- Please tell us a little about yourself.
Hiya! I’m the world’s worst conversationalist, but I make pretty good pie, so although I may not be capable of much more than smiling and nodding, I bring an offering to break the ice.
- What do you write (genre, length)?
A little of everything! I’m inspired by so many books and styles of writing, I can’t limit myself to one area of concentration. I started writing flash fiction because the challenge to condense a story into a tiny package with huge impact was irresistible.
As a quiet person, trying to be interesting in short bursts is basically my life. But I wanted to be a novelist since I was wee, so in 2014 I decided to give that a go. Writing long form is so freeing because you have room to stretch.
- What is/are your current project/s? Please give us some details.
I’m polishing my first manuscript—dystopian suspense—for the 947th time, hoping to take the next step with it in a couple weeks.
I’m also chipping away at a sci-fi novel about time travel and addiction that I’ve had on the back-burner for over a year. As much as I love editing and revisions, I’m impatient to start writing free-form again.
In between, I work on essays and short fiction, and I’m slowly revising select pieces for a collection.
- Who (author or otherwise) or what book inspired you to write?
I can’t think of specific names or titles, but I remember as a youngster, I was fascinated by beautiful language. I wanted to create memorable prose the way some kids are drawn to music or dance.
- What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
a) Never stop learning. Once you find a tribe of perfecto betas, viewing them as collaborators rather than critics helps a lot. They help turn your story into a greater version of itself, so hang on to them like grim death, and always show your appreciation.
b) Always date your drafts, your handwritten notes, everything. Let me pause while I blot my tears.
- What do you do for a living?
I’m the assistant to the dean and office manager at a university library, which is ideal for a writer, especially when one is lucky enough to hold the master key. Having a place to hide and write no matter the time of day, and having all manner of research at my fingertips, is like living a fantasy. However, I often wonder what my life would have been like if I’d pursued medicine. I could never settle on a specific occupation so I moved on from the field, but it lingers in the back of my mind.
- Who is/are your favorite author(s)?
Gah! This question is always the hardest. I’ve read very few more than once, so I’ll nail it down to the ones I have: Jeanette Winterson, Ian Rankin, and Cynthia Voight.
- What is/are your favorite book(s)?
I could take up all your time just on this question, so I’ll make it quick(ish): Housekeeping (Robinson), Lighthousekeeping (Winterson), and Atticus (Hansen) are three that should be distributed at birth. Let me also throw in: Ghana Must Go (Selasi), Albert of Adelaide (Anderson), The Dinner (Koch), A Solitary Blue (Voigt), Knots and Crosses (Rankin), The Havana Room (Harrison), The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir (Marzano-Lesnevich), and despite my itchy fingers I’ll stop there.
- What’s the best compliment someone can give you as an author?
A friend wrote out of the blue to tell me they admired my style, and my husband, when I fretted over which stories to submit for a fellowship, immediately recalled my first short story. That my writing had such an impact—in both cases, years after reading—blew me away.
- What is the strangest/most interesting/coolest/weirdest/scariest thing you’ve had to research for a book or short story?
Researching Chicago was one of the most daunting. I live here, and despite all my efforts, a local publisher still called me out on some bloopers. Even after revising, Impostor Syndrome tells me I should just apologize in advance.
- What is the most difficult part of writing for you? Why?
Uncertainty. All writerly advice conflicts with each other. You’re judged more harshly as a newb. Agents and publishers rarely tell you why you’re rejected. You could have the best betas, spend years tweaking and polishing and honing your craft, and one tweetstorm sends your career down the toilet; or (worse?) after all that effort, your work never makes a sound.
- What is your favorite genre to read? Why?
This doesn’t count as a genre, but I’m always impressed with stories that do a lot with a little. I don’t need a bunch of bells and whistles; silence that feels like a sonic boom haunts me more than a thousand battles and messy relationships. I also tip my hat to authors who break the rules newbs are instructed never to question.
- What are some little known facts about you? Hobbies, talents, anything?
I was goaded into getting my LPN in high school (thanks, Mom). I had no interest in becoming a nurse until my advisors realized I would no longer have time for gym; then they couldn’t get me into that stiff uniform fast enough. Turns out nursing wasn’t my bag (nyah nyah, Mom) so I went to cooking school to earn a degree in baking and pastry, a logical next step. And now I work in a library. Natch.
The truth: I was so terrified of public speaking, I shied away from earning an MFA. I also didn’t start writing seriously until 2013, thanks to the aforementioned Imposter Syndrome. Obviously I’m a born author; only writers can master this level of avoidance and procrastination.
- Do you like physical books, ebooks, or audiobooks better? Why?
I read on the train to and from work (or at least I did, before the plague), so I much prefer paperbacks. They’re lighter and no one will rob you for one. eBooks make me antsy, because I can’t tell where the end is. I can’t concentrate on audiobooks unless a favorite swoony actor is reading, and then I can’t concentrate on the story. That’s especially true while driving; and if you’re not listening while driving, what do you do with your hands?
Find Jennifer at the links below!