Jenn J McLeod is about to release her debut novel, House For All Seasons, with Simon & Schuster.
Drum roll please!
I have been buried since Saturday in revisions for my book and that process alone has given me so many ideas for posts!
I will get to them. I promise.
But in the meantime, I am so thrilled to introduce the
WOMAN of the moment! Jenn J Mcleod who has her debut
novel, House For All Seasons, coming out with Simon & Schuster
in March. Thank you so much Jenn for being part of:
From Left Field…
The name of the game here is bravery! My blog has been about my path to publication, and while a writer can read any number of articles on writing craft, one of the most valuable things to me was reading excerpts, and well, just reading, to see how good writers put all that craft together.
So the first question I’ll ask is:
Lily M: Share with us the opening paragraph of your book as it began and how it is now.
Jenn J: Okay, on 13/03/10
‘I’m not going back there. Not for three months, not for three weeks, not even for three days.’ Thirty-eight year old Poppy Hamilton, once powerful playground prima donna, still knew how to command a crowd. ‘As lovely as it is to catch up with you ladies after all this time, I can’t do it – I won’t. Sorry. Besides, it makes no sense.’
‘Didn’t you understand?’ Sara tried to project her voice. ‘The Will is conditional on us all doing it – starting with you in spring.’
On 01/03/12 (final edits and I ditched the prologue way back, as advised, changing it to Chapter One)
‘I’m not going back there. Not for three months, three weeks, not even three days.’
Two decades on and Poppy, once powerful playground prima donna, could still command a crowd. ‘As lovely as it is to catch up with you ladies after all this time, I can’t do this. I won’t. Sorry. Besides, it makes no sense.’
Time pressured—as usual—Poppy stood apart from her three companions, alone and restless on the window side of the conference room. She eyed the wall clock hanging at one end of it, then her friends.
Lily M: Share with us 8 lines from the top of page 88
(yes, I stole this idea—did I mention I was head down in edits and time-poor—sorry!)
Jenn J: This is from House Of All Seasons: Part One – Surviving Summer (characters Sara and Will.)
Breathless by the time she’d reached the car, her disquiet turning to exasperation, Sara said, ‘Don’t be angry, Will.’
‘Because it’s not like you to be angry.’
‘Everyone’s funny guy, eh? Yeah, that’s good old Will Travelli. The guy who gives you all a good laugh. The guy who reminds you how lucky you all are. Well, newsflash, Sara, that’s not who I am twenty-four/seven, and not without a lot of bloody encouragement. And by that I mean my kids. Without them I wouldn’t even be here. They were the only thing that made me put up with the frigging pain and humiliation. Can we just go?’
LIly M: (Love those 8 lines Jenn). What is your greatest ‘lightbulb moment’
in terms of Writing Craft?
Jenn J: Only one? Then I’ll go with ‘voice’. I was trying to write stuff that wasn’t me and … well, it wasn’t working. Then I read a Lisa Heidke novel (What Kate Did Next) and bingo! I even blogged about my bingo moment. (The link is easier than me explaining). http://www.jennjmcleod.com/2010/07/12/so-thats-what-a-fresh-voice-means/
Lily M: What keeps you awake at night?
Jenn J: At this moment in time? The idea that reviewers are reading my book and that my life’s work, my impossible dream that somehow came true, now depends on five little stars or the words they choose to write. (Okay, possibly a little over-dramatic. But you did ask.)
Lily M: If you could choose three items on the list below to take for a week camping in the Australian outback, which three would you pick? There are magic batteries for anything electrical!
- my favourite paperback
- my significant other
- food I don’t have to kill or catch
- battery-powered Nespresso & endless supply of Pods
- a torch
- change of clothes
- mobile phone/internet connection for twitter & FB
Jenn J: Hello, my name is Jenn and I am an addict! Yes, I picked:
- mobile phone/internet connection for twitter & FB. How pathetic is THAT! I do love my iPad.
- my significant other (to keep me fed and watered while I write, Twitter and Facebook.)
- Dilemma. I don’t need a torch. The iPad will double as that and I don’t need moisturiser/cosmetics/hairbrush as there is no mirror so who cares? Hmm, tough one. Fresh clothes are a must, but so are wine and (to a lesser degree) food.
(Indecisive, isn’t she our Jenn! And not particularly practical. I’d like to see some of those Tweets written on a tummy filled with wine and no food! I think I have to take Answer 3 as ‘fresh clothes’. This is probably just as well for any lost bushwalkers who happen upon this campsite.)
Lily M: My book (being released by Escape Publishing in March) is called His Brand Of Beautiful. Can you tell me what you would describe as ‘your brand of beautiful’?
The dogs. Jenn’s brand of beautiful, bad breath and all!
Jenn J: Hairy, bad breath, annoying at times, but a happy tail and unconditional love. My muse, Strawberry & Daiquiri.
Lily M: Can you tell me the best thing about House For All Seasons?
Jenn J: The best thing about my book?
Oh, you mean inside…story like…?
Hmm, the four characters, based on the four seasons, written in four parts. It’s like four stories in one all tied up with a whopping big secret. I’m inspired by the changing seasons. I love the contrast – and contrast makes for great characters and conflict. So I wanted to create four female characters as different as the seasons.
So, House for all Seasons is four separate journeys of the heart set in a small town with heart: Surviving Summer, Tall Poppy, Autumn Leaves and Wynter’s Way, in which readers witness both the unravelling of friendships and a tightening of family ties.
Lily M: Who would absolutely love it?
Jenn J: I once heard Jodi Picoult say:
“The best books straddle genres and attract a
variety of readers.”
That influences my writing, and with intricate themes that deal with family ties and friendship there is definitely broad appeal. The four-part approach has something for everyone.
I write what the business calls ‘commercial’ fiction. This means stories with broad themes and appealing to a broader audience (making the distinction from what is referred to as more ‘literary’ works). But a broader audience means more people reading my work and that, after all, is why I write. I believe my novels can comfortably sit on a shelf alongside more literary works, general fiction and contemporary romances.
So I’m not sure who would love it. But what I’d hope is that they remember the story, or a particular scene, and talk about it in much the same way people talk about a favourite movie.
Lily M: Can you share with us your favourite 250 words from the novel and tell us what makes it your favourite?
Jenn J: One Favourite Part?! I have lots! But for different reasons. One that makes me cry. One that makes me laugh out loud. One where I sit back and say “Did I really write that?”
For you, I have this one. I hope you enjoy it (and it’s not too long).
(Lily here: AHEM! Did you not see me say 250 words!)
House For All Seasons – Surviving Summer
‘Will said you were back in town,’ Jennifer continued. ‘He mentioned it in passing last night after picking me up and giving me the most beautiful bunch of flowers, then taking me out to dinner at, of all places, La Mystique restaurant in Saddleton, where we drank champagne and he made a toast, to me, of course. It was my birthday, you know.’
Was the woman still breathing? Sara began to wonder, having listened to the longest sentence in history. Maybe Jenny was cheerleader for the verbal Olympics these days. Despite the long-windedness of her monologue, the message could not have been any clearer if she’d tattooed it on that tummy next to the navel stud: Back off, Will’s mine.
‘Well in that case, happy birthday, Jennifer,’ Sara said, trying not to smile.
She should put the woman out of her misery, tell Jennifer she was here to close doors, not bang her head against them by chasing after a twenty-year-old attraction that was never reciprocated in the first place. Sara had moved on from Will a long time ago. She was interested to know how he was doing despite her unforgivable lack of contact and concern, but after fulfilling her obligation with the house, Sara would go back to Sydney. Staying permanently in Calingarry Crossing had never been a consideration. Never again would the town tie Sara down. By summer’s end she would be ready to face the world as a new woman, get a job and get used to how life was for her now. Telling Jennifer she need not worry about any competition from her was the right thing to do, but the devil in Sara decided to let the woman make her own assumptions. Jennifer was probably quite skilled at it.
‘Morning, boss,’ Jennifer chirped as she sashayed past Will on his way back over to Sara.
‘I think my arrival may have upset Jenny … I mean, Jennifer.’
‘Not sure I follow.’ Will wrinkled his nose the way he always used to, except for the time a Saddleton team bully broke it in a high tackle.
‘Jennifer? Your date last night? Wildly romantic dinner? La Mystique? Ringing any bells?’
‘Is that what she just told you?’ He chuckled in a sweet, sympathetic way. ‘Poor Jen. Her husband left her last year. Ran off with a backpacker working at the Saddleton pub. Yesterday was her first birthday alone and I thought a night out would be nice, cheer her up a bit. Besides, she’s a good worker and hangs around to help me close up. She never claims overtime.’
‘Oh, I’m sure she feels amply rewarded, though.’
Sara was teasing, but the pangs of jealousy jabbed a little too seriously hard. Why had there been no Will and no knight in shining armour to rescue Sara when her husband had run out, dumping her at the worst possible point in her life?
Don’t go there.
‘So, speaking of dinner, Ms Sara Fraser, how about you have it with me tonight?’
‘Oh my, La Mystique two nights in one week?’
‘Ah, actually, I was thinking more Le Café, as in here. It’s wages night so I’m slaving over pays after I lock up, but I can have Dom knock us up a meal before he finishes. When I’m done with the wages I can just bung the plates of whatever in the microwave.’
Bung whatever in the microwave!
Sara laughed so hard, the lack of control over her normally tightly controlled emotions surprised her.
‘What’s so funny?’ Will asked, doing a lousy job of keeping a straight face.
‘You—and you know it.’ She buckled her helmet and unhooked her sunnies from the neck of her shirt, preparing to leave. ‘I guess it’s microwaved whatever around six. I’ll be here.’
Lily M: Microwaved whatever at six sounds great to me! What a guy is Will. I’m lucky to have two Will excerpts. Thanks Jenn.
Jenn J: Thank you for having me, Lily.
Lily M: Hmm. You’re being nice now after getting 650 words by me hey? Okay then. You’re welcome!
To find out more about House For All Seasons, and about Jenn J McLeod,
And you can pre-order it here:
Plus it will be available in bookshops and wherever books are sold
(incl Big W, Kmart and Target) from March 1. Also e-book, Kindle & Kobo.