Bethany Crandell, SEE JANE SNAP

Bethany Crandell, SEE JANE SNAP

Zibby is joined by Bethany Crandell to talk about her hilarious second adult novel, See Jane Snap, which began with just the title. Bethany shares what inspired her to start writing young adult novels and when she knew it was time to make the switch to adult fiction. She also tells Zibby how her own family’s story offered inspiration for this book and where she sees her writing going next.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Bethany. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss See Jane Snap.

Bethany Crandell: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Zibby: By the way, when I realized why this cover was this cover, I was like, oh!

Bethany: I know. When the design team sent me the cover, the first mock-ups, that was the first one that showed up. I completely lost it. I was hysterically laughing at my desk. I’m like, this is perfect. I don’t need to see any others. It’s perfect. I know. Readers will get it once they read it.

Zibby: Yes, readers will get it. It will become obvious. Tell listeners, if you don’t mind, give them your little elevator pitch about what See Jane Snap is about.

Bethany: This is the story of Jane Osborne. She’s a thirty-nine-year-old mom and wife to a very prominent surgeon. She thinks she’s living a very comfortable, stable life. It’s the life she always wanted, but it isn’t actually real. Her husband confesses to her after years of marriage that he is gay and has been cheating their entire marriage. Because of some mitigating factors at the hospital where he works, he can’t divulge that. It could have some devastating impacts on his career and in turn, this life she’s come to depend on. They have to kind of put on a pretty face for the world and try to convince everybody that they are the Ward and June they appear to be. Jane slaps on a smile and does her best to pretend everything is okay. Inside, she’s slowly starting to crack. The lying just gets to be too much for her. Eventually, she loses it. She has a very entertaining breakdown in a parking lot that lands her in a jail cell. Eventually, she’s put into this environment with a bunch of women who are not like the women she encounters on a daily basis, the people that she thought were her friends. Now she’s in this different world where people are calling her out on what her life really is like and how it’s not at all what she thought it was or even the life she really wanted. Ultimately, she has to determine if having that life that she always dreamed of is worth the trade-off for her happiness. That’s the long version. The short version is —

Zibby: — No, no, the long version was perfect.

Bethany: Okay, good.

Zibby: The long version was perfect. By the way, before I forget, I actually know a kid named Blaze. There’s a character —

Bethany: — Really?

Zibby: Yeah, he goes to school with one of my kids.

Bethany: Oh, cool.

Zibby: Just throwing that out there. Sometimes when I’m reading a book, I share with my kids what it’s about. They’re asking me or whatever. I was telling them about your book, my daughter who’s eight. I was like, “This happened. This happened. Then it turned out that the dad liked men.” She just looks knowingly at me and goes, “Freddie Mercury.” I’m like, “How did you even know that?” The things kids say. Anyway, as I said right before we started, I just knew I would like you because this book is so funny. I love your sense of humor. I love the way you see things, how you have us in Jane’s head at the lunch and what she’s thinking and the other moms and how you poke fun at everything. It’s just really funny.

Bethany: Even in the worst of circumstances, there is something amusing there even if it’s just to get you through it. You have to be able to tap into something or we’d all go mad. I’m glad that you appreciate that.

Zibby: I feel like all of us are just a little bit away from doing what Jane does in the parking lot. We’re all just hovering on the line of losing it. I think that’s why this is so perfect.

Bethany: I’m on that every day. It’s so funny. Some days, it’s this huge thing that feels like it could send you over. Other days, it truly would be somebody not putting their cart in the corral. I straddle that line every day. I think most moms probably do.

Zibby: It’s amazing how close we feel like we are. I don’t know if other people know that. Good thing for executive function or I don’t know what it is in our brains that pull it back at the last second.

Bethany: There are days, though — I will pull it back if it’s around people I don’t know. When I come home, it’s like the floodgates open because it’s that safe place. At least the women I know in my world, and now you, we are all hovering very close to that comfortable place and committing homicide. It’s a fine, fine line.

Zibby: I’ve definitely had moments where I’m like, oh, I get why people might commit this crime. I get it. I could see if you had a little less impulse control. Also, this secret that her husband is keeping from her and the way she discovers it and the drama of that moment and the realization and the devastation and all of those feelings that you have Jane go into in the book, where is that coming from? How are you tapping into that? How did you decide on this? How did you decide on the whole plot, to be honest?

Bethany: My books always start as a title. The story kind of builds around it. Now, there must be some kernel of an idea somewhere in my head. I do my best thinking under the hair dryer. As you can see, nobody else can, I have a lot of hair. I kind of lose myself in the white noise. I remember one day last fall-winter, this See Jane Snap, I was like, oh, I like that. I quickly texted my critique partner. I’m like, “I got this title.” Now my muse gets to start running wild. It just built. What kinds of things would make a middle-aged woman — she raises her hand — fall apart and lose it? I start thinking of all these things that make me jumpy like that. Then it just started evolving. I wish I could put a finger on it and say, it was this, it was that. I don’t know specifically. Stories start to create themselves. I do have a little personal experience, not in this exact situation.

My parents split up after twenty-four years of marriage out of the blue. That was initiated by my mom. I think it was a devastating choice that she had to make. It gutted her. My dad was totally shocked and never saw it coming. It was disruptive to the whole world. I know it was a difficult decision for her. It probably was a long time coming because when you make those choices, it’s not just you. It’s trickle down to the hundredth degree here. It spreads out into children and in-laws. It’s like the whole dichotomy of your world gets disrupted. I didn’t realize I was tapping into that element until I started writing. I was like, oh, my gosh, these are some of those feelings I think my parents probably experienced. My dad’s nothing like Dan. He’s a wonderful, wonderful guy and not selfish or anything like that. I think those feelings were very — they resonated with me in that respect. Then also, I wrote the majority of this book in quarantine, and so it was pretty easy at points to feel stressed and to feel the anxiety that Jane is feeling. There’s no escape when you’re all trapped in the same house together. You can’t step away from your stressful manuscript and find relaxation. It’s like, oh, god, they’re all still here. They want me more than ever. I am chomping at the bit here, crawl out of my skin, or do something because of the scene I just wrote. There’s no escape. It just snowballed. It was a perfect storm. My own experience writing this book was definitely more challenging than other books because of the circumstances around us, but I think it made Jane that much more authentic because I was feeling it when she was feeling it.

Zibby: You could tell. Really, we were in it with Jane. I love that. How old are your kids? You don’t have to say if you don’t feel comfortable.

Bethany: Eighteen, just started college last week. My little one is sixteen.

Zibby: I was also telling my daughter about Jane’s daughter. She’s like, “She just doesn’t sound like a good person.” I’m like, “I don’t know,” the graffiti and all the trouble she was getting in. I was like, “Yeah, she just doesn’t really seem to like her mom at all.” She’s like, “That’s terrible.” I’m like, “Isn’t it?”

Bethany: It is. It’s terrible. There’s a lot of me in Avery, the daughter. I’m the youngest of three. I was sixteen when my parents split up. I was mad. I rebelled against both of them. They just loved me harder and harder. It was nothing but love and support and encouragement. They knew it was hard and gave me miles of room. Never did I doubt that they loved me and they were there. Of course, I worked through that. You just don’t know. Kids, they only know this little world that you’ve created. As parents, you want to protect them from everything that might hurt them. At some point, the self-sacrifice has to give way to self-preservation. I don’t know how I went on that little segue.

Zibby: No, it’s fine. My parents split up when I was fourteen. It’s a really interesting time to have your home life sort of shatter right as you’re trying to figure out who you are and friendship and identity. Everything is under a microscope in high school. Not that any time is particularly amazing.

Bethany: I remember both my sisters had left for college. I was so mad. I’m like, you guys left me here with them all by myself.

Zibby: I felt bad. My brother’s a couple years younger. When I went to college, I felt so guilty. I was like, I’m so sorry. He didn’t even care. He didn’t care, but I felt bad.

Bethany: Teenage boys.

Zibby: I mean, I don’t know. Maybe he cared. I won’t talk for him because he wouldn’t like that. Anyway, I also like — not to keep going back to this title and cover and all this stuff, but seeing Jane snap and having the rubber band around her wrist as actual snapping — oh, you do it too?

Bethany: Mostly, for my hair, but I find myself tugging on that, for sure.

Zibby: All these ways of dealing with anxiety. Life seems to be just a series of coping mechanisms.

Bethany: That’s so true.

Zibby: I’m like, I’ll try this. I’ll try that.

Bethany: Do you have any weird ones?

Zibby: You know, I’ve gotten into this breathing, but not in the way everybody says, oh, take a breath. Mine is more like I’m hyperventilating. I hold my chest down as if I’m going to fly away from stress. It’s the opposite.

Bethany: I hold my breath until I pass out. Then I just don’t have to feel it anymore.

Zibby: Exactly. Wait, so tell me your story. How did you become an author to begin with? What made you start writing books? Where did you grow up? What’s your story?

Bethany: The spiel, I’ve always been kind of a creative-minded kid, always loved to write, but never really did anything with it. I remember in ninth grade we had a student teacher in history class. One of the assignments she gave us had something to do with the Peloponnesian War. I couldn’t remember anything else about it. I decided to make a children’s book. I illustrated it, which is funny because I don’t draw. I spent hours and hours and hours on this book. I was not a good student. I was never academically motivated. This project, I was like, yes, I get to create something. I remember she said, Mrs. Smiley said, “You should write a book.” I was like, okay, tuck that away. Then I was thirty-four. My little one was two. She had just been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The diagnosis wasn’t a surprise because you’re there with your kids. You see them missing milestones and whatever. Something resonated once there was a label on it. I was having to go to all of these evaluations because there are different services and different things you have to get involved with.

I felt like I was kind of starting to be labeled as a mom to a child with disability. There are some moms and dads in that role that are these amazing advocates. I truly believe they were gifted with that gene to be able to do that. I’m not one of those people. I can speak up for my kid, but that’s not what I’m called to do, I don’t think. I didn’t know who I was. I knew I was more than Becca’s mom. I didn’t want to just be this mom to a disabled kid. I reached out to a creative coach. I had worked with her years before, before I had kids, did some classes like Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, phenomenal, and workshops she had set up. I reached out to her and said, “I’m struggling. Is there anything creative you can direct me toward?” She’s like, “Let’s start writing.” For about a year for fifteen minutes a day on my lunch hour, I would start writing. I would send her my stuff. She finally, one day, said, “I think you need to write a book.” I was like, “I don’t know if I can.” I wasn’t a big reader at that point. It just felt huge. Then she told me, “You know, there’s a statistic that of all the people in the world that set out to write a book, eighty-five percent of them quit before they finish. Only fifteen percent of people actually finish a book when they start writing.”

Zibby: Is that right? I didn’t know that. That’s an interesting statistic.

Bethany: It may have changed.

Zibby: I like it.

Bethany: I know, it’s good.

Zibby: I’ll quote you on this.

Bethany: Totally. Oh, great. Thank you. It’s motivating. I’m a competitive person by nature. Boy, I was like, ding, ding, ding. Guess what I’m going to do? Then started from there. I started to realize, you know, you can write and be in control. That was the thing I was missing. This was happening to my kiddo. It was happening to all of us. This was not the life I anticipated. I had to let go of all these plans and dreams and aspirations I had for her because she wasn’t typically developing. This was a world I could control. It kind of fed into that need to feel like I at least had some kind of control.

Zibby: Wow. Then what happened next?

Bethany: What did happen next? I started writing a book. I submitted it to agents way before I should’ve. I’m going to get an agent. It’s going to be as big as Twilight. In my head, it was this whole, it’s going to be amazing. Well, rejection, rejection, rejection, but I just kept writing. I ended up selling my second completed manuscript. It’s a young adult novel called Summer on the Short Bus. It’s a very irreverent look at a teenage girl who’s spoiled, rich kid, who gets into trouble and gets sent to work at a summer camp for kids with special needs. It’s sort of a, not even coming-of-age. I would say it’s a slap in the face to the kind of life she’d been living. Then I was writing young adult books for seven years, eight years. I had two different agents. There were issues personally with them that took them out of the industry. It was just more rejections. I was writing. My writing was growing, for sure. As a writer, I was growing stronger, but I guess I just didn’t find the right next thing. It was about three years ago now, my second agent was leaving the industry, or at least that role in the industry. I had just finished a manuscript, gave it to her. We were about ready to shop it. I had been struggling for years about — I have a really deep love for John Hughes’ movies. Sixteen Candles was my all-time. Jake Ryan was my everything, oh, my gosh.

Zibby: Love, love.

Bethany: For years, I had been toying with this idea of writing a story about a woman who can’t get over her childhood teenage crush, basically. I was like, you know what, I’m at this point where we’re not selling any more young adult books. My agent’s leaving. I want to further my career. I want to keep doing this. I just want to keep having the opportunity to write and get better and grow. I think I’m going to take a leap here and shift gears and write women’s fiction and just see what happens. I pounded this book out, had a ball doing it. It was the first book I’ve ever written that I wanted to read. All the others were good. I enjoyed them, but I wouldn’t pick them up off a shelf. They were just not what I wanted to read. I had so much fun writing this book. I went out and shopped it to agents and got a couple of offers and signed with a phenomenal agent who I just adore. We sold it right away. That was it. It was a two-book deal. Thankfully, my editor was wise enough — I had this whole idea of, I’m going to do this whole series spinoff on John Hughes-inspired, shift them up a little bit. She was like, “That’s fine if you want to do that for your second book, but I think you’re capable of something bigger and something more book club-y, something you can really get in there and sink your teeth into and dig around a little bit.” I said, “Well, I’ve kind of got this idea about this woman who has a midlife crisis when she finds out her husband’s gay. It’s called See Jane Snap.” She’s like, “That’s it. That’s the book. You run with it.” That’s how it came to be. Now I’ve got all kinds of really horrible ideas in my head about things I can do to middle-aged women and how I can share our stories, because I think we all share them, frankly. That’s my story.

Zibby: I love it. Oh, my gosh, wow. Wait, so what’s the second one going to be?

Bethany: The second one was Jane. I’m sorry, the first book I sold was called The Jake Ryan Complex. That was part of the two-book deal. The second book in that deal was See Jane Snap. Right now, I’m finishing up another one. I would pitch it as Good Girls meets Golden Girls with a twist of Sweet Magnolias. It’s female bonding, for sure, highly emotional. That’s what I write. I am a true pantser, so it’s all about what my stomach’s feeling. And a little bit of ass-kicking, which is fun. I think I’m getting inspired by some of these fun books that are out right now like Dial A for Aunties. I know you had her on the show.

Zibby: Yeah, I loved that.

Bethany: That was just a fun read.

Zibby: That was really fun.

Bethany: Plotting things is fun. I’m reading Finlay Donovan is Killing It right now, which is fun. I wouldn’t say that it’s a caper book, necessarily, but it’s plotting. It’s revenge. It’s fun. It’s a little departure from Jane, but not to the degree where it’s going to be like, who wrote this? It’s definitely still my spin.

Zibby: That’s so funny you said that about Steel Magnolias. I haven’t thought about that movie in a long time. Literally the minute before I did this podcast, I was sending an email to describe something. I was like, “It’s a mix of this and Steel Magnolias.” Then here you are twenty minutes later. Life is so weird.

Bethany: Every now and then, I’ll have this little voice in my head say, “It was Ouiser. Ouiser did it.” That cast was riveting. It’s like 9 to 5.

Zibby: I love 9 to 5 too. I feel like we have the same exact movie taste, basically. Not that it’s so unique, but still. Still and all.

Bethany: Birds of a feather.

Zibby: Amazing. So exciting. What advice would you have for aspiring authors at this point?

Bethany: Gosh, first of all, don’t quit because that’s the only way to know you’ll never make it, if you quit. It takes a long time. Some people sell right away, but it takes a long time to get to know your voice as an author. I want to say it was Stephen King, has a quote. It takes a million words to figure out who you are. I think I hit a million words about the time I shifted gears and started writing women’s fiction if look back on everything I’ve done. You just have to keep practicing. It’s all practice. As soon as you stop, you’re not going to grow anymore. You just keep writing. I would say, for sure, nothing is ever wasted, nothing, even if the book doesn’t sell or if you think it’s garbage, and you will. You’re going to think it’s garbage half the time, if not more. It’s rubbish. That’s just how we think, but it’s all valuable. It all helps grow you as an author. You are an author. I’ll say that too. I remember I went to my first writer’s conference. I felt like an imposter. I felt like the little kid in my mom’s high heels with a big bag on my shoulder. I don’t belong here. Everybody knows it because I haven’t even finished a full manuscript. I remember one of the keynote speakers saying, if you’re writing and you’re committed to this, you are an author. It was empowering. You just have to believe in yourself and that you can get better.

Zibby: All right, my last question, for the mom out there today who feels like she’s about to snap, what are you going to say to her?

Bethany: Girl, I am with you. You are not alone. I’m super passive-aggressive with stuff. I don’t like confrontation, so I don’t confront people when I see them leave their shopping cart. It really is a problem for me, Zibby. I’m not kidding. Boy, do I say stuff under my breath when I get in the car. I would encourage people to let it out somewhere safe. I scream a lot in my car by myself if I’m really having a moment. There’s an old eighties movie, you’re probably familiar with it, Summer School, where this guy would scream.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, Mark Harmon.

Bethany: Tension breaker. It had to be done. I do that by myself. Just getting it out is so helpful. Talk to your girlfriends about it or go get a frozen yogurt, something to kind of remove yourself from the situation. If anybody’s riding that ledge today, just know there are so many of us there with you. I truly hope your supply of oranges is always substantial. Everybody needs those oranges.

Zibby: I think what you should do is, if you haven’t already, but you need to have a site where women anonymously can come in and type what’s making them snap today.

Bethany: Oh, my gosh, that’s brilliant. I love that.

Zibby: You should just put it up today or something. It could be anonymous. Then we have it there. Maybe people can comment. Maybe it just lives on the site.

Bethany: That’s so smart. It’s just about getting it out.

Zibby: Yeah, you just have to get it out. Then you see the other people. Then they laugh. We see each other in all of those moments. I almost did this. I almost did that. I think the middle-aged snapping community would benefit from that. Let me know when it’s live. I’ll post about it.

Bethany: Rubber band wearers unite.

Zibby: Exactly. Anyway, thank you. This was so fun. I knew it would be, and it was. Thank you. Your book was really just so great and so relatable and very entertaining, which is what we all want when we’re at the edge of our ropes ourselves.

Bethany: Thank you so much for having me. This was great.

Zibby: Take care.

Bethany: Buh-bye.

Zibby: Buh-bye.

Bethany Crandell, SEE JANE SNAP

SEE JANE SNAP by Bethany Crandell

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