The People Who Write Questionnaire: Janet Fitch

Janet Fitch, author of PAINT IT BLACK and Oprah Book Club Pick WHITE OLEANDER - peoplewhowrite

Janet Fitch is the author of bestselling novels Paint It Black and White Oleander. She currently teaches a graduate fiction seminar at the University of Southern California.

If your life (so far) were a book, what would the title be?
Go Your Own Way

What is the greatest story ever told?
That God kicked us out of the Garden because Eve ate the apple of the Tree of Knowledge.

Who is the greatest literary character ever created?
Captain Ahab

Which living or dead writer would you most like to share a meal with?
Tolstoy

What is your favorite word right now?
Nebulae

What word has always looked or sounded strange to you?
Yellow. Say it: yellow yellow yellow yellow.

How many words have you written today?
500. But it’s still early.

Where have you had your most exhilarating writing experience?
In my office in my desk chair.

What is the thing about writing that you most deplore?
Uncertainty.

What is the thing about writing that you most love?
When the angels sing.

What stereotype about writers have you found to be true?
Mournful and self-absorbed, irritable and depressive.

What’s the biggest misconception about writers/writing?
That it comes out beautifully, full blown.

What’s the one thing no one would ever guess about you from reading your writing?
What a cheerful person I really am.

Janet Fitch was born and raised in Los Angeles, a third generation Angelino.

She attended Reed College in Portland Oregon, graduating with a degree in history, and attributes much of her storytelling ability to her training as an historian. Since then, she has worked as a proofreader, typesetter, graphic artist, newspaper editor, magazine editor, freelance journalist and teacher of creative writing–not to mention Manpower Temp and worst waitress in Los Angeles. If she spilled coffee on you, she apologizes.

Her second novel, Paint It Black, has just appeared in paperback and in Dutch, Italian, Swedish, German, Hebrew and Polish. Jennifer Jason Leigh performs the audiobook. Fitch’s first novel, White Oleander was an Oprah Book Club selection, and was translated into 24 languages, including Mandarin, Turkish and Finnish. It served as the basis of a motion picture starring Michelle Pfeiffer, and the audiobook is read by Oprah Winfrey. Her early young adult novel, Kicks, sometimes surfaces. The anthology Los Angeles Noir (Akashic Noir) and Black Clock 7 both carry recent short stories.

 

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Word of Encouragement: Not Everyone Breaks Through in Their 20s

Millard Kaufman was 90 when he wrote his first novel_peoplewhowriteBuzzfeed put together a list of “19 Late-Blooming Artists Who Prove It’s Never Too Late” and seven are writers. Citing Junot Diaz (took him 10 years to write his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), Janet Fitch (her first novel was published when she was 39), and Dorothy Allison (40 when her book National Book Award-nominated Bastard Out of Carolina was released), among others, the list shared story after story of far from overnight sensations. Perhaps most striking is Millard Kaufman who was 90 years old before writing his first novel. Check out the full list of never-too-late bloomers here.