Monday, April 20, 2009

Author Interview - Jennifer Archer - A My Town Monday Post


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 America's Golden Heart 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.

You are a native Texan, but you haven't always lived in the state. Tell us a about a few of the other places you lived growing up and the one thing you missed most about The Lone Star State while away. I was born in Cleburne, Texas but moved to California when I was a year old when my dad took a job with the railroad that required that we move a lot. We moved something like 22 times over the next ten years! His work took us to California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, and Texas. (We lived in most of those states more than once.) I don't remember much about my time in California or Colorado because I was so small when we lived in those places. But in Emporia, Kansas, where I lived three different times, I remember playing in a corn field and Maynard Elementary school, which I loved because the students were allowed to present wonderful plays and programs, and the teachers planned fun extracurricular activities for us. I also really appreciate the diversity in culture and heritage I was exposed to in Arizona and New Mexico. I went to school with children of many races and I learned about traditions, foods, and customs unlike my own. I learned, too, that despite our differences, in the ways that matter most all people are the same. My best friend in Arizona during 5th grade was a Hopi Indian. I've recently found and made contact with her again through the Internet! The world-wide web is a wonderful thing!

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 t
hat 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 Texas Panhandle felt like home?
I think my earliest memory of the Panhandle was the fierce wind and the dust. It still blows me away--excuse the pun! Because I'd spent my childhood moving, I was used to adapting to new places so after we moved to Pampa, Texas when I was in the 5th grade, it didn't take long for the Panhandle to feel like home. People are so friendly here. Oh, I still had to go through the typical "new kid" difficulties; it always felt as if I was being looked over and summed up whenever I started at a new school--whether it was in Texas or elsewhere. But, as always, I found the group of friends that "fit" pretty quickly. However, moving to Amarillo at the age of 16 was a different story! Of course, since Amarillo is only an hour's drive from Pampa and it's the largest city in the Panhandle, I had visited here many times for shopping excursions and other activities. But when we actually moved here, it seemed like a metropolis to me. The first or second week, a friend from Pampa visited and I vividly remember driving down Bell Street with her and looking at all the traffic and businesses and saying "this will never feel like home." That's really funny for me to think about now, because at the time there wasn't much on Bell Street! But compared to tiny Pampa, Texas, a city of 150, 000 seemed huge and chaotic. Moving to a new place during high school is tough, no matter the place. I had a very hard time adjusting. I don't think that was Amarillo's fault. It's just that at that age, kids have already formed their groups and finding where you fit and breaking in, so to speak, isn't easy, especially in a larger school. Besides, I didn't *want* to like it here. I longed to be with my friends in Pampa and it was close enough that I went back there whenever I could. Needless to say, that prevented me from the need to make a real effort to make new friends in Amarillo! My feelings about living in Amarillo took a more positive turn when I met my future husband during my senior year. My trips to Pampa suddenly became less frequent. Love has a way of changing everything!

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.
The working title of my YA novel is CLICK, but for several reasons, my editor and I are brainstorming new titles. Whatever it ends up being called, it's scheduled for release in the Fall of 2010 (I don't have an exact date yet.) It's a ghost story about a girl who has grown up moving from place to place all her life. When she's 16, her family moves to a small town in the Texas Panhandle, and she makes up her mind ahead of time that she's going to hate the place, no matter what. As a result, she has a tough time fitting in. (Hmmm...does this sound strangely familiar? Like, something I've experienced, perhaps?? :-) ) Here's a little blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Tansy Piper, an amateur photographer, moves from San Francisco to a small West Texas town with her mother, horror novelist Millicent Moon, and her grandfather, who suffers from severe dementia. On the isolated grounds of the long-abandoned house Millicent rents as inspiration for her latest novel, Tansy's loneliness grows. She escapes into her photography and the dark, seductive poems she finds hidden in the storm cellar, both of which lure her into the mind and world of a mysterious, troubled young man who died sixty years earlier.

Many thanks to Jennifer for taking the time to be a part of My Town Monday.

I don't know about all of y'all, but her newest endeavor sounds like a great book to me. I've read nearly every one of Jennifer's novels and have enjoyed them all from Shocking Behavior a romance with a very unique plot to my personal favorite, The Me I Used To Be a women's fiction novel with characters so real they felt like old friends only a few chapters in.


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

29 comments:

Sepiru Chris said...

Travis,

My world is going a bit crazy. I have MTM posts for the next four weeks going up on Monday (and the following three Mondays).

I have to abandon the e-world for a month; would you mind, terribly, collecting and posting the next 4 MTMs from my site for me for the next four weeks including tomorrow?

Thanks. I don't even want to go near blogger for four weeks as I have too much to do.

Cheers,
Chris

pattinase (abbott) said...

Great interview. Makes you want to read her books right away. I'll have one up tonight at ten. Thanks, Patti

Kathryn Magendie said...

Wonderful wonderful idea to do "My town"! Ohh, wish I'd thought of it -- great interview, Travis!

Lana Gramlich said...

Cool interview--thanks for sharing!
In other news, we watched a show about the dust bowl last night that mentioned Amarillo. I can't imagine what it would've been like! What a horrific, wholly man-made disaster!

Vodka Mom said...

That was fascinating, Travis.. what a great interview!

Jenn Jilks said...

I like this idea, Travis.

lyzzydee said...

Great interview I have found another blog to take up my time!!! I have done a MTM post, but its fairly light on words!!!

Lois Karlin said...

Great questions. Answers that let me know she'll be good at character development. We all share the same young adult hurts and haunts, don't we.

And...if you have a chance...over on WOM I've asked to hear more about your successes with Twitter.

- Lois

gigihawaii said...

Very interesting interview, Travis! It makes me want to read one of her books.

Mary said...

Great interview. Somehow I completely missed last week's MTM? Perhaps Alien's snatched me away?

My post is up and it is a guest blog post by my older sister.

debra said...

My post is up Travis. I shall return later to read.

Barbara Martin said...

Travis my MTM post will be up in the morning.

Clare2e said...

Travis-

At Women of Mystery our post ties in another writer (besides ourselves) with a town, too. It'll go up early Monday.

I was so envious to read that Jennifer Archer got a novel practically dictated by her protag. The only thing that saved me from grinding my jealous teeth to nubs is that it doesn't happen every time! Maybe once I've written as many good ones as she has, I'll get that occasional bolt from the blue. I agree that her new YA sounds terrific.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Great interview. Jennifer's YA story sounds really interesting.

I'll have a short MTM post, too,

Paul Brazill said...

Nice one Travis. I have an MTM post.

ARCHAVIST said...

Great interview and some interesting snippets of the panhandle. I enjoyed that - oh and I've just posted my contribution for this week. See you next week.

Barrie said...

I popped over to Jennifer's site! Oh yeah, and My MTM post is up!

mrsb said...

What a great feature for a blog! Loved reading about Jennifer.

Clair Dickson said...

Neat interview. Personally, I think places that are not LA or New York City make far more interesting settings. The Texas Panhandle sounds like a fantastic place for noir stories, too.

My sweet MTM is up.

Beth said...

Great interview.
Love the “fly by the seat of my pants” bit – encouraging and inspiring!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sorry I had the wrong date on it.

Bubblewench said...

what a great idea Travis! Loved this. Neat interview.

Lauren said...

That is a great interview! I love the concept for her new YA novel. I will have to go check out her blog :)

I'm back, by the way. I have a review of various hot dog joints up at my blog today.

Reb said...

What a great interview and the excerpt is certainly intriguing.

Mine is up.

angel, jr. said...

Thanks for that interview!! I'm not a romance reader, but since you suggested it, I may take a glance at her book--once I finish "The Cracked Throne" by Joshua Palmatier.

Charles Gramlich said...

A fine and fun interview. I enjoyed it.

bookbabie said...

Love to read writer interviews, thanks for bringing this one to us Travis:)

Kimberly said...

Travis and Jenny,

Great interview! I thought I knew everything about you, Jenny. I didn't realize you'd moved that much. Your new book sounds fascinating.

desperatewriter said...

Great Interview! I've read everything of Jenny's and it's all good!