JENN KELLY

the journey from writing a novel to ... what were we talking about again?

Month: November 2009

Interview #2

(We begin our second interview at Jenn’s house, which is somewhere near Ottawa. She is looking relaxed and beautiful as she lounges on her huge blue couch while holding her second chai latte of the day. Her dark hair, which is soon to be a lovely caramel/red is in a straightforward bun, while gold hoops hang from her little ears. Her make-up is minimal (none) and her dark blue turtleneck is fitted and her gray gap pants are frayed at the hem. Her neurotic dog, Daisy, is wandering the house in search of kibble or an ant. The interview begins…)

Hello Jenn. So nice of you to let us come back into your house.

Yes, well, I haven’t exactly cleaned up much since you were last here.

No, I noticed that pile of dog hair was there last time as well.

That’s not very polite you know. Pointing out people’s faults.

Um, I’m sorry. I didn’t think I was.

I can’t help if housecleaning isn’t a strong suit of mine. At least I can cook. Here, try a sugar cookie.

Well, I don’t know if I should. Trying to watch my weight and all.

Listen, when someone-not-famous-yet offers you a cookie. You take it.

Um, ok…this is pretty good.

I know. Can we get on with the interview? I may have energy to do laundry and I don’t want to miss my chance. Rockstar hubby is out of underwear.

Well, let’s start with your family. You refer to your husband as a ‘Rockstar’. Is he?

Not in the official sense, no. But it was fun for awhile when people actually thought that. They were all like, ‘what band does he play for?’ and I’ll like, ‘what are you talking about?’ just to mess with them. No, when you say someone is a rockstar, you mean that they are pretty amazing. And he is. And he can do everything. And really well. But he can’t sing. Or play an instrument. Or dance. Just don’t go there.

Ok, so what does he do?

I thought I had already told you, but he’s a firefighter.

Ooh! Hunky!

Excuse me?

(stammering) Well, I just mean, most firefighters are hunky…aren’t they?

No.

Oh.

But mine is.

Yes, of course he is.  Now tell us about your five year old gaffer. What’s a gaffer?

I think it means they do something with sound in movies. Not sure. Don’t care. I just like to call him gaffer. He’s five.

And what’ s he like?

Well, he’s five.  And he’s brilliant. I know most people say that about their children and that’s fine, but I think he’s brilliant. We had quite a conversation about hot dogs today.

Go on.

Well, I was on my way to take him to school and we were getting our stuff on at the front door.  Today is hot dog day. We don’t eat hot dogs. They’re full of junk. But I asked him if he would like to have a hot dog today. He said yes. I asked him if it was too late to sign up for hot dog day and he said no. Then we noticed it was raining outside. And he said, ‘I hope the hot dog driver doesn’t get wet.’ And I was like, ? and he said, ‘the hot dog driver. The guy who delivers the hot dogs.’ And I asked, ‘where does he get the hot dogs?’ And he said, ‘from the hot dog place of course. You get pizza from pizza place? Well, you get hot dogs from hot dog places’. And all I could think of was the pork packing plant down the road and I felt ill. But it was still funny.

And your dog.

Yes, Daisy. Terribly neurotic. Love her though. Wouldn’t trade her for the world.  Can we talk about something else now?

Sure. Let’s come back to your writing. You say you’ve written a few poetry books.

Yes.

Have any of them published?

Are you kidding? No! Do you know how hard it is to publish poetry? Unless of course it’s the National Poetry blah blah and they’ll publish your poem in a book and it’ll cost you only 50$ etc. No, I did do the whole school newspaper thing, but that’s it.

Which school?

Oh, up at Lakehead. There was a poetry magazine that came out monthly, and then there was the newspaper, but I usually did short stories for those. Mostly about animals and they always died in the end.

Excuse me?

Yah, had a morbid sense of humour. Still do. Hm..anyway. My three poetry books are safely in my library upstairs.

Can I see?

See what? Upstairs? The books? The library?

Yes.

No.

Oh. Well, maybe you could put a few poems up on your web-site? Maybe a short story from school?

Maybe. Maybe later when I’m done laundry. Or making more cookies. Maybe tomorrow. Dunno.

Let’s talk about your book. “Jackson and His Great Aunt Harriett”.

It’s not called that anymore. As far as I know, it’s called, “Jackson Jones: the Tale of a Boy, an Elf and a Smelly, Dead Fish”.

Wow. That’s quite visual. Do you like it?

I don’t hate it. It’s better than the other ideas they threw at me. But I begged my amazing editor to fight for a great title, and she did. She really is fantastic. Do you know when she sent me my edits, she included a gift card from Starbucks? How sweet is that? I’m trying to figure out if I can Fed-Ex Christmas cookies to her office…

So what kind of edits have you had to make?

I ‘think’ I’m allowed to talk about it…Ok, so in the story, Jackson climbs into his aunt’s hair.

?

Do you even know what the book is about?

Ah..(rustling of notes)

You’re a cheesehead. Ok, I’ll tell you. Jackson Jones is ten and he’s normal and wonderful. He has a honkin huge family that he loves, but they have to move away because his mom’s a writer. So after they move he’s very lonely. So one night after a family reunion, he climbs into his great aunt’s hair and the adventure begins. He meets an elf who is a tour guide and they go through all these rooms…wow, I really suck at selling. Thank goodness I’m not in marketing.

So what were the changes?

Jackson fell in, as opposed to climbing in.

That’s it?

Pretty much.

Can you give us any exerpts from the book?

I don’t know what I’m allowed to do.  

So when does the book come out?

As far as I know, by Christmas 2010. I’d like it to be sooner, but I don’t think you can rush these things.

So what are you going to do while you wait for the next editing?

Well, I should probably keep writing. They say that writers need to write everyday. I wish I fell into that category. I get too distracted too easily. I think it’s amazing when writers can lock themselves to desks and just work. Blows my mind.

Well, how did you write your book?

I started writing it in March of 07. My son was three and he would go to the sitter’s once or twice a week. I would drop him off at 8am, then go to Chapters in Kanata. They have a Starbucks there. I’d order my chai latte and commandeer a huge table to myself. Then I’d just write. Whenever I got antsy, I’d walk around Chapters and look at books, go pee, bother people. I did meet some interesting people.  Anyway, when Jackson started school in the fall, I did two days a week. And then I finished it.  I had to listen to acid/funky jazz though. Or it didn’t work. Go figure.

So for now? Besides writing everyday?

Get ready for Christmas. Clean house.

Are you working on a new book?

Well, I have ideas for a prequel to “Jackson Jones” but I’ve got a side project that I’m working on that I don’t really want to discuss right now. It’s completely different from this.

No hints?

No. So don’t bother asking.

(The interview ends with Jenn going back upstairs to stare out window forlornly, waiting for postman to bring her contract. We may be invited back again. Who knows?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing of Titles

I know that as an author (oh, I love saying that!), I don’t get a lot of say of what goes on with my book. At least, that’s what I know. It might not be true. I’m still waiting for my contract to come in the mail, which is a tad late, but I’m not worried. I figure it’ll need a few lattes and a few hours to figure it out. Thank goodness I have smart friends who know all about stuff like that. Anyway, I have no idea what to expect.

So when my fabulous editor e-mailed me with the new title, I almost vomited. Seriously. I know I’m prone to exaggerating, but I really felt ill. They had taken my beautiful ‘Jackson and His Great-Aunt Harriett’ and changed it to something awful. And they voted on it. I begged, begged, begged my editor to fight for me. She agreed it was an awful title. So she fought for me. And now I have another new title. I don’t know if they’ll change it again, but for now: ‘Jackson Jones: The Tale of a boy, an elf and a smelly, dead fish’.  I can live with that. I’m not crazy about it, but it’ll be ok.

I was sent my edits in the mail, but I begged Kathleen to email them to me. I couldn’t wait all weekend. She told me that most edits (macro-edits I’m talking about here: where they rip up your book. Remove scenes, remove characters, or add scenes or characters) take 12 pages of writing. Mine took two! How good did that feel! She wrote the most lovely cover letter and I’m going to share part of it, because one day, you too may get a lovely letter.

“Dear Jenn,

What an  honour and a pleasure it is to work on this manuscript. Your characters are real and engaging, and you have a voice that is unique in this field. Your honesty and freshness give this book an authenticity that is all too hard to find these days, and it is a true delight to have a hand in shaping the story.

(comments about what to change)

Overall, there’s really not a great deal that needs to be changed here. I don’t want to get rid of any characters or delete any huge sections of the book. You have a great talent for voice, character, and storyline, and the Christian message is woven inextricably and beautifully throughout the book. You never resort to preaching, but encourage each reader to take part in the grand adventure of letting God tell their story…”

Ok, seriously? Who writes letters like that? I have never received such an amazing letter before. I’m thinking this girl is part Barnabas.

So I’ve finished the macro-edits and hopefully I’ll get back the micro-edits before Christmas. But you never know.

The question now is: what do I do?

Get ready for Christmas obviously…

work on second book?

paint?

bake?

hmm…

I should probably write about the writing journey, right?

It just occured to me that I should probably be doing the whole, ‘How I got to be here’ thing because all you know right now, is that I’ve written a book and it’s going to be published. With no background.  So I’m going to conduct a few interviews on myself and pretend that someone tres important is interviewing me.  Or even someone not important. But seeing as how it’s me, interviewing me, it’ll be an important interview with two very important people. The interviewer will be in yellow, and the interview-ee will be in pink.  Because I’m wearing a pink sweater. With a pink and purple striped shirt.  And baggy green sweatpants.  Um..it’s a good thing it’s not a video interview. Off we go!

So we are here with the famous Jenn Kelly, good to finally meet you. You don’t mind if I ask a few questions, do you?

No, of course not, I love questions. Unless they are really hard questions. I can’t handle questions I don’t know the answers to. Like, calculus. Know nothing about it. Failed it three times. But I don’t want to talk about that.

No, I don’t blame you.  Calculus sucks.  I prefer Finite myself.

What, are you serious? I failed Finite too. In summer school. It was pathetic. Do you know what it’s like taking summer school when you’re 19 and you live on your own and it’s July? You’re in class for 7 hours a day and sweating like a pig! And then creepy classmate guy who looks kinda cute from far away because he’s a body builder but when he gets up close you have to avert your eyes because his hair plugs are staring at you, and he’s only 26 and he’s always flirting with you and you try your hardest not to laugh but you can’t help but stare? I hate Finite.

Um, ‘k. Well, let’s talk about your book then.

Yes, yes, that’s why we’re having the interview right? Ok, so my book is called, ‘Jackson and His Great-Aunt Harriett’. For now.

What do you mean, for now?

Well, I haven’t quite received my contract yet, it’s supposed to come mid-November, but it’s already the 10th, so I’m not sure when it’ll come, but as far as I know, I know nothing about it.

What?

Seriously! I know nothing. I know that they’ve made an offer, I know that I’m receiving an advance, of which I think I get half now and half when I’m done editing and I know what my royalties are, but they might change.

Well, how much was your advance?

That’s really none of your business.  And don’t bother asking about royalties. That’s none of your business either. If you look on the web, and you manage not to get distracted, you’ll find that different companies have different deals. So, pick one of those.

Ok, so let’s talk about who you’ve been signed with.

Well, I’ve been signed with Zondervan.

And they are a publishing company in Grand Rapids, Michigan? And they publish mostly Christian themed books?

Yes.

Can you tell us the process of being published?

Don’t you want to know about my book first? How I came up with the idea? How I wrote it?

Um, ok.

Well, I”ll talk about the whole writing thing first. Unless you want to know how I got into writing.

Whatever you prefer. Have you always been a writer?

Yes. Won my first award in grade 4. Tall tales. I wrote about ‘Super Baby’. Won a prize for it. Then in grade 8, I won an award for best skits in Drama. Then in grade 13, I won an award for ‘Best Ontario Playwright’. My play was ‘supposed’ to be put on at the NAC but that never happened. And of course there were the three poetry books I wrote. Then I got into Ottawa U for  English Honours. I was also accepted at York University for writing, but I didn’t go.

Why not? It’s a good school.

It is. It’s one tiny thing I regret, but when I look at my life, I’m so much happier this way. I didn’t go because I didn’t know I could go. I didn’t have money for University and I was under the impression that I couldn’t get a student loan if I went to school out of my hometown.

So, how did you like Ottawa U?

I didn’t like it at all.  I didn’t live on campus, I actually lived pretty far away and had to take the bus. So I totally missed frosh week and didn’t meet anyone. I couldn’t find any of my classes, I always got lost, and my classes were horribly boring. Except for drama. I enjoyed drama a lot.

What didn’t you like about your classes?

You know how you have to take all these classes that have nothing to do with what you’re interested in? Philosophy, basic Biology, Communications, English. blah.

Wait, you didn’t like your english class?

My teacher was boring and grouchy. It was ‘British Authors’ or something. We had to read ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, which wasn’t bad. Then ‘Beowulf’, which was starting to get a little silly. Then when we got to ‘Canterbury Tales’, I couldn’t stand it anymore.

What do you  mean?

It was all, blah blah, what does this mean? What do you think it meant by him wearing a green tunic?  Why did this part rhyme? Who cares? My teacher obviously did. And he had very strong opinions on his theories. So after my third essay, I quit. I was tired of getting back my papers with notes like,  ‘I can’t believe you graduated English’, ‘stop wasting my time’. It was crushing. And I was going through a really hard time personally as well.

Can I ask about that?

Let’s just say that I was no longer living at my parents and I was living downtown, on my own for the first time, at 18. I was in a rooming house where we shared a kitchen and I was terrified for most of the time.

It is hard when you’re on your own for the first time. So what happend after you quit?

I worked at a bar downtown. Made some friends. Saved some money. Bought a motorcycle. Broke up with my first love.  Applied to adult high school so I could take Forestry. Or Environmental Conservation. Or Marine Biology.

Wow. Those course have nothing to do with English.

I know. And when I look back, I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking. But I went to adult high school for a whole year and took Biology, Chemistry and Physics. And Calculus. Twice.

How was that for you?

Science and math are not easy concept for me to grasp. I’m too busy daydreaming or checking out my desk mates’ boots. Plus I had moved two more times.

So why did you choose Forestry?

I actually really wanted to be a Marine Biologist. I love the ocean and all the crazy creatures in it. But I wasn’t accepted to Guelph. They sent me a letter saying my grade point average was too low, but if I had suffered a serious stress, like a death in the family, they’d consider taking me.

Ouch!

Snap for sure.

Ok, interview part two another time.

 

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