I was lucky to read an early copy of DOLLFACE by Renee Rosen, a novel of 1920s Chicago. Why does this historical novel belong on Women’s Fiction Writers? DOLLFACE is written from a women’s point of view. It’s an engaging, fast-paced, novel with full, rich characters with things to figure out about themselves, their lives and loves. And yes, there’s lots of action in 1920s Chicago as well. There are a few violent scenes (it is about gangsters) but these scenes are not gratuitous. They are part of the story. Only one made me flinch (and I’ll tell you which one if you’ve read the book).
Renee is one of my dearest writer friends. She has held my hand through some pretty writing and publishing decisions and she was my roommate at the Heartland Fall Festival. Renee is like an encyclopedia of publishing information, and always willing to share. She shoots straight (DOLLFACE pun alert!) and always does so with kindness.
And since timing is everything, guess what? Today I’m having lunch with Renee and authors Pamela Toler, Karen Doornebos, and Samantha Hoffman.
So please pass the punch and welcome my friend, Renee Rosen, to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Worth The Wait! Author Renee Rosen’s DOLLFACE Took A Ten Year Road To Publication
Renee: Great question! It started out to be two interconnected stories from two different time periods, the 1900s and the 1920s. When I realized that I was racing through the 1900s to get to the 1920s chapters, I tossed out the earlier time period and just went full throttle into the Roaring Twenties.
But even then the story still changed a great deal. Originally I was much more focused on the gangsters themselves and had the women standing on the sidelines observing everything. It was at the advice of a very wise editor that I flipped all that around, turned the book inside out and started rewriting the story from the woman’s P.O.V.
Amy: Over the course of those ten years, did you ever lose hope or faith that one day DOLLFACE would make its way to bookstore shelves? What did you do to get back on track and go forth?
Renee: Ah, yeah! DOLLFACE broke my heart in a few places, that’s for sure. The people around me must have thought I was crazy for not giving up on the book. The rejection letters were mounting along with my bills. But each time I tried to walk away, something brought me back to that manuscript.
I remember reading what Kathryn Stockette went through with THE HELP and that was especially encouraging. After I read that she had gone to an outside editor, I went and did the same thing. Never ever underestimate the value of a good editor. And lastly, a very dear friend, also a writer, kept telling me to go back to DOLLFACE. Sara was convinced that this was the next book for me. Turns out she was right!
Amy: Without any spoilers, who’s your favorite character or what’s your favorite scene in DOLLFACE? What about it makes it your favorite? Was it easy or difficult to write?
Renee: Wow, another great question! And a difficult one to answer. I did love Vera but there was something about Basha that just cracked me up. I had such a hoot writing her scenes because I never knew what she was going to do next.
And as for scenes, there are a couple of those, too. A personal favorite is when Vera and her gun moll friends “crash” the Jewish Women’s Council luncheon. Another one is where Vera defends Evelyn by putting her abusive boyfriend, Izzy in his place.
Although there were a lot of revisions in those scenes (I’m a chronic reviser) those were two sections that practically wrote themselves. The characters just walked onto the page and started doing their thing.
Amy: I believe that many novels fall under the women’s fiction umbrella, including DOLLFACE of course. What are your thoughts on the label of women’s fiction and the fact that it often carries a negative connotation, unlike, let’s say, the historical fiction label.
Renee: I think there’s a general sense that “women’s fiction” isn’t taken seriously, or it isn’t literary, or something that would appeal to men. I also know a lot of excellent writers who feel the same way about their books being labeled as “genre fiction”.
I think these general labels exist in part so that booksellers know where to shelve the books in their stores and also so that publishers know how to talk to the public about a particular title. But regardless of what label someone gives to DOLLFACE, I’ve heard from several men who have read and enjoyed it, so who knows.
Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction of any kind?
Renee: Aside from the usual reading and writing, I think that each of us has to come to a point where we make up our minds that it’s going to happen. No debate. We’re going to be published because we’re willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. That could involve hiring an outside editor or revising it for the umpteenth time. It could mean chucking the whole thing and starting something new. The main thing is to believe in yourself as a writer and stay determined. Be open to constructive criticism and yet, at the end of the day, learn to trust your instincts. It’s a tricky balance but you can do it!
As clichéd as it sounds, Renée is a former advertising copywriter who always had a novel in her desk drawer. When she saw the chance to make the leap from writing ad copy to fiction, she jumped at it. A confirmed history and book nerd, Renée loves all things old, all things Chicago and all things written.
A graduate of American University in D.C., Renée has contributed to many magazines and newspapers, including Chicago Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Complete Woman, DAME, Publisher’s Weekly and several other now sadly defunct publications. She is the author of Every Crooked Pot and Dollface, A Novel of the Roaring Twenties. She lives in Chicago where she is currently working on a new novel, What The Lady Wants coming from Penguin/NAL fall 2014.
Find out more about Renee Rosen and DOLLFACE on her website: ReneeRosen.com.