Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our spotlight on author Jean Copeland, a lesfic novelist, high school English teacher, and part-time political activist. In addition to her newest release, Summer Fling, her other novels are The Second Wave and the award-winning The Revelation of Beatrice Darby. Born and raised in Connecticut, she lives with her rescue cat, Charlotte, and spends her free time supporting local Connecticut businesses like breweries and wineries.
Jean will be at our 65 James Street store as a Rainbow Readers Presents guest, on Saturday, September 16, from 3:00 – 5:00 PM, just before our Rainbow Readers Book Club meeting.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from you?
My body of work at this point is still evolving. My first novel is a coming of age, coming out historical romance fiction while my second one is a blend of contemporary and historical romance. My newest release, Summer Fling, is a full-on modern romance that’s fun and funny, and offers a poignant glimpse into the pitfalls and celebrations of love and friendship in the lives of lesbian women over forty. My WIP that I just began this summer is contemporary romance/suspense, but I know I’ll also get back to my first love, historic fiction in the future. But certainly a common thread among all my novels is an appreciation for what is wonderful, tragic and funny about love.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
The obvious answer is that I’m a lesbian and a hopeful romantic. But the deeper reason I connect with this genre probably has to do with the years I’d spent in the closet hiding who I was in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s while dreaming of having a normal, authentic relationship with a woman. The LGBT rights movement was still sort of “grass-roots” in its power, and social/political acceptance of LGBT people was in its infancy. It took me a long time to learn to accept and assert my right to exist and be acknowledged as a lesbian American worthy of the same respect and equal rights as heterosexuals. I’d lived too long in the shadows of secrecy, both personally and within previous relationships. Writing lesbian romance fiction for me is therapeutic in a simple yet profound way. It’s a way to comfort that scared inner lesbian child who dreamed of love but was afraid of the consequences of pursuing it. It’s also a way for me to reach a wider audience of people, both gay and straight, to emphasize how important it is to be open, honest and confident in who you are and who you love.
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
Very important! I was born, raised and live in Connecticut, and I absolutely love it… from the diversity in the seasons, to its richness in early US history, its progressive social/political beliefs, its stand on quality education and opportunities for all… I could go on and on, but I could never put into words the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of an autumn or summer in New England. Not only does it make the writing process less complicated to use a familiar setting, it also helps me translate the wonderful qualities of my home state to enhance the stories I enjoy telling.
What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?
This is a difficult question! I have had so many memorable adventures, starting with signing my first writing contract with Bold Strokes Books for The Revelation of Beatrice Darby. I don’t have children, but I can only imagine that holding my first published novel in my hands was a feeling similar to holding a first child in terms of sheer excitement. But if we’re talking true “adventure,” I’d have to say my trip to Washington DC for the annual Golden Crown Literary Society’s conference that culminates in the “Goldie” awards ceremony. My debut novel was a finalist in two categories: Debut Author and Historical Fiction. I hate to sound trite, but just learning that I was a finalist truly was an honor I’d never anticipated. Every author secretly dreams of receiving accolades and shiny objects of acclaim for their work but to believe it will happen is a different matter. Just dressing up and taking my girlfriend with me to the awards ceremony was surreal in that I felt like I was peering into a hole in the fence at the Academy Awards and getting a tiny glimpse into what it must feel like for nominated actors. When the book title and my name were called for the Debut Author award, the adventure of walking to the podium and giving an acceptance speech I hadn’t written down was one that I will never forget.
What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?
SELF-DOUBT. For me, this is a demon that even the most prolific writing resume won’t exorcise. I think with any creative process, in the early stages, much of it must be done alone without reassurance from others. When I’m working on a novel manuscript, I’ll experience writer’s block, mental fatigue, or doubt that what I’m writing will be interesting enough. To overcome these challenges, I’ll remind myself that if I wasn’t meant to write the ideas wouldn’t keep coming. Often times, just getting up and walking away from the piece for a few days is the most effective solution. Looking at something with a fresh set of eyes has always been helpful to me in any situation. I share Sylvia Plath’s quote “The worse enemy to creativity is self-doubt” with my creative writing students so they’ll know it’s a normal part of the process, and they won’t get too discouraged.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
Boldstrokesbooks.com; amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, just about any online book seller
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
Facebook – Jean Copeland
Instagram and Twitter – @jeaniecopes
Thank you so much for the interview, Jean! We look forward to having you at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester at 65 James Street on Saturday, September 16, from 3:00 – 5:00 PM.