I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with one of fiction's funniest: Jenny B. Jones

When I'm a fan of something or someone, I'm a fan. Like Punky Brewster and her pigtails, when I latch on, I latch on tight. And I'm pretty sure I knew from the first page of the first Jenny B. Jones novel I ever picked up, I'd found something to add to my faves list. Both her YA and adult novels blend seriously funny with seriously poignant...and I can't get enough. 

So when I had the chance to meet Jenny B. Jones at the recent ACFW conference, I was a tad --fine, ridiculously--excited. And I'm thrilled she's joining us today. Her latest novel, There You'll Find Me, released this month from Thomas Nelson. So check out her interview and make sure to read to the end for a giveaway!

1) Okay, so I just finished There You'll Find Me and loved it! I love the hilarity in your books, but also the depth of your characters. How do you balance funny and serious--do you have to work at it or does it come naturally?

First of all, thank you. I really appreciate the kind words--I don't take that lightly. Especially for a book that's not my usual fare.

It is a balance--the humor with the serious. And I think it comes from my own gut and personality. I can't handle too much serious and heavy in my own world, so when I'm creating it fiction-wise, and I've taken the characters down in that dark place, I've got to pull them back up with some light. There always has to be hope and light, and usually in the form of humor. I want all my books to be entertaining. Not depressing.

2) TYFM is set in Ireland, and I believe in your Acknowledgements you mention you visited Ireland. Do you have a fun/funny travel story or favorite moment from your visit?

Unfortunately I don't have funny stories from Ireland. I think I posted some funny pics from the trip maybe on my blog back in the day. (search Ireland, I guess.) This isn't funny really, but when you travel international or incur a big time change, you want to not go to sleep as soon as you arrive at your international destination, if it's still day. For example, we left America early on a Tuesday morning. We arrived in Ireland the next day in the morning. We hadn't slept. We looked awful. But to synchronize your body and internal clock so you're not wasted the whole trip, you can't go to sleep--nothing more than a wee nap, anyway. So we arrive at our first B and B in the afternoon. And we've been up almost two days straight. It's too early for the family to let us check in, so we just slept in their driveway for a few hours in a car no bigger than a roller skate. Having to wake up from that nap was one of the most painful experiences ever. I could've just laid there and bawled.

But what stuck out the most about the trip was the incredible kindness and hospitality of the Irish. Living in the South, I see kind and hospitable, but the Irish are just in another league. And oh, the accent. I could listen to that all day. While the town of Abbeyglen in the book is fictional, all of the landmarks are real.

3) TYFM is the YA follow-up to your contemporary adult novel Save the Date. Did you know as you were writing Save the Date you'd be writing Finley's story next? Can you give us a glimpse of your story-crafting process?

Jenny B. Jones (left) with Gina Conroy and someone who's pretty
popular around here, Susan May Warren. :)

I'm a seat of the pants writer, so I didn't plan on a Finley in Save the Date. But by the middle of the book, I kept thinking, "My next book is a YA. Why not let Finley have her story?" It was kind of hard to do for There You'll Find Me because it set a lot of ground rules for the story--things I couldn't change. Finley had a bratty past. Finley had grief. Finley had grief she hadn't really dealt with.

As far as story crafting for most books, it usually starts with ideas for characters. Then pieces of dialogue. It rarely comes to me in these visions of a complete plot. I wish.

4) I loooove both your YA and adult novels. What are some of the biggest differences in writing YA versus adult (assuming there are some!)? Is one harder/easier?
Thank you. : )

There's less of a difference than you'd think. The 30-year-old heroine still has drama, still can't figure out boys, and endures the occasional bad hair day. She just has a later curfew. And maybe a house payment.

5) Shucks, I just turned 30. I thought the bad hair days might be over. Okay, so in TYFM, Beckett Rush is an actor in vampire movies. Are you a Twilight fan? And if so, I have to ask: Team Jacob or Team Edward? (Personal confession: I've not cracked open a Twilight novel nor gone to any of the movies...and yet, I'm very firmly in the Team Jacob camp. Mostly 'cause if I have to choose between excessive hair or pale, sparkly skin and the possibility that the dude would bite me, well, hair wins. )

I have read the Twilight series. I really liked the first book. But as for Team Jacob or Team Edward...I'm Team Potter. A guy who can use his brain, make good friends, and care about his reputation AND the fate of the world? That's a standup dude.

...5b) Slightly more serious, who are some of your author faves or books on your TBR list?

Proof that I did in fact
meet Jenny B. Jones!
Oh, gosh, my TBR list is ridiculous. My TBR pile is ridiculous. I have One Day by David Nicholls that's been sitting by my bed for about six months. I just finished Wonderstruck by the fabulous, amazing, incredible author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a YA, but a must-read for anyone with a pulse and a heart. I have had Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution on my table for the better part of a year. A Beth Moore book. I'm really good at buying books and not reading them. I read mostly general market fiction, but some Christian fiction authors I enjoy are Christa Allan, Rachel Hauck, Kristin Billerbeck, Nicole O'Dell, Cara Putman, Ronie Kendig, Robin Miller, Marybeth Whalen, Susan May Warren, Susan Meissner. I could go on all day with that. How about you?

6) [Pause. Searching Amazon.com for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Impulse buying.] I love it when you share bits of your students' brilliance on your blog! As a teacher and a writer, do you have any tips for those of us who are balancing jobs and the writing thing?

Hire a cleaning service.

Use your crockpot.

Win the lottery.

8) Your website "About Me" bio includes a few fun facts...but you stop at the letter "F." Can you give us G, H, I? (Another confession: I had to sing the alphabet in order to type that question...)

That's totally me. Whenever I open a dictionary, I completely lose all sense of alphabet.

G. I hate coffee.

H. My favorite genre to read is historical romance.

I. I think there is something biologically whacked about me in that I'm incapable of keeping fingernail polish on. One hour WITH all those fancy top coats and junk--still chipped off. And it's not because I'm doing manual labor. . .

Thanks so much for joining us today! Okay, so I promised a giveaway. Here we go...I'll draw a name from the comments section for a copy of There You'll Find Me. All you have to do? Answer the question Jenny asked above - what's in your TBR pile? Or, ask a question for Jenny (she's available later in the day to respond to questions). The contest lasts through this Friday, October 14, at 5 p.m., and the winner will be announced next Monday.

Melissa Tagg


  1. Great post, & wasn't her class at ACFW fun. I've been to Ireland 4 or 5 times now, have dear friends there, learn/see something new every time I go, even brought rocks back (plus accent impersonations--)will look forward to rdg. or maybe winnint this book. Just think how many books Jenny will yet write (& how many you will, too.) Thanks!

  2. Hooray for crockpots! And I love how even in this interview Jenny's humor showed up strong.
    ~ Wendy

  3. Super fun interview! I've always wanted to go to Ireland. :)

  4. I wanna go to Ireland!!! I've done Scotland...pretty much swooned over the tour guide's accent. But in order to answer one of life's seriously important questions - which takes gold, Irish or Scottish accents? - I'm pretty sure I need to go to Ireland, too...

  5. Great interview! And GO TEAM POTTER!! I read the Twilight books, but I'm more of a Harry Potter fan.

    I loved Save the Date. I have There You'll Find Me on my nightstand shelf to be read. Looking forward to the Irish setting.

    Question for Jenny--writing funny comes naturally for you, it seems. Your voice comes through your novels, tweets and blog posts. What advice do you have for other writers trying to write funny?

  6. Loved this post, and I love Irish accents! I've tried to speak in a brogue to students, but they couldn't understand me, so I reverted back to "normal."

    Grace Based Parenting, DeeAnn Gist books, Terri Blackstock books, A book about joy by Bill Bright, a book about being a missionary in the Middle East, Out of Control, by Mary Connealy, and about 45 others are on my TBR pile. :)

    My question for Jenny is what is one thing you can share with new writers as they learn the craft?

  7. Anyone going to Ireland has to adopt me and take me along...you hear me, Dee?

    My TBR pile is sooo huge...thank goodness most of them are on my Kindle!

    Great interview, Melissa and Jenny

  8. How about a Ponderers trip abroad?!?!

  9. LOVE the idea of P's trip, MTagg. I would love to visit anywhere abroad, truly, I'm not picky.

    Thanks for stopping by, Jenny, and for the awesome interview, MTagg.

    Okay, this might be slighly creepy/stalkerish, but I think JBJ and I share the same birthday...go March 30!

    I'm guessing I'm ineligible...but in my TBR pile...right now I'm enjoying Julie Klassen's Girl in the Gatehouse, but my list is infinitely long. I want to read Cara Putnam's newer one, too.

    Question for Jenny: What do you do when you get stuck on a plot? This question might actually be the same as: what's your favorite snack when writing? (Confession: I'm pounding down a bag of Nibs right now).

  10. "What do you do when you get stuck on a plot? This question might actually be the same as: what's your favorite snack when writing?" Hilarious, Amy!

    And, mm, nibs. New idea for a Ponderers post: Confessions with the MBT Ponderers.

  11. This was a great post. I appreciate our guest but, seriously MTAGG, YOU CRACK ME UP! I laugh out loud every time I read something you write. I've played your "world's worst pitch ever" over and over. I've laughed so much, the medicinal effect should keep me healthy for at least a decade!

  12. Hehe, YOU make ME laugh, Reebs! A certain "cat on the terrace" story comes to mind... :)

  13. Love it, we should totally do a Confessions Month. It would be so...cleansing!

  14. Jenny B. Jones writes YA? And the lead guy plays a vampire in a movie? Yeah, I'll read it!
    If Jenny B. Jones wrote the copy for cereal boxes, I'd read it.
    So ... if her favorite genre is historical romance ... any chance of her ever writing one of those?

  15. Great interview. I'm a Team Potter gal too. And a fingernail polish bust.

    I had no idea this YA was linked to Save the Date one of my favorite books earlier this year. Now I'm gonna have to add it to my ridiculous TBR list.

  16. So many books in my TBR pile but Jenny, definitely read REVOLUTION. It's amazing. I couldn't put it down - you know the kind of book where you're totally envious of the author's talent but in a good, enjoying the book way.

  17. I'm a huge fan of Jenny B. Jones' work, and I'm especially excited about her newest book. I was intrigued by Finley's character in Save the Date, so this is exciting. :D

    Ironically, my TBR pile is a bit meager right now. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (a re-read), Precisely Terminated by Amanda L. Davis (as well as a bunch of books by Bryan Davis), Out of Control by Mary Conneally, and There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones. ;)

    My question for Jenny is, what are the pros to being a seat-of-the-pants writer in terms of the publishing industry? What are the cons? Yep, you guessed it - I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer too. ;)

  18. Chris Potash10/11/11, 11:11 AM

    I am a huge fan too - loved her classes at ACFW - I hope her high school students appreciate her!

    One Day was great (movie not bad either)! I just finished Jane, a YA book retelling Jane Eyre which was pretty interesting and another called Stay about a girl, her dog and the vet she falls for.

    Here is my question for Jenny: what author would you most like to meet and why?

  19. thanks for the chance to read jenny's latest novel...on my TBR pile is...'the girl in the gatehouse' by julie klassen.

    jenny, what are you currently reading?

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  20. Great interview MTagg! So much fun!

    I just read Save the Date last week! (And I didn't even know this interview was in the works!) It was a lot of fun. I literally laughed out loud on more than one occasion, which was a little embarrassing sitting in a doctor's office with my son. Oh well, it was so worth the massive eye roll he gave me.

    My TBR pile keeps getting taller, especially now that I have to add There You'll Find Me. The pile is actually three shelves in a bookcase in my bedroom. THREE shelves. Yikes, I need to get busy!

  21. I want to win this SO hard. I wanted to buy it at the conference, but they ran out before I could get a copy. So TYFM is at the very top of my TBR list. Then the rest of Ronie Kendig's Discarded Heroes Series, an ARC of my friend Susan Quinn's new YA book Open Minds (comes out Nov.1). And SO many more. It really is ridiculous.

  22. My TBR pile is multiple stacks scattered throughout my house because one pile was too high, but it includes There You'll Find Me.

    Jenny, I loved Save the Date! Since you like historical romance, You may enjoy Lilies in Moonlight by Allison Pittman, who by the way, said she's thankful YOU don't write HR at the 2010 Carol Awards. ;-) Thanks for being here.

    Great interview, Melissa.

  23. Lisa, this is not a plug that will benefit me at all, but you can download a class I taught at last year's ACFW conference on humor in fiction. I talked for a whole hour on the topic. It's a subject very near and dear to my heart.

    Jeanne T, a few tips would be to read and read often--esp in your genre and even out of CBA, and to not wait for inspiration to strike before sitting down to write. I've written few chapters on inspiration.

    Amy, I just taught a class on this at ACFW at THIS year's conference. Until the download is available, you can catch some highlights if you go to the ACFW website and click on Afictionado magazine. There is a play-by-play of each class and a brief synopsis of my tips. (But mostly I find consuming lots of M&Ms helps the most.)

    The Complimentary Beth V, the short answer to whether I'd ever write historical romance is no. : )

    Chris, I'd love to meet Carol Burnett. Not a writer, but she has inspired me more than any author ever has.

    Sky, in terms of industry, there are no pros/cons. You will write the best book when you choose the method that works best for you. Your editor won't care and neither will your publisher or reader.

    KarenK, just finished Brian Selznik's Wanderstruck. A middle level YA, but I recommend it for young and old. A thick book, but a quick read. AMAZING. Art and prose.