Across Washington Square live two very different women …with their very different love of books.
Some women follow their hearts; others follow their minds. In this “charming, witty, and cerebral” second novel from the acclaimed author of The Professors’ Wives’ Club, we return to Manhattan University, where two strong-willed women are compelled to unite their senses and sensibilities.
Professor Diana Monroe is a highly respected scholar of Sylvia Plath. Serious and aloof, she steadfastly keeps her mind on track. Professor Rachel Grey is young and impulsive, with a penchant for teaching popular women’s fiction like Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Devil Wears Prada, and for wearing her heart on her sleeve.
The two conflicting personalities meet head to heart when Carson McEvoy, a handsome and brilliant professor visiting from Harvard, sets his eyes on both women and creates even more tension between them. Now Diana and Rachel are slated to accompany an undergraduate trip to London, where an almost life-threatening experience with a student celebrity will force them to change their minds and heal their hearts…together.
Advance Praise for CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE
“As readers spend time with these bright and engaging women, Rendell offers an interesting debate about the merits of studying popular fiction in an academic setting.” The Romantic Times
“Rendell’s second novel is thoughtful and open, with plenty of interesting academic debate for truly bookish readers.” Booklist
“For every reader who has ever wondered why nineteenth century novels about women are called ‘the canon’, but contemporary novels about women are called ‘chick-lit’ comes a charming, witty and cerebral novel about Rachel Grey, an Austen-worth heroine fighting for love and respect in the academic shark tank.” Nicola Kraus, New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Nanny Diaries
“Joanne Rendell has done it again! Crossing Washington Square is a book that will stay with you long after you turn that final page. Curl up on a park bench somewhere, watch the leaves fall, and spend some much beloved time with Rachel and Diana.” Jessica Brody, bestselling author of The Fidelity Files and Love Under Cover
“Joanne Rendell admirably reveals the hypocrisy of an academic culture that claims to want to understand people and the world they live in, but refuses to take seriously the forms of culture that matter to them.” Professor Lawrence Grossberg, Morris Davis Distinguished Professor of Communication Studies and Cultural Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Praise for THE PROFESSORS’ WIVES’ CLUB
“Alternately amusing and serious, with a little literary mystery thrown in for good measure, Rendell’s smart and pleasing tale of friendship and self-actualization has broad appeal.” Booklist
“[A] fun read about a wonderful group of friends.” Kate Jacobs, NYT’s bestselling author of The Friday Night Knitting Club
“charming…a delight.” Christina Baker Kline, author of The Way Life Should Be
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joanne Rendell was born and raised in the UK. After completing her PhD in English Literature, she moved to the States to be with her husband, a professor at NYU. She now lives in faculty housing in New York City with her family. Visit Joanne’s website at www.joannerendell.com.
Hi Joanne and thanks so much for stopping by. A few questions for you:
1. Any fan/fan mail stories you care to share?
Thanks for having me, Judi! My first novel was The Professors’ Wives Club. A couple of months after its release, a woman contacted me and said she’d read and enjoyed the book. She told me she was a professor’s wife and after a few emails, she revealed that she was the wife of a very distinguished professor of cultural studies whose work I’d read, who I’d seen giving keynotes talks at conferences, and whose work greatly influenced the writing of Crossing Washington Square. Not really a “rock star” moment, but still exciting to know the wives of influential professors (professors I really dig!) read my book.
2. I find it easiest to write when I’m completely secluded from everything, be it at Borders with my earphones in, or in my office, also with my earphones in. Where do you write?
I write at my desk at the front of our apartment. We live on a very busy street in Manhattan so my writing is lulled by taxis honking, firetrucks hooting, and jackhammers pounding. With all this practice, I could probably keep writing through a asteroid shower!
3. What was your inspiration behind your latest novel?
The idea for Crossing Washington Square evolved over a few years. As someone who has lived the academic life (I have a PhD in literature and now I’m married to a professor at NYU), I’ve always loved books about the university novels like Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, Richard Russo’s The Straight Man, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and Francine Prose’s Blue Angel. But what I noticed about such campus fiction was the lack of female professors in leading roles. Even the female authors like Francine Prose and Zadie Smith’s novels focus on male professors. Furthermore, most of these male professors are disillusioned drunks who quite often sleep with their students! I wanted to write a novel with women professors taking the lead and I wanted these women to be strong and smart and interesting instead of drunk, despondent, and preoccupied with questionable sexual liaisons!
4. What line or section of your novel are you most proud of?
Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds. Rachel is young, emotional, and impulsive. She wrote a book about women’s book groups which got her a slot on Oprah and she uses chick lit in her classes. Diana is aloof, icy, and controlled. She’s also a scholar of Sylvia Plath who thinks “beach” fiction is an easy ride for students. My favorite scene is where these two women face-off in a department meeting. Neither of the professors is a shrinking violet and thus sparks really fly! The scene was such fun to write.
5. If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of your book, who gets the call?
Crossing Washington Square loosely echoes Austen’s Sense and Sensibilty with one professor being led by her sense, the other by her sensibility. I love the Ang Lee adaptation of Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet playing the two very different Dashwood sisters. Id love Emma and Kate to play my professors too!
6. Is writing your main job? If not, what do you do for your real source of income and how does it impact your writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my six year old son who is homeschooled. Although, “homeschool” is somewhat of a misnomer as we spend a relatively small amount of time schooling at “home.” We live in New York so are lucky enough to have an amazing array of fun and educational places on our doorstep. Benny and I, together with his homeschooled friends, are always out on trips to the Met, the Natural History Museum, aquariums, zoos, galleries, libraries, and parks. When we’re not out and about, Benny and I love to read either together or separately. I’m so thankful he loves books like I do!
7. What is one of the nicest compliments that you have ever received about your book(s)?
One of the nicest compliments I’ve gotten for Crossing Washington Square (so far – I hope there are more to come!) was from Lawrence Grossberg who is a distinguished professor at The University of North Carolina. He is a very big deal in the world of academia and I was so excited that he not only read it, but also said the book “admirably reveals the hypocrisy of an academic culture that claims to want to understand people and the world they live in, but refuses to take seriously the forms of culture that matter to them.” The book is not just for “high fallutin’ ” professors, of course! But it was exciting for me that a distinguished professor liked it.
8. What’s next for you?
I’m working on final edits for my third novel (which was bought by Penguin last fall). The novel tells the story of a woman who thinks she might be related to the nineteenth century writer, Mary Shelley. On her journey to seek the truth and to discover if there really is a link between her own family and the creator of Frankenstein, Clara unearths surprising facts about people much closer to home – including some shocking secrets about the ambitious scientist she is engaged to. The book is told in alternating points of view between Clara and the young Mary Shelley who is preparing to write Frankenstein.
9. New readers want to know about your book! In 2-3 sentences, can you tell us the basic premise?
Crossing Washington Square is a story of two very different women and their very different love of books. Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are both literature professors in the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds and when a brilliant and handsome professor from Harvard comes to town and sets his sights on both women, sparks really fly!
10. Who’s your favorite character and why?
That’s a tough one! My knee jerk response is to say Professor Rachel Grey because, out of the two female leads, I identify most with her. Rachel teaches chick lit in her classes and has to defend her work and the genre to her stuffy colleagues who think only the classics and literary fiction should be studied. As a grad student, I would be reading classical literature and poetry by day, but then secretly read popular women’s fiction at night (Bridget Jones’ Diary, I have to say, is one of my all time favorite books!). Rachel is also flawed and emotional, yet good and honest and brave. I like that about her.
Every time I revisit the book, however, I like Professor Diana Monroe more too. She’s super smart and has great poise and grace as a teacher. She’s the kind of uber-professor that every academic secretly wants to be. She’s also pretty darn scary in her austerity and brilliance. But she has a vulnerability too and her life started out pretty tough and therefore, every time I revisit the book, I like her more.
11. For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?
Settling down to write. Once I get going, I love it. But there’s just that hurdle of getting going which is so hard — especially these days when there are so many demands on authors to go online and promote our books. It is wonderful to meet people and connect and learn through the internet, but the web is also a huge procrastination vortex! I sometimes kid myself I’m doing promo work, but really I’m just wasting time snooping around on Facebook or reading other people’s tweets about what they ate for breakfast!
Ha! I can so relate to that!
Thanks so much for stopping by and all the best with Crossing Washington Square– and the final edits on the third book!