Photo (c) by Sasha Coito
Jenna McCarthy is an internationally published writer, TEDx speaker, former radio personality, and the author of several books. She has been a featured guest on NBC’s Today, Lifetime TV, Sirius Satellite Radio, and countless regional media outlets across the US. Her latest book, I’VE STILL GOT IT…I JUST CAN’T REMEMBER WHERE I PUT IT: Awkwardly True Tales from the Far Side of Forty, is now available from Berkley Books.
The Writing Life Questions
What did you want to be when you grew up?
For longer than I’d like to admit, I one-hundred percent assumed that I was going to be a teacher. This wasn’t out of any burning desire to educate; I’d somehow gotten it into my little head that I was at “teacher school” all day. (Presumably the kids who were going to be doctors were off at some hospital somewhere, the future actors were on a stage, and the dolphin trainers were at Sea World, damn it.) In my mind it wasn’t if, but when: “When I’m a teacher, I’m going to let the kids sit wherever they want and I’m NEVER making them do homework.” Imagine my disbelief/relief when I found out I wasn’t in fact born into a caste.
What are you doing when you’re not writing books?
I wish I could say something fabulous like lounging on a yacht recharging my creative battery, but the truth is, the writing of any book is the easy part for me. That’s the part that happens almost effortlessly and for the most part feels like pure joy. The other, larger chunk of my time goes to the sell-market-promote-promote-some-more-you’re-not-done-promoting-you-silly-bitch phase, which essentially never ends. During the rare work-day moment I’m not writing or promoting something, I’m probably on Instagram or Twitter or playing Scramble with Friends (shhhhhhh).
How long have you been writing, versus how long have you called yourself a writer?
I submitted my first short story to Highlights magazine when I was about eight. I never heard back. In college, I changed my major every semester, something my parents found thoroughly amusing (particularly when I announced my potential future in Leisure Studies). My first real job was as an advertising copywriter, a title I proudly wore even though most of my “writing” consisted of “Come on down to Winn-Dixie, where bananas are just thirty-nine cents a pound this week!” From there I landed a job as a staff writer at Seventeen magazine, and I upgraded myself to actual writer. I loved saying it, too. When I wrote my first book, I thought, I get to call myself an author now! I still get a thrill saying that.
What time of day do you do your best writing?
I’m what some people might refer to as an annoyingly chipper morning person. I’m generally up around five and more often than not I get my best work done before anyone else in the house is even awake. I have a table and chairs in my office, and if my girls wake up early they’ll come in and draw or read quietly. I love that they want to be with me, and also that they respect what I do.
Do you share your work-in-progress with anyone other than your agent/editor?
Ha! I love this question! I would never share a work-in-progress with either of those people! By the time I send something to my agent or editor, I want it to be as damn-near-perfect as it can get. (Of course, they both invariably make it better when they do see it, but I’m just saying I’m not inclined to sling rough drafts around like monkey poo or anything.) That said, I have a group of friends who read my early drafts. Most aren’t authors but all are insatiable readers and people I admire and respect and who I know won’t blow smoke up my ass; their feedback is always invaluable.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Write the way you talk. Read everything you’ve written out loud to someone else, and note where you have the urge to change something that doesn’t ring true when you hear it aloud.
What is the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
“Never end a sentence with a preposition.” Do you want to read a book that has sentences like “About what is that movie you’re watching?” and “Upon what did you sit?” See previous note about the best writing advice I’ve ever received.
How did you come to know about the subject of your book?
Copious, painstaking, laborious research. I’m joking! It’s a book about midlife—I’m living it every day. And it turns out, it’s not all that bad, if you can keep your sense of humor about you (and rid your house of any and all magnifying mirrors).
Who would be the lead(s) in a movie or television show of your book?
Kristen Wiig as me and Will Arnett as my husband, Joe, not that I’ve thought about it much or reached out to their agents or anything.
What is your favorite way to connect with readers?
I love doing readings with Q&As afterward, and I do respond to every email I get. Well, not the nasty ones, or the ones from people who clearly have me confused with Jenny McCarthy, or the creepy “you can stay with me when you come to Spain” ones… but definitely all of the sweet, sincere, thoughtful ones.
What is the last book you read?
Allison Winn Scotch’s The Theory of Opposites. It had been a long time since a book sucked me right in like that, and I loved every minute of it.
Visit Jenna at JennaMcCarthy.com, and read her earlier installment of Inside the Authors Studio here.
I’VE STILL GOT IT… I JUST CAN’T REMEMBER WHERE I PUT IT is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and wherever books are sold.