Author Interview: Jennifer Acres - Part 17:00 PM
For today's installment, I've had the pleasure of interviewing author Jennifer Acres! According to her website, she's a "YA and A multi-genre author who loves complex characters in emotionally moving stories."
Of course, I know we all want to know more than that! That's why I've sent her an in-depth questionnaire with 75 of the most intriguing questions I could come up with! And since Jennifer is an amazing interviewee, she took the time to answer every single one of them! So not only do we get one interview with Jennifer, but we actually get three!
Let's get started :)
About the Author:
- Where are you from? I was born and raised in the Houston area. I still live there currently.
- Are you a full-time writer? If not, what else do you do? I'm not at the moment, though that is my goal. I also work as an administrative assistant at a real estate company.
- If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be? Why? I've thought about this quite a bit and still have a hard time answering it. I love writing so much that I can't imagine another career. I would most likely end up teaching or starting a non-profit geared toward promoting diverse art in a variety of mediums. My passion is to help people, to help them feel heard and understood. Any job in which I could do that, I'd be happy.
- What’s your favorite genre to read? I read a broad variety of genres, so picking a favorite almost feels like picking a favorite star in the sky. If I had to choose, I would probably say Fantasy because of the sheer number of worlds in which you can immerse yourself. But Contemporary is a close second.
- What’s your favorite book? Can I cheat and say a series? I love Harry Potter. Seriously. LOVE! My husband and I went to Orlando for our honeymoon just so we'd have an excuse to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. I'm such a geek about it (and a proud Hufflepuff).
- When did you know that you wanted to be an author? I don't think there was ever a particular moment for me. My journey into writing has been pretty nebulous. I wrote ideas and stories long before I ever considered it for a career, and I still oftentimes have difficulty seeing it that way. The most pivital moment for me when I first discovered how much I wanted to write, though, was in college during a screenwriting class. When I saw the reactions of people reading my work and engaged with them, writing became a much more collaborative thing to me. It became more than just me alone with my words.
- Were you ever discouraged about pursing your passion? If so, how’d you push past it? I'm lucky in that I haven't been openly discouraged about pursuing my passion. However, coming from the south and in a Christian community, I have definitely been steered to use my passion in a very specific way. Not that there is anything wrong with that way, necessarily, but it has pretty severe limits.
- Does your family support your writing career? My immediate family does. My husband especially is incredibly supportive. Extending out from there (I'm Irish on one side of my family and Italian on the other – so BIG family), I tend to run into a bit of the “we like the idea of you being a writer so long as you write what we think you should write.” Oftentimes, I think they believe it's my hobby, so they don't worry about it too much.
- Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? I do right now, sort of. My author name is actually my maiden name. I also considered going by my middle name – Erin. Since I write in multiple genres, it's quite likely that I will use different pen names for each.
- Is writing your passion or your hobby? I could never drain it down enough to be a hobby. I'm much too invested in every way. Even before I started writing, I would make up stories to keep myself occupied. I was terrible at making friends growing up, so I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. The stories I created became a sort of lifeline for me. I could live and be with these characters and it allowed me a sense of belonging I didn't have in reality. Even now, if I go too long without writing, I become exceptionally crabby and morose. I need to write or I slowly begin to lose myself.
- What has been your best experience so far as an author? Meeting other authors and readers has by far been my favorite thing. I know that sounds completely counter-intuitive since hanging out with people doesn't exactly put words on the page, but being in such a supportive and diverse community puts words in your soul. I feel that I become a more well-rounded person and writer the longer I'm here. I'm learning every day and that gives me something to write about.
I have to keep reminding myself that, as well-meaning as the people around me may be, the stories I'm telling are mine. They will have my name on them and I will have to answer for them. My focus has to be the characters. If I make them do things they would not do to appease a few readers, then I am lying. My job as a writer is to tell the truth, and sometimes the truth isn't pretty or makes people feel uncomfortable. I'm not here to make people feel comfortable.
- What gave you the ideas for your most recent work? The military/first responders aspect of On the Way to Simple came from personal experience. I have many friends and close family members that were or are actively serving. I found that when I spoke to people who did not have loved ones in these fields, they tended to romanticize them, thinking of how they're portrayed in the movies and such. So the entire story actually came from me wanting to show what it's like on the other side of those images – what so many families of servicemen and women go through.
- What inspired your novel’s cover? In the book, one of the characters tries to reason with Dakota saying that her plans are like train tracks: rigid and may not even lead where she wants to go. So the girl on the cover is standing on the train tracks, looking off at the forest beyond. She's beginning to see what's beyond her unyielding plans.
- What was the hardest part of finishing your novel? For me, the hardest part of finishing any project is finally letting it go, saying that it's actually finished. I'm a perfectionist, so no matter how much I work on something, I can always find a flaw that needs to be fixed. It took me years of rewriting and editing the same projects over and over again to realize I would never complete anything that way. I'm still learning that it's okay to say, “This is good enough. I have done my best. It may not be perfect, but no amount of me 'fixing it' will make it so.”
About Your Writing:
- What’s your favorite genre to write? I don't think I have a favorite yet, but the main ones I enjoy are Contemporary Romance and Paranormal/Supernatural. Most of my ideas fall into those genres, which is odd since they're so different.
- What’s one genre that you secretly want to write? I would love to be able to write a true fantasy series. I'm really getting into reading those, but I don't think I'm ready to write one yet. The world-building itself is a little beyond me. Still, I haven't written it off as a possibility for the future.
- Where do you get your big ideas? They come from a lot of different places. I've had them come from movies, paintings, anecdotes I've heard from friends, and a recent one came from a friend's status update on Facebook. It had nothing to do with what she was talking about but was rather an off-shoot of something in it I misread the first time. I believe ideas come from anywhere and everywhere if you let yourself perceive them. We often look at things but don't really see them. It takes practice to let yourself be that curious but it's well worth it.
- Did any of your books stem from dreams? Not usually. I'm hyper sensitive, so my dreams end up way off the deep end as far as story goes. I might use elements, but I would have to get pretty far out there to use a whole dream scenario.
- How do you come up with the names for your characters? I do a lot of research on baby name websites. Sometimes, I look for names with particular meanings that are important for the character. For others, I pick their name based on how their name will be used. For instance, if it's a character that's there for a highly intense purpose, like the girl is there to save the guy from certain death, then the guy's name is more than likely going to be screamed at some point. So he needs a short name that wouldn't sound weird to be shouted. I certainly couldn't imagine someone screaming “Benedict!” without it sounding a little goofy. It's weird I know, but it's how it works in my head.
- Who’s your favorite character you’ve created so far? Why? My favorite character I've written, hands down, is Josie. She's from a project I started several years ago but still have yet to release. She's the most intelligent, snarky, complex character I've ever had in my head. This is probably why I haven't published her story yet! Every time I edit it, I think of some new layer to add and I feel as though the story just isn't good enough for her yet. But I will finish it. I can't keep her to myself forever.
About the Process:
- What is your writing process like? My process is a bit in flux right now. I'm learning that the process I have for one story might not be usable for the next one. Every book needs something different from me. But generally speaking, I try to get my first draft out as fast as possible, work through my own edits, then when I think I'm close, I'll send it to Beta readers. After the edits I make from their notes, I send it to my editor and use her notes to make my final edits.
- Is there any part of the process you wish you could delegate to someone else? Some of the later stages of editing do not fall into what I would call my happy place. After so many rounds through the book, I often completely lose sight of what the story is even about. That's usually the signal that I need to step away for a bit. It would be nice if I could get the ideas where I want them and let someone else pretty it up, but I'm way too much of a perfectionist to let someone else take over like that.
- What’s your favorite part of the writing process? Brainstorming. By far. I love the process of taking a story idea and finding meaningful and exciting connections between the original thoughts. I thrive on these “ton of bricks” moments.
- Are you a planner or a pantser? I'm half and half. I have to go into a story with at least the skeletal form of the plot, but I like to leave myself wiggle room, especially when I'm going into the first draft, to make pantser choices as I'm writing. I've found that oftentimes the best moments in my writing come from allowing myself to change course, but it all falls apart if I neglect the structural points.
- Writers block, how do you cope with it? In looking back over years, I can't think of a single time I've had writer's block. Don't hate me yet! I'll explain. I've heard most people define writer's block as this soul-sucking lack of motivation or ideas to write. I have had this feeling many times, but I don't think that's actually a writing problem. It's not even an idea problem. It comes from trying to water a plant with an empty pitcher.
We expel so much creativity while we're writing, pulling this from deep within ourselves, and it only makes sense that we need to refill that creative well, as Julia Cameron calls it in The Artist's Way. Without fail, every time I've come to one of these empty moments, it's been because I've literally run myself dry. So I have to refill by consuming creativity – watching a movie, reading for pleasure, taking in an art exhibit. It sounds like self-indulgence, but it's truly as necessary for creative people to enjoy and consume art as it is for any human being to breathe. Depending on how long I went without refilling, it takes just as long to fill back up again. I've had times when I thought I truly would never write again, but I have come back every time once I allowed myself to do this.
Jennifer Acres' writing experience began back before she attended Houston Baptist University, where she earned a Bachelor of Music in Composition. She wrote three screenplays both during her time there and after, all of which received awards from the Houston International Film Festival. After working as a script supervisor in Houston and L.A., she discovered that she was in love with story and wanted to pursue writing novels.
So now, Jennifer is a YA and A author who loves complex characters in emotionally moving stories. She writes to encourage empathy and understanding of one another. When she is not writing, she is often reading, crafting, and following her fandoms. Jennifer and her husband have made Houston their little corner of the world.
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