With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with published author, Jennie Shortridge
Jennie Shortridge has published five novels: Love Water Memory, When She Flew, Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe, Eating Heaven, and Riding with the Queen. When not writing, teaching, or volunteering, Jennie stays busy as a founding member of Seattle7Writers.org, a nonprofit collective of Northwest authors.
As an acclaimed writer of five novels, a writing workshop coach, a founding member of an authors’ collective, and a musician, how do you manage to juggle all of those and remain successful?
That you think I am juggling all these things successfully is lovely to hear, but I think it’s a bit of an illusion. When I’m particularly busy organizing a Seattle7Writers event, I’m not writing as much as I should be. When I’m in full-on writing mode, I turn down teaching opportunities and other fun gigs. There are times when it all works out, and other times when I feel pulled in too many directions. My husband and friends and family get to hear all about it, of course! But my mantra is: Everything is happening exactly as it should be; relax. I want very much to do all of these things, and I’m stubborn.
Your latest novel, Love Water Memory, is out this month and is inspired by an interesting news story. Can you tell us a little more about this book and how it got started?
I read a Seattle Times story in 2007 about a man who’d gone missing from Olympia, and turned up in Denver on the TV news. He had amnesia and they were asking if anyone could help identify him. His fiancé went to get him and they got married, though he didn’t remember her. He said something like, “I didn’t know her face but I knew her heart.” That intrigued me. I wanted to know more, so I did a bunch of research and wrote a fictional story to figure it all out.
Your band, The Rejections, created some music specifically for Love Water Memory. Have you done anything like that for your other novels? What made you choose to connect music to the novel? How was it an enriching process?
In Love Water Memory, the amnesiac is a woman, and one of the first ways she begins to feel glimmers of memory is through playing the piano. Music becomes her portal to her former self, so incorporating music felt very natural. Our band does cover songs, and we chose a few that evoked the emotion of the book. A musician friend in Denver actually wrote a song called “Love Water Memory” (so cool, and a beautiful song). All the songs are on my website for readers to download and listen to. And yes, my very first book, Riding with the Queen, was about a musician (two, actually, though one was long dead), and I wrote songs as those characters and performed them at readings and made them available for download. What I love about connecting stories and music is that the music becomes another way to experience the story, another way “in.”
As the title suggests, the use of water permeates the book, from Grady being underwater to Lucy being found in water. What was your inspiration for using this as one of the themes in this book?
Good metaphors come about organically, I think. Water was not originally in the plan, but Grady was a swimmer, and as his story became more apparent, so did a lot of different connections to water, for all of the characters. Water is the source of life, right? So, once I realized that it was all connecting, it also became a part of the title (which woke me up at two in the morning, twice, so I had to use it.)
How has promoting Love Water Memory been different from promoting your previous novels?
Honestly, I just have a lot more support from my new publisher, Gallery Books/Simon and Schuster. I’d been hoping to find a house that offered that, and I really lucked out. They’ve been lovely and are really behind the book. I do the same amount of work I’ve always done, out in the world, online, etc. but there are others out there now pulling for the book, too.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Your least favorite? Do you feel writing gets easier with each novel you release?
My favorite part of being a writer is writing. I love being in a big long story over many, many months and sometimes years. I love the discovery process. I love getting to know the characters, uncovering secrets, making something ugly not quite as hard to be with through understanding more about it. Does that make any sense at all? My least favorite part of writing is the pressure that can come from being a published author. When’s your next book going to be done? Are you writing? How many books have you sold? Why aren’t you on Oprah? Can you help me get published, too? It gets overwhelming at times. And no, writing doesn’t get any easier, ever. If it did, well. It might not be as interesting any more!
What keeps you motivated to write? Do you have a particular process that keeps you focused?
Once a story starts on paper for me, I want to be with it every day. I want to write and see what happens in the next three or four pages. I’m drawn to my office every morning to work. Now, when it’s not there yet, it’s very hard to get started. It’s a bit like going to the gym. Once you go a few times and find your rhythm and see a few results, it becomes fun and you want to go. Until then . . . pulling teeth.
You and bestselling author Garth Stein founded Seattle7Writers back in 2009 as a “non-profit collective of authors who promote Northwest literature and raise money and awareness for literacy.” How has the foundation evolved over the years? What have been some of the greatest successes?
We started as a group of published authors who commiserated and celebrated the writing life monthly over coffee, and found a great community together. It was Garth, while touring The Art of Racing in the Rain, who said, Hey, we can do good stuff together out in the community. A lot of his gigs had involved fundraising for animal shelters, so we took that model and applied it to literacy. We’re now up to over 60 authors in our community, and have raised money for Writers in the Schools, Powerful Schools, 826 Seattle, Path With Art, and many others. And we have a very active Pocket Library committee that regularly gathers donated books and re-home them in places where people may not have books: shelters, food banks, detention centers, correctional facilities.
Do you have any upcoming speaking engagements or signings that we can look out for?
These and more on my events page:
•Thursday, April 25, 7pm
Reading and Signing
Eagle Harbor Books
157 Winslow Way East
Bainbridge Island, WA
•Friday, April 26, 6:30pm
Reading and Signing
Third Place Books
7171 Bothell Way NE
Lake Forest Park, WA
•Monday, April 29, 7pm
Reading with Erica Bauermeister
348 Parkplace Center
•Saturday, May 4, 7pm
Trio of Writers Reading, with Erica Bauermeister and Carol Cassella
The Writers’ Workshoppe
234 Taylor St
Port Townsend, WA
Are you willing to share with our readers any details on your next book project?
If I knew anything yet, I would. I’m in exploration mode, still, an uncomfortable place for me, but I’m hoping a character or two will show up soon!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley is an English/Marketing major at Whitworth University. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is an editor and a writer, and loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.