This week’s guest post is an interview with my friend and writer, the lovely Jayne Denker, author of Your New Best Friend. Enjoy!
Q01 – When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?
I’ve always been a writer—I remember writing stories when I was little. I had my first commissioned poem (for summer camp’s last-day ceremony) when I was nine or ten.
When I was around twelve, I started writing novels, almost none of which ended! I feel guilty that I’ve got characters hanging out in another dimension, going “Ahem—!”
I knew I wanted to write for a living when I attended a reading by one of my favorite authors.
He was reading from his newly published book (or possibly one soon to be published—I forget) and he started giggling. At his own jokes. And I thought, “I want to do that.” I wanted to do something that would amuse me, and make others laugh.
Q02 – What is the best thing about being a writer?
Writing romantic comedies and making other people laugh, brightening their day. No contest!
Q03 – What is your dream goal for your writing?
It would be nice to make a name for myself in the romance community and make a little money. Not Rowling-level fame and fortune—just a handful of fans and enough to keep my cats in kibble.
Ideally, I’d love to have one of my books become popular enough that royalties would still be coming in after I’m gone, as a nest egg for my son.
Q04 – What is the title (or working title) of your current manuscript and can you tell us a little bit about it?
It’s called Your New Best Friend, and it’s a modern take on Austen’s Emma set on the North Shore of Massachusetts.
The Emma character is named Melanie Abbott (M.A.—geddit?) who’s small-town royalty (she lives in fictional Abbott’s Bay, named after her ancestor), and Mr Knightley is Connacht “Conn” Garvey, long-time family friend and owner of Deep Brew C, a restaurant/bar/coffee shop.
Q05 – Has anything influenced your work?
Everything in my reality, to be honest: things I’ve experienced, people I know (although I don’t put people I know into my stories—I just borrow some traits or characteristics), whatever I’ve observed.
My somewhat silly style has probably been influenced by my love of Douglas Adams’ absurdist sense of humor.
Q06 – What have you enjoyed most about writing this manuscript?
I used to hate the idea of Austen adaptations until I got the idea for Your new Best Friend. I really enjoyed Americanizing and modernizing Emma, walking that fine line between making her spoiled/rude and lovable.
I also enjoyed travelling to Rockport, Mass., for research. I’d been to Rockport years ago, but I wanted to refresh my memory because I thought basing a town on Rockport would be fun. It’s a great place.
Q07 – Would you ever want to see a story of yours turned into a movie?
Absolutely! But I’d want to be able to write the script and be a consultant during the process.
Too many adaptations end up sucking out loud, for a variety of reasons—miscast actors, poorly adapted story, having the humor sucked out of the dialogue, etc. I’d like to minimize the potential damage!
Q08 – What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Starting! And finding time to write. And working through the “I stink” slumps all writers experience. Also cutting word count—I do tend to go on quite a bit.
Q09 – Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
I’ve always been a hyphenate—doing something else while also writing novels. I was employed as a full-time writer/editor and back then I didn’t write my own stuff after hours because I was pooped out from writing all day.
Then I became a freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom, which gave me time and inspiration to start writing novels. Now I’m employed part-time, and I’m also looking after my 92-year-old mom.
I’d say the hardest thing about multitasking is that it’s difficult to prioritize—staying away from housecleaning if I have a deadline or writer’s block, or opting to watch TV instead of using that “downtime” to write.
I had to learn it’s okay to have a slightly grubby kitchen floor or dusty while I finished writing a book.
Q10 – Are people supportive of your writing?
Family and friends are ridiculously supportive—even my teenage son, who makes fun of my profession just to bug me, but then I hear him telling anyone who will listen that his mom writes books.
Some acquaintances make snide comments along the lines of “Must be nice to be able to sit around at home in your pyjamas all day, making up stories,” but they don’t know me, so I don’t care what they think! 😉
Q11 – Do you have a writing process?
All those elementary school report cards that said little Jayne was a daydreamer were right—only now I’m putting it to good use. I’ll spend months casually thinking up bits and pieces of the story and characters.
I’ll write down what comes to me in what I call my “blob o’ text”—everything in one Word document, no outline or anything sensible like that!
Once I feel ready to write, I’ll start at the beginning and work straight through (I don’t bounce around in the timeline). I write when I can—late at night, in the middle of the day, in the foyer at my son’s karate dojo while he’s beating the snot out of some other kid (or being beaten), you name it.
I don’t have set hours where I sit down and write. If I have nothing to say, or I’m writing crap, I walk away and do something else. (And I definitely don’t ascribe to getting up at 5 a.m. every day to write—that’s just crazy-talk to me because I’m a night owl.)
Once the first draft is done, I’ll go back and read through it and start hacking away, throwing stuff out, adding new stuff, reordering things. Sometimes I’ll ask my beta readers to read some of it very early on, especially if I’m stuck, but most of the time I only pass it on to them once I’m proud of what I’ve got.
After that, it goes off to my publisher, and the editing process starts in earnest with my official editor.
Q12 – What is the single best piece of advice you could give to new writers?
Do better. I mean…keep learning and working to improve your writing. Nobody springs from the womb a fully formed perfect writer—we should always learn more about the craft from various sources: other writers, editors, trade articles.
“Do better” also applies to whatever you’re writing—if you get tired or bored or impatient, don’t just think “it’s fine the way it is.”
Really look at it and ask yourself if it could be better. If it could, then…do better.
Your New Best Friend
Jane Austen’s Emma made a habit of meddling in other people’s lives, but Melanie Abbott has turned it into a cottage industry.
As “modern American royalty” living in Abbott’s Bay, Massachusetts, a town founded by her ancestor, Melanie Abbott feels it’s her right—even her duty—to employ her uncanny knack for knowing exactly what everyone needs to improve their lives.
She eagerly shares her wisdom and insight with her friends and neighbors . . . whether they ask for it or not. If only Conn Garvey, her dearest friend, agreed with her.
Connacht Garvey has been keeping an eye on Melanie since they were kids. A bit older, far more level-headed, and infinitely patient, Conn feels it’s his duty to pull Melanie back from whatever cliff’s edge she’s about to wander off. Conn thinks Melanie is egotistical, self-centered, irritating, infuriating, relentless, ridiculous . . . and irresistible. Not that Conn’s confessed to that last one. Yet.
When Melanie impulsively starts up a new advice-giving business, it’s an instant hit. Conn doesn’t approve, as usual, which is too bad, because Melanie’s convinced he needs her VIP package. (Of advice!)
His coffeehouse is showing signs of financial trouble, plus his toxic ex is suddenly sniffing around, acting like she’s having second thoughts about their breakup. Will their friendship be blown to bits because of Melanie’s meddling . . . or will it become something more?
Check out Jayne’s first guest post – A Reading Experience
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Big thanks to Jayne once again for joining me on The Eternal Scribbler and doing this interview. Please make sure to check out her links and her earlier article if you missed it If you have any questions for Jayne please drop them in the comment section below.
I am currently Taking a Break and will hopefully be back to regularly scheduled blogging in August (maybe September)