Fans of Jenn J McLeod will be aware of her mysterious friend, “The J”. When I received this letter spilling the beans on the real Jenn J McLeod, the journalist in me had to share it. Public interest, you know. If you still want to connect with Jenn after reading this you can reach her on Facebook or Twitter, and even join in the Readers of Jenn J McLeod Facebook group (although no cat memes are allowed and I’m not sure about that). Jenn’s latest book is The Other Side of the Season.
Hey, Monique, it’s ‘The J’ here. I’m kind of what Wilson is to Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. You might also call me as Jenn’s wise reader. I’m rarely seen, but I have lots of advice to give. I’m the one who tells her to cut the crap and poetic prose, ditch the writer’s ego, and just tell a good story.
I saw your invitation to Jenn to blog about her latest book and while this is her fourth novel, so she’s no stranger to doing guest blogs, I thought it was high time someone told the truth for a change. So I’m here to spill the beans about Jenn and her writing habits. I mean, I am ‘The J’, so who knows her better than me—right?
About ‘The J’ thing …
She reckons I’ve earned it—one miserly initial. Not sure what I have to do to get another one. Is it not enough that I share cramped quarters in a caravan full time, make her coffee (at 10am and 3pm every day), manage her laundry (dirty and, yes, her actual laundry too). When she has an author event on I’m also driver, dog-minder and constant devotee. Then there are the numerous re-reads of every book she writes. You’ve heard about waterboarding as a form or torture, right? Well, I call it writer waterboarding when I have to read the same bits over and over and over while she stands over me waiting, waiting, waiting for a reaction. (And, boy, it had better be the right reaction!)
Did you know she can spend an hour rewriting a single paragraph, reading me multiple versions? Then she reads the final copy and I’m supposed to get all excited. But, to be honest, I can’t tell which word she changed. (Not that I tell her that.) I remember one paragraph in particular in her latest novel. I’ll never look at an ocean break wall the same way again, or without breaking into a nervous sweat.
Life became slightly more challenging when we downsized our lives into a 24-foot caravan, full time. There’s no getting away from each other sometimes, which means I’m often forced to watch her at the other end of the van where she’s writing. What a crack-up! Hands wave furiously, her face screws up, and she gets all hunched in the shoulders as her fingers bang away at the keyboard. She calls the theatricals ‘method writing’ (like method acting) but she looks more like Schroeder (from Peanuts) on methamphetamine, especially when she’s play-acting an argument between characters. (I’ve learned to not ask if she wants coffee at such times because she can be so in character she takes my head off!)
Speaking of characters in her head …
There isn’t a second in the day when Jenn doesn’t have a multitude of fictional friends—an army on the march through a mind constantly switching between her current work, an idea for a new plot, and edits due for her latest piece. She says there are characters who actually fight to get onto the page, so one day I asked if I might get my name in a book. She says there are way too many letters in my name. Hence The J, I guess!
Speaking of battles …
I know when it’s time from me to read her latest draft story because tissues go on the shopping list. Then it’s her turn to watch me read, which I do from my laptop, tissues nearby. Yep, she sits there, staring and waiting for me to pull an expression so she can ask: ‘Where are you up to?’, ‘Is that a happy smile or a frustrated one?’, ‘Are you crying yet?’, ‘Why not?’.
Then, when I do cry over a character, she laughs, fist-pumps the air and is all happy and bubbly. Not content to make me cry once, The Other Side of the Season had me a blubbering mess twice.
Twice as many fist-pumps!
No wonder I drink.
So, to all you readers out there who thinks she’s the bees knees, the cat’s whiskers, the dog’s bollocks, let me tell you this …
Jenn is (okay, I have to be careful here in case she reads this) a little precious, a tad fussy, and slightly OCD, but she’s not a bad storyteller. In fact, I’d go so far as to say The Other Side of the Season is her best work to date. (She’ll never tell you that. Authors hate picking favourites.) But that’s what wise readers do. They get to spill the beans, tell it like it really is.
I’m pretty proud of the way Jenn has applied herself and how far she’s come from knowing next to nothing about writing or getting published, especially given the riches come mostly from personal satisfaction (and the well-considered review). This writing gig is not easy and not every author makes much from their writing (which makes me wonder if I might have done better being The J in J.K. Rowling).
But then I think, better the devil you know!
Besides, what Jenn writes has authenticity and always a cracker of an ending. With House for all Seasons it was touted as “the twist I never saw coming”, and it looks like The Other Side of the Season is starting to get similar reactions.
So, for goodness sake, think of me watching Jenn watching for book reviews and sales ranks and please go out and buy her bloody book.
Book information and BUY links – www.jennjmcleod.com/book-room