Monday, March 5, 2012

There You'll Find Me: My Swankified Interview with Author Jenny B. Jones (Part One)

Listening To: Love Interruption by Jack White
Reading About: Betsy Bolick in the March/April issue of Susie Magazine. Incredible article. Such an awesome and inspiring girl. The article is online and it's one of my new favorites. 

This week I'll be posting an interview I did with nefarious author Jenny B. Jones. We're also giving away a signed copy of her new novel, There You'll Find Me over on this post. I've loved reading your comments so far! My daydreams (and 95% of my Bucket List) are travel related. So it's sweet to know there are kindred spirits out there who have a constant craving to see the world. You guys are gonna have so many wonderful adventures. If you'd like to be entered to win a copy of There You'll Find Me, you still have until this Friday to leave a comment (just be sure you comment on this post if you want your name tossed in ye olde metaphorical hat).

I had lots of fun conducting this interview. My questions to Jen are bold and her answers are in regular-type. Here goes!
"Life doesn’t start at a certain stage: when you get a boyfriend, when you get your driver’s license, when you graduate, when you go to college, when you get your first apartment, etc. It starts when you wake up each morning. Make that day count and make some memories." - Jenny B. Jones

Thanks for letting me interview you for the blog, Jen! To start, I'd love to hear more about how this book evolved. As you know, because you’re a very long-suffering friend, my not-so-secret-secret is that I love to write fiction. I haven’t published any fiction yet, but I hope to someday. I’ve noticed that my first drafts usually look way different from the end result. Characters change. Stories change. Certain story lines disappear. Even characters disappear (they fall down a trapdoor labeled “Big Fat Waste of Pages”). Did There You’ll Find Me change very much from the time you came up with the idea to the final copy? Was there anything that you discovered about the characters as you were writing that surprised you?

The book changed so many times, just reading the question made me want to throw up.

Excellent. Glad we’re off to a good start. 

First of all, I’ve read your fiction, and ladies and gentlemen, if you think Natalie’s nonfiction and blogs are amazing, you ain’t seen nothin.’  I’m reading one of her amazingly creative and beautiful books right now.

For that compliment, may your days be filled with Samoas. (For serious though: thank you.)

But, yes, TYFM changed exactly 100 times. The book I initially started out with got thrown out. Then draft two was RADICALLY different. Finley didn’t have her big “issue,” while another character did. And Beckett was not an actor. He was Erin’s poor cousin who was working to support his family. While that made him quite admirable, it did not make him interesting. I wrote about 98 drafts after that, then tossed them all and went back to the general idea of my first creation. There You’ll Find Me was the hardest book to write to date. If one comes along that tops it, I will probably just step in front of an oncoming bus in search of more fun.

"I will probably just step in front of an oncoming bus in search of more fun." You see? That's the kind of insider stuff you just don't get just anywhere. I already feel like this interview was a success. 

Let's talk Abbeyglen. Because I want to live there. The setting was so well-written in this book that it almost felt like another character. The weather was moody and the land was peaceful and the ocean was crazy, wild and gorgeous. Basically, you made Ireland seem like a dream. I mentioned in my review that, even though this novel isn’t a fairy-tale, it felt that way to me. I think part of it has to do with the way you made the setting seem so touchable. I missed Ireland when I finished your book and I’ve never even been there. I love that Finley is using Will’s old journal as her guidebook for Ireland – she’s tracing the places that meant something to her brother because she thinks they’ll help her complete a very important piece of music she’s writing. And, obviously, she wants to feel as close to Will as she possibly can, even though he’s gone. And, also obviously, she wants to feel close to God again. I’m nuts about this quote: 
… But toward the back, pressed into the center of the paper, was a picture of a single cross gravestone. No explanation. No commentary. I wanted to see every single spot my brother did. Feel what he felt. Feel … something. I would set foot on each landmark Will had and see it with my eyes and my brother’s words. (*waves frantically and interrupts* – I LOVE THAT SENTENCE LIKE WHOA.) And when I found that Celtic cross, I knew I’d have what I needed to write the finale to my audition piece.  
Finley is fixated on finding that one stone because she thinks she’ll also find the inspiration and closeness she’s longing for. I so get that. Even though I know God is with always with me, not bound by maps or boundary lines or anything like that, I’ve always feel especially close to Him by the ocean. It sounds weird, but it’s true. I know you went to Ireland to research this novel. Was there a specific place or landmark you connected with the way Will and Finley connect to the gravestone? Or is there a physical place even closer to home that you retreat to?

First of all, thank you for this:  I missed Ireland when I finished your book and I’ve never even been there.  I struggle with writing settings, as my editors can attest, so that means a lot that you “felt” Ireland. I actually went to Ireland a few years before I wrote the book. The town of Abbeyglen is fictitious, but it’s based on a real town, so all the landmarks are real. When I was in Ireland, I went to a place called Clonmacnoise.

It’s a monastery and it’s breathtaking. Like you, I feel closest to God when I’m outside and in nature settings.  This place has a very long history with religious ties, as well as bloody battle moments. So both influences have seeped into the ground, are swirling in the air, and flowing in the River Shannon in the background. It’s a huge yard of white Celtic tombstones like the book mentions. And there truly is a spot where black birds hang out and call out loudly over the hush of the holy and sacred below. They’re attracted to it. But there is a feeling so powerful at Clonmacnoise. It’s impossible to explain. But I knew that was where Finley would find God. Because I felt him so powerfully the day I went to the monastery, and I knew Finley, with her broken artist’s heart, would too.

I can't wait to go there someday. The way Finley sees the world really resonated with me. This is another of my favorite quotes from her:
How was it I was eighteen? A senior? On this ledge of two lives, preparing to jump off and go to college and leave my childhood behind.
My word, I SO remember that feeling. And I don’t remember much about high school (besides the fact that I watched lots of Dawson’s Creek and parted my bangs like Dwight Schrute.) (I was way hot.) (*sarcasm*) But I distinctly remember this feeling Finley is describing. There is so much insane pressure that comes with The High School Era … and it only presses harder as you make your way toward the end.  (... I don't know if the pressure ever stops, honestly.) Do you have any encouragement you’d offer to girls who are at the same “ledge” Finley is on – trying to figure out what comes after high school, what to major in, what to do?

I always tell my senior girls (or college freshmen…or sophomores…) that you feel this expectation from people to pick a major, pick a career, pick your life by the time you’re 19. And you just don’t need to do that.

Amen, sister.

If you go to college, be a proud undeclared major. The people who tell you to pick a major are misleading you. It’s totally, absolutely okay to not know what you want to be when you’re 17, 18, 19, 20. I’m way past 30, and I still don’t have it all figured out. And I also always tell my students to double major.  For many of us, what we wanted to be at 21 might be old and tired by the time we’re 31. Don’t rush school, whether it’s the high school years or college or whatever comes next. Life doesn’t start at a certain stage: when you get a boyfriend, when you get your driver’s license, when you graduate, when you go to college, when you get your first apartment, etc. It starts when you wake up each morning. Make that day count and make some memories.

I'm going to stop on that quote for today, because it's a truly wonderful quote. I'll be back on Wednesday with more of my interview with Jenny B. Jones. I would love to hear from some more of you who've survived high school though -- what's a piece of advice you'd love to go back and give your senior year self? Do you wish you'd done more? Or stressed out less? (P.S. - Sending many, many virtual hugs out to those of you wrangling with midterms right now. You are loved!) You can holler at Jenny over on her blog or via The Twitter. Thanks for reading along and making this giveaway so fun! :) 


  1. Lovely interview. :) I can't wait for the rest of it! I love, love the quote about life not starting at a certain stage, because I'm sort of struggling with that right now.

    I don't have any advice for my senior year self or high schoolers, because I was one of those weird homeschooled kids. :)

    P.S. I hope you're planning on sharing some of your fiction with us soon, Natalie. After that mention from Jenny, I'm even more anxious for it! :)


    1. Homeschool totally counts! I am sure you have tons of advice for other homeschooled people on how to make the experience even more meaningful. I struggle with thinking life starts at a certain stage too ... even though I should seriously know better by now :) And I would LOVE to share some of my fiction someday. I'm working on it!

  2. Jenny's words about real life beginning at a certain point hit home here. I'm nearly finished with Grad School and some days I feel paralyzed with fear that my "real life" is about to start and I won't know how to handle it.

    And this interview made me even more eager to read TYFM! You're killing me! Need this book now...

    As for advice, I would tell my high school self: do not allow what other people may say (to you) to define you. I would commend high school me for drawing so near to God and letting go of the desire for a boyfriend (because PS: you meet him next year and you marry him).

  3. This was a good interview, I love Ireland too even though I've never been there. Cool thing is though that my mom actually grew up there she still has her old irish dolls

  4. It is a wonderful quote! As a senior, I actually know what I want to major in, it's more about the dramatic change and the growing up in general that I don't want to happen...awesome interview. and I really, really want to read some of your fiction, Natalie.:)

  5. I'm loving this interview, and can't wait to read more. I'm definitely going to get this book. :)

    @noseinanovel, I just read your advice to your high school self and nearly squealed. Hindsight is a beautiful, beautiful thing!

    My advice to my high school self (I was homeschooled!) and to my now self: Don't stress. Things will come together, and the result will be way better than you thought they would be.

  6. i love this interview, and i love there you'll find me! it was one of those books that made me want to write myself, and it's always so exciting when it turns out a writer is even more awesome than her work (which is so clearly the case with jenny).

    i was a complete mess in high school for a lot of reasons, but i think if i was talking to my seventeen-year-old self now, i'd have two things to say: one, you're on the right track with your major. two years from now, you're going to love in even more, and you're going to get your inspiration to write back. and two, hang on. just a few months from now, god is going to do amazing things in your life. i'd probably also tell myself to ditch that boy. he was decent as first kisses go, but after that he just messed with my head :)

  7. Thanks for letting me stop by the blog. You always make me sound cool. We should hang out more often....

  8. I LOVED the interview! I really want to read books from you Natalie.
    I don't really have any advice from high school 'cause I'm a senior right know I recently totally changed my mind about what I want to major in in college.

  9. What a great interview with a great author! :)
    I'm actually a sophomore in college and boy does this resonate with me!! If I had advice for my former high-school self, I would say to have more fun. I was a very dedicated student (which is great, I'm not saying it's not), but it was the last time all of my friends were together in one place (though I was homeschooled lol), and I wish I would have relaxed a little and embraced my final year of high school a little more.

  10. I love "There you'll find me!" I just finished it for the 3rd time yesterday actually. It is one of my favorite books. Jenny B. Jones is the only author (thus far) that I can finish one of her books and want to read it again right after I finish the last page. This interview was great!
    I don't really have any advice for high-school because I am junior (or fifth year-you have to read There you'll find me to understand that), but I was just talking to a friend who broke up with her boy-friend and one thing she kept saying was "in high school I don't need a boyfriend I just want to hang out with my friends." And I agree with that, it is find to have a boyfriend but for me I don't need nor want a boyfriend right now, I have plenty of time for that later.
    Great Interview!!!

  11. Just set that picture of Ireland as my desktop...AGH!!How I want to sit by that little brook and read... I want to go there, go EVERYWEHRE for that matter, and I still haven't read TYFM. I'm waiting for it to hit Download destination so I can read it for free on my Kindle. Crafty, eh? I am totally there with you all that are trying to figure out what to do with my life. I'm a junior, so I still have time, but I've never realized how many decisions are going to be mine in less than two years and it scares the dickens out of me. And we just finished testing for the ACT and MME and all that fun stuff, AND we have finals next Wendesday and Thursday...Fun weekend...
    BUT I come home to posts like this
    OH, and Natalie, I just read your column in Susie and it was absolutely amazing as usual and it was on my mind this whole week. I still think we must be kindred spirits. :D

  12. I loved that last quote. I posted the whole thing on FB with a link to the interview. Love love that advice and really needed to hear it.