Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Interview with Long Island Author Jennifer McAndrews

Interview with Long Island Author Jennifer McAndrews
By Nicholas Isaacs

Long Island author Jennifer McAndrews is a family friend and she agreed to be interviewed by me on what it is like to be a writer and a published author. Below is her bio and the interview.

At 5 years old Jennifer McAndrews’ greatest achievement was becoming the person responsible for choosing which kindergarten table was the first to be dismissed at the end of the day. Drunk on power, she was sent to catholic school, where the nuns promptly turned her into a shy, skinny, no-confidence girl and (unwittingly) taught her the value of a good story over truth and the importance of only dreaming of murdering the neighbors rather than actually carrying out the deed. Thus, the author of The Stained Glass Mystery Series was born. Jennifer lives in Long Island, New York with two dogs, four cats, kids, husband, much more confidence and a lot lot lot of books.

1. Who inspired you to become an author? Is it something you wanted to do as a child or when you became an adult?

If I had to name someone who inspired me to be an author it would have to be my Dad. I credit him most for my love of books and stories and have so many memories of him choosing books from the library and reading at the kitchen table.
As a child, I don’t think I had any plans to become an author. I remember when I was in second grade wanting to be an artist, but by seventh grade I was writing stories and I never stopped.

2. How many books have you written that are published? How many are not published yet?
There are four published books that can be borrowed or bought right now. There is also one that is out of print and another coming out in June. So we’ll call that six books published. In the not published category there are, I think, seven. These are not published for reasons ranging from ‘no publisher wants to take the chance on them’ to ‘really, really, bad writing.’ Hey, we all start somewhere, right?

3. What type of genres do you usually write?
I usually write mysteries because I love a good puzzle, but I also enjoy writing adventure stories and really any genre that captures my imagination.

4. What is your most favorite book that you have written and can you tell us what it is about?
Probably my favorite would be one of those books that will never be published. It’s a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, and I had a ton of fun writing conversations between Robin and his “merry men.” (My favorite published books Deadly Farce and Death Under Glass because they both focus on how important friendships can be.)

5. What are you currently working on?
Hahaha! Currently working on a book in yet another genre: Historical fiction. This next book will be the story of a young woman living in France during the German occupation in World War II. I’ve had to do a lot of research and reading, trying to learn all I can about that time in history and I’m very excited to tell this woman’s story.

6. Do you start with the character or plot of the story?
For the most part, when I get an idea, the character and the story tickle my imagination at the same time. I can start a story if all I have is a character in the beginning, but I can’t start if all I have are plot ideas. The character is more important for me.

7. Does anything in your life make it into your books?
All the time! But in little ways. I call them my easter eggs -- little mentions of things that my family and close friends might recognize. For instance, in Deadly Farce I have a jukebox playing a song from the 1960s by a singer named Donovan. I included that because I have a dog named Donovan. In my next book, A Shattering Crime, I used a few of my friends names here and there. Adding things like that makes the writing process more enjoyable for me.

8. What inspires you to write?
There’s nothing specific, really. Long car rides, train rides, walks, listening to music -- things where my mind relaxes. When my thoughts are quiet the ideas bubble up and I can’t wait to get back to my writing.

9. What time of day do you usually write? And for how long?
I have a full time, Monday through Friday job, so I’ve gotten used to writing in small bursts. I write during my lunch break -- that’s one hour -- and for a couple of hours Saturday and Sunday morning. If I’m very excited about a project, or have a deadline to meet, I’ll also write for an hour or hour and a half after dinner.

10. Do you ever get "writer's block"? And how do you deal with it?
I don’t get writer’s block, isn’t that funny? I don’t ever seem to have a lack of ideas that most writers call “blocks.” But I do get stuck! I’ll be happily telling a story and suddenly don’t know what should come next. When that happens, I go back and read from the beginning of the story, because I find that there are clues in the already written parts that show what should happen next. Once I find them--or am reminded of them--I can get back to writing.

11. How many rejection letters did you get before you sold your first book? Can you give advice on how to deal with rejection?
This is actually a tricky question to answer because unless you’ve signed a legal contract with a publisher for a series of books, every book can get rejections. For each of my published books I’ve had between zero and twenty rejections. Each book is different!
How to deal with rejections...also a tricky question. Everyone always says “don’t take it personally.” And they’re right. A rejection is not about YOU the writer. But I never found that advice to be really helpful :)  The one I like the best is: If you get a rejection and it makes you sad, that’s okay. It’s okay to be sad and spend the day watching your favorite television shows or rereading your favorite book or doing whatever you do when you’re sad. The day the rejection arrives is your one day to be sad. ONE day. That’s all you get. Go ahead and be really really sad on your sad day. Be as sad as sad could be...and then be done. No more sadness. The day after, get back to work on your story.
Hey, works for me ;)

12. What was your most successful book?
I had to go look this up and the answer surprised me!  To date my most successful book is Deadly Farce.

13. What has surprised you since becoming published?
[decline to answer -- cuz I don’t have a good answer for this one]

14. What are some of the challenges you face in writing?
Apart from making enough time to write and knowing when to stop researching and start writing, the biggest challenge for me is one of confidence. I doubt myself a lot. A lot. I doubt anyone will want to read what I write, doubt I’m telling a good story, doubt I will ever get from “page one” to “the end”, doubt if I’m “good enough”. Lots of doubt! Luckily, the fun of writing overcomes the doubt at some point or I’d never get anything done.

15. Who is your favorite author of all time? What is your favorite book of all time?
My favorite author of all time is Cormac McCarthy. He’s another author that doesn’t stick to one genre. I like his westerns best.
Favorite book? Wow. That’s like asking what is my favorite kind of chocolate -- how can I choose just one? I can tell you that my favorite Cormac McCarthy book is called Cities of the Plain (a western), and the book I tell anyone I meet to read is called Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (a book about true friendship during wartime). And for something familiar, my favorite book in the past year was The Martian -- but don’t read until you’re older it because it has a lot of profanity!

16. What authors do you think young writers should be reading?
Read the author you love. Then ask your librarian what other books they can recommend that are similar to that author and then read that author. Repeat as necessary :)
It’s not important whose books you read right now (outside of for school, that is) it’s only important that you find books that make you want to keep reading. You could have a favorite author or you could have a favorite genre or you could just love reading about current events. As long as you’re reading!

17. What general advice do you have for us young aspiring writers?
I’ll give you a classic piece of advice that comes from Diana Gabaldon (who wrote the “Outlander” series of books that’s now on Starz TV): Read. Write. Repeat.
That’s the bottom line. To be a writer you have to write. Reading gives you a sort of osmosis learning about how a story is structured, and I would argue you can learn similar lessons about story from watching movies (if you can ignore the special effects and costumes and cool scenery and focus on the characters). But being a writer is about writing. So write!
And for the love of hot dogs, don’t let other people tell you what you should or shouldn’t be writing. Write stories for yourself, the kind you want to read, the kind that make you happy to create.

Above all else, my favorite piece of advice ever:

Never give up! Never surrender!

Books By Jennifer McAndrews

Death Under Glass-Stained Glass Mystery #2, available from Berkley Prime Crime

Ill Gotten Panes-Stained Glass Mystery #1, available from Berkley Prime Crime

Deadly Farce-available from Thomas and Mercer