Interview with Jeanie Long

What is your e-reading device of choice?
My favorite reading device is, hands down, my eyes-- and brain. I can read anything in any format, but if my eyes and brain aren't engaged, I'm not truly reading. While my first choice will always be to feel the paper fibers beneath my fingers, the feel of turning a sheet of paper in my hands with anticipation, and closing the back cover and pondering while it's still warm in my hands, I own an android Samsung Nexus and do a great deal (maybe 98 percent) of my reading anymore via that little appendage (as well as my Android phone in a pinch).
Describe your desk
When I'm in editing mode, messy--scattered with yellow legal pads and reference books.
But, when in writing/creative mode, my desk is sparse and un-distracting.
In either mode, there will always be a hot cup of Joe.
The cover of The Last Chameleon Tour, enticed me to read it--so perfect for the story. How do you approach cover design?
Thanks! I think it really does capture the essence of the story, The Last Chameleon Tour (LCT).
A writer can't possibly put everything about the story on the cover (unless he/she wants it to look like an overflowing garbage can). However, when a reader begins to read, she immediately starts making connections between the cover (and back synopsis) and the words within. Therefore, to give the reader a sense of what the story is about/where it's going--and thus, creating a subconscious awareness of the important points in the text--I use the ice burg rule: 90 percent of the story lies beneath the cover, with only a fraction showing at first launch.
In the case of LCT, it isn't just a "boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl" story. LCT turns dark and plummets into psychological depths, rather than staying on the carnal level. My readers are more likely to feel the subtler nuances of the characters problems from the start and their journeys when they have a color (such as black and blue), or negative space (such as all that black to depict isolation), or a visual marker (such as a film strip), or a symbol (such as the fetal position). Create the mood (with color/style) and add a symbol or two of the "real" issue, and you have a cover that allows the reader to salivate for "what happens next" and subconsciously appreciate the 90 percent that unfolds as she reads to the end.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was raised along the banks of Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River in Northern New York. I spent my youthful summers camping in the Adirondack Mountains (Yay, Cranberry Lake!) and picking wild flowers in fields. Needless to say, nature plays a significant role in much of my writing, even when my scenes take place in big cities, or when dealing with minor details, such as the sound of a rubber shoe sole on oak floor planks--the sound of human impact on trees (in a more poetic form, for instance). I was also raised in a fairly religious home once I hit my formative years. Having been presented with questions of God and a greater power later (when I was on the cusp of teenhood and questioned everything, naturally), the notion of spirituality, God, organized religion, fate v. freewill, etc., play very important roles in the subtext of my writing. My faith does not come without questions, but I am saturated with hope, and I believe this things can be seen in my writing, and add depth and richness to my works.
What are you working on next?
I'm in the mental pre-writing state of the sequel to The Last Chameleon Tour. The story is unfolding in my mind as more of a women's fiction/mystery novel in genre, which deviates from The Last Chameleon Tour slightly.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Writing. Although I love my life, it isn't nearly as exciting as the lives and circumstances I create for my characters. After a full night's sleep dreaming (which is sleep-thinking for me) I usually spring out of bed with the idea, "Yes! I can put [character] through the proverbial emotional wringer today by ..." As sadistic as it sounds, I love making my characters work for a happy ending as much as I have to work to get them to that spot.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I have a great husband and we enjoy snowmobiling, boating and eating out at the ever-abundant Friday-night fish fries here in Wisconsin. I also have two dogs that are always at me feet. One is a Lhasa Apso--Pemberly, named after Mr. Darcy's estate-- and a yellow Lab, Abby. They are insatiably spoiled and lazy--a dogs life, as they say. As an artist, and an apprentice to my recently deceased wood-working dad, I make furniture too. You name it, I can create it.
What is your writing process?
That's a loaded question....Think of a story, write, rewrite (x1,000), edit, reedit (x1,000), share it for beta, write and rewrite...
To me, the only linear process in writing (and completion) is that the idea gets put on paper, and it ends up in the readers' clutches. Everything else in between is conjobbled and rebobbled until I am mostly satisfied.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
"Are You My Mother?" by P.D. Eastman/Dr. Seuss. This was the first story I ever read/or someone read to me that made me cry. I think about it now and realize the power of words in the story context, and the power of a story's context in the context of the reader's life experiences. How this little bird had no idea what his mother looked like, but he instinctively knew he had one ... How he cries out in desperation time and again, "Are You My Mother?" ... He just wants his mommy. The simple little book actually has a whole flock of emotions. We readers bring so much more to a story than what authors might intend. That's powerful.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (all of Jane's works): I love this woman. While she accepted and lived within her social norms, she was able to see the paradoxes, faux pas and silliness of her world--and she delivered it all with a subtly snarky bite of the cheek.

This Much I know is True by Wally Lamb: There are a bazillion novels about women being the nurturers, but how many books have we read that explore and deliver the masculine (male) take on giving, caretaking and love for a sibling? Very few, I think. Lamb's story of these identical twin brothers and how Dominic Birdsey (one twin) cares for and sacrifices for his mentally ill brother, Thomas, gave me profound insight into the mind of men--how they see love and what they determine as sacrifices.

Nathaniel Hawthorn: All of his works. His mastery of symbolism makes him THE master of symbolism.
Published 2015-11-03.
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