Jennifer Worrell

Author

Artist Centerstage

Q:  I love horror and psychological thrillers.  Where did you get the idea for The Stairwell? 

A:  Horror and psychological thrillers are my favourite genres as well and I love the thought of the two combining.
I actually thought of the ending first, and built the rest of the story around that. At the time I was working a job that often involved long quiet periods that gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time thinking about the story. I’d jot down all sorts of ideas, then when I got home in the evening, I’d pick out the ones I liked best and leave the rest. Eventually these key ideas all came together in my head to form a rough outline of what is now The Stairwell.


Q:  This story makes the reader question whether paranormal events are actually happening or they’re a figment of the characters’ imaginations.  Have you ever experienced paranormal activity firsthand?

A:  I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything directly. However, I used to live in Plymouth in the South West of England. My partner and I lived in this old house that I didn’t like—it just felt off. Being alone in the house wasn’t pleasant at all. One day, when we were walking home, we saw a ghost tour bus full of tourists parked right outside! That was very ominous.


Q:  What is your favorite thing to research when writing?

A:  I think my favourite thing to research is the experiences that people share regarding paranormal experiences. It is interesting to read about people describing what happened, how they felt, and this helped inform how the characters in The Stairwell react to the events of the book.


Q:  The novel takes place in England.  If we were to go on a Stairwell location tour, what would you pinpoint on the map? 

A:  I’d include the city of Cambridge—this is where Alice lives, and her part of the book takes place almost exclusively here. It’s a beautiful city, and I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone who hasn’t been (though one day is long enough—it’s not a very big city! The university of Cambridge is particularly beautiful, and looks as prestigious as it is known to be. Brandon’s part of the book takes place in Plaistow, London. Some key moments for Brandon happen in Plaistow Park, which so happens to be where I sat and jotted down the key plot points when I was first planning The Stairwell.

Q:  This is your debut novel (congrats!).  What was the most unexpected part of the writing process?

A:  I think how much closer I would become with my Dad. I happened to mention to him one day that I was starting to write a book, and coincidentally he was planning one as well. So, every few weeks, we’d take it in turn to travel the few hundred miles between us to spend two-three days together writing. We’d get up in the morning to a full English breakfast, then spend the rest of the day writing. By the end of the few days we’d do a word count and see that we’d each hit over 10,000 words. Not only did this bring us closer together but I’m sure it kept us both motivated and I’m not sure I would have finished the book without our sessions.


Q:  What have you always wanted to write but haven’t gotten around to yet?

A:  For the last two years I’ve wanted to write a book focusing on a character who, like me, has Type 1 Diabetes. I was diagnosed two years ago, and was too far into The Stairwell to include this character in this book (and also didn’t know enough about diabetes at that point!). My work in progress, however, is the first part of a series featuring a main character who is Type 1—he’s a London Metropolitan Police Officer who discovers that supernatural creatures exist. He conducts his own investigations into this and hunts a different creature in each book. I wanted to show to people suffering with diabetes that you can still do anything you set your mind to.


Q:  I see from your interview with Newham Recorder that you’re working on comic horror next.  What can you tell us about it?

A:  This is a short story that I’m working on. I’ve always loved horror/comedy combinations, the duality between the two emotions they spark is unique. The main character is an estate agent who is selling haunted homes, whilst trying to keep the fact that they are haunted a secret. Typical estate agent I guess!


Q:  Usually this is where I ask about your favorite pie.  But I see from your website, you’re a cake fan.  Would cake beat pie in a sugary death match, and if so, what flavor would be the victor?

A:  What a great question! I think pie would win to be honest. Though I do love cake, I’m not sure how something like a blueberry cheesecake or a raspberry sponge could stand up to a cherry pie.


Q:  Thank you for interviewing with me! How can we keep up with you?

A:  Thank you as well—and a big thank you to all my readers. I love hearing from you.
You can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/deanbryantauthor
Instagram at
www.instagram.com/deanbryantauthor and
Twitter at
https://twitter.com/DeanBryantBooks or
My own website
http://deanbryant.com. You can also reach me by email at dean@deanbryant.com.

Pre-order the book on Amazon!
 

Q:  Blood Ties is a vampire novel with an unusual twist: your characters are dealing with radical terrorism!  What inspired you to write in that theme?


A:  Blood Ties was inspired by the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France.  I spent a week in Paris for my 25th birthday and nearly didn’t get back on my return flight because I loved it there so much.  When I learned about what happened, I asked myself what would my vampires do if they lost a human who was special to them.  It started out as a way to deal with a world I can’t control, and the story just blossomed from there.


Q:  What is/are your favorite thing(s) to research when writing paranormal fiction?


A:  I really enjoy researching different myths and history in general when writing.  Almost every culture has a vampire/blood-drinker story, and it’s so cool to see the common threads in them despite the physical distance of these cultures.  I also love researching history and trying to imagine what life would have been like for a character who was born hundreds of years ago.


Q:  Writing comedy is not easy.  What details stand out the most about the creation of Effing Dave?


A:  I originally wrote Effing Dave  for a charity anthology, One Million Project: Fantasy.  I mostly remember being so stressed out trying to get the required word count!  I did worry about the comedy aspect as well but knew not everyone would get the humor I was going for in it.  That’s okay, though.  It was a fun story to write, and there are people who got my humor.


Q:  You’re from West Virginia.  My father’s people are from Peterstown, so I’m going to assume we’re cousins.  How much of your beautiful surroundings infiltrate your fiction?


A:  Weeeellll . . . I live in West Virginia, but I’m originally from New Jersey.  We can still say we’re cousins though.  I’m cool with that.


My surroundings infiltrate quite a bit.  I’ve used the town I live in as a setting, as well as making up fictional towns based on actual places.  Belle Hollow in my novella Vanilla Blood is based on two of my favorite small towns to visit: Thomas and Davis, and Laurel Springs in my novelette The Scarlet Destruction  is kinda a mix of Morgantown and those towns.


Q:  What have you always wanted to write but haven’t gotten around to yet?  (techniques, genres, plots, etc. etc.)


A:  I’d like to try my hand at horror.  This might sound creepy, but I think it would be fun to delve into some really dark material.


Q:  I love dark material, so I'm looking forward to seeing it.  What are you working on next?


A:  My current project is the origin story of one of my vampires, Bridget. It spans centuries--from the 5th thru the 20th--so there’s quite a bit of research. Thankfully I found that it will actually fit in a genre: Historical Fantasy. Whoo-hoo!


Q:  Yay!  I love when things all come together.
Last question: What is your favorite pie?


A:  I think this is the toughest question here! Hmmm… I don’t know if I can pick just one. Cherry, chocolate pecan--oh!--and shoofly pie. 


Q:  Shoofly!  Vastly underrated!

Thank you for interviewing with me! How can we keep up with you?


A:  You’re very welcome for the interview! Thank you for asking me! Here are the links to my social media and websites:

https://authorslbaron.com

Facebook: @AuthorSLBaron

Twitter: @AuthorSLBaron

Instagram: @authorslbaron

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B079MNTBPD
 

Paul Sating and I "meet" every month to dish about our latest projects in a Mastermind group of fellow writers.  Since connecting with Paul in 2019, I'm convinced he's a magician.  Or possibly a warlock.  At the very least, a time traveler.  


I'm reading 12 Deaths of Christmas, a deviously twisted collection of horror tales that marks my introduction to Paul's fiction.  Aside from stories filled with surprise turns and complex characters, Paul writes non-fiction, hosts podcasts, admins a fabulous online group for writers...and I have finally cracked the code on how he's able to juggle so many things at once!


Read on for his process, a bit of writing advice, and his latest project(s)...


Q: You are one of the most prolific authors I know.  Can you tell us about your writing secrets and rituals?


A: Structure, structure, plus a healthy dose of clear communication and buy-in from the most important people in my life—who understand that my writing time is untouchable.  We have a saying in the house that if it's not on fire or someone isn't dying, I'm not to be interrupted.  If you're serious about being published, you need to have the structure in place and buy-in from your support network, be they family, friends, or roommates.  You have to establish 'the zone,' the time and place to let your head dive into the story.  For me, I set up a schedule to write before anyone woke up.  Over the years I started early, 5:30am, and progressively moved it to the left.  I now wake up at 4:40am, and write for hours before another soul stomps around the house.  I started that schedule so I could have three hours of writing before the work day.  Unfortunately, I lost my job, but the schedule didn't change.  I still get up at 4:40am every weekday, and write for hours.  On the weekends, I allow myself to sleep in, but I'm usually up before 8am, and I get to writing immediately—because it's a routine.  That's all part of having a structure around your writing.  It's a learned behavior.  I often say on my Horrible Writing podcast that there are 0 Zero Word Count Days—every day, I write.  It's the best counter to any negative writing excuse (i.e. writer's block, I need to be in the flow, etc.)  When you have established the behavior, there is immediacy—you're always in the story and you cannot miss a day.  Seriously, you'll be a grumpy jerk if you don't write.  This isn't immediate, it takes years of dedication to firmly establish this kind of discipline and drive.  So if you can't do it now, do your best.  Forgive yourself, but hold yourself accountable instead of making excuses, and buckle down.  Like I tell my podcast fans, if writing is important to you, then you need to treat it as such—put the important things first (yes, especially you "I'm not a morning person" people).


Q: As it says on your Amazon bio your current novel, The Scalesand 12 Deaths of Christmas are horror, an earlier novel, RIP, is a thriller, and your upcoming series is fantasy.  What can you tell us about writing in multiple genres?  What intrigues you most about each?


A: Don't do it! :)


As an indie, it's difficult to build an audience.  Admittedly, I'm working hard to build mine and I've been podcasting for ten years, and many of those listeners have moved over to my books.  Someone who is starting out, without some sort of following, will find it even more difficult.  Not impossible, but still difficult.


But switching genres is tough, let's make no bones about it.  It can really throw off momentum and take years for an author to get back to the starting gate.  So it is a tactic that has to be carefully considered.  For me, it was worth it for a number of reasons.


My true love is fantasy.  Fantasy has so many possibilities, seemingly limitless.  It is my fiction Happy Place.  Not that I don't enjoy horror and thrillers—I do—but fantasy has always been the place I lost myself in, and where I want to remain lost.


I started in horror/thriller because of my podcasts.  My following was built up through now-defunct podcasts like Subject: Found and Diary of a Madman (which are being incorporated into my current fiction podcast called Audio Fiction with Paul Sating).  Horror/thriller podcasts are much easier to write and produce than fantasy.  That, plus the fact that I enjoy those genres, is why I started my fiction podcasting with the darker genres.  It wasn’t until those were already out there in the world that I had the idea to write a novel from the Bigfoot season (season 1) of Subject: Found.  I’d always dreamed of being published and the 40,000 word script was a great excuse to try my hand at publishing, after all, the only thing I had to do was fill in the dialogue with exposition, right?


But even while writing those shows and Who Killed Julie? (a ‘real life’ docu-drama—boy, did I get hate for fooling people), I periodically wrote fantasy for my Patrons.  I felt like a different writer then, a more imaginative one.  I knew it was only a matter of time before I moved into fantasy.


The book market and my goals helped me with that.  Horror doesn’t sell as well as thrillers and I’m, honestly, not the strongest in that latter genre.  My goal is to make a living from my books and podcasts, and that’s difficult in horror (and thrillers if you struggle with thriller pacing, as I do).  But the market is vibrant in fantasy! It’s a place I can make a living.


So to me, it’s an easy decision: first love + healthy market = genre switch!


I’ve spent the last year preparing my fans for the switch.  Yes, I’ll lose some, and I’ll miss them.  But if I don’t do it now, the pain will only become more severe later on.


Q: What early experience showed you the power of language?


A: Many times.  I used to write skits for a “talk” podcast and was told that my fiction skits helped people understand something they wouldn’t have ‘accepted’ if it was a debate.  My fiction made it safe for them to open their minds.


But the most powerful to-date was from Who Killed Julie?, when I had numerous fans (the ones not pissed at me for ‘fooling’ them into thinking it was a real life story) who were touched with the way I handled topics such as sexual assault, violence against women, and the toxic culture around sexuality.  One fan from Europe thanked me for making the show because it was the first time in her life she didn’t feel alone about her own experience with sexual assault.  When you can do that for another human…that’s powerful and fulfilling stuff, right there!


Q: Tell us the most unusual/funniest/weirdest part about writing The Scales. What memory will stand out the strongest?


A: It’s my newest release and was written before any of the four books that preceded it! :) Oh, and it was originally going to be a quirky, comedic adventure story—and turned into a ‘big monster’ horror novel.  I guess that’s what happens when I let a book sit around for 3 or 4 years.


Q: Here comes my standard question: What is your favorite pie?


A: Is it even possible to have a bad pie?????


Q: I knew I liked you.  

One of your mantras is “be epic”.  What advice can you give writers on how to reach their peak epic-ness?


A: Assuming writing is important to a writer, you have to be disciplined enough to put your writing first—even when you would rather be outside in the sun, or baking, or watching a movie.  You have to be dedicated to your craft, always aiming to improve.   You have to have drive to punch through those writing days when the writing isn’t so epic, instead of giving up and going and watching that movie, baking, or going outside.   And, my personal call to every writer, you have to be brave—in your prose and in your storytelling.


Q: Thank you for interviewing with me! How can we keep up with you?


A: Thank you for not throwing me out on my ear! 


You can visit me at paulsating.com, on Twitter and Instagram, and even on Facebook.

 

Today I present the lovely Karen Kerbis ~aka~ La Gringa Novelera as my very first interviewee on Artist Centerstage.


We met at Open Mic night at City Lit Books in Logan Square, just south of my 'hood. She has an event coming up (details at the bottom), and if you can meet her in person, it's worth it!



Q: “La Gringa Novelera—Prosecutor By Day, Novelera By Night” is such a unique idea! Tell us a little about your background and how this project came about.


A: Thank you! It’s a very long story how this all came about, but the shortest version is that a few very cold winters ago, I tried an experiment: Could I learn Spanish from watching a telenovela—the nightly melodramas on Spanish-language television—if I watched every night without subtitles? I loved what I was watching so much that I began blogging about them—summaries of what I was watching with the caveat I did not speak Spanish but here’s what I think is happening! People seemed to get a kick out of what I was writing, including the writers of the shows! I eventually wrote a memoir, “La Gringa Novelera: Prosecutor By Day, Novelera By Night!”


I should have mentioned that when this all started I was a career Gang Prosecutor at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and that “La Gringa Novelera” means “The White Girl Who is Obsessed with Telenovelas.”



Q: How have things changed for you since starting this book?


A: So many things have changed; the book is just part of it. I realized as time went on I had a real passion for writing; specifically, writing about telenovelas. The book is done, but needs a lot of work; same thing with the script. I realized I had to get moving, so I took an early retirement from my job and I’m moving to Mexico City in June to finish the book, the script, and immerse myself in Spanish!



Q: This sounds like quite an adventure to write and research. Was was the most unexpected challenge?


A: It’s all crazy and a lot of work and a lot of fun! But my biggest challenge has been the script. The first draft was 267 pages because I didn’t know it was supposed to be 110 pages. The producer thought I was insane, and ordered me to take screenwriting classes and learn something about structure!



Q: Tell us about your querying/publishing process. What has the experience been like?


A: Also a lot of hard work, but here’s what I did.


I went online and looked for literary agents who were accepting Memoir or Humor/Non-Fiction. They have very strict guidelines for what they want and how they want it, as you know. I followed their demands to the letter; I was very careful to comply with their instructions.


On my 10-11 submission, a very kind and interested agent wrote back for more, and then the whole book! I was in Heaven! She ultimately passed, but explained exactly what she thought was wrong and exactly what she thought was right. She invited me to resubmit if I changed the book consistent with her suggestions. I’m working on that, but right now I’m focusing on the script.



Q: What early experience showed you the power of language?


A: What a question! I guess I have to go all the way back to my grade school where I had a few poems published in our school newspaper. I was in 6th grade. My parents were both great storytellers and loved a regale a crowd with funny stories! I grew up watching them! I learned when I was young that a good storyteller is always a welcome party guest, and I love parties!



Q: Tell us the most unusual/funniest/weirdest part about this project. What memory will stand out the brightest?


A: I have a few favorite memories from all of this craziness: Appearing in a telenovela in a walk-on, where I was the World’s Worst Walker; kissing the extremely handsome actor David Chocarro on the Telemundo extravaganza “Que Noche!”; and the day two witnesses to a brutal crime who had appeared at the CCSAO {Cook County State's Attorney's Office} to testify at a trial recognized me as “La Gringa Novelera!” They watched “Que Noche!” And they had seen me kiss David Chocarro.


But honestly, since all of this started, I’ve had a lot of surreal, magical moments. I know how lucky I am!!



Q: You know I have to ask. What is your favorite pie?


A: Cherry with vanilla ice cream! And now I want pie!!



Q: You have a great delivery style and speaking voice and approachable personality. Can you give any advice to the introverts facing readings of their own?


A: Well public speaking is very easy for me because I was a trial lawyer for almost 30 years! So that’s never been an issue for me. Again, I know I’m lucky!


But when I was starting out very early in my career, someone gave me a great piece of advice. (Usually we are speaking to a jury of 14, so it was in this context): He told me to not worry about the number of people I was talking to; 1 or 10 or 100 or 1000. What’s the difference, he said.

Each person has their own private thoughts about what you are saying, and unless they can do some sort of Vulcan mind-meld, they are not able to communicate those thoughts to anyone else in that moment. So it’s like you’re always only speaking to one person, no matter how many in the audience.


I like that idea and I think it helps. And I think the more you do it, the more comfortable you get!



Q: Your next event will be at The Test Literary Series at The Whistler, 6pm on Sunday 2/17. What can we expect to see/hear?


A: I will be reading an excerpt from my memoir. I’m trying to stay away from getting too deep in the weeds with the novela plots, because those passages are really only interesting to people who watch them.


I’m trying to broaden the book and so I’m trying to read excerpts that aren’t too sticky with the crazy novela plots, even though those are my favorite parts.


I’ll probably be reading an excerpt that has to do with how my behavior at work changed once I started learning Spanish from telenovelas!



Q: Thank you for interviewing with me! How can we keep up with you?


A: Thank you so much for your interest!


You can find me on Facebook at La Gringa Novelera on Instagram & Twitter @gringanovelera, and my blog is Lagringanovelera.me. I also write a monthly column about novelas for “Latin Connection” magazine!


#artistcenterstage