Friday, September 6, 2013

11 Questions with Jennyfer Browne

For this month's 11 Questions, I am very happy to introduce to you a very dear and special friend, Jennyfer Browne, author of Healing Faith.  

I believe that we meet some of the most valuable persons in our lives in some of the most unlikely places.  Such is the case for Jennyfer and me.  We met online about four years ago (Wow!), as we were playing in the realm of Twilight fan fiction.  Don't knock it folks.  It has led to some major success for quite a few writers out there.

Through the years, Jennyfer and I forged a friendship based on trust and mutual support.  I hold her thoughts on my writing and my other related woes in very high regard. I also hold her responsible for my addiction to Darjeeling tea.

Creating characters you care for and scenes that draw you in are among her great talents. She writes with bravery, but does so without being haphazard or careless.  As a self-published author, she cares deeply about her offerings to the public.  She talks about her decision  to self-publish and her guiding thoughts on it in the interview below.

In June (on my birthday, in fact - but not intentional), Jennyfer debuted Healing Faith. It is the first book in her In Your World series, a romance set against the backdrop of the world of the Amish way of life.  I had the privilege of being a pre-reader of this beautiful love story as it unfolded, and I am thrilled for many more to experience it as I did.

Without further ado, I introduce you to my dearest, Jennyfer Browne.   

How early in life did you realize that you were a writer?  At what point did you decide to pursue publication? What brought you to that decision?
I’ve been writing in one fashion or another since I was in grade school- starting with several notebooks filled with the story of a young sorceress who falls for a thief (I will publish this one day, but perhaps a major re-edit is in order, now that I am older than ten). In high school, it was all about poetry- I had little time to fill notebooks with worlds and heroes. But with poetry- a condensed world of emotion was just as valid. My family and friends pushed me to pursue publication- I never think I am good enough and don’t take rejection well (a reason I never became an actor- my childhood dream).

Your published work is in the erotic romance genre.  Have you ever written in other genres?  What is it about this genre that calls you?
I love to fall in love in Romance- but I started in fantasy and Science Fiction. I have a paranormal romance and a fantasy novel I’m working on.  With erotic romance, it’s the excitement of pushing the limits of what society views as normal- respectable. While my first novel may not be over the top erotica- it balances on the fence for many due to the religious nature of the story. For me- sex, or sensuality isn’t dirty. It is a way of expressing ones emotions for the person you care for. Everyone has their limits- a place to draw the line; I like to mop over that line a bit and perhaps ruffle a few feathers of those that have a far more conservative view than my own. Sex is beautiful when shared with someone you love. It should be exulted; in my opinion- whether it is with a touch, a whip, or someone of the same gender.

Is there a specific topic, whether within your genre or outside of it, that you feel you cannot write about?  Would you explain to us why?
My hard limits to what I won’t write ever would have to be about rape or incest. Again, people write it, and for some it is done well. But I have no interest in it only because I think it devalues the role of sexual relations in a healthy relationship. And it’s only what I am interested in, that I can be passionate about that motivates me to write.

Could you describe for us the birth process of your stories?  Are all your stories born or developed the same way?
Sometimes it’s a picture that strikes a chord, other times a song- either the melody or the lyrics. Most of the time when a thought hits me, I write it down, a synopsis of sorts and set it aside. If it continues to work around in my mind, I won’t ignore it. I have about a dozen stories started in a word doc right now, just waiting for more time in my head to blossom. It makes my mind a very noisy place sometimes.

Where do you typically find inspiration for your stories and the characters you create?  Is there a particular source that you return to regularly?
Pictures and music inspire me the most. Once I have a story outlined, or even just a page of brief character breakdowns, I go searching for images that match my internal ideas. They could be photo shoots, fashion spreads, or simply a post from a Tumblr search. I’ll create a dossier for each character that sometimes might change depending on how the character develops as I write. Music keeps the emotion alive as I write, and I have been known to play the same song for hours while I work- much to my husband’s chagrin.  

Can you describe for us a typical writing day?  Do you write every day? Do you dedicate regular hours to writing?  What would be the optimum conditions for a “perfect” writing session?
My early days I wrote every moment I could. My computer was always on. I’d stay up until four in the morning, ticking away while only stopping to go to the bathroom after consuming a gallon of Crystal Light. It’s leveled out considerably since then- that or I am getting too old to stay up so late! I try to write something every day- be it a blog entry, editing, or something new. My new resolution is to commit to a minimum of two hours a day. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I have found other things to distract me (darn that Facebook and Pinterest!). I also have to balance my day job, which is very demanding of time, and my home life.

A perfect writing session would be a quiet house with no distractions - the Internet disabled, and music playing in the background. And a bottomless cup of Iced Tea without the need to pee, ever.

Have you ever found the inkwell dry?  How do you refill it?
ALL.THE.TIME. There are times when I sit and look at the blinking cursor and curse it. Sometimes, if it is a particular part of the story that is leaving me blank - I’ll think about where I want to be at eventually and write that. I have written many chapters out of sequence, simply because one particular part of dialogue between two characters may not be working, or I just don’t want to write what I am stuck at, but really want to write the conflict to come.

Sometimes that doesn’t help either, so I will set the story aside- read something, or open up one of those other stories that may be speaking to me. Eventually, the block works its way out. I think too many authors worry about drying up or hitting that wall. It’s okay to have it happen- it will always find a way back to you.

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? Like the least?  Why?
I am an emotional writer. I feel and experience much of what I write, which is my favorite and my least favorite. When my characters are in love, I am as well. When they are feeling amorous, so am I (my husband loves it when I write those scenes!). But when I write conflict or angst, or pain - I feel that as well. I wrote a section of a story I love that dealt with heavy loss - and I was depressed for two months while I waited to post it (it was written out of sequence as I do). It’s a catharsis of sorts to work through the emotions, and perhaps why I love my characters as much as I do.

You decided to follow the self-publication route.  Can you share with us what factors led you to that decision?
Choosing to self-pub was one of the best, and most frightening decisions I have made. Just a year ago, I went to conferences that still vilified the self-published author. Traditional publishing was the way to go and so following that statement; I sought out a publisher (and an agent) for my first novel. I had an agent that wanted to read it, but I was worried that she would find the erotic elements in it offensive, so I contemplated compromising my story to fit into the mold of the genre it would likely fall under - Amish Fiction. This made me question why I even wrote my story as I had - with religious undertones but erotic themes.

I had a publishing company make an offer, but my feeling was they intended to make it a single novel, and I had written it as a series. I felt the publishing industry in general wanted to dictate how long it should be, that I would have to eliminate the sexual situations to fit a genre, and that my beloved characters would fall flat because of word cuts.

Add to that, this was originally fan fiction. The disdain for pulled-to-publish fan fic was (and still is) at an all-time high. How could I possibly sell this story without having to fight the negativity that the origin of it would represent?

I ultimately made the choice to self publish for several reasons. I didn’t want to compromise the integrity of the story to fit a mold. If I received blasting reviews from a community that was offended by the sex, so be it. I didn’t want sacrifice what I felt was important to the development of the storyline because someone told me to. I also didn’t want to see it get chopped down to one novel.

Additionally, I felt I could offer a better pricing scheme for the novel by self-publishing. Because it was originally fan fic, there is a huge argument as to why it should be offered at ten dollars for what many would assume was simply a find and replace of names (although it has gone through many revisions to strengthen the story). I wanted it to be available at a good price, for not only those that had read it before, but to an audience I hoped would enjoy it for the story in its own right. This is not to say that others at higher prices are doing it unjustly, it is just that this was my feeling on offering something I wanted to share.

Self-publication takes a lot of work- and I learned a lot about publishing in the nine months I dedicated to the formatted, re-editing and artistic development that was necessary to get it to publish. Now, it seems that self-publishing is gaining ground on the market, and I couldn’t be happier to say that I am one of those that have taken the plunge to do it.

Do you think choosing to self-publish makes you a bolder writer? More fearful?  
I think choosing to self publish can certainly make one bolder; you can break the rules set by traditional publishers. You don’t have to have dictated to you what is popular reading material- you can publish what YOU enjoy, and others may as well. But it has made me more critical as well. Part of the ridicule of self-published authors is the woeful editing on most self-pubs, and the argument that it is all about the money. It’s not- but every author has a responsibility to make sure that they offer the best product they can, at a fair market value. I am more critical than some when it comes to what I am offering- so my publishing deadlines may be lengthier than someone who may just finish and then publish without edits.

Does that mean that my book is without error? No. But I have seen my fair share of traditional and small press books with similar issues. It just means I need to work harder to be better about it. I want to provide the best product I can that my readers can enjoy without feeling burdened by mistakes. I can be bold in my storytelling- where it may not fit in a particular genre, but I need to back it up with good formatting and editing. I am still learning how to do that.

This is a question that was posed on the blog of one of my favorite authors, and answering it helped me identify my priorities in terms of what I want to focus on as a writer.   So, I’ll ask you:  “If you had just one story left in you, and it was guaranteed to be published, what would that story be?”
Oooh! That’s a tough one! I would have to say I would return to my beginnings and write an epic fantasy. I love world building and the fight against good and evil. A writer can make a hero suffer more to achieve a goal in fantasy that cannot be done as easily in straight up romance. It would of course have some romance in it. Fighting for love and country is very inspiring to me. A heroine that must fight the odds, battle her blossoming magical powers of her ancestors while denying her feelings for who should be her mortal enemy, resulting in a class of wills that ultimately change both for the better. Favorite characters die, but good prevails- with a dose of love. That would be my last story.

Jennyfer Browne has always been a sucker for a good love story- a complex recipe with a dash of dashing, a pinch of heroism, and a hefty dose of outside forces that test young lovers.  Ms. Browne lives in California with her wonderful husband and adoring son, where she enjoys the beach and sailing off on further adventures. A member of the Romance Writers of America and blessed with an overactive imagination, she writes sweet and savory romances with a twist of tart that always come to a happy ending. 

Follow Jennyfer on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.
Healing Faith (In Your World) (Volume 1) is available in e-book and paperback formats on Amazon.

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