Interview with LDS Author Jennie Hansen
Jennie Hansen is beloved by many authors whose books she painstakingly and thoroughly interviews for Meridian. I thought it was time that we knew a little more about Jennie herself. Her latest book, Shudder, will appear at the beginning of October. It is sure to be a hair-raising thriller from the sounds of it! I will be reviewing it when it is released on my blog
GG: When I started reading your books, I was amazed at how you could hop successfully from one genre to the next. This indicates a huge imagination on your part! Which of all the genres is your favorite?
Jennie: I don’t really have a favorite. I guess that’s why I write in different genres. I like action, romance, and I’ve always had a soft spot for westerns. In historical novels I can combine all of these elements. Most of my contemporaries are set in some part of the modern west as well.
GG: So many of us LDS writers owe you a tremendous debt for the service you render us in reviewing our books for Meridian. How do you manage the tremendous load of reading when you are such a prolific writer? I find it very difficult to review just one book a month!
Jennie: I love to read, read quickly, and I have a high comprehension level for what I read, so I don’t have to do a lot of rereading. I’ve also learned to read with a pen and a piece of paper for making notes and jotting down page numbers of particular passages. I seldom watch TV and that gives me more time to read. I believe most people find time to do what they really enjoy, and I enjoy reading.
GG: What changes have you seen in the LDS writing scene in the past five years? Do you think it’s getting better or worse?
Jennie: I’m seeing more polished novels than in the past coming from LDS publishing houses. Copy-editing has improved dramatically in these novels, but there are more novels appearing now that are essentially self-published. These are poorly edited, and copy-editing is non-existent in most of them. Many writers are tackling tougher issues now, particularly in the area of women’s fiction. Almost every genre is now represented in LDS fiction, and more LDS writers are crossing over into general market writing. I think LDS fiction is improving overall, but there are still some very poor novels being published, and there are still some that imply questionable standards are okay.
GG: Tell us about Shudder, your upcoming release (Oct).
Jennie: Shudder is essentially two stories, the stories of two young women who have been best friends since early childhood who choose different paths when first one, then the other, falls in love with two very different men. It’s a story of friendship, loyalty, choices, mistaken trust, abuse, and of more than one kind of threat to life and happiness. It’s also a suspenseful murder mystery.
GG: What objectives do you have in your writing?
Jennie: I think fiction’s first responsibility is to entertain, and I try to do that. Whatever other motives a writer may have, if he/she fails to entertain, the book is a failure. Fiction is also a means of passing on information, educating, and encouraging a particular viewpoint. These all enter into my writing, but entertainment remains my first objective, though I set my own boundaries as to what constitutes acceptable entertainment. A few years ago I went through an experience that left me with an unshakable conviction that my Savior loves me. Without being preachy, I also try to convey that message of love for each of us in my writing as an underlying message.
GG: You have written so many books! Tell us your favorite.
Jennie: That’s like asking me which of my kids is my favorite! I’ve had different experiences in writing each book which endears each to me in a different way. For example, my new release, Shudder,deals with a subject that first came forcefully to my attention when I worked as a newspaper reporter. I was appalled to learn how many women are abused by the men who should be their staunchest protectors.
I taught a Relief Society lesson on abuse and was then invited to speak to a number of other groups about spousal or relationship abuse. After each talk, one or more women from the audience asked to speak to me privately and shared stories of their own abusive relationships.
My daughter’s best friend was so badly beaten by her husband that she miscarried and was left sterile. A woman I befriended when I worked at a library suffered black eyes, broken bones, bruises, and cuts. When she tried to leave her husband, he hurt her so badly it took a year to recover. Restraining orders failed and she finally just disappeared with one call to me from a distant state to tell me she was safe, had changed her identity, and would never return.
GG: What is your writing process?
Jennie: I’m inconsistent. Sometimes I outline the whole book, sometimes just a scene at a time, and sometimes not at all. Depending on the genre I’m writing in, I may research ahead or I may research as I go. Sometimes I write in short snatches and sometimes I write in fourteen-hour stretches. I usually write in the order the events will appear in the story, but not always. Occasionally I’ll write an important scene, then set it aside until I get to the place where it should be inserted. I make corrections as I go, both technically and in the plot, sometimes going back to the beginning to build up to the scene I’m currently working on.
GG: How long have you been writing?
Jennie: I was first published when I was seven years old, when I wrote a short article about my cat for a farm magazine. I was a newspaper reporter, then editor for a time. I occasionally freelanced articles for magazines including the Ensign. But I didn’t start writing a novel until the 1990s. My first novel was published in 1993.
GG: What is the most difficult part of writing for you?
Jennie: The worst was condensing my books for tapes or CDs, but I haven’t had to do that with my last two books. Speaking engagements are hard for me too. For some reason there is an assumption that if a person can write, he or she can speak.
GG: What wisdom do you have to impart to writers who want to be published?Jennie: Write every day. Read every day. Invest in a good unabridged dictionary and a thesaurus. Join a critique group and a writers?T group of some sort. Finish the manuscript you start. Follow your target publisher’s guidelines and work on a second manuscript while waiting for word on the already submitted manuscript.