interview with Janet Fitch

The Writers Write Interview – Janet Fitch


Writers Write creates writing resources and shares writing tips. In this post, we share our interview with Janet Fitch.

Janet Fitch is an American author and teacher of fiction writing. She is the author of White Oleander, a novel translated into 24 languages, an Oprah Book Club book and the basis of a feature film, Paint It Black, also widely translated and made into a 2017 film, and her epic novels of the Russian Revolution, The Revolution of Marina M. and Chimes of a Lost Cathedral.

The Writers Write Interview With Janet Fitch

Author: Janet Fitch
Date of Birth: 9 November 1955 (Scorpio, Capricorn rising.)
Date of Interview: 6 May 2015
Place: Los Angeles (via Email)
The BookPaint It Black

Interview With Janet Fitch

1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
My favourite characters aren’t necessarily heroic… just ones who I can’t get enough of.  Leopold Bloom. Sabina in Spy in the House of Love. Every character in Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet—the Nessim’s mother. The old sailor, Clea. The whisky priest in The Power and the Glory. The narrator of Duras’ The Lover. Thomas Fowler in The Quiet American.

2. What is your most treasured possession?
A silver letter opener in a flowing abstract shape I’ve use every day since I bought it as a teenager.

3. Which living person do you most dislike?
Either of the Koch brothers.

4. What is your greatest fear?
The loss of the biosphere. It’s such a beautiful, fragile web.  The planet will survive, but life on it, the plants and animals… looking pretty dire.

5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
The life of the imagination.

6. What is your greatest regret?
Having been so attached to being romantically gloomy and difficult as a young person. I could have had a much sunnier and more fulfilling life early on if I hadn’t been so damned Byronic.

7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
Things end so badly for most of my favourite characters… I’d say it would be fun to be Queen Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream. But that’s not a book… probably Wart (later King Arthur) in The Sword in the Stone.

8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

9. What is your favourite journey?
Moving very slowly through Italy, spending days and weeks in places, off-season, drawing and painting.

10. What is your favourite quotation?
Look up—the hawk will not be walking in the road.

11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
I love dogs but I live with a cat. I’m getting used to him, and vice versa.

12. What do you most value in a friend?
No drama.

13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
Creative energy.

14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
Like a mother choosing among her children, I like them all for different reasons. I like the one that’s difficult because it’s harder for others to see its merits.  I like the one that’s most approachable because it’s nice to be popular.  I like the one that’s still a baby, because there’s no knowing what it will do in the world.  I like my first one because I waited so long for it to be born.

15. What are your favourite names?
It so depends on the purpose. Is this a character name? Then it has to be appropriate, memorable, have connotations for me. A name I’d pick for my own child? I prefer a conventional name, on the long side, spelled conventionally. (For myself, I might like a name like Sunshine or Rain or Marigold, but for an actual child, I put “Dr.” in front of it, to make sure it’s got enough gravitas to go wherever she or he would want to go.)

16. What do you do as a hobby?
Read, paint, draw, go to museums. Travel. Dance crazily to a variety of music all by myself.

17. Which are your three favourite books?

  1. The Alexandria Quartet (four books… oh well.) by Lawence Durrell
  2. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  3. Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
While I’m writing.

19. What is your Writing Routine?
Work every day. Read for an hour, hour and a half. Write until about four. Walk. Read poetry, fiction, watch movies in the evening.

20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

I wrote a blog article about this—“Ten Writing Tips that Can Help Almost Anyone”—check it out!

Visit Janet’s website to find out more.

Interviewer: Amanda Patterson

(Interviewer’s note: People ask me which authors I still want to interview. There aren’t that many, because I’ve been lucky to meet so many of my heroes. But, I gave it some thought and decided to approach Janet Fitch, the author of my favourite book – as a reader and as a writer – of all time, White OleanderI sent her a message and asked her if she would answer my questionnaire. She was gracious and lovely and said ‘yes’. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.)