Today’s feature is Jennifer Sadera, author of “Flawless.” Let’s read about her writing process.
1. Tell us about yourself. May include links to Facebook, twitter, blogs, websites, Amazon author page)
I am a curious person. Okay, my kids would call me nosy, but, really, I’ve always liked to know how people are feeling, and what they’re thinking. The best way to learn about them is to ask questions. So, I’m always asking questions. Once I get answers, I mull them over in my mind, to figure out exactly what they mean, or to determine if they’re truthful. Much of this forms the basis of my writing.
2. How do you choose names for your characters?
How I choose names for my characters: Three “baby name” books, baby! The meaning of names is vital to character development. For instance, my main character in FLAWLESS is named “Lia,” which means, “weary one.” That tells a lot about what she’s up against in the novel, don’t you think?
3. Do you talk about your book/characters as though they are real?
I don’t talk about my characters as though they are real people. I am very protective of them, and their stories, and I’m always put off a bit when people refer to them as if they are my friends. My husband has done it a few times, and it always catches me up short. Also, I don’t want to “push” them onto others. I want readers to WANT to meet them, and develop their own relationships with them. I am deeply committed to the notion that I AM NOT my writing, and my writing is not me. I feel that if I cannot separate myself from the writing, I’ll never be able to handle critiques. Everything will become too personal.
4. Do you listen to music when you write or edit? What kind?
I never listen to music when I write or edit, but often lyrics or poems run through my mind of their own accord, and usually weave their influence into my stories. This week, the late poet, Matthew Arnold, keeps visiting me in the form of his work, “Dover Beach.” I especially love the last stanza!
5. How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since the age of 8. My first “novel” was written in a spiral binder. It was called “Shekel,” and was about a girl who found a magic gold coin.
6. Tell us about when you realized you were ‘meant to be a writer.
I think I’ve always known on a deeply subconscious level that I was meant to write. It took many years for my conscious mind to agree, and even longer for me to lose the fear of trying. Eventually my faith became greater than my fear, because I just wanted it so badly!!! It was only when I TRULY DIDN’T CARE what others thought that it all worked out for me.
7. Do you have a muse?
I have a muse: the natural world around me. I have but to look around to become inspired.
8. How do you improve as a writer?
The best way for me to become a better writer has been to become a better reader. Being the most excellent reader I can be has helped me immensely, as well as enriched my life. There is so much to learn and share! I read every day, and still I feel the lack of not reading enough. Other things I have done to improve: I took a class with an established author, who not only gave me valuable insight, but introduced me to other writers who were just as helpful. I attended a writer’s conference, where I met up with an literary agent who encouraged me.
9. Writing quirks or superstitions?
I have no writing quirks or superstitions. I simply know that what will flow each day, will flow. Like all else in this world–good and bad–my writing unfolds as it was meant to. For that reason I don’t need to depend on anything else. And I never get writer’s block!
10. Tell us about your current work-in-progress?
My current writing project is a New Adult novel titled ANONYMOUS CLUB, about four young woman who meet at an AA meeting. The twist: none of them are alcoholics. So what are they doing there? This story is a departure for me, because I tend to write long, sweeping, emotional novels. This entire story takes place in the span of one day. It’s a challenge for me, and I’m excited about it.
11. What book are you reading now?
Right now I am reading “My Brilliant Friend,” by the Italian author, Elena Ferrante.
12. What genre do you write in? What about Pov?
My first published book, FLAWLESS, straddles the fence between New Adult and Women’s Fiction, and has been referred to as a “dark contemporary,” which I think is fitting. Since publishing it just over a year ago, I have written a straight-up Women’s Fiction novel titled, TENDING PARADISE, which is in the hands of my (hopefully—fingers crossed) soon-to-be agent, and I am now starting on the aforementioned ANONYMOUS CLUB, a New Adult novel. I write in first-person P.O.V because I love the immediacy of it. The characters become so accessible to the reader.
13. Tell us about writing preparation.
I do a lot of prep before I begin a book. It starts on long car rides and in the shower, when I have time to just think, think, think. Then I write down everything I’ve thought about. I write detailed descriptions of each character, including physical and mental details, as well as quirks. Then I outline the entire book in a “sun” pattern. I put the main character(s) in the center of the sun, and shoot out “rays,” each one representing a chapter. I can’t do the organized (translation: boring) outlining that I learned in middle-school English Composition. I tend to think visually, and natural themes/organic symbols help me organize my thoughts into workable forms.
14. Do you know how your stories will end?
I always know how my stories will end.
15. Do your books have a message or theme? Or are they purely for entertainment?
I always have a message and theme to my novels, and this is why: we’re all just bopping around on this planet trying to find meaning in our lives, and figure out where we fit in, how we can contribute, and if we’re “good enough.” These are universal things we all experience to some degree. I feel like exploring it helps us make sense of the whole jumbled mess. I try to make sense of it with my questions and my observations. Then I relay what I’ve learned through my writing. I often feel like words are all I have to give, but I give them all up for a greater good.
16. Do you have any favorite snacks or drinks that you eat/drink while writing?
I drink coffee and tea nonstop when I’m writing. And if there’s chocolate in the house, it will also become my constant writing companion. For that reason it is seldom in the house!!!
17. Tell us about your other passions.
My other passion in this life is the natural world around me: my family, and nature. I am also a horticulturist, and that love came through in my second novel, TENDING PARADISE, which is a story about loss, love, and the tangled vines of family. It’s a poignant, but uplifting (I hope) story of a woman, marred by tragedy, who hides from the world in her opulent estate and gardens. Sort of a “Terms of Endearment” (without the terminal illness) meets “The Secret Garden.” My husband and I built a pond by hand in our back yard, and I value each and every frog who visits. I also treasure the sound of birdsong on the wind. I’ve explored and shared my love of the natural world on my weekly gardening blog, GreenGardenGuru.blogspot.com.
18. What’s something interesting about you?
Something I’ve not shared before about myself is this: I was once a fitting model in New York City. After I graduated from college, I moved to the city and took modeling assignments (as well as waiting tables at a comedy club) to pay my outrageously expensive rent on Manhattan’s upper west side. My experiences helped form the core of some of the designing scenes in FLAWLESS. They also helped me work through the conflicted feelings I’ve had about inner and outer beauty, and how we use appearance to feel valuable. It’s a fascinating theme to me, and one I explored in the novel.
19. Share a sample of your work.
The idea of “image is everything,” is prominent in FLAWLESS. The cautionary tale of Lia Copeland, who appears to “have it all” is evident from the very first paragraph: “I knew what they called me: Ice Queen. Princess…I smiled, recalling my favorite nickname: The Royalty. They all called me that, but not to my face. Never to my face.”
20. Anything you’d like to say to your current and future readers?
In this story, Lia’s flawless, an object of worship. And hated. And, more than anything else, she just wants everyone to leave her the hell alone. I hope it begs the question: why? I hope readers want to find out.
The last, and most important, thing I’d add is this: write and read from a place of truth. Writers, put it all out there–with no fear. Your truth is real, and important. It helps people understand their own lives better. And readers, be true to your core values when reading. There are a lot of books out there, and only a limited amount of time to read them. Don’t waste time with something that doesn’t rock your world. Toss it and try something else.
Awesome! Thanks Jennifer!