I call her Thursday afternoon, Sept 21, 2006.
Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Francesca: "A gymnast."
Francesca grew up in Austin. "I wasn't in the popular crowd. I was in the almost-popular crowd."
Luke: "When did you realize you were a writer?"
Francesca: "I had a situation come up (my mother was getting married for a second time while I had yet to marry) more than I had a burning desire to write. I had been doing television for ten years, writing to the pictures. TV suits me well because of my short attention span.
"Mine was an easy novel to write. I was just sticking my neck out there and seeing what happened rather than beating myself up over every word.
"My second book is a lot harder than my first one. Did I write one novel and luck out? Or am I a novelist?
"I don't think I'm giving you the answer you're looking for."
"I now spend more time writing than anything else. It's neat to be a part of a writer's community.
"I have no pretensions that I am a great novelist, a huge literary force. I hoped to write a book that would be fun for people and make them feel good make them feel less alone, something that would not be difficult to read where they have to pull out their dictionary every two words, but something they can relax with and laugh with... People tell me they had a fun time reading the book."
Luke: "When you were younger, did you have people tell you that you were going to become a novelist?"
Francesca: "Never. I'm way too chatty to become a novelist. Novelists are comfortable spending a lot of time by themselves and having intense internal monologues. I am learning to become that way but generally I am energized by being around other people. The lifestyle of the writer is difficult for me."
Luke: "What do you love and hate about being interviewed?"
Francesca: "I just love it. I get to talk to people who are interested in me. I think that's fabulous. Given this lifestyle of talking to yourself all day, I love it when somebody calls me and asks me questions. Having been the interviewer for so long, it's nice to know all the answers."
Luke: "What are the qualities of a good interview?"
Francesca: "When the personality of both people can show through, which means that the interviewer makes the interviewee feel comfortable and friendly. A good human interaction will make for a good interview instead of asking questions that don't have personality, more direct questions. Sometimes when the interviewer reveals something about him or herself, that puts the interviewee at ease."
Francesca says her family helped her edit her novel. "My dad, had he been alive, would've been most proud of my novel. He published two academic books and one autobiography. He would've liked to have written a book that was sold in an airport and had commercial success."
In her essay in The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt, Francesca concluded her "Girl Meets Goy" piece with a reflection on her latest squeeze -- a Taiwanese guy she writes off immediately because he's not close to being Jewish. Being Muslim would be closer to being Jewish than being Taiwanese Buddhist Taohist.
This turned out to be the guy she married earlier this month. "It's the personality I need more than the religion. My husband is agnostic and very supportive of my Jewish cultural identity. Being with someone who's not Jewish highlights your Jewish identity and makes you think about your identity."
Luke: "You weren't intimidated by your mother's erudition?"
Francesca: "No. My mom can't even write a letter because she is so worried about what people will think and whether it is written well enough. I have no shame. I barrel forward. If people don't think I'm Dostoevsky, fine."
Luke: "You don't sound terribly angst ridden."
Francesca: "Is that the requirement for being a good writer? This second novel is kicking my ass. I'm worried about it."
Luke: "What are you best at with writing?"
Francesca laughs. "Dialogue? Is that what you're looking for? I'm a big talker. Writing a conversation comes easily to me. Figuring out a plot, that'll trip me up more.
"In journalism, you stick your neck out all the time and there's all kind of rejection and embarrassing situations. That experience helps when you write a novel, you have thick skin already."