Thursday, October 11, 2012


Today's guest on Books by Banister is Chick Lit author, Jenny Ladner Brenner. I recently had the pleasure of reading Jenny's debut novel, The Dinner Party, and just posted my rave review on Amazon. I think it's a book that fans of the genre will really enjoy and I encourage everyone to give it a read! To learn more about Jenny and The Dinner Party, check out my fun Q&A with her.

1) Can you give us a brief overview of The Dinner Party?

The Dinner Party tells the story of Lainie Silver, who is 28, single, and can’t seem come to grips with how her oldest friend, Miya, manged to land both a husband and fantastic career before she did. As the two have grown older, Lainie comes to resent Miya’s plus-one-status—which is only part of the reason why Lainie sleeps with Miya’s husband, Jake, in a drunken haze. Ridden with guilt and fear of being found out, Lainie tries desperately to redirect her life in a (somewhat more) positive direction. The novel follows Lainie’s series of foibles and inner angst throughout Manhattan, the Hamptons, and St. Barth. The question is: when and where will Lainie’s secret surface?

2) What's your favorite quality about your heroine?

Personally, I love that Lainie is unabashedly imperfect and human. She puts her foot in her mouth constantly, can err on the side of “bitchy,” and most definitely teeters on materialistic. Sound familiar? I get a lot of flak for Lainie—some call her “unlikable” or “unsympathetic.” But I think those reactions stem less from Lainie herself, and more from her character hitting a nerve in readers. I just couldn’t bear to see yet another saccharine, girl-next-door heroine on the page—blech!

3) What made you want to write The Dinner Party?

I was having a bit of a quarter-life crisis and was looking to channel my creative energy into something fun and possibly, therapeutic. Around the same time, I had been giving increasing thought to my female friendships, and it struck me that many of our relationships changed shortly after men and babies came on the scene. Combine that with a dinner party of so-called bland fish, and I was suddenly inspired.

4) How long did it take you to write The Dinner Party? What is your writing process like?

It took four long years of actual writing, and another year of pondering, rewriting, editing, and querying. In a word, my process is: inconsistent. Workshopping my novel was an invaluable experience, but my bouts of laziness and stagnation in between sessions were just plain counterproductive. I tend to go through phases of being incredibly inspired, and then there will be stretches of time when I’d much rather shop online than work on a new chapter. I will say, though, that once I get an idea, I can run with it for hours—it drives my husband crazy!

5) What comes first for you -- character idea or plot idea?

Something hilarious will happen or something completely inappropriate will fly out of someone’s mouth and it will get my mind running in a million directions. From that alone, I can mentally picture a character or plot line and go from there.

6) If Hollywood comes calling and asks you to sign over the movie rights for The Dinner Party, who would you like to see play Lainie, Miya, Jake, Cooper, and Noah on the big screen?

Um—I can pretend I haven’t been crossing my fingers for such an offer to land in my lap—but I’ve actually given this question LOTS of thought.

Lainie:  Blake Lively
Jake:  Shia LaBeouf OR James Franco
Miya:  Kristen Bell
Cooper:  Liam Hemsworth
Noah:  Bradley Cooper

[Blake Lively as Lainie and Kristen Bell as Miya]

[James Franco as Jake, Liam Hemsworth as Cooper, and Bradley Cooper as Noah]

7) What are you working on now?

My abs.

8) How do you think of titles?

I chose The Dinner Party, because I thought there were a lot of ways to think about the significance of dinner parties throughout the book. Was it the opening dinner party that catalyzed the novel’s unfolding, or others? I usually like titles to be either fun and tongue-in-cheek, or thought-provoking.

9) Tell us about your cover art design. How did you come up with the concept? Did you execute it yourself or hire a professional?

I did it all myself and unsurprisingly, there were mistakes along the way. I’d like the resolution to be better, but I found the image online for free, and thought it worked. I used a template offered by the publisher for everything else.

10) The fiction market is so competitive now. How did you find an audience for your books? What do you think are the most effective ways an author can promote herself?

The first step is to identify who your audience is. Then, shamelessly knock down the virtual doors of every blog or website that might cater to your audience. Introduce yourself in a way that piques interest, much as you would do when querying an agent. The feedback I’ve received from these sources has been unexpectedly amazing. Also, be sure to (tastefully) exploit your friends and fans! Have them spread the word, share your links on their Facebook pages, and write honest (and hopefully, positive) reviews on Amazon.

11) What are your thoughts on love scenes in books? Do you prefer to read/write sweet/romantic encounters between your hero and heroine or spicy ones?

I think there is a time and place for R-rated scenes. Unless you are writing erotica, I don’t think every page has to be fifty shades of smut! For my own reading, however, I definitely prefer spicy to sweet! Sex sells for a reason!

12) Who are the authors who inspire you?

Philip Roth, as he, too, hones in on complex, supremely flawed characters. I love Jane Austen (does anyone not?) and I am currently blown away by the sick and twisted genius of Gillian Flynn.

13) What genres do you like to read? Do you stick to one or are you eclectic in your reading tastes?

Lately, I’ve been switching things up. Right now I’m reading a new indie book called, The Nominee—uber political and outside my usual genre, but I’m only 30 pages in and hooked. I do indulge in my occasional chick-lit piece, and sometimes I just need a good laugh. That’s when I turn to Chelsea Handler or Jonathan Tropper.

14) What was the last book you read that really WOWed you?

Gone Girl. Gillian Flynn’s complex plot and sociopathic characters make me convinced she’s a MENSA member.

15) If you could be plopped down in the middle of any book, which one would it be?

Right when Bridget Jones is about to realize that Mark Darcy actually loves her.

16) If you could invite any five people (living or dead) over for a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Larry David, David Duchovny, Jerry Seinfeld, and Chris Rock because they are brilliant, hysterical, and might even flirt with me. And my husband—how could I leave him out of such a fete?

Fast and Flirty 

Favorite scent?  Hate perfume! Only au naturel for me!
Favorite color?  Black
Favorite food?  Bread, cheese, and chocolate—both separately and together
Favorite word?  Vitriolic (I use it to describe nasty reviewers!)
Favorite article of clothing?  Push-up bra
Dream vacation spot?   
The One and Only Palmilla Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Favorite time period in history?  Obviously the ‘80’s…aside from the Cold War, of course.
Favorite girl's night out drink?  Prosecco or Rose from the Wolffer Estate
Favorite date night activity?  Dinner at a fab Greek restaurant
Favorite song?  Wicked Game, by Chris Isaak.
Celebrity hottie on your laminated list?  Toss-up between Richard Gere and David Duchovny.
Novel hero crush?  Robbie Turner in Atonement

Book blurb:  Sometime back in seventh grade, Lainie and Miya pinky swore to attend the same college, snag gorgeous husbands, and live next door to one another for the rest of their lives. But is post-grad life ever what one imagines?

Lainie Silver is twenty-eight, attractive, razor-sharp, and is nonetheless trapped in a mind-numbing job and a romantic slump. Sure, she’s thankful for a steady paycheck, a Fifth Avenue address, and minimal sagging of tenuous body parts. But it doesn’t seem fair that Miya managed to wangle a glamorous career as a celebrity make-up artist and a “perfect” marriage to Jake, a chef at The Union Square CafĂ©. Both are unbearable reminders of the novel Lainie can’t seem to write and the elusive love she craves. After hosting a tense dinner party (and throwing back one too many cocktails), Lainie succumbs to bitterness and bad judgment when Jake shows up at her apartment. Though Lainie can’t stand him, this minor detail doesn’t matter in the drunken haze of seduction. Eight minutes later, after mediocre sex and a hard look at the philanderer passed out on her couch, Lainie knows that her friendship—potentially her entire life—will never be the same.

Determined to keep her secret, with guilty angst and acerbic wit as her must-have accessories, Lainie tries to resume so-called normalcy. This proves more difficult than she thought: she gets fired for taking too long a lunch, settles into the comfort of a boring relationship only to be cheated on when she least expects it, has a fender bender with her first love on the Long Island Expressway, and realizes she is wildly attracted to her new boss, Noah. 

Against the warnings of Miya and her nagging mother, Lainie nestles in to Noah’s world of custom suits and imported cars. She even lets him in on her one-night stand with Jake. She never (ok—hardly) suspects he could one day be the cause of all their undoing...

Purchase The Dinner Party:


  1. Great interview! And Lainie sounds like a fascinating character. I loved Jenny's answer to the question of what she's working on now. Heheh. I hear that!

  2. I definitely want to be invited to YOUR dinner party, Jenny! Looks like a good read! Great interview, as always MISS TRACIE!

  3. We're all working on our abs!!! LOL

    Great interview, like the book cover.

    xx, Lauren

  4. Thanks guys...hope you enjoy The Dinner Party!

    xo JLB

  5. Great interview, Tracie and Jenny. The book sounds great and I love the cover!

  6. Tracie has told me that I would absolutely love your book so it is on my TBR! Great interview, although I disagree that girl-next-door heroine's are "blech". I quite like them as long as they are not generic :) Looking forward to reading about Lainie though - bitchy can fun too!

  7. Great interview, Tracie!

    Jenny, The Dinner Party sounds interesting and I will have to add it to my TBR pile.