Wednesday, March 7, 2012

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

Listening To: Storm by Lifehouse
A little bit obsessed with: The Voice. Have you seen it? I haven't been into American Idol for a long time now, but The Voice seems very unique to other reality/audition shows. I like it a lot. 

Today I'm posting the second installment of my interview with author Jenny B. Jones. We've been discussing her latest novel There You'll Find Me. If you'd like to enter to win a signed copy of that book, you still have time to leave a comment on this post. I'll be consulting the random number generator The Great and Powerful Oz on Friday, to see who wins. I'll also post the final part of our interview on Friday. On Friday, we'll mostly talk about M&M's and Ryan Renalds and cheesy love songs. The life-affirming stuff.

Here's Part Two of my interview with Jenny (my questions to her are bold ... her answers are in regular type).
"The Bible is full of stories of folks walking in the wilderness. Sometimes we just get off track and need to do some searching and wandering before we can see the path again and know where we’re supposed to be. And it’s normal to question and doubt God. Finley was served up a few mean, tragic years, and it made no sense. And her heart couldn’t rebound on a time-table everyone thought it should.  All we can do is continue to search for God, continue praying, continue keeping our nose in the Word, even when we don’t feel like it. Even when we come up empty handed, that time is never wasted in the end. God always honors that." - Jenny B. Jones
I think it’s pretty darn brave that Finley chose to study abroad. I did that in college. I spent one of my summer months studying Shakespeare in London and it was the best part of my entire college experience (besides meeting my college roommates  - they’re a whole different kind of wonderful though). I’ve always been so shy and timid, but I went for it that summer. Even though I wasn't close to anybody else signed up for that trip, I decided to go. I was terrified the entire time but it was such an amazing experience. What’s something you’re glad you did (or an experience you’re glad you had) as a high school or college student?

I think I’m your opposite. I didn’t get out and live enough in college. All I did was work and go to school.

Sometimes working and going to school is all you can do in college. I had semesters like that too – when I felt like I could barely stay above water.

I was in such a ridiculous hurry, some semesters I’d have 22 or 24 hours. I’d go to two colleges at once, one at night, one in the day, then work in the middle. That left no time for fun or memory-making. So I would have DEFINITELY studied abroad. I would have taken trips on Spring Break, instead of continuing a yearly tradition of Shopping on Spring Break with high school BFF. I would have taken a few classes that had absolutely nothing to do with my major and pushed me out of my comfort zone.  I definitely lived in that mindset of “when I graduate life will start…” and that is just a lie. I wasted those years (granted, studying and getting an education are good uses of time), but I didn’t enjoy them.

I didn't enjoy college either. I enjoyed the academic part but socially, college was difficult. My heart was so broken when it ended. I was paranoid too, because so many people say their college years are the best years of their lives. There were some good moments, but they definitely weren't my best years. Maybe that's a word of encouragement for somebody reading though - if you are in high school or college, and it happens to be breaking your heart, remember there are good years still coming. Try to make the most out of it and hang on for the good days. They'll be worth it.

I raced through college working, chain Diet Coke drinking, and with my nose in a book. Don’t do what I did. Whatever your rush is, stop. It will be dumb to you when you get older. DUMB.

Jen's A Charmed Life series, featuring
the ever adorable and lovely
Bella Kirkwood, is getting a new cover
I loved Bella!
That's something I still have to do - remind myself not to rush and miss all the good stuff. Do you remember the song "Thank Goodness" from Wicked? There's a part I love at the end of that song, when Glinda is going on and on about how everything she wanted happened and all of her dreams came true. Then she sings something like, "...that joy, that thrill ... doesn't thrill like you think it will." I think of that line when it comes to rushing things, or wanting everything to work out NOW. I wonder, even when/if I reach what I'm hoping for ... what then? Or what if you get there and it's nothing like you'd always imagined it would be?

... how did I tangent all the way to Glinda?

This is one of my favorite quotes in your novel:

“That will give me time to hang out with Finley." His thin eyebrows waggled. "Show her what a real man can do with Legos.” 

It nearly made me choke on my Starbucks due to laughter. I wanted to put it in this interview, but I didn't know where to put it. So there it is. My MOST favorite line in your novel is this one (which is saying a lot because I underlined the daylights out of my copy):

I slipped into the music room and, with my backpack still in my lap like a shield; I took a seat at a piano old enough to have been carried over on the ark. The room was small, quiet. A sanctuary. It was always that way for me. The stored instruments on the closet called out like old friends. The bent and scratched black music stands welcomed me into their home. The oily smell, a perfume. It was like … church.

I re-read that so many times because I get that. There’s definitely a sacredness to music. And there’s a sacredness, I think, that comes with the process of creation, too. That’s a scary wonderful feeling – whether you paint, or dance, or draw, or act, or write, or sew – or whatever – when you realize you don’t just enjoy the process of creating something. It isn’t just a hobby for you anymore. Your heart actually finds a sanctuary in that place. I love that Finley’s “sanctuary” is music. Are there any particular songs that inspired you while you were writing? Is there a “sanctuary song” that you like to listen to when life gets dark and weird? (Mine is “For the Moments I Feel Faint" by Relient K)  

Jenny B. Jones
Proud Band Geek.
Growing up, I played piano and the trumpet (band geek, represent!)  So I’ve always loved music. Not too long ago, I read a tweet from someone who was ticked that some folks had their hands raised at a secular concert like it was church. I thought, “That boy does not get it.” God’s anointing and the Spirit’s presence is all over music, no matter the genre. I used to feel that every time I heard Ray Charles sing on TV. When I finally saw him live, I thought I was gonna have revival. So I wanted Finley to get that as well.

There are some serious issues in the book, and as we know, I’m not a “let’s ponder serious issues” type of person. I’d rather make light of serious issues. But between editorial suggestions and God’s heavy hand, I had felt led to throw away the other 99 drafts of the book and rewrite with Finley being pretty burdened by some dark stuff. I had to find a way to get in that place. I can’t remember how—maybe Pandora—I randomly heard “Storm” by Lifehouse. The mood and words of the song were totally Finley. 

Here’s a piece of the song:
How long have I
been in this storm
so overwhelmed by the ocean's shapeless form
water's getting harder to tread
with these waves crashing over my head

if I could just see you
everything will be alright
if I'd see you
the storminess will turn to light

And I will walk on water
and you will catch me if I fall
and I will get lost into your eyes
and everything will be alright
and everything will be alright (
Lifehouse, from the album Who We Are)

I love that song. 

I would listen to this song on repeat by the hour while I wrote. Thanks for asking me about the music. No one’s ever asked that!

I loved that aspect of Finley's journey so much. Finley and Beckett aren't the only characters I loved though. You write the most vivid characters. There are no props in your books; every character has a point and a place and a very distinct voice. One of my favorite minor characters was Mrs. Sweeny, a bitter, cantankerous old lady Finley is assigned to visit in the Nursing Home. (I love that Mrs. Sweeny preferred Steven King to Pride and Prejudice.) I love that you have so much generational influence your novels. What influences that aspect of your writing? Care to share a fun memory you have with one of your grandparents?

Oh, gosh. I had the best grandparents. I can’t imagine growing up without them. God was so generous, I got five of them.  I was closest to my grandmas. They were quite different. One of them was a shopper and just a good friend to me. We were buddies. My other grandma sewed for me and baked. She used to buy me random office supplies she’d get on clearance back in the days when Wal-Mart or K-Mart would have “blue light specials.” To this day it’s the small gifts that light me up—like a good pen.

I love that story. I was close to both my grandmothers too. That's a great pic, btw! Such a pretty bunch. What’s your favorite line in There You'll Find Me? (Mine is the one where you thank me in the acknowledgements.) (That's sarcasm.) 

Haha. That’s awesome.

The part that means the most to me is the dedication. The book was to be dedicated to my stepdad, who was pretty influential in my life. I don’t know why I waited nine books to dedicate a book to a man who was one of my biggest supporters all the way back to when he was one of the few who knew I wanted to write. But I did. And he unexpectedly passed away before he saw it. It’s a huge regret. And a lesson to me not to wait to say the things we need to say.

That was a beautiful dedication. What do you hope people take away from Finley’s story?

I hope they see that it’s okay to not have the answers. It’s okay to be lost sometimes, to be in that place of wilderness. The Bible is full of stories of folks walking in the wilderness. Sometimes we just get off track and need to do some searching and wandering before we can see the path again and know where we’re supposed to be. And it’s normal to question and doubt God. Finley was served up a few mean, tragic years, and it made no sense. And her heart couldn’t rebound on a time-table everyone thought it should.  All we can do is continue to search for God, continue praying, continue keeping our nose in the Word, even when we don’t feel like it. Even when we come up empty handed, that time is never wasted in the end. God always honors that. 

I'll end there for today and post the rest of our interview on Friday, along with the winner of the giveaway. Thank you guys so much for reading along! We would love to hear from you down in the comments. Do you have a favorite memory with your grandparents? Is there a song you hold onto when life gets dark and twisty? 


  1. Thank you both SO much for your comments about the college years! I can absolutely relate to that right now. I am in college and, although I have great roommates and have enjoyed the academic side as well, I've been struggling more than I thought I would. It just hasn't been a very enjoyable experience for me so far and makes it even more difficult when people tell me that "these are the best years". I appreciate you both being candid, that was exactly the encouragement that I needed!

    1. You are so welcome! You will have lots and lots of best years. They won't be regulated to college. : ) I'm so glad you're making some good memories with your roomies though. If I could go back and give myself some advice, it would be to lean into what I love (and the people I love) and not worry so much about what people thought about me (or the fact that they didn't think about me at all...). I let my insecurities steal way too much of my joy back then. The insecurity thing may not be anything you struggle with. I realize there are all manner of things that make college a lonely place. So proud of you for putting your heart out there and trying to really experience it anyway. Praying for loads of amazing memories for you.

  2. I love y'all's interviews. And how you mentioned Glinda *GA-linda* :)

    1. Ga-linda! Was she Galinda when that scene happened? She was, wasn't she? I couldn't remember. I just know I've been humming Wicked all day now. (Which is never a bad thing!) :) Glad you're enjoying the interview!

    2. I don't remember exactly when the change was made, song wise at least. My favorite is Defying Gravity. I get chills EVERY SINGLE TIME I hear it.

  3. Jenny B. Jones was a band geek? :) That made my day. I played flute in middle school band and loved it, and I've played piano since I was about 6.

    And I agree that music doesn't have to be Christian music or "churchy" music for God to speak through it.

    I always tend to come back to Relient K's "I Am Understood?" when things get tough. Or one of Switchfoot's songs about heaven like "Where I Belong" or "This Is Home." :)


    1. Switchfoot's "This is Home" hits me square in the heart every single time I see it. Maybe it was the Narnia connection that got to me early on. I agree that it's definitely a special song. And OF COURSE you play piano and flute. Your talent seriously knows no bounds.

  4. Cannot wait to read the book. Finley sounds like an amazing character. And Jenny sounds like a most wonderful person.

    I think for the dark moments in this season my song would be "Restless" by Switchfoot or "Keep Your Eyes Open" by Needtobreathe

    1. Great songs! I was thinking today of who my favorite male vocalists are and Bear Rhineheart would be very close (if not #1) on my list. His voice has so much longing in it. It's like it comes from someplace you understand immediately. That song is incredible. Their music encourages me too. I think you'll absolutely love the book!

  5. I'm going to start reading this for a book report in Bible class and now I'm super excited! Loved this so much!

    1. What a fun pick for a book report! I thought that the way Finley wrestled with her faith was so authentic. So many themes in this book would be fun to address in a book report. You'll do such an awesome job.

  6. Great interview! I love "I Will Rest in You" by Jaci Velasquez. Such an amazing song.

    1. That is so beautiful!! I'm so happy that Jaci is back. She was around during my favorite era of CCM.

  7. awesomesaucesome. your Wicked reference may or may not have made my day. (:

    1. Wicked references are very dependable for day-making. : ) Like I said to LF, I've been waltzing around all day quoting Wicked. There is a possibility I belted out a lovely rendition of "Dear Old Shiz" while waiting at a red light.

  8. Natalie, that is the part in that song from Wicked that has stuck with me for life. Every time I think about the last few years, I think of that. Getting what you want is never QUITE what you thought... : )

    I have so many songs now that I have to look up! LOVE that!

    Anonymous, if you're not enjoying college, don't think you're alone while everyone else "gets" it. But do try to step outside the box and create some memories. Huge regret that I didn't do that.

    1. I need to see Wicked again. We took a family trip to Atlanta to see it a few years ago. I managed to book the tickets that were up close to the spotlight. We were so far away that it was kind of hilarious. Maybe I didn't miss anything. But I think it would be a little bit more magical if the people weren't all blurs. That Glinda line is one of my favorites. My other is (predictably?), "Everyone deserves a chance to fly."

    2. When I saw Wicked it was sold out, but I got these overpriced internet tickets so we could get in. They were 10% blocked view it said. We were on like row 3 to the side, and we saw maybe 10 percent!

  9. You make interviews fun to read. :) I'll have to see if I can find some of Jenny's books around here...I need good things to read during lunch at work!

    Favorite "when things get dark and twisty" music is the first half of Jars of Clay's "Much Afraid" album. I usually listen up through "Frail" and then put that on repeat.

    1. It has been too long since I've listened to Jars of Clay. That's a perfect pick. Somebody asked me once what my "life story" song would be. I think it would be "Love Song for a Savior." I hope that's my life song anyway. Their lyrics are such poetry.

  10. How He Loves by David Crowder Band or Hold My Heart by Tenth Avenue North

  11. When things get dark and twisty I usually go to BarlowGirl's "Never Alone". I have listened to that song over and over and over. Really the whole album I keep coming back to. And anything by Third Day. Love me some Third Day. So many wonderful good songs out there. :-) Your blog is awesome, btw.