Award-wining women’s fiction author and avid member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Marilyn Brant is here again to discuss her latest novel, Friday Mornings At Nine. I had the wonderful chance to meet Marilyn while at an author event in St. Louis, MO. I have to tell you. She is one of the sweetest, funniest author’s you’ll ever find. Her fabulous personality is reflected into every one of her novels. Her debut novel, According to Jane, won the Romance Writers of American’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award.
The Write Stuff is checking back in with Marilyn, to rave about her new novel which I loved reading.
1) Friday Mornings at Nine revolves around 3 middle-aged women who always meet for coffee. First off, what’s your favorite coffee drink?
My favorite coffee drink is anything warm, sweet and preferably laced with chocolate, like a mocha latte with swirls of whipped cream and chocolate sauce drizzled on top…yum!
Now that I’ve bought the exact drink you described because I couldn’t resist… what do you feel is the significance of the role of friendship in a woman’s life?
I think it’s one incredibly important component for most women’s happiness. Not everyone needs lots of friends or constant activity (personally, my inner circle is pretty small), but I don’t know any woman who doesn’t need someone trustworthy to confide in at times, someone to sit with and just chat about daily life, or someone with whom to share good/bad news or triumphs and fears.
I don’t think there’s any situation that a good friend or two can’t help you through, even if it’s just taking the time to listen to you or to run through a list of pros and cons with you. There’s no price that can be put on a genuine and supportive friendship. And I do think, as women get older, their friendships get even better — they’re deeper, more honest and, I think, truly valued as the priceless gifts they are.
I will say that this is something the women in the story are still in the process of learning, though. To get the gift of a genuine friendship, one must also *be* genuine. And to be capable of being honest with others, one must also be honest with oneself. In my opinion, a willingness to be compassionate but truthful is at the heart of every good friendship — and every good marriage, for that matter.
Years ago, a woman I knew had been telling me about how dissatisfied she was in her marriage. Despite having two children she loved, the differences between her and her husband were growing steadily, and they eventually got divorced. I also knew there was a man from her past that still haunted her memories and there was a new guy as well that she eventually had an affair with… All of these factored in to my wondering about the logistics of infidelity and the mindset leading up to why and how a spouse might stray.
This woman wasn’t the only person I knew who was having marital issues, though, and I could see how tempting it could be for someone who had regrets about a past relationship to interact with old boyfriends via email or Facebook or, perhaps, have an encounter with some hot-looking man she’d met through work or some other activity. Even though I had no interest in reconnecting with any guys from my past (trust me, several of those relationships ended so terribly that I *really* didn’t want that!), I was fascinated and a little freaked out by how easily I could hunt down people I used to know online and, also, how relatively simple it would be — if motivated — to have emotional affair with someone, even if nothing physical happened between us.
About 4-5 years went by, however, between first getting the idea for the story and beginning to draft the book. It was a premise that needed to simmer for a long time in my head before writing…to give me time to observe lots of other relationships and, in fact, to hear from other women about their own experiences with infidelity and their fantasies about men outside their marriages. I do think it’s one of those topics where, the more we’re open to discussing it, the better it is for women — either to know that what they’ve been feeling is normal or to know where there might be a real problem in their relationship.
3) These women also discover they each have secret crushes in their lives and cannot help but wonder about it all: crushes, their lives, and their husbands. Can you give us some juicy details for each character?
Sure! Bridget loves cooking and always dreamed of being a chef, but she put those ambitions aside to raise her three kids. She’s now back in the workforce as a part-time secretary at a dental office. There she meets Dr. Luke, a man who appreciates different cuisines and also sees her freshly in a way she feels her sports-obsessed husband no longer does.
Tamara is the wife of an affluent but frequently traveling lawyer and the mom of an only child who just started college. Without their son at home, she’s not sure what she has in common with her husband anymore, but she seems to have made a conversational connection with Aaron, the divorced younger neighbor down the street. It doesn’t hurt that he looks very hot without his shirt on.
And Jennifer is a stay-at-home web designer with two teen daughters, married to a high-school Spanish teacher. She’s the techie and he’s the poetry guy that she married on the rebound after David, her computer-programming college boyfriend, dumped her. A part of her is still convinced that David is her soul mate. Now, thanks to the Internet, the he’s resurfaced and wants to meet up with her again at a college reunion.
4) What do you think is at the heart of this novel? What message do you want readers to take away from it?
At its heart, this is a story about *choosing*, not *cheating*. One very consistent thing I’ve found is that most women recognize the fact that there are other attractive men out there in the world, but we tend not to act on that attraction — or even fantasize about it overly much — unless there’s a disconnect in our primary relationship/marriage. When we know ourselves and know our significant other and we feel we’ve really chosen to be in this relationship (despite our partner’s inevitable faults — and our own), then we’re not living in regret or self-delusion, and our attractions to others are both kept in check and are, typically, fleeting fantasies.
The trick is to really know oneself, though. To really see the people around you clearly. To really listen to what they’re saying. And, after taking in this awareness, to turn that same attention inward and make sure your inner needs and wants are in sync with your outer environment. I don’t think people can fully, honestly be in a relationship (be it marital, friendship or otherwise) unless they know why they’ve chosen to be there. So, I wanted to write a story where, over the course of the novel, these three women have to come closer to learning who they are, what they want and which relationships they’re genuinely able to commit to seriously.
5) Tell us about your upcoming novel, A Summer in Europe, because The Write Stuff wants all glamorous hints yesterday:
Being a very impatient sort myself, I’m more than happy to spill! I *just* got the cover art (it’s up on my website for anyone who wants to take a closer peek: http://www.marilynbrant.com) and in my publisher’s book catalogue they described the story this way:
On her 30th birthday, Gwendolyn Reese is given an unusual gift by her eccentric aunt: a summer grand European tour arranged through her aunt’s Sudoku and Mahjongg Club. Gwen reluctantly leaves her “almost fiancé” and heads to Europe with her aunt and a collection of offbeat club members.
Abroad, Gwen is slowly but surely transformed. She has conversations she’d never expected, is spellbound by London theater, touches a glacier, races through the Louvre, and shares a passionate kiss with a wild young physics professor. And when her old life comes calling again, she must choose between the practical choices she’s always made, and a world open to infinite possibilities…
I’m really excited about this novel! It has a lot of my favorite things packed into it: traveling, musical theater, physics, Sudoku, art, romance at all ages and gelato. (I am *very* fond of gelato!) The Mahjongg, however, took a little getting used to…LOL.
Thanks, again, Brittany! Wishing you and all your readers a wonderful day.
Thank you Marilyn!!
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*What’s your favorite coffee or (gasp! I promise not to be offended…) tea drink?
For Example: I live for my custom coffee drink: Iced 1/2 pump white mocha and 1/2 pump Vanilla Latte!