We are thrilled to welcome guest author Jennifer Chiaverini to our ball this week! Jennifer is the author of the New York Times bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series, as well as five collections of quilt patterns inspired by her novels. Her original quilt designs have been featured in Country Woman, Quiltmaker, Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Volumes 3-5, and Quilt, and her short stories have appeared in Quiltmaker and Quilters Newsletter. She has taught writing at Penn State and Edgewood College and designs the Elm Creek Quilts fabric lines from Red Rooster Fabrics. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin. A most wonderful city for quilting and writing both!
We invited Jennifer to take the Deb Interview and she graciously agreed. So without further ado, here’s Jennifer:
Which talent do you wish you had?
I wish I could draw! I manage well enough drawing quilts, quilt blocks, and patterns using Adobe Illustrator, but I wish I could also sketch people, landscapes, and buildings with pencil and paper. I’d love to be able to complement the descriptions of characters and settings in my novels with my own illustrations, but sadly, that’s beyond my abilities.
What are the hardest and easiest things about your job?
The easiest thing about my job is my commute. After having breakfast, sending the kids out to meet the school bus, and pouring myself a second cup of tea, I simply walk down the hallway to my office and get to work. The most difficult aspect of my job is the book tour. As lovely as it is to meet readers, booksellers, and librarians from across the country—and it is, very much—it’s difficult for my family, and for me, when I’m away from home so long. That’s why it’s especially important for readers to come out to my events, to remind me how important and worthwhile it is for me to go out on the road.
What three things would you want with you if stranded on a desert island?
Sunblock with a high SPF, lots of water, and a satellite phone so I could summon a rescue team.
Has anyone ever thought a character you wrote was based on them?
My grandmother thought that Sylvia Bergstrom Compson was based upon her, and I discovered her misunderstanding at a rather awkward moment. The Quilter’s Apprentice had just been published, and my book tour had brought me to one of my favorite bookstores, Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, the city where I was born. My grandmother sat proudly in the front row, and as I was preparing for my reading, I overheard her say to the woman seated beside her, “The main character, Sylvia, is based upon me, but I never made a quilt in my life!” I was very surprised to hear that—and a little dismayed, because Sylvia was not based upon my grandmother. She seemed so proud, though, that afterward, I didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth. Instead, when I had the opportunity to introduce new characters in my third novel, The Cross-Country Quilters, I decided to model a new character upon her. I assumed that she would read the book and recognize herself, because there were several important clues: My grandmother’s name was Virginia, but most people called her Ginny; the character was named Lavinia, but she went by Vinnie. Both Ginny and Vinnie were born in Cincinnati. My grandmother lost her mother when she was only five years old, and so did the fictional character. My grandmother had a brother named Hank, and Vinnie had a brother named Frank—let’s just say that I thought the similarities were unmistakable, but they escaped my grandmother’s notice. Of course, she thought she was Sylvia, and so she wasn’t looking for herself in other characters. I admit I never did tell her the truth.
What’s your next big thing?
Within the next year, the nineteenth and twentieth Elm Creek Quilts novels, Sonoma Rose and The Giving Quilt, will be released in paperback. My next novel, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, will be published in January 2013. I absolutely loved researching and writing this book, and I hope my readers will be as captivated as I was by the life of Elizabeth Keckley, the former slave who became the dressmaker and trusted confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln. In Fall 2013, Plume will publish a reader’s guide to the Elm Creek Quilts series, An Elm Creek Quilts Companion, which will include character biographies, a Bergstrom family tree, descriptions of significant places and things, illustrations of quilt blocks, an interview with the Elm Creek Quilters, and a few other reference tools readers have told me they’d like to have at their fingertips. While writing the Companion, I’ve enjoyed reading through all twenty of the Elm Creek Quilts novels, revisiting favorite settings and tracing the winding paths my characters have followed through the years. It’s been quite a journey for me as well.
Thank you for making the Debutante Ball part of your journey, Jennifer. We wish you happy stitching, touring and writing… and a mild Wisconsin winter!
Keep up with Jennifer online here and don’t miss any of her upcoming releases or tour dates!
Jennifer has generously offered to send a signed copy of THE GIVING QUILT to one of our lucky commenters (U.S. addresses only)! For a chance to win, leave a comment below.