We’re thrilled to launch The Local Moms Book Club with Eliza Starts a Rumor! The book revolves around Eliza Hunt, a mom who created the Hudson Valley Ladies’ Bulletin board when her twins were in preschool. Cue the mom forum drama (a la today’s social media groups) and you have a funny story that reveals the power of moms coming together, which we of course love. Katie Couric called it “the perfect summer read” and we have to agree. We spoke to author Jane Rosen, herself a mom of three, about her inspiration, writing career and summer reading list.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I live in New York City and Fire Island, two very different places that I adore. I am the mom of three grown daughters and two novels, Nine Women, One Dress and Eliza Starts a Rumor. Sometimes I think people are more impressed that I have survived raising three daughters than with the fact that I have published two novels. If you have daughters, you know.
Ha! How did you come up with the plot and characters for this book?
I came up with this plot on the fly at a book talk for my last book. We were discussing online women’s forums, like the Local Moms Network, and how women sometimes reveal confidential things when posting and commenting—as if they are talking in private. It immediately struck me that it was a great jumping off point for a novel.
All of the ladies in the book are truly fictional, but do share character traits with women that I know. I did place a few names of some of my closest friends throughout Eliza Starts a Rumor in homage to our friendship. Like Eliza, Olivia, Amanda and Alison, I am blessed to have strong friendships, both from my childhood and with women I have met along the way, often through my children.
Why are parenting forums such a ripe subject for a book?
Parenting forums are filled with the ingredients for an absorbing novel. They alternate between being relatable and supportive and down and dirty. Scrolling through them opens your eyes to other people’s beliefs, marriages, parenting styles and even their hopes and dreams. They can be as addictive as a soap opera and as helpful as an advice column.
Why set this story in the Hudson Valley?
I wanted to set the book a little deeper into the country than a true commuter suburb. By doing so, I thought that the scenery and quaintness and charm of the Hudson Valley would believably entice urbanites, like Alison and Olivia, into taking that “moving out” leap of faith.
Why is sisterhood more important now than ever before?
Sisterhood and connection is so important right now. Motherhood can feel very isolating to begin with, mothering during Corona has brought that isolation to a whole other level. Having a virtual place like a Local Moms Network to hop on and feel connected to other moms is so important for mental health and general happiness. The female experience is often very similar, and I think that sisterhood, in any form and at any age, is essential to success and well-being.
The story is timeless because sisterhood is timeless. Like I wrote in the prologue—It is a tale as old as time, from the biblical menstrual tent, to the quilting circle, to these modern online hives—female bonds help solidify happiness.
What will fans of Nine Women, One Dress, think about this book?
That’s a good question that I have already received many comments about. The consensus is that they are very different books but equally enjoyable. Eliza deals with deeper issues than Nine Women, but still succeeds in being a charming, humorous and inspiring read.
How did your family handle quarantine?
We were in the city until May 5th when we were lucky enough to be able to move out to Fire Island where we could all be comfortably together. The city was fine except for the constant sirens. That part was just heartbreaking. Fire Island is truly an ideal place to be quarantined so I cannot really complain. I worry for Manhattan, but in my heart I know it will come back, as will we, sometime in September. My girls are all out of school except for my youngest who was set to start Columbia Grad School in September. She is deferring. I don’t envy parents making school decisions for September. Such tough choices.
As a working mom, how do you carve out time to write?
Being a mom and a writer, for me at least, always meant that I could write anywhere: waiting on the bench at school pick-up, on the subway, in the waiting room for something or other. If I had waited to write when it was quiet I would still be waiting. The same thing goes for reading while mothering, by the way!
How do you deal with working mom guilt?
I think it’s important to control that feeling of guilt within yourself, and not parent differently because of it. I have seen moms who work seemingly 24/7, and moms who never leave their children’s side—their offspring turned out ok or didn’t turn out ok regardless. It amazes me how arbitrary it seems. My only advice on the subject is to eat dinner as a family as often as humanly possible. That seems to be a common thread in successful, guilt-free parenting.
What makes a great beach read?
Escape! Especially in times of Covid, reading a book that lets you escape and is paced in a way to propel you forward makes for a great summer read.
What is on your own reading list this summer?
So much! I’m having an easier time reading than binge watching TV shows. Maybe because it forces me to be active. So far I have loved Beach Read, The Caring and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls and No one will Tell You This But Me. If you are looking for paperbacks, last summer’s hits, The Editor and Ask Again, Yes were my favorites. I have a huge TBR on my nightstand, but many of those are research for my next book, which, for fans of Nine Women, One Dress is about one women and a closet full of shoes!
Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes. There are some serious topics addressed in Eliza Starts a Rumor, and I think if you have teenage daughters, or soon to be teenage daughters, it is important to discuss how women deal and live with these issues. I have three daughters, and while I was very open with them, in retrospect, I feel I could have done more, spoken more, given them more tools with which to navigate their young adult lives. Though I have no personal experience, I suspect the same should be true for sons.