What’s it like to be an author? Taking a peek behind the curtain with Jennifer Kelland Perry
One of the unexpected pleasures of being an indie author is making author friends around the world. Not that I’m flying off to far-flung places. I’ve made friends through online writer groups, including Jennifer Kelland Perry, the lovely lady in the picture. She’s the author of two novels about teen-age sisters - Calmer Girls and Calmer Secrets. If you liked my book, A Daffodil for Angie, there’s a good chance you’ll like her novels as well.
Jennifer lives along the beautiful coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Besides being a writer, she’s also a photographer. We had a fun chat recently.
Connie: Your novels, Calmer Girls and Calmer Secrets feature sisters who don’t exactly get along. The story includes intense sibling rivalry – including both sisters being in love with the same boy – and a big dose of personal and family issues. The sisters are realistically drawn characters who face some rather daunting challenges. Can you tell us how you came to write about Samantha and Veronica?
Jennifer: I've always been fascinated by the differences in siblings, even though they share the same home, family and similar life experiences. The story of Calmer Girls was born when I had a strong desire to write about two characters on opposite ends of the introversion/extroversion scale. Sisters Samantha and Veronica are only a year apart but you couldn't find more opposite personalities. The contrast between them was fun to explore throughout the plot.
Connie: Are there auto-biographical bits in your novels? Can you give us an example or two?
Jennifer: I'm an introvert and somewhat shy like Samantha, and unlike her sister, I love books, photography and scored high marks in school. Like Sam, I had sleep-walking episodes and night terrors as well, and so did my son. Where I wrote about Nana Rose, the girls' grandmother, having Alzheimer's disease, I drew on my own experience with my beloved mother who passed in 2012. Everything else in the two books besides the Newfoundland setting is strictly fiction.
Connie: You’re Canadian. And your novels are set in Canada. Which is one of the things I enjoyed about them – the sense of place you imbue the stories with. Do you get a lot of feedback about that?
Jennifer: Yes, I do! Where setting is concerned, I've embraced the advice to "write what you know." Local readers have shared that they take great pleasure in reading a story set in their home province, while others are entertained by the descriptions of a place they have never been and might like to visit someday. This includes other Canadians who would love to visit Newfoundland and Labrador in future.
Connie: You’re working on a new novel. Can you tell us what it’s about? When it’ll be published?
Jennifer: I have the first draft completed for the new novel and am working on substantive edits at the moment. This time I've taken quite a challenging departure from my usual YA/NA genre, though there are young people in it. The new book is of the speculative genre, more specifically a futuristic tale set in the island of Newfoundland. We can call it dystopian, although - without giving too much away - that view could depend on what characters in the book you ask! Publication will most likely be in 2019.
Connie: How and why did you become a writer?
Jennifer: Connie, I'm sure you can relate to much of the following, being a writer yourself. I love books and have always wanted to write a few of my own. As a child I was busy making up cartoon stories and making scrapbooks about horses, and at fifteen I wrote my first teen practice novel, Forget-me-not Summer. When I finished work in banking and relocated to Newtown, I decided to pursue writing on a more consistent level.
Connie: What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Jennifer: It's rewarding and a whole lot of fun to create characters and to plot a novel or short story. The first time I held my published debut novel in my hands, it was a heady experience! I love the feedback and reviews from readers and connecting with other authors as well. When I wrote the first book, it never occurred to me it might be picked for a school assignment one day. A high school student here in Newfoundland has chosen Calmer Girls - which she loved by the way - for her Independent Novel Studies assignment. She’s doing a Literature Fair Project on it as well.
Connie: Huge congratulations on that, Jennifer! That's quite a feather in your cap! And how about the worst thing about being a writer?
Jennifer: Well, unless you write bestsellers or have a lot of books out there, your rewards are not monetary. One should not become a writer to make money – you have to love it anyway.
Connie: Good advice. Besides being an author, you’re also quite the photographer. Tell us a little about that.
Jennifer: Thank you! I'm strictly an amateur photographer with no formal training. When I moved out of the city to where I live now, I wanted to capture the beauty of the seascapes and other nature scenes, so I incorporated the photography into my blog and bought a new Canon camera, though I use my smartphone just as much. The quality with the phone is quite good.
Connie: And you have a cat?
Jennifer: My husband and I have two cats who are sisters that we adopted from the SPCA ten years ago. Their names are Maisie and Vivian and I can't imagine life without them.
Connie: Tell us one question you WISH people would ask you, but don’t. Then answer it.
Jennifer: The one question I'd like to be asked: What's the best book you've read recently? I just finished Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It's a science-fiction novel where a flu pandemic has killed more than 99% of the population. Her fourth novel, it won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015. Well-written and great food for thought for any writer or lover of futuristic/dystopian work that feels more literary and avoids fictional technology. It has a few terrific character studies as well.
Connie: OK. Now I've got to read it. Thanks for the recommendation.
Jennifer: Thank you for this interview, Connie. It was an honour and a lot of fun.
Connie: Thank you for giving us a peek into the life of an author!
To learn more about Jennifer, her books and her photography, check out her website: www.JenniferKellandPerry.com