Jena C. Henry is an active, high-energy gal who is a wife, mother, non-profit volunteer and bon vivant. She created the book series, The Golden Age of Charli, to encourage, entertain and share her joy of living and laughing. Jena C. Henry holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Akron School of Law. Now retired, she and her husband, Alan, live in tropical Ohio.
Jena presents writing workshops to help creatives achieve their dreams of writing a book and publishing it. When she is finished tidying her house, Jena likes to relax on her front porch and read and write. She enjoys fine dining, traveling to visit family, and lounging by lovely bodies…of water.
Time to chat with Jena!
Is your recent book part of a series?
Yes! Charli, my book character and I are creating The Golden Age of Charli series. The first two books in the series have been released. My third book is in the editing process and I have completed the first draft of book four and it is in the fermenting process. Yes, Charli, I will tell everyone what our books are about; they are not just your books. Our books are about finding happiness in the golden years of life. Charli learns that it takes lots of love and laughter to find the gold.
What are the special challenges in writing a series?
Having Charli interrupt me with her ideas? I agree, Charli, you have contributed some fun scenes and your adventure with your husband in Cancun was certainly crazy. The biggest challenge for me in writing a series is to keep track of the characters and places, so the names and features stay the same. Along with that, I must make sure that the timelines and continuity are accurate, and that the overall voice is the same. One thing that has surprised me is that my characters have wanted to grow and develop throughout the books. What? Excuse me, Charli? Ok, I understand what you are saying. Charli wants you to know that she did have a problem with her expanding girth in the second book. But Charli, I am not talking about growing heavier. I meant that you and Stewart have grown in your marriage relationship and in your interactions and even in your own personal goals and dreams.
Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?
Yes, I do. I decided to use a pen name because as a first-time author I thought it would be cool, that it would make me feel like a real writer. I also knew that I would be using social media, and I wanted to keep my personal accounts separate from my author accounts. My dog is adorable, but the world doesn’t need to see photos of her every day. That’s right, Charli you have a different name, too. Your given name is Charlotte, and your nickname is Charli, but that’s not the same as a pen name. It’s not.
If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?
“Wine saved my marriage”- Charli
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
When I began writing my first book, I had a general idea of the story arc, and what would happen in each chapter. I wrote my manuscript and when I was done I realized it was about ten pages long. Even as a novice writer, I knew that a real book was longer than ten pages. I had to add more than story arcs, I had to create a world, and characters and their feelings and thoughts and joys and passions. The best part about writing a novel is weaving all of the threads into the tapestry and then making sure that when the finished side of the tapestry is revealed, the image is connected and complete and lovely. As far as least enjoyable, I struggle with all the grammar and punctuation rules!
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?
I would say that I have never been blocked, in the sense of I sit down, stare and have nothing to write. But many times I will be writing and I will think, this scene needs something more, it’s boring. I am not having fun writing it and readers won’t like it either. The best thing for me to do in those situations is to go for a walk with my doggie. Moving, seeing the pooch leap and bound, waving to neighbors gets my creative gears and switches grinding and firing and when I get back- aha I know what to write!
A few weeks ago, I had the opposite problem- I couldn’t stop writing. I was almost finished with my manuscript. Then, I decided that I needed an additional chapter. So I wrote it. But the story didn’t want to end. I thought I would write another scene and that became a chapter as well. I wrote some more until the manuscript told me it was ok to finish. I felt like a marathon runner who makes it to the 26.2 mile-point only to find that the race is now 27.2 miles and upon running the additional mile, she still has to jog another mile.
What are some of the crazy things people have said to you upon learning you are an author? How have you responded?
Me, happily, “I’m an author!”
Person, incredulously, “Really?!”
Or the person might approach me and say:
“You know, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read your book, because I didn’t know if you knew how to write, but I did read it and I really liked it!”
My shaky response, “Thanks?”
Can you tell us about your road to publication?
I meandered down the road to publication for forty-five years. I have always wanted to write a book. If you had invited me to a party at your chateau, I would have rushed up to you and every other writer, sloshing my wine, and said, “Oh, you’re an author. I have always wanted to write. Tell me all about it.” About two years ago, my husband said, “Honey, you keep saying you want to write a book. Well, you better start soon!” So I did. I spent a few weeks setting up my office. I bought cute paper clips, note pads and colorful pens and I hung an inspiring picture. One morning, it was time. I made a mug of coffee, coaxed the dog to lay at my feet, fired up the computer, opened up a blank template, experimented with fonts, and began to write a book-length document. I wasn’t sure if it would turn into a real book, but I wrote 1,000 words every day. After a few weeks, while I was clicking away, I used the online thesaurus. As I was looking at that site, an ad popped up, Are you writing a book? It was a sign. “Yes! Yes, I am writing a book!” I clicked on the ad and that’s how I found my self-publisher. I liked the company because they offered a full range of editing, design, and marketing services; they called it supported self-publishing. My dream came true and I lived happily ever after.
Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?
A year ago, when my first book in the series was published I thought, Social Media. Oh no, cue the lightening, scary organ music and falling chandelier! I signed up for individual training sessions with a PR/Marketing expert, through my self-publisher. She gave me a solid foundation and helped me get my platform started. I have a website, where I blog every week, and follow other bloggers. I also feature book reviews and book tours. I am active on Twitter and Facebook and I send a monthly email newsletter. I enjoy creating my posts and I use some programs to help me produce content and schedule posts. All of my followers have come organically. The friends I have made on Twitter and Facebook are priceless. I have a group of best friends and we share everything from gourmet popsicle recipes and inspiring quotes to marketing ideas. I have learned about other authors’ books and they have learned about mine. I met Lisette Brodey on Twitter!
My least favorite part is being followed by weird sex sites. I always block those!
Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?
Now they’re is a good question; many people have there own rules about grammar because their are many points to consider.
Do you miss spending time with your characters when you finish writing them?
Yes, I do because they have taught me to be more kind, caring, and optimistic. I wrote my series The Golden Age of Charli to encourage and support my readers, who I think of as my friends. My goal was to share positive and helpful ways to have a rich life in all seasons, so I gave my characters the gifts of optimism, perseverance, thoughtfulness and love. I don’t always remember to focus on those traits myself, but I find that my characters remind me to live each day with gratitude and grace towards others. I ended up encouraging myself the most of all! Thanks, Charli, Stewart, and Sibby and all the rest!
If you could duplicate the knowledge from any single person’s head and have it magically put into your own brain, whose knowledge would you like to have? And why.
Erma Bombeck. Erma found the humor in everyday life and she shared her wit and wisdom in a warm, straightforward, loving way. Who hasn’t been touched and encouraged by her story, When God Created Mothers? Here are some other nuggets of her wisdom; get ready to chuckle:
“Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.” “Never have more children than you have car windows.”
I would like to have Erma’s ability to laugh at the small, ordinary yet wondrous things in life and be able to share her font of charity and compassion with others.
If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?
I would like to know how to use power tools so that I could build or fix things around the house. A cordless power drill, an impact driver, a miter saw, or how about a Sawzall- those are all cool! What would I build, Charli? Shelves? A gardening bench? A credenza?
What might we be surprised to know about you?
I want to get a tattoo. So now, whenever I am in a bistro or pub and the server or bartender has a tattoo, which they almost always do, I say to them, “Oh, I like your tattoo! Did it hurt to get it?” And they answer, “Yes!” so, that’s why I don’t have one yet. That’s a good idea, Charli. Maybe if we do it together, it won’t hurt as much.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
How fast five years go by.
My short poem, “Thank You, Lisette”
I enjoyed my visit to your
Thank you for the wine and the
It was a pleasure to meet you and share what I know
Alas, now I must find my chapeau,
pack my portmanteau
Thank you, Jena! Delightful! I love it!
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