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Interview with Pam Jenoff in Tucson, "I please all of the people none of the time"

Tucson Festival of Books 2015. Photo Jesuiseduardo
Pam Jenoff sat on a panel at the Tucson Festival of Books my first year to attend. She shared that she had been a diplomat in Kraków, Poland, and is writing to work through what living there and working on Holocaust issues did to her psyche.

Q: How do you decide what point of view to tell the story?

Jenoff: A friend was reading a book in first person, pretense tense, Jenoff had an AHA moment,
First person, present tense  – I had to do that.
She took a snippet of the book she was writing and showed it in different tenses to her agent and to her editor, and asked them to choose their favorite.

Q: How do you start?

Jenoff: I start with an image, and throw down the worst 60,000 words and then try to fix it.

"I knew this terrible thing would happen to the Connally family and I knew the end, but didn't know how they were going to get there." (Reference: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach, by Pam Jenoff)

Q. How do you research, how do you use the research, how do you not screw up the research?

Jenoff: My mom is from South Philadelphia, and ask her, "Close your eyes and tell me . . .

I love periodicals from the time period and letters from soldiers."

Q: Characters you missed after you left them.

Jenoff: My protagonist is usually a woman in unusual circumstances. The protagonist would have lived a normal life, but is pushed out of her comfort zone.

Q. What are you reading?

Jenoff: reads across all genres, currently reading, A Small Indiscretion, by Jan Ellison.

"I am an avid library person. I'm there four times a week."


Jenoff: "You have to write on a schedule. If I was an attorney and said, 'Oh, I just don't feel like writing a brief, today.' I would have lost my job."

Stops when you're tired.

"I can't do plot twisty turning things if I'm fatigued."


Jenoff: When looking for a topic, looks for a question she can answer. If she researches too much, she's not writing and in danger of an informational dump.
I please all of the people none of the time.

Jenoff: Reads everything, responds, "I always appreciate the chance to learn from my readers."

She is a law school professor. When her law students are afraid to show their work, she tells them, "Read my bad reviews."


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