Jenn J McLeod’s debut novel House for All Seasons reached No. 5 on the Nielsen Bookscan list of bestselling debuts of 2013. Her success is all the more lovely to watch as she is a particularly gregarious and generous writer and blogger, as I found out when she interviewed me on her blog some time ago. I’m thrilled she has agreed to be my guest today and tell us all about her latest release, Simmering Season.
Welcome to my blog, Jenn! Tell us what inspired you to write SIMMERING SEASON?
Two (weird) threads combined: Reality TV and school reunions!
The Susan ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ Boyle after her Britain, You’ve Got Talent audition (and the You Tube clip that went viral). Sure, I related to the song and her situation. I, too, was not getting any younger and hoping someone would discover I had talent – writing, not singing! The media frenzy that turned the woman’s life on its head almost overnight made me fearful of the consequences. Who was looking out for her? The trolls were horrible and she was never going to fit the mould or the industry’s crushing standards: how to look, act, speak. It made me wonder … “How does someone cope? What would happen if …”
I have a love/hate relationship with reality TV shows that get people’s hopes up then discards them and this comes out in one Simmering Season character, Brian Henkler – a kind of man so desperate for his is fifteen minutes of fame he’s prepared to forget his family. The kind that reminds me of a balloon pumped full of air that floats so high you stick your fingers in your ears in anticipation of the inevitable “pop”? He’s like that; so is the situation I create with a school reunion that brings home more than memories for his wife, and local publican, Maggie Lindeman.
As mentioned, the other thread in the story is school reunions. As Maggie says in Simmering Season…
“The idea of a school reunion is both terrifying and fascinating.” The thought of summing up her achievements in a synopsis and spruiking them does not sit well with Maggie. To her, a school reunion was like a swollen river about to burst its banks; just going for a look could be dangerous, while staying away was impossible.”
What did you enjoy most about writing the novel?
Creating the characters and letting them write their own stories. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? I admit to scoffing when I’d hear published authors talk about their characters taking their own direction. I’ve since learned it does happen – well it does with us pantsers! It happened that way for me with House for all Seasons, with secondary characters refusing to stay in the background – like Maggie Lindeman. While I’d love to one day write a House for all Seasons prequel (Gypsy’s story), it was Maggie who won this time.
Simon & Schuster have contracted books three and four in my Seasons Collection, so I’m very excited to say I have typed THE END on book three, SEASON OF SHADOW AND LIGHT (Out April 2015.) Also, book four has moved from swirling around my head, to actual words on paper. Even though I was sad to leave Calingarry Crossing behind after book two, a move seemed right. Besides, I didn’t move too far away. I’m slowing moving east though! (Time for a little coastal fling by book four.)
Tell us one of the things you love about being a writer?
Apart from the creative process (creating personalities and places and bringing them to life) I’d have to say the camaraderie and mutual support I’ve found among writer friends – both f2f and online. It’s almost tribal. We are only missing the secret handshake and code words.
What? What do you mean there’s a secret handshake? Nobody told me about it. L
When you hit a roadblock in your writing, how do you get going again?
I included a favourite Elizabeth Edwards quote in Simmering Season, which tends to sum up my roadblock strategy:
“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.”
When I face turbulent times (yes, I have been knowN to get quite hysterical!) I walk through the storm – but not alone. I have a silent partner, a ‘J’ – as in Jenn ‘J’ McLeod – who is my wise reader and ego buster. I don’t think I’d manage a book every year without a plotting partner who digs me out of big black writer holes, calms me, believes in me, and lovingly tells me to “get real” and ditch the writer ego (along with all that flowery prose of the first draft).
Then, of course, there’s Facebook. I have THE BEST author friends online who really understand the highs and lows of this biz. I get so much enjoyment out of watching their successes. Supporting aspiring authors is a great way to remember how far I’ve come and how lucky I am. Positive thoughts help shift roadblocks pretty fast.
What else are you feeling passionate about at the moment?
1. Book three – Season of Shadow and Light. (In the back of Simmering Season, readers will find a sneak peek and I am super-excited about this one.)
2. De-cluttering and simplifying my life – see answer to next question!
Tell us about one of your favourite places, somewhere you like to go when you need to relax and recharge.
Home is where I relax the most, with my two little fluffy heartbeats at my feet. Where I’ve lived for the last decade is a touch of country on the Coffs Coast – a property tucked away in a rural hamlet in the Coffs hinterland, but only ten minutes to the beach. However …
Home is going to change soon. A plan is afoot to sell-up and downsize and make a fifth-wheeler motorhome (with writing desk!) a portable abode so I can see this big brown land that is chock-a-block with small towns keeping big secrets. Thirty years ago I travelled around Australian in a F100 and a tent. I cannot wait to return to some favourite spots, while also discovering new places (and I’ve earned a little luxury this time).
I love book recommendations. Tell me about one book you’ve loved in the last year?
It is a toss up between the prolific Dianne Blacklock (her latest, The Best Man, has such a great collection of characters) and a debut author, Anna Romer, who wrote Thornwood House. Both these authors deliver on various levels. I enjoyed the storylines immensely, but when the writer/writing teaches me something – either craft-wise or general knowledge … Bonus! Dianne Blacklock always teaches me something about character development and Anna Romer’s book is a sensory journey into the Aussie bush.
And what are you looking forward to reading this year?
I seriously need to start working my way through my e-reader. While such devices are convenient (especially when you are de-cluttering and downsizing) without the physical teetering tower of print books on the bedside table, the e-reader can be a case of out of sight out of mind. But there are two authors in particular with books out right now: Helene Young has a new book (Safe Harbour), plus there’s a debut from Kylie Kaden (Losing Kate) that looks really interesting.
Finally, where can people go to find out more about you and your books?
My website has book blurbs, videos and reviews. I also have the “Odd and Occasional Newsy Newsletter” and love it when someone signs up.
Thank you so much for hosting me, Sara. Readers can find out about my books and me (including a snazzy DIY book trailer) on my website www.jennjmcleod.com
Jenn is also to be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JennJMcLeod.Books and on Twitter (@jennjmcleod). Thanks so much for your visit, Jenn!
This month I’m giving one reader the chance to win a copy of Jenn’s latest novel, SIMMERING SEASON, and all you have to do to be in with a shot is to leave a comment below telling us which song you’d choose to sing on a TV reality show! I’ll start it off by choosing ‘Let It Go’ from the movie Frozen, since it is ‘performed’ regularly in our house at present, and I know it pretty much off by heart! Make sure you’re also subscribed to my newsletter here – and look out for more giveaways in future.
Competition closes midnight, 30 April 2014, and the winner will be announced the following day.