Sunday, October 11, 2015

Author interview with Jen Crane

Please start by telling us a little about yourself (education, jobs, significant other, children, pets, etc.)

I grew up on a working cattle ranch in the Southern U.S., but fell in love with science fiction and fantasy early on. I have a master’s degree and worked for the U.S. Congress for about seven years. My most recent desk job was as director of a large nonprofit that helped adults learn to read, write, and speak English better. I have a brilliant and supportive husband who is a full partner in this parenting thing, which we struggle at each and every day. Three children, ages two to eight and one cat who rules us all.

Tell us about your latest New Adult book and what inspired you to write it. 

This is my first book—new adult or otherwise. I’ve always had a lot of love, and perhaps a small gift, for writing. On the occasion of my 35th birthday, I resolved that: A) I wasn’t getting any younger. B) Life would likely never slow down and the “right” time to write wouldn’t just present itself, and C) I was going to have to make becoming an author happen, if it was going to. And so I worked out with my family a trial period to write; to do this thing that had called to me for so long.

For my first book, I wanted to write something that I’d like to read. I have maybe thirty book ideas driving around in my head. Rare Form is the first one I allowed off the exit ramp. It has driven me to new heights, it’s driven me to deeper self reflection and discipline, and it’s driven me to drink. But by the time we reached the end of our journey, this book and I, we were in love. Rare Form is the first in a new adult fantasy romance series with a little something for everyone. It has action and adventure, romance, magic, suspense, whipsmart girl talk….and dragons. I really think you’ll love it.

The New Adult genre is fairly new. What's your definition of it? How does it differ from Young Adult or just regular Adult books?

New Adult means that time in a person’s life when they come of age. When they put aside childish things (for the most part), and take that next big step in their lives. New Adult is about changes, challenges. New Adult romance is about finding love or happiness while finding oneself.

Do you belong to any critique groups and/or do you have other people read your work as you're writing it? Who's brutally honest and who's a cheerleader? Which do you prefer?

One of the best things I ever did was join my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. There I found people like me but smarter, more experienced, and some of them even nice enough to offer their advice and assistance.  Two people within this group beta read my books. One is a thorough line editor who catches bad habits. The other focuses on the storyline, the characters. A separate colleague, whom someone in the group recommended to me, also beta reads—very quickly. All three of these critique partners are brutally honest, and I encourage them to be so. I do not need cheerleaders; my mother can fill that role. What I need in a critique is…critiquing.

What are your all-time favorite authors/books?

Wow. Where to start? I’ll narrow this down in the interest of your readers. The classics are what inspired my love of books. I could (and have) read Jane Austen and Mark Twain over and again. And yes, I know what he said about Austen, but isn’t it curious how he continually re-read her books so he could hate them all over again?  I love Maya Angelou, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, William Faulkner, Louis L’Amour and Zane Gray (thanks, Dad), William Goldman (The Princess Bride), Diana Gabaldon, Sylvia Day, Kresley Cole, Karen M. Moning, and George R. R. Martin.

Do you outline before you write or just dive head-first into a manuscript? Do you maintain a schedule for writing, or is it more haphazard?

I am definitely a plotter. Certainly, my books develop organically as I go along, but for the most part, I have a plan and I try to stick to it. I do have a schedule, and that’s necessitated by my personal life. Because I have three children, my writing time is typically limited to Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. If I have a deadline, or if I’m feeling particularly inspired, I may sneak off for a few hours on the weekend, or stay up late. I do typically work on weeknights after the children go to bed to do social media or other chores like this questionnaire. J

Where do you do your best writing? (Ex: desk in your office, public library, under a tree in the park, in front of a Real Housewives TV marathon, etc.) Do you like music or some other background noise, or do you need quiet?

I think I do my best writing away from the house. Sadly, the house is where I do most of my writing. When I edit, the chapters I feel are most inspired are those written while away at a writers’ retreat, or a few stolen hours at the public library. Mostly, I write with no music. The television is never on. Sometimes I may listen to instrumental music—this typically when I’m writing a fight scene or something. I love Pandora’s film score channel. Lots of Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, Braveheart, Narnia, Debussy, that sort of thing.

What are the best and worst parts of writing a book?

For me, the best part of writing a book has been that I’VE WRITTEN A BOOK. It was my goal, and I did it. I’m proud of the product, and myself.
The worst part is probably the editing. It’s sometimes painful, frequently unsuccessful, and always time-consuming.

When you're driving and you have a sudden, brilliant idea for the new manuscript you're working on, what do you do? (Ex: pull over and fire up the laptop, keep driving while scribbling on a McDonald's bag, tell Siri, etc.)

If I’m driving and I have a brilliant idea, I’ll typically let it play in my mind—try to flesh the idea out while it’s still hot. All too often, I get the beginnings of a great idea and let it get cold. It works best if I fan the flame and then let it smolder for a while. I’ll make a note on my phone once I’ve gone through this process, and that way I’ll know what the note means when I read it later.

Imagine you have a whole day free for shopping. Where do you go? (Mall, unique boutiques, flea market, antique shops, bookstore, home improvement store, etc.)

I LOVE estate sales and flea markets. I like antique shops if they’re reasonably priced. I take real pride in being the ultimate bargain shopper, and find I value my little previously-loved treasures far beyond the small price I haggled for them.

What are the top 5 titles in your Netflix queue? (Be honest.) Or if you don't have a Netflix queue, which books are on your bedside table? (Again, be honest.)

A bunch of kids’ crap! You really think I have time for TV? Ha! I did look at my queue in order to give you an honest answer, and after skipping over—no kidding—50 entries on my list, I did find these adult selections: House of Cards, Walking Dead, Underworld, Lost Girl, and Like Water for Chocolate. There. You happy? I’m not. I’m depressed. I really need some TV time. Though I will say that I NEVER miss a Game of Thrones episode. Ever.

Do you prefer to read ebooks or print?

I really love ebooks. I miss print books a little, and love to have one in my hands at the beach. But with my family life and schedule, the only time I can find to read are stolen moments when I put a baby to sleep, or sitting in the car waiting to pick up someone from school. Most of my reading is done on my iPhone with a Kindle app. No kidding.

Where is your favorite place in the world?

My favorite place in the world is Florence, Italy. I went three years ago, and would go back in a heartbeat. The whole town, its history, its architecture, food, people—everything screamed “create” to me.

Do you have any advice for people who want to write a book?

My best advice to a new writer would be to read everything you can get your hands on. Educate yourself on genres, publishing, marketing. You’ll need every bit of information you can find, and then some. Writing a book is tough; publishing is maybe tougher. Be prepared to wait a while, to perfect your craft, and to try again. Always, always keep writing. That first book is a learning process. Once it’s behind you, you won’t believe the difference in your skill and knowledge.
Oh! And join a writing group. You’ll need help, and you’ll need encouragement. Groups are a great place to find both.

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