Posted in Jennifer Irwin, Uncategorized

A Dress the Color of the Sky

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.

JohnnyMarnye 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! 🙏

REVIEW

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.

You can follow Jennifer on her website and social media pages:

Website

http://jenniferirwinauthor.com

Twitter

https://twitter.com/jenirwinauthor

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/Jennifer-Irwin-author-1553230351572292/

BUY HER BOOK

https://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Irwin/e/B075WD8PVW?ref_=dbs_p_pbk_r00_abau_000000

✌❤

Posted in Barbara Avon, indie author, Uncategorized

Timepiece by: Barbara Avon

“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” … William Shakespeare

Timepiece begins with two soulmates living in the 1930’s, (pre-wall street-crash), married, in love, then they come across a means to travel across time and choose to take it before troubled times erupt.

Johnny– Hi Barbara, thank you for taking time to talk with me. I noticed on Amazon that you have written a few books. How many books have you written? 

Barbara– Thank you for this opportunity, Johnny!  I have written and self-published seventeen books of various genres.  Three are children’s books.  I began with romantic suspense but quickly felt the urge to branch out from there.  I tacked Fantasy next (time travel), and several other genres after that. Timepiece is my fourth time travel book.

Johnny– Which would describe this book best in your opinion? That time (no matter how you get there, natural or manipulated) time effects everything, even love? Or, this is the direct consequence and effect of someone running away from their troubles? 

Barbara– I’d say it’s the latter.  Matthew and Anna have a solid relationship.  Even by the end of the book, when it seems that all is lost, they are still in love with one another.  Matthew made a hasty decision that catapulted them into impossible situations.  However, as we can read in the last few lines, the love is ever-present. 

Johnny– This book haunts me, and I love it. It starts off like a “Dickens classic” and end in a full-blown “Burroughs Beat” titling towards “Poe”. What author has had the biggest influence on you as a writer? 

Barbara– I’m so thrilled you enjoyed it! I actually adore Dickens, and Shakespeare.  I wouldn’t say that any one author influenced me, but it’s more like I’m in love with the written word and the way authors can weave words into a story.  That said, Jack Finney’s “Time and Again” is my favorite Time Travel book.  It inspired me to try my hand at it.  

Johnny– This is the first book by you that I have read, (so far), so I don’t know if your other books deal with this or not, but do you have an artistic or personal interest with time travel? 

Barbara– The idea of it has always fascinated me. I’m always interested in television shows, movies or books that deal with Time Travel.  I wrote my first Time Travel story three years ago, and I was hooked after that.  Unlike other authors, I do leave science out of it, and focus on the “magic of it all”. 

Johnny– Your two main characters, Matthew and Anna, what was your inspiration while creating these two? 

Barbara– Part of my brand includes advertising the notion that “love is the most remarkable magic – even in horror”.  Matthew and Anna are simply two people in love.  As the book opens in the 1930s, I simply made sure to have their speech and mannerisms match the decade in which they lived.  I used to watch a lot of classic movies.  The rest is simply born of my imagination.  

Johnny– At the end of the first chapter there is a little sexual tension between Mathew and Martha, what is the back-story there? is there a back-story there? (maybe in another book) or is it just a “is what it is” situation?  

Barbara– I wanted the reader to know early on that Matthew would always stay loyal to his wife.  That idea circles around, and we see it again at the very end of the story.  It’s also a nod to Matthew’s good looks. A reader will often form a picture in their head of how the characters look.  I wanted to make it clear that Matthew is a handsome man.  

Johnny– Handsome and loyal are awesome qualities, would you say it was his loyalty, to not disappoint Anna, that put them in their situation?

Barbara–  Absolutely!  Matthew is a proud man.  Given the era, think James Stewart or Cary Grant.  Times were different then and it was common for the man to head the family and take care of his family both financially and emotionally.  The thing that intrigued him most about the watch was not what it could do, but what it could do FOR him.  

Johnny– Your descriptive narrative of the late 60’s is raw and very real. Are you a fan of that era? 

Barbara– Actually, not really!  I prefer the 70s, 80s, and 90s, which is when my other novels are set.  It was fun to challenge myself though.  I used Google (a writer’s best friend) to find the jargon of the era.  

JohnnyShakespeare, Kerouac, Ginsberg. Three names mentioned during the interview for The Daily Rag, if you could have lunch with one of them, which would you pick? 

Barbara– That’s a tough one! But I’d have to go with The Bard.  

Johnny– Why did you pick the 3 moments in time that you did while writing Timepiece?

Barbara- One of my favourite movies of all time is “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  This is the first time that I wrote a story set in that time period.  Matthew and Anna naturally found themselves in the 1960s and I had to end it in the 80s.  Most people know that I’m an 80s lover.  It even says so in my Twitter bio!  

Johnny– What do you want the reader to take away from this book?

Barbara– Love conquers all.  That’s usually the message in all of my books.  Whether dark, or more in tune with a “happily ever after”, love is the only thing that matters.  

Johnny– When did you first decide that you were going to be a writer?

Barbara– It wasn’t really a decision.  More of a calling?  I started out dabbling in poetry.  Then, one day, in grade 9 English Class, my teacher praised a short story I had written.  He even made me read it out loud which was excruciating for an awkward, shy teen!  But my classmates loved it.  I penned my first book in 2002.  My husband encouraged me to published it in 2015, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Johnny– Tell me something about yourself that the average person doesn’t know. (where you are from, what do you do for fun, hobbies, what’s your favorite binge-watch, pets etc…) 

Barbara– We live in Ottawa, Canada, but I was born in Switzerland to Italian parents.  We immigrated to Canada when I was two.  I still speak Italian daily, and there’s always at least one Italian character in my books.  (Anna, in the case of “Timepiece”.)  Our only pet is a tarantula that my husband named “Betsy”.  (No, she’s not poisonous and stays in her aquarium.)  I love to cook and I’m big on cooking shows, but we recently discovered Netflix, and love Stranger Things, Black Mirror and we’re currently bingeing The 100.  We recently saw Joker in theaters, and it was right up my alley!  It was dark, yet brilliant, and breathtaking.  

Johnny– You have already published a few books. What is your process when you start developing an idea to the point you start writing it down as a book? 

Barbara– I pick a title first.  Then I create the book cover.  Both those things inspire the rest of the story. I create a brief outline using bullet points that I email to myself.  The story may change from there as I’m generally a panster, but that’s about it! 

Johnny– What was the first book you ever written? And did it get published?

Barbara– ”My Love is Deep” is my first book.  The title was inspired by the famous Bee Gees song “How Deep is Your Love?”  Although I wrote it in 2002, “life happened” and I put it away.  Back then, I didn’t know about self-publishing.  I’m not sure it even existed.  In 2015, my husband encouraged me to publish it.  There are now three other books in that series revolving around Peter Travis and his quest to find true love.  It’s set between Ottawa and Niagara Falls.  Last Christmas, I wrote “The Christmas Miracle” and I’m pretty sure that’s the last book I’ll write with Peter as my protagonist.  Fun fact: Peter makes an appearance in my latest book, “Postscript”.  

Johnny– Have you ever received a dreaded “rejection” letter? If so, how did you cope, and what advise do you have for unpublished writers if they ever get one? 

Barbara– At first, I did briefly query.  The rejection only added fuel to my creative fire.  I am happily self-published now, and wouldn’t have it any other way.  The creative freedom is what my soul screams for.  For writers who follow the traditional publishing path, I can only say, don’t let rejections quash your spirit.  There’s an audience for everything. 

...don't let rejections quash your spirit.  There's an audience for everything.

Johnny– I love the fact that rejection only added to your creative fire, is this something that all indie authors need to have in order to break through?

Barbara– Fear serves no purpose, except to paralyze us and inhibit our growth.  As we all have different reasons for writing, I don’t want to share a blanket statement.  However, if fear is preventing a writer from sharing or querying (or whatever their goal is), yes, they must overcome it to reach the next stage in their career. 

Johnny– How do you go about editing work, do you do your own self-editing?

BarbaraI do self-edit!  One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a fellow writer.  She sent me a private message and asked me if I didn’t mind sharing the name of my editor since my work is “flawless”.  I told her I self-edit.  That message that day brought me so much joy.  It really was priceless

Johnny– What are your thoughts on beta-readers? Do you use?

Barbara– I don’t use any.  Picture the author slumped over their typewriter, or scribbling in their notebook.  The one who bleeds their soul on paper.  That’s who I relate to.  Once those words are down, I share them.  I don’t look for feedback prior to publishing.  I don’t know, it’s sort of like a chef.  Their diners don’t sample the food before deciding to eat the whole plate, do they?  I see it more as a “surprise…I hope you like it!”  And keeping with the food analogy, just as there can be too many cooks in the kitchen, I feel like there’s such a thing as too much feedback for writers.  The magic sort of dissipates.  This is also what I mean about confidence being key.

Johnny– Do you recommend self-publishing to anyone that is starting out? If so, how does someone self-publish?

Barbara– I’ve been known to say this a lot, but self-publishing is not “something to fall back on”.  It’s not the first step for a novice.  It’s a career in itself and a hell of a lot of work.  However, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’m too stubborn!  The creative freedom is exhilarating.  Therefore, I recommend it to everyone who wants their story out there on their own schedule, and doesn’t mind doing all their own marketing, etc.  As far as “how”?  There are so many different outlets available, so I will just say, find the one that works for you, and learn the technical ropes.  The rest is simply your artistic expression come to life, and that is a very beautiful thing.

Johnny– Artistic expression is definitely something that you know about. Barbara, thank you so much for taking this time to talk with me. It has been an absolute pleasure talking with you!

REVIEW

As I stated earlier; This book haunts me, and I love it. It starts off like a “Dickens classic” and ends in a full-blown “Burroughs Beat” titling towards “Poe”. I ended this book feeling much the way one feels when exiting a roller-coaster, and no, not queasy, but rather: full of wonder and wanting more.

In a generation of writers pursuing to publish a new franchise it is so refreshing to come across such daring and originality. Timepiece draws you in with its loveliness and keeps you by it’s desirability. Splendidly written with eloquent historical-appropriate language, it swept me across the fabric of time as true love was put to the “ultimate” test.

Barbara has displayed everything that is truly wonderful and unique about indie authors. Her self published world is where the literary meets the fantasy, the contemporary meets the classic, merging, to becomes a tour d’ force for the imagination.

Honestly I love it!

I’m giving Timepiece 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on Goodreads and Amazon because of it’s sheer beauty and artistic-flow. This book is an absolute must for anyone who yearns for a really good discussion worthy composition.

WARNING this writer possess the following: originality, tenacity, and charm.

You have met the writer: Barbara Avon

Now read the book: Timepiece

Elegant and beautify written. Check it out for yourself.

Barbara on TWITTER

Barbara on FACEBOOK

Barbara_on Goodreads

Barbara on AMAZON

✌❤

Be sure to check out Barbara’s new Book.

If you enjoyed Timepiece be sure to check out Postscript.

✌❤

Posted in Gabrielle Olexa, Repost

Jenny of Lebanon by: Gabrielle Olexa

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

Conversation with Gabrielle

Johnny- Hi, Gabrielle, and thank you for talking to me about your book Jenny of Lebanon, a short but sweet read that drops the reader at ground zero of White Ash Lane. The narrative is so descriptive that it’s hard to imagine anything except the sight and sounds of the morning in all its glory, a house neglected, a wrecked truck and a cat being a cat. Where does an idea like this come from?

Gabrielle- That’s a good question and a somewhat difficult one for me to answer because I’m not sure why when I put pen to paper that chapter one became what it is – a dark, descriptive waltz into the broken and decaying lives of Billy and Jenny. Really, as I started, I was unaware of the gloomy path my characters were taking me on, but as I walked with Jenny into this house, I began to grasp the gravity of the relationship and all of its flaws. The house is a representation of all that, I guess. My idea was just to immerse the reader, bring them to ground zero, as you said, so they could understand more fully everything that comes next.

Johnny- It almost seems like this might have been a part of a bigger body of work at one time. Was it, and you liked this scenario so much that you made it a solo project?

Gabrielle- Yes, it is, actually! When I was in college, once upon a time, I took a creative writing course. In that class I wrote a short story entitled Jenny Kissed Me. It was inspired by a poem by the same name by James Leigh Hunt. You can find that poem in the front of my book. After I had finished and read it to the class, I couldn’t shake Jenny from my mind. I felt there was a lot more to her story. And thus, Jenny of Lebanon was born.

I decided to publish this one first, even though it’s technically out of order, because I felt it was strong enough to stand on its own. There are many details sprinkled throughout referencing moments that have occurred earlier, some vague, and others in your face. You don’t have to understand their full depth to enjoy what’s happening in the present, but I’ve basically planted seeds that will grow into larger plot points – in reverse chronological order – for readers stumbling upon the books as they are first published. I guess I watched too much Star Wars as a kid. 😊

As I release other Jenny stories (fingers crossed for the near future), it’s my hope they’ll strengthen Jenny of Lebanon and the series as a whole even more. Jenny is not done telling her story. There are reasons that help explain why she acts in the manner she does. She’s complicated.

Thames
Doppel

Johnny– I’m going to do my best to attempt to talk about your book without any spoilers. Novellas can be tricky without giving away too much. Is it fair to say that Jenny of Lebanon was an exercise for you to create and develop your character writing skills?

Gabrielle- The short answer is yes, it did, but I think it’s important to explain what kind of genre my book falls into so I can better explain my answer.  Jenny of Lebanon is literary fiction. What that means is that it’s a story being driven by its characters instead of traditionally being moved by the plot, as well as focusing on style and depth. It’s also a “slice of life”. The reader steps into the lives of Jenny and Billy, experiences an afternoon with them, and then they depart. Pieces of the past are touched upon during this small window and the future can be alluded to, but it’s this specific moment in time between these two people that is the focus of the story.

So, yes, it was certainly an exercise for me, and I like to think it helped hone my writing skills.  There are only two speaking parts in the story, unless you want to count the cat, Marvin, and he does put his two cents in quite often. I had to constantly think about pacing, about what they were saying to each other, and how it was affecting them. Other writers do this as well, but my space and time was limited. I had to make every moment I had with them count. There’s a lot of banter between Billy and Jenny, but they obviously couldn’t argue the entire time. That would have been tiring and boring, so I had to try and distract them, give them a reprieve before bringing them and ultimately, the reader, to a climax.

If you’d been a fly on the wall when I was writing, you would’ve heard me talking out the dialogue, trying to figure out if it was authentic enough. Me not being a man, obviously, I had to ask my husband and other guy friends if Billy seemed real in the way he acted and talked to Jenny. I wanted both of them to be relatable to the readers. So that was another exercise for me. I hope I succeeded in that endeavor.

Johnny- Absolutely, I think you did a great job, both sexes are believable. You bring up “literary fiction”. Veering from the book for a second, do you think that is a risky genre for an independent writer to start at? Why do you think it’s so rare nowadays?

Gabrielle- I think the literary fiction genre is frowned upon by some. For example, if you aren’t famous or dead or both, you can’t fall into that category rightfully, at least that’s the general feeling I get from scrolling through Twitter. I’ve read many threads where people talk about what they feel should be classified as literary fiction, and that’s hardly ever included a debut novel by an indie author. From what I’ve read, they thought it should be a term reserved for writers who’ve earned it from their peers, like there’s some contest I have to win first before I can claim it as my own genre. There also appears to be an air of pretension associated with it as well. This obviously isn’t true for everyone, but it’s still frustrating.

I’m not entirely sure why people think this way, but part of me believes it’s because they don’t truly understand what literary fiction is.  It’s not that popular of a category, and there aren’t that many publications accepting submissions for it, compared to that of science fiction, fantasy or romance – so it’s really hard to get on people’s radars. Anytime someone asks what genre my book is or what it’s about, I mostly get deer in headlights looks, and then I have to do a whole bunch of explaining. Sometimes I purposefully don’t tell people the genre because I fear they won’t read it out of bias or confusion. I personally think it’s rarer to find books written in this genre because so many readers want immediate gratification and a fast-moving story filled with as much action as it can hold – so that’s what writers are providing them. You write what sells, right? It’s not wrong or bad, it’s just a different style. I’ve read on multiple occasions where people have said if something doesn’t happen in the first page and a half, they’re done. Some people like Michael Bay movies. Me, not so much. Ha. I personally enjoy getting to know the ins and outs of characters, learning what propels them in life, and discovering the details that create who they are. To me, even though I write fiction, I want my stories to be as real as I can make them. Life has all of those intricacies balled up into it, and that’s what makes it special.

I’m Jenny’s conduit to the world, so yeah, I’d say we’re close

Johnny- Surveying the living room, the documented clutter and random chaos of the coffee table is so descriptive, is this based off something you’ve witnessed at someone’s house? (Meant as a fun question, no judgement. lol)

Gabrielle- Whatever gave you that impression? Ha ha. Yes, without naming anyone, there was an apartment I used to frequent that certainly helped shape the chaos we witness in Billy’s house. I only used some of what I experienced, like the fan with its missing blade covered in dust. Maybe some of the dishes or takeout items, too, but believe me, my friend’s place was Heaven compared to Billy’s. To fill in the details of the house, I tried to imagine how depression would look if it all got unpacked and strewn about. Let’s just be glad we never had to walk into Billy’s bathroom. Not even I wanted to go there.

Johnny- Lol, fair enough. Does this person(s) know they inspired you so much that you included them in this book?

Gabrielle- Oh, he’s aware. 😊In fact, when he read one of the first drafts, I think he knew immediately where I had drawn my inspirations. He wasn’t offended or anything, thankfully. I’m always warning friends that some part of their personalities or life may end up in my books, so they better be careful. 😉

Johnny- Jenny, is unfazed by the condition of the living room; in fact, she stops at one point and checks her appearance in the mirror. What was your inspiration in creating this character?  I love this little attention to detail btw.

Gabrielle- Ah, Jenny.  She’s an interesting one.  Like most of the characters I’ve created over the years, it’s hard for me pinpoint exactly what creative puddle of ooze she crawled out of and why. She was birthed slowly through the words as I wrote them. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it’s the truth. There are some parts of Jenny that I myself do not completely understand yet because she hasn’t told me, but I believe she will tell me all eventually.

            So really, she’s less of an inspiration and more of a person existing in my mind, telling me her story as I write it. When I get into her head space, I see her as this strong, sensual, but damaged woman who knows she’s beautiful and makes zero effort to hide it. She takes every opportunity to flaunt what she has, placing herself in the center of every situation. She craves that attention. But like I said, she’s damaged, and if she’s not careful, she’ll find herself vulnerable and no longer in control. That’s what really makes her uncomfortable. Underneath her tough exterior, as hard as it is to believe, Jenny does have a heart. And although she is a very honest person, she is human, and she lies.

Johnny- She’s beautiful and complicated for sure, not a cop out answer, btw. However, it’s amazing that you created her the way you did; do you think at times, that you are too close to her? (if that makes sense) Will her effect on you affect her journey down the road?

Gabrielle- I’m Jenny’s conduit to the world, so yeah, I’d say we’re close, maybe sometimes too close. When I delve too deep into her waters, it’s often a toxic trip and an emotionally draining one. On some levels I think we understand each other and can relate, but then she’ll say something or act in a way I never imagine I could, and I have to work extra hard to make sense of it. Her desires and motivations are often disconnected from my own life experiences. I’d be a dirty liar if I said our journeys weren’t connected. We may be two different people, living separate lives, but we are constantly learning from one another. I just can’t say for sure that we use that gained knowledge appropriately or at all.

Johnny- She’s walking down the hallway, she straightens a couple of pictures, then she stops and relives a moment in one picture hanging on the wall, but doesn’t straighten it. Tell me about this scene…

Gabrielle- I have to be careful what I say about this scene because it’s a big part of the conclusion of the book. This is another moment where you aren’t likely to believe my explanation, but I’m pretty sure when I first wrote this part, I didn’t know what she was looking at or why it was important. All I knew is that it would be. That’s how a lot of things I write work. I drop down the dots, but I don’t connect them until later. I’m thankful this method works for me or else all of my stories would be complete and utter nonsense. I’m sure if you took a peek into my brain when I was plotting out my stories, it probably would’ve looked like a detective’s board filled with a dozen different colored strings stretched from one side to the other.

What Jenny sees and how she reacts used to make me think Jenny was truly just a heartless person who didn’t care at all, but the longer I’ve had to spend with her, I think this scene is more a moment for her to pause and reflect, to think about the here and now, and where’s she come from since then. Not fixing it says a lot about Jenny, I think, more so than if she did correct it.  What it says exactly will likely be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the reader. I’d love to watch a group discuss Jenny and Billy. That would be a lot of fun.

There are some parts of Jenny that I myself do not completely understand yet

Johnny- Let’s talk about Billy for a moment. Why is this guy so likable? Where did he come from?

Gabrielle- I’m not so sure he is likable. Some may see him as the victim in all of this, but others may think he’s as much to blame as Jenny. The way he is perceived will depend upon each individual reader, and that’s completely okay with me.  Everyone is going make their own judgment. That’s the beauty of books, really – people being able to see characters and their actions and deciding for themselves who the “bad guy” really is, if indeed there is one.

Johnny– Likable might be the wrong word, he just seems “laid back” I’m guessing that’s why he seems likable to me, a bit of a slob, but, likable. lol. Was he a creation also? Or was there a muse behind his conception?

Gabrielle- Billy was partly just a guy who showed up and took his place in the story, but he was also a character fleshed out by stealing tiny details from my now husband, Phil. We weren’t married when I first started writing Billy, in fact, we were barely dating. The first draft versus what finally made it out into the world changed drastically over the years as our relationship did. I want to make it absolutely clear, though, that Billy is not my husband, but some of his mannerisms and best qualities exist in him. My husband loathes my characters, but specifically Billy because he can see the few things I borrowed. Billy was a mold made special by a handful of human traits, some random, some inspired, but without them, I don’t think he’d be the same character.

Johnny- Billy’s has a thought as Jenny is replacing a lightbulb. (no spoilers) His thoughts go one way and then his actions another. Are you describing “true love”?

Gabrielle- This is an interesting but brief looksee into Billy’s mind and character. We get a glimpse of what’s beneath what he shows us and Jenny throughout the book. I don’t think it was “true love” I had intended to show per se, but I can see how one could perceive it that way, considering what happens. It’s not the only time Billy’s emotions get the best of him, but as much as he would maybe like to become this person he thinks about or attempts to act like, he can’t change who he is. Jenny knows this and makes sure to tell him.

Johnny- I’m so happy that Jenny will return. There really seems to be more to her that I want to know about. It’s like she has so much more to tell. So, when you say “fingers crossed for the near future” are you talking 2020?

Gabrielle- Ultimately, yes, I hope that come spring, or shortly after, I’ll have another chapter of Jenny’s life out in the world. A large chunk of it is already written. I just need to flesh out scenes in-between scenes and grow upon what I have. Saying that makes me incredibly nervous because deadlines terrify me. I don’t know how I turned in all my papers in college and graduated on time. Historically, I’m the slowest writer on planet Earth, and I can make an excuse out of just about anything. I’m almost magical that way. 😊 I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from complete strangers, though, and I think that’s what really is going to motivate me to make it happen. Many have asked for more, and I want nothing more than to do that for them.

Johnny- There is so much more of your book that I want to talk to you about. I’m afraid that if I do, I’m going to spoil it for others,so I’m going to stop. Who is your favorite author?

Gabrielle- That’s an easy answer, though not a very unique one, I’m afraid. Stephen King has been my go-to writer since my 9th grade math class. Somehow, I came into possession of the paperback tome that is IT. I’d been traumatized by the TV miniseries as a kid, thanks to my brothers, and I guess I wanted to face my childhood fears head-on. Or it could’ve been I really didn’t like math and needed a long distraction. This was likely the catalyst that determined my lackluster math skills, and I forgive Stephen King wholeheartedly. 😊 Totally worth it, in my opinion. Once I was done with that massive book, and it took most of the year, I needed more. I fell in love with his style and his stories. I even started collecting his first editions. There are some I’ll never be able to afford, but I’ve found a lot of them in varying conditions. None of them are signed, but my husband managed to get a baseball with his John Hancock on it. That was the best birthday present ever! I’ll never know if it’s authentic or not, but I really don’t care. It’s real to me.

Johnny– What advise do you have for younger writers who are looking to get started?

Gabrielle- First and foremost, read. If you don’t have time to read, you probably don’t have time to write. It was probably Stephen King that said that or some other famous person, but it’s true. Your skill will obviously improve over time if all you ever do is write, but you’ll gain ground faster if you read the work of your favorite writers or peers. We learn so much from each other. Besides that, write what you know, write what you’d like to know, challenge yourself and step outside your comfort zone or genre. Write what sells or write for yourself. Whatever you do, just write. Even if you think it’s terrible, write it. It very well may be, but it will get better. That’s what second, third and fourth drafts are for. Writing is a process, and it takes time. When you’re finished, don’t keep it to yourself. Set it free.

Johnny* Great advice. Thank you for taking the time and talk with me. It has been a pure joy to share this time with you! Please keep doing what you do.

Jenny of Lebanon is literary fiction at it's finest.

REVIEW

Jenny of Lebanon has been like a breath of fresh air. It’s simple, it’s beautiful, it quenched my thirst, and scratched the proverbial itch that was impossible to reach. It was a joyful surprise.

From the opening scene the reader is whisked away into a narrative that is a feast for the imagination.

Weighing in at 57 pages there is no wasted space found between these covers. What is found is a narrative that took me by the hand and led me step by step across the pages, description that left lasting images in my mind, characters so realistic I can picture them living up my block.

Jenny of Lebanon is literary fiction at its finest.

As Gabrielle had mentioned earlier, literary fiction is rarely used when discussing a debut novel but in this case, that is not true. Twitter did not discourage Gabrielle and she stuck to her guns because literary fiction is the glue that holds all other writing together. **“I just put the words down and hope for the best.” This is where dreams are born. Literary fiction is making a massive come back in this engrossing indie debut from who can be considered a rising star and a master of her craft.

On Goodreads and Amazon, I gave Jenny of Lebanon 5 stars, if possible, I’d given more. This book is definitely worth the read.

**Quoted from Gabrielle while sharing random thoughts.

Jenny of Lebanon by: Gabrielle Olexa

✌❤