It is a great pleasure to welcome JT Twissel, author of the novels, FLIPKA and THE GRADUATION PRESENT. Some of Jan’s blog posts have me laughing out loud in quiet public places, and I loved FLIPKA. Jan is a wonderful storyteller and a people watcher which shows in her unique characters. I’m looking forward to reading THE GRADUATION PRESENT.
JT Twissel (Jan) was born in a small town in Massachusetts and raised primarily in Reno, Nevada, leaving home at eighteen to see the world. Eventually she more or less settled down, living with her first husband in Chicago and then in the San Francisco bay area where she obtained a degree in English from UC Berkeley. She worked as a newsletter editor, a secretary, a process analyst, project manager and technical documentation manager before becoming a full time writer.
Aside from her children, she’s most proud of the years she spent as a Make-A-Wish volunteer, interviewing children with life-threatening conditions and helping arrange their wishes. Her later experience as a CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate for at-risk foster children, inspired her to write FLIPKA. The necessity to take several long trips across the great state of Nevada – where wackiness is a virtue – created the setting and characters.
What is your book’s genre/category?
THE GRADUATION PRESENT is a coming of age, adventure, travel with some comedy and romance. I believe it’s categorized on Amazon as coming of age.
Please describe what the story/book is about.
This review (which I love) pretty much sums up what the book is about: “A hapless hopeless romantic American girl called Riley O’Tannen heads for Europe to get a taste of the old world and instead encounters her drunken uncle who keeps a mistress, her randy aunt who keeps a gigolo, and a dead CIA man whose boss is a raving homosexual. On top of this she becomes an accidental fugitive hunted by the Swiss police. Oh, and she also finds love.”
How did you come up with the title?
The protagonist’s trip to Europe was a belated graduation present from an uncle she doesn’t really know very well. To tell you the truth, we tried to come up with another title but just couldn’t think of anything. I found out after the book came out that there’s another book with the same title. Guess what genre? Porn. Whoops!
What is the reason you wrote this book?
I have so many memories of my time in Europe that I knew I had to get them down on paper in some form or another before they were all lost to time (or senility). The hardest part was getting into the skin of a clueless, naive and overly imaginative girl. I struggled with it for a long time, certain I’d never be able to do it. And then a very special friend of mine was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The last thing she said to me was “finish Oncle Boob! The world needs to laugh” and that did it for me. (Oncle Boob was one of the first titles the book had)
What is your favorite part of writing?
When a character really talks to me. Particularly if the person I based the character on has passed away. I will often break down into tears over my keyboard. It’s a miracle I haven’t been electrocuted!
What is the most challenging aspect of writing?
For me, it’s plot development, time-line stuff. The characters and scenes pop up without a lot of effort but where I put them on any particular timeline doesn’t always make sense – particularly for my editor!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I studied Victorian lit in college so I would say: Austen, Dickens, the Brontes, Trollope. I’ve read and enjoyed so many contemporary writers that it would take all day to list them.
What authors or person(s) have influenced you?
The most influential person in my life was a lady by the name of Joellen Hawkins. She was the model for the Fi Butters character in FLIPKA. She opened my mind to so many things.
Favorite place to write?
I write in a slide rocker next to a window from where I can see the foggy, coastal hills.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I was once a department store living mannequin.
Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?
Oh golly, everything has been a big surprise and learning lesson! I guess the importance of social media was the biggest surprise.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?
Luckily I was already familiar with blogging and web designer. Having that knowledge saved me a lot of work, agony and probably money.
Any advice for writers looking to get published?
A lot of writers I know who tried, but couldn’t find a traditional publisher have begun self-publishing and it seems to working out well for them. One of them has even won a couple of awards! Often they will self-publish a first book and then it is picked up by one of the hybrid publishers. Another piece of advice – don’t expect to become an overnight hit!
Where can we find your book?
The usual places!
What’s next for you?
I just finished a third book, as yet untitled, and sent it to my editor. So I’ll probably take a break and then begin on Flipka 2.