Zibby Owens: Jane L. Rosen is the author of Eliza Starts a Rumor. She’s also the author of Nine Women, One Dress. She is a screenwriter and a Huffington Post contributor. She lives in New York City and Fire Island with her husband and three daughters.

Welcome, Jane. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Jane L. Rosen: Thank you for having me. I’m a big fan. I think you know that because you must see my name at two o’clock every day. It’s the governor at eleven and Zibby at two.

Zibby: So funny. Eliza Starts A Rumor, let’s talk about your book. It’s coming out. I’m not sure when I’m releasing this exact transcript, but it’s coming out next week when we’re talking, which is so exciting. You have a big event coming up with Katie Couric. First of all, how did that happen? That’s exciting, at McNally Jackson.

Jane: It’s exciting. She’s a friend of mine, in all fairness. She’s just a very supportive friend. She loves my books and my writing. She writes a lot too. We pass it back and forth. I was just so happy that she agreed to interview me. Very, very cool.

Zibby: Aw, that’s awesome. If she wants to be on my podcast too, you just send her my way.

Jane: I will. She’s writing a biography, so you’ll have her soon.

Zibby: Well, there you go. Back to you, Eliza Starts a Rumor, can you please tell listeners what this book is about?

Jane: The book is really about female friendship and about women supporting women. At the basis of it, it’s a woman who’s an empty nester and runs a bulletin board kind of like the Upper East Side bulletin board or mamas’ groups and all these different things that are all over the country. She’s feeling a little irrelevant. She has agoraphobia, which is a funny thing. The timing of it is kind of funny with this because we’ve all been staying home so much. I can almost relate to her even more than I ever did. Anyway, she starts a rumor to liven things up on this bulletin board and basically tumbles into many different people’s lives. It’s, at turns, funny, and at turns, difficult because it explores all the very common problems that different women have. It’s different age groups. One of the women is forty-eight. One is thirty-eight. One is twenty-eight. It’s a whole intergenerational female exploration.

Zibby: I don’t know anyone who’s ever started a rumor, so I don’t know, I don’t think anybody would be able to relate to this book at all. It’s funny because gossip as a topic doesn’t get discussed that much even though it sort of is a currency among women, if you will.

Jane: It is.

Zibby: You almost trade on that information to become closer. I see my little kindergartener daughter starting to do it. It’s an interesting way to enter into different friend groups. I know it’s on a site, a bulletin board. Still, the idea of it, of what does gossip do for us? What does it do for women? It’s sort of an interesting topic.

Jane: It’s a little bit of a thrill. Sometimes you don’t want to admit it, but gossiping, it’s interesting somehow even though you know you shouldn’t be doing it. How many times have you said to someone, “You can’t tell anyone this”? You kind of have, right? Then you think they probably do. You could see how something spins out of control so quickly.

Zibby: I know. I feel like my memory is not what it used to be. Now I’m like, I can’t say anything because I don’t remember what are secrets and what are not secrets.

Jane: I told someone something personal the other day. Then I said, “Don’t tell anyone.” It was about one of my kids. It wasn’t even my thing to tell. Her husband walked in three minutes later and she just told him. I was like, “Oh, my god, I just told you not to tell anyone.” It’s definitely a bad idea. This is more of a random kind of thing. She starts a rumor that she doesn’t think is true just on the bulletin board to liven things up. It’s not talking about someone she knows. It’s fun, though. It has its moment of laughter and fun.

Zibby: How did you get the idea for this book?

Jane: You know, it’s funny. I was at my last book talk for Nine Women, One Dress. When you do talks like this — this is the first one for me for this book. When you do these talks, it gets a little boring for yourself if you repeat the same talk over and over again. It was the last talk. I decided to just wing it and change things up a bit. I even gave out some little juicy tidbits about the book, like that something really maybe was kind of true in it. As a joke I said, “It’s like these moms’ bulletin boards where you can say anything you want and people act like it’s not on the internet and no one’s going to repeat it.” Have you noticed that?

Zibby: It’s so true.

Jane: It’s hysterical. They’ll just say anything. Anything goes. But of course, everyone else is reading it. Anyway, I started talking about it. All the women — it was in New Jersey. They were like, “We belong to this one. We belong to that one. They say this. They say that.” All of a sudden, I’m like, that’s my next book, while I was up on the podium speaking. I wrote notes the whole way home.

Zibby: Are you in any message groups yourself?

Jane: Now I am, of course, because —

Zibby: — You had to research, right?

Jane: Yes. I tried so hard never to steal even one line from any of them because I just didn’t want to be pillaging. I’m in the Upper East Side one. I live downtown, but I brought my kids up on the Upper East Side. I’m in What Would Virginia Woolf Do? which is really how I started getting into this. Have you ever seen that one?

Zibby: No.

Jane: It’s kind of neat. It’s like thirty thousand women. They just took it offline and made it into something else that you belong to. I’m in a few of them mostly because of this. The LA Mommies are mentioned in the book. They’re doing a book club with me over the summer, which is fun, and some other places like Moms Behaving Badly. People are just into it.

Zibby: The first time I joined a message group was when I was pregnant with twins. Now this is over thirteen years ago. The amount of information and the pace at which people are sharing, it’s really unbelievable. It’s like some people are just sitting there all day doing it. It’s pretty astounding.

Jane: Also, you can ask something even in the middle of the night. If you have something wrong, your son had a rash, I feel like you could say, “What is this rash?” and then sixteen women say, “It’s impetigo. It’s this. It’s that.” People are insomniacs. You can just get any answer to anything.

Zibby: It’s true. It’s like a twenty-four-hour community-supported help line.

Jane: Yes, but there was a big controversy on the Upper East Side one recently.

Zibby: I heard that. I haven’t taken the time to dig deep into what exactly happened.

Jane: It was about a moderator being — they wanted to add a black moderator and make things more equal. It was a whole argument with the current — I don’t know. I really don’t pay that much attention to it now because I’m onto my next book. It’s an interesting concept. It really is.

Zibby: You obviously did research by going into different message groups. What else was part of the process of writing Eliza Starts A Rumor?

Jane: There are some serious things touched upon in the book, and I had to really research that. The main character, Eliza — this is not really giving anything away because right at the beginning you find out she’s agoraphobic. The reason why she is agoraphobic comes out as the book goes along, so I don’t want . I did a lot of research, just women going through different things and then how they reacted and how it carries with them. There’s a whole Me Too section, Me Too moment of the book. How would it feel if your husband was accused of Me Too kind of thing? That took a lot of research. There’s a whole cheating thing also. I researched that, which is funny because when you research something like cheating, every time you turn on your computer, it’s like, do you want to spy on your spouse? Ten times that he’s cheating. If anyone was to look at my computer, they’d be like, this poor woman’s husband’s awful. My husband’s wonderful. The internet thinks he’s awful.

Zibby: How long did it take to write? Where did you go to write it? Did you write at home? Do you like to go out to write? How did it differ from your last book? How did you approach that one versus this one?

Jane: My last book was really complicated because it had like seventeen different narrators. It was about this dress. Let’s say over a four-month period, I literally had to put where the dress was on a calendar because it was too confusing. I kept on, where’s the dress now? I kept on losing it. This was a lot easier for me to write. It wasn’t all these different voices. It kind of just came right out of me, the first draft, only like four months, really. I write mostly at home in the mornings very early. Writing first thing in the morning, to me, is the best. My brain is clear. I’m not yet thinking about the to-do list and all of that. I try and do that for as long as I can. Then basically, I’ll go out, do whatever it is I have to do, do errands. Then in the afternoon, maybe I’ll walk into — I live in New York City, so I’ll go into a different coffee shop just to get out a little. If not, I hate to say it, I could stay in my bed and write for three straight days. That’s not a healthy situation.

Zibby: There’s no lack of material just going out the door in the city.

Jane: Yeah. You pay attention on the subway, the subway’s a plethora of material.

Zibby: I read an interview you did a while back where it seemed like the title of the book was actually going to be The Hudson Valley Women’s Community Board. I hope I got that right.

Jane: Hudson Valley Ladies’ Bulletin Board.

Zibby: Bulletin board, sorry. Tell me about changing the title and how that all came about.

Jane: I have a new publisher from last time, a new editor, a new agent, new everything. They called me one day. I was at lunch with my friends from college. Maybe it was my agent that called me. She’s like, “They want to change the title to Eliza Starts A Rumor.” I always take a little while to get used to things. At first, I was like, what? I couldn’t believe it. Of course, it’s up to you. I used to be a screenwriter. When you’re a screenwriter, nothing is up to you. They could change the title to Four Women Go to Mars, and I’d have to be like, okay. You could say no, but I thought, they’re so much smarter than me about this. If they think that this is the right idea, I’m just going to go with what they think. I did. Then within a week or two, I was like, you know what, this title’s much better. It’s not limited, really. It’s interesting. It focuses on Eliza who really is the main character even though there are three other women and one man that are pretty much — you follow their stories as well. They changed the name, and I was fine with it, and the cover. Everything changed.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. Tell me about your screenwriting and how you got started in that.

Jane: I had an idea for a script. This is a really good story because it means anybody could do this. Anyone could find time to read. You could also find time to write. I had an idea. My kids were younger. I signed up for this Gotham Writers Workshop, screenwriting. I think it was Eight Weeks to Being a Screenwriter or something. I went one night a week, no big deal. I wrote this script. It was called Confessions of a Dog Owner. I write the script. Fast-forward a couple of months and a lot back and forth and stress — I don’t want to say the name. I’ll say it. Miramax bought the script. It was crazy to write your first script and sell it to you-know-who. I don’t want to say his name.

Zibby: You can say his name. It’s okay.

Jane: Harvey Weinstein. It was pretty exciting. There was a lot of rewrites and all of that. As with many scripts, it never got made. I was writing screenwriting for a long time. I loved it. I love the visualization of everything. I love writing that way. I wanted my stories to be heard, so I wrote Nine Women, One Dress kind of thinking I’ll write the book and maybe it’ll be made into a movie. Hallmark has optioned it, so we’ll see.

Zibby: That’s great.

Jane: Even now, I write very visually like a screenwriter somewhat.

Zibby: That always helps in propelling the narrative forward when you can see it all in your head. That’s great. And with dialogue, of course.

Jane: Yes, the dialogue. They’re just very different crafts, though. Everyone in screenwriting, they would say something to me like, “Could you have them meet when they’re young?” the two main characters. I’ll go, okay, and I’ll rewrite the whole thing with them meeting while they were young. Come back with the next draft however many weeks later. They read the whole thing. They come back to me. There’s like six people working on a movie. They’re like, “Could you have them not meet when they’re young?” I’m like, okay, and then redo it. It’s a crazy thing. With the editing in the book world, it’s just been — I love it. I love editing. I loved my last editor and this editor. It’s just a great collaboration.

Zibby: Did you always love to write? Is this something that you’ve loved to do your entire life? Is it something that’s come more recently?

Jane: When I was a little kid, like sixth grade, that age, I loved to write. I got a lot of attention for it. In elementary school and stuff, they would bring my work around. Then I don’t know what happened. I just kind of lost my way with it. I guess I was more interested in finding a job that I could support myself and live on my own in New York City and the whole thing. I didn’t major in that. I didn’t pursue it. I went into the center, which was very helpful with Nine Women, One Dress. Then when I had kids and I was home with them, I started writing again. I wrote children’s books. Then I broke into the screenwriting thing. There was definitely a big gap. I wish I went to college and studied English and writing and all of that, but you don’t know, right?

Zibby: No. You can’t do it again. This is the way it happened.

Jane: No one tells you. I look at my kids and say, “You’re good at this. You’re good at that.” It doesn’t mean they’re going to end up doing it. I feel like my mother was just like — she didn’t pay any attention to my school or anything. She was just like, “Great, you’re graduating. Great, you got into college.” It’s just different now.

Zibby: That’s funny. Are you working on anything new?

Jane: Yes, I am. It doesn’t have a title yet. I want to wait. I don’t want to —

Zibby: — You don’t want to jinx it?

Jane: No. It’ll come out, not next summer, but the summer after. It’s with Berkeley. It’s all set. It’s happening.

Zibby: Oh, you already sold it and everything. That’s great. Congratulations.

Jane: It’s fun. It’s more of a romance. There’s romance in Eliza Starts A Rumor, but just a small part of it.

Zibby: Interesting. Having had the success that you’ve had, what advice do you have to aspiring authors?

Jane: I would say just keep writing. I didn’t publish my book until I was fifty. If I would’ve given up — sometimes I felt like, this is ridiculous. It’s almost embarrassing. You’re writing and writing, and nothing’s really happening. I sold things. I wrote a bunch of scripts. Just don’t give up. I think that’s the main thing. Just keep writing and don’t give up. Eventually, something’s going to stick. When the first thing gets turned down, write something else. Put it down. Start with something else. Go in different directions. That’s my advice. Congratulations to you too. Don’t you have a children’s book that’s out?

Zibby: I did, yeah.

Jane: That’s so exciting.

Zibby: It feels kind of silly because I’ve been trying to write a novel for two and a half years. Then my children’s book sells. Life is weird.

Jane: I don’t think it’s that silly. I wrote children’s books first years ago. Now we’re sending them around. I sent them to everybody back then. So mine was the opposite. It doesn’t matter.

Zibby: No, I’m thrilled, though. I am thrilled. It’ll be great. I’m excited for that to happen. It feels very far away. Awesome. Thank you, Jane. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” Thanks for telling us more about Eliza Starts A Rumor. Now I will think of you and hold my tongue for gossiping, a little more I think. No, I’m kidding. There’s hardly anything that happens.

Jane: If you don’t publish it on the internet, you would probably be okay. That was where she really went wrong.

Zibby: I feel like the gossip also, there’s nothing even to talk about. What happens? It’s not like there’s even a group anymore. We’re all so spread out.

Jane: There’s nothing to gossip about now. What are you going to say?

Zibby: Exactly. There’s nothing.

Jane: My milk expired. There’s nothing to say. It’s like Groundhog Day now.

Zibby: I know. It’s so true. Anyway, this was really fun. I’m glad we finally got to talk.

Jane: Me too. Thank you so much.

Zibby: I’m excited for you and your book. It’s really cool.

Jane: Thank you.

Zibby: Thanks, Jane.

Jane: See you at two o’clock.

Zibby: Okay. Bye.

Jane: Bye.