“Things change. And you can’t regret anything that you’ve done. You make decisions based on what you can see in that moment. Sometimes the view shifts.” - THE YOUNG WIVES CLUB by Julie Pennell
With GIRLS having just aired its last episode, fans may be looking for something to satisfy their need for strong stories about female friendship. Julie Pennell’s debut novel The Young Wives Club, is a charming, insightful and thoughtful exploration into the intricacies of female friendship. Pennell also gives readers a front row seat into southern lifestyle.
Tell us the story behind the story. How did THE YOUNG WIVES CLUB come to be?
I wanted to write a book about strong southern girls, and some of the strongest I know happened to get married really young. I think there's this fantasy of marrying your first love, but it doesn't happen for a lot of people because you grow up and grow out of each other. But what if you did marry your first love like these girls? I wanted to play with that concept a little. I set it in Louisiana, the state where I was born and raised -- it was so much fun writing the sights, sounds, and culture of the place I loved as a kid.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing THE YOUNG WIVES CLUB?
The math problem on page 132! I don't know why I decided one of the characters needed to find the standard deviation in her class -- what was I thinking?! I spent an embarrassingly long time trying to figure it out for the first draft. Luckily my copy editor caught my wrong answer before it went to press.
What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?
Have supportive girlfriends in your life. Love may come and go, but they'll be there for you 'til the day you die.
Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits?
I plotted this story out before I started writing it, and quickly learned that was an imperative step in the process. I've written unfinished novels before and I think my struggle came from not plotting first. I also think it's important to take mind-clearing breaks every once in a while. I would break up my writing sessions with a quick yoga workout or solo dance party in the living room -- sometimes you just gotta shake it off.
What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?
Which authors inspire you?
I've always loved Judy Blume's writing style -- her words dance across the page. In terms of authors I've met and who have guided me, I have to give a shout-out to Georgia Clark, author of The Regulars. She has been so helpful as I try to navigate this experience of a first novel.
What have you learned from this experience?
That writer's block is totally real. I got my first block while on a deadline. It was the scariest thing -- no words were coming out of my head. I'd stare at the page for hours, and nada! But I did some writing exercises, and a thank-you note to a piece of garlic worked, as weird as that sounds. It inspired me to write some thank-you notes in the novel, and you'll see where my breakthrough happened -- right between a note for a crystal vase and set of bathroom towels!
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Just do it! Just sit down and write. The first draft might need some work, but at least you started and have something down.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
In terms of writing, the one piece of advice that has stuck with me through the years is from my journalism professor in college. He used to go around the room saying, "Show me, don't tell me," and I recite that to myself every time I write.
What are you working on now?
I'm working on something that is very different from The Young Wives Club except for the fact that it stars a strong woman from Louisiana.
11. How would you “tweet” the description of your novel in 140 characters or less. (Think of it as an elevator pitch for your novel)
The Young Wives Club is a book about friendship, love, family, and most importantly discovering yourself through all of the above.
Julie Pennell grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, where she ate her weight in crawfish, used the word “y’all” a lot, and wrote a weekly Teen Scene column for the local paper. After graduating from college, she moved to New York City to work at Seventeen magazine and later Alloy Entertainment as a digital editor. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and is a regular contributor to Teen Vogue, TODAY.com, and The Nest. The Young Wives Club is her first novel. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @juliepens or her website, juliepennell.com.