Welcome, Jenn J McLeod. I’m in jeopardy of appearing jejune with this guest. She jettisons the norm and juices up her answers, so expect your muse to be jiggled and jerked as I ask her to answer all thirteen of my proposed questions. Quite a job, but Ms McLeod gives us joy, judgement and judicious appraisal of who she is and how she came to be where she is today. She’s the jet set of debut authors, in my opinion.
(I’m slightly dizzy voicing all those alliterations aloud - do not try it without supervision!)
Take it away, Jenn:
1. Are there cowboys or country manors in any of your stories?
With a title like House for all Seasons, I’d better have a house in there somewhere. Mine is called the Dandelion House. Its unique setting on the outskirts of a fictional town (Calingarry Crossing) and the rather eccentric owner (Gypsy) was the source of many a scary slumber party story for my four female characters when they were teenagers growing up in Calingarry Crossing. It’s the unexpected inheritance of the Dandelion House that brings the four estranged friends back to their hometown twenty years later to stay a season each at the century-old property.
“Hometown” and “Dandelion House” - that’s country manor enough for me. You passed my test, Jenn!
2. Will you tell us about yourself and what genre(s) you love writing?
About me? Those with a penchant for watching paint dry might find my author biography (among other fascinating facts and general pearls of wisdom – not!) on my website. www.jennjmcleod.com
I’m very happy talking about my books though. The business likes to label my stories contemporary Australian fiction (or women’s fiction). They are small town stories about coming home and the country roots that run deep. House for all Seasons is about a country house, surrounded by the past, and the four friends who discover small towns can keep big secrets.
3. What writing project did you put aside to answer these questions?
Project Procrastination – otherwise known as promotion and other social media activities that an author must work into their days. It’s no longer enough for a writer to write a good story. Authors today need to connect with readers because readers want to connect with authors – and they can on any number of social media platforms. I tend to have a love/hate relationship with places like Facebook and Twitter. I love that they help me connect with readers but loathe Facebook’s constant striving for world domination!!
4. Are you fun to go on holiday with?
Nope! I’m not even fun to live with. I’m in a constant writer mode, which means family members have no choice but to talk to the back of my head as I type away, lost in my own world with my fictional friends.
My vision of Jenn's suitcase when she's forced to leave her writerly abode for longer than a day!
5. What are books for?
The answer to this is a phased one:
1. Initially they help you escape the everyday.
2. Then they collect dust.
3. Finally they deliver that devastating dilemma of what to do with boxes of the darn things when it comes time to sell up to make life fit in that Winnebago (the next dream in the planning stages). So I am going to have to switch to Kindle books in preparation for that day.
6. Will you name one entity that you feel supported you (in your writing endeavours) outside of family members?
The RWA Bootcamp program than ran back in 2009. A writing course that used online chat rooms to give ten aspiring authors access to published authors as teachers/mentors—and all over one intense weekend. A Rachael Bailey innovation.
7. Do you see writing as a career?
I sure hope so! Simon & Schuster contracted two books (House for all Seasons – out now - and The Simmering Season, due out March 2014). I have four novels in my Seasons Collection and my hope is to sell two more before I get that Winnebago so I can visit different towns to find inspiration for new stories.
Over half way, Jenn - have a sip of your minted, lemony cocktail ... Better? Off you go.
8. What was the hardest part of writing House for all Seasons?
Realising after the first rough draft of some 50,000 words that I had sent my four characters off to an isolated house for a season each ON THEIR OWN! Oh for goodness sake! What was I thinking? Nice initial concept on paper, but solitary confinement hardly makes for engaging dialogue. Luckily the way forward came to me. I enjoyed the challenge and loved hearing my publisher describe the story’s structure as ‘brave for a debut novelist’. Yes, she had me at ‘brave’!
9. Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?
Actually, Kaye Forsyth says it better than I could in this blog post: Seven Things You Can Do to Help A Starving Author. (Okay, so we may not be starving, but we sure don’t do it for the money!)
Basically, Kate says - Buy, Read, and then Share—not the physical book, but your enjoyment of it so others may also buy it. (*hint, hint*) So Tell, Tweet, Facebook, visit the author’s blog, etc. and Authors always appreciate reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads (and I will always contact a reader reviewer to say thank you).
See what I mean? Judgement and judicious appraisal from Jenn - as promised.
10. What kind of research do you do for your stories?
Enough to avoid inaccuracies or offending a profession. I was delighted today actually. I went for my annual check up and my GP said how much she loved House for all Seasons – especially the country doctor bit, as she had been a small town doctor for years. Pretty happy with that feedback. Oh, and my vet (well, my dog’s vet) also vetted – pardon the pun – parts of the book.
I’m overusing alliteration - what’s a tiny, one-off pun between writers? And make note, readers: if you purchase House for All Seasons for Kindle as opposed to the hardcopy - make sure you hit the ‘back’ button when Kindle takes you instantly to Chapter One, and read Jenn’s acknowledgement, then this in-talk will all make sense.
11. Who would you like to play you in a stage production about your life, and why?
These questions totally stump me so I admit to Googling in search of an answer. My search term: “Actresses age 50 +”. To refine the search I (naturally) chose a link that added the word “ATTRACTIVE”. (Who wouldn’t?)
From those results I found a favourite - Ashley Judd. Tall, dark-haired, down to earth, a little head strong – if not feisty at times. She sure can handle herself in any situation and always succeeds in the end. Her movie Double Jeopardy is a favourite. She really kicks butt!
I didn’t expect anyone to answer this question so 10/10 for doing so! (Smart writers do smart research, no matter the subject in question, and don’t Jenn and Ashley both ‘shine’?)
12. What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview and how would you answer it?
Q: Who would I like to play me in a stage production about my life, and why?
A: See above :)
If Ashley’s not available, I would be honoured to take on the role of playing you in a stage production about your life. I can supply my own costumes, but we might need to pay for a dedicated make-up artist if I have to glow like Ashley.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your current story to life?
Believing in myself: an average, aging, wanna-be author with no academic qualifications, no degree in creative writing—no idea basically. But I knew I had to write. I just needed to find the person who would love the result. The day Larissa Edwards (Simon & Schuster) rang and said she’d left a high tea function with friends to go home so she could finish reading House for all Seasons I knew my House had found a home.
I am also fortunate to have a plotting partner who drags me out of deep holes of plotting depression where I can get stuck—kind of like a scratched record just goes around and around and can’t move on until it gets a nudge. (I realise I probably lost a whole generation of readers who have no idea what a record is, let alone a scratched one!)
She did it! All thirteen questions answered with honesty, humour and inspiration. She bravely went where aspiring authors need to go - and got there! Best kind of writer.
I know what a record is, Jenn (vinyl, vintage, valuable to those who still own them), and in answering my question number thirteen (that dreaded number), you’ve shown all aspiring writers - regardless of age - how perseverance, love of the job and absolute dedication (because of love of the job) gets a person “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.
Thirteen-schmirteen. Jenn J McLeod loves a challenge! That’s my kinda cowgirl. Thank you for knocking on my country manor door.
Click on any of the links in this interview to find and follow Jenn J McLeod
after I wave her off at my blue door.
As always, Jennie recommends readers purchase (or pre-order) the titles of their dreams and support the writers who have taken the time to answer these questions. Writing is hard work and not for the faint-hearted - but so joyful for the reader. What would we do without books (and writers)?
Feel free to leave a pleasant comment, we’d love to hear from you!
Jennie & Jenn
(We sound like a double-act, don’t we?)
PS Last SaturdayI brought you an author on a motorbike, this Saturday I brought you a wanna-be who made it and next week my adorable guest will be bringing along her cow.
(And we'll be back to the writer's choice of answering six questions from the dreaded thirteen.)
"We may not have everything in life we want but at least we can have it all in a book." ~ Jennie Jones