Sunday, December 14, 2008

Joanne Rendell

Joanne Rendell was born and raised in the UK. After completing a PhD in English Literature, she moved to the States to be with her husband, a professor at NYU. Her debut novel is The Professors' Wives' Club.

Two exchanges from her interview with Carrie at Words to Mouth:

Carrie: What inspired you to write The Professors’ Wives’ Club?

Joanne: I am a professor’s wife, so I definitely wrote what I know. But the specific idea came up when I was out with a friend, another professor’s wife. We were gossiping about other professors’ wives who we knew and it struck me then what interesting characters professors’ wives would make. These women – and of course, there are professors husbands and partners too – are in an interesting position. They are often deeply connected in the university world. They live in faculty housing, take their kids to university childcare, and work out at the university gym. However, when it comes to university decisions, they have little power. I liked the idea, in particular, of pitching these seemingly powerless women, against a dean who in his little kingdom of the university has so much power.

* * *

Carrie: You have a PhD in literature, but you decided not to stay in academia. What is it like being a novelist instead?

Joanne: It’s great. Creating my own fictional worlds is proving just as fun, perhaps more fun, than studying and analyzing the fictional worlds created by other people. I’m glad I decided not to stay in academia. Being a writer instead of a professor means no faculty meetings, no teaching prep, no tenure worries, no never-ending reading lists, and no hours fretting over a lost citation. However, I do acknowledge the rich foundation that my academic studies gave me for my current writing life. It taught me how to read books with a keen and studious eye. It taught me the power of words and the tools of research. It gave me great training for executing projects and working for hours on my own with only my laptop and a steaming cup of tea for company!

Plus, I can still enjoy the best parts of the academic world through my husband. Together we are faculty fellows in residence in one of NYU’s dorms which means we have a lot of interactions with students and I get to organize and attend all kinds of interesting discussions and events. Oh, and there’s also the not-so-small fact that the intriguing and gossip-ridden world of academia has given me great fodder for my novels!
Read the complete Q & A.

The Page 69 Test: The Professors' Wives' Club.

--Marshal Zeringue