Jennifer Crusie is the best-selling author of more than a dozen books. Her latest, Faking It, is just out from St. Martins Press. We caught up with Jenny and asked her about Faking It, sequels, finding the right heroine, and her latest dog.
Jenny, welcome back to TRR! Your latest release, Faking It, features a character familiar to your readers. Tell us about it.
Faking It is about Tilda Goodnight, a woman who was brought up to be an art forger and who defied the family tradition and went straight when she was very young, and Davy Dempsey, a man who was brought up to be a con man and who loved it but has gone straight very recently thanks to pressure from the FBI. They're both faking contentment because they're both denying their destinies, so when a woman named Clea Lewis threatens them in different way (she buys a old forgery that could expose Tilda and steals three million dollars from Davy), they go after her and meet burglarizing her closet. Trouble ensues.
This is the first time you've done a sequel of sorts. What made you decide to focus on Davy?
Usually when I finish a book, the book is DONE, the characters go away and new people move in. My brain is a rental unit. But after Welcome to Temptation, Davy and Clea kept hanging around, leaning against my frontal lobe, talking in my head while I wrote Fast Women. I assumed they'd give up and go away because I write heroine-centered books, and Clea, much as I love her, is nobody's heroine. When I started fooling around with the next book, I wanted to work with Eve because I thought her double identity was fun to write, but I kept ending up with Tilda and shortly after that I put her with Davy and we were off. Having said that, I should warn people, this is not a sequel. There's not much of Sophie and Phin and Dillie in here at all. So people who read this to get a Temptation fix are going to be disappointed. They really did move out of my brain.
In between Welcome to Temptation and Faking It, you wrote Fast Women. How did you get back into Davy's story after writing a book about entirely different characters?
It really wasn't a matter of getting back into Davy's story. Davy's story starts when he meets Tilda. I went back and looked at Davy's scenes in Welcome to Temptation to see if I'd written him into any corners that would stop me using him again, but his character was so strong and simple in there that he wasn't difficult to bring back. Davy makes no character arc in Welcome to Temptation because he's not a major character, the things in the book aren't happening to him and forcing him to change. He's doing what he always did: dropping in to take care of his sisters when they need him and then going on his way again. He's the same guy at the end of Welcome to Temptation that he was at the beginning. The thing that WAS interesting and that kept nagging at the back of my mind was Clea's last line about "This is not over yet," and Davy's reply, "Yes, it is because I'm done with it." Even while I typed it, I thought, "You fool, she's going to come back and take everything but your socks."
Davy is a con man trying to go straight. Was it a struggle to come up with just the right heroine to balance him?
Yes. In fact, the reason I didn't do Davy right after Welcome to Temptation, aside from the fact that I was already invested in Fast Women, was that all the opposite numbers I came up with--another con woman, an FBI agent, a cop--were such cliches, so obvious. But I'd wanted to do a book about an art forger for awhile, and I'm fascinated by the idea of drag, and I've always loved the archetype of the Shadow, so I thought of writing a book about Eve, this woman with two identities and her art forger sister. And I actually tried to pair Davy with Eve and it was awful, they brought out the worst in each other, plus I could NOT get him to kiss her. Meanwhile, there was her little sister, cracking wise in the corner. Once I moved Tilda to center stage, Davy pretty much said, "Thank you," and made his move.
What kind of traits were you aiming for in Tilda?"
Eve and then later Tilda represented all women to me. We're supposed to be virgins and mothers and whores, natural women who are forty pounds underweight, sweethearts who aren't patsies . . . it's impossible. I think a lot of us fragment under the pressure and become different women in different situations, and Eve is just a woman who is up front about it. She's compartmentalized her life and that keeps everything tidy except she's losing her mind. Great, great heroine. Couldn't make her work. Then Tilda came in with her buried secret (who doesn't have one?), living a lie and growing tired of it and that just matched Davy's situation. But in order to work, she had to have her own integrity, just as Davy has his own integrity. So her traits are a fierce loyalty to her family, a passion for painting, a need to save people (and dogs), a good strong intelligence, and a rigid determination not to deal with her past. When Davy breaks that determination down, inadvertently at first and then on purpose, she's set free to be the woman she was meant to be.
Steve, the dog, plays a role in Tilda's growth. Do you now have a long-haired dachshund in the family?
Steve is based on Wolfgang entirely. Wolfie was a dog that I was supposed to transport from one home to another as a courier for Dachshund Rescue, but I fell in love with him and couldn't let him go. Everything Steve does in the book, Wolfie has done, except wear a vest.
Have we seen the last of Eve and Simon, the charming British thief in Faking It?
I honestly don't know. I have no plans to write about them, but then I didn't have plans for Davy, either. They'd be even harder to write than Davy was because they're extremely complex characters, and because Eve has already started her character arc, at the end of Faking It, when she starts to reintegrate. At the door in the last scene with Simon, she's pretty much both selves merged which makes her a powerful force, which is why Simon says "Yes" when she asks him to do something that could send him back to prison and why he runs for a plane shortly after that. She's just way too dangerous for him, and he is not a stupid man. So I'd have to write them back together somehow even though they are both determined never to see each other again, and then slot in her previous growth without using exposition and still give her a 180 degree character arc . . . Listen, the books I think are going to be simple always turn out to be incredibly difficult to write, and I KNOW that one would be a killer even before I start it. Maybe a year or two down the line I'll suddenly realize how to bring it all off and do it, but right now, no.
Last time we talked, you were working on your PhD. How's it going?
It's not. I'm so far behind on my novels that I keep pushing the dissertation back. I'm actually ABD, but my time allotment lapsed, so I'd have to go back and take my generals again. I really do plan to, but right now I have these novels to write.
Tell us about your current project.
I'm working on a book called Bet Me which is vastly overdue. I was surfing the net the other night and tripped across a bookstore site that has Bet Me listed as "Hard To Find." I thought, "Yeah, I'm having a hard time finding it, too."
It's about an overweight statistician named Min Dobbs who overhears the guy who has just dumped her make a bet with a stranger that the stranger can't get her into bed in a month (lack of sex being one of the reasons for the dump). The stranger is good looking and Min needs a date to her sister's wedding in three weeks, so she decides to string the guy along until after the wedding, thereby worrying her ex that he might lose the bet. What she doesn't hear is the stranger turn down the bet (it's for $20,000 and he's not an idiot or a sleaze) and tell her ex that he will bet twenty bucks that he can get her to leave with him. She leaves with him, the ex starts to worry since he was still insisting that the big bet was on when the stranger went to pick her up, and her two friends pick up the stranger's two friends to find out what's going on. She's trying to diet into the maid of honor dress that her sister picked out for her, and he keeps feeding her. He's non-confrontational and dyslexic, and she keeps picking fights. Chicken Marsala and Krispy Kreme doughnuts play a large role.
Anybody who's interested in updates on Bet Me can find them on the fan groups bulletin board on Yahoo (JenniferCrusieFans) since I workshop scenes from it there and we talk about things that are ending up in the book. It's a VERY active list, so if you're going there I recommend signing up for the digest. We're running about a hundred posts a day, so it's easy to get overwhelmed. We're also big Buffy fanatics there. My website would have updates on the book but I crashed my computer and I still haven't figured out how to access the site with my new software (argh) so it's about four months out of date. It's at www.jennycrusie.com
Thanks for asking such great questions, and give my best to your readers!
August 19, 2002