Interview With Author Jeanne Blasberg

My debut novel, EDEN, was published in May 2017 by She Writes Press and THE NINE came out in August of this year, published by She Writes Press as well.  While EDEN is a family saga and most commonly categorized as women’s fiction or historical fiction,  THE NINE is contemporary literary fiction which has garnered appeal across age groups and gender.  What they do have in common are themes around motherhood and strong female characters who struggle with following their heart in the face of societal pressure.  There are also many allusions to biblical stories in both novels, with EDEN referring to stories in Genesis and THE NINE being a modern retelling of the Hannah and Samuel story in the Book of Samuel.

There is always a  real life story behind my fiction in that I am always driven to write about deeply personal obsessions – obsessions I have often journaled and written about in the first person. I have found there are certain obsessions that can only be exorcised on the page.  I chose to fictionalize my work, however, because I love the freedom of embellishment and using my imagination to come up with better settings and characters than what may have existed in real life.  It has been said that memoir is writing what’s real and making meaning of it, while fiction writers start with the “meaning” and create a story that helps examine it.  EDEN was all about a family dynamic and a thread of secrets that traveled through the maternal line.  It is about the different opportunities for women throughout the 20th century with regard to education, and professionally, but most importantly around reproductive rights.  It is set in a Rhode Island summer community similar to the town I live in.  It is a sort of kaleidoscope of women in my life, but I assembled the pieces in the way that worked for the story.

The real life inspiration behind THE NINE has to do with that moment when a mother lets go of her child and sets him forth into the world.  It is a difficult separation that often lasts more than a moment.  There are many ties that need to be cut and it doesn’t happen easily.  That separation is set against a backdrop of a boarding school campus where Hannah and her son, Sam has no idea what he is about to discover: a secret society called “The Nine” that operates underground and a crime he is determined to get to the bottom of.  My three children went to boarding school and my husband did as well. I am the product of a large public high school and I think my kids’ experiences and stories really hit me as different: special but also strange sometimes.  I also began that novel as they were fleeing the nest, and I had many questions about the world they were entering.

I like to write first thing in the morning.  I also get a lot of ideas when I am out walking or gardening.  I often get ideas when I am reading.  But it is the everyday practice of writing, of strengthening that muscle, that has helped me mature as a writer and helps me achieve decent word counts every week. I am an athlete and I try to approach my writing practice with the same discipline that fueled rigorous training. I workshop my chapters in writing classes and in a  writing group.  Getting feedback early requires bravery and trust but it has saved me from wasting time.  Finding a community of writers who can mentor and give advice is really important.  I have found that in person in Boston, but it can also be achieved through online forums and writing groups.

One quirky think about me is that I love to do jigsaw puzzles.  I find them very relaxing and a fun diversion before bedtime.


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