Get to know Irene Wittig and her new book, The Best Thing About Bennett – here!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your published books.
My name is Irene Wittig. I was born in Rome, lived in Argentina and Austria before arriving in the US when I was seven. I grew up in New York, went to the High School of Music and Art and City College. I was in Germany on a Fulbright, later lived in Italy for almost five years, and much later Switzerland for six. My husband and now live in Arlington, Va. We have two children and four grandchildren. I have described my books in some of the following questions.
Tell us about the genre you like to write and how it is similar/different from other women fiction genres?
I like to create characters one cares about. These can fall into different genres. In THE BEST THING ABOUT BENNETT
I wanted to write about someone who had to overcome loneliness and self-doubts to find purpose and love. In my historical novel ALL THAT LINGERS, my goal was to show how people, when faced with authoritarian regimes, resist, willingly adopt, or silently go along – each way bringing its own costs. The story is set in Vienna before, during and after World War II and was inspired by my family’s memories and stories told by fellow Europeans displaced by war. The main characters of both novels are women. THE BEST THING ABOUT BENNETT would fall into the hen-lit genre, or Amazon’s “single-women fiction”, whereas ALL THAT LINGERS is definitely historical fiction. The novel I am working on now has several women in it. Time and plot will tell into what genre it falls.
What are some of the biggest challenges hen lit authors face today?
The biggest challenge for any writer is writing a book a reader can get lost in. Genre books often face the challenge of being taken seriously as literature. Indie writers’ greatest challenge, no matter the genre, is visibility, which requires a lot of marketing.
Given the ongoing popularity of chick lit, where do you see hen lit ten years from now?
With baby boomers aging, I would predict that hen-lit would become more and more sought after and relevant.
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer?
I was always an avid reader, and had done a good bit of writing at my personnel job, but I didn’t really discover the joys of writing until I wrote THE CLAY CANVAS, Creative Painting on Functional Ceramics. Having always loved novels, trying to write one was the logical next step. Learning how took time, education, and many revisions, all of which I enjoyed.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer?
I began writing while running a small business custom hand painting ceramics. Now that I am retired I can concentrate on writing,
What are some things that inspire you to write?
The best inspiration for writing is reading. A well-written sentence, or an evocative description can take you down paths you might never have thought of. There is much to learn from good writing. A book that I loved, and that made me feel as if I’d spent a week with very literate friends was How To Write Like Tolstoy by Richard Cohen. Inspiration for characters and story line can come from one’s own life, from dreams, or from events you read in the paper, or stories your grandmother once told. Sometimes a character or the setting can come into your head fully-formed, and then you have to come up with the plot. Or vice versa. Even the best plots need fleshed-out, relatable characters and believable settings.
What is your typical writing routine like?
I’m a morning person so that’s when I write best. But I often have ideas in the middle of the night, or while driving, neither of which is very convenient, so I always have paper and pencil handy.
What kind of message do your book(s) convey to readers?
I suppose what I write reflects what I believe—that kindness matters, that hatred and revenge are always destructive, that people can overcome terrible circumstances, that relationships and connectedness are at the root of happiness, that people need acknowledgment and sense of purpose.
Does your book(s) incorporate certain aspects of your own life and/or that of others?
Absolutely. In my twenties, I quit a good job and persuaded a friend to go with me to Italy. I ended up staying for five years, meeting my husband and having a daughter. That bit of courage to try something new changed my life—something Bennett would understand. Later, my husband and I lived in Switzerland for six years, and my husband’s work took him to Uganda. His experiences working to combat corruption, and mine volunteering briefly in an orphanage there were the inspiration for the Uganda scenes in THE BEST THING ABOUT BENNETT. My Viennese family’s memories, and growing up in New York in a neighborhood of Holocaust survivors and fellow Europeans displaced by war were the background of my life and the inspiration for ALL THAT LINGERS. A few true events and dreams were the inspiration of my short story collection SHORT TALES AND RUMINATIONS.
Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
I’ve been reading for seventy years and so I’ve had many favorite authors. Years ago, I gobbled up all of Erich Maria Remarque, Nevil Shute, AJ Cronin, Kurt Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger; most of Dickens and Dostoeyevski, the whole 9 volume Forsyte Saga, and many many others. More recently I have really enjoyed Anne Tyler, Kate Atkinson, Julian Barnes, Alexander McCall Smith, Jacqueline Winspear, Anthony Doerr, Chris Cleaves, Rachel Joyce and many books about World War II. All these books have relatable characters and settings I can somehow place myself in. Some books are just for fun, but the best of them make me think about ideas, and about other people and the burdens they carry.
Any advice you’d like to give for aspiring writers at this stage in
My advice is don’t be afraid. Write what you yourself would love to read.