I'm excited about this week's My Town Monday post. It's something I've had in mind for quite a while, but life kept getting in the way. Amarillo is the home to many talented, and multi-published writers. I might be envious of their success, except they are also some of the nicest and most generous mentors any wannabe writer could have. I'm very fortunate to call these people my friends and from time to time I'm going to introduce you to these talented people. I plan to sprinkle in these My Town Monday interviews with the other topics of interest regarding Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.
Without further ado let me introduce ... Jennifer Archer.
Publisher’s Weekly calls Jennifer Archer a writer who “captures the voices and vulnerabilities of her characters with precision.” Archer finaled twice in Romance Writers of competition, was a 2006 finalist for the prestigious Rita Award with her mainstream women’s fiction novel The Me I Used To Be, and her novel Sandwiched was a 2006 nominee for a Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Award. She is the author of eight published novels and three novellas, and her first novel for young adults, to be published by HarperCollins, is scheduled for release in Fall of 2010. Along with her business partner, author Mary Schramski, Archer also offers freelance writing services though their business STERLING PEN @ www.sterlingpen.net.
But this wouldn't be My Town Monday without a bit of talk about the hometown both Jennifer and I call home, so let's get on with it.
Hi Jennifer, thanks for taking time away from your writing to answer a few questions. I'm really thrilled to get the chance to talk to you and your readers about writing on your blog! Thanks for having me.
But back to your question about Texas. Since I was just a toddler when we left for the first time, I don't remember missing anything about the state. It wasn't until I moved from Amarillo to Oklahoma City after graduating from college and marrying that I became homesick for Texas. Oklahoma and the Panhandle of Texas are similar in a lot of ways. The people are a lot alike, too. Very down-to-earth and friendly. In fact, I think those of us from the Texas Panhandle probably have more in common with Okies than with Texans who live further south! So Oklahoma felt very familiar and I was comfortable there. I just missed my Texas family and friends. One thing that *was* different and took some getting used to was the humidity in Oklahoma City during the warmer months, since I'm so used to arid Panhandle weather.
Your family moved to a small town in the Panhandle just before you started junior high, then moved to Amarillo when your were in High School. What is your earliest memory of the city and how long did it take before the felt like home?
Like most writers, you fell in love with reading at an early age, but after college you put off your dreams of writing. I quote from your website's bio "I became sensible,pulled on my pantyhose, and set out to make a living in the business world. (Besides, I didn't know any writers. They're all bohemians who live in places like Europe or New York City, aren't they?)" What changed your mind? What made you decide that a person from Amarillo really could go after the dream and become a multi-published writer? I began taking a continuing education night class in creative writing at Amarillo College when my sons were small. Mothers of young children need a break now and then -- especially when those children are 2 rowdy little boys only 2 years apart in age! The class started out as my attempt to have some "me time" doing something that interested me. I thought it would be a nice hobby. When I realized that the teacher was a selling fiction writer -- historical romance writer Jodi Thomas -- and that the follow-up course was taught by another selling historical fiction writer -- DeWanna Pace -- I started to think that my dream might be possible, afterall. Both of these women had lived in Amarillo most of their lives. I could relate to them. If they could succeed in becoming published authors, I thought maybe I could, too. Also, the classes really hooked me in. The more I wrote, the more writing seeped into my blood. I always tell people it's like an addiction. Luckily, it's a healthy one!
What have been the biggest challenges to overcome as a writer in Amarillo as opposed to one living in New York, Paris, Or LA? Are there any advantages? Since I've never lived in New York, Paris or L.A., I'm not sure I can say what the differences, holdbacks, or advantages might be. But I have a feeling we tackle the same challenges. I've met many writers from all over since I've been pursuing the art and business of fiction writing. Usually, we speak the same language right away when it comes to our mutual profession. Creating believable characters, plotting, pacing, and all the other elements that make a great story are the same no matter where you live. That said, I do think something about the Panhandle stirs imagination in ways many other places might not. Maybe it's the relentless wind, the lush sunsets, or the fact that you can see all the way to the horizon without anything obstructing the view -- but there seems to be a lot more creative folks per square mile around here than in other parts of the U.S.
All of your books, whether they be a romance like Shocking Behavior or women's fiction like The Me I Used To Be are full of great characters. Do you fully develop your characters before you start writing the novel, or do you flesh them out as you go along relying on the plot to reveal their true character? Thanks for the compliment! I tend to be more of a "fly by the seat of my pants" type of writer, at least when I'm starting a book. I have a pretty good sense of the main character's personality at the beginning, but all the details of why they are like they are usually develop as I'm writing. More often than not, about mid-way through the first draft, I find myself stopping and asking myself where the story is going to lead. That's when I sit down and plot and fully flesh out the characters' personalities and back-stories. I really know them deeply by that point. Still, I have to say every book is different for me. When I was working on The Me I Used To Be, it was as if Ally was whispering the story in my ear and I just had to type in what she told me. I didn't do any formal plotting for that book. I wish that happened more often, but sometimes my characters are not so forthcoming! I have to really pry information out of them.
I know you have been working on a young adult novel which will be available from Harper Collins next year. Can you give a sneak preview of what it is about and the title? Also when we can expect to find it to hit the shelves? Thanks for asking! I'm really excited about this story, as well as my debut as a writer of Young Adult fiction. YA novels have such a wide appeal that often crosses over to an adult audience. Today, many YA novels tackle complex issues that affect teens. And the writing can be -- and often is -- as sophisticated and lyrical as the writing in a novel for adults. I'm having a great time working on this first YA novel and brainstorming the one that will follow it and also be published by Harper Teen.
Many thanks to Jennifer for taking the time to be a part of My Town Monday.
Stop in over at Jennifer's blog and tell her hi, hello, bonjour, aloha, guten tag, konnicha wa, or even a good ol' howdy. She doesn't post as often as I'd like, but maybe with enough encouragement we can change that.
Her website is here. Be sure and check out the excerpts from all over her novels which can be found here.
And if you are in need of freelance writing, editing, or other author services check out Sterling Pen here.
Check back throughout Sunday and Monday to discover more great My Town Monday posts from all over the globe.
Chris - Dwells in Hong Kong but posts this week about Genoa, Italy
Jenn Jilks - Live in Muskoka but this week blogs about Toronto, Canada
Lyzzydee - Stops to smell the flowers in Welwyn Garden City, England
Mary - Linda Britton Zinn guest blogs about Olmsted Falls, Ohio
Debra - Takes a historic look at the Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio.
Clare - Takes us to the bookish town of Wincanton, Somerset, UK
Barbara Martin - Compares the then and now of Toronto, Canada
Gary Dobbs - Visits the old church on the hill in Gilfach Goch, UK
Linda McLaughlin - It's a heatwave in Orange County, California
Paul Brazill - Introduces us to Poland's Marian Rejewski
Barrie Summy - Let's the dogs out in Sand Diego, California
Patti Abbott - Hops across her home state to Benton Harbor, Michigan
Clair Dickson - Serves up a mighty sweet post from Livingston County, Michigan
Lauren - Piles on the relish from Chicago, Illinois
Reb - Takes a road trip to Bagg Creek near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
J Winter - It's all about the dead presidents in Cincinnati, Ohio
Cloudia - Has a grand location in Honolulu, Hawaii
Yellowdog Granny- Is out and about in West, Texas