Author Interview with Jayne Denker
August 15, 2014 1 Comment
Author Interview with Jayne Denker
This month I bring you an interview with contemporary author Jayne Denker.
So let’s begin…
1. Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and what genre do you write?
I’m originally from Rochester, NY, in the western part of the state. Because I went to college in the Catskills and then Boston, I have spent most of my life patiently repeating, “No, I’m not from New York City. No, I can’t go there for lunch–it’s an eight-hour drive. No, I’m actually closer to Canada than Manhattan…” Etc. I returned to the area a couple of decades ago after a misguided foray into teaching, in a town near the Pennsylvania border, and spent several years living in the Finger Lakes area before settling in my current village, south of Rochester. I’m definitely a western NY girl at heart.
I write romantic comedies. I’m classified as contemporary romance, but my stuff is way too goofy for that label. Since American publishers don’t like to use the term “chick lit,” I embrace “rom com.”
2. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?
I can’t say I was really “drawn” to a career in writing, as I’ve always been immersed in it. I was one of those kids who was always writing stories, even when it wasn’t homework…but when a teacher actually said “write a story,” it wasn’t a torturous assignment–it was heaven! I received my undergraduate degree in English with a creative writing concentration (and a minor in theater arts), and I’m proud that, aside from my unfortunate year as a teacher, I’ve always stuck to my chosen field, as a writer, editor, and proofreader (advertising, educational materials, catalogs, local news’ Web content, and magazines). When I left my last full-time job to stay at home with my young son, finally “getting around” to writing that novel was finally a real possibility. It’s snowballed from there.
3. How did you schooling help your writing?
I had some fabulous writing teachers, both in high school and in college. They taught me some amazing skills, but even more important, they were encouraging. They believed in me and told me to keep writing–an invaluable treasure. And of course studying great literature and theater helped my own writing immensely. I was especially grateful that my instructors didn’t keep us mired in the classics. They’re essential, of course, but reading modern literature really helps provide perspective and an all-around knowledge of literature. In other words, there’s nothing worse than thinking you have to write like a 19th-century white European because that’s all you’ve been allowed to read and think is good. 😉
4. Had you stayed being a teacher, do you think you would have continued to write?
Good question! I don’t know the answer from this alternate timeline, mainly because I left teaching when I was still building my curriculum, which took up all my time and energy. Teaching is exhausting; from what I experienced, I couldn’t imagine having enough free time to breathe, let alone be creative. However, I hear that changes, once you get into your own groove–that you actually have time to do other things besides prepare for your next year, quarter, unit, or even next class (yes, I was often scrambling!), but I didn’t get to see that Shangri-La. The one thing I can say is teaching would have given me plenty of material for my comedies!
5. Let’s talk a little about your latest project. What is the title and what is it about?
Right now I’m working on my fifth romantic comedy (OMG when did that happen?), which is the third in my small-town Marsden series. It’s called Lucky for You, and its main characters are Jordan, the wild-child cousin of Celia, the main character in my second Marsden novel, Picture This, and Will, a young, straitlaced, low-key, and long-suffering police officer who was in a couple of scenes in both previous Marsden novels. He struggles for respect every day because nearly everyone in town remembers him as a little boy. (To make things worse, in the first Marsden book, Down on Love, Georgiana, the main character, drunkenly called him Officer Billy, and the nickname stuck.) Jordan is under house arrest, with permission to serve out her time in her grandmother’s hometown even though she committed the crime in Saratoga Springs (she wanted to “ride the ponies”…alcohol may have been involved), so Officer Billy’s going to have his hands full.
6. What was your biggest influence for writing this story?
My biggest influence for writing the story is the fact that I’m in the middle of a series! When you’re working on one of the books in the series, you’re always looking around going “Who’s next?” This pair was an easy choice; even Jordan’s brief appearance in Picture This was a ton of fun to write, so I’m looking forward to fleshing her out more, plus I always enjoy a good oil-and-water romance. I think it’ll be a lot of fun. Oh yeah–that’s another big influence: the desire to find the next story I think will be the most fun to write. 🙂
7. What do you like about writing a series? What do you dislike?
It’s a lot of fun revisiting the characters in my small town of Marsden, and fleshing out the minor characters a little bit more with each book. Sometimes their interrelations surprise me as I’m writing–when they reveal that they’re connected in ways I didn’t even think of. And “going back” to the small town when I write another story is like taking a virtual vacation in a favorite place, where I know all the cool secret places. I don’t dislike writing a series, although sometimes I’ll get an idea for a completely different story, and I have to put it on ice till later.
8. What do you find is the hardest thing about writing a series?
The hardest thing about writing a series is it’s so hard to keep all the details straight! I have an Excel file of all the characters and how they’re related to one another, a hand-drawn map of the town to keep a record of where everyone lives and all the shops and restaurants on Main Street, and a list of all the details I’ve mentioned in the books so far. Continuity’s a bitch. 😉
9. As a reader, what are some things that attract you to a story?
I’m attracted to any story written with confidence (that’s confidence, but not arrogance). I like to feel that I’m in the hands of a master–someone I can trust to take me on a worthwhile journey, and who won’t disappoint me in the end. I love natural dialogue, at least a touch of humor if the story warrants it (and of course I love flat-out comedies–that’s my thang), and a satisfying ending. Conversely, I get hives when I read cliches, hackneyed dialogue, and tired situations and characterizations. Make it original, and I’m yours for life!
10. If you were given the opportunity to write a fan-fiction novel, who is the author you would choose, and what would be the book?
Fanfic of an existing novel? How novel! I confess to having written fanfic of some of my favorite TV shows back in the day (but I won’t say which ones), and in fact the way I started writing longer pieces, back when I was a preteen, was by writing Star Wars fiction. My age will show here, but I was doing it before there was even a word for it! But I’ve never thought about writing fanfic of a novel. Hm…I’m going to have to go away and think about this for a while.
…Okay, I’m back! I’ve thought about it, and I’m going to say that I wouldn’t want to continue the stories of my favorite book characters, because they belong to my favorite authors, not me. (Of course this doesn’t apply to the situations where authors are asked to carry on a series, like Frank Herbert’s Dune, etc.) Even with fairly open ended stories, if they’ve done their job well, the future is implied, and in my eyes, that implied future still belongs to the author, not to me. I would rather think about it, not write it out.
I realize I’m probably in the minority on this, and it might be because of my age. Back in the dark ages, when I was writing fanfic, there was no public forum for it–it was something private to keep to yourself, maybe share it with a couple of friends at most. Now, thanks to the power of the intertubes, we tend to feel that every entertainment property is open source–that we can appropriate anything and create our own versions of it–and it’s perfectly acceptable. But I tend not to think that way. (Oh noes! I’m ooollllddd!)
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