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Creative Careers Interviews : 2009 : Jennie Nash Interview

Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

'True Genius' Author
Jennie Nash

By Molly Anderson-Childers

Jennie NashWelcome back! This month, I will be interviewing memoirist and novelist Jennie Nash. After writing three memoirs, Jennie decided to give fiction a chance, and penned The Last Beach Bungalow. She loved it so much that she had to create another novel, recently released by Berkley Books. The Only True Genius in the Family is her newest offering, and inspired the My Own True Genius essay contest, sponsored by Creativity Portal. Nash recently took time from her busy book-tour schedule to talk about writing, creativity, and the nature of genius with this lucky reporter. Read on…

Q: After writing three memoirs, what inspired you to try your hand at fiction?

A: I was tired of writing about my own life. It was starting to become a little boring — not to live it, but to constantly be chronicling it. While these feelings were growing, I had an epiphany on a big stage in Anchorage Alaska. I had been invited up there to give a talk at a breast cancer fundraising event. There were nearly a thousand people in this ballroom, and I was the keynote speaker. I love to speak and rarely get nervous, but that day, I was very nearly paralyzed. I knew that the speaker the year before had been Dr. Susan Love, an eminent breast surgeon who is working toward finding an actual cure. She's a rock star in the breast cancer world, and I kept thinking, what do I have to say that Susan Love didn't already say? I felt unworthy. When I finally got in front of the microphone, it struck me: Susan Love is a surgeon, and I am a storyteller. It was as simple and as profound at that, and it was the nudge I needed to shift from memoir to fiction.

Q: Do you have any plans to pen another memoir in the future?

A: Not at the moment, but who knows what ideas will strike me!

Q: How is the process of creating a memoir different from writing a novel? Are you using different tools, altering your style…?

A: The process is in some ways very nearly the same. I mean, you still have to sit in the chair, you still have to find your voice, you still have to plan out a beginning, middle and end. I think my work is recognizable as my work no matter what the form. But when I'm writing fiction, I get much more wrapped up in the story — lost, in a way. If I'm writing something depressing, I get depressed; of I'm writing something exciting, I'll get excited. That never happened with memoir. With fiction, it feels like more cylinders in my brain are firing.

Q: Sometimes, inspiration hits like a bolt of lightning; other days, you have to work at it. When you're not feeling inspired, how do you break through your resistance and create something wonderful in spite of it?

A: When I'm not feeling inspired, I don't try to write — which is to say that I don't try to craft beautiful sentences. I may do a bit of research that needs to be done, or I'll work on a timeline, or I'll call a friend and hash out a problem with a character. I remember, in other words, that writing is about far more than just putting words on a page. There are other tasks that are important and that don't take inspiration. That being said, if I go too long without feeling inspired, I make myself write anyway. I just start in on it, and something usually comes.

The Last Beach bungalow by Jennie NashQ: Writing professionally requires a lot of discipline. In any given week, what does your writing schedule look like? Don't forget to include promotional events, marketing meetings, financial strategy sessions, etc. I think it's important for our readers to see all the different hats a novelist must wear when she isn't writing.

A: This is a good question, because it's amazing how little of my time is actually spent writing. When I have a new book out, I spend 95% of my time on publicity — doing interviews, guest blogs, and appearances. Three or four months before a book comes out, I start setting all that up, and then it lasts for two or three months after the launch. I spend a lot of time on logistics — sending people my author photo, my author bio, a contract, a signed book, etc. I spend a lot of time of social networking sites because my publicist makes me maintain a presence in a lot of places.

I teach, and do private coaching, so I'm interacting with students all the time, and setting up new courses and dealing with handouts, etc. And then there's writing invoices and doing taxes and keeping track of expenses and all that stuff. I probably only sit at my computer and put words on the page about 20 hours a week. More and more, I don't have time to read other writers' work and it's really sad. Just the other day, I left my desk, drove straight to the library, and checked out about a dozen books that I felt like I had "missed" when they came out over the past several years. It makes me happy just to have them in my house.

Q: What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration?

A: Other writers, other artists, other stories. I just saw the movie Rachel Getting Married and my mind has been buzzing ever since….

Q: Do you have a writing ritual, or a certain way of engaging your Muses when you're ready to work?

A: No, not really. Not in any formal sense. I scan three newspapers every morning before I start work, check in on a few blogs, have a cup of tea, and then just dig into it.

Q: Writing is a tough life. Many authors say it wouldn't be possible without the support of friends and loved ones. This is your chance to give a shout out to the special people who make up your support system…

A: Amen to that. I would never have been able to do what I do if my husband didn't have a steady job with benefits, if my children weren't well-adjusted and self-motivated, and if my friends weren't enthusiastic about my stories.

Continue to Interview page 2 »