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Jane Green

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About the Author

A former journalist in the UK and a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York, Jane Green has written many novels (including Jemima JThe Beach HouseFalling, and The Sunshine Sisters), most of which have been New York Times bestsellers, and one cookbook, Good Taste. Her novels are published in more than twenty-five languages, and she has over ten million books in print worldwide. She lives in Westport, Connecticut, with her husband and a small army of children and animals.

Author Q&A

Jane Green is the author of more than fifteen bestselling novels, including The Beach House and Dune Road. Her most recent novel, The Sunshine Sisters, tells the story of aging and terminally ill Hollywood starlet Ronni Sunshine and her fraught relationship with her now-estranged daughters.

When Ronni learns she has ALS, she decides she wants to die on her own terms, and she wants her three daughters to return home to help her do it. Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy hardly talk to each other, much less their mother. But Ronni sounds desperate, and so the three sisters reunite in their hometown of Westport, Connecticut to help their mother.

We spoke with Jane Green via e-mail to ask her about her long and successful writing career, and what was different about writing The Sunshine Sisters.

PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE: You write in the acknowledgements that you feel like you’re back to your old self with The Sunshine Sisters. Can you talk a bit about why that is?

JANE GREEN:I moved to a different publisher and found myself working with an editor who, whilst very talented, really wanted more plot and higher concept books. I loved the experience, but in hindsight realized that rather than writing the books I was known for and the books I wanted to write – more gentle, character-driven books – I was so busy focusing on the plot and its various twists and turns, I had lost sight of my characters. The Sunshine Sisters was the first book in years I wrote entirely on my own with no editorial input until I had finished, and being given that freedom, allowed me to find my voice again.

PRH: The Sunshine sisters each have a talent of their own—Meredith is an artist (if a reluctant one), Lizzy is a chef, and Nell is a dedicated farmer. Did their talents stem from your own?

JG: My obsessions have a habit of making their way into all of my books. I am an art-school dropout, a passionate chef, a nurturer, and a gardener. Oddly enough, I have never written about a doctor or a lawyer. I suspect my own love for the things I write about shines through.

PRH: Did you have a favorite Sunshine sister to write? (We won’t tell.)

JG: I have a soft spot for Lizzy, because while vaguely horrific in her selfishness and outspokenness, she was so fun, so fizzy, she was a joy to write. I also loved writing Nell, and particularly watching her unfold into the woman she had been suppressing for so long.

PRH: The premise of this novel is a heavy one—the once-famous actress Ronni Sunshine beckons her estranged daughters home to ask them to help her die on her own terms. What was your research into the world of euthanasia like?

JG: I read numerous books and articles, including some transformative memoirs, but I realized at a certain point that this book isn’t about euthanasia. I didn’t want to get embroiled in the right-to-die argument, because the truth is, this is a book about mothers and daughters, and if anything, Ronni’s decision to take her life is merely the device to bring her daughters home.

PRH: Ronni’s relationship with her daughters is fraught, to say the least. Do you think the perfect mother-daughter relationship exists?

JG: I certainly know women who idolize their mothers, and particularly those whose mothers died before their time. Most women I know have issues, which, when we are lucky, smooth out as we grow up and have children of our own, and other places to expend our energy.

PRH: Where is your absolute favorite place to write?

JG: Right now I am in the midst of creating a co-working office space in my town, and I have a seat at a desk by a window, overlooking the water, in a room that I have decorated to feel much like my home. It is heaven, both being somewhere beautiful, and being out of my house so I not only have a routine, but am not dying of isolation and loneliness.

PRH: As the author of many a New York Times bestselling novel, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?

JG: Don’t think about it, dream about it, talk about it, or take endless workshops…the key to getting a book done, is simply to do it. Writing requires tremendous discipline, and that is the single biggest different between me and the many, many people I meet who have started a book, or thought about starting a book, but haven’t managed to finish it.

PRH: What’s next for you?

JG: I am consulting on the movie of The Beach House, writing my twentieth (twentieth!!) novel, and thinking about doing something a little different next. I might take a little more of a break and try my hand at historical fiction… We shall see, but life feels good right now.

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