Today we will interview one of our authors whose short story is featured in our upcoming anthology TALES OF THE SIBLINGS NOT-SO-GRIM. Jennifer Quail is the author of the short story "Storm-Spun." Welcome, Jennifer.
HH: What inspired you to become a writer?
JQ: I don’t know about ‘inspired’, but I first figured out that ‘writer’ was something you could be, rather than books just kind of appearing, when I was in first or second grade. In third grade, I wrote down a dream I’d had (sort of a Misty of Chincoteague fan fic dream) and after reading Dear Readers and Riders, I wrote to Marguerite Henry. Mrs. Henry, to my surprise, sent back a lovely personal letter, answering several questions, and even including a photograph I (being a greedy kid) had asked for of her with Misty. I remember thinking that it must be wonderful to sit at a desk with a typewriter (give me a break, I’m old) and write stories for a living.
HH: Tell us about your works. What do you write? Non-fiction or fiction? Juvenile or adult? Short stories, poetry, or novels? What genres?
JQ: I started out with the notion of writing fantasy—write what you know, right? And I suppose I still dabble in it. I’ve written two novels that I published on Amazon, and keep intending to write more, but short stories are so much quicker and I’m all about instant gratification! I’ve also branched out into mystery, which I like, and horror, because thanks to contests I’ve discovered I have a certain knack for it.
HH: What is your favorite story that you've written so far?
JQ: I don’t even remember why I decided to write something for this particular anthology call, but it was for longish (7000-12000 words) romance stories. I had been on a bit of a winter-housebound Hallmark movie kick and was thoroughly amused by the tropishness of the whole thing. So I decided, being me, that I’d write a romance, but take everything I knew of the genre and ignore it—everyone important is over the age of 40, the POV character is a fiftyish man, it’s not set in America, no one speaks English, an awful lot of it is about death and though the word’s never said, depression, and the word ‘love’ is said once by an adult daughter to her father and it’s an exasperated kind of ‘I love you.’ I liked it, but I figured that’s as far as it went.
They bought it. I’ve actually sold a second story to the same editors.
HH: Are any of your characters or settings based on real people or places?
JQ: I sometimes have an actor in mind as a physical inspiration, but I rarely write people who are directly inspired by a real person. I definitely like setting stories in places I enjoy visiting, so I’ve done stories set in Maritime Canada, Russia, and Scandinavia.
HH: Do you have any writing rituals? Somewhere you have to go to write or music you must hear to get inspired?
JQ: Nope. I’m the antithesis of the fussy artist. In fact I usually have the TV on, and usually have trouble concentrating if it’s quiet. Probably the weirdest place is I was trying to finish something on a deadline but I was also trying to get my new goats settled. They were tied in the front yard, I set up my laptop on the porch and sat out there writing while they worked on the shrubbery!
HH: What is your favorite thing to snack on or drink while you are reading or writing?
JQ: Coffee. Must have coffee. Black, no sugar.
HH: Do you have any furry companions who try to “assist” you with your writing?
JQ: Heh, did you see the answer about the goats? I have a Corgi, who specializes in interruption, three cats, who view me as the can opener, the goats (who live outside but can be pretty loud when they want) and am currently running a foster home for baby mice who made the mistake of getting in my live trap while too small to release into the wild.
HH: What goals have you set for yourself as far as your writing or publishing?
JQ: Just keep plugging away. I am definitely prone to wandering off topic and not finishing projects as I’m always distracted by my next area of interest. Probably my most immediate goal is getting a full-length novel done with two characters who’ve featured in several contest-related flash fictions and copious notes, but who’ve been kind of searching for a permanent genre. I now have what I realize what the missing piece for one, and thanks to one of the contests a more solid idea what genre works for them, so hopefully I can get out of the procrastination phase. Then I can work on a sequel to “Storm-Spun”!
HH: What advice do you have for other writers just starting off or still deciding if they want to publish their work?
JQ: Just do it. (Please don’t sue me, Nike.) Also, realize that no, it’s probably not good enough. Part of the job is leaning how to get better—if all you ever hear are the good things, you’re not going to improve and everybody can improve. Ideally, you’re your own worst critic.
HH: Excellent advice! What are you working on right now?
JQ: I am waiting for Round Three of a Flash Fiction contest (assuming I score high enough to move out of Round Two) and am working on a mystery short story. I may have to accept fifteen characters is too much for something with a 4000-word cap, but I have hopes.
HH: Where can we find your published works?
JQ: My Amazon Author page has most of my published works. A couple others (Spark Magazine November 2018 and Machinations and Mesmerism: A Tribute to E.T.A. Hoffman) can be found on Amazon.