Q&A With Brenda Janowitz, ‘The Dinner Party’ Author

Like many folks, I have a family that bonds over food and big holiday dinners. But because it’s family, there’s always a side dish of dramatics that comes along with it. Dinner, family dynamics, acceptance, and forgiveness — it’s all there in The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz, a novel that invites you to be a guest at a poignant Passover Seder dinner. PopSugar recently published an exclusive excerpt of The Dinner Party and it’s got me excited for the book, which is due out on April 12th!
 
A former lawyer turned novelist, Brenda was one of my bosses when I worked at a Manhattan law school during my NYU undergrad days. We’d occasionally bond over loving to write and Brenda always encouraged me to keep writing. So it didn’t surprise me to find out a few years later that she had become a big-time author! 
 
To date, Brenda has written five novels and I’ve enjoyed them all: The hilarious Brooke Miller novels Scot on the Rocks and Jack With A Twist, Recipe for a Happy Life, The Broken Hearts Club, and now The Dinner PartyHer writing has also been published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Salon, the New York Post, Publisher’s Weekly, PopSugar, Mom.me, Hello Giggles, Writer’s Digest Magazine, WritersDigest.com, and xojane.
 
Brenda was nice enough to answer a few questions for her former employee about The Dinner Party and real-life dinner parties. Check out the book description and Q&A below!

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About The Dinner Party:

Appearance and status are very important to Sylvia Gold. She has high standards and always gets what she wants. So, when she learns her youngest daughter is not only dating a Rothschild, but is bringing him—and his parents—to Passover Seder, she’s so giddy she nearly faints. These are, after all, the same Rothschilds who have controlled banking for the last 200 years, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and have movies made about them.

Sylvia spares no expense in preparing, as making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who’ll be coming with her longtime beau, whom Sylvia disapproves, and his overly-dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won’t stop there. Because, despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family.

Long-forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go.

What is the inspiration behind The Dinner Party?

I wanted to write a book about letting go, and how only when we let go of the past can we move on with the future. I had this idea of centering a book around a big family holiday, and Passover seemed like the perfect metaphor for this—“Let my people go” and all that — so the idea for THE DINNER PARTY was born.

What do you hope readers take away from the novel?

First off, I always want to entertain. I want readers to take a break from their busy lives for a while, and immerse themselves in another world. The biggest compliment I ever got about one of my books was that a reader was so into the book, she’d missed her subway stop.

But on a deeper level, I want readers to think about family and their own relationships, too. Think about how we hold onto the past. About how that affects our lives.

What are your go-to snacks while writing?

I’m a big popcorn lover, so I’ve always got a bag of Skinny Pop at the ready. But I usually start my writing day the second I get the kids off the bus, so coffee is a must. And if some muffins happen to sneak in there, too, well, that’s not a bad thing.

What has been the best seder or dinner party you’ve been to and why? What has been the craziest seder or dinner party you’ve been to and why?

I have such fond memories of the Passover seders at my Grandma Dorothy’s house. We’d all dress up, eat her delicious food, and enjoy time with extended family, cousins and aunts and uncles we only got to see for holiday.

When it came time to host my own seder, I wanted to make one that was as perfect as the ones we’d spent at Grandma Dorothy’s house. But instead, five minutes after putting the brisket into the oven, I slipped and fell on some water and ended up in the ER all day with a concussion. My perfect seder never happened.

What is your favorite meal to cook and/or eat during a seder or dinner party?

I love making brisket, and now that I’ve found this fabulous recipe from The Pioneer Woman, it’s become a family staple for all holiday meals. I also have fond memories of my Grandma Dorothy’s mandelbread. And my kids now love the mandelbread that my mother-in-law makes—when she’s not in town for the family seder, she ships it up from Florida!

The Dinner Party is available for pre-order on Amazon. Be sure to follow Brenda Janowitz on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, and visit her official website.

Images Courtesy of Brenda Janowitz

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