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Weiner finds favor with readers who relate to just-like-me heroines

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She's witty, successful, and has turned every scorned woman's dream into reality.

Vindication may have been the spark that ignited author Jennifer Weiner's career as a novelist, but smart choices, humility and a biting sense of humor have kept it going.

Weiner, 35, has penned four novels, each with main characters who are just a tiny bit skewed: They don't dress "right," they drink and eat too much, and most important to her rabid fans, they're just like you and me.

The film version of her second book, "In Her Shoes," starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley McClaine, hit screens last week. And Weiner's her latest book, "Goodnight Nobody," sits at No. 2 on the New York Times best-seller list.

She recently took time out of a cross-country book tour to chat about nontraditional heroines, her "rare mentally healthy moment" and America's obsession with skinny people.

Q: How did you make the jump from newspaper reporting (she was a Gen X columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer) to novelist?

A: I got dumped. I had dated this guy for three years, and was on the fence, and when it was over, I realized I wanted someone to love me, understand me - someone who wanted to see me naked. He was not at all interested in reconciliation.

I was writing (what became "Good In Bed," her first novel, published in 2001) to get over him. I created this character that ridiculously fortunate things happen to. I stopped short of my darkest imaginings when it came to the ex.

I was in Philadelphia and didn't have anything to do except tell a story and make myself feel better. I was shocked at the way people responded to it (The New York Times best-seller was published in more than 15 countries). I figured there would be 12 people in the world who'd read it, and I'd know six of them from Weight Watchers.

Q: You've got a rabid fan base. What is it that makes your work so popular?

A: I think that the characters feel relatable to people. It's the smart, funny, not-quite-size-6 girl. Readers feel like they know that girl, or that they are her.

I think the happy ending is part of it, too. There's a reason romantic comedies are popular. It's not a perfect world. I read a lot of Judith Krantz books as a girl, and those books are fun escapes. Mine are, too, but grounded in an everyday-ness.

Q: If your books are beloved for their nontraditional characters, how does that match up with our societal obsession with skinny, beautiful people?

A: It seems the bigger we get in real life, the skinnier we demand our movie stars to be. Out on the street, it's not one girl after another who looks like Nicole Richie. Any woman who's in the public eye, the demand is smaller, smaller, smaller. I don't know how to explain that.

In fiction, you're seeing more and more fuller-figured, plus-size, fat - whatever word you want to use - characters. Books are a safe place to do that.

Q: How much of your books comes from your real life?

A: With each progressive book, it gets less and less like my life. I always want to try new things as a writer ... I don't want to be telling the same story over and over and over again, using the same tone, the same theme.

Q: What do you make of the label "chick lit"?

A: I don't mind it, as long as the person who calls it chick lit' has a good understanding of what it means. If (it's used) to mean it's stupid, worthless crap and don't read it, that bothers me. I do care about what I'm putting out in the world. The characters are funny, responsible and good at their jobs. (The label) can be a little dismissive and sexist to women's fiction. I think if you asked 20 people on the street, 19 would saychick lit' is gum.

Q: When you wrote "In Her Shoes," did you picture Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette as the leads?

A: I don't work that way, and if I did, I would never have any plus-size characters in my books. I don't think very visually when writing, but I always know how (my characters) sound.

The only actresses that were a size 12 or 14 that were being considered (for the role of Rose) were Australian or British. American actresses weren't well-known enough or the right size to play her. Not to get up on a feminist soapbox, but the messages that are out there are so punitive. Look at Kirstie Alley. They made it sound like she was Osama with a box of Krispy Kremes, like she was doing something bad (by being overweight). If my books can be a drop in the bucket, good. They can let people know there are chances for happy endings. It can happen.

Q: How involved in the movie-making process were you?

A: I was not involved at all. It was one of the rare mentally healthy moments of my life. I told the story that I wanted to tell; I don't know how to make a movie . My book is still my book."



Her last name is pronounced "Why-ner," not "Wee-ner."

She's 35, married and the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, Lucy.

After graduating from Princeton University, Weiner worked as a reporter in State College, Pa., Lexington, Ky., and Philadelphia before writing "Good In Bed."

She considers authors Sarah Dunn ("The Big Love"), Meghan Daum ("The Quality of Life Report") and Sophie Kinsella ("The Undomestic Goddess") her contemporaries.

Check out her Web site, complete with a snarky personal blog at


Not familiar with Jennifer Weiner's work? Here's a quick recap:

"Good In Bed" Cannie Shapiro's life is like a roller coaster ride - her mom is a newly announced lesbian, Cannie inherits a dog with a dirty name, and oh yeah, her ex-boyfriend recently started writing for a national women's mag. His first topic? "Loving a Larger Woman."($14, Washington Square Press)

"In Her Shoes" Rose and Maggie Feller are sisters who have nothing in common but shoe size. Their worlds are rocked when Maggie, the much slimmer, sexier sister, beds Rose's boyfriend. ($14, Washington Square Press)

"Little Earthquakes" This journey through motherhood centers on chef Becky Rothstein Rabinowitz; Lia, a celeb who ditches her husband; Ayinde, wife of an NBA star; and Kelly, a Martha Stewart clone. Weiner says the quartet was based in part on the foursome on "Facts of Life." ($26, Atria)

"Goodnight Nobody" Kate Klein is a pudgy suburban mom who used to have a jet-set NYC life, but now has three kids in an affluent burb and a dead acquaintance on the kitchen floor. Who did it? ($26, Atria)


(c) 2005, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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