Lit for the Good Girl
Book Spotlight: The
Book of Jane
By Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
Reviewed by Lisa M. Hendey
Broadway Books, June 2007, paperback, 304 pages
chance to win! Publisher Broadway Books has
generously offered several promotional copies of this book
for our readers. To enter to win, simply send an email with
the subject line “The Book of Jane Contest” to firstname.lastname@example.org
by August 31. Please be sure to include your full name and
mailing address. Winners will be selected by random drawing
and will be notified by email on September 1.
lit based on the Old Testament character Job? Who comes
up with an idea like this? The answer is writing partners
and cool chicks Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt. The
Book of Jane
is the duo’s third outing into the world of “Good Girl Lit”,
a squeaky clean take on the popular women’s genre.
The thing is, it works.
I’ve been known to pick up a chick lit book from time to
time, guiltily turning a blind eye to the “adult themes”
that run so rampant in these tomes. But I’d much rather
just read good, clean, fun fiction. This is where Dayton
and Vanderbilt come in. The
Book of Jane
is a great book about a young woman named Jane Williams
who seems to have the world by the tail. She has the perfect
career, the perfect Manhattan apartment, and the perfect
boyfriend. She’s also a faith-filled person who wears her
values on her sleeve. But the thing is, Jane’s faith has
never truly been tested. Sure, it’s easy to profess a profound
belief when everything is going according to her perfectly
scheduled agenda for life. But will the same hold true when
the wheels start to fall off the cart? Who among us hasn’t
faced this same dilemma? It’s easy to say we are believers
when life is smooth sailing, but when the going gets tough
we may begin to question whether or not our loving God is
paying attention to our prayers.
Book of Jane
is a page turner from start to finish. With a non-denominational
approach to religion, the book will appeal to women of any
faith background. I loved the book’s message about searching
for what you truly want in life – it turns out that sometimes
what seems “perfect” on the surface is not really what’s
best after all. Finding the strength to emerge through life’s
myriad challenges seems easier if you have a solid relationship
with God to help you through. Sometimes you have to step
away from what may be considered the safest path in order
to find satisfaction in this life. So often, the greatest
happiness comes in being of service to others.
I’m pleased to share
the following interview with Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt,
authors of The
Book of Jane.
Please briefly introduce yourselves to our readers.
Hi! We're Anne Dayton
and May Vanderbilt. We write fun, frothy fiction with a
Christian world view. Our books are modern-day re-tellings
of classic Bible stories. Our first book, Emily
Ever After, is the
story of Esther. Our second book, Consider Lily,
is the story of Samson and Delilah. And our third book,
Book of Jane,
is the story of Job.
Anne Dayton lives in
New York, where she is an editor full-time and goes to grad
school part-time. May Vanderbilt moved from New York to
San Francisco a year ago and is now a writer for an Internet
company. We met when we both worked together at a publishing
Q: How does
the process of writing as a team work for you logistically,
with the two of you living in different cities? What are
some of the advantages of writing collaboratively?
Now that we live on opposite coasts, it is a bit more difficult
to write together than when we worked together. Luckily,
we have a great foundation to build upon. We were friends
and writing partners for several years in New York before
May moved to California.
But our method is quite simple. We meet once a week (now
we just talk on the phone) and plot out what should happen
in 10 pages. Then one person writes those 10 pages and turns
them in to the other at the end of the week. The other person
edits her work and then it's her turn to write 10 pages.
This swapping back and forth happens all the way until the
end of the book!
There are so many advantages
to writing together. For one, you always have a very honest
friend who is looking over your shoulder and helping to
guide your path. Plus, there's always someone to help out
with writer's block.
was the inspiration behind The
Book of Jane?
Did the Job parallels come before the plot or afterwards?
We definitely started with the Job idea. We love to base
our books on the heart-pounding, gut-wrenching stories of
the Bible, the kind of stories that really resonate with
life today. We decided that we wanted to adapt the Book
of Job because everyone knows exactly how it feels when
your world is crashing down around your ears.
The difficult part was making the story work in modern-day
Manhattan and turning Job into a single woman named Jane.
But we had a ball trying to adapt it.
say a few words about your "Good Girl Lit" concept.
How have readers reacted to your books and this genre? What
made you take this route as opposed to going the mainstream
chick lit route?
We both loved the chick lit genre but we also felt that
it didn't really speak to us. We hoped to be able to write
a chick lit style book that reflected the kind of lives
we were trying to lead in Manhattan. We try to make our
characters strong women of strong faith who are still live
normal lives and are a real hoot to be around.
And people seem to really love the "good girl lit"
concept. We get mainstream readers who don't think they
like Christian fiction to pick up our books, and that means
the world to us!
faith shines through so lovingly in this book. Would you
please share a few thoughts on your own faith journeys?
single person in my family has a different idea about faith,
so it was always more individual for me. But I was lucky
enough to see God’s hand in my life early on, and even though
my family didn’t go to church, I was constantly trying to
get friends to take me or get my hands on books that shared
more about this God who loved me. As I’ve gotten older,
I have definitely seen that the more I cling to God, the
more he uses that to teach me.
I was raised in a very loving Christian home, but when I
went to college I woke up and realized that I had never
questioned a single thing that I had been told. It was then
that I began to take my faith seriously and study the Bible
and scholarly works about Christianity and other faiths
to figure out what I truly believed. I'm not saying I have
all the answers now, but I do hope that my faith is something
that anyone who knows me can see and that influences every
decision in my life. It's so easy to be a grump on BART
in the morning and forget to really love your neighbor!
Q: I caught
several Job references in the book, but could you point
a few of them out for our readers who may not be too familiar
with the Old Testament original?
We tried to make Jane's downfall mirror Job's, but it was
difficult in some cases. Job's children die, but we were
writing a chick lit book about a single girl! Instead we
had Jane lose a group of children that she had been working
with and loved very much. She also gets a strange rash on
her face to mirror Job's boils. And just like Job’s roof
collapses, so does Jane’s. Job lost all his cattle and whatnot,
but Jane loses her dog (well, almost loses her dog… we’re
not that heartless).
We also tried to make sure that Jane's friends give her
really bad advice as she's going through all of this. What
made Job so special is that even when he was down and out
and all of his friends were telling him to turn his back
on the Lord, he kept the faith.
There are lots of things
you can take from Job, but what stuck out to us was that
even when the world doesn’t seem to make sense, God is still
in control. We find that amazingly comforting.
Q: Do you
ever consider sequels to your books? I'd love to see what
happens to Jane and Coates once they start a family. Is
it hard to say goodbye to your characters when you finish
don't have a sequel planned at this time for Jane, but you're
right that it's really hard to let our characters go.
I used to be a youth group leader, and the best piece of
advice I ever got about leading events was “quit while the
game is still fun.” If the kids are still loving an activity,
that’s the time to bow out. In other words, we want readers
to continue to love Jane and Coates, which means that we’ll
probably leave them alone for now.
are your plans and dreams for future projects?
We're currently very hard at work on a series of books for
'tweens and we're having a ball! What a fun age to remember
and what a critical point in young women's lives.
In a way, it almost makes all those horrible high school
moments worth it. Almost.
Q: Are there
any additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share
with our readers?
Thanks so much for having
us. Your site is so awesome! We've been reading all your
For more information
on the work of Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt, check out
http://www.goodgirllit.com. For more information on
Book of Jane
Lisa M. Hendey,
wife and mother of two sons, is and avid reader and the
webmaster of numerous web sites including http://www.catholicmom.com
Visit her at http://www.lisahendey.com for additional information.
© 2007 Lisa
CatholicMom.com Book Club
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