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Sunday, 25 July 2010

Interview with J.F. Jenkins

J.F.Jenkins is a writer from Minneapolis, engaged in writing fantasy for a number of years. Her work on site consists of a mixture of finished pieces  and work in progress and is currently published only on her blog. She is a wife and mother and fits her writing around caring for husband and child.

SA: Tell us about Legend of the Oceina Dragon in a few sentences.
JFJ: Darien Oceina is the youngest son of the Great Dragon Lord, and well, a dragon. Falling in love is hard enough, but falling in love with a girl that he's forced into marriage who hates his guts? That's even harder. Trying to make that marriage work in the middle of a great war: near impossible.
SA: What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?
JFJ: Drive, definitely a lot of drive and passion for it.  Without either one, it turns more into a chore, and when your heart isn't into it, that's the difference between a good story and a great story.
SA: What is your working method?
JFJ: I give myself goals that I want to achieve monthly, weekly, and daily.  I make sure to set the time I need aside to achieve these goals.  Most of the time I get really close, but fall short, but I'm getting better at hitting them dead on!
SA: What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing?
JFJ: Expecting that their work is going to be flawless right away and then not being able to take a critique.  It's hard to hear negative feedback sometimes - especially when so many people are keen on ripping things to shreds these days, but instead of quitting because of it those negative words should be used to fuel the fire even more.  Writing takes time and patience and a lot of revision/polishing.
SA: How did you come to write this particular book?
JFJ: I had a very inspiring dream about the plot, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to share the story with everyone else!
SA: If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?
JFJ: I would have to say Darien, and that's simply because getting into his mind is always so interesting.  He's got a lot going on, and he has a lot to learn about life.  It's been interesting exploring his naivety and and watching as he grows up and discovers reality.
SA: How can people buy your book(s)?
JFJ: All of my books are currently free and online at:  It's a temporary home until I can get my own domain.
SA: To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?
JFJ: If you're going to be a writer, you need to know how to do it.  I don't think anyone is perfect at the mechanics of it, but it's good to at least try your best.  When you know all of the rules, that's when you can break them intentionally if need be.
SA: How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?
JFJ: A pretty solid chunk of it.  Since I'm not traditionally published, I need to make sure that it is looking its best!
SA: Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices?
JFJ: A fictional, alternate, version of this earth and it's set in around the same time as now.  I wanted to create a unique world, but make it modern and familiar at the same time.
SA: To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?
JFJ: I think it's useful in that it helps readers find the kind of books that they want to read.  Without genre's it'd be hard to find what you're looking for exactly on the shelves.  The problem with genre is that people make a lot of unnecessary rules sometimes.
SA: What are your writing habits?
JFJ: I'm not sure I have any actual habits.  I open up my computer, find the file that I'm working on, and have at it!
SA: How do you know where to begin any given story?
JFJ: I usually have to go with a gut feeling.  Starting is the hardest part for me, but once I get going, things just flow.
SA: What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?
JFJ: Taking care of my son who's a toddler, playing video games, watching television, working my part-time job, my husband needing me for one thing or another, and my various hobbies on the internet. 
SA: Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?
JFJ: Most of my support comes from my friends.  I have a small circle of fellow authors online who read my work and cheer me on when I need it.  I get support with the family as well.  My husband is my #2 resource whenever I need to know something.
SA: How long does it normally take you to write a novel?
JFJ: I can usually get one out in about 6 months or a year depending on how busy I am and how much I actually devote to it.
SA: What are your inspirations?
JFJ: Reading other author's is always a big inspiration.  Whether the book is good or bad, it always helps to see what other people are doing!  I listen to a lot of music, driving/sleeping/showering is where I get most of my great ideas from, and I have a lot of dreams that usually have amazing plotlines in them.
SA: If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?
JFJ: The importance of being traditionally published.  I've had so many people tell me how they're a failure because they can't get a query accepted by an agent and so they don't see their book published on the bookstore shelves.  To me, being a writer is about sharing a story because you feel it's important to share.  If you do this through an agent, or through a website, or even through a handwritten story in a notebook, and you love writing with your very being, THAT is what makes you a writer.  A successful writer too!  If you have one true fan, then you have successfully shared your story that you were made to tell. 
SA: Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?
JFJ: I think it's a little bit of both.  I think some people are more natural at storytelling than others.  If you listen to different people when they're telling stories verbally, some have more of a knack to engage the listener than others and that transfers to writing as well.  I think you can aquire the skill though through reading, taking classes, and talking to other people who write, as well as time and patience to practice it.
SA: What are you writing now?
JFJ: Currently I'm finishing up a spinoff story to my novel, working on another alternate universe type of story, and getting ready to work on a book that I may actually query traditionally instead of publish via the web!
SA: Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?
JFJ: Going back and looking at what I wrote, and forgetting that I wrote it, and just really enjoying it.
SA: Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?
JFJ: it's free and there's plenty to read.  I also have a twitter account if anyone wants to get to know me.
SA: Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?
JFJ: A place that lets me write without having to be disturbed by other people, and that blocks the websites that distract me from actually working.
SA:  Where do you actually write?
Most of the time it's in my living room, sitting in the laz-e-boy while the little guy runs around and plays with Dora the Explorer in the background.  Otherwise it's in the same spot but replace the little guy with the husband, and Dora with the XBox.  I'm in desperate need of an office that has air conditioning.

Word of the Day is divorced from the blog that precedes it and produced in response to a request from a follower to provide just such a service.
Word of the Day; tension – stress caused by anxiety, conflict induced by some need, suppressed excitement. ‘When Peter entered the boardroom wearing only a tie and pointing a large revolver, the tension around the table was palpable.’

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