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Originally from Philadelphia, Jamie Brenner started her career at HarperCollins Publishers, then later Barnes&Noble.com and Vogue.com before returning to books and becoming an author. She’s the author of The Wedding Sisters, The Forever Summer and most recently, The Husband Hour (check out my preview, review and book club questions for The Husband Hour, a beautifully written novel). Get to know Jamie with the below Q&A where she talks her favorite books, the inspiration behind The Husband Hour, key themes and much more.
Q: What are some of your favorite novels?
A: That should be an easy question but is one of the hardest! So hard to choose. My all-time favorite novels include The Wheel of Fortune by Susan Howatch, American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, Mistral’s Daughter by Judith Krantz, Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead, The Island by Elin Hilderbrand and The Witching Hour by Anne Rice.
Q: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
A: I literally can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I feel like I was born wanting to be a writer. I remember reading Judy Blume, Paula Danziger and Norma Klein novels growing up and thinking I had to write.
Q: The Husband Hour is a beautiful book about the power of forgiveness. What was the inspiration behind the story?
A: I think anyone who has been part of a family or been in a marriage has, at one time or another, had to forgive someone. As flawed humans, it’s one of our biggest challenges. But as I’ve gotten older it’s something I’ve really worked on and wanted to explore in my work.
Q: The story focuses on two important topics: the impacts of CTE and life as a military spouse. How much research went into those topics?
A: I did a lot of research, particularly for the military spouse material. I read American Sniper by Kris Kyle, I read his widow’s memoir American Wife, and I read Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer. I read Marie Tillman’s The Letter: My Journey Through Love, Loss, and Life. The biggest help to me was Army Wives: The Unwritten Code of Military Marriage by Tanya Biank. Tanya is a journalist and military wife herself. I ended up reaching out to her via email and she was generous enough to read an early draft of The Husband Hour for me.
As far as CTE, the timing was really serendipitous because as I was writing this book, article after article in publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Daily News came out about professional sports and traumatic brain injury. One night I was flipping through TV channels and The HBO show Real Sports with Bryant Gumble did a big piece on it. I would have had to try not to learn about it!
Q: How important is the setting for you when you’re crafting the story?
A: Two years ago, with The Forever Summer, I began writing books set in beach towns. For that book it was Provincetown, Cape Cod. Since that book, setting has really come to the forefront for me. I find the setting to be a character in itself, and it’s the first thing I research and explore before putting words on the page.
Q: The novel is told from multiple perspectives. How does a multi-perspective narrative help shape the story?
A: I love writing multi-perspective. For me, it’s a way to really keep the story moving. I also like showing something that one character absolutely believes to be true or experiences in a certain way, and then juxtaposing it against another character’s point of view. It’s a great way to create drama and also a great opportunity for humor and irony. I cannot write a book any other way.
Q: What are some of the key themes you hope readers takeaway from the novel?
A: The big takeaway for me with The Husband Hour is the notion that while our relatives might not be perfect, might not even seem tolerable sometimes, family is the most important thing we have if we can just learn to let go and embrace it. And this goes back to the forgiveness theme.
Q: Can you give any hints of what to expect in your next book?
A: My next novel will publish in May, again with Little, Brown. It’s called Drawing Home and is set in Sag Harbor. It’s the story of a single mom who works the front desk at The American Hotel (a place that fascinates me and inspired the book) and at the beginning of the summer her fourteen-year-old daughter mysteriously inherits the biggest house in town. Meanwhile, a Manhattan socialite learns about this and descends upon Sag Harbor to wrestle the house from them. It’s a lot of fun!
Q: What books are you currently reading and what’s on your to be read (TBR) list?
A: I just got an ARC of a novel publishing in February called The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer. It’s historical fiction about the artist/muse Lee Miller and Man Ray. I absolutely cannot put it down. I also read ARCs of some wonderful books coming out this summer: the thriller The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger (July 3) and The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis (August 7). For some relationship drama, The Intermission by Elyssa Friedland (July 3). And one more historical coming up is Susie Orman Schnall’s The Subway Girls (July 10.) It’s a great month for books!
Click here to buy The Husband Hour on Amazon.
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