Janna King is the author of the new novel The Seasonaires. A screenwriter, playwright, and director, she is the cofounder of the website The Broad Life. She lives in Los Angeles.
Q: What was the inspiration for The Seasonaires, and for your character Mia?
A: Not to sound narcissistic, but Mia is a lot of me. She's a fish out of water, feeling like the outcast at the “popular kids” party. I've always felt that way, even though it may have seemed like I had it together.
With age, I don’t really even try to “put it on” anymore. I’m a proud mess and am very attracted to the messiness of life, which is a theme in the novel. The curated, aspirational brand ambassador lifestyle portrayed in The Seasonaires seems so perfect. We all know nothing is perfect.
Also, like me, Mia wants to be optimistic, but she’s cautious. I’m a realist, even a pessimist sometimes, with a lot of deep down hope. I want things to work out, but prepare myself for anything (though nothing could’ve prepared Mia for what happens during her summer).
Mia’s moxie is inspired by my daughter, who will go head-on at any challenge. Mia has a goal: she sees the world of fashion as a way out of her difficult home life, so she applies for the job as seasonaire even though she has no idea what she’s doing and she’s breaking some rules.
She’s also a bit guarded on the outside but a softie on the inside and a fighter for the underdog. That’s very much my daughter.
Q: You note that you have a "love/hate relationship with social media." Why is that, and why did you decide to focus on social media in this novel?
A: I love social media because it’s a way to stay in touch with family members and friends I don’t get to see often enough. I’ve reconnected with old pals and made new friends who live across the globe. How else would that happen, right? Social media good exposure for projects and businesses.
On Instagram, I follow writers, travelers, fashion and beauty bloggers, and I’m a sucker for cute dogs. I’m not ashamed to say that my dogs have their own Instagram.
But social media is also an unfortunate venue for nastiness. The bullying that goes on is incredibly upsetting to me. Anonymity seems to give some people a very ugly voice. I also feel that the doctoring and filtering of photos can create unhealthy pressure for both the person who posts and the person seeing the post.
But I think the pendulum is swinging and now young people are using social media as a way to come together and express important opinions on issues affecting their world. I’m very excited to see how these avenues for communication evolve!
Q: Why did you decide on Nantucket as the novel's setting, and how important is setting to you in your writing?
A: Though I’m a California girl, I enjoyed a host of summers with my family in East Coast beach towns, including Nantucket. Many brand ambassadors are paid to spend their summers and winters in beautiful resort spots around the world.
Nantucket fit the bill because it’s gorgeous. I wanted to put the seasonaires in a “perfect” setting, and there is a dreamy quality to Nantucket. That being said, it was a symbol for any place that seems flawless and fairytale-like.
I grew up in a very pretty coastal suburb and though it was the picture of sublime suburbia, there was a darkness underneath - everywhere has darkness.
I wanted to get behind the “picket fences," the yachts, the chic stores, and the tony restaurants, and dig in the dirt, so to speak. The dirt is where the drama lives. For me, it’s the most compelling - and fun - to write about that.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
A: I bow down to Joan Didion. I can't even put into words my hero worship (which seems ironic for a writer). I admire the way Gillian Flynn spins a story. Her female characters are not always likable, but their deep complexities suck me in.
I’m reading Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman and she is hysterical. My daughter introduced me to John Green novels a long time ago and I love them.
I’m a fan of memoirs and autobiographically-inspired books, one of my favorites being Mary Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You. Oh, and I cry when I read Shel Silverstein poems, because even “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too” is touching.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m always writing, because as I say so eloquently (ha!), “I can’t not.” I have my hands in a few pots right now - TV projects, kids’ animated series, and books.
I also co-founded www.thebroad.life, a site for women that covers the gamut, so I’m keeping that moving along. I just finished producing an animated short film with my daughter that she wrote. Working with her is a blast.
Q: Anything else we should know?
Q: As a debut author, I have found the reader and book blogger community to be so open and welcoming. The gratitude that I’ve felt for readers who have expressed their positive thoughts on The Seasonaires - the photos they post of the book in amazingly cool settings - it’s enormous. This is a new world for me and it’s a very friendly world. That gives me hope in general!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb