Today it is my absolute honour to be hosting the Queen of Australian small town stories, Jenn J McLeod, as part of this feature. I’ve met Jenn a couple of times now and you will never meet a more down to earth author who not only has a whole lot of heart, but is always good for a good laugh. I absolutely adore Jenn’s books so when she agreed to be part of this feature, I nearly fell of my chair! If you haven’t already read her books, do your self a favour and head straight to your nearest book store ASAP and grab one (or all four) as you are really missing out!
I was supposed to be a multi-disciplined musician (like my Dad), study at The Conservatorium (like my Aunt), be a famous opera singer (like my cousin Michael Lewis, Opera Aust– whose sons, Ben and Alexander Lewis, are now making their own musical mark internationally).
I chose to write — the computer my keyboard of choice — leaving the old upright piano to languish in the living room and the daddy longlegs to weave their web around the piano’s soundboard and strings while I weave my stories.
My stories are about small towns with big hearts and all the quirky, lovable Aussie characters readers enjoy. They are contemporary stories that embrace life, love and second chances as characters reconnect with (or sometimes discover) the country roots that run deep.
What are you currently reading?
What was the last book you bought?
Shannon Garner’s Labour of Love – a memoir about surrogacy. I have been mentoring Shannon for 18 months and I was thrilled to introduce her and her beautiful story to my publisher last year. I got to ‘deliver’ Shannon’s Labour of Love earlier this month.
Do you prefer to read books in print or electronically?
I prefer print, but as I am a fulltime gypsy writer (living in a caravan and touring) I admit to moving to the dark side (Kindle!) I can’t carry both wine and books!
What does your bookshelves look like? Do you have an organisation system (genre, colour, author…) or are you just happy to go with the flow?
I am sad to say, no bookshelf in the caravan. I do have a book stash. These are my books as I travel with books on board as people in caravan parks like to read!
How often do you read?
Not as much as I would like. Between publishing deadlines, articles for magazines and industry journals and blogs, as well as hosting guest authors on jennjmcleod.com, I have a never ending TBR pile!
Describe what you would expect to find in your dream book?
No errors! I can’t believe, after the number of times I read my manuscript, and the number of people who read it after me, there will still be a typo or two (or three). Aside from that, I like ‘my kind’ of books (those that make me both laugh and cry a little).
How do you choose what to read next?
With my current TBR pile it’s a bit like the old ‘pick up 52’ card game I scatter them and pick one with my eyes closed.
So you’ve started a book and discover it’s not for you. Are you more likely to discard it or finish it?
Discard it. Time is my enemy.
What is about books that appeals to you so much? What is your favourite part about reading?
I love to learn – both about the world and about the craft of writing and other authors teach me so much. If a fiction novel can do that, I am happy.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing style. Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you prefer to write in 1st or 3rd person? Are you an early riser writer or a late night owl writer?
Panster through and through (although I am told it’s trendy to call oneself ‘an organic writer’ these days). I guess that describes the way a story grows from a small kernel of an idea. My writing style fuses real life issues with fictional small towns and I tell my stories in third person, past tense – mainly. But my latest release (The Other Side of the Season) I tried my first dual time period piece and totally LOVED having my teenage characters grow over a thirty year period. Reader feedback has been so great, I am doing another dual time period story.
Was there any particular book that inspired you to start writing?
Do you have any advice to other writers out there?
1. Write: you can’t edit a blank page and you are not aiming for perfection in the first draft. Focus on telling the story first, then go back and edit. Drafts are all about getting it written, not getting it right.
2. Be brave: join a writers’ group (local, face2face or online). Networking and engaging with like-minded people builds confidence, motivates and opens doors.
3. Read books: a good book can teach you so much. A badly written book teaches you even more!
4. Learn the lingo: author voice and platform, archetypes and clichés, POV, elevator pitch, trope and genre? Just some of the things an author needs to know about themselves and their stories.
5. Study your craft: attend workshops and read ‘How To’ books. And if you are like me, you’ll be cursing those days you didn’t listen to your English teacher when she talked about the importance of good grammar!
6. It’s never too early to start thinking like a published author (& its never too late): success is preparedness + opportunity. Be prepared and search for opportunities.
7. Don’t give up: they say ‘the moment you’re about to quit is when the magic happens’. My ‘dream’ took 10 long, hard years to come true.
8. Be prepared to work two jobs: fulltime writing and something that actually pays the bills! (If getting published seems hard, staying published is harder.)
And lastly, what are you currently working on?
My fifth novel (about a portrait, a pearl ring and a panna cotta!) I camped in the caravan in the middle of a paddock (literally) on a Brahman cattle property north of Rockhampton (QLD) and my experiences inspired the plot. I am very excited.
To learn more about Jenn, visit the following social media sites:
Author Website | Facebook | Twitter | READERS OF JENN J MCLEOD FACEBOOK GROUP (not cat memes allowed)
To purchase a copy of Jenn’s books, visit the following online retailers:
Author Website | Booktopia | Amazon | iBooks | Kobo