From time to time we like to feature other authors here on the blog, to shed light on their author journey.
Today we have friend of the blog Jena C. Henry.
Pull up a chair.
DAN: What do you love most about the writing process?
JENA: I love the entire writing process: the dawning of a new idea, the days of listening to my characters, the editing and tidying, cover design, marketing, social media- I’m a kid again at a carnival with the all-day ride pass. But
what fascinates me the most are those moments when I am so engrossed in the story I no longer feel I am writing.
I feel like I am reading it.
– Jena C. Henry
The same sense of immersion, expectation, and delight that overcomes me when I am reading a book also washes over me as I am writing. Does this happen to you?
I’m all about immersion, and yeah, I definitely get lost in a story while writing it. Ask my editor. She’s like, what is this gibberish? Because I’ve sent her totally illegible stuff.
Do you remember the first story you read?
I’m not sure of the exact first story I read. I’ve been reading since the days of hieroglyphics. But I do remember a life-changing moment at my local public library when I was in the first or second grade. Again, I’m not exactly sure how old I was, but old enough for my Mom would drop me off and leave me while she did her errands. One of the young library helpers noticed I was having trouble finding new books to read. So, she led me from the little kids’ bookshelf to another shelf in a new room. She said these books had more chapters, which was good and intrigued me, but here come’s the life-changing part. She also told me many of the books were part of a series. I didn’t know what a series was, so she told me it was like Lassie on TV. I could read a new “show” about my favorite characters, one book after another. Life changing! Sue Barton, Student Nurse here I come! I’ve loved book series ever since.
Have you ever spent time with anyone famous? Was there any ransom involved?
In the course of my husband’s career, he introduced me to a few famous athletes, but I spend most of my time grocery shopping or cleaning out my closets, so I haven’t bumped into many luminaries, like Dan Alatorre, in either of those places. However, sometimes magic happens.
I shop, but I don’t wander into closets too often.
This past winter, we spent a month in Florida at a timeshare located by some snazzy hotels. At a happy hour by our favorite pool, the gang was all excited because they had spotted LeBron James and other Cleveland Cavaliers players. We are passionate Cav’s fans, so we were disappointed we had come so close to a sighting of The King. (“He’s so big!” they all exclaimed. Yep.) A few days later at happy hour (yes, again), the bartender tipped us off Marty Schottenheimer was staying at the timeshare.
Who is Marty Schottenheimer? He’s a former head coach of the Cleveland Browns. So, we were heartened to hear this and we kept an eye out for him. The next morning we headed to our favorite hot tub, and eased ourselves in for a good soak and some chats. We visited with a friendly couple that missed their dog, and we laughed with some kids as they chased the little lizards on the patio. An older man sloshed down the steps and said hello as he sank onto a bench. He looked familiar. I could feel the magic!
Was it LeBron James? Of course not. Marty Schottenheimer? Nope. It was…Marty’s brother. He was a friendly guy and we reminisced about the Brown’s with him. It turned out he had lived near us when he was involved with the team. Hot tubs are great icebreakers. Who knows who I’ll meet next winter in Florida?
Who influenced you the most growing up?
I don’t mean to ignore or downplay the importance of my parents, or teachers, or church family with my answer, but in addition to their love and guidance, there was someone else who woke me I was 12 years old. Up until then, my life had been quiet and simple. I did my chores, practiced the piano, played outside, jacks and hopscotch, and babysat my sister until one afternoon, I was jumpstarted with Technicolor passion and excitement. I met Scarlett O’Hara.
My Mom had taken me to the movie theater, one of the few times she ever did, to see a special showing of GWTW. Four hours of thrilling to the beautiful, passionate, spirited heroine as she took on her whole world showed me a completely different and more vibrant way to live.
I wanted to be beautiful, hold men in my thrall,
whatever that meant
be a successful business woman, and do whatever I wanted, including wearing a risqué red dress. I read Margaret Mitchell’s book, and I realized I could be more than Scarlett. I could be a famous author.
What was the last book you read?
I read and review piles of books. I finished JELL-O Girls: A Family History by Allie Rowbottom. I received an ARC and I was eager to read it. I’m sure many of us have memories of making JELL-O concoctions with our moms or kids. The book detailed the 120-year history of the company and the impact it had on the wealthy heirs of the JELL-O fortune. I enjoyed reading about the history of JELL-O and the lives and times of the women members of the family, but the book also attempted to show JELL-O is a curse on women, which I didn’t get. Isn’t there always room for JELL-O?
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure in fast food or junk food?
For a short time, my guilty pleasure was Taco Bell’s nacho fries- crispy on the outside, a soft and flavorful inside, perked up with Mexican spices. All for $1. But, alas, they were a limited edition.
What’s a favorite quote of anyone besides you, and one from you?
I have two favorite quotes. First, from Calvin Coolidge, which begins, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence…”
I LOVE THAT QUOTE!!
I like that he talks about unrewarded genius is almost a cliche, and that really made me open my eyes. You have to work for success.
Here’s a quote attributed to Wallis Simpson, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” (Both of which require persistence.)
Here’s a quote from my first book, The Golden Age of Charli-GPS:
“Wine saved my marriage.”
What’s the single most important quality in a novel; what must an author do to win you over?
Lyrical prose, exciting plot, memorable characters, a fresh look at a topic, splendid! But for me, I want more. I want more details. I adore specific facts, pinpoint descriptions, learning new words and having history brought to life.
If your heroine is a baker and owns a cute cafe, I want to know all about her recipes and ingredients and tools.
Please don’t say Emma put her pink cupcakes on a tray and then move on to the meet-cute. If your thriller has a spy hidden on a cargo freighter, it’s not enough to tell me it’s big, with huge metal boxes. I want to know all the deets of how the crew lives, what the schedule is, how they organize it all.
Entertain and inspire me, but also teach me and open the door to the specifics of your book’s world so I can move right in and marvel at everything. So I can linger, and enjoy and never want to leave.
What’s a good writing secret or time management secret?
I always write in my pajamas. I have my first cup of coffee while I read the news and check all my social media.
Then, I march to my desk and do my writing tasks for the day.
I stay in my jammies until I’m done, by lunchtime or a bit after, because that way I’m not tempted to dash away and do something else.
No walking the dog, puttering in the yard, trolling Target, or meeting friends until I’m finished. My brain is now trained- morning and jammies means work!
What is the working title of your next book?
Charli and the Golden Age of Aquarius. I’m delighted with my WIP.
What is the more important of these two: write drunk, edit sober?
Ok, while I do admit to enjoying happy hour, I am not a drunk. But, yes, I encourage everyone to pour a glass of wine or two fingers of scotch, or eat a bag of M& M’s or Peeps and write with joie de vivre (joie de livre?), a full out, devil-may-care, first day of summer vacation, sky-diving, over the falls in a barrel, wildness.
Pay someone else to edit and tame your work.
I am in the throes of a kitchen remodel. And to me, a remodel is like the editing phase of a book. I came up with all the kitchen ideas and what I wanted and envisioned to make my dream place, and then a professional “edited” and ripped everything out and put new cabinets, floor, appliances in. (Not a perfect metaphor, but kinda?)
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?
I had wanted to write a book for forty years. Five years ago, my husband suggested I might want to get started at some point.
That is too funny.
No rush, or pressure, just a friendly suggestion. Ok, why not? I decided to write something humorous, entertaining, and encouraging. My books are women’s fiction, at the intersection of happy and positive.
And how did your blog start?
After writing my first book in the series, I needed to build my author’s platform, right? So I started a blog and I adore writing it. I have blogged for almost three years now. At http://www.jenabooks.com I have a page for Jena’s Blog, which features a variety of posts: slice of life observations, book reviews, features about authors, and writing and social media tips. Another page is Jena’s Videos, where I show my video reviews, “Book…in a Minute!” And I have a Book Promotions page, where I accept blog tours and other book promotions. I’d love to connect with you at JenaBooks!
Jena, thanks so much for dropping by!
Gang, check out our friend Jena’s links below, and go say hello!