Author Interview {Jenny Proctor}

I met Jenny Proctor at the Whitney Gala in 2013. Since then I’ve been following her release of THE HOUSE AT ROSE CREEK. Her book was a finalist for a Whitney Award this year and Book of the Year! She’s also working with the talented Melanie Jacobson to organize LDStorymakers Conference 2015. I know it’s going to be even more amazing than this year!

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Jenny Proctor

Jenny’s here today to tell us about THE HOUSE AT ROSE CREEK and her other works in progress. She’s also giving away a copy of her book to one lucky reader! Enter below.

CH: Your first book THE HOUSE AT ROSE CREEK is out now, and another coming out soon. Tell us about them and where we can find them.

JP: The House at Rose Creek was released last July. I just learned this month that it’s a Whitney Finalist in the General Fiction category. I’m honored, and very excited about that. I will always have a special place in my heart for The House at Rose Creek because it’s the first novel I’ve ever written. You could almost call it the first anything I’ve ever written, first fiction anyway. It bloomed out of a handful of stories from my own family history and developed into something that I hope can reach people, touch them in a way and inspire them to think about things they might not have considered before. It’s a conversion story, and it deals with family history… topics I realize make a lot of people shy away or yawn, but the story has a lot of heart in it, and there’s some romance in there too to keep things interesting. It’s set in North Carolina which gives it a bit of a different twist. Being Mormon in the south is very different than being Mormon out west… not better or worse, but definitely different.

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My second book, Mountains Between Us, will be released in August 2014. It’s set in Rose Creek, the same small, mountain town as The House at Rose Creek and so has a few characters that overlap. If you read the first book, you’ll recognize a few people and be happy to get a peek into what’s going on in their lives, but it’s still a definite stand alone book. Confession? I love Mountains Between Us even more than the first book. It’s about an English teacher who’s taken a job at a rehabilitative boarding school, deep in the mountains, to be closer to his 7 year old son after a pretty painful divorce. He’s got some stuff to work through and he meets this amazing woman who challenges him and makes him crazy, but manages to help him in ways he never expected. It’s a true romance–a story about redemption and forgiveness and I’m so excited for people to get to read it.

CH: What are you working on now?

JP: Right now, I’m working on final revisions on my third novel, titled Nearly Nell–my first attempt at mainstream fiction. So I’ll just be totally honest. I’m a little terrified! This book is different in that it has a little bit of a speculative edge and some twists and turns that will make your heart skip around a bit (at least, that’s the PLAN. If I’m able to write the words as well as they sound in my head, maybe we’ll get there). It’s another book set in North Carolina, no religious themes, but some pretty deep questions about fate and destiny and how they play into the choices we make. My ten second elevator pitch? A girl who believes she receives messages from fate risks everything to fulfill a destiny that only she can see. Kind of exciting? I hope?

CH: You live in North Carolina and your stories take place there as well. Tell us some things you love about your home.

JP: Okay, so my editor at Covenant loves to tease me about how much I LOVE North Carolina. I think I’ve mentioned in our emails no less than ten times how much I worry about the cover design people putting the wrong mountains on the cover of Mountains Between Us. Because mountains in North Carolina and mountains in Utah are totally different! I’ve lived in the mountains of NC all my life and really truly, I think it’s the most beautiful place on earth. There are trees everywhere, and everything is green and lush. Even though North Carolina is a southern state, because I’m in the mountains our summers are pretty mild. It always cools down at night, even when it’s hot during the day. And the noises… oh, how I love the cicadas and the katydids in the summer time. My family loves to hike and we spend a lot of time outside… playing in mountain creeks, enjoying the views. It’s a great place to live if you enjoy the outdoors.

CH: You’re on the hunt for an agent for your newest book. What does that look like? Where do you find the agents you focus your queries on?

JP: My agent hunt for Nearly Nell is just beginning. I’m finishing up the final polishing right now, and will have the opportunity to get some feedback from an agent at the Storymakers Conference this year. I’ll probably wait to start pitching until after I’ve gotten his feedback. I DO have a list of agents I’d like to query once I reach that stage. Believe it or not, Twitter is a useful resource. I follow many agents that are pretty open on Twitter about what they are looking for, what sorts of things bug them about queries. If you pay attention, you can learn a lot in 160 characters or less. I also read a lot and pay very close attention to the author acknowledgements, where most of the time, agents are mentioned. When I read a book that I love, that I think feels similar to what I’ve written, I make sure and find out who the agent is and learn all I can about their submission requirements. It can be a tedious process, but agents aren’t generally mysterious. They are usually very bold and very specific with what they want. If you do the research, it’s not hard to narrow down the list to those you think will be a good fit. I don’t recommend blanket pitching… writing, and finding a good agent is never going to be one size fits all.

CH: What is your writing process? What do you listen to, where do you go, and how do you find time?

JP: My writing process involves lots and lots of preparatory thinking. I have so little time to actually sit down and write that I like to really know where my story is going to go before the words hit the page. I’ll brainstorm for weeks… in the car, while I’m working out, on the phone with my sister, bless her for letting me ramble on and on about imaginary people… I’ll think and study out plot problems until they feel clearly defined and then, the writing can happen. I don’t necessarily outline, but I think and think, then right down some notes, and go from there. I love to listen to music when I’m thinking/plotting, but absolutely no music with words. Most of the time, I choose William Joseph… an amazing pianist who never fails to inspire me. When I’m actually writing, I need silence. Which is why I rarely write during the day. My house is never silent and is FULL of distractions. I either stay up insanely late to write, or I get up ridiculously early. Most of the time, I pick early but it doesn’t always happen that way. I can definitely pull a few late nights when I need to.

CH: I love that you’re a mother of six, writing books and getting them out there. As a fellow mother (of five) I know it is a delicate balance, a crazy dance to get in the creative time that gives us peace and fulfillment while also being true to our first calling as mothers. Can you share three tips for making it work when your juggling a lot?

JP: I’m so glad that you asked this question, because as much as I love writing, I’m still absolutely certain that mothering is the most important work I do. It’s hard to find a balance and the honest truth is that sometimes I don’t. But I’ve learned to go easy on myself and be honest about what’s realistic. So three tips for writing and mothering at the same time: First, give yourself permission to NOT write everyday. General writing advice is to set a goal and hit your word count every single day. For me, I can’t deal with that kind of pressure. With six kids in the house there are so many things that have to be priority. I’m sure there will be a time and a season in my life where writing every day is a possibility, but for right now, it’s much easier to relax and not put that kind of pressure on myself. Second, talk to your kids about your work. My kids are my biggest champions. They love to ask about my stories, to get excited about the thing that so clearly makes Mom happy. One of my proudest Mom/writer moments? I had a plot problem that I couldn’t get worked out. I had my oldest son read the chapter I was struggling with, we talked it through, and he totally came up with a solution. It was so fun, and I could tell he was really happy to be a part of it. It doesn’t have to be this thing you do on your own… let it be something your kids can be proud of. And finally, regardless of how much writing you do or don’t do, make sure you SEE your kids everyday. I know from personal experience you can be with your children all day and not ever actually see them. Look them in the eye. Ask them how they are feeling, what they are thinking, what is making them happy or sad. Make sure they SEE you, SEEING them. It’s important.

CH: I read that on your last blog you had cookie recipes. Now I’m curious…would you share your favorite recipe with us (or two…don’t hold back!)

JP: My favorite cookie recipe?! OH, that’s so hard! My two go-to favorites are my standard Chocolate Chip Cookie, and then a Chewy Oatmeal Cookie. Both recipes are easily adaptable which makes them fun to change up and experience new flavors. Both recipes are posted on the blog, with links included below.

http://jennyproctor.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/chocolate-chip-cookies-by-me/

http://jennyproctor.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/chewy-oatmeal-cookies/

CH: The diary of an ancestor plays a prominent roll in your first book, THE HOUSE AT ROSE CREEK. I’m a huge proponent of journaling, so I love that! So I have to ask: 1. Do you keep a journal? 2. Have you ever read from the journal of one of your ancestors? 3. Why do you think journaling is important?

JP: I kept a journal from age 12, all the way to age 18 religiously. I have a chest at the foot of my bed that is full of journals… probably 10 or 12 different volumes. Sadly, I’m not near as good about journaling now that I’m a Mom, though I suppose blogging and Facebook take care of some of that. I don’t have actual journals of ancestors, but I have read letters and one particularly fascinating write up about the wedding of one of my great great grandparents. There are so many things that separate us from our ancestors… obviously the technological world that we live in is extremely different than life 200 years ago, but at the root of it, the human struggles, the relationships, the challenges and trials we face, those are pretty timeless. If I can write something now that might help my great granddaughter going through a similar struggle 80 years from now, that’s a pretty amazing thing, yeah?

CH: What did you read growing up that you feel shaped your writing or desire to write, and what are you reading now?

JP: Right now, my future reading schedule is FULL of Whitney finalists. I’d like to vote in as many categories as possible so I’m reading lots of really wonderful fiction by fellow LDS authors. The last book I finished was a lovely historical fiction by Anne Fortier called Juliet.

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I read so much as a kid, it’s hard to really quantify what influenced me the most. I loved the Bronte sisters. Jane Eyre is still a favorite but it was quotes from Wuthering Heights that I carried around in my notebooks at school.

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I loved the passion behind the words. When you read something that really stays with you… That’s when you know an author has done their job well.

CH: Here at ADDICTED, we like to know what you’re addicted to. Tell us something you can’t live without.

JP: I can’t live without my four basic food groups… Fruit, bread, cheese, and chocolate. I really love good food. But that means, by necessity, I also really love to exercise too. I also love to laugh in the company of people I cherish.

Now for the fun part! Like I said, Jenny is offering a signed copy of her lovely book for one of you! Click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter and then share, share, share! Good luck friends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2 Comments

  1. Sarah
    May 4, 2014

    I love your idea of giving yourself permission NOT to write. That’s hard, sometimes, but also sometimes very necessary… especially with lots of littles running around!

  2. Sarah
    May 4, 2014

    I forgot to mention: I’m reading Dan Brown’s Inferno.

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