Festival of Books: author Janelle Brown
Gracious and funny author Janelle Brown will be at the L.A. Times Festival of Books this weekend. The L.A.-based novelist will be talking about her 2008 debut "All We Ever Want is Everything" and the upcoming "This Is Where We Live" on the panel "Fiction: Lives Intertwined" on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. She answered Carolyn Kellogg's questions by e-mail.
Jacket Copy: Your novel "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything" was about a mother and her two daughters, one adult and one a teenager. Since it was published, you yourself have become a mom. Has that changed any of your perceptions of mother-daughter relationships?
Janelle Brown: I don't know that it's changed my perceptions of the overall dynamics between mothers and daughters, but it certainly has given me an insight into one half of that equation that I could only guess at before. Put it this way -- I can now say I know what it's like to feel that insanely irrational and all-consuming mother-love, as well as the frightening desire to throw your screaming, crying, needy baby out the window. When I was writing the character of the mother, Janice, I was doing a lot of speculation about her thoughts and emotions, and I made her a very difficult and often unlikable character. Now I think I have more empathy for her than I did before. Motherhood is a tough job, and very easy to screw up. I just hope I don't screw it up as thoroughly as Janice does.
JC: What are you currently reading?
JB: I just finished "Ms. Hempel Chronicles" by the wonderful Los Angeles author Saran Shun-lien Bynum, about a young junior high school teacher; and "A Short History of Women" by Kate Walbert -- who will also be on my Festival of Books panel. The latter is a beautifully executed feminist portrait of the women in a family, spanning from suffragette days to contemporary times. Next up: "The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver. I'm really feeling the contemporary female authors lately.
JC: What do you plan to see or do at the festival of books this year?
JB: The Unstoppable Voices panel, with Mona Simpson and Maile Meloy, sounds like a winner. I want to see James Ellroy speak, and Alice Waters on the cooking stage. Maybe check out some of the events on the McSweeneys stage. And I'll probably take my daughter to go see Elisha Cooper, who writes and paints beautiful children's books.
JC: Do you have a favorite book or movie about Los Angeles?
JB: My favorite movie about Los Angeles is probably "Short Cuts." It really captures a certain hallucinatory quality to life in Los Angeles. As for a book, I've always loved "Play It As It Lays" by Joan Didion, just for the glimpse it gives into an era in Hollywood that has come and gone.
JC: Can you tell us about your next book?
JB: My next novel is called "This Is Where We Live," and comes out June 15. It's about a couple living in Mount Washington whose marriage begins to implode as their house goes into foreclosure. It's kind of a matched set with "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything" -- if my first book was about the days before the recession, this one is about the days after. It's dark, but hopefully at least a little funny.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo credit: Janelle Brown