Meg Waite Clayton just returned from her book tour for The Wednesday Sisters, so it was very nice of her to find time to squeeze in this interview. Thank you, Meg!
Lesa - Some of my readers may be unfamiliar with you. Would you tell us a little about yourself?
Meg - I'm one of those lawyer-turned-writers you read about, with the twist that I don't write legal thrillers. My second novel, The Wednesday Sisters, which was published by Ballantine Books just over a month ago, is already a national bestseller and in its third printing. My first, The Language of Light, was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize, an award created by Barbara Kingsolver to support meaningful literature. I've also published stories and essays in magazines like Writer's Digest and Runners' World, and in literary magazines like Shenandoah, Other Voices, and The Virginia Quarterly Review that help writers like me get a foot in the publishing door.
Lesa - What led you to writing, Meg?
Meg - Growing up (isn't that where all dreams start?), I was a huge reader. I dreamed of writing books like A Wrinkle in Time. But I thought writing novels meant being able to leap tall literary buildings in single bounds. The adults I knew were businessmen - not even business women; the "ladies" were moms and teachers and nuns. Even a girl going to law school was a stretch. My husband , Mac, was the first adult to whom I admitted my childhood aspirations to write, and he gave me a great big push. He said, basically, "Your dream, Meg. How will you ever know unless you try?"
Lesa - Would you give us a summary of The Wednesday Sisters?
Meg - The Wednesday Sisters is at its heart about the power of
friendship, and the great joy of coming to believe in oneself.
It opens in 1967 Palo Alto, California - but far from the "Summer of Love" that everyone imagines when you say that. Five women meet in a park while watching their children. They're home makers and moms who, when the story opens, define themselves largely by who their husbands are. The five are very different in some ways. Frankie, the narrator, is a timid Midwestern transplant. Brutally blunt Linda is the athlete among them. Kath is a Kentucky debutant with a big ole heart. Ally is quiet and a little secretive, hard to get to know. And Brett is a science-math brain who wears little white gloves with her miniskirts.
But they connect over a shared love of reading: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch, Rebecca and even Charlotte's Web. And they bond when they form a writing group together and begin through their writing to think more seriously about who they are. In the end, the issues the Wednesday Sisters face are issues women continue to face today, and probably will for a long time to come. And like best friends through the ages, they carry each other through the bad times, and celebrate the good.
Lesa - I've read a little about your inspiration for The Wednesday Sisters. Would you repeat it for my readers?
Meg - Three friendships of mine in particular inspired The Wednesday Sisters: my friend Jenn Belt DuChene, my husband, Mac Clayton, and my long-term writing pal, Brenda Rickman Vantrease.
Brenda will tell you she's a Tuesday Sister - the day our Nashville writing group met. Jenn doesn't write, but she's been my best friend since she finagled a room for us together in law school, when we were supposed to be next door neighbors. She is probably singlehandedly responsible for me being able to laugh at myself. And Mac picked up where Jenn left off. ("Two Wednesday Sisters and One Husband" though? Not such a great title, right?) This book is definitely meant to be a hallelujah to them.
The bond between Linda, Kath, Ally, Frankie, and Brett was also inspired by my mom and the friends she has had over the years. I grew up running around the neighborhoods we lived in with the neighborhood kids while my mom and her friends sat at picnic tables playing bridge or visiting as they kept an eye on us. And I know - although only in retrospect - how much they helped each other through. And still do.
Lesa - What are you working on now, Meg?
Meg - I'm one draft into a yet-to-be-titled novel about four friends, three brothers, two lovers and a priest, and the family they struggle to survive. The first draft is lousy, but first drafts always are. I'm so glad to have a full draft, though, as that first round is the tough part of writing for me. I love revision.
Lesa - What have you enjoyed most about the publishing and promotion experience for The Wednesday Sisters?
Meg - My team at Ballantine is amazing, so the whole experience has been great. And of course it's been wonderful to hit bestseller lists. But the greatest joy for me has been hearing from and meeting readers. People in Milwaukee and Louisville and San Francisco have brought friends to my readings, and bought multiple copies of The Wednesday Sisters to send to their friends, their moms, and their daughters. They email me or blog about the novel (the blog response has been amazing!), saying things like: "After I finished The Wednesday Sisters,I picked up a pen and started writing for the first time in ten years." And "I was still laughing and weeping at the same time, but I called all my closest friends just to tell them I love them."
And it always surprises me to hear from male readers. One said he thought the book was even more important for guys to read, because women already have the friendship thing down pretty well, whereas guys have a lot still to learn.
Lesa - And, the last question that I always ask, since I'm a public librarian is, do you have any special memories or comments about libraries?
Meg - Do I ever! I've been a library addict my whole life. My local Palo Alto librarians were a huge help in the research I did for The Wednesday Sisters - as were the Nashville librarians when I was writing The Language of Light. But more importantly, the librarians at the Sierra Madre Library, where I lived for six months in 1970, helped me through one very lonely summer, and made me a reader to boot, an experience I've written about on the ALA's ilovelibaries.org website.
Lesa - Thank you, Meg. Good luck with The Wednesday Sisters and future writing. Thanks for taking time for the interview.
Meg Waite Clayton's website is www.megwaiteclayton.com
The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. Random House Publishing Group, ©2008. ISBN 9780345502827 (hardcover), 288p.