Perth-based Jennie Jones, one of three guests at my Stories on Stage: Date Night event (April 29, 2015), was born and brought up in Wales. At eighteen, she went to drama school in London then spent a number of years performing in British theatres, becoming someone else two hours, eight performances a week. Jennie wrote her first romance story at the age of twenty five whilst ‘resting’ (a theatrical term for ‘out of work’). She wrote a western! But nobody wanted it. Before she got discouraged a musical theatre job came up and Jennie put writing to one side. She returned to writing four years ago, and says writing keeps her artistic nature dancing and her imagination bubbling. Like acting, she can’t envisage a day when it will ever get boring. You can connect with Jennie at her website, on Facebook or on Twitter.
Monique: First up, what do you think of when I say … vanilla?
Monique: Your novel, The House at the Bottom of the Hill, has recently been released. Can you tell readers a bit about it?
Jennie: It’s book #3 in my Swallow’s Fall series set in the NSW Snowy Mountains, and it’s about the goings on between a pink house and an outback pub. There’s a desperate need to belong by the heroine and the hero, and there’s a fair bit of kissing in it too.
Monique: What’s the feedback been like so far for this novel?
Jennie: I think it’s been well received by readers of the other two stories in the series. I’ve also had some feedback from those who have read only this book, and they seem to like my style and have said they’ll go and read the first two books now.
Monique: You live in Western Australia. Why did you choose the Snowy Mountains region as your setting?
Jennie: I can’t remember! I think it was along the lines of wanting a small town set in Australia but not in the outback. It was my debut novel, so I’d spent an awful lot of time learning how to write fiction but I hadn’t fully got to grips with research before I started the story, so I steered away from dust and cattle, which I know nothing about. I didn’t know anything about the Snowy Mountains either, mind you, but it seemed a better option for me, back then. And I think it worked.
Monique: Which couple do you like the most in your books? Why?
Jennie: Always the couple I’m working with. At this point, it’s Josh and Gemma from the last book in my Swallow’s Fall series, The House at the End of the Street, which will be released later this year.
Jennie: I believe wholeheartedly that my theatre background makes an enormous difference to my writing. Many times writers are advised to speak their stories out loud, but I never do that. I don’t need to. When I read silently, in my head, I’m in rehearsal mode. I’m wearing their clothes, I’m in their shoes, and I’m playing their part as if I’m in the scene.
As for the second question, I have no plans to go back to acting. I’ve found my next artistic outlet. Acting will always remain the first best thing I did for myself. Acting and writing aren’t jobs, they’re vocations, and the fulfilment of doing something you love is tremendously rewarding.
Monique: How do you mentally prepare for writing a love scene? Is wine involved?
Jennie: Sorry to tell you that there’s only reluctance and fear involved. No mood music, no dimmed lights although occasionally a glass of bubbly. I approach them, knowing they have to done for the kind of novels I write, like I approach a fight or action scene. With trepidation.
Monique: What does your husband think about the love scenes?
Jennie: He’s only read one of my books, Burra Burra Lane. We were reading in bed one Sunday morning and he made a comment about the scene he was up to. I knew he was about to hit the love-making scene so I scarpered. I got out of bed with an off the cuff remark about having to clean the house and left him to it. He didn’t mention the scene, but over the course of my writing he has made suggestions about perhaps including a lot of naked women, guns, car chases and more naked women. I smile, and promise to take his suggestions into consideration.
Monique: What makes a love scene in a book good? And what makes it bad?
Jennie: I’ll answer in reverse, if I may. It’s bad if a love or sex scene is just there for the sake of being there. It’s good if the scene is necessary to forward the story. A love scene has to change the protagonists (the heroine and the hero in the case of romance novels). It has to raise the stakes of whatever it is either of them is hoping for, working towards or trying to gain. They must come out of a love or sex scene knowing that their world has just changed, even if they don’t yet know why.
Monique: Which five songs would you put on a soundtrack to complement your Swallows Falls books?
Jennie: I’m smiling because I never state this anywhere. Reason being, my taste in music lends itself to musicals, light classical and some jazz and blues. I’d probably use Louis Armstrong or Barbra Streisand. Better to let my readers choose their own music, I think.
Monique: When you read romance do you like them mild, medium, or freakin’ hot?
Jennie: Don’t mind at all, so long as it’s a great story. But having said that, I’m now a writer so I don’t mind reading freakin’ hot or sweet, whereas before becoming a writer, I might have tended towards medium. Certainly, that’s where I keep my stories.
Monique: Tell me about the dirty draft sessions. They sound intriguing.
Jennie: I wish we were intriguing. First though, let me tell readers what a dirty draft is. You write a whole book, you’ve typed The End but it’s only a first draft, a “dirty draft” which means you now have to go back and make changes so that your story works.
So picture this as we dirty drafters get together for our once or twice a year face-to-face get-together: we sit around the pool at JK’s place, a hot, homemade pizza in hand. Or we’re on the veranda at LM’s place, the sun sinking as we relax back, replete from one of her homemade lasagne’s. We look stunning, causal, vibrant and alive. Yet there’s a depth to the glamour and the atmosphere because we are writers, we are crafters…
Then we discover we’ve run out of wine and — yeah, you get the picture. Seriously, though, we do have a bond that came from seemingly nowhere, and I don’t want to lose it or don’t intend to ever forget it. Juanita and Lily give me honest, solid, smart feedback on my writing, yet they do it with encouragement. I have enormous respect for my dirty drafter friends as writers and as people.
Monique: You wake in the middle of the night with a brilliant book-ish idea. What do you do?
Jennie: I don’t have book ideas in the middle of the night. Is there something wrong with me? Although I do frequently wake in the middle of the night and if I can’t get back to sleep, I’ll hit the computer. Some night hours have produced a lot of valuable work for a story I’m the middle of writing.
Monique: Do you become emotionally attached to your characters? What happens when the book is finished? Do you close the door or wonder what they’re getting up to?
Jennie: I do get attached, and I think for me, as I said earlier, it’s because I become them. I play their role in the story in my mind. I can do that for the guys too. In fact sometimes, I can feel more in the shoes of the guy than the girl (maybe there is something wrong me). When the book’s finished it’s a Goodbye, most definitely. After final edit and proofreading, it’s gone. Out of my hands. Because Swallow’s Fall is a series though, I have the opportunity of writing about what happened to my characters in the next book.
Monique: When you write, what is your biggest weakness?
Jennie: I’m supposed to admit I have a weakness? Okay, in that case my weakness is — the same one as every writer has. Doubting one’s abilities.
Monique: What’s the biggest myth about being a writer?
Jennie: That anyone can do it. (Anyone can do it, but it’ll take a lot more than those who make a flippant remark like that think.)
Monique: Which sort of books do you like to read?
Jennie: Surprise, surprise, any book that has a romantic element. Contemporary or historical. I’ve read romance since I discovered it at the age of twelve. I have diverted to literary works of fiction many times. And as I’m admitting things, I might as well admit: I prefer the televised or film adaption of many great romantic works to the book. I must follow that statement with an example. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell would not be the same for me, if John Thornton had declared his love for Margaret Hale while she was in the parlour, and not have included that beautiful scene in the BBC drama where they’re on the platform, and he’s besotted with her as she talks business. He takes her hand. She holds it, then brings it to her mouth to kiss it. And then eventually, that line, “You’re coming home with me?”
Oh, my heart…
Monique: Apart from writing-related projects, what else do you like doing with your time?
Jennie: I love genealogy and was very good at it — I can find dead people others can’t — but now I no longer have the time, although I’m proud of the fact that I discovered close to 2000 people in my family tree; either verified or qualified relations. If I hadn’t found writing, I’d have taken the courses in Genealogy and become an ‘official’ family historian.
Monique: What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you while writing?
Jennie: Unfortunately the funny things happen to me in real life, more’s the pity. Some of them aren’t funny at the time either. I’ve definitely used some funny experiences I’ve had in my writing, and have handed them over to my heroines and made them deal with them.
Monique: Is vanilla a good thing?
Jennie: Vanilla and lemon are my favourite tastes and smells. Fruit, candles, fudge, puddings, plants, herbs — if vanilla or lemon are on the label, I’m probably going to buy it.
Thanks for answering my questions, Jennie.
Thank you for asking!