Author Interview: Jennifer J. Chow

 

Welcome to the Author Interview series at The Writing Life blog.

Each Tuesday, I am excited to share my talented author friends with readers. We have a a great line up of fabulous authors scheduled until June 2017. Please do check back in and meet a new author next week.

Today, I am very pleased to welcome Jennifer J. Chow, a multi award winning author, who writes multicultural fiction with intergenerational drama.

Jennifer’s short fiction has most recently appeared in Hyphen Magazine and Yay! LA Magazine. Her Asian-American novels include Dragonfly Dreams, The 228 Legacy, and Seniors Sleuth. Jennifer lives in Los Angeles, California. Visit her author website: www.jenniferjchow.com

 The 228 Legacy
-Honorable Mention, 2015 San Francisco Book Festival
-Finalist, 2013 Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Award
Seniors Sleuth
-Finalist, 2015 CLUE Award
            -Runner-Up, 2015 Beach Book Festival

 

Welcome to The Writing Life, Jennifer.

jenniferjchow

What is your book’s genre/category?

Young adult paranormal

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Please describe what Dragonfly Dreams is about.

It’s 1880 in Fresno, California when 17-year-old Topaz Woo dies after giving birth. She can get an extension in a non-physical body—if she uses The Ten Commandments to influence her newborn. Over the course of ten years, she finds herself stymied in parenting by intergenerational drama and spiritual battle. Will she adjust to an otherworldly existence and give her daughter a solid foundation? Or will she become mired in family disputes and forfeit her soul to evil?

Very interesting and unique synopsis. How did you come up with the title?

There’s a myth that dragonflies live only 24 hours. Dragonfly Dreams signifies pursuing your dreams to the utmost in a short amount of time—as Topaz does.

What inspired you to write Dragonfly Dreams?

I wanted to couple a love letter to my hometown with a classic good-versus-evil spiritual battle.

 

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

I’m also a mom like Topaz, so I have a deep maternal love. Unlike her, though, I’m not so uncertain about my identity.

Jennifer, what is your favorite part of writing?

Creating new worlds, having stories arise from the blank page.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Making my vision shine on the page. A billion thoughts float around in my head, but pinning them down and conveying them clearly to the reader is still difficult.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

The Rose Society by Marie Lu. I really like the concept behind the making of a villain, the bond of sisterhood, and the imaginative setting. At the same time, though, the book is a bit unsettling and gets quite dark. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jean Kwok: for down-to-earth Asian American characters you can root for, whether in the confines of a sweatshop or the expanse of a ballroom.

Markus Zusak: I think he’s got a great way of spinning words together and helping young people find meaning in their lives. Plus, he’s a genuinely nice guy.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Mrs. Okada, my sixth-grade teacher, really nourished my love of writing by first exposing me to different types of poetry (haiku, tanka, diamante, etc.). She also poured out encouragement to me. 

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

As a mom, I love writing in those squeezed-in times while waiting for a class to end, so that I have a hard deadline to motivate me.

For reading, I have this couch placed in a sunny spot in my home. It gets a lot of light (and bird songs in the morning), and it makes me happy to relax there.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I used to be part of the drama club in high school. Even though I’m an introvert by nature (as many writers are), I actually liked the excitement of acting.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?


Authors form an amazing tribe. Even though we write in solitude, the network of writers is strong, and people in the field are very supportive of one another.

The publishing process requires a lot of patience. When you think you’ve waited long enough, wait some more.

What do you hope readers will gain from Dragonfly Dreams?

jennifer-chow-dd-front-cover-png
Deeper insight into a spiritual realm that exists beyond the surface, and the idea that one person in a family can really influence the bond between relatives.

Those ideas appeal to me as a writer and as a reader. Looking back, Jennifer, what did you do right that helped you write and market Dragonfly Dreams?

It was great having a solid team behind me (editor, cover designer, book manager, etc.).

What didn’t work as well with this book?

Being able to locate my niche audience, to connect with them so they know about the book.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?


First, write. Then research ways to get your work published. There are so many options to getting your foot in the door nowadays: literary magazines, e-zines, self-pubbing, independent presses, literary agents, and The Big Five. Choose the path that fits your personality—or pursue a blend.

Great advice. Website and social media links?
www.jenniferjchow.com

https://www.facebook.com/JenJChow

https://www.instagram.com/jenjchow/

https://twitter.com/JenJChow

 

Where can we find Dragonfly Dreams?


https://www.amazon.com/Dragonfly-Dreams-Jennifer-Chow-ebook/dp/B01GFJ89BQ

What’s next for you, Jennifer?


I’m submitting another YA novel (but it’s set in the future instead of the past) while editing a multicultural, intergenerational contemporary mystery set near Los Angeles.

Thank you for a wonderful interview, Jennifer. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better. I wish you the best with your books and your writing life!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention in Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was Book of the Month with Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is proud to be featured in the award-winning anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, her passport and a camera. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Eleanor’s book, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016

Please visit Eleanor at her website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

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Author Interview: Juliana Barnet

Today I am pleased to welcome mother and daughter authors, Juliana Barnet and Sophie Barnet-Higgins, who co-wrote Rainwood House Sings, a social justice mystery for youth and adults.

At the end of June, my cousin emailed to say she’d met an author at a US Social Forum in Philadelphia who knew who I was, but she’d forgotten the woman’s name. Today, Juliana emailed to say she’d met my cousin at the conference, but had forgotten her name. Today, the mystery was solved. Small world!

Juliana and Sophie pic

Juliana Barnet is a lifelong social justice activist, artist and writer with grassroots movements in Mexico City and in the DC area. Rainwood House Sings draws on her own experiences and those of comrades from the diverse worldwide tribe of social justice agitators and activists, including the considerable number who lent their assistance to the creation of this book. Her daughter Sophie loves stories and drawing, especially Japanese-style comics.

Welcome to The Writing Life, Juliana and Sophie!

cover image-Juliana Barnet

What is your book’s genre/category?

Rainwood House Sings is a “social justice mystery” for youth and adults, painting a truthful yet mildly magical picture of activists tackling mysteries large and small with creativity, humor and collective action.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Rainwood House, lightly haunted by local civil rights struggles, rampant houseplants and musical plumbing, is home to University of Maryland groundskeeper Marlie Mendíval and her bat- and book-loving granddaughter Samantha. Marlie rents a room to Demetrius, a good-natured radical horticulturist, unaware that prior to knocking on her front door Demetrius has been hiding from the police in her basement.

Marlie battles mounting bills, bellowing pipes, a lecherous boss, her ex’s scheme to evict her from Rainwood House, isolation, decay and self-doubt, as Samantha becomes embroiled in playground culture wars. Demetrius wanders through Rainwood House’s shuttered rooms pondering how to beat accusations of cop-shooting and terrorism while remaining incognito under Samantha’s friendly but sharp-eyed gaze. Increasingly entangled in each others’ lives, the characters join glamorous union shop steward Laranda Moss and a lively crew of supporters to launch a friendship club, a campus workers’ movement, a neighborhood people’s history museum and a present-day Underground Railroad stop.

How did you come up with the title?

Rainwood” is a fictional community based on three small towns right next to one another on the Eastern border of DC, named Brentwood, Mt. Rainier (the town I live in) and North Brentwood. The story draws on the history and ambiance of these towns. The first working title was Rainwood House, until a friend suggested that active titles were better. I added “Sings,” and ended up deciding that the book was actually a trilogy. The second book is titled Rainwood House Burns.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

As a lifelong social justice activist and a lifelong fiction reader, I became increasingly frustrated at almost never seeing activists depicted in novels, other than occasional appearances as one-dimensional (and generally negative) stereotypes. Even though I know activists to be adventuresome, funny, fascinating, smart and at times heroic people who take on all kinds of issues and activities that lend themselves to mysteries and other exciting, active stories—the kind I most like to read—novels with sympathetic activist protagonists are extremely infrequent. So I ended up following the old adage: if you really want something to happen, you have to make it happen.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love having ideas pop up, and then following them where they lead. It is thrilling to follow an idea and see it open up like a glittering underground cavern as I explore its branches and possibilities.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I find writing a first rough draft difficult, not so much  because the words don’t come—I tend more to the opposite affliction, which in Mexico they call “verborrea!” Afterwards, of course, you have to pare and select, a process I enjoy but at the same time I find it hard to contend with the chorus of internal voices pelting me with putdowns, advice and rude comments that what I’m writing is boring or nonsense or whatever. When I do expository writing, I find it challenging to decide that something is finished, rather than wanting to go on and on perfecting it. So far, though, the most difficult hurdle has been learning the process of putting my writing out in the world in circles wider than folks I have direct contact with. That is the challenge of this moment, for me.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Here’s an off-the-top of my head, arbitrary, not-in-order and incomplete list of fiction authors I’ve enjoyed—in other words, I’m not making any judgment about how “deep” or transcendent they are, but include them because I’ve read—and in most cases reread—more than one of their books, often numerous times, for fun. I know I’m leaving out quite a few. Robertson Davies, Jean Auel, Chimamanda Achibie, Leo Tolstoy, Ken Follet, Anton Makarenko, Laurie King, Terry Pratchett, L.A. Meyer, Zora Neale Hurston, Walter Moseley, Barbara Neeley, Meredith Tax, Jane Austen, George Elliot, Alexander McCall Smith, Carl Hiassen, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Barbara Kingsolver, L.M. Montgomery, Douglas Addams, Katherine Ann Porter, Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Laura Esquivel, Paco Ignacio Taibo, Jules Feiffer, Lewis Carroll. A.A. Milne,  Caroline Dale Snedecker, Edith Pargeter (Ellis Peters), Kurt Vonnegut, Miguel de Cervantes, Chinua Achebe, Kazuo Ishiguro, Tarquin Hall, Sherman Alexie, Sara Peretsky, C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Octavia Butler, Joseph Heller, Dave Barry, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan, Clyde Edgerton, Elizabeth Peters, Dorris Lessing, Judith Viorst…(stopping because of time and space considerations, not because I’ve run out of authors!)

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Barbara Kingsolver, Makarenko, Lenin, Engels, Ruth Benedict, Franz Fanon, Paolo Freire, Margaret Meade, Claude Levi-Strauss, Augusto Boal, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Silvio Rodriguez, Nacha Guevara, Mario Benedetti, Atahualpa Upanqui, Victor Martínez, Assata Shakur, Anne Tyler, Mumia Abu Jamal, Noam Chomsky, Rebecca Solnit, parents Ann and Richard Barnet (both writers), many political bloggers and journalists, teachers and companer@s in Mexico and the U.S. And that’s just a smattering of writers, political folks and musicians off the top of my head. The full list would be much longer!

Favorite place to write?

Outdoors, on my back porch, or other people’s porches if they have a nice view of trees, sky and other restfully beautiful things.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I lived for sixteen years in Mexico City, becoming immersed in a large community and social movement with people who became close friends, comrades and family. Among other adventures there, I played keyboard and sang for a dance band that performed rock and Latin music at parties and events and in nightclubs. And I participated in a popular education movement, including living for several weeks in the building of a democratically run school housed in an abandoned munitions factory. Also, Rainwood House Sings is part of a larger project I am working on called Life in the Liberated Zone, which is about raising awareness of the culture of activists. Another part of this project is working with others to write fun and imaginative fiction that focuses on folks working together to tackle social issues. In June a group of third graders and I published Zombie Elementary, which is a children’s companion book to Rainwood House Sings, and deals with kids and zombies overcoming the fear and prejudice they feel towards one another in order to work together to save their school and friends.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Publishing pundits always say it is after the extremely challenging work of writing and publishing your book that the truly challenging work of putting it out into the world begins. Intellectually it’s not a surprise to find myself proving them right, but it still feels surprising to be continually discovering how complex and multifaceted this phase of being an author is! As far as learning, it was great to learn so many cool things associated with creating a book, reaching out to folks with and through the book, and to be in the process of learning how important it is to have help!

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I took my time—both to write and edit, and to learn other skills like research, working with graphics on the computer, and formatting; got input and info from plenty of helpful folks; developed a good way of working my young coauthor—my daughter, who worked with me on it from age 10-15; had enough passion and decision to carry me through the process.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Persist! And choose the avenues that are most interesting to you. The process is arduous so enjoy it as you go along!

Website?

www.RainwoodHouse.com , www.JulianaBarnet.com, www.LifeintheLiberatedZone.com (under construction. This latter site will unify all the work alluded to in this interview, once it is online.)

Where can we find your book?

You can order the print book through the website www.RainwoodHouse.com or at http://tinyurl.com/rainwoodhousesings and other distributors. Order the ebook at the website or at http://tinyurl.com/rainwoodebook, and through other ebook distributors. Purchase signed copies directly from me at book events, or by writing to julianabarnet@rainwoodhouse.com. More information and sample chapters available at www.RainwoodHouse.com.

What’s next for you?

  • Writing Rainwood House Burns, book 2 of the Rainwood House series.
  • Developing Rainwood House Sings book events focusing on activists, both locally and elsewhere, as well as online, starting with folks I know and reaching outward.
  • Collaborating once again this coming school year with children from the local elementary school to promote and sell Zombie Elementary, and to write another collective novel with them.
  • Developing Life in the Liberated Zone, in particular the website and zine (blog) of literature and essays about activist culture.
  • I’d love to hear from any other writers out there who are writing or thinking about writing fiction featuring activist characters! We are planning to start a writing group with this focus.

Thanks for chatting with me today, Juliana and Sophie. I enjoyed getting to know you both and wish you much success with Rainwood House Sings.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of PEN America and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

Interview with Mayra Calvani, author of ‘The Luthier’s Apprentice’

LuthiersApprentice_med

 

I am very pleased to introduce Mayra Calvani, author of “The Luthier’s Apprentice which comes out today! Congratulations!

We met through a mutual friend while living in Brussels, Belgium and bonded when Mayra joined a creativity group I facilitated based on the book, The Writing Life by Julia Cameron. We share Puerto Rican roots, a love of writing, classical music and great books. She is a good friend and over the years has become one of my writing mentors.

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned over ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. She’s had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The WriterWriter’s Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she resides in Brussels, Belgium.

Welcome, Mayra!

 

What is your book’s genre/category?

Young adult fantasy.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Here’s a blurb:

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…

When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice.  But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.

But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma’s family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?

Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him.  And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier’s apprentice…

How did you come up with the title? 

It just came to me in a flash, the way titles sometimes do come. I knew the title before I started writing the story.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I wrote this book for Nanowrimo back in 2007. At that time, it was an experiment. I hadn’t participated in Nanowrimo before. It was an exciting, exhilarating experience, but I knew the manuscript needed a lot of editing and polishing, so I put it aside for a long time. Then I worked on it on and off as I worked on other projects. That’s why it took so long to publish it.

As far as the inspiration behind it…

I studied/played the violin for 5 years, and my daughter has been playing it for 8 years, so violin music has been a big part of my life for a long time. There’s something darkly mysterious about the violin, and I’m in awe of soloists who have the skill to master it. The making of the violin itself is fascinating to me as well. And, of course, I also love listening to violin music whenever I can. Naturally, violin music has been very influential in my writing. I just find it immensely inspiring. Besides The Luthier’s Apprentice, I have also written several children’s picture books related to the violin. Readers can learn about them here: www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Creating something out of nothing. Sharing my imagination with readers. Getting paid to daydream. And nothing beats being able to work in your pajamas.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

The greatest challenge: keeping focused and not procrastinate. Keeping confident throughout the process and, like Steven Pressfield says in his fantastic book, Do the Work, “trusting the soup.”

Every book that I’ve written has been hard to write. Though writing is my life and in a way, like breathing, I have a love & hate relationship with it. First of all, the mechanics of the craft are always a challenge: constructing the plot, creating the characters, balancing all the elements, i.e. description, dialogue, narrative, symbolic imagery, etc. Then there’s the word choice and the agonizing over verbs, adjectives, adverbs.

Besides this, there’s the emotional aspect of the journey: struggling with the inner critic, bouts of self-doubt, writer’s block, irritability over not writing, dealing with negative criticism, remorse due to sacrificing time with family and friends, spending hours, days, months, years sitting at the computer without any assurance that the book will be read by enough people or earn enough money to make all that time worthwhile.

But as writers, we are artists, and the artist’s soul is an interesting, compulsive animal. Writing is our vocation, our drug, and we must have a regular fix or go insane.

At the end, after a good writing day which may happen while still experiencing all of the above, I’m sweetly exhausted and at peace.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Anne Rice, Tama Janowitz, Donna Tartt, Albert Camus, Kate Chopin.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

In my early teens, strong influences were Agatha Christie mysteries and Barbara Cartland romances. Also Harlequin contemporary romances.

In my twenties, strong influences were Tama Janowitz, Kate Chopin, and Albert Camus. Later on, Anne Rice and Donna Tartt.

Favorite place to write?

My little office, especially when I’m alone at home and everything is quiet. But, sometimes, when I have trouble concentrating, I go and work at a café.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Oh boy. I could write a short book on the subject, but if I could narrow it down to two:

Be prepared to wait. A lot.

Having an agent does not guarantee a sale.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Again, the same as with any other book: putting my big ego aside and “trusting the soup.”

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Don’t let anyone interfere with your dreams or goals of becoming an author. No matter what anyone says. Do what you have to do to accomplish it. Learn the craft, take courses and/or workshops if you have to, join writer organizations and a critique group. Interact with like souls who actually understand the creative spirit. Above all, read a lot and write a lot, as often as you can. The longer you stay away from writing, the harder it is to get back to it. And the more you write, the better you get at it.

Website?

www.mayracalvani.com

Where can we find your book?

Amazon Kindle; Apple iBookstore; BN.com Nook; Kobo Books; OmniLit, and others.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I can speak Turkish.

Thanks, Mayra!

 

Author Interview Friday

My guests for Author Interview Friday in April and May are:

  • Barbara E. Struna, author of historical fiction novel, The Old Cape House.
  • Meredith Schorr, author of chick lit novels, Friends With Benefits, State of Jane, Blogger Girl and a 3-Book Collection of the same titles.
  • Jennifer Hotes, illustrator/author of YA suspense novel, Four Rubbings.
  • Patricia Mann, author of women’s contemporary fiction novel, Is That All There Is?.
  • Mayra Calvani, multi-genre author of over a dozen books and author of YA dark fantasy, The Luthier’s Revenge, coming out May 15, 2014.

Our first Author Interview will be with Barbara E. Struna on Friday, April 11, so please join us!

As you won’t want to miss these interviews,

please FOLLOW this blog before you leave today. Click LIKE, share this blog with your friends, and please leave comments. I always love hearing from you!

For those who enjoy book reviews,  please read my review of the novel, GABRIELA AND THE WIDOW by Jack Remick.

May’s review will feature the novel, BREATH, EYES, MEMORY, by Edwidge Danticat.

Thanks and have a great weekend!

Ellie