Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from a Press Club of Southwest Florida Newsletter from May 2008 written by Virginia Saalman. For us to move forward we must remember where we have been. On This Date is a fun way for NPC members to find out about the Press Club of Southwest Florida’s past.
Janet Evanovich is as funny and perky as her fictional heroine Stephanie Plum, and she kept the sold-out crowd at our annual celebrity author’s luncheon at Vergina’s on April 5 laughing and clapping with her quick wit. Several days earlier, I interviewed Janet by phone. She willingly spoke to this Scooper until I was fresh out of questions, something that doesn’t often happen…
Scoop: How did you choose Naples to live in most of the year?
JE: Naples is now my legal residence. We have owned a place in Port Royal for three years. Originally it was the cold and we would come down for couple of months. We did that for the first year. We came down the East Coast and I didn’t like anything I saw. We visited several places, Palm Beach, Sarasota, and Miami. When we drove into Naples, I liked what I saw and said, “Find a Realtor.”
Scoop: Now that you’ve been hear and are almost a native, what are your favorite haunts and things to do?
JE: The more I’m here, the more I love it for the same reasons that attracted us. Naples is a town; it has stuff. New Hampshire doesn’t have stuff. We have deer, moose, foxes, but no stuff. Naples is a town where people look like they’re happy and most everyone is here because they want to be.
Scoop: Now that you’ve discovered all that “stuff,” which do you enjoy most?
JE: We do everything: The beach, the dining, the pier, getting muffins at Tony’s in the morning, Fifth Avenue at night.
Scoop: You picked a special place to live. What makes it so special to you?
JE: I love my neighborhood because it’s safe, private, and I don’t have to be gated. I ride my bike, my husband plays tennis.
Janet quickly added that neither she nor her husband plays golf but they do have two little boats… a Scout boat (a flats boat) and a 22-foot Grady White. “We are in them all the time,” she said. “We are just tourists. We go cruising up and down the canals snooping in everyone’s back yard. We go back in the mangroves and picnic in Rookery Bay.”
“And,” she added, “If anyone thinks Port Royal is stuffy, I’m here to tell you it isn’t, because this year a friend of ours came up from the Keys and we won the Port Royal sand castle contest. We built Homer Simpson in his underwear… with a beer in his hand.”
Scoop: I understand you and your husband have date night two or three nights a week. Do you have a special dining spot in Naples?
JE: Yes, the best secret in Naples is Escargot 41 in the K-Mart Plaza. Who would go to fine dining in the K-Mart Plaza? I love it. You can go get a Martha Stewart laundry basket and then get the best meal possible. These cute little French people run this restaurant. Tommy Bahama’s is another favorite; we’re there all the time. We have bets to see who can eat the Tommy Bahama pudding. Nobody will take a bet from me. We bet everyone else that we will give them $100 if they will finish that pudding. Nobody has been able to do it but nobody will bet me.
Scoop: Has Naples appeared in any of the Plum series?
JE: No, except I did two books with a NASCAR tie-in. In fact, they drove a boat right into Port Royal and I made some nasty cracks about realtors.
Scoop: Tell me about Alex.
JE: Alex is my daughter who lives here and who manages my website. My son is my financial officer and he just bought a house here so we’re a whole Naples family. When it comes to the fans, we’re all in this together.
Scoop: If you weren’t a successful author, what would you want to be?
JE: I would want to be a mom. I was 43 when I first published. I was a stay-at-home mom and that was my most creative work. If I weren’t a writer, I would want to be a mom and wife we’d continue to have our date nights.
Scoop: The Press Club sponsors several scholarships to high school students who are interested in writing as a career. If you could give them advice, what would it be?
JE: Anything that is important to you, you don’t give up on. If you succeed immediately, yahoo! If not, you keep working. I was unpublished for 10 years. That’s just the way it is. Have humility; respect for the audience, immerse yourself in life and record experiences in your head. Listen to people and just don’t look at them. That’s what it is all about … people. The good people eventually have good things happen to them. I’ll never get invited on to Oprah. I don’t write about the hideous things in the world. If I do, I write about humor. I go every day into that positive glass is half full. That’s where my readers go.
Scoop: Since you started traveling on tour, has anything happened that wasn’t funny at all?
JE: One thing sticks in my mind. When you first get started your publisher sends you on tour and he doesn’t spend much money on you and you find yourself eating off plastic trays, sitting in airports in the early morning. It’s a depressing experience and no one wants to buy your book. This particular time, I was in Los Angeles and my publisher had splurged mostly because traffic was so hideous and had gotten us a limo. We had a 6:30 signing. They give you this poster that you carry around. Alex and I get in this limo and we have our poster and they pull up to this mystery book store and it looks worse than normal and this store is closed and so I knock on the door and the owner opens the door and he said, “I told them I didn’t want to do this signing… nobody came and my wife is waiting.” So he closed the door.
So we’re standing there. So we put our poster in the trunk and kept that limo. We told him to take us to Melrose and he followed us down the street like we were rich people. We went to all of these funky places. He followed us store to store to store … this big stretch limo. I ride in limos a lot now and you get to a point where you don’t like it because you get carsick and you call attention to yourself. This was my first limo, you understand. We thought we were so hot. We kept this limo all night and ended up at a bakery and I got about $67 worth of cakes which I charged to my publisher, of course. We got a cake for the driver and he ended up dropping us off at a tiki bar at one of the large hotels. It was the worst and best night of my life.