With the end of school upon us, we're taking a departure from the usual adult fiction to feature a young adult novel. I met Jenny B. Jones through ACFW, and I applaud her for providing the kind of books we want our teens and preteens to read.
Welcome, Jenny. I know that cover will really draw a lot of interest.
I think quite a bit for the first series. My series is YA, so there is a lot of freedom in
a teen’s sarcasm and take on things. Another prime character in the story is a 78-year-old
crazy grandma who says exactly what she’s thinking. So between the two, I have a lot of
fun and get to let some of my personality come out—unfiltered.
Also Katie Parker, my main character, finds a love for drama and theater. That’s definitely me. My best teaching years were when I taught drama. So much fun.
Wow! That is so cool! I also taught drama. So tell us, Jenny, what is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I recently went parasailing over Spring Break. That’s not quirky for anyone else, but for me—it’s major. I am terrified of heights and made myself go. I would go out on one the windiest days ever! I was flopping around like a kite. But I’m glad I did it. Not too much screaming…
Sounds like fun. I always liked to try new things. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I think I’ve always known. I’ve been writing since I could pick up a pencil. Luckily I had some great teachers who pushed me and fostered that interest. But I think my best experience came from writing notes at school. Now I can justify all those detentions.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Wide range: I’m currently reading a biography called The Heavenly Man, a YA novel called New Moon (vampire novel—not exactly my thing, but great plot and tension), and some health books. Oh, and I’m reading Sink Reflections, a book on house cleaning. Yeah, a thriller. But if I had my choice, it would be chick lit. I love Kristin Billerbeck, Meg Cabot, some of Sophie Kinsella’s stuff, YA author Sarah Mlynowski (funny girl!), and Richard Peck (not chick-lit). If it has humor, I’m interested. Or essays about clean sinks…
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
On the Loose, book two in the Katie Parker Production series will be out in September, and I’m wrapping up book three, The Big Picture. Other than that, I started a diary when I was twelve, and except for the few people my brother showed it to in the Eighties, it’s not published. Though he still threatens…
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Cigarettes and whiskey?
No, actually I’m working on the sanity part (Thus the health and cleaning how-to books!). I think prayer, prayer, prayer. Quiet time is my life preserver right now. I find that everything falls apart when I disconnect from God. And it sounds like a “duh” statement, but it actually can be easy to do when you run from sun up to sun down. And I have hope that at some point things are going to quiet down a bit. Right now I work full time and then come home and write, so I’m excited for the day that that becomes a bit easier.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Nothing profound. They aren’t Biblical or symbolic. For Katie in the Katie Parker Production series, I wanted a universal name so all girls could see themselves in this character. Something well known like Katie. I think it’s like naming puppies—you want the name to fit though. They have to fit the character’s personality.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
When I was in junior high, I entered a Christmas short story contest that our teacher had told us about. It was about this girl and her brother who were spending their first Christmas after the death of their father. I won the contest and was given a prized frozen turkey. And I was like, “Free poultry products? Writing is where it’s at!” Ironically it turns out, it was supposed to be nonfiction. So my hometown got a little upset thinking my father had passed.
My latest accomplishment that I’m proud of is In Between. I teach in a high school of almost 3,000, and it’s been a lot of fun to see the students’ reactions and reviews. So far, so good!
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Probably a cat. They have the whole calm thing down to a science. They are justified in their laziness. But the hairballs would get a little old.
What is your favorite food?
Anything Mexican! I’m a huge foodie, so I appreciate just about any food, but I love fajitas. I live in Arkansas, and in the last few years we have really gotten some quality, authentic Mexican restaurants here.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I think doubt and disbelief. It was this huge dream, and I finally realized that by telling myself, “Not gonna happen,” I was underestimating God and how big He is. I really had to change the attitude of my prayer life and start praying big and expecting big (a la Jabez).
Since publication, my biggest roadblock has been the rush aspect of it all. My greatest writing days are when I feel no pressure and can just write at leisure. But I think I’ve had ONE day like that since writing book three.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Dream for something easier! Like a pony. Or no cellulite!
Just kidding. I think to just surrender your dream and talents over to God. Things moved very quickly for me after I said, “Here it is, God. I’m giving it up to you.” And then expect big things. We are so limited, but God definitely is not.
And more practical advice would be to go to conferences like ACFW. I learned so much from just one—walked away a different writer in fact. Invest in your own dream.
There are sample chapters on my website and blog. It’s probably going to be nominated for a Pulitzer, so catch it while you can. All right, not really but here’s a blurb!
Katie Parker knows life isn't fair. After all, when your mom's in jail and your dad's a no-show, you figure things just aren't going your way. But hey, she can deal. Then she finds out she's being sent to live with a foster family—in In Between, Texas, home of the Fighting Chihuahuas!
What kind of town has a name like In Between? And what kind of family wants a kid like her? One thing's for certain: None of this will be good. Sure enough—thanks to some new "friends" and her non-Mom's crazed mother, Mad Maxine—life sails right past bad to stinking. Then again, she's just a temporary kid, they're just temporary parents, and she definitely doesn't have any ideas about making any of this permanent. God, on the other hand, may have other plans altogether.
Sounds like a really good read for adults and teens. How can readers find you on the Internet?
I blog at http://www.jennybjones.blogspot.com/
My website is http://www.jennybjones.com/
You can also check me out at ShoutLife.com.
Thanks so much for letting me stop by, Lena!
The pleasure is all mine, Jenny. Let me know when the next book comes out. Maybe we'll have you back with different questions.
Okay, readers, start leaving your comments for a chance to win a copy of In Between. And don't forget to visit our other open interviews with Christy Barritt and Rachel Hauck. Lots of good summer reading here.