Monday, February 28, 2011

geek-girls, good guys, and bacon: an interview with author jenny b. jones

Listening To: Home to You by the Peasall Sisters
Rainclouds: are all around me. A cute dog is snoozing beside me. Warm tea (with enough milk and fake-sugar dumped inside so to dilute the tea-ness) is in a mug on the table in front of me. In the words of the great poet Fergie Ferg: "I got a feeling." Good day coming ;)

Happy Monday, my dears! Hope you had a lovely weekend. Did you watch the Oscars? I watched off-and-on. Usually, I'm down with the Oscars. I watch the red carpet stuff. I cheer for my favorite movies. One year I even had an Oscar party and gave away little, laminated Oscar-the-Grouches to "winners." We ate cheese dip too. And pizza rolls. It was a real fancy-type shindig.

This year, I just wasn't feeling it. I'm so behind on movie watching this year. I'm still fighting some nasty spring sickness too, so my red carpet look consisted of fleece pajama pants and a Nickel Creek concert t-shirt. Dad and I filled out ballots though, and I totally beat him. So now he owes me ice cream (I made this part up once I realized I was winning). The funny thing is that I won based on categories that I picked totally at random. Like best cinematography. Best documentary. I got all those right. I have no clue what they even were.

I tried to pick crazy on the "big" categories - take some chances, etc. But the actual Oscar Wizards took no chances, apparently. So I was like 1 in 4 on those. (One in four because even I wasn't voting against Colin Firth.) (My favorite part of the night was when he said, "My wife is responsible for this [le statue]. She's responsible for everything good that's happened to me since I met her." Gracious. That made me smile quite a lot.)

Colin Firth is wonderful. Otherwise, I couldn't really get into the show.

But I can totally get into books.

Today, I'm continuing my coverage (?) of Jenny B. Jones's new novel, Save the Date. She was kind enough to let me interview her for the blog today. We both have a tendency to get long-winded (and by "we both" I totally mean "me") so I'm saving Part 2 for Wednesday. Let's get this party started!

(My questions to Jen are bolded. Her answers are regular type.)

Thanks for agreeing to let me interview you here on the blog, Jen! We're all freaking out over your book up in here. Save the Date is wonderful. You are too darn talented for your own good. There are several bookish (and non-bookish) topics I want to discuss. I'll start with Lucy. Cause one of my most favorite aspects of Save the Date is the fact that Lucy was a total dork in high school.

I couldn’t relate to this aspect of my character AT ALL. I really had to dig deep with my research….How does a former (and still slightly) dorkish girl think? behave? I just had NO IDEA….(steps aside as lightning strikes…)I have no idea either, of course. (*ka-POW goes the lightening*) What I love even more, however, is that Lucy is still a total dork. I've come to the conclusion that the coolest people in the world are the ones who never actually get "cooler" but, instead, learn to fly their nerd flag loud and proud.

I agree. I love how your perception of dork/nerd changes as you get older. Those same qualities that can make someone “too different” as a teen or kid can make you a rockstar as an adult. (Okay, not me personally, but I see it. In others. Like Bill Gates. Not that I know him. But still.)
His loss!

Lucy still has weekly meetings with her crew of sci-fi loving buddies (they call themselves The Hobbits). And she is also beautiful and accomplished and investing her time (and heart) into an outreach for teen girls. Lucy's nerdisms are definitely part of her rock-awesomeness. But. There are still moments in the book when the insecurity and inferiority she felt in high school start to converge - when she feels like she still doesn't belong. This line packed a wallop for me: "She was that misfit teenager again. It was a fine time for God to point out she wasn't any more delivered from the old securities at thirty than she had been at sixteen."

That hit home for me. I'm definitely still like that - sometimes I let the inferiority take over too. What bit of advice or piece of encouragement can you pass along to readers who still battle hardcore with insecurity?

I just did a talk on this for teens this past weekend. And as I was preparing, I totally felt God saying to me, “Now take your own advice. It doesn’t expire at 16.”

Wow. I hear ya.

The things I told those girls and try to employ myself are this:

Negative thoughts, “I feel as beautiful/smart/wanted/lovely/cool as nuclear waste thoughts, are from Satan. Period.

When negative, tear-yourself-up thoughts come on, counteract it with the Word. (Or Wurd if you’re Nelly’s or Puff Daddy’s Bible?) So if I’m feeling sad or lonely, I’m going to think on a scripture that counteracts the crud in my head and repeat it throughout the day and especially every time I have those downer thoughts. Like John 10:10:The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

And you can even personalize it:
The thief comes to make me feel like crap. God has come so that I might have life and live it to the fullest.

Then I post that verse all over the place, all over my house--on my bathroom mirror, on my fridge, in my car, so that I’m reading it constantly that day, week, or however long I need it. I really believe every time we use the Word, Satan has to take another step back.
I love that so much. I also love the way you write about family - about relationships between mothers and daughters, grandparents and grandkids. I especially love how you write the foster care system (and foster parents) in a positive light in your novels. Back when I was reading about Katie Parker, and most recently when I read about Saving Grace (a home for young women that picks up where foster care leaves off), I loved that "family" is something these girls get to experience for the first time (I also love that the concept of "family" can look a bunch of different ways in your books). Is there a particular experience that made you want to write foster families, and places like Saving Grace, in your novels?

What a great question. I do have some form of adopted, fostered, or replanted character in every book. It just happens unconsciously for some books. I think since my first few weeks of teaching years ago, I was given quite an eye opener. I grew up well taken care of and loved by my mom and grandparents. But as a teacher I saw kids who had so much potential, but yet because they had no support at home, not one single person looking out for them, they weren’t making it. I see it every day and it’s always with me.

Last year I learned about a place called Saving Grace, a home for young women who have aged out of the foster care system and are now homeless, a reality for a large number of foster care graduates. They have no skills, no money, no resources, and no support system. Their chances of success? Zip.

But Becky Shaffer, a local woman and a homeless foster grad herself, started Saving Grace so these girls could have a place to call home. Each girl gets her own beautifully decorated bedroom, three mentors who hang out with them and help them and befriend them, cheap rent, life skill lessons, instant sisters, and the chance to go to school or get training while they live at the house. Becky and the Saving Grace volunteers are changing lives, saving lives.

Originally in Save the Date Lucy was a dance instructor for inner-city kids. When I got my edits back my editor said, “This isn’t working. You seem detached from this. Could she have a different job--something we can all care about?” She was so right. I had written a “cool” job, but there had been no heart in it. So I brought Saving Grace to Save the Date and made Lucy in charge of a home and on the verge of losing it. It’s definitely something I care about, and something I wish the whole world knew about--that we send these kids out with nothing and the country, as a whole, is not doing anything about it.
That's super interesting, to hear about how much of a story can change in the editing process. Without giving too much away, I think it's okay to say that Lucy works to reconcile a relationship with her grandmother and, in some ways, with her mom as well. There is a heap of forgiveness happening in this book. What encouragement do you have for readers who are working through broken relationships with their parents and families?

I guess I would say it’s a lot easier to mend a fictional relationship than a broken real one. It’s hard to be the one to say sorry.
My word. Soooo true.

Hard to be the one to make the first move. And sometimes it’s hard to let go of anger or resentment that has turned into some twisted form of comfort. But I really think God rewards all that and multiplies the blessing of it all. Easier said than done though...
My favorite line in Save the Date is when Alex's dad says this: "I love it when God takes a big stirring spoon to our plans. That's when life gets good." What's your favorite line, or scene, in the novel?

I think my favorite scenes are the ones with Alex and Lucy when they’re trading barbs, but really it’s more than that. It’s really just them taking one more step, then another step towards each other as a couple, one sarcastic remark at a time. This is their love language.
Sarcasm is my love language too. That, and chocolate.

I also liked writing Julian, Lucy’s grandmother’s unlikely BFF. At one point he tells Lucy that Clare “needs” to not just know Lucy’s forgiven her, but she needs the words. It’s not just a want or something to check off a list. Clare suspects she’s forgiven, but she craves those words and can’t truly mend and heal without them.
I've been thinking about that so much lately - how often my words do (and, uh, most definitely do NOT) line up with my actions. Especially when it comes to forgiveness. I remember hearing a teacher reaffirm that same message a few years back. She said that, because we know forgiveness is Biblical, and right, and totally liberating - even when it's hard - sometimes you have to SAY it. Not just think it, but actually say the words. And then let your heart catch up. She kept emphasizing that forgiveness might not be something you "feel" right off. But that saying it was a start.

Forgiveness is such a gift and I know we can all be guilty of withholding that absolution. There is freedom and liberation in being forgiven.
Your characters always blow me away. I open your books and feel like I'm going to "meet" people. They're voices and mannerisms become so vivid, so fast. Obviously, my favorite character in this novel was Lucy. From the moment I realized she was a Star Wars freak, I knew I would adore her ... because I am also a Star Wars freak.

Thanks. Having Lucy be a sci-fi/fantasy nut was a risk, but I’m thrilled with how many emails and comments we’re getting about women relating to this aspect of Lucy’s character.
We're all geeks about something, I think. And it wasn't just the geek-stuff that made me root for Lucy: she was passionate and confident and fun. She was easy to cheer for. I was much more surprised by how much I liked Alex.

I like that he's smart and sarcastic and witty. (Also, totally foxy.) But I loved that there was some serious kindness, and heavy brokenness, hiding underneath that cocky swagger of his. As far as transformations in this novel, Alex's was my favorite. And Julian had the most amazing zingers (My favorite line from Julian: "It's been dreadfully dull around this neighborhood since Tizzy Washington went to rehab and quit dancing on the lawn in nothing but her girdle and Dr. Scholl's."). Which character did you connect with the most in Save the Date? And did any of their journeys surprise you? Or did you know how their stories would unwind from the start?

The ending has a little twist, and I didn’t know how far Alex would go to get the girl. I didn’t plan that ending.
I adore the ending.

I think I connected to Alex the most, but not because I related to him and his characteristics. (I neither play football, party in LA, date cheerleaders, nor have a 20 million dollar NFL contract…) This was my first attempt at writing third person, and my first time to write a guy’s POV. His POV were some of my favorite and easiest portions to write. It was fun to “be” the guy and get inside his head. As someone who isn’t too emotional herself, it was nice to write a character who genetically isn’t wired that way either without having to add in more “girly” feelings that don’t exactly come natural to me. : )

I also really enjoyed writing Clare and Julian just because they are characters who say and do whatever they want. Those are always favorite characters for me, much like Mad Maxine in the Katie Parker Production series. I usually have one of those “types” in every book, whether it’s an old lady, a child, or a former Broadway wannabe. You just need someone in the story to be real, you know?
So true. Are there any songs that remind you of scenes or characters in Save the Date?

One song that stands out is Miss Invisible by Marie Digby. Lucy felt really isolated by her upbringing and childhood and still carries those scars. It’s definitely affected her adult life, her relationship choices, and her career.

Also “At Last” by Etta James is mentioned in the book. Lucy loves retro music, retro clothes. She has a real appreciation for the romance of the past.

And of course the song ends up being foreshadowing...

*dramatic music ensues* (To Be Continued ...)

I'll be back on Wednesday with Part 2 of Jen's interview. We will be talking about junkfood and makeup and Jen's next book. Which might have a fun little connection to Save the Date. (And it might be a love story set in Ireland. Hello!)On Wednesday, I'll also be announcing the winner of a signed copy of Save the Date. If you haven't entered to win yet, get your cute self on over to this post and do so pronto. You can find out more about Jenny B. Jones over on her sassy website.

Today's mission, should you choose to accept it, is to jump down to the comments and let me know your favorite song from a movie or musical (or your favorite soundtrack). Listening to Jen's picks for Save the Date has me in a musical mood. I need some fun songs to get stuck in my head today. Help me out? :)


  1. I am a musical junkie. No joke.

    If I could afford to fly to NYC every weekend, I would camp out in those Broadway theaters. Of course, not only would I go broke from flying to NYC, but the ticket pricing would cause some major debt.

    All that to say, my favorite musical soundtrack is Wicked.

    Best. Muscial. Eva!

    Just thought I'd share my thoughts on the matter. And I am pretty sure Jenny mentions it in the book So Not Happening. Gotta love Wicked!

    Have a God-filled week, Natalie!


  2. WICKED! Lana, I'm obsessed with Wicked. I defy gravity all the time. In my room. In my car. In Target. That song is always on the tip of my tongue ... much to the delight of everyone I come in contact with : ) Great suggestion! Is Idina your favorite Elphaba?

  3. I was about to suggest Defying Gravity. :) I haven't actually seen the musical, but my mom has and has several of the songs on her ipod. I really want to see it!

    My mind is totally blanking on fun soundtrack songs....the only thing I can think of is the Singing in the Rain soundtrack...hmmm, I'll have to come back if I think of more!

    Can't wait for the rest of the interview! :)

  4. the best song from a movie is the call from prince caspian totally and utterly, i purchased the whole 13 cd just to get that album only song.

  5. Oh, ma petite, so, soooo many.
    "He Went This a Way..." Pete's Dragon ...
    or "The Peculiar Purple Pieman from Porcupine Peak..."
    or "Care Bears Care About You..."
    Aren't those your favorites any longer? LY-Mom

  6. I love love love and Sound of Music song- especially since I get to go to Austria in 5 WEEKS!
    "The hills are alive with the sound of music..." <3

  7. Colin Firth is awesome! I think it's ridiculous (and possibly illegal) for him to still look so handsome. I realize that's a creepy statement, considering he's old enough to be my dad. :) (P.S. He is, however, *not* my favorite Mr. Darcy. I just feel the need to reinforce that every time I talk about how great he is.)

    Great interview! I loved the part about how things that make you "weird" as a kid can turn out nicely as an adult. :)

    It's impossible for me to pick a favorite movie song or musical song. :) I'm such a musical nerd, especially when we're talking about classic movie musicals. "Singin' in the Rain" and "Pride and Prejudice" are my two favorite movie soundtracks. Pretty much any musical song involving Judy Garland is good. And like someone else said before, "The Call" and "This Is Home" (from the "Prince Caspian" soundtrack) are both amazing.


  8. Hi Natalie! I actually have a question for you! Do you have any blogs that you can recommend to a teen girl? Thanks in advance for your response!

  9. I love your interview with Jenny and learning all the behind-the-scenes stuff like the change in careers. Very interesting stuff! Can't wait to read part 2.

    As far as a favorite soundtrack, Moulin Rouge is definitely up there, along with Wicked. However, nothing compares to the magic that is Once. Excellent movie, excellent soundtrack.

  10. I flipping *adore* musicals! Anything from Wicked, Singing in the Rain, West Side Story or Hairspray is good. I also like "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy, "Listen" from Dream Girls, and "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl, but my ultimate favorite is "Run Away With Me" from The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown found here:

  11. Also! "I'm Alive" from Next to Normal and "I Want It All" from Baby.

  12. These are such fabulous suggestions! Thank you all so much.

    Tay, let me ponder your question for a bit. I link some fun blogs over on the side, but there are a few others I check that I want to tell you about too. Let me get a list together and then I'll post it!

  13. I absolutely adore Fiddler on the Roof. Actually, I just about love any musical(: Oh, and Tangled was super cute and had some good songs.

  14. This was a fantastic interview. There are so many girls into sports, technology, and geek stuff. I am very much one of these girls. I am sponsored by DISH Network, and I just wanted to share with you that they are truly the best in the industry for pricing, and most importantly technology. You can learn more at DIRECTV, a competitor, doesn't have the best offerings and you aren't guaranteed a full promotional discount. DISH Network guarantees savings, even offering an additional $50 off when you sign up if you know an employee and they give you a gift card number. Try it out!

  15. I just resently discovered the awesome writing powers of Jenny B. Jones and I must say, she is a new favorite of mine! I MUST buy her books! Sadly, my library doesn't carry the Charmed Life series, but they do have the Kate Parker series :) It's on hold for me right now!! *does a little happy dance*

    As for my favorite song from a musical... Ok, this may sound super weird and you may not even consider this a musical... Whole Lot of Shakin Goin On by Jerry Lee Lewis!Haha! Great Balls of Fire was jsut funny for me!

    Okay, okay! I guess I'll give you something from a real musical! I love El Tango de Roxane from Moulin Rouge.. Good movie, but it would SO be better if they took all the 'unnessisary' stuff in it... I mean seriously, why must people ruin movies with it?! Oh well....

    Anyway, Loving your blog as always!!!!! XD Keep it up! Remember, you have dedicated fans...

  16. I agree with Wicked and Fiddler on the Roof. I have seen both and they are AMAZING!!!!! I also really like Spamalot. Monty Python set to music is an Epic Win for me. Diva's Lament is a funny song. There are many, many more. I love musicals!!! :-)