In her latest novel, Another Piece of My Heart, Jane Green tackles blended families and the struggles of being a stepmother.
How much did you draw on your own experience as a stepmom for this book?
I have always drawn from the themes of my life for inspiration. This is my 13th novel and you start to think, “What am I going to tackle next?” I haven’t ever done blended families, and as a stepmother myself I certainly was aware of some of the challenges. It’s always tricky when you draw from your life because people presume that characters are the people in your life and they never are. Certainly, there are some fundamental truths within blended families. One of them is that when a parent marries for a second time, they’re destroying the myth that the vast majority of children carry into adulthood: their parents will get back together. When someone new comes into the equation, that person then can be seen as taking a parent away. I suppose I took that dynamic to the extreme.
How do you think your writing has evolved over time?
The early books were much lighter and frothier. Jemima J and Mr. Maybe were written when I was a 20-something looking for a Mr. Right of my own. I had a hardness to my writing voice that has softened immeasurably, mostly through growing older, having children, and allowing myself to be more vulnerable. When I first started writing, I was living in England and I had that uniquely English sense of sarcasm, which has definitely seemed to have left me. I am a naturalized American and my sensibility has become far more American.
Why did you decide to write from both the stepmother Andi’s and the stepdaughter Emily’s perspectives in this novel?
It actually was my editor’s idea. This is my first book with St. Martin’s Press, and it’s been a really wonderful experience. I sent [St. Martin’s Jennifer Enderlin] this big chunk and she said, “I want to hear from Emily.” I was actually sort of nervous because I’d once written a micro-series from the point-of-view of young people. My stepdaughter grabbed the script at the time and said, “No one would ever say these sorts of things.” I didn’t really know how Emily would think, but as soon as I started, I just knew her. I really felt her words flow.
What inspired you to write about teenage pregnancy?
I look at these shows, like Teen Mom, and these girls have not anticipated what it would actually be like. As a teenager, you are still entirely wrapped up in yourself. There are people very close to me who adopted a baby from a 17-year-old. She didn’t want the baby, and she didn’t have the capability to look after a baby. Often we tend to romanticize life, whether it’s marriage or motherhood, particularly someone who is looking to escape. It made sense to me that Emily would think a baby would give her all of the love that she felt she was missing without asking any questions.