Interview: Learn Everything You Need To Know About Debut Author Jennifer Hillman-Magnuson And Her Inspiring Novel, Peanut Butter And Naan: Stories Of An American Mom In The Far East.
Thoughtful, honest and hilarious, Jennifer Hillman- Magnuson shares her extraordinary journey with her family from their over-scheduled and pampered lives in Nashville to their new life in poverty-stricken India with little conveniences. As Jennifer delves into the chaos of parenting in a new country, she starts to become the mother she always wanted to be. We had the chance to ask the debut author her inspirations, favorite authors and more!
Q: What was your biggest inspiration while writing your book?
I didn't originally set out to write a book. I really wanted my friends and family to know what I was going through in India. A lot of people just assumed it was some version of Eat, Pray, Love and my experience couldn't have been more different. Elizabeth Gilbert was alone, unmarried and without any kids. I had plucked my five children from the suburbs of Nashville and was trying not to lose my mind while hiding anti-malaria medicine in their oatmeal. I kept a journal and sent little stories out to my friends. I had written about my houseboy accidentally seeing me naked, which apparently ruined him emotionally, and an agent read it and believed it could become a book. Which, eventually, it did.
Q: What is something your readers would be surprised to know about you?
My grandmother was a closeted psychic. By day she was an English teacher and magazine editor, and by night she gave telephone readings to people across the country, and even helped the local police department with a few missing person cases. I never knew until I was in my 20s. Now, I have the occasional "psychic" dream where random things come true. Sadly, it's never anything sexy, like lottery numbers or stock picks. It's usually related to my kids. The most recent dream I had was an image of my toilet, which had been clogged with an entire roll of toilet paper. Sure enough, the next day, there was a double roll of Charmin wedged into the bottom of the upstairs toilet. I'm still working on how to monetize this gift.
Q: Where is your favorite place to write?
Obviously as a mom of five, my instinct is to say any place where I can be alone or a table in a Paris café. However, I am not able to play out my fantasies on a regular basis, so I have written while breastfeeding, dictated storyline notes into my iPhone while watching Little League games, and made coffee after tucking my kids into bed so I could make a deadline. When I grow up and my kids aren't at home anymore (which will be when I am approximately 71) I would like to write from my home in Europe while drunk on red wine.
Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a "Food Action Coordinator" – the person who makes the magic happen in television commercials when the tomatoes go flying through the air, or the water droplets spray off a head of lettuce that is being simultaneously chopped and also flying through the air. Food artfully flying through the air held a certain mystique for me, although I was also captivated by the swirling nougat technique used in candy bar commercials. Then I got a C- on my first marketing project in college and decided to be a social worker. I always knew I would write, I just figured it would be about real experiences, and I needed to get out and live first.
Q: What is your favorite book of all time?
The Stand. Although I read Salem's Lot when I was eleven and woke up one morning with a mosquito bite on my neck. I was simultaneously scared senseless and hooked on anything by Stephen King.
Q: Which authors have most influenced your writing?
Judy Blume, Amy Tan, Shel Silverstein and David Sedaris.
Q: Describe your writing style in three words.
Coruscant. Perspicacious. Good.
Q: What is your writing process?
I spend months thinking about the story I want to tell. Then I flog myself for a few weeks and wallow in insecurity and panic. Then I tell everyone I am actually writing, which works best since people expect you to follow through with things like that. Then I write the narrative outline and dive in. When I'm stuck, I pin poster boards to my office wall and storyboard each chapter as best I can. Then I drink and wallow a little more. Finally, I listen to my voice mail where my editor tersely reminds me that she has never missed a deadline and I finish.