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.

Jena C Henry books

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

Writer’s Chateau,

Thank you for the wine and the

chocolate gateau.

It was a pleasure to meet you and share what I know

Alas, now I must find my chapeau,

pack my portmanteau

and go!

Thank you, Jena! Delightful! I love it!












Caron Kamps Widden is the author of RESTORATION, a novel (2006 Hilliard & Harris) and THE LIES WE KEEP, a suspense novel (2015 Hilliard & Harris). She was an editorial assistant at ORANGE COAST MAGAZINE, a submissions reader at ZOETROPE: ALL-STORY, and ran a boutique business called, The Word Source. When writing, Caron enjoys exploring the complexities of family relationships. Her stories are rich in emotion and delve deep into the intricate dynamics of love and heartbreak. She is currently at work on her third novel. Born on the west coast, Caron has lived all over the country and in Belgium, but now calls western Connecticut home. She and her husband have three grown children and an adorable grandchild who they visit often.

What is your latest book?

My second novel, The Lies We Keep was released in October 2015. Set ten years after the tragedies of 9-11, the story follows Alex Gershom from New York City across the country to Sedona, Arizona, where he tends horses and works at a restaurant at night. While on a cigarette break in the alleyway, he notices a woman hiding in the shadows, a ghost from his past that sets in motion the long buried memories of the life he left behind.


As a character-driven author, I really like the themes that you write about in your novels: the secrets people keep, the restoration of the human soul after tragedy, and much more. Do you find that you learn more about these topics through the process of writing about them? Will readers find any similar themes in future novels?

I definitely learn about human nature as I research and write. I learn from following my characters pathway, they show me who they are through their actions. I’m simply the medium for their stories. The idea for The Lies We Keep came from the notion of people who choose to disappear. Why do some people decide to walk away from their lives? Their families left to wonder if they are alive or dead. What would have to be so wrong for someone to walk away? There’s the obvious answers, financial trouble, crimes committed, abuse, addictions, avoiding fallout of some type. But what if there is no apparent reason? What went wrong inside that person? This is the story I was after with The Lies We Keep…these are the stories I’m always after.

In my first novel, Restoration, I asked myself the simple question, what would happen if life was going along just fine and in an instant everything changed when a man lost his wife, who happened to be the glue holding it all together? What would happen to him? Would he pull it together? Would he fall apart? I like to examine human pathos, the depth of emotional response to life’s tragedies, large and small. Why do some people pick up and move on so easily and others struggle to regain any sense of normalcy? Where does strength come from? Why are others so fragile? The more I write, the more I learn and the more I seem to be able to understand people. And yes, I’m sure I’ll be writing more on these themes.


How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I write commercial/mainstream fiction, but some have suggested it leans toward literary fiction because of the depth of emotional content and the lessons learned by the characters. Others like to call my work, love stories, because there’s always love and heartbreak at the core. My most recent novel, The Lies We Keep is a suspense novel. I’m currently at work on a new novel that seems to fall under all of the above.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Every character is a compilation of people I have known, or know or even just see around town. It’s almost as if characters are created out of all my questions about life. Why is he so mean? Why does she talk so loud? What makes one person kinder and another cruel? I’m always wondering. And I’m always wandering! I’ve lived all over the country and in Europe and everywhere I go, people are basically the same. They want the same things. They may have different accents or speak another language, but for the most part, give or take a few lunatics along the way — everyone is after the same things. Security. Love — a good life. So yes, my characters are based on everyone I know and everyone I don’t know.

What else have you written?

For a while I was obsessed with writing super short pieces. Short-shorts. And verses. Poetry. I was never good at short stories. Although, I haven’t given up, I still try to write short stories. I have one in particular that I have revised over and over for the last seventeen years, never satisfied. I love reading short stories. Some authors are so good at telling a story in sparse, crisp detail. I’d love to be able to write that way. Like the story, Inventing The Abbotts by Sue Miller. Brilliant. I worked for a literary magazine in San Francisco called Zoetrope: All-Story. I would read through stacks and stacks of stories in the slush pile secretly hoping to learn more about the mysteries of short story. I’m still stunned when an author can take me in so deep, so quickly and finish up so fast leaving me totally satisfied. I’ve also written articles for town newspapers and was an editorial assistant writing restaurant reviews for a regional magazine. At one time, I had my own boutique business called The Word Source, and you name it, I wrote it – resumes, menus, and promotional ads, even medical transcription. When I was in the corporate world (payroll, accounting, and then sales), I also wrote the division newsletter. I guess you could say I’m always the writer. And I blog, like all authors are expected to these days, but in a run-on sentence type of way, as a way to break from the rules of prose. Oh, and I write killer love letters. But it’s novels I love to write most. That’s where my heart is happiest as a writer.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

Everyday. When my husband comes home, I often say, “You’ll never guess what they did today.”

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I love the total immersion of the novel. Becoming obsessed with the story, the characters, and the settings. But, I hate when my knees and wrists begin to hurt after I write too long.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

Always in order — the characters drive the plot.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I always know the ending before I begin. I’ve listened to the characters for months before I sit down to write the story. There are surprises along the way, but I know where they are ultimately going. It’s almost as if I’m going back to the beginning to see how they got there. The title is important but I can start without it.

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 write straight through on the first draft. Then Edit. Then Revise. Then edit, revise, and repeat until I’m satisfied.

After working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?

I’m fortunate to have a few close folks who tell me when I’m off the path, and a great editor who wields a big, red pen with abandon. And I love and appreciate them all.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

You’ve heard it before, but it’s true. Read. Read. Read. This is the way you learn.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

You don’t want to hear my sad story! Let’s just pretend it was all fairy angels and pixie dust, and not hard work, determination, doors slammed in my face, a binder full of rejection letters and all those humiliatingly awful pitch sessions at writer’s conferences. No, it all happened in a beautiful dream. But seriously, I set goals for myself, I was polite and helpful and grateful to everyone and anyone who could point me in the right direction. I got involved, volunteered, took classes, joined writer’s groups, went to conferences, read at least forty books a year, worked for free in publishing to learn about the industry, and finally, when I was ready, I called myself an author, gave myself a five year deadline to write my first novel, find an agent and land a contract with a publisher. I met that five-year deadline by pushing myself, and others (politely) to be in the right place at the right time, by staying active and searching out every lead. You have to be your own advocate. You have to believe in yourself, and in your work. Successful authors create a great product, market and sell that product and are always setting new goals. Successful doesn’t necessarily mean bestselling. Being true to yourself, going after your dreams, and being realistic will keep you in the game. And here’s the biggest way to get published — just be nice. Believe it or not, having good manners goes a long way in the publishing industry.

What do you like best about the books you read?

I love books that stay with me long after I’ve read them.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

I knew early in life I wanted to be an author. I loved wandering the stacks at the library and visited the bookmobile every week at the park near my house growing up. There’s nothing better than getting lost in the pages of a good book and I wanted to do the same thing, write those kinds of books.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in a quintessential New England village about an hour north of New York City. After living in thirteen different cities in thirty years, my husband and I struggle to figure out where we will retire. There are so many places we love. But if we had to move again, and it wasn’t a transfer for my husband’s work, I’d probably want to move closer to our three adult children. And luckily, they live in really cool places.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Automobiles. Always love a good road trip. It’s the only time I eat candy bars from gas stations.

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?

I’d hang out at the White House. With an invisible pen and notebook.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

My husband and three children, they’re the gift that keeps giving.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

To hit a homerun, as in — be athletic.

What music soothes your soul?

Classical. (And okay, Adele)

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Stay calm. Tell the truth. Be kind.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Walking in nature. Babies laughing. Church bells. Fresh flowers. Big hugs. Warm baths. Clean sheets. Train stations. Sunny days. First snow. Waves breaking. Sunset.




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