Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tempting Fate by Jane Green: her inspiration

Sarah Laurence and Jane Green in Westport, Connecticut
Have you ever seen yourself in a character? What if it wasn't your imagination. Jane Green confessed that the protagonist of Tempting Fate was modeled after me. A few years ago, Jane and I connected through her books and my art. We met for lunch at her house and had a wonderful time. Jane is as charming and warm as her novels, and she's a superb cook. I wish we lived closer.

Jane and I share a lot in common. She's a Brit married to an American, and I'm an American married to a Brit. I once lived in Swiss Cottage, London, where she went to school. Her current home is in Westport, Connecticut, where my father grew up. Jane studied art and is one of my art clients. We shared the same first literary agent (before we met.) Now we have yet another connection.

When Jane was creating the character of Gabby for Tempting Fate, she kept picturing me and used the above photo as an anchor. Jane always uses real people for inspiration. I saw myself in this description of Gabby, digging in her closet for something to wear on a girls' night out:
"She settles on black pants, all the better to hide her thighs with, and knee-high boots, the only pair in her wardrobe that have something of a heel. These boots are almost ten years old, old enough for them to have gone completely out of fashion, then revolve full circle to be not dissimilar to all the boots she passed in the store windows in town."
The character has my hair and prefers the natural look as I do. However, her personality isn't mine. Jane assured me, "Gabby is nothing like you - but in my head she looks exactly like you!"

My synopsis: Gabby is an ex-pat Brit, who lives in posh Westport, Connecticut. By age 43, Gabby has everything she ever wanted: a happy marriage, lovely children, good friends, a nice house and a budding career as an antique restorer. Down to earth and sincere, Gabby is the least likely woman to have an affair. On a rare girls' night out, an attractive younger man hits on her. Matt is the founder of a hot new social media site. He represents everything what has faded from her life: passion, risk, potential and youth. Gabby never meant their innocent flirtation to grow into anything more, but it revitalizes her. One bad choice leads to another.

Are you laughing with me? My husband took the news of my doppelganger's shenanigans with good humor. He's had practice since I write fiction too. I don't model my characters on real people, but scenes from our life end up on the written page, albeit transformed.

The process of writing fiction varies among authors. Jane's books are easy to read, but I know how hard she works to make them look effortless. She has a good eye for small details, domestic humor and emotional honesty. Although her stories are larger than life, her characters feel real and relatable (ha!)

Jane nails suburban super-moms:
"They volunteered to be room mothers, joined the PTA, accompanied the children on every field trip, showed up on the classroom having spontaneously baked twenty-four nut-free, lactose-free, gluten-free cupcakes."
I've reviewed several of Jane's books, but this one is too close to home for me to be objective. Of course I identified with Gabby and found her choices disturbing. I liked how the narrative focused on the consequences of adultery without passing judgment. The resolution was satisfying.

I'd recommend Tempting Fate to readers who enjoy women's fiction and to curious blog followers (but not my parents!) Kirkus Reviews called Tempting Fate "A Scarlet Letter for the twenty-first century." Released in March, the novel was #8 on the NYT Best Seller List. I'm flattered and quite amused to be the physical inspiration for Gabby. My life is feeling quite surreal.

My reviews of books by Jane Green:

The Beach House
Swapping Wives
Promises to Keep
Dune Road (includes an author interview)

Reviewer's Disclosure: the author asked my permission before revealing my connection to Gabby. Her publisher, St. Martin's Press, sent me a review copy upon my request. I was not otherwise compensated.

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@Barrie Summy


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Sarah,

We can imagine that it is something like an out-of-body experience to read about a person based on you but not quite, with a degree of resonance with your own life but not quite, with some similarities but not quite, we are more than intrigued to get a copy of Jane Green's book.

It is wonderful in life when one meets someone with whom one can experience a deeper connection than the norm. It looks to be a very special connection that you two share that is both emotionally and creatively fulfilling. Yes, we can well see why you would like to live closer.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow-that is quite a compliment. Glad you liked the book.

Cid said...

Very exciting for you, can't wait to read it.

Linda McLaughlin said...

How lovely that the two of you became friends and you inspired Jane to base a character on you, however superficially. Now I will have to check out this book.

A Cuban In London said...

I'm curious. How does that work on the page? How did you feel when you opened the novel and... whoopsie daisy, that's me? :-) It's definitely worth digging up the book and I will do that. I can't promise you I will buy it (I've just been on amazon recently. Sorry, couldn't resist the temptation. It was a lot of music this time) but I will consider it. Thanks for your honest review. The premise of the book interests me as well. The expat's story.

Greetings from London.

Margie said...

How wonderful you are her inspiration for a character in her book.
Great photo of the tow of you.

Unknown said...

You're famous! ;)

Seriously though how neat! I wonder what my husband would say in the same situation.

Luckily you were in the good hands of an excellent author.


Anmiryam said...

What a lovely if discomfiting story. I'll have to look for the book.

Anonymous said...

You do NOT need to hide your thighs...not that the character's thought processes are yours, but just sayin'.

Unknown said...

As you know I am reading books that I think I should be reading but that one is now top of my list. It wasn't exactly how I thought that you were going to be published.

Jenn Jilks said...

Another to ad to my list! Great fun, dopellganger, indeed!

Kelly H-Y said...

Oh my goodness ... how cool is that, Sarah!! Loved this post. And, had to giggle ... I, too, have that very pair of black boots described in the excerpt of her book! ;-)

troutbirder said...

How neat. Maybe it was Diane Lane who got an Oscar nomination for something similar....:)

Barrie said...

What a great story! You're famous, Sarah! I read and enjoyed The Beach House. No doubt, I'll enjoy Tempting Fate, as well. Especially the descriptions of Gabby! BTW, I changed the links in this month's post so that they're the exact link to each review. That's what a little extra time and some procrastination will do. :) Thanks for reviewing, Sarah!

Lucy said...

Amazon has been suggesting Jane Green books to me for a long time. I've added some to my wish list and cart (with a save for later) but hadn't ever read her because I was looking for back up on her books and now I have it. Thanks for the review and what a cool story to go with it! :)

Gloria Baker said...

I think this is really cool! I would love to read!! xo

Bee said...

Hmmmm . . . how intriguing. I think you've persuaded me to read this book.

Last night Simon and I watched "The Deep Blue Sea" (with Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston). Extramarital passion is definitely heady stuff and it will definitely wreck your life. I wonder how Jane resolves this not-unusual but always intriguing plot?

Sarah Laurence said...

Jane, Lance, Cid, Linda, ACIL, Anmiryam, Jen, Lucy, Gloria, I'd love to hear what you thought of the book.

Patti, Margie, Alyssa, troutbirder, ha and thanks!

Charlotte, the character is described as size 10. If that is a UK size then she's American size 6, which is my size. Either way, the character is not overweight and has a poor self image. Gabby may have my body, but not my body image. Still, thanks for the cheer! It's not fun having one's thighs scrutinized, even in fiction.

Cathy, to the future?

Kelly, so you have those boots too!

Barrie, thanks for hosting and the custom link!

Bee, welcome back! Adultery is an old theme, but Jane gives it a modern update via social media and cosmetic enhancement. She kept me guessing about the resolution until the end. All plot strings were tied and finished with a bow.

tina said...

You guys do have a lot in common! How cool that you two connected and have established such a nice friendship. Great picture of you both.

Rose said...

I normally don't read this type of book, but your review has me intrigued, not to mention Kirkus' calling it a "twenty-first century Scarlet Letter." What fun to be the inspiration for a character in a novel!

Amanda Summer said...

What an honor to have a character modeled after you (even if she doesn't really resemble you, it's fun to live vicariously a little!) And how lovely to have a friend with whom to share your writing worlds.

Booksnyc said...

I didn't realize you had so many connections with Jane Green! Her books are always ones I look forward to - I haven't read this one yet but hope to see the author at Bryant Park next week. I'll be looking for you in the book when I read it!

Donna said...

That is so neat! Definitely going to read this one!

cynthia newberry martin said...

Oh what fun--so exciting! And that is an amazing list of connections. I see her books everywhere but have not yet read one. I should start with this one.

☆sapphire said...

Oh How wonderful! I'd love to read the novel and find another you there!!