Special Feature/Interview: Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor

The Great Gatsby has long been the darling of the literary world, especially for just about every high school sophomore. For mer personally, I never liked Gatsby. I read it in high school like so many others and didn’t enjoy it. I re-read it as an adult and didn’t enjoy it any more then than I did as a teen. Now that said, I have enjoyed watching Gatsby or Gatsby inspired films. I feel like the visual appeal of the roaring 20’s really enhances the literary experience for me.

While I might not have enjoyed the book, I have loved the film versions of the classic. And I am usually open to reading Gatsby inspired books or retellings. It’s one of those classics that I feel like I should have loved but just didn’t so I am always trying to find ways in which I can experience the classic but in a medium or format that I might actually enjoy if that makes sense.

That leads me to this exciting new book, Beautiful Little Fools! I am so excited for a new and exciting take on the classic that includes a female perspective and a murder mystery. I am super excited to share my interview wit the author with you guys as well. She has some wonderful insight into the writing process and I can’t wait for you to read it! The book will be available in February but has already been receiving rave early reviews. I have it up on my spring TBR list and will be sharing a review a little later this year. But until then take a look at all the details and check out my interview with the author below!

Summary

USA Today bestselling author Jillian Cantor reimagines and expands on the literary classic The Great Gatsby in this atmospheric historical novel with echoes of Big Little Lies, told in three women’s alternating voices.

On a sultry August day in 1922, Jay Gatsby is shot dead in his West Egg swimming pool. To the police, it appears to be an open-and-shut case of murder/suicide when the body of George Wilson, a local mechanic, is found in the woods nearby.

Then a diamond hairpin is discovered in the bushes by the pool, and three women fall under suspicion. Each holds a key that can unlock the truth to the mysterious life and death of this enigmatic millionaire. 

Daisy Buchanan once thought she might marry Gatsby—before her family was torn apart by an unspeakable tragedy that sent her into the arms of the philandering Tom Buchanan.

Jordan Baker, Daisy’s best friend, guards a secret that derailed her promising golf career and threatens to ruin her friendship with Daisy as well.

Catherine McCoy, a suffragette, fights for women’s freedom and independence, and especially for her sister, Myrtle Wilson, who’s trapped in a terrible marriage.

Their stories unfold in the years leading up to that fateful summer of 1922, when all three of their lives are on the brink of unraveling. Each woman is pulled deeper into Jay Gatsby’s romantic obsession, with devastating consequences for all of them.

Jillian Cantor revisits the glittering Jazz Age world of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, retelling this timeless American classic from the women’s perspective. Beautiful Little Fools is a quintessential tale of money and power, marriage and friendship, love and desire, and ultimately the murder of a man tormented by the past and driven by a destructive longing that can never be fulfilled. (summary from Goodreads)

Interview

1. How old were you when you read The Great Gatsby? What did you love about it and how many times have you read it since the first time? I was in high school when I read it for the first time so around 15 or 16. I loved that it was so beautifully written but also had so much drama – affairs and murders and all the glitz of the Roaring 20s. I was also always interested in the choice Fitzgerald made to narrate the novel from Nick’s (the outsider’s) point of view.

I reread The Great Gatsby again in college for a class. I kept my college copy and I’ve come back to reread it every few years since. I reread it three times while writing Beautiful Little Fools, too! Once before I started, once after writing the first draft, and once before I reviewed the copy edits. 

2.     Who is your favorite character in The Great Gatsby and why? Who is your least favorite and why? Jordan Baker has always been my favorite. She doesn’t say all that much in the original novel, but I always felt she had so much going on beneath the surface. She’s a woman, playing in golf tournaments in the early 1920s, and there was a rumor of a cheating scandal. I was fascinated by her. 

My least favorite is Tom, who is truly pretty awful. He not only cheats on his wife but also punches his mistress, Myrtle, in the face. I’ve disliked him since I first read that scene in The Great Gatsby where he makes Myrtle’s nose bleed. 

3.     Your upcoming book is told from a female perspective (which I am so excited for by the way!) what new insight or perspective do you hope readers will get from this POV? The women have a much different view of the events of the summer of 1922 than Nick did, and my novel is a much more feminist perspective for sure. In Beautiful Little Fools, the women are in charge of their own destinies and the narrative.

4.     Can you talk a little about the research process for Beautiful Little Fools? What did you think was the most daunting research wise? What was the easiest? As I mentioned, I reread The Great Gatsby several times, trying to make sure I got the timeline and all the little details right from the original novel. I also watched every movie version ever made, as well as reading about the Roaring 20s, Prohibition, and the suffragette movement (which Catherine is a part of in my novel). There are many scenes in Beautiful Little Fools that are inspired by a line or two in the original Gatsby, so figuring out all those pieces at first was a little daunting. But I love The Great Gatsby, so it was also really fun to reread and analyze it this way.

5.     Reimagining classic literary novels can surely be intimidating, were there times in your writing that you felt nervous about the ultimate outcome? I had so much fun writing this book that all I felt when I was writing was joy. This was really the most I’ve ever enjoyed the process of writing a book. Have I been nervous about the reaction now as it’s about to come out into the world? Yes, of course. But that honestly didn’t occur to me while I was writing!

6.     Were there times in the writing that you felt the original novel and original characters were limited or constricted within the original context of the classic, that became problematic in Beautiful Little Fools? If so how did you work through that? The original is narrated by Nick, and thus everything we know is filtered through his gaze. I felt that differences in my novel could be attributed to seeing things from different perspectives. Nick thought events happened a certain way and that Daisy or Jordan felt a certain way, but when the women were narrating everything would look completely different. I think shifting points of view gave me a lot of leeway in terms of reimagining even the same events as from the original. 

7.     Beautiful Little Fools sounds like one part murder mystery one part classic. Which was the easiest to write for you? The murder mystery was very fun, and though I don’t normally outline before I write a book, I did outline this plot beforehand. The outline was hard to get right, but once I had the whole plot sketched out, the writing came easily. 

8.     If you could time travel back to 1922 and live there would you? Why or why not? No, definitely not. Women had just gotten the right to vote, but in many ways, still did not have the autonomy that we have today. Also, I wouldn’t want to live during Prohibition. I enjoy having my legal glass of wine. J

9.     What do you feel is the most glamorous part of the roaring 20’s? Tell us a little about some of your favorite things of that time period. In the early 1920s they were really celebrating the end of the 1918-1919 flu pandemic and the end of the first world war. They’d come out of this terrible time, and I think the glamour came from the sense of freedom and celebration that followed. I love the flapper dresses and headpieces! And the sense that everything was so colorful and bright — Jay Gatsby’s yellow car has always stuck with me.

10. Last question that I ask every author, who is your literary crush? George Knightley from Emma by Jane Austen has always been my favorite – even better than Mr. Darcy.

About the Author

Jillian Cantor is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of eleven novels for teens and adults, which have been chosen for LibraryReads, Indie Next, Amazon Best of the Month, and have been translated into 13 languages. Jillian’s next historical novel for adults, BEAUTIFUL LITTLE FOOLS, will be published in February 2022. Born and raised in a suburb of Philadelphia, Cantor currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

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