Interview with Jennifer Chambers

How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I admit, one of the companies I write for, Books To Go Now, has a lot of talented authors, and I tend to read what they write most often. I do search by subject pretty often, as well. A lot of the time, I get sucked into research for the latest topic I'm writing about and that spurs what I read too.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
My friends and I wrote plays to perform at a big annual weekend party my parents had on their farm. Because I had a brain injury that erased my memory when I was 15, I don't remember anything before I was that age, but a year or two ago I found one of those play scripts in a moldy old box. It was a folded 8 1/2 x 11 sheaf of crumbling, handwritten pages, and I think it was titled "The Mystery of the Red Chair." or something equally Nancy-Drew-ish. It's funny, there's a bit of the Nancy Drew Spirit in everything I write, come to think of it!
What is your writing process?
I am what I've come to think of as a big-picture-planner. I like to do a broad outline of the whole story, including character arcs and story arcs, and then do detailed character sketches. That way i feel like I really know the characters before I begin to actually write. It seems to go better that way. I've tried all ways of outlining and not outlining, seat of your pants to rigid structure, though, and I know myself enough to know that nothing is hard and fast. Sometimes it just works and I have to trust it, whatever way it comes up.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The brain injury, of course, prevents me from remembering the actual first story I read or loves as a child.. The one I think had the most impact on me was after I recovered. It has a lot of echoes of the things I like to read and write now; Bronte's "Jane Eyre." During recovery, I felt at times like the monster in the attic and like the neophyte without a clue, at the same time. But beyond that, it was a wonderful and well-structured story. Such atmosphere! Such drama. It made me want to transport other readers like it transported me.
How do you approach cover design?
Generally, I've been able to give the publisher an idea or themes that are common in my book, and they give me several options to look at. I like the idea of using a logo, and I've got a friend working on one of those for me.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1) Oliver Twist. One of the best books ever written. Wonderful characters.
2) Jane Eyre. I just talked about that one; great story-line, tragedy, romance, terror.
3) Hamlet. Shakespeare's people are people I want to know. I love the way they speak.
4) Harry Potter books 1-7. What' not to love? The pace is masterful, even due to its length, and the love inherent in the whole story makes the whole series for me.
5) This one's modern, too, and a funny choice unless I explain: Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." I live in the Pacific Northwest of the US, and ecology and environmentalism is a very common value here. My latest series of books, starting with the recently released "Brambleberry Farm," deals with those themes. Kingsolver's (nonfiction) book tells of how she and her family lived either off their land or by trading as much has they could for goods and services over the course of a year.
What do you read for pleasure?
Everything! I'm reading a non-fiction book about the Civil War in America, some pioneer Women's Journals from the Oregon Trail in the 1870's, an Anne Perry mystery, a young adult freebie, "Valkyrie," I got on my Nook, and I'm lusting after the newest J.D. Robb. I find that the more I read, the more ideas bubble up for me. and by not staying in one genre I hope I'm not copycatting anyone unconsciously.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Nook HD Color, but I'd love a Kindle or an Ipad. I read on my computer as well.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I'll let you know when I find one! Seriously, I keep trying a little of everything- free giveaways, reviews, teaching, appearances. I'd say that personal appearances do the most and then word-of-mouth really helps.
Describe your desk
My kitchen table. It's a scrubbed, round pine table with four chairs and a highchair pushed haphazardly up to its edge. It's empty (thankfully) of everything except my laptop and a cup of coffee with cream. In a perfect world, I would have an actual desk, but I do love being in the hub and being able to have fresh air though the screen door counts for a lot.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I am from a small town, without even a post office, in Western Oregon. My parents bought a tree farm, and I grew up among tall trees and cows in Ken Kesey country. It is an area of disparate vision, home to hippies and hardcore cowboys and coffee snob elitist intellectuals. Living here has given me a fine sense of irony and a passion for why people do what they do. I think this makes me a better writer because I like to observe.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The Brambleberry Farm series was inpired by two things. As I live in an area that has prolific homegrown fruits, vegetables, wine grapes, and hops,and a commitment to recycling and preserving the earth, I thought it was time to get the environment I live in into one of my books. The world is starting to think maybe we're not so crazy up here in our eco-loving do-it-yourself world. A good friend of mine has a condition called synesthesia, where he experiences more than one sensation at the same time, like he sees certain words on a page as being bright yellow for example. I thought, what fun to put a chef in an organic farm-to-table restaurant and give her synesthesia? So I did, and the family of friends I created in book one, Brambleberry Farm, are enough to carry me through two more books.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I'd had my first book, Learning Life Again, a novel about two women with brain injuries,picked up by very impressive agent. It was going well, but the agent was dropped by the agency and my project was canceled. After having little success finding another agent, I queried small presses, and one agreed to do the book. Then I wrote a lot of short fiction to get published in anthologies, and it was a blast. I like working, and small presses and indie presses give you a chance to do that.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love to make things up. It's fun to be the one holding the puppet strings! (Cue the evil scientist laugh.)
What do your fans mean to you?
I"m so grateful to fans. When people tell me how much something I wrote meant to them, it makes my day. I love being able to entertain them, or have them appreciate the world I create.
What are you working on next?
I"m polishing up some old drafts to send in to a publisher, and working on the next book in the Brambleberry Farm series.
Who are your favorite authors?
Whatever one I'm reading at the moment.... there are so many, it's hard to list them all. Harper Lee. Cleo Coyle. J.D. Robb. Diane Mott Davidson. Laurell K. Hamilton. Suzanne Collins. J. M. Koetzee. See, I told you I read everything. Everyone from highbrow to trashy to just plain fun.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I don't know that you would say inspired, but my 2-year old calls me from my cozy nest at 5 a.m. every morning. I remember sleeping. I just don't get to do it. My real inspiration, though, is gratitude. Having been the survivor of something like my brain injury makes me feel pretty lucky just to be able to get out of bed every day.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Knitting is something I do with a lot of enthusiasm but very little skill. I make a lot of scarves. I'm a soccer mom, so I have ruefully accepted the minivan and all that goes with it as what I do in my "off" time. I read a lot.
When did you first start writing?
Writing was something I went to college for, but I didn't do it really until 2006, when I started working for the literary magazine that I now own part of.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It's made me more visible.
Published 2013-09-23.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.