INTERVIEW FOR WALLACE PUBLISHING
Jen Benjamin is a new author who releases her debut novel, Follow Me Home, on 27th March 2015. The book is a fun, fast-paced and humorous read that falls into the ‘chick lit’ genre, managing to give Bridget Jones’ a bit of a run for her money! Here, we catch up with Jen and take a peek into her world.
WP: Hi Jen, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Hi! I’m glad to do this!
I’m a tragically normal person. I’m a work-from-home mother of a five-year-old girl. I used to be a full-time newspaper reporter but now I just write for the newspaper part-time, when I have free time. I guess it might be interesting to some that I didn’t go to journalism school. My degree is in social sciences and I also studied history. I landed my first journalism job on the merit of my writing samples. I have always loved to write. It’s my idea of a good time.
WP: Your new book, Follow Me Home, is released soon. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Follow Me Home was my first venture into the chick lit world. I’d only read a few in the genre but I loved the style and I thought it would be a fun challenge. The story is about a writer named Katie who finds herself in the film industry. Her personal life is falling apart and her work life has become overwhelming. It was my goal to write a relatable character and bring a few smiles to the reader’s face.
WP: How would you describe your writing style?
When I write chick lit, I try to write exactly like I think. Thoughts are unfiltered and punctuated and, if you’re anything like me, sometimes completely ridiculous. Sometimes you think one thing and say the opposite, for propriety’s sake. I try to be true to the thought process in this style.
WP: What are your main inspirations when you are writing?
I’m such a daydreamer. I have trouble sleeping at night because I am always thinking of what-ifs. So, my daydreams are often my inspiration. But sometimes one line from a song can inspire an entire storyline for me. Music can be a great inspiration. So can visual art. Whenever an idea pops into my head, I just have to snatch it and go with it.
WP: Follow Me Home is an interesting title. How did you come up with it?
Katie is a girl who has never felt like she has had a family or a home. So, it was natural for me to make that a theme. One of the first parts of the story that came to me was the song that Katie helps write for the film. The line, “Follow me, follow me, follow me home,” is where the title came from.
WP: What does your writing process look like? Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Follow Me Home was the first manuscript that I wrote entirely on the computer. Like Katie, I prefer to write things out by hand. I feel more connected to the story when it’s pen and paper. I’m learning to write first drafts on the computer now and I love how much faster it is. But my fingers still itch for that pen…
WP: What is your least favourite part of the writing or publishing process?
I’m a nervous wreck when I turn my stories over to be read by someone else. Whether it’s an editor or a beta reader, my stomach is in knots. I don’t think it’s because someone is reading my words, I think it’s just the waiting. And wondering. Are they still reading? Did they get bored and stop? Does the story even make sense? Those kind of things go through my head constantly.
WP: Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
I am working on another chick lit piece called Quick, Fast and in a Surrey. It’s about Annie, a museum curator whose job description requires her to give horse-drawn surrey tours. I also write in other genres under another name.
WP: What would be your advice to aspiring authors?
Just write. Don’t wait until you feel like it. Don’t wait for the “right” inspiration to hit. Just sit down and write.
WP: Have you always enjoyed writing and is there any aspect of it you would like to improve on?
I have been writing since I was six years old. I used to write plays and make my friends act them out. They were awful. My friends were good sports though.
There is so much room for improvement. I’d really like to improve my vocabulary. I wish my mind would just spit out all the amazing words that are available. I also struggle with worrying that I’m providing too much or too little description or background. I tend to run hot and cold in that aspect. Either I don’t say enough or I say way too much.
WP: What other writers inspire you or influence you?
I really love the classics. One of my favorite books is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I love Shakespeare. A writer whose works really inspire me is Madeleine L’Engle. I’m so sad I never got to meet her before she died. She had an amazing ability to make the smallest aspect of life become a huge part of the universe.
WP: What is your favourite book?
It changes. Like I said, I love Frankenstein. My favorite book by Madeleine L’Engle is A Ring of Endless Light. My gosh, I could give you a giant list and still think of some more a bit later. I don’t stick to any certain genre.
WP: What literary / fictional character is most like you?
That is a hard one. I can tell you which characters I wish I was like. I would love to be as witty as Elizabeth Bennet, as brave as Katniss Everdeen and as smart as Meg Murry. Unfortunately, I’m as stubborn as Elizabeth and as abrupt as Katniss and as awkward as Meg.
WP: Where would you like to be in ten years?
In a cabin in the mountains. That is where I would like to be at any given moment.
WP: As well as writing, you also enjoy playing the violin. Is there any particular song you enjoy playing the most?
I love to play a song called Inisheer. Inisheer is an island in Galway Bay, Ireland and something about the song really hits me. I also enjoy playing Be Thou My Vision which is a hymn based on an ancient Celtic tune. I guess Irish music speaks to me.
WP: Were there any challenges that you had to face while writing this book? (Research, juggling your time, finding a publisher, etc.)
It’s always hard to find time to write. I usually do it in the middle of the night. This is the first book I’ve written in the present tense, so that was a bit of a challenge. Every once in a while I’d find myself slipping back into past tense. But, for the most part, writing is the easy part. Editing, preparing to publish; all those things are what’s hard for me.