Tuesday, 28 June 2011

INTERVIEW: Jenn Bennett

Here at Falcata Times, we love to bring you an author's debut whenever possible. Originally we heard about Jenn from Blog Friend Suzanne McLeod, who let us know that this lady was one to watch.

So without futher ado we give you to (or throw to the wolves or in the case of her protagonist, demons) if you prefer) Jenn Bennett who chats to us about classic Horror film references, hot bartenders and about getting to do what you love...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Jenn Bennett: "Affliction" is pretty dead-on. I come from a creative background, having studied art/painting in college and grad school. Painting was always something I wanted to do; I enjoyed it, was good at it, but when I wasn't painting, it didn't bother me. When I'm not writing, I go a little insane. Okay, a *lot* insane.

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

JB: Two years ago, I was working in creative development for a mid-sized American company, and I was utterly miserable. During lunch with my coworkers, my boss asked us all what we'd be doing if we weren't working there --- our dream job. "Author" popped out of my mouth before I could think about it too much. A few months later I wrote my first novel.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

JB: I've never written short fiction. Does that make me less cool? Probably. I have a few ideas for novellas, but I'm not sure if I'd want to write something shorter than that. It seems too . . . restrictive.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

JB: I would most likely try to woo them with humor. Urban fantasy tends to sound rather silly when you try to explain it to strangers . . .

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

JB: The "official" 20-word sell from my publisher would be this:
A magician and daughter of accused serial killers must clear their names—or pay for their crimes with her life.

However, my personal (overly excited) version would be this:
Occult societies! Earthbound demons in human bodies! Ceremonial magick! Tiki bars! A Hellfire Club! Classic horror movie references! Unconventional romance!

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

JB: Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series is an auto-buy for me, but I'll always, always get Diana Gabaldon books on the day they release because I'm addicted to her characters and they feel like old friends.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

JB: I've been both a Plotter and a Seat-of-my-Pantser. The more I write, the less I prefer to start with an outline. I find the story to be more exciting when I allow myself to be spontaneous. Knowing the main characters, setting, and a general idea of how I want it to end is enough for me. However, at a certain point in the middle of the book, I start making a roadmap that takes me a few chapters ahead. Nothing strict --- just something to help me keep track of loose threads.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

JB: My favorite way to relax is treating myself to acupuncture; I'm a big fan of being stuck with tiny needles. If I could afford it, I'd get it done weekly. But I also like to cook and play with my pugs, go to movies…typical stuff. As far as what I've read recently, I'm always reading. Every day. I'm currently reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I recently re-read several F. Scott Fitzgerald books, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, and the latest copy of Bon Appetite magazine. I'm all over the place as a reader.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

JB: Sitting in the reserved handicap seats in the movie theatre. I would never sit there if a disabled person needed them, mind you, but they're usually empty and they have lots of room to stretch out.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

JB: I have two dogs: purebred pugs. They are a huge burden and super-bad, and half the time I wish I could buy them bus tickets to Mexico and never see them again. But then they do something adorable and I'm a sucker. I'm not sure if any of my characters possess their traits or not…possibly a character named Jupiter, who is the teenage son of my book's hero.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

JB: That would be Jupiter again. He's 14, geeky, chatty, and cocky. That's a bad combination, but he pulls it off. After I wrote the book from my protagonist's POV, Arcadia, I almost wished I would've written it from Jupiter's. Maybe one day I'll get to write a teen series with him as the hero. That would be a blast.

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

JB: Arcadia keeps a lot of secrets. I think that's about the only thing we have in common. If I was a hot bartender living in coastal California who could make magical elixirs and summon demons, I wouldn't be a writer, that's for sure.

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

JB: As I've already mentioned, I'm an artist, so there's that. I also have a collector's mentality, so I like to shop for curios and vintage finds in antique shops and flea markets. I cook (rather well) and I'm very interested in food science and experimentation. I like to travel, and have a soft spot for All Things Scandinavian, because my mother's family is from Sweden, and Germany, because that's where I was born. I like museums and aquariums and amusement parks, and I used to spend a lot of time going to concerts but I'm getting old and cranky about standing for long periods of time, and I detest inhaling stale cigarette smoke. I think all of my interests weave their way into my books in one capacity or another.

FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

JB: Everywhere. Anything is fodder for writing.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

JB: Never from a lack of things to write about, or a lack of ideas. The only thing that stops me from writing is a lack of confidence in what I'm doing. I can write half a book and think it's the best thing in the world, then hit a point where I consider tossing it and starting something new. It often takes multiple pep-talks from my husband to get me to change my mind and get back on track.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

JB: Ideally, I prefer to write from midnight to nine in the morning --- which I often do when I'm trying to finish a project. But it's hard to stay on that schedule when the rest of the world is living in daylight. My husband works in the day, but he's very tolerant of my kooky schedules.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

JB: I cannot listen to music and write --- period. I need quiet or I'm distracted. I listen to music in my car or on my iPod when I'm not writing, and I have very eclectic tastes.

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

JB: The biggest misconception I had was that things would get magically get easier once I had a publishing contract. Wrong! Now I have a whole new set of things to worry over, people to please, battles to fight. Publishing is a strange business and it moves slower than a snail. If you are an impatient person who doesn't like being in the dark about details of your career, publishing is not for you.

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

JB: Dear God, I have no idea! Writing is a solitary act, and I think the only thing it feeds is a writer's ego, which is invariably enormous, no matter how humble and nice they seem.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

JB: The second book in the Arcadia Bell series is called Summoning the Night, and it comes out April 2012. It takes place a few weeks after the events of the first book, and centers on something horrible and creepy happening around Halloween.

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

JB: An etymology dictionary, amazon.com, an online Hermetic library, a site about blasting rock with explosives to create monuments (research for the book I'm currently writing), and Twitter.

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

JB: I think I took some general creative writing classes in college, but nothing intensive, and it was too long ago to remember. I mainly learned by trial and error and reading good books. I filled in the details by absorbing any information I could find on blogs about the craft written by literary agents, editors, and other writers.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

JB: Sheer tenaciousness. All creative people face rejection, but the rejection that aspiring authors face is like nothing I'd ever experienced. It's a tough, tough business, and you've got to be willing to look at your work objectively and realize that sometimes you're just going to screw up and fail. You can either dust yourself off and try again, or you can stop writing. (And if you can stop, you're probably better off doing something else anyway; I couldn't stop.)

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

JB: Best: getting to do what you love. Worst: not being able to eat at expensive restaurants anymore.

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