A chick-lit pioneer enters a new stage in writing

There’s no place Jane Green would rather be than at her Westport home, the beloved retreat near the beach where she lives with her husband and their blended family of six children.

That’s usually where she can be found, unless she’s tapping away at one of her best-selling novels at The Writers’ Room, a creative community center that’s snugly housed in a red clapboard building right in the heart of town. Otherwise, the author and passionate foodie is most likely to be in her kitchen, whipping up cheese straws, chicken kebabs, stuffed figs or other delicacies. Or she might be happily puttering in the garden, tending to her latest obsession – raising flocks of chickens.

“I’m actually quite a hermit,” Green says with a laugh. “The older I get, the more deeply introverted I become.”

That warm, homey vibe saturates Green’s novels, drawing millions of readers who have described her work as the literary equivalent of being curled up in front of a fire, wrapped in a cozy blanket.

“I’m sort of a person who gravitates toward squishy sofas and soft fabrics and comfort and coziness,” she adds. “So I think it’s no coincidence that comes across in my writing.”

Yet she also tackles the problems that face – and can empower – real women, delving into topics that usually chart the course of her own life, even if the stories themselves aren’t autobiographical.

Originally from London, Green made an immediate splash in the U.K. while in her 20s with “Straight Talking” and “Jemima J,” about single girls in the city looking for Mr. Right. By her 30s, she’d moved to America and progressed to marriage and motherhood (“The Other Woman,” “Swapping Lives”). And now that she’s in her 40s, Green has graduated to more mature but still relatable themes – divorce, remarriage and stepchildren (“Promises to Keep,” “Another Piece of My Heart”). Those later books somewhat mirror her own recent experiences: After her first marriage ended, Green found romance again with private investor/consultant Ian Warburg. The two had met several times at parties thrown by mutual friends, but they reconnected when she answered a Craigslist ad to rent a tiny cottage from him for her and her children.

“Within a couple of months, I had fallen completely in love with living by the beach, and shortly thereafter, fallen completely in love with my landlord, who is now my husband,” she says.

And with her 15th book, “Tempting Fate,” out this month, Green addresses adultery and the female midlife crisis. It’s an emotional look inside the life of Gabby, who is still in love with her husband of 20 years but feeling middle-aged and restless. Her impulsive decision to have an affair with a younger man fills her with regret and worry, since that betrayal could destroy her world.

Green has written about infidelity before, but it was always the man doing the cheating. This time, she decided to flip the script, curious to explore how a woman in a happy marriage could make such a disastrous mistake. The inspiration came after several acquaintances announced that they were leaving their husbands for men whom they believed were their soul mates. Within a year, however, Green says they’d all split up and the women’s lives were in shambles. At the same time, she confesses to receiving a few flirty emails herself from a young man she’d met at a book festival.

“It was hugely flattering and great fun to receive these emails, but I started to realize how this could happen,” she says. “It isn’t about (women) being unhappy. It’s not about them looking to have an affair. But when you’re a certain age, if somebody comes along and starts to pay you attention, that can become very seductive.”

Green agrees that her fiction has changed greatly since she started out. In 1996, she quit her job as a feature writer for the Daily Express newspaper in England, giving herself three months to complete a book. “It was insane,” she says. “I cannot believe I did that now.”

The gamble worked though. There was a bidding war for her first two novels, which launched her as a queen of the then-emerging chick-lit genre, along with fellow Brit Helen Fielding, who created the Bridget Jones character.

But as Green moved beyond the singleton stage, so did her books. Her writing process changed tremendously, too. In the beginning, she says she would submit a first draft with few revisions. Then in 2009, with the publication of “Dune Road,” Green experienced a sales slump for the first time – and that made her rethink her approach. She shifted to a new editor and publisher, Jennifer Enderlin at St. Martin’s Press, who pushes Green to rewrite each work again and again.

“She has made me fall in love with writing again,” she says. “I actually really love seeing how the book changes and seeing how much better it can be.”

So with Green now contracted to write two books a year, she’s always doing research for her latest volume. Luckily, that usually doesn’t involve venturing too far from Westport.

“My research literally just involves talking to my friends and talking to friends of theirs,” she says. “I’m just fascinated by people and what they do, and why they do it and how it turns out. I do my research through living.”

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