Friday, September 16, 2011

Feature: Author Interview with Jennifer Steen, author of "A Little Push" and "Rain Plays Barefoot"

Jennifer Steen, author of "Rain Plays Barefoot" and "A Little Push" is my special guest today!!  These stories are fantastic women's fiction, and you can see what I thought about them here:  

So, now let's pause our chick flick, grab a cup of coffee (tea, milkshake--whatever you prefer), and get to know all about Mrs. Steen....

Author Interview
Jennifer Steen

GL:  It's a requirement here :-)...  Please tell us all about yourself!

Jennifer:  So I live in Texas with my husband and three kids. I’m originally from OK, joined the Navy, went to CA, GA, and PA. I’m now out of the Navy and am a stay-at-home mom/full time student. Crazy!  Anyway, my brain just works…too much. I have to write to keep myself sane. :-)

GL:  From where do you draw the inspiration for your writing?  What inspired “Rain Plays Barefoot” in particular?  What about “A Little Push”?

JS:  Well, both happen to be memories from the past. Well…memories that I took apart and put back together again. I also, shifted the characters a tiny bit from myself. It’s hard to write yourself, but I wrote about people very similar to myself.

Rain Plays Barefoot was just fun. I had SO much fun reading it. Oh my gosh! I laughed a lot. Great therapy! I just kept trying to think of all of those super embarrassing situations in middle/high school that are just so classic. Yep, gotta love it.

A Little Push was inspired by my son, William. He and my other children are my inspiration. They are constantly keeping me on the straight and narrow. Like, right when I think I’ve had it, there they are reminding me about what’s important. I seriously feel like they teach me more than I teach them. I think maybe God sent me three little angels to guide me because I have some serious issues. :-)

GL:  I have three of those little angels myself…  I've learned all the important stuff from them...

GL:  Why did you first begin writing?  When did you decide to try for publication?

JS:  Well, I first started writing when I was a teenager, mostly because I loved movies. I wanted to reproduce them. My first attempts were NOT so hot. But I think before you can create art, you mostly just imitate it. Then life got busy – with the Navy and babies – but when I was finally able to stay home with them, that’s when my mind took a writing turn again. Mostly, a person just gets kind of weird when they stay in-doors all day couped up with toddlers. You just have to have some sort of emotional outlet. Again, great therapy! 

But, I actually didn’t start taking my writing seriously until I started writing my novel (which still isn’t finished) and joined Story Write. I started seeing that people liked my stories. I got “this week’s most popular” ranked on at least half of everything I put up. That’s when I felt that I might be ready to start submitting stuff.

GL:  Weird?  What do you mean weird?  I don't think I'm weird...  The voices don't think I'm weird either...  (hahaha...I SO get this!)

GL:  Both of your stories have some clear life lessons in them.  Do you think about a specific person or group of people as your audience?

JS:  Not really. I mean yes, these two stories happen to be for women, but I actually write some hard science fiction/action stuff too. I think maybe – for now – these kinds of stories are the most ready for public consumption because they are easier. I’m a woman, and these are little glimpses into a life sort of like mine, so it’s easier to get that across in a way that’s entertaining. I’m still working at writing from different perspectives – from character angels totally opposite from myself.  But, that’s really my next goal as an author.

GL:  Have you written anything else?  Have you or would you write a novel, or do you prefer short stories?

JS:  I would love to write a novel – and am in the process of doing it, but the whole concept of getting one published still intimidates me. I will do it, eventually, when I’m ready. Right now, short stories are within my comfort zone.  I have written TONS of stuff. Tons. But, most of it…well…let’s just say that I don’t feel it’s ready yet. I’m pretty choosey with what I allow the public to see, and this of course, is for the public benefit. I want people to get what they pay for. I work very hard to make sure the quality is to a certain point.

GL:  The audience thanks you very much for that!

GL:  What are you working on now?

JS:  I usually have several projects going on at the same time. I have a crime/mystery piece which I will be submitting soon, and I co-write with Brian Hook and we will be submitting some shorts to the Writer’s Digest Short Story Contest in just a few days. I actually have a play which might be produced somewhere – we’ll have to see. And…I’m just always coming up with new ideas, but I do like to stretch my legs a little. I’m always trying something new.

GL:  Who would you say is the author that you want to be most like?

JS: Gosh I don’t know. I mean, the authors I love to read are nothing like me. Most of them are very serious and shall we say “pigeon-ed” into a certain genre. I guess I’m sort of a free spirit in that way. I like to write all kinds of stuff. Style wise…I don’t really know where I got my style. It just sort of happened. Maybe a tiny bit Christopher Durang-ish since I grew up obsessing over his awesome plays, but only in comedy…and only barely. I really love a lot of science fiction stuff, but I don’t write like that at all. Even when I write science fiction, it has a little different tone than most.

I sort of do this thing I like to call “Close-close third perspective”. Meaning sometimes the author’s persona is so attached and into the characters own thoughts, that it’s hard to tell the difference. The author’s persona isn’t actually me…it’s more like I'm constantly monologue-ing them…only it’s not first person. When I describe things, I only describe what they care about, how they notice things.

I have done pieces where the author persona is more detached from the perspective character, and those are good too; but this close-close stuff is different than what I’ve seen other people do…and quite frankly, I think it really works for characterization purposes.

GL:  Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

JS:  I love to jog, I love to sing, I play marimba, I love to cook – occasionally, I also like making webpages for friends. I also have a solar cooker and like making things in it.

GL:  Were you in the band in school?  If so, what instrument did you play?

JS:  Percussion J so now we know where the story came from, right? I just looked back on those memories and realized it was like a tiny version of women’s rights, you know? The preteen version. I was like, ‘Yes, let’s use it.”

GL:  I was in the band too—clarinet…haha…  One of our very best snare players was a girl!  Rock on!

GL:  What is your favorite time of day and why?

JS:  Late, late at night. Because the house is quiet and I can do what I want. Yay!

GL:  Amen!

GL:  Do you enjoy cooking?  What is your favorite meal (by you or anyone)?

JS:  I love cooking, but not cleaning up the mess. J I make this really good roasted chicken in my solar cooker. I can put it out there in the morning, and when we get home for church is perfect, just barely browned on top, and tender and juicy on the inside. A solar cooker works a lot like a crock pot, only it uses sunlight and heavy insulation to get hot.

GL:  Interesting…  I don’t like to cook or clean… ;-)

GL:  If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?  Would you move there permanently?

Monterey California…or Paris. I loved Monetery when I lived there – picture post card everywhere you looked. Also, the temperature was always just right. Great food too! Paris was just dang fun. I loved that the tube allowed you to get anywhere in the whole city in just a few steps. I love the “oldness” and the vendors. I loved that I could get a framasier for 2 frank and that was enough bread and cheese to fill me up for breakfast and lunch. Prefect!

GL:  Do you have a funny or embarrassing story you could share with us?

JS:  I have so many…it took a moment for me to flip through them and find one that I can describe briefly. Once I went the wrong way on a one way street. I was looking for a friend and had gotten lost. I was up in Caramel…sort of a rich resort town in CA. Anyway, this road was right alongside the beach. My friends were already done there and had a bonfire going. We did meat packets with veggies a lot and told stories after dark. Well they were down there and a cop had come by to tell them that the curfew was almost up, and then they all noticed the head lights coming down the road, going to wrong direction. The cop, at first ignored it, but the headlights just kept going. Down, down, down…very slow. So, he had time to walk up the beech, get on his motorcycle and drive up to me and give me a ticket. My friends never let me live it down. It was so awesome. I could go on, but that’s enough. You guys need to keep some semblance of respect for me, or something.

GL:  Do you remember your first crush?  Did you share your feelings or keep them to yourself?

JS:  Basically, Rain Plays Barefoot is a mixed up version of my first crush. Just the part when she walks in and there he is. Yeah…that was SO me. But everything that happens after that is completely fictional. The real life event wasn’t as awesome. He was a jerk, and I knew it, so I ignored him. End of story.

GL:  Do you have any weird talents?  (For instance, I can “shoot birds” with my middle toes…haha…)

JS:  I play marimba. I use a solar oven. I make my own soap with lye I purchase on ebay.  I have almost every version of Pride and Prejudice that has even been filmed.

GL:  Pride and Prejudice = LOVE!!! 

Hot weather or cold weather?  Cold
Hot fudge or caramel?  Caramel
Nuts or fruit?  Nuts
Cats or dogs?  Cats
Airplanes or car rides?  Airplanes
High heels or barefoot?  Barefoot—well duh right? :-)

GL:  I agree with everything except cats :-)!  Thank you so much for this fantastic glimpse into your mind and life!!!  I wish you all the best with your future work.  You certainly have a fan here!!  

Where to find Jennifer:

Rain Plays Barefoot: available as Kindle, Nook, PDF, and App

A Little Push: available as Kindle, and PDF