Women and Adversity
March: Women’s History Month
Pam Jenoff, Historical novelist
I can’t let Women’s History Month pass without featuring women who write historical novels.
Pam Jenoff has written 17 books, some of them romances but most of them historical fiction concerning the Holocaust and Jewish issues. I met Jenoff in February when she gave a presentation and book signing at Silver Coast Winery in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. She was gracious enough to answer the two questions I ask women who have made a name for themselves as successful writers:
- What obstacles did you have to overcome when you decided to be a writer?
- What obstacles do you face now that you are a successful novelist?
First let’s learn a bit about Jenoff.
Pam Jenoff bio:
Born June 1, 1971 in Maryland
Grew up in New Jersey
Earned a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Earned a master’s degree in history from University of Cambridge in England
Earned a law degree from University of Pennsylvania Law School
Special assistant to the Secretary of the Army
Assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland in 1996
Developed an expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust
Worked on preservation of Auschwitz and restitution of Jewish property in Poland
Teaches legal writing and six other courses at Rutgers University in New Jersey
Lives in New Jersey
2007 – The Kommandant’s Girl, her first novel
16 novels later
2023 – Code Name Sapphire
Jenoff says her writing journey began in 1996 when she was a diplomat in Krakow. The U.S. government told her to write about war and Holocaust issues. “It changed me,” she says, and adds:
I came back 2 ½ years later and wanted to write a novel about my experiences there.
I went to law school and was hired at a large law firm in Philadelphia and started on September 4, 2001, a Tuesday.
One week later was 9/11. I call it my epiphany. I thought if I had died in 9/11, I wouldn’t have fulfilled my dream
of being a novelist. I took a night course at Temple University that was ‘Write Your Novel This Year.’ I started
The Kommandant’s Girl. It was not a hop, skip and jump. Eleven months after submission, it was accepted. It was 2005.
Jenoff says she continued practicing law to pay off her college debt but mornings would write from 5am to 7 am before going to work. She does all her own research.
Now for her answers to my questions.
What obstacles did you have to overcome when you decided to be a writer?
I had five years of rejections from 39 publishers, so it was a very long road to publication.
What obstacles do you face now that you are a successful novelist?
Time and pressure to keep doing well, but really it’s quite a joy.
“The only reason I got published is that I kept knocking at the door until somebody came in,” she says.
My ebooks available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com:
Honoring 23 Black Women, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists