USA Today best-selling author Jillian Cantor reimagines and expands on the literary classic The Great Gatsby in this atmospheric historical novel with echoes of Big Little Lies, told in three women’s alternating voices.
HISTORICAL HAPPY HOUR
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Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor
In this episode, Jane welcomes Jillian Cantor to discuss her novel “Beautiful Little Fools,” a revisionist murder mystery inspired by characters from “The Great Gatsby.” Cantor shares her process of delving into Fitzgerald’s classic, reimagining it from the women’s perspectives, and crafting a narrative that challenges the original portrayals. Her research spanned the 1917-1922 era, incorporating historical events like the flu pandemic to enrich the setting. Cantor also reflects on her writing process, including her approach to plotting and character development.
Here’s what we covered:
- [00:00:00] Introduction of Jillian Cantor and her novel “Beautiful Little Fools.”
- [00:01:14] Discussion on the inspiration and premise behind the novel.
- [00:03:43] The significance of the novel’s title and its relation to “The Great Gatsby.”
- [00:05:23] Challenges and joys of writing a story intertwined with a classic.
- [00:07:37] The process of choosing and developing multiple perspectives.
- [00:09:48] Cantor’s approach to plotting and her writing schedule.
- [00:13:00] Research on the 1918-1919 flu pandemic and its integration into the narrative.
- [00:17:14] Favorite parts of writing and challenges in settling on the right idea.
- [00:18:06] Brief discussion on Cantor’s current project and reading habits.
- [00:21:50] Availability for virtual book clubs and social media presence.
- [00:23:58] Favorite character to write and standout scenes.
[00:00:00] Jane: All right. And we’re live. Hello, everyone. This is my first historical happy hour of 2022. And I’m so happy to welcome Jillian Cantor. Cheers. Thank you for coming. Because her new book, Beautiful Little Fools, is coming out. Next week. So this is like a pre launch event. I’m going to start with a little intro about Jillian and then I have a bunch of questions and please put your questions in the chat or in the Q& A and I will check them and and field them after I finish with my interview.
So about Jillian. Jillian Cantor has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. She is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of 11 novels for teens and adults, which have been chosen for Library Reads, Indie Next, Amazon Best of the Month, and have been translated into 13 languages.
Jillian’s next novel, Beautiful Little Fools, will be published next week, February 1st. She was born and raised, yay! Born and raised in a suburb of Philadelphia. Cantor currently lives in Arizona. Lucky, with her husband and two sons. Welcome! Thank you so much for being on.
[00:01:11] Jilian: Yeah, for having me. I’m excited.
[00:01:14] Jane: Yeah, so I have a bunch of questions. I’m gonna just jump in. So to quote your starred review in Publishers Weekly for Beautiful Little Fools, congratulations on that. Thank you. Cantor succeeds brilliantly with this audacious revisionist murder mystery featuring characters from the great Gatsby.
And we were just talking when I saw this announcement about your novel come out and the premise, I was like, oh, I loved it because I love Gatsby. And I’m like, what a brilliant premise for a book. So Talk to me about the premise and how you ended up coming up with this idea for the story.
[00:01:44] Jilian: Sure. Yeah, thank you.
And thank you for that nice introduction. That was my first ever starred review from Publishers Weekly, so I was extremely excited about it. Thank you. So I’ve always loved The Great Gatsby, like you. I’ve always been a big fan. I read it for the first time in high school and it was like the first book I was ever assigned to read that I just really loved.
And then I read it again in college in a class and I actually kept my college. copy. It’s still sitting on my desk right here. Oh, nice. And I would just come back to it like once every year or two and just read it again, both as a writer and a reader. I love to read it. I feel like as a writer, I was always fascinated by the point of view choice that F Scott Fitzgerald made that he has the whole story narrated by this outsider, Nick, who’s not really a part of the story.
And I’m always thinking about a point of view as a writer. So I always like to think about that choice. And then as a reader, I just always love the story. I love that it’s this piece of time and it’s so vivid and has affairs and murder and melodrama, but like every sentence it’s, is so beautifully written.
So I would always find myself coming back to it again and again. And I always thought about the women and wondered about the women. If you think about the novel, every plot point revolves around the women, but the women barely speak in the novel. And when they do it, it’s usually something off to the side. There are these like side pieces. So I always thought about them. And a few years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine and I said, I would love to write a novel from Daisy’s point of view. And she was like, Oh my gosh, she made me promise her that I would do it. And then I started thinking about it based on her reaction.
And I think it was like the next day. She saw there was an article in USA Today about how the copyright was going to expire for the Great Gatsby. And it expired last January 2021. So this was probably the end of 2019 when I was talking to her about it. And so she was like, you have to write this.
And I felt like it was the right time since the copyright was expiring. And I went from there.
[00:03:43] Jane: Awesome. So great. For those who need a refresher, the title comes from Daisy’s, probably her most famous quote. I’m glad she’s talking about her daughter, her newborn daughter. I’m glad she’s a girl and I hope she’s a fool.
That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool. And yet it’s clear from your story. This is told from multiple of female perspectives. Three of the women’s perspectives. These women were not fools at all, so talk to me a little bit about that.
[00:04:10] Jilian: Yeah, I always love that line.
That’s been one of my favorite lines, but I’ve always thought that Daisy was not really a fool and that you. Nick might have thought she was, but I didn’t think that Daisy thought that she was. And again, the line she’s talking to Nick about how she was hoping she would have a boy because, boys had so much more agency in their world.
But then when it was a girl, she said I hope she’ll be a fool. And so I just knew that was what the book was going to be called before I knew anything else about the book, which is what happened to me before I never can come up with the title. This was like the first time ever. And so I knew right away.
I was like, it’s going to be about the women and it’s going to be called Beautiful Little Fools. And I knew that they weren’t going to be fools. And that was where my starting point into even writing it.
[00:04:53] Jane: That’s funny because titles I find are. It’s so hard and it’s so hard.
[00:04:57] Jilian: Yeah. Never, like never before and never after this.
[00:05:02] Jane: Yeah, it totally works. So this is a departure for you a little bit because it’s taking a work of fiction, a classic work of fiction, and expanding upon it rather than your other historical fiction which writes about people and events in history from a fictional standpoint. Was that challenging?
Was it refreshing? How was that for you?
[00:05:23] Jilian: It was both. It was extremely refreshing and extremely fun. I had more fun writing this book, I think, than any book I’ve ever written. I just enjoyed every minute of it, but also extremely challenging because I did have this extremely well known text and I wanted to write my own story, but I wanted to stay true to it.
So I really mind The Great Gatsby and went through every line and figured out what I could use and what I needed to use. And if you go through the Great Gatsby, there’s, it’s not even that much of the book, but there’s a few pages where they talk about what everyone did basically in the years 1917 through 1922 and Gatsby itself is set the summer of 1922.
So it was like those two pages gave me the outline for where everyone had to be. And then there were lines here and there. That I took and I made into plot points. There’s one line in the plaza scene and the Gats and the great Gatsby, they’re all in the plaza. They’re all drunk.
And we’re talking about Daisy and Tom’s wedding. And they start talking about this guy who fainted at the wedding named blocks. And Jordan has one line of dialogue. And she says, he fainted. We carried him to my house, three doors down. He stayed for three weeks. And then daddy kicked him out. And the next day daddy died.
And I was like there’s a major plot point in my book, what happens, who is this man for three weeks and why did daddy kick him out and then die the next day? And so it was like little things like that, finding a line of dialogue and thinking. What does this really mean? And so it was extremely challenging, but also just like really fun.
It was a really fun puzzle.
[00:06:58] Jane: Yeah. Because you could just pull those threads and see where it took you. And yeah. Yeah. And so that brings me to a kind of a related question. This is told from multiple points of view for Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker. Catherine McCoy, who’s Myrtle Wilson’s sister, who’s very peripheral character in the novel, in the Gatsby, and the, and then the detective who is investigating the murder of Gatsby.
And so was these multiple points of view, was that your original plan for the story? And honestly, like, how do you do it? Because that just, yeah, I’m just in awe of that. Well done.
[00:07:37] Jilian: I think my initial idea was like, it’s gonna, it was gonna be Daisy’s. That’s what I was thinking. Yeah. That was my, my initial.
And then I thought, but I really like Jordan. So we should read Jordan’s story too. And then I thought, but Myrtle needs to have a voice. So it like quickly spiraled into this and Catherine Myrtle’s sister, I think is. In The Great Gatsby twice. She’s in the scene and Myrtle and Tom, or the apartment that Tom sets Myrtle up with and they have a party and everyone gets drunk and Tom breaks Myrtle’s nose, if anyone’s familiar with the book.
She’s in that scene and then she’s in the scene at the end. She identifies Myrtle’s body for the coroner and Nick points out that she stays quiet and doesn’t tell the police anything about what happened. Like she just basically lies and says nothing was going on. So she was. So minor in the original book that I felt like I could really make her my own but still stay true to what we know about her in the book.
So she was really attractive as a point of view character. I wanted Myrtle gets two chapters. I wanted Myrtle to be a character, but I didn’t want her to be a main character because as we know from the Great Gatsby, she dies. And I wanted the book to extend past that. So I didn’t want to pull off one of my main characters.
And before I started writing, I actually did an outline, which I don’t normally outline. I normally, like when people say, if you’re a panther or a plotter, I’m normally a panther, but I felt like I had to do an outline this time because I wanted to stay true to the timeline that was in the book. So I outlined the timeline and where everyone would be.
And when I did that, I went chapter by chapter and decided, what each woman was doing and how they were going to. where I knew the detective chapters were going to fall in between each year. So I actually outlined the whole thing. And then I stuck to that outline when I wrote it.
And the book as it is published. is exactly like the outline, except one, one big exception. When my editor read the first draft, she was like, you left off an ending. And I was like no, this is the ending in my outline. So I talked it through with her and I totally understood what she was saying.
So I actually had to add a last chapter that was not in my outline, but everything else was in my outline.
[00:09:48] Jane: Oh, interesting. I, yeah, I’m not going to share, but I thought the ending was. It was. I loved it. Yeah. That was really well done. Yeah. Very
[00:09:54] Jilian: cool. Yeah, she was right. It used to end a chapter earlier, so she she was right with what she said.
It’s just, I was so stuck to this outline that I was like, this is so great.
[00:10:04] Jane: When you’re, make an outline and like, when you’re done. You feel like, okay. Yeah. I end the outline. . Yeah. It’s hard to get your head around, like adding anything else, right? Yeah. Very cool. Oh, this was the other thing that I thought was really interesting ’cause my husband and I.
We needed a new show and we just happened to start watching the first season of Big Little Lies. So some of the comparisons, the book has been described as having echoes of Big Little Lies and I totally, I was like, yeah, I see that because of the, the interrogations and so it gives it, the book, a little bit more of a modern feel while still being historical.
And so was that Like, was that your original intent? Did you think Big Little Lies, or you, it just happened to be that way?
[00:10:44] Jilian: Yeah, no, I definitely thought Big Little Lies, and I watched both seasons of the show, and I love the book, and so I, I felt like this could be a Big Little Lies esque book, but meets the criteria.
Meets the great Gatsby, like all of these women have a secret, but the secret is who murdered Jay Gatsby.
[00:11:02] Jane: Okay, yeah, no and yeah, I love the show, and it was so funny, because like I said I’m, we’re late to the party with The Big Little Lies, I’m always late to the party
[00:11:10] Jilian: with everything, but I did ask,
[00:11:12] Jane: so beyond going line by line through the novel, what other kind of research did you do for the story?
[00:11:20] Jilian: It was about like the time period, the different years that they were living in the different places. It goes all over there in Louisville and Santa Barbara and France and Chicago and obviously East Egg and West Egg and New York City.
And so it was like looking at those places and those times and. Figuring out what else was going on. And I read one book. It’s called careless people, and it’s a nonfiction book that talks about F. Scott Fitzgerald inspiration about this like real life murder that may have inspired him for The Great Gatsby.
But it also had a lot of just like really great details about the time period, like what New York looked like at the time. And I think there’s one part where Daisy talks about how her and Jordan are wearing white dresses because the New York Times says that’s what’s fashionable. And that was a little tidbit I got from that book.
So just like little things like that. I actually ended up doing a lot of research about the flu pandemic because that. was going on, during my time period, 1918, 1919. And of course, it was something I hadn’t thought about when I started the book before the pandemic, but I was writing it then during the pandemic.
And I was like I have to address this in the book. And so I like mapped out the whole pandemic and I, it came in waves and I never had a chapter during any of the waves. So I was like trying to figure out how to. How to get it in. And then eventually I had something about how like Jordan’s golf tournaments got delayed because of the flu.
And then I was trying to think about Jordan and Daisy and I was like, I bet they weren’t wearing masks because that probably wasn’t their personality. They just didn’t even think about it. Yeah. Deep rabbit hole about that pandemic. Try and figure out where
[00:13:00] Jane: it fit in my book. How funny that you were writing about it during this pandemic and the story starts in 1919 like towards the tail end of the last one.
That’s really funny. That must have felt odd.
[00:13:12] Jilian: Yeah and also I think it gave me a different understanding of the Roaring Twenties. It’s like I knew what they were, but then thinking about the fact that all this like revelry came from the end of World War I, the end of this big pandemic, it’s like I understood their motivation, I think, a little more than I ever have in the past.
[00:13:31] Jane: Yeah, because it’s like this valve of like people just wanted to live their lives again. And yeah, I’m gonna get,
[00:13:37] Jilian: I want to get to that, the R Roaring 20s. I know,
[00:13:39] Jane: I thought it was going to be last summer and
[00:13:41] Jilian: it didn’t happen. No, I want to get there, we’re not there yet. I know,
[00:13:45] Jane: I can’t wait. So you talked about, so I’m really interested because you said this is is this like the first book you’ve ever plotted?
Or have you, are there others you have? I, so I’m curious about your whole writing process. You’ve written a number of books now,
[00:13:59] Jilian: this was the most I’ve ever plotted. And the two books that were before this I didn’t plot them, but I charted them. Like my last book was about Marie Curie, but it was told in two timelines and one was her real life.
And one was the person she might have become if she had made one different choice. So I did make a little timeline of where each woman was going to be in each year, but I didn’t have all like the plot points and I didn’t know chapter by chapter. And then the book I wrote before this in another time it’s also from two points of view and One point of view is from before World War Two and one point of view is from after.
So I realized at a certain point that like the one from after knows stuff that happened that I hadn’t written yet and the other timeline. So once I got about halfway through that book, I made a big chart on my wall just with like where both characters were in every year just to keep it straight.
But actually I’m not like outlining at all what I’m working on now, which was like, I don’t know I know in my head that it would be easier, but just I can’t bring myself to do it. I feel like it’s like affecting my creativity with this particular story.
If I have to keep something straight, I will but Beautiful Little Fools like I really I had every chapter and I wrote very detailed 10 page synopsis. I’ve never done anything like that before.
[00:15:19] Jane: Very cool. Okay, interesting. Yeah, I totally plot all the way. I get maniacal about it. So every time, and I talk to people like you and a lot of authors, there’s no process is a right process, but I’m so in awe of people who can just sit down every day and be like, all right, let’s see where it takes me.
[00:15:34] Jilian: Just writing about a real person, or like in this case, I had an established text. It’s you have to Do some sort of outline to keep the dates and the places and the names and everything straight. But if I’m doing something that’s completely fictional and not based on anything, then I feel like I have like more freedom to see where it takes me and I end up doing more revision that way.
So it’s not necessarily easier. It’s just a different kind of creativity. I think different process.
[00:16:00] Jane: Yeah. So talk to me about one of the things I also loved. Is that the cover design is gorgeous. I think covers are so important. And if you could, if you want to hold it up again, I only have it on my phone.
Yes, love it. Now, did you have a lot of input into that or not so much?
[00:16:16] Jilian: No, I can’t take any credit for it. I agree that it’s amazing and they did an amazing job. And I think they did ask me for what I thought. How I envisioned it. And I think I said something like art, art deco, which they did incorporate.
And we might’ve even talked about doing a black and gold theme, but yeah, beyond that, I really had no, I had no input. And that was the first cover they showed me, sometimes I don’t know in your experience, but like in the past, sometimes they’ll show me a cover and I’m like, Really? Look at the other options.
But this was the first thing they showed me and I loved it and everybody loved it. So I don’t know if they had other options that they didn’t show me, but that was the first one that I saw.
[00:16:59] Jane: Yeah they totally nailed it.
[00:17:01] Jilian: I love it. Yeah, they did a great job. It’s really beautiful.
[00:17:04] Jane: Really well done.
What is your favorite part of writing and the writing process and what is the least favorite part of it all? I
[00:17:14] Jilian: think the, my least favorite, I’ll start there. favorite is settling on the right idea because I feel like I make a lot of false starts. And when I’m trying to get that next right, perfect idea, I always have in my head that I can never do this again.
I don’t know what I was thinking. Getting past that point every time and then my favorite is just the initial drafting of the first draft when you’re so excited about the story and I just wake up every day and I can’t wait to go write and see where it’s going to take me and everything’s like still fresh and shiny and no one has done anything negative about it yet.
[00:17:53] Jane: Yeah. It’s still your baby. Yeah. Everything
[00:17:56] Jilian: is beautiful. You don’t know anything is wrong with it.
[00:18:00] Jane: And then what are you working on right now? You said you’re working on something new. Okay. If you want to talk about it, if not, that’s okay.
[00:18:06] Jilian: I am working on something new.
I can’t really talk about it because I don’t know what’s going to happen with it yet, but it is like another feminist take on a different classic. Awesome. Oh, I love that.
[00:18:17] Jane: Really? And I didn’t outline it. What? And I didn’t outline it. Oh, okay. Fascinating. What are you reading right now? I find, like, when I’m writing, I don’t always have time.
[00:18:28] Jilian: Yeah. No, I don’t always. But I actually, I just did an event with Fiona Davis last night. And so I just finished her new book before the event, The Magnet. Oh, yeah. Really good. I love her stuff in general. Yeah, she’s great. Yeah. And I just read the last book I read that was just like, not for an event or something was who is Maud Dixon, which was like a, I like a thriller about a writer.
I don’t know. I read it over Christmas break. It was pretty good. I liked it. Okay. Not historical. And often if I’m like working on a historical of my own, I tend not to read other historical books. I’ll read a thriller or I’ll read a YA or I’ll read a romance. But of course I did an event with Fiona, so I made an exception yesterday and finished her book, which was great.
[00:19:18] Jane: Yeah, she’s great. I love her writing. I, someone just said, oh, Mindy Stone. Hello, Mindy, says, what are you reading, Jane? And I feel the same way unless I am reading to blurb someone else’s book. I don’t like to read historical fiction when I’m working on it. I like, and I love thrillers and mysteries like Tana French.
I love those, but right now I’m reading The Prophet’s Wipe by Olivia Hawker, which comes out next month and it’s about, It’s actually it’s another, it’s told from Joseph Smith, who founded the Mormon Church. It’s told from his wife’s perspective, and it’s fiction, and it’s really interesting, and it’s really well done.
So that comes out next month. That’s what I’m reading right now for her. And then is there any books besides The Great Gatsby that really Just were a huge part of your childhood, young adulthood, that like you still have on your shelf. I feel like all authors have a couple that like, they just adore.
[00:20:07] Jilian: Yeah. I would say like Nancy Drew was a big part of my childhood. I don’t still have her books though. Her books. I don’t still have those books. I saved some from college that were some of my favorites, but the great Gatsby was the one I would always pull out and reread. One book that I reread, and it’s like a somewhat recent book, it’s not a classic, but Black and Blue by Anna Quinlan.
Oh, yeah. I like, I come back to that. I feel like that book was just so well written and masterfully done that I’ll reread that every few years. And then of course everything else is escaping me, like I could probably look at myself.
[00:20:42] Jane: Oh, I know. I do the same thing. Now if this was to be a movie, who would you cast?
Have you thought about that? I don’t know that I do that.
[00:20:51] Jilian: I, yeah, I have . , that’s another one I can’t really talk about, but , I have thought about it. One. One thing that’s interesting when you think about that is that Daisy and Jordan are so much younger than I think of them in my head.
They’re in, they’re like 20, 21. So I think they would have to be young actresses and maybe even, unknowns or actresses I can’t think of off the top of my head. So I’m like terrible with this question, but I have thought about it.
[00:21:21] Jane: Yeah, I know. And I feel I. I don’t know a lot of really young actors and actresses that just aren’t my thing.
[00:21:27] Jilian: My kids broadcast it for me.
[00:21:29] Jane: There you go. And then, so I’m going to take questions, if anyone has questions, I see a couple in the chat or put them in the Q, oh, there’s a couple in the Q& A but do you do like virtual book clubs and like Zoom book clubs with book, like book clubs and stuff and like what, if people want to do a book club with you, what’s the best way to keep in touch with you?
[00:21:50] Jilian: So I actually, I have on my website, it’s just jillian canner.com and I, there’s a book club tab and there’s just a form you can fill out and with your book club information. And it emails me and then I can email you back. And I have all the reader’s guides there too. So if you do a book club, and you just wanna look up the reader guide, you can do that too.
[00:22:08] Jane: Oh, that’s great. Oh, that’s gonna come back one second. Ah, I’m sorry. technology. And then are you. A social media person. And if yes, like where’s the best place for people to find you on social media?
[00:22:22] Jilian: Yeah, I am probably Instagram, just at Jillian Cantor. And I’m at Jillian Cantor on Twitter too, but I don’t look on Twitter as much.
So Instagram is probably the best. Yeah, I was gonna say, I’ve
[00:22:33] Jane: seen you on Instagram. Okay. All right, questions. This Colleen Sullivan has an excellent question that I actually meant to add to this. Should readers read The Great Gatsby again before reading this? book.
[00:22:45] Jilian: I don’t think you have to. I don’t think you even have to have ever read The Great Gatsby to read it.
I think that it stands on its own as a, like murder mystery, historical fiction about women. But I think if you do. If you did reread The Great Gatsby or you like read them together, there would definitely be lines that you would catch where you’d be like, oh, that was from the original. So you might just get a little bit more out of it, but I definitely don’t think you have to.
[00:23:12] Jane: definitely don’t think you have to.
It’s funny though, I, cause I haven’t read, my daughter recently just randomly picked it up on her own. She’s 15 and loved it, but I hadn’t read it in at least a few years. So after Reading your book. I’m like, I gotta go back because I didn’t remember. I could not recall Catherine McCoy at all, so
[00:23:29] Jilian: Tiny part.
She actually didn’t have a last name. So I made up her last name because we don’t know what Myrtle meaning was. So
[00:23:37] Jane: yeah. No, that And then okay, other questions let’s see, I missed a couple up top here In Beautiful Little Fools, Sharon Pearson, thank you so much for coming, she comes all the time.
In Beautiful Little Fools, who was your favorite character to write, and what scene with that character stands out?
[00:23:58] Jilian: Jordan was my favorite character to write. I, cause I feel like Jordan, it’s super tough and also has the biggest struggle of everyone through no fault of her own. And I feel like I can’t tell you what the favorite scene was because that would be a spoiler, but Jordan is always talking about how there’s fire.
She feels like there’s fire coursing through her veins. And I feel like every time I wrote her, I could.
[00:24:24] Jane: And then oh, Mindy Stone. Hello, Mindy. Do either of you branch out of historical fiction when thinking about what to write next? You’ve written some YA as well, though. You write YA. You’re very diverse in your skill set.
[00:24:36] Jilian: I’ve written some YA contemporary and And I’ll also like some of my historical fiction has two timelines like the lost letter has a contemporary storyline. So I definitely do think about it. I don’t feel just confined to historical fiction. I feel like I’m always drawn to strong women and that sort of transcends whatever time period I’m going to write in.
[00:24:58] Jane: Yeah. I feel like If I ever, I got this question last night at a book club, and I, my, my younger daughter and I share a love for YA fantasy and sci fi, and I feel like if I ever like it. Went down a different path. I’d love to write why I are like that kind of genre, maybe under a different name or something like that.
Yeah, I think I would, I think that would that’d be the route I’d go. I don’t even know what that would be, but it would be, it’s fun to think about
[00:25:28] Jilian: it is fun. It’s I like sometimes like when I’m reading it, in a different genre and I’m like, Oh, I’d like to write in the genre.
It is fun.
[00:25:34] Jane: I’m not going to lie to you. It is, and there’s certain I love V. E. Schwab, I think she’s just a beautiful writer, and I’m like, oh, yeah, stuff like that. You know what, since this is, I was thinking about this too, and I didn’t add it to my questions since it’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Can you talk a little bit about your book about Margot Anne Frank’s sister?
I think that was a, that was another fascinating premise. And I feel like people should know about that book.
[00:26:01] Jilian: Yeah. So Margot is about Anne Frank’s sister, Margot Frank, and it’s. the premise of what if she actually had survived the Holocaust and lived and moved to America. And my story is set in 1959, which is the year that the Diary of Anne Frank was made into a movie in the U.
S. And so it’s really about like sisterhood and fame and exploring what she would have thought Of like how her sister’s fame exploded after her diary was published and the hollywoodization of it, if that’s a word, when the movie came out and I got the idea based on the true fact that Margo also kept the diary when they were hiding in the attic and hers was never found.
And most people don’t even remember that Anne Frank had a sister. I didn’t remember that Anne Frank had a sister back to the diary as an adult. And so it’s just a lot. It’s, it is about, the Holocaust and survival, really, and survivor’s guilt. But it’s also a lot about sisters, and I’m a sister, so I wanted to write a story about sisters.
[00:27:03] Jane: Yeah, that push pull, and yeah. A lot of people say that Mindy Stone says, I loved Margot and Valerie Souter said, Margot is on my shelf of my all time favorites. There’s a lot of love. Oh, and then Christine Mott said, The Lost Letter is my favorite so far, but I have more in my To Be Read pile.
So lots of love. Yeah. Oh, Mandy. Hello, Mandy. Hi, ladies. Thanks for talking about Margot today. It is one of my favorite books. Mandy Eisenbaum, she always comes too. You guys are all so great. By the way, great to see you both tonight. Oh, Carol Ahern asks, have you, have either, have you ever gone on a literary pilgrimage?
Have you ever traveled for research? I think is probably what you mean, Carol. Thank you for asking.
[00:27:48] Jilian: I’ve definitely done a little research, but no, I haven’t really. And most of it’s just like a practical thing. I have two kids and it’s hard. I, And maybe from when my kids are in college or something, but I can’t really just pick up and leave for three weeks and go off to Austria because no one would eat in my family.
So it’s like mostly the practical aspect of it. I would, and like financial too, it’s gets really expensive to travel and do all that stuff. But I have, I like the the last letter is. Partly set in Coronado, which is like one of my favorite places ever and I did actually do a bunch of research when I was there and I was writing that book and I went to the historical society and like the poor women that worked there.
I like asked them questions. They were really nice about it. So it’s I, I have done little things, but I haven’t done like a pilgrimage. Definitely not something I would call a pilgrimage.
[00:28:47] Jane: Yeah, no I did. I was fortunate enough before. Everything shut down in October 2019 and it was part birthday trip and part work trip for my husband and we went to Paris for six days and I, because I knew the Secret Stealers was going to take place very much in Paris was, that was one of the reasons and so but generally speaking, yeah, practically from a practical standpoint, like it’s just too much, too hard, too expensive to and thankfully there’s a lot you can find out.
Contacting people like I, I just downloaded a bunch of files from actually the Holocaust library in DC and they sent me some digital stuff. There’s a lot of ways you can connect with people that don’t have the
[00:29:28] Jilian: Holocaust museum in DC for research for the last letter, but I was in DC for like a It was like a teaching conference for one of my YA books, and so to the Holocaust Museum while I’m here.
So like you said, I tacked it on, but that was actually like really great research for The Lost Letter.
[00:29:45] Jane: Yeah, I’m sure. Sharon Person asks, For both of you, is there a certain time in history that you would like to write about, different from what you’ve done so far? I’ll let you take that.
[00:29:57] Jilian: I really want to write about the 70s. I feel like that, yeah, I feel like it hasn’t been written about that much, and the whole Watergate era is really fascinating to me, so I don’t know what I’m going to do or when, but I always have that in the back of my mind.
[00:30:10] Jane: Yeah, I really I love the 20s. I think that that’s it’s so fun.
I was like, I don’t drink hard alcohol, but I’m like, what was the thing with gin rickies? I was like, we shouldn’t be drinking gin rickies
[00:30:21] Jilian: when I finished the first class. And that’s the first and only time I’ve ever had a gin rickie. And I was like, I need to do this to celebrate. And then that was my one.
[00:30:32] Jane: What is in a gin rickie besides gin?
[00:30:34] Jilian: It was like tonic water and lime, I
[00:30:37] Jane: think. Yeah. That’s not my .
[00:30:39] Jilian: It was fine, but I’m wine drinker myself. Yeah, I did drink that to celebrate finishing the third draft.
[00:30:46] Jane: Oh, that’s funny. Yeah, I certain time periods the twenties, but I also am fascinated with like early Cold War.
[00:30:52] Jilian: And everything that was going on in that era, and I did, I wrote a book about the Rosenberg. So that was like, Oh, that’s right era. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:31:02] Jane: Darlene Goldberg says hi from Omaha reading the arc of this book right now and loving it. Oh, great. Nice. Lots of love for the books tonight.
This is awesome. Is there any other questions trying to see if there’s any others that I missed up front? Oh, got the characters ones. Any other questions from anyone? Oh, one more. Let’s see down here. I’ll put one in the Q& A. Oh oh, Christine, I think you came on a little late. Do you have input on your cover?
And did you choose the title, Absolutely Gorgeous, I Loved Both Your Books. And we talked a little bit about that. You didn’t have input on the title and the cover, but you, they nailed it.
[00:31:42] Jilian: And you thought that the title was the first thing that came to you. The title was the first thing that came to me, yeah, because I loved that line in the book.
[00:31:48] Jane: Yeah, and it’s, yeah, it’s so perfect. Yeah. I just read, Susan Moore says, I just read a news report about a Nazi officer’s housekeeper, I just read this too, who hid 12 Jews in the basement during World War II. Would you be interested in writing a book about this, Jillian?
[00:32:04] Jilian: I actually have, I’ve banned myself from World War Two for a little bit, just because I feel like the current world is depressing me so much that I’ve been trying to, I’ve been having I want to escape a little bit more in my writing, I think.
And I’m taking a little break, but I read that story too, actually. And I was like, this would be a great book, but I just, I’m having a really hard time like traveling to a war time in fiction, because I just feel like every day in the real world is extremely stressful and challenging right now.
Yeah. So actually what I’m working on is a little bit lighter.
[00:32:41] Jane: Oh, that’s great. Yeah, I feel like my own mental state. And I’m actually working on a new World War Two project. And I didn’t plan on it. That was I wasn’t like, Oh, I gotta write another World War Two book. It was just the story fascinated me.
But I feel like there’s a lot of World War Two books out there right now, too. So I think the next one, I will probably take another path for a little while, another era.
[00:33:04] Jilian: People love World War Two books. And I love World War Two books. I just yeah, finding my like, Even my own reading choices and watching choices are a little bit different right now than they normally are, just because I really need that escapism.
[00:33:17] Jane: Yeah, a lot of Ted Lasso, a big fan, a little bit lighter.
[00:33:21] Jilian: Watch all that, yep.
[00:33:24] Jane: Sharon asks do you listen to music when you write?
[00:33:28] Jilian: I don’t, no. I like to have complete quiet when I’m writing. And somebody asked me the other night I was doing something and they asked me if I listened to roaring 20s music while I wrote the book and I was like, that would have been a really great idea, but I didn’t.
I just I like to have that quiet so I can hear the characters voices in my head.
[00:33:47] Jane: Yeah I like either quiet or I can listen to music, but it cannot have lyrics. I can listen to
[00:33:54] Jilian: like quiet classical music quietly, but I don’t think to turn it on and like my husband’s on my office is upstairs and my husband’s is downstairs.
And sometimes I’ll walk down there in the middle of the day and he’s like playing classical music and I think, Oh, it’s so nice in here like I never heard.
[00:34:08] Jane: But yeah, oftentimes, like I was working, my husband and I trade offices. I was working at his office in another town today. And I was like, end of the day, I’m like, I never even turned on any music today.
I usually put like some, like you said, something quiet in the background, but then I’m like, I just sometimes don’t even think I’m so focused on what I’m doing. I forget. So
[00:34:26] Jilian: yeah, I never think to put music on,
[00:34:30] Jane: Oh, and Mindy asked, do you follow regular work schedules when writing? Yeah.
[00:34:36] Jilian: I do for the most part beautiful little fold.
I wrote the first 50 pages like January, February 2020 and sold the book to my editor just like on proposal and those pages at the end of February. But then I wrote the rest of the book like in the very beginning part of the pandemic so like March through. June 2020. So I didn’t follow as regular work hours as I normally do just because there was like no schedule at that time, normally.
And what I do now, like now is I, take my kids to school. I have a cup of coffee and then it’s usually like I’m working between eight to three and then I have to go pick a kid up. But then like my kids were home, nobody had any activities. So I was writing at all weird hours of the day and I, I wasn’t stopping at three and I found that I was actually really productive.
Which is a time that I never write now because I’m always driving somebody somewhere or somebody has something to do. So I actually wrote Beautiful Little Fools really off schedule just because there was no schedule.
[00:35:37] Jane: Yeah, no, and did you find it hard, because during that those early days of the pandemic, I, Was not I was just editing.
I wasn’t writing and did you find it hard to focus on drafting? Like I felt like I could I was a little hard to focus but it was just revising So what I feel like when I’m drafting it’s really hard to focus anyway So I was thinking at the time like I don’t know how writers are doing this right now I had just sold the book and then I had this deadline.
[00:36:05] Jilian: I think my deadline was like July I don’t remember who was July 1st or August 1st, but Literally two weeks before everything shut down. I think I had written another five pages or something. And so I first, I was like I’m going to take two weeks off because remember we were just needed two weeks to flatten the curve.
And then it was going to be over. It was very clear that no, my kids are going to be home for their foreseeable future. And we’re not going anywhere. And I just had to force myself to do it because I had the deadline. And I’m really glad that I did, because I think if I didn’t have a deadline, it would have been easy to.
Say it’s okay not to write right now because it’s a hard, but the fact that I had the deadline, I forced myself to do it every day and it was a really good distraction. Like it was so great to be in this other world and to be in Jordan’s head and not be worrying about the real world during that time.
So I’m glad that I had that to force me to do it, but I definitely I wrote that more regularly than I normally write. I do normally write eight to three every day.
[00:37:04] Jane: Yeah, my, my older daughter’s in college, my younger one’s a sophomore, but I’m still, I still try to stick to the school schedule because it’s just that’s when you have the most quiet and so yeah.
Bill doing that for the most part. I agree.
[00:37:17] Jilian: I had to take the weekend off because I feel like it’s important to like to have that brain break for me. So I don’t write seven days a week. I know some people do, but I try to just do something else on Saturday and Sunday and focus, focus my energy somewhere else and then come back to it fresh Monday morning.
[00:37:33] Jane: Yeah. Don’t you find too, like when you take a day or two away from it, it’s oh, like things, I feel like things unlock sometimes you’re like, Oh, that’s wasn’t working. But now now I know how to fix that, when I’m
[00:37:45] Jilian: working through it in the back of my head, and I don’t really realize until I come back.
Yeah. The thinking time is sometimes just as important as the writing time
[00:37:53] Jane: It is, and I feel like people don’t give that enough don’t honor that enough sometimes, it’s all about the writing, but yeah, you do need to have that time to let things marinate, figure it out.
Oh, Jacoza Wade asks, how long does it take you to finish a draft and how many drafts do you do?
[00:38:09] Jilian: That definitely varies from book to book. Beautiful little fools. It took me probably six months to write the first draft and I had my nice outline. So it was pretty like it was pretty polished.
I did. I did then revise it and do a second draft. But I think that was all I did before the copy edits, but My book before that, Half Life, I restarted it three different times. They were all called Half Life, but, and they were all about Marie Curie, but they were all different stories. I had 50 pages and then it wasn’t working.
And then I had 50 pages and it wasn’t working. And then I started at the third time. So it took me like six months to even get to that third iteration of it. And then it took me six months to write that. And then I had to do a pretty big revision once my editor read it. And then I think I revised it a third time after that.
So it’s it’s dependent on the book for sure. Yeah. Some books are easier than, do you find that too? Like some books come more easily and everything falls into place. And some I just, I struggle with for much longer.
[00:39:13] Jane: I, yeah, I do. And I definitely agree with that. I also think sometimes I just, I have a false starts with.
I can’t find my way into a story and I’ll do a ton of research and I’ll start something. And then, but if you’re not like really feeling it, it’s like banging your head against the wall. And a couple of times I’ve had to shelf stuff and not even show my editors. Cause I’m like, if I’m not passionate about it now, forget it.
Yeah, so well this has been amazing. Thank you so much for your time. If you want to hold up having me Yeah, I loved it. And I love the book beautiful little fools if you want to hold it up again It comes out February 1st. So in a few days and Pre orders are always awesome for authors, so consider that.
And and yeah, Jillian, congrats on your launch. I hope you have an awesome launch week next week, too.
[00:40:00] Jilian: Thank you, and thank you so much for doing this. This was fun. Yeah, this was awesome. And to everyone for your great questions, too. Cheers!
[00:40:05] Jane: Yes, thank you everyone for coming. All right, take care. Bye bye.
HISTORICAL HAPPY HOUR
Hosted by Jane Healey, Historical Happy Hour is a live interview and podcast featuring premiere historical fiction authors and their latest novels.