Jenny Jones interview

» Posted on Oct 10, 2007 in Blog | 2 comments

1. What made you start writing?
Every New Year’s Eve, God and I have a heart to heart. A few years ago I was sitting on my deck in the dark and remember telling God, “Whatever I’m doing isn’t working. Here’s my desire to be a writer—take it. But you have to give me something. If I wake up tomorrow with the random desire to be a vet or a circus clown, so be it. But fill that space with something.” A few months later I had a contract. I think for me, it was about surrender. I had always wanted to write, but things didn’t happen until I decided to write for Him.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I’ve been writing seriously since the summer of 2005. I’m a teacher though, so I’m surrounded by fiction daily. Like reasons not to have homework, why that spitball just flew across the room, that sort of thing. Great inspiration.

How I got published is a total God story. I had just decided to get serious about pursuing writing the summer before ACFW Conference in ’05. I have written all my life, but never with a driven purpose. So that summer I accepted the fact that nobody was going to show up on my door, ring my bell, and hand me a contract. I knew that if I really wanted to be published, I was going to have to get proactive. So I signed up for the ACFW conference and signed up for a critique with a published CBA author that I thought was most likely to “get me.” In the meantime, I rededicated my prayer time to include the Prayer of Jabez and changed my attitude and expectations. God was gonna do something big in my life.

Fast forward to the ACFW conference in 2005. I’m going there armed with nothing but anxiety, big hopes, and my work in progress, which weighed in at a whopping 20 pages. I didn’t sign up for editor or agent appointments, as I was advised not to since I didn’t have anything close to a completed manuscript. But I was completely prayed up and totally confident (which is so not me) that God was gonna move some mountains for me. I went into that conference with nothing but my giant, impossible expectations. On day two I had my critique with this author. She gave me some great advice and suggestions, then offered to contact NavPress and see if I could send them a proposal (which I didn’t even know what that was at the time!). On March 24 at 2:17 p.m. while driving down the Interstate 540 in Arkansas, I got the call from Nav and was offered a contract. I know the likelihood of that all happening is zero percent. I love that about God.

3. How do you handle rejections?
I tell my date, it’s okay. I understand you just want to be friends. Yes, I know—it’s not me, it’s you. Yes, I need space, too—good idea. …Oh, you meant in writing.

4. Why do you write?
Because I can’t play basketball.
When I was in school allll my friends played sports. I was the nerdy bookworm (I can’t remember why they hung out with me. I think I paid them in Hubba Bubba or something.) So I write because God gave me a different talent (though it certainly took a while for the cool factor to take effect.), and I decided to use it. Though my real spiritual gift is emailing. As soon as that market starts paying, I will be living the Cadillac life.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
Free time? I think I remember that… I think I’d be reading (I really miss reading). I’d be doing something fun, too, like taking lessons for a new instrument or learning how to salsa. I’d have a working knowledge of what’s going on on Grey’s Anatomy. And I’d probably fix my hair a little more often. : )

6. What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on a new YA series for Thomas Nelson. I’m really excited about it. But before that comes out, I have one more Katie Parker series book to be released. On the Loose just arrived on shelves, and this spring book three, The Big Picture will join it and wrap up the series.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
Don’t we all? Katie Parker, my teenage protagonist, is sarcastic like me. Another character, Mad Maxine, tends to blurt out the truth, like it or not. I have that habit occasionally. And I’ve definitely lived through some of the issues my characters see. Like the trauma of scary cafeteria food. As a teacher, I still do battle with that one.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.
On the Loose is the continuing story of Katie Parker, drama queen extraordinaire.
Here’s the blurb:
Six months into her stay with her foster parents, Katie Parker is finally adjusting to her new family. But after a tornado rips through the town of In Between, nothing is ever the same again. When her foster mom, Millie, is diagnosed with cancer, Katie begins to doubt if God really does care. What will happen to Katie? Could she possibly have to leave In Between and the family she’s come to depend on? Things spiral even further out of control when Katie juggles a science fair project, a malfunctioning best friend, spring break plans, and holding the attention of her own Prince Charming. It’s going to take more than a glass slipper and some fairy dust to fix Katie Parker’s problems. But will help come in time?

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Pray, pray, pray. Go to conferences. Read a lot. Join an organization like ACFW. Whatever your big dream is, whether it’s world champion tap dancer or author, pursue it with everything you’ve got.

10. How important is faith in your books?
It’s crucial. But the important thing is that it’s portrayed realistically, especially with teens who will see through your smoke screen in a second. I think it’s important to show the struggle of faith, the imperfection of our version of it. For example, a character’s every sin doesn’t have to have a consequence this side of heaven. I might say something snarky in a weak moment and never apologize and never see a consequence. I feel very strongly about not “prettying up” the Christian’s daily life. I mess up. And I don’t always self-correct, you know? But also I think story has to take the main stage. If I have a great spiritual message, will my reader care if it’s wrapped up in a weak plot? I want them to flip the pages because they are so wrapped up in my storyline. And God willing, when they put the book down, the spiritual message will have left an imprint or made them think. But story first.

11. What themes do you like to write about?
I don’t know about liking particular themes, but I like to take themes and show the light side. I’m not overly comfortable with wallowing in heavy topics for too long. I’m a big believer in humor to break it up, even when it’s something serious. In On the Loose, Katie is faced with the possibility of being removed from her home when her foster mother gets breast cancer. That’s not exactly funny stuff. So I enjoy going to those dark moments, then twisting it with some humor when you can’t take anymore (or when I can’t take anymore). I’m the same in my own life. It never fails, if I’m at a funeral, you can count on me to get tickled about something. Highly inappropriate, but I can only stay down for so many minutes.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?
I’ve only got three to choose from so far, but right now On the Loose, my current novel on the shelves is my favorite. I like how Katie evolves and how she comes into her own in so many ways. And she gets a romance storyline, as well. She and her crazy foster grandma were a lot of fun to write.

13. What is your writing schedule like?
In a word: chaotic. I work full time, so I write in the evenings. This usually involves a lot of sitting at the computer wishing I was watching Oprah, wondering what The Batchelor is up to, and regretting that I’m not dining out with friends. So things do get sacrificed. My schedule is more lenient in the first few months of a deadline, but it’s nuts the last few months. Unfortunately stress is a huge motivator for me, and I’m a procrastinator. It’s a horrible combination and will one day probably drive me to hard liquor. But in the last year I’ve sworn off working Sundays, and I really look forward to that rest. I love that there’s no guilt on Sunday, whereas if I decide to randomly take off from writing on a Wednesday for whatever reason, in the back of my mind I’m thinking of my abandoned computer.

2 Comments

  1. I read so many author interviews and I conduct my own. This one really resonated with me, maybe because I get the annual pow-wow with God (although lately it’s been much more frequent), I get the writing instead of basketball thing, coming from a family of athletes and really good singers, and I laughed at the dating vs. writing rejection thing.

    I also didn’t know that a writer could sign up for manuscript critiques at ACFW. I thought most conferences only offered editor/agent appointments. Another reason to put this one on my plan for next year.

    Thanks for a good interview.

  2. Patricia, the paid critiques (usually about 30 bucks? I can’t remember) are SO worth it. You send about 20 pages of the MS ahead of time, then during the conference, you sit down with the author for about 30 minutes and discuss it. It’s some of the best spent money at a conference. And some people sign up for two.

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