Guest Post: The Making of The Dinner Party

I spent extra time seasoning the asparagus, and put veritable love into my neat, almost mosaic arrangement of garlic cloves on the filets of sole. I stirred simmering pots with patience, and folded napkins elegantly. All the while I clicked back and forth across my kitchen floor, wearing four-inch Manolo Blahniks, balancing the slender neck of my wine glass between my forefinger and thumb. All this--for what, exactly? A dinner party for my oldest friend and her hubby, before we had mortgages, before we had mouths to feed other than our own, before we reached our thirtieth birthdays. Except for him. He was thirty-four. Maybe that’s why he thought he knew more than the rest of us. Why he thought he could waltz to the table, insert a forkful of fish into his mouth, and spew out, “it needs more salt.”

Just like that, my hard work flew right out the window and splattered onto East 65th Street. I was furious—at him for his feckless affront, and at her, for refusing to keep her pit-bull on a tighter leash. But what could I do? I was the hostess, after all. I was raised with a decent degree of manners for a New Yorker—a Brooklyn girl, at that. Would I whine about it the following week in therapy? Waste precious minutes and out-of-network dollars on sole and the soulless? Silly, no! I would write a novel instead.

And so, The Dinner Party, began to gestate. For nearly five years. While in real life, I recovered from my bad review pretty quickly, and signed a lasting peace with my food-critic friend (at least in matters of the kitchen), I decided that the tense dynamic between friends and their significant others could be a launching pad for something—perhaps, the story of friends, spouses, and lovers unraveling, with a dinner party as the catalyst.

After workshopping, revising, rewriting, editing, stagnating, wasting time, almost giving up, suddenly editing again and querying agents, and finally, discovering self-publishing, I was ready to take the plunge, upload my work to Kindle and Create Space, and begin to sell my debut novel, The Dinner Party on It isn’t perfect. No book is—there is always something an author can look back on and want to change, take out completely, or rearrange. Yes, there’s a typo (or three), much to my chagrin. But if Simon and Schuster can let a comma fall by the wayside, can’t Jenny Ladner Brenner?

The Dinner Party is light, laugh-out-loud chick-lit, and is intended to radiate fun. The positive feedback has given me a rush like no other, and I feel grateful that many readers have not only liked the book, but have taken the time to tell me.  Writing a novel taught me a valuable lesson—whether it’s fish or fiction— there will be good reviews and kinda-psycho-scary ones. I try my best to appreciate both (with emphasis on try) and who knows? Maybe an online-hater will guest star as my next novel’s villain…

Synopsis of The Dinner Party:

Sometime back in seventh grade, Lainie and Miya pinky swore to attend the same college, snag gorgeous husbands, and live next door to one another for the rest of their lives. But is post-grad life ever what one imagines? Lainie Silver is twenty-eight, attractive, razor-sharp, and is nonetheless trapped in a mind-numbing job and a romantic slump. Sure, she’s thankful for a steady paycheck, a Fifth Avenue address, and minimal sagging of tenuous body parts. But it doesn’t seem fair that Miya managed to wangle a glamorous career as a celebrity make-up artist and a “perfect” marriage to Jake, a chef at The Union Square Café. Both are unbearable reminders of the novel Lainie can’t seem to write and the elusive love she craves. After hosting a tense dinner party (and throwing back one too many cocktails), Lainie succumbs to bitterness and bad judgment when Jake shows up at her apartment. Though Lainie can’t stand him, this minor detail doesn’t matter in the drunken haze of seduction. Eight minutes later, after mediocre sex and a hard look at the philanderer passed out on her couch, Lainie knows that her friendship—potentially her entire life—will never be the same. Determined to keep her secret, with guilty angst and acerbic wit as her must-have accessories, Lainie tries to resume so-called normalcy. This proves more difficult than she thought: she gets fired for taking too long a lunch, settles into the comfort of a boring relationship only to be cheated on when she least expects it, has a fender bender with her first love on the Long Island Expressway, and realizes she is wildly attracted to her new boss, Noah. Against the warnings of Miya and her nagging mother, Lainie nestles in to Noah’s world of custom suits and imported cars. She even lets him in on her one-night stand with Jake. She never (ok—hardly) suspects he could one day be the cause of all their undoing...

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