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"I think it’s empowering to wake up in the morning and say, 'I’m going to do my best today and that’s enough. My best is enough!'"
This past midterm election season saw the most women candidates running for office ever. In Charlotte Walsh Likes To Win, author Jo Piazza's most recent novel, we find a character thrown in the middle of such a race, faced with the question of how far she is willing to push boundaries in order to get what she wants. Tensions arise within the campaign as well as her personal life as Charlotte Walsh runs for office in her Pennsylvanian hometown. As secrets come out, she is forced to make a decision that feels emblematic of the sacrifices with which women running for office are too often faced.
Jo spoke about this novel with us, including how it was influenced by real life news stories as well as the process of making well-rounded, balanced characters. Read on to find out about the future of Charlotte Walsh, too!
How did you become interested in writing?
I don’t remember not being interested in writing. I created story books starting at age 4!
You write fiction and non-fiction books. Do you find that your process for writing them differs at all as you move between genres? What about your subject matter?
The process is really similar. I approach my fiction like non fiction. For Charlotte Walsh I interviewed more than 100 women running or who had run for office. I think I flex my journalism skills a lot in my fiction.
My writing process is also always the same. I write between 2,000 and 4,000 words a day every day no matter what. I really believe writing is a muscle that you have to keep working on.
Your latest novel is Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win. Tell us a little bit about what inspired this book.
I wanted to craft a strong ambitious woman heroine running for office because we don’t see enough of them and it’s important for there to be more role models in fiction if we want to get a woman elected to office in real life.
This novel struggles with this idea of women "having it all". Do you think it is empowering for women to strive to be the best in all walks of life, or do you think it is putting too much pressure on people?
Too much damn pressure! No one can succeed at having it all. It’s not possible and we put such unhealthy expectations on ourselves to do that.
I think it’s empowering to wake up in the morning and say, “I’m going to do my best today and that’s enough. My best is enough!”
The namesake of the novel is running for office, in great part as a response to the current political administration. How do you think her story mirrors those of the record-breaking number of women actually running for office this midterm season?
I knew Charlotte Walsh was going to be timely but I didn’t know how I let. Charlotte reflects our reality in a very important way. Her stories are real stories of women running for office in real life, the actual struggles, joys and fears.
I also feel like there is a question of humanity in this book, of how far we can push it in achieving our goals. Did you consider this at all when writing? Do you think there is an answer to this question?
It would have been very easy to write Charlotte as fan fiction. To write a book where she’s a woman candidate so she’s fucking perfect. I didn’t want to do that. It was important not to do that. Charlotte is human and flawed and great and terrible just like we all are. We hold women candidates to such a different standard than we do male candidates that I needed to give this fictional female candidate the chance to be human.
What is coming up next for you?
I’m writing a new novel and working on getting Charlotte Walsh turned into a TV show!
Rachel A.G. Gilman is the Creator/Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Creature.