Jennifer Jaynes is the USA Today bestselling author of Never Smile at Strangers and Ugly Young Thing.
What is your latest book?
Ugly Young Thing. It’s about Allie, a disturbed sixteen-year-old orphan, who was raised by her serial killer brother. After he commits suicide, a very kind older woman named Miss Bitty takes her in and promises to give her a brighter future.
It takes Allie a while to open up and trust Miss Bitty, to even believe that it’s possible she could ever be happy since death and unhappiness have always been such a big a part of her life.
Eventually Allie learns to trust the old woman—she even learns to love her—but with women in the area turning up dead and Miss Bitty suddenly growing cold and distant, Allie begins to wonder if death has found her yet again…or if it ever really left her at all.
Is your recent book part of a series?
Ugly Young Thing includes some important crossover characters from my first book, Never Smile at Strangers, and picks up where it ends, so it will be familiar to those who have read the first book, but it can definitely be read as a standalone.
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?
I’d say it chose me. Mysteries, particularly thrillers, are the genres that grabbed me most as a young reader.
What else have you written?
Never Smile at Strangers. It’s a serial killer thriller that begins with the disappearance of a nineteen-year-old girl in a rural Louisiana town. What I really love about this book is that we’re able to really get into the killer’s head to see his thought process and understand why he kills.
What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?
That they aren’t as talented as traditionally published authors. Some may not have had the opportunity—or perhaps have rejected the opportunity—to traditionally publish. Today, many indies are rejecting contracts. I interviewed Barry Eisler a few years back. He turned down a $500,000 contract from a Big 5 publisher in order to publish independently and has never looked back.
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
I like when my mind suddenly works out a story problem… or comes up with a great idea for a plot line. Those times are the best.
The least: Getting started and working through the first couple of drafts. That’s when I really have to make myself stay on task.
Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
I’ve never written scenes in order. I generally start with the first and last scenes. I also spend weeks on the outline, filling in information as it comes to me, or transcribing notes that I’ve previously made.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
Yes, I always know the ending before I actually start. I like to know the beginning as well. The title is unimportant.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
I try not to edit as I go. I want to keep the thoughts coming fast and fluid, and to keep using the left side of my brain.
Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?
Yes, I really despised a couple of characters. One was Tom Anderson in Never Smile at Strangers. He was the philandering husband of a college professor I was really pulling for. There’s also a character in Ugly Young Thing, but I can’t mention the person’s name here. 😉
Authors, especially indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very well, while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?
I think a lot of authors go wrong in their packaging. Their stories may be well written, intriguing, and meticulously edited, but then they choose to create their own book covers, or settle for covers that aren’t attention grabbers.
Do you have any advice for first-time authors?
Learn how to market yourself.
Write every day.
Never rely on memory.
I can kick myself for all the times I didn’t write down an idea, a plot twist, some fantastic imagery, or some other important note about a character or his world when it came to me. Thoughts often fly into my mind, then dissolve—and are later completely irretrievable. Don’t make the same mistake. Carry a notepad, use an app on your phone; do whatever it takes to preserve your ideas. You never know what might turn into gold.
Don’t be afraid to self publish. It took many years for me to finally make the jump, but I am so incredibly glad that I finally did.
Do you have any secrets for effective time management?
I work from a To Do List and break tasks down to 30-minute chunks (or sub-tasks). My timer goes off all day long, and I’m sure my husband (who also works from home) hates it, but the timer helps me stay focused and productive. By doing this, I’m able to produce much more in three hours than most people generally produce in an entire day.
Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?
I don’t keep it a secret, but I certainly don’t let people read my first or second drafts. I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. 😉
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
My twin sons. Hands down.
What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?
Loyalty, a good heart, honesty, and passion.
Care to brag about your family?
I have a supportive husband and the most wonderful four-year-old twins in the world. My sons are completely different, but both are extremely loving. They amaze me and fill me with wonder every day.
If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to sing well. I find that to be such a beautiful expression of the soul.
What makes you angry?
Mean-spirited people. Hatred. There is too much of that in the world today.
If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?
A comfy couch with fluffy pillows, candles, a bottle of wine, and my iPad (with my Kindle app open).
What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?
The Shawshank Redemption (Movie)
Silence of the Lambs (Book)
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People talking with their mouths full, smacking while eating, chewing gum with their mouths open, popping gum. (Eewww.) Whatever happened to good manners?
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Be more kind and less judgmental.
What simple pleasure(s) makes you smile?
My sons telling me they love me, making someone else smile, writing a really good scene, completing the final draft of a novel, reading a good book, discovering a new favorite author, fluffy slippers, sleeping in, sushi, coffee, wine, martinis, vanilla bean candles.