Skip to main content


April 10, 2009

Talking with Kate Jacobs

Posted by carol
Today we have a Q&A with Kate Jacobs, the author of Comfort Food, The Friday Night Knitting Club and its sequel, Knit Too, who talks with some 40 book clubs every month. She reveals how chats have differed depending on what sections of the country book clubs are in, what she has discovered about the camaraderie of reading groups...and whether she minds if readers knit during discussions of her novels. You've talked with hundreds of reading groups about your three novels. What do you enjoy most about interacting with book clubs?

Kate Jacobs:
About forty clubs each and every month --- that's how many I call. That's a lot of women when you think that clubs can often have 10 or even 20 members. And I love how we have an opportunity to make that personal connection, even find common experiences. I'm very open about my life and that I think of myself as a Canadian-born New Yorker who just happens to live in the Southern California suburbs with her husband and dog. I learn so much from book groups, about what aspects of the story resonated most or more personal anecdotes about their joys and struggles. Though the chitchat depends on the group; sometimes I hear "you remind me of my daughter!" and they give me sage advice on how to make my husband pick up his socks; other times I chat with women who are in their thirties as I am, and we share many of the same cultural references. We typically end up laughing a lot. Clubs are similar --- the power of women coming together --- and yet each is unique. It's a wonderful treat to be able to talk to so many different groups from all over.

RGG: Why do you think your stories have struck such a chord with book clubs? What themes and topics do they particularly like to discuss from your novels?

My books treat women's friendship as a relationship that is just as important as family relationships, as romances. Friendship is deserving of attention and exploration --- and so we often talk about their friendships and how their groups formed. The manner in which the characters connect can sometimes mirror how these real women come together; that brings in a personal aspect. I also write a lot about career --- especially in Comfort Food --- and about how hard it is to be understood when you are a smart, strong woman. Sometimes during book clubs we talk about the lure of reconnecting with old friends, as Cat and Georgia do in The Friday Night Knitting Club. In fact, several readers have shared how reading that book inspired them to contact friends they hadn't spoken to in 10, 20, even 30 years! One reader told me that Comfort Food made her realize that waiting too long can make you miss life's chances. For any writer, it is moving to know that your words have affected another person. It means so much.

RGG: All of your books explore the importance of women's friendships. What have you discovered about the camaraderie of reading groups and what they have to offer beyond book discussions?

I think we're all overwhelmed with the work-life juggle. I know I am! I always write "take a nap" on my to-do list, but somehow that's the one thing that rarely happens. It's hard to get away from what you "have to do" and find time for a little of what you "want to do." Reading groups provide a place to get together and be yourself --- not somebody's boss, not somebody's employee, not somebody's wife, not somebody's mother --- but just you. That inner person who thinks and has ideas and loves to laugh and could also use a little support from other women who are dealing with the same issues. Absolutely, the readers talk about the books in detail. They explore themes, they disagree about plot points and they differ in their favorite characters. But they also talk about real life, and they see each other through the ups and downs of life. Eventually, when you meet with the same group on a regular basis, you all grow to know each other well. And that provides a comfort all its own.

RGG: You've mentioned that your chats with clubs can differ depending on what region of the country they're in. What can you tell us about this?

It intrigues me how our regional differences come across not just in our accents, but in topic. Clubs in the South always want to talk about what the characters eat --- or what special dishes they have made for club --- and they frequently invite me to stay at their homes when I do book signings nearby. I'm not joking! They are truly that welcoming. Midwestern clubs often give me a weather report before we begin talking --- it's snowy today, sun came out, and so on. Now, I'm originally from Canada, and all Canadians begin conversations with a discussion of the weather, so this strikes me as quite normal. But it's consistent, and that's what really gets my attention. New Yorkers? I love New Yorkers. Straight to the point, and they don't mince words. They let me know any time a character does something they don't agree with --- and they also are effusive in their praise. When they like a book, they love a book, and they cheer me on all the way. Quite frankly, all of the clubs I telephone are terrific: I'm delighted to have a chance to thank them personally for reading my novels. And they kindly let me into their lives for a little bit, and that's a generous gift.

RGG: Knitting is a key theme in your books. Does this come up as a topic when you meet with groups? Have any of the women in the groups been knitting during your meetings?

Women knit everywhere --- so it's no surprise that they knit during reading groups and during book signings. And I wouldn't have it any other way! A reader once asked me if I minded that she did her knitting while I spoke; I told her that if no one was knitting in the crowd I would wonder if I'd gone to the wrong place! Some book clubs have learned to knit together after reading The Friday Night Knitting Club and Knit Two; others have simply learned to appreciate a passion of one of their members.

RGG: What one or two especially memorable book club moments can you share with us?

Recently, I called a group and the hostess answered the phone and announced, "This is Kate Jacobs" because she had wanted it to be a surprise. Well, one of the club members shouted, "I know that's Marie. It sounds just like her! Pretending to be the author..." and grumbling so on and so forth. So there I was, insisting I was really me, and for several moments no one --- other than the hostess, with whom I'd been emailing --- believed it. That was pretty funny. We had a huge laugh once I'd convinced them it was me on the phone!