Gryffindor Books: Thanks for agreeing to do this with me!
Jennifer: No problem! Thanks for requesting the interview. I’m always glad to meet new people and talk about books.
Gryffindor Books: Who or what got you into reading?
Jennifer: My mom. She would read to me when I was very young and taught me how to read at the age of two and a half. She would read to me before bed and I kept asking her to read me Ernie’s Window over and over. Another favorite I had was Goodnight Moon. Later, as I got older my grandmother was a large influence as well. She always took me to the library with her and it was, and still is one of my favorite places to be. I surpassed a lot of the other kids in my grade in that area because it was all I wanted to do if there was free time. I actually still have a picture from third grade of me and some other kids reading under our desks at school.
Gryffindor Books: When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?
Jennifer: It wasn’t so much a realization but a thing that I was already doing and have been doing since I can remember. I was always good at embellishing the details when I told things to people. I always wanted it sound more interesting or fantastical than what really happened because then people wanted to hear more or paid more attention to what I was saying. At slumber parties, I was the go to girl for scary stories at night when the parents went to sleep and we all had our sleeping bags in a big circle on the floor with the flashlight. I’ve always been a story teller and am pretty good at making up something on the spot. I also used to write a lot of poetry and still do on occasion. I hope to one day publish a book of poetry in the future.
Gryffindor Books: What does your writing process look like?? Do you need to be in a certain place? Do you have music you write to? Is there a drink you must have while writing?
Jennifer: Unlike a lot of people who write I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants. A scene for a story will come to me during a dream, or even in the middle of the day if I am watching something on TV or listening to music, at work, or out for a walk with my dog. I immediately start writing while it’s there and save the scene for later when more of them start to filter in. Once I have them all down I started the process of connecting all the dots and putting them in order. Sort of like a word puzzle. I always carry a notebook with me for this purpose. I can be anywhere and get inspiration, but what I have found is that it’s not something you can force. Most Authors must have an outline for each chapter as well as for the whole book. I am more free spirited and have to let it come to me on its own parameters. If I force myself to certain constraints I, then feel like the writing isn’t as real or meaningful. Getting the first draft of the full manuscript completed is one of the hardest things to do. There are days when I sit in front my keyboard and nothing will come to me. Sometimes this can be frustrating but it’s a process that takes time and when rushed can result in an unsatisfactory outcome. When I can’t write, I read. It always helps. The next steps are editing and formatting which I consider the easy parts because you are just remolding what is already there. The editing process can be a lengthy one but is very important and helps the most in producing a final manuscript that is pure perfection. There are several grammar errors in the first publication of my book which I didn’t catch and being so new to this process wasn’t something I knew to look for on my own. Sometimes you have to live and learn, which why I am re-editing the first manuscript for republication without all the grammar errors and will include a sneak peak of book two in the August Barton series.
I can be anywhere and write. My favorite places are coffee shops and café lounges. I’m most comfortable at my desk at home but it’s nice to get out and about occasionally after weeks spent in the writing cave.
Yes, I love listening to music while I’m writing it helps set the tone of a certain story, depending on the song and helps block out everything else around me. For The Tribulations of August Barton, for example I listened to the song Something To Believe in by A Silent Film over and over because I felt it was totally Augie’s song. I got more of a sense of who he was and it still makes me think of him when I listen to it.
I try not to have too many things at my desk while I’m writing because I get easily distracted. I am a huge coffee drinker so depending on the time of day coffee is a must. I also love hot tea and lemon water. I try to avoid soda if I can.
Gryffindor Books: Which format do you prefer reading books in? Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook or eBook?
It’s funny you asked that because I like all three for different reasons.
eBooks- Save space and you can carry all your books with you everywhere without overloading your purse. I also read them faster than a physical book. They aren’t the same as holding a real book in your hands though.
Paperbacks-I absolutely love big floppy paperbacks. They are easy to hold while reading and I’m not constantly aware of ruining a dust jacket or scuffing the book. The covers for these though are not as durable as a hardcover.
Hardcovers-I like to read hardcovers but I usually take the dust jackets off so I don’t ruin them. I think these are the kinds of books that make a bookshelf look pretty. They aren’t my personal favorite though. They’re big and bulky and I much prefer a paperback book to a hardcover book if I can help it.
Audiobooks- I really loved audio books as a kid because they essentially taught to me how to read better and how to pronounce words that I didn’t know how to. They helped me understand the tone and get into the story better. I would always get the cassette tapes form the library and then follow along with the physical book. I still listen to them here and there on occasion without the physical book. Some of them are great and others don’t grab my attention as well. It really depends on the narrator. The thing that bothers me with these though, is that a lot of them don’t follow the wording in the books to a T. They would sometimes skip around or leave sections out. I hate that, because it feels like you are missing parts of the story. I don’t listen to audio books very much anymore but I do like them. My audio book for The Tribulations of August Barton is currently in production and will be available on Audible soon.
Gryffindor Books: If you could have dinner with one author who would it be and why?
Jennifer: Only one? Not all of them? Haha okay well that’s a tough one because I love and have been inspired by so many that it’s hard to just pick one.
I would say it’s a tie between R.L. Stine, Lois Lowry, and J.T. Ellison because these are the books that I grew up reading and that sparked a fire in me from an early age that never went away.
I read almost all of R. L. Stine’s books when I was young and I enjoyed all of them. He knows how to scare you with a story without overdoing it. To me his books where mysterious and frightening and I couldn’t get enough. I would just like a good conversation with such a great story-teller.
The Giver by Lois Lowry is such a great book. It’s the very first dystopian book I have ever read and at first I didn’t know what to think when I asked for help finding a good book at the library and the nice lady behind the children’s desk picked this out for me. I still remember what she looked like and I wish I knew her name so I could thank her for introducing me to this book. It got the gears turning in my brain and was mysterious but in a different way than Goosebumps or Fear Street. It was one of the very first books that made me think a lot. I would want to ask her what inspired that book and get some writing advice.
J.T. Ellison is the author of the Taylor Jackson series which I absolutely loved. It’s one of the first crime mystery series I have read and I plan on re-reading them all soon. I emailed her when I first thought about publishing a book and I asked her what I could do and what advice she could give me. She said read. Read anything and everything. Read books close your idea and always be aware of new books coming out. So, I do and I am. I would like to ask her what working in that field was like because she had an interesting job working with a police dept. before becoming a writer. Writers draw inspiration from real life experiences and I would like to ask her about ones that she’s had that inspired her books.
Gryffindor Books: When you were growing up which fictional characters did you look up to?
Jennifer: Matilda, I loved that movie so much. When I found out that it was a book when I was younger I just had to get my hands on it. I loved it even more than the movie even though I watched the movie first. Harriet the Spy was also great. (Is my 90’s showing? LOL) I absolutely loved Sailor Moon to a fault. She is still my favorite anime hero of all time.
Gryffindor Books: What advice would you give to a reader who wanted to become a writer?
Jennifer: Talk to other authors if you can and connect with the writing community, whether it be local or reaching out online. Having the support of other people in the same boat helped me immensely through this process. I met up with a local author from my hometown after contacting her and asking her to meet with me. We are now good friends. If I hadn’t met her my book would still be sitting in a folder on Google Drive unfinished. The knowledge and advice of other readers, writers, and authors is invaluable whether it’s good or bad. Everything helps so learn as much as you can. Do research on self-publishing and traditional publishing and most importantly READ! To become a good writer, you must first become a good reader.
Gryffindor Books: Please tell us a little about your books and your characters! How many books do you have published and how many are part of a series!
Jennifer: I currently have one book that I self-published, which is my debut novella titled The Tribulations of August Barton.
This is a coming of age story about a boy named Augie who suffers from social anxiety and panic attacks. He’s got enough on his plate with moving to college and settling in with his new roommate, but on top of that his parents are divorcing, his roommate thinks he’s the biggest nerd in existence and his grandmother Gertie, A retired prostitute, has once again escaped her nursing home. Augie just wants to be invisible and hole up in his dorm room with his textbooks and Star Wars collectables, but his grandma has other plans and what ensues is a grand adventure of self-growth. Reconnecting with his family, finding his first love, and knowing what it truly means to have friends.
A lot of books I have read in the same genre tend to stick to the same old sixteen-year-old girl main character who’s story is basically an afterschool special. I wanted to create something different within the same genre and shake it up a bit.
I wanted to create a likeable, yet flawed character that almost anyone could relate to. With Gertie, it was the complete opposite. She’s loud, she’s outrageous and has no shame in her game. While not everyone can relate to her the same way as Augie she is still loveable in her own way.
Augie is a figment of the inner me and a lot of what he goes through in this book are things loosely related to what I experienced growing up but at an earlier age than Augie. I also felt a special connection to my grandmother. Much like Augie does in the book with Gertie. In a lot of ways, I connected more with her than with my own mother, and despite this I was still very close to both of them.
It is the first book in the August Barton series for which I currently have four books planned and possibly more in the future. I am currently writing the second book titled The Revelations of August Barton. Release date is TBA.
I have several books for different genres also planned for the future, so be sure to check out my author links here to stay updated.
Gryffindor Books: How do we get signed copies of your books?
Jennifer: Signed Copies of my book can be ordered on my new website under the books tab in the menu bar. –authorjenleblanc.com/books