Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to spotlight romance author Jennifer Greene. Jennifer, could you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
I’ve been writing since I was 8, and my mom gave me a battered old-fashioned typewriter. In Middle School, I won a National Scholastic Award for a Christmas story I wrote, about an angel conversing with Santa Claus. (Pretty corny, huh?) My mom thought ‘my talent’ was wonderful, but that she wasn’t raising any daughters who couldn’t earn a living. So…I wrote stories on the quiet for years, got a couple of degrees, worked in ‘regular’ jobs…. but when I stayed home to have my kids, I started writing for real.
I decided I could give myself permission to do this—as long as I faced reality and quit if I got a rejection. Since I was afraid of getting a rejection, I wrote 4 or 5 books before I ever dared send into a publisher. So…it probably looks like I had an easy start? But the truth is…not so much. Writing is something you have to learn by doing. It takes time.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
In ‘the old days’, books disappeared after a few years. Since e-publishing, the opposite is true.
Almost all—if not all—my books are likely available from Amazon. Barnes and Noble. Books A Million. Anderson’s. I’ve even found some on E-Bay.
I Have also found, that in cities or states where I’ve set a story, many local bookstores have stocked my books. If all else fails, write me.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
Uh oh. You can follow what I’m doing with writing on my website—www.jennifergreene.com. But in general, I’m not sure I have any awesomeness. Still, I’ll bet we’d have a great time if we could just sit down together sometime and talk books.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Hideaway from Silver Lake?
Hideaway From Silver Lake isn’t my typical story, but I think/hope my readership is the same. It’s always been my goal to reach other women— ‘talk’ to other women through the medium of a story. It’s not an easy world we live in. The rules our moms and grandmothers lived by no longer exist—and neither did the safety they could so easily assume. We work too hard, take on more than we can handle. We love—our children, our mate, our family. Hopefully we love whatever work we do, in whatever form that takes. But these days we women seem to be extra tired and stressed—and have a tendency to feel trapped because we ARE trapped. We can’t just stop what we’re doing when there are bills on the table, rent to pay. I think women need support today, that’s hard to find in their ultra-busy world. I think and believe books for women, about women, and to women aren’t as good as ‘real arms around you’, but that it might help to know other women feel as you do, struggle as you have, have needs that the world make hard to fulfill. Books don’t offer solutions…but I think the writer/reader relationship is real and personal, and it can help.
Over 80+ books, I’ve been known for humor, for believable characters, often for thought-provoking themes and issues—women’s issues. Sometimes, I believe it takes humor to deal with the most serious issues. I also believe that heroes have evolved. We don’t ‘need’ a man. But a man who cares and shares our goals and needs, who’s there when the chips are down and you’re not wearing makeup, who’s capable of listening (real listening)—there’s our hero today. Hot is required. But not the only ingredient in a great love recipe.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
I researched this story the way I’ve always researched. I buy a cookbook—based on whatever ethnic or geographical background the characters have. Look up favorite foods of the setting I’ve chosen. Look at housing values and housing types, where the schools are, where the shops are…what the houses look like and what they cost. Many states have a book of some kind that covers local language—like how a “Mainer” talks or a cowboy.
I hope all that kind of research isn’t noticeable by a reader—not looking to bore her! Just want to make things accurate, and to get a flavor for the setting, for the climate, for how people live in that environment, for what their values are.
In HIDEAWAY, one of the recipes I used was very real—spaghetti ice cream. It doesn’t MATTER to the story, but was sure fun to include.
So was Bubbles—I love adding dogs or cats to stories, because I’m a hard-core animal lover. (I’ve raised Newfoundlands, Bassett hounds, Australian Shepherds—also every version of mutt, baby raccoons, homing pigeons, and numerous cats and kittens. For this story, I wanted an Irish Wolfhound, and Bubbles took over once she showed up.
What was the inspiration for Hideaway from Silver Lake? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
I stopped writing several years ago—not by choice—but because (unfortunately) I was hit by a truck. I was just stopped at a stop sign! But the truck driver accidentally pushed on the gas instead of the brake pedal and hit me somewhere around 65 mph. It’s been an endlessly annoying recovery.
But as I recovered—we were all going through Covid—and our world looked entirely different by the time I could sit at the computer again. As much as I love women’s issues, what I see now is woman who are stressed and lonely and anxious. I wanted to write a gentler story, a funnier story, a story to remind us that we’re still us—good people, people who care about family and each other no different than we always have. Cable news doesn’t define us. And good men and women deserve a love story for their own—and for the rest of us.
What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out Hideaway from Silver Lake? How did you overcome that challenge?
All of publishing changed in the years I was ‘out of commission’ from the accident. My familiar markets and publishers had conglomerated or disappeared. E-books had exploded into story possibilities that didn’t exist before. Social media had a power over exposure to books that never existed before.
I had a lot of catch up to do. Am not sure I’ve done it. For me, the point is THE BOOK. Not the marketing and pushing and contests and all the (wonderful) things happening today between authors and readers. I’m trying, but honest to Pete, the only thing I know is finding a story worth writing about, then putting my heart into it.
I’m terrified of social media. I’m hope this will pass. 😊 But for this book, at this time, I just wanted to write a story for women ‘today’.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
I don’t hate any characters—Imo, even the ‘bad’ characters need to be interesting enough to keep our attention.
But the character who challenged me was the heroine’s father. He wasn’t evil. He ‘provided.’ But he was an emotionally-absentee father, and I think today, many of us, and our kids, grew up with parents who were overbusy/exhausted from jobs/who want time with their kids but can’t always find it. For the dad in the story, he would never have been legally charged with neglect. But his three daughters suffered from it—and that echoed, for me, how many kids grow up ‘on their own’, and how their adult lives are affected by having no parenting support when they were young.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I’d never planned to write in the romance field. I was raised to read Moliere in the original French and Doestoevsky in the original Russian. But when my kids were born, the last thing I wanted to read was literary fiction. I wanted a fast read, something uplifting, something about women characters—real heroines, real heroes. I fell in love with roms and still love them.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
I meet lots of people who think they want to be writers. Often, they want to ‘have written’—and really don’t want to be alone all day, sitting at a computer, with only themselves to dole out ‘attagirls’. Writing isn’t for everyone. But for me, I found writing to be a way to reach other women—not with speeches or essays or preaching in any way—but simply to hold out a hand and share empathy, understanding, common goals, common dreams, real needs. Readers and other writers have become friends of the heart over the years.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Someone told me to only ‘write what you love.’ That sounds good, but it’s not reality. If you want to be a long-term writer, you have to resign yourself to rejections, to ‘giving in’ to writing projects that publishers believe will sell, and to coping with the publishing community—who isn’t always so author friendly.
All of which is to say: the work has to ‘give back’ to you. If you don’t feel a sense of accomplishment, of creative joy, of pushing yourself to do things you never thought you could do, of opening your mind and heart to what really matters…. this just won’t work for you. There are other jobs.
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
Over 85+ books, I’ve tried to vary settings around the country, but have to confess—New England is a favorite setting for me, as are mountains everywhere.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m hoping to add two more books—about Poppy’s two sisters. I’ve already had a lot of fun playing with their stories…just no time to actually write them yet. 😊
What are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
Hobbies have come out of writing. Travel, for one—researching other places, other cultures, other foods. (I’ve bought a cookbook for every ethnicity I wrote about.) I’ve developed a serious library about women and history—women’s medicine, women’s lifestyles, women’s struggles/politically and socially. Where we lived in Michigan, we had the oldest standing log cabin in the state—1830—set it up to that historical period, and often took schoolkids through it. (We’d make rootbeer and candles and white pine tea in big pots over a fire—I think I probably loved this more than the kids, but they came back every year just to do it all again.)
I’ve also raised wild critters—two kids, for starters. 😊 But also Newfoundlands, Australian shepherds, motherless raccoons, homing pigeons, cats and kittens, abandoned mutts. Rescued baby squirrels and birds of all kinds—made friends with a red-tailed hawk. My long-suffering husband knew when I was bringing home something new, because he’d get this look on his face. “What are we adopting NOW?”
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
I don’t need quiet, but have always needed certain ‘things’ in my office space. When I start a book, I create a story board. On my desk, I have ‘sensory’ stuff—something physical (like a bowl of red earth when I set a story in Georgia), something to taste (like jelly beans, if my character was addicted), something to help me concentrate (like choosing a song/or music to play that triggers the main character for me.
On the actual story board, I start with practical details that I don’t want to look up again (like names, ages, their cars, their houses/home layouts.) Then I pin up ‘secrets about them’ that pull me into their conflicts. A grace note, a piece of jewelry, a talisman or photograph, colors identified as the favorites for both the h/heroine. A ‘thing’ that echoes what each of them love/need in some way. And for the women characters, I love ‘going shopping for them’—e.g., picking out clothes/styles for a redhead or a brunette (whatever I’m not) …. same with jewelry…and I love picking out a perfume that suits the heroine.
I never needed anything ‘expensive’ for my office. But I spend a lot of hours working, so I need my space to be an emotional haven. Soft colors. A comfortable side chair to read in. A snuggle shawl. (And often, a cat.)
What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?
I wrote a rom suspense, titled SECRET, that was about fresh water pearls—the kind grown on ‘farms’ in Tennessee. The work is mucky and untidy and hot, but there’s nothing I ever experienced like it. I DON’T want to do it again, but it was an extraordinary adventure (I hope the story was for my readers as well.)
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them….
That’s a me-too. As much as I love dogs, I had a cat who was my constant writing companion. When I rescued CC, she was in terrible shape, matted and starving and injured. She had a ‘cracked’ purr that made me fear someone had tried to strangle her. It took her three weeks before she decided to try trusting me, but once she did, that was it. She sat on my desk every day, all the hours I was writing, and would put a paw on the keyboard if I’d failed to love on her sufficiently. If I stopped for a nap, she would find me, soundlessly climb up on my chest and curl up against my neck. Eventually her cracked purr healed, and then she seemed to purr all the time. (My husband claimed she looked like a pumpkin run over by a tar truck—which was totally unfair. She was beautiful, kind of a paint splash of black and orange with a spot of white on her tummy).
You have certainly answered many of our questions, Jennifer! Thank you for giving so much of yourself in answering them. Lots of luck with Hideaway from Silver Lake, and I hope that you are completely healed from your accident!