on?

Jennifer Greene: I just finished a contract, so I haven’t started a new book yet. But my next project will be three Special Editions. I’ve loved writing single titles and hope to again—but my first love has always been the short contemporary, and I’m tickled to be writing them again.

I’m not sure what these are going to be about….but so far I’m thinking South Carolina for a setting. And if you want a teaser….my mind’s been spinning with orchids, vanilla and tea.

Thanks so much to the incomparable Jennifer Greene! You can now read the *Web Exclusive Reviews* of Trouble in Paradise, Silver and Spice and Ain’t Misbehaving on our site now and find her many of her early novels re-released at Carina Press now through April.

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