By: Jennifer Irwin
“We have a choice about how we take what happens to us in our life and whether or not we allow it to turn is. We can become consumed by hate and darkness, or we’re able to regain our humanity somehow, or come to terms with things and learn something about ourselves.” – Angelina Jolie
Johnny– Hi Jennifer! Thank you for taking the time to visit with me, when I first finished this book, I must admit I was a little taken back. Honestly, I finished this almost a week ago and I still am having a problem trying to classify it by genre, at first, I thought it might be chick-lit, suspense, adventure, romance, self-help, self-discovery, truth is, it’s all of them and more. It’s a great book, and it blew me away, however, when you first set out to write this book what genre did you have in mind? Or did you?
Jennifer– I originally set out to place the book in the contemporary fiction category but it has crossed over a few genres including YA because the story moves back and forth in time.
Johnny– Why did you write A Dress the Color of the Sky?
Jennifer– I have had this story in my head for a long time. The original idea spring boarded from a screenplay I wrote in college but I never felt I had the time or motivation to write the book. After my divorce, I wanted to dig deep into my past and try to heal from my childhood trauma. The process of writing this book helped me to better understand myself, come to grips with my past and tell a universal story of a woman’s journey to find self-love.
Johnny– Tell me about your researching for the rehab center, there is a lot of structure in your narrative, to what extent did you go about to collect this information?
Jennifer– I conducted a tremendous amount of research before writing this book. It was important to me that I depicted a realistic rehab milieu for my readers to better understand the recovery process. For research I read books on sex addiction, attended AA meetings, attended a retreat, and interviewed many recovering addicts.
Johnny– When you attended meetings, did the other people know you were there for research? If so, were they helpful?
Jennifer– No one knew I was there for research. I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable so I tried to blend in with the group.
Johnny– Having done the research then written this book how would you define a sex addict?
Jennifer– I would define a sex addict the same way I would any other addiction. When a person had an addiction it takes a toll on every aspect of their life. If what you’re doing is negatively affecting your job, relationships, and family then you have an addiction problem. There is a series of questions that you can find on the Alcoholics Anonymous website which can be applied to any substance abuse including sex addiction.
Johnny– Sadly, sexual assault being such a huge topic in the media, how difficult were some of these scenes to write? Especially when Prudence was a little girl, being gang-groped by the twins in the closet and later on sexually assaulted by Richard, as hard as it was to read, I’m guessing that it must have been hell to write.
Jennifer– It was difficult to write and there are many scenes in the book that I can’t read without crying. There was a balance I had to find when writing about such horrors in order to not turn off my readers while also keeping things as real as possible. I felt it was better to hint at things rather than spell them out blatantly. No one wants to read about such horrors but the general message was very important.
Johnny– You did a fantastic job, as hard as it was to read your narrative was quick and complete, I feel that that made it tolerable to digest as a reader. Let’s talk about some of your characters for a minute, what hole did those annoying twins of Marilyn’s crawl out of? lol
Jennifer– I’m glad to know my characters made you feel so deeply! Some of the characters were based on people I have known and things I have heard combined with a creative mind.
Johnny– Pat is such a dreadful person, great job btw, how did you come up with this character?
Jennifer– I actually had a step-sister who was a lot like Pat.
Johnny– Did you have a real-life muse when you created Richard?
Jennifer– Yes, I loosely based Richard on one of my step-fathers.
Johnny– After I read the book, I found it on Audible and decided to give it a listen during my daily commute, through the narration it appears that Prue’s mom is really a self-serving, self-indulgent individual. Is that fair to say?
Jennifer– Yes, I believe that a great deal of Prudence’s issues stem from her relationship with her mother. I’d say you nailed it with your description of Prue’s mother.
Johnny– Marnye Young narrated your book on Audible (and did a fantastic job BTW) did you have to give her any special direction? She seemed so in sync with the book.
Jennifer– Marnye is an incredibly seasoned and talented narrator. I was honored to have her be the voice for the audiobook version of Dress. She truly loved the story and found it both relatable and important. She had a clear grasp of the nuances of the story and characters so I only had to do some minor tweaking during final edits.
Johnny– In chapter 7 the is a moment that happens to Prudence while she’s with Alister:
“This can’t happen,” I said, pulling away. “I have no clue what I’m doing or how I will survive. I’m scared of losing my husband and terrified to stay. What about your girlfriend? You live in London.” The laundry list of excuses. “This is a fantasy. Nothing more.” My body shifted farther from him. I craved space, but a powerful force pulled me back.
Was this Prue’s “moment of clarity”?
Jennifer– I’d say it was a huge moment of clarity for Prue. She faced her weakness for male attention and was coming to grips with a dysfunctional marriage and the trail of destruction her addiction left behind.
Johnny– Tell me a little bit about Dr. Mike. One of my favorite lines from him is:
“You live on love crumbs. A nibble drops, you gobble up the morsel. The crumb sustains you until he gives you another. Don’t you believe you deserve the whole loaf?”
How do you go about writing dialog for Mike?
Jennifer– I absolutely adore Mike. He’s the one person who doesn’t sexualize Prue and supports her with understanding and tough love. As far as writing dialogue, I had a literary agent tell me I am gifted at writing dialogue which was a huge compliment! I try to put myself in the room and picture what is happening in that moment. The research I did helped me to write realistic therapy dialogue but I’m not a therapist so I’m sure it’s not perfect but I definitely gave it my all.
Johnny– I totally agree with the literary agent, your writing of dialog is incredible! Have you had any feedback from actual therapist or medical professionals since you written this book?
Jennifer– Thank you! And, yes, there have been several psychiatrists and therapists who have written reviews. They have all stated that my novel depicts a realistic therapeutic milieu.
Johnny– Tell me about your writing process, how did you go about creating and structuring A Dress the Color of the Sky? Do you journal?
Jennifer– There are two kinds of writers, those who outline the entire story and know where they are headed, and writers like myself who fly by the seat of their pants. Both work, both are correct but I don’t know how a story is going to end until I get there. I made a lot of mistakes while writing Dress and had no clue what I was doing. I’m still a neophyte in the writing world but definitely know more now than I did when I was writing Dress. A few things about my writing process – my brain is more creative in the afternoon, I need total silence, my house has to be tidy, I sit on an exercise ball at my dining room table which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, I light a Himalayan salt lamp, scented candle, and a diffuser with peppermint oil.
Johnny– How long did it take you to write this book?
Jennifer– From beginning to end it took me five years but the last two were when I really focused and did the most writing.
Johnny– Are you planning a sequel?
Jennifer– I’m working on the final draft of the stand-alone sequel, A Dress the Color of the Moon. It is my hope that Moon is worthy of being picked up by a big publisher.
Johnny– Can you give me a quick elevator pitch for A Dress the Color of the Moon?
Jennifer– The story will follow Prue in her post rehab journey and learn how she fares in the world after five weeks in Serenity Hills. There will be several characters continuing on with her to Los Angeles where they will gather for the funeral of Gloria who committed suicide in the first book. Prue and her comrades with face many trials, tribulations, and temptations in the real world.
Johnny– There seems to be a lot of healing taking place in this book, was this book therapeutic to write or tragic?
Jennifer– Definitely therapeutic.
Johnny– Reading through the reviews on Amazon, it seems like this touched a lot of people, how does that make you feel as a writer?
Jennifer– The reviews have been one of the most beautiful parts of my writing journey. I have been especially surprised by the number of men who have written reviews. The reviews have deeply touched my heart and been incredibly motivating for me to continue on as a writer.
Johnny– If you were casting this book for a movie, who would you pick as your cast?
Jennifer– I think Jessica Chastain or Jennifer Lawrence would make a great Prudence, Liev Schreiber or Colin Farrell would play Mike the therapist, Bradley Cooper to play Nick, Ryan Reynolds would make a fabulous Alistair.
Johnny– Wrapping up, what do you want your reading audience to take away from reading, A Dress the Color of the Sky?
Jennifer– It is possible to heal from childhood trauma, what it’s like in an inpatient rehab facility, the experience of following one woman’s journey to find self-love, to not live in the past and it’s never too late to make a change in your life.
Johnny– Jennifer I can not thank you enough for taking the time to talk with me. I think you’re awesome! You are remarkably talented and a phenomenal writer. Thank you! 🙏
My original review: I’m sitting here at 4am on a Saturday morning. I had just finished A Dress the Color of the Sky by Jennifer Irwin and I’m in awe.
There is nothing I can say that will come close to giving this book the review that it deserves.
To think that this is the first novel that Jennifer has written Blows my mind.
I’m giving her 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐stars because this is quite possibly the best book I’ve ever read. Without a doubt A Dress the Color of the Sky is the best debut novel I had ever had the privilege of reviewing. Jennifer has done what few writers have ever done, she surprised me, she is an amazing and talented writer who has only begun to shine.
My original review STANDS: READ THIS BOOK!
It’s a smart, sexy, and captivating book to read. WARNING: once started this book is hard to put down.
If you only read one book in 2020 it needs to be A Dress the Color of the Sky by: Jennifer Irwin.
I promise, you will not be disappointed.
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