Jen Blood is a freelance journalist, writer, and editor. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing, and her work has appeared in Down East, Pif, Bark, and a number of newspapers and periodicals around the country. She lives in Maine, where she teaches writing, marketing, and social media for authors..
Interview with Jen Blood
Jen Blood: I've been working as a freelance writer and editor for about fifteen years now. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine, with a focus in Popular Fiction. Before that, I studied Creative Writing/Literary Fiction at Goddard College. I've done copy writing, magazine articles, book reviews, ghost writing, blogging... Essentially, if it's writing-related, I've probably done it at some point.
Who are your favorite writers, your favorite book, and who or what are your writing influences?
When I was still working to find my "voice," I was a huge fan of the Beat writers: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and that whole crew. Though their work was often short on plot, I loved the imagery, romanticism, and especially the rhythm of that kind of writing. Though I prefer plot-driven fiction now, I still strive to achieve some kind of innate rhythm to my work, whether through pacing, structure, or dialogue.
My favorite writer at this point is probably Dennis Lehane; I started writing mysteries after I read A Drink Before the War (the first in his Kenzie/Gennaro series). He and James Lee Burke are kings at turning a well-plotted story into a piece of literature with their imagery and the phenomenal characters and relationships they depict. Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Nevada Barr... There are so many favorite writers who influence me at this point, it's tough to name them all!
Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
I do! 1pm - 5pm six or seven days a week, come hell or high water. I'll write longer if I have time, but lately that's rare. I shoot for between 3 and 5000 words a day. I write longhand first; I'm old school that way, I guess, but I can't get my creative juices flowing unless I'm actually putting pen to paper.
"First drafts are definitely the toughest; I live for revision."
What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
For me, fiction is almost always easy once I have the characters in my head. First drafts are definitely the toughest; I live for revision. Everything's a little too uncharted in the first draft, and there are invariably those scary moments when you're like, "My God, this will never end. I've got my lead in Timbuktu and her lover's lost somewhere in Madrid, I don't know whether the bad guy is the monkey or the maid, and I have no clue how this is all gonna resolve itself." Miraculously, somehow it always does seem to work itself out, but it's nerve racking when you're in the thick of it.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
I started telling stories when I was three or four - my dad actually used to tuck me in at night and instead of reading me a bedtime story, he'd curl up and make me tell him one. And my mom was always making up crazy stories that I would add to. From there, writing things down seemed a natural leap. Through most of high school I wanted to be an actress, and I studied that like crazy. Once I realized auditioning would ultimately be the death of me, I gave that up and started taking my writing more seriously. And now here I am.
Jen, tell us a little about your first novel 'All the Blue-Eyed Angels'.
Angels is the first in a mystery series featuring investigative journalist Erin Solomon. The plot revolves around an alleged mass suicide involving the Payson Church of Tomorrow, on a remote island off the coast of Maine. The mystery is deeply personal for Erin because she and her father were actually members of the Payson Church, and when it burned to the ground with most of the congregation inside, they were the last remaining members. More than twenty years after that fatal fire, Erin returns to Maine when she finds proof that there was no suicide pact among the Paysons and they were, in fact, murdered.
In addition to solving the mystery of Payson Isle, Erin has the added complication of a very fuzzy relationship with her sexy former mentor at the local paper, the Down East Daily Tribune, and a handsome newcomer who brings his own baggage into the mix. There's mystery and spooky settings and enough sexual tension to fuel a small city, and some genuinely terrific characters.
What inspired you to write the book?
I love mysteries, and when I was growing up I was a big fan of the sort of Gothic romances like Rebecca and Wuthering Heights, plus the more contemporary (at the time) books by authors like Victoria Hotl. What I loved best about those was the fact that the mystery revolved around the central character (usually a headstrong woman who invariably needed to be saved by some sexy errant knight); she had a real stake in what was happening. Angels started out as an experiment to see what would happen if I plunked a modern-day heroine in the middle of a Gothic mystery. It took a while to get the tone right, but I'm very pleased with the final result.
Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
Anyone who loves a good, twisting mystery and appreciates rich settings, dynamic characters, and a little romance. The e-book is available on Amazon and Smashwords, and the print version is available on Amazon or you can buy a signed copy directly through my website.
How would you describe the success of your book? (Sales, Awards, Reviews)
The novel came out a little over a month ago, and I've been very pleased with the feedback I've gotten so far. Sales have already been steady, I've gotten a slew of 5-star reviews, and some writers I respect a great deal have given it high praise, calling it a "stellar debut" and -- my favorite -- "absolutely unforgettable." It's definitely exceeded my expectations in all counts for the first month it's been out there.
"I'm looking at this more as a marathon than a sprint..."
What did you do to promote yourself and your book?
I've been blogging for a while and have built a pretty strong Facebook and Twitter following, but I'm honestly just kicking into gear with the promotional aspects of things. I'm looking at this more as a marathon than a sprint, since this is just the first book in the series; for now, I'm hoping to gain a strong following and get some great reviews that I can carry over into my next release in the series, which will be out in June.
How long did it take it to write the book?
Honestly? I learned to write with this book - it took ten freakin' years. Five completely different drafts. I carried it through the last year of undergrad and all of graduate school; toted it cross-country with me; let it fester while I went through break-ups and start-ups and a whole host of other life-changing events, both large and small. It took a really long time.
Please, tell us where you self-published the book.
I self-published with my own imprint, Adian Press, and then did the print version through Createspace.
How smooth went the self-publishing process? Any issues? What are things to look for when self-publishing a book?
The process was actually pretty smooth, because I've been working with other authors for a while and had done my homework beforehand. I think the major thing folks should be aware of is how important it is to hire a pro for those areas in which they lack expertise. I'm lucky because I'm moderately proficient in a lot of different areas -- web design and graphic design and HTML and marketing, -- so I was able to do a lot of it myself. If you have the budget, though, I highly recommend hiring someone else to do some of that stuff so you can focus on the actual writing part of your writing career.
Did you hire an editor and/or Cover Designer for your book?
I'm a professional editor myself, so I actually did a lot of the editing, but I did have another editor go through and he did a great job pointing out content issues and a couple of plot holes I'd missed. I absolutely hired a cover designer -- Travis Pennington of probookcovers.com -- and couldn't be happier with the cover he came up with. I highly recommend his work!
"Read when you're not writing."
Can you give some tips for other Indie Authors regarding the writing and self-publishing process?
Work with a critique group. Study established, critically-acclaimed writers in your genre to figure out how they do what they do. Write, all the time. Read when you're not writing. I always tell my students to look at a great piece of literature as a scientist would: dissect every aspect of the work, from sentence structure to plot to character development, until you understand what the writer was doing and how they did it.
Get your work edited, and get it edited by a pro who knows what he or she is doing. I read and review a lot of indie novels, and am constantly amazed at the number of significant errors I find. Poor sentence construction, misspellings, bad grammar, funky punctuation; your editor should have some great references and should provide you with a (preferably free) sample edit of their work before you hire them.
Get someone who knows what they're doing to upload your book, and double-check as many formats as possible to ensure that you don't have weird indents or spacing issues -- another common problem in many of the e-books I read.
Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
I'm finishing up revisions for the second novel in the Erin Solomon series, Sins of the Father. In that novel, Erin becomes embroiled in a serial killer's deadly games while trying to prove the innocence of a man convicted of murdering his daughter -- all while continuing the quest to find the truth about her own father.
"I'm in the Indie game for the long haul..."
Are you planning to move forward as an Indie author or are you looking forward to have one of your next books to be traditionally published?
I'm in the Indie game for the long haul, unless someone wants to offer me a boatload of cash. I love the fact that I'm the one at the helm -- I'm in charge of how frequently my novels come out, how much I charge for them, what they look like, and what kind of promotions I want to do to get them in the hands of readers. I love that!
Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only 99cent eBooks or do you see this just as a marketing phase of the book sellers to move readers into the digital book market in a fight for future market shares?
I think the book market is headed down the same road the music industry went down a decade ago; five to ten years from now, there will still be a few bookstores and plenty of diehards who still want a print copy of their beloved novels, but e-readers will dominate the marketplace. I do think the whole 99-cent craze will die down -- and it already has, to some extent. Most writers I know recognize that they can't sustain themselves on 35% of a buck for their novels, but it's a great short-term way to pull readers in. I definitely think pricing will level off, probably to around the $3 to $5 range, within the next couple of years.
Do you write full-time or do you have a day job?
My day job is as a freelance editor, working with both publishing houses and indie authors. I'm currently taking on new clients, so folks can drop a line or check out the editing page on my website if they'd like to know my rates and the services I offer. I've worked with Random House, Aspatore Books, Maine Authors Publishing, and a slew of indie authors in every genre imaginable. I love having an opportunity to work one-on-one with fellow writers!
How can readers connect with you?
Oh, there are so many ways! My primary website is bloodwrites.com. I'm on Facebook at facebook.com/jenblood1, twitter at twitter.com/jenblood.
Thank you so much for the Interview, Jen. Good Luck with your future book projects.
About the Book 'All the Blue-Eyed Angels'
She just isn’t sure how much her father had to do with their deaths. More than twenty years later, Erin is an investigative journalist still burdened with her father’s secrets. When she receives incontrovertible evidence that the Payson congregation was murdered, she can no longer hide from the truth. She returns to her hometown only to find an intricate conspiracy involving her parents, a haunted woman who sought refuge with the Paysons before the fire, and a disturbed boy who believed himself destined to lead the Payson Church to glory.
Now, isolated on the Maine coast with an old flame and a mysterious newcomer with a surprising link to the tragedy, Erin will risk everything to uncover the secrets of Payson Isle – secrets someone will kill to keep buried.
- "To say that Jen Blood has a way with words is like saying that the Pope draws a crowd. Her skills are apparent from word one. But has her technical prowess translated into a novel that will resonate with readers on an emotional level? For this reviewer, the answer is yes. [...] " - Sal Dellinger
- "I enjoyed every page of this book. I couldn't put this well written mystery down. Jen Blood keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the bitter end. One of the best mysteries I have ever read. " - NetLunker (Amazon)
- "All the Blue-Eyed Angels grabbed me from the first few lines and wouldn't let me go. It was fun to find such a well-written debut novel, and well-written it is. Filled with great characterization, pacing, and description- this book was a joy to read. If you like mysteries with a strong plot filled with dark secrets and murder, and a kick a** setting, along with a romantic-triangle involving two vastly different men, then you'll love this book." - D. V. Berkum (Amazon)
All the Blue-Eyed Angels has received so far (March 31, 2012) 17 Five Star Reviews out of 18 Reviews since the release End of February.
Links to the Author and the Book
Link to Jen Blood's Website
Connect with Jen Blood on Twitter: @jenblood
Link to the Paperback on Amazon