Oprah: Did you feel pressure to finish Paint It Black?

Janet: I put tremendous pressure on myself. My publisher knows not to push me because I'm pretty intense.

Oprah: Exactly what is your schedule?

Janet: I take my daughter to school, come home and have coffee, then start writing around 9. I usually work until about 2 P.M. Then, unless I'm really on fire, I'll set it aside until after dinner.

Oprah: Your fiction is art—real, layered, and complex.

Janet: Thank you. I'm always looking for something new and interesting to say. And it can't be something I'm directly experiencing.

Oprah: Do you think there are more people interested in good fiction now than in previous decades?

Janet: Yes, there's more openness to the kind of work I do. There used to be a category called women's fiction—meaning not too rude, not too much sex, a bit domestic and internal. Women have changed so much. We're so varied. And we've become more interested in the same varied experience in fiction. Paint It Black is a perfect example of that. Thirty years ago, it might have singed a few hairs off some eyebrows—it's a very raw book. But now middle-aged women went to Woodstock. It's not the same world.

Oprah: That's right. One reason I love your writing is that it's filled with sensual detail, as if you're trying to stimulate the readers' senses. Are you?

Janet: I think we're starved for a life of the senses. We're in the garage, we're in the car, we drive to work, we're in a windowless cubicle that's gray and beige. In a way, it's funny that we consider ourselves an advanced culture, because people who live in so-called primitive environments still enjoy the richness of the smells, colors, and sounds of our world. We all crave that. When I read, I want to be fully transported to another place. I want to feel things, smell things.

Oprah: I read a lot of fiction because it allows you to explore just about anything.

Janet: Inside every human being, there is unlimited time and space. In our exterior life, we can be only one person. But in our imagination, we can be anyone, anywhere. That's one of the reasons I read and write. It's a way for me to have more than one life.


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