Interview with Jenni Francis

Published 2014-10-10.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in England, but when I was seven years old, my family emigrated to New Zealand. I will always be grateful for that decision. It must have been hard for my parents to do that, but we all have wonderful lives as a result.

As children, from that age on, we were always out and about, on our bikes, at the beach, in the bush area behind our house, making bush huts, tree huts, going on adventures, and learning about life. It was the best possible upbringing, and many of the incidents in my novels have come from that time.
When did you first start writing?
My writing has followed an erratic path. I knew I COULD write, when I was sixteen years old, and won a short story competition. In my early twenties, I did several correspondence courses on writing, but life got in the way. Finally, when I was forty four, my first grandchild was born, and that started my writing in earnest.

I have a lot of work tucked away, ready to bring it to life.
What's the story behind your latest book?
'Fire Island' is set at a camp on an island in the harbour close to a large city in New Zealand. This Island, which I have named Sacred Island, is right next to a dormant volcano. School camps are a regular feature at New Zealand schools, and the activities at this camp are a mix of different camps that I have attended, as a pupil, a teacher and a parent helper.

The issue of bullying has always been around, but lately it is becoming more worrying. This story does not involve cyber-bullying, but regular mean talk from unhappy people, which is often what bullies are. How we deal with it depends on our self-esteem and self-confidence. Building these will give us tools to overcome, and being prepared to challenge ourselves with all manner of activities can lead to greater personal esteem.

Keri, the main protagonist has only recently faced being bullied, and some of it was her own fault. But she has to work through these attacks with the tools, and friends, she has.
What are you working on next?
My next book will be called 'Danger Signs'. It is set at a popular beach resort in New Zealand, which we used to go to with our children. Plenty of scope for an adventure!

Keri is again the main character, along with her friend Mereana. They meet some boys their own age, brothers from a family close by. One brother is deaf, and his older brother Sando, is fed-up having to always accommodate his brother. When I was teaching, I taught hearing impaired children for about ten years, and I was always impressed with their resilience. But I also saw the way families had to work around the impairment. This was often frustrating for the siblings, especially as they reached teenage. Jordan has a lot to teach his older brother!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Having children coming up to me and telling me how much they enjoyed my books and stories. Children who had never previously read a chapter book getting to the end and realising that they had finished it and loved it. That for me is the best reward.
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything! I try to acknowledge that by using their name in a novel or short story. They give fabulous feedback, both positive and negative, and are very honest in their responses.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My dog Bailey, who loves his morning walk.
And the possibilities of the day ahead.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Ha! That's a loaded question. I live with my husband on five acres, so that takes a bit of time. I do the accounts for our businesses. That's the main part of my day. But I am also involved in the local community. I belong to the local community group, and we have done a great deal of fundraising to build a walk/cycle track in our area. I also run the local Green Swap, where we exchange produce that is excess to our family's needs. I am also part of a local choir. I managed the accounts for this choir and all the admin, and help arrange our twice yearly concerts, which are always sold out.

PLUS! We have five children and nine grandchildren, and we are closely involved in their lives.

And I also love to read. So I run a book club too!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember reading 'Famous Five' and 'Secret Seven' novels by Enid Blyton. Almost all my early reading was based around series; getting to know the characters as if they were my friends. That's why I wanted to do the same for my readers. I loved the 'Little Women' series as I grew older. I think we all like a central character we can identify with.
What is your writing process?
When I wasn't so busy, I would write during the day, but now I'm restricted to night time. My aim is to get back to taking more time for myself, to write more.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I read widely. Action, adventure, detective, chick lit, contemporary fiction, and other genres. So choosing an ebook is the same as going to a bookshop. What does the cover tell me? Does the blurb appeal? How does the first page read? And, importantly, what mood am I in? Can I deal with something heavy? Or do I need something light?

So, I'll listen to book club members recommendations, and browse for these online. Or I'll choose a favourite ebook retailer, like Smashwords, and go from there.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Having belief in my own stories, and wanting them to get 'out there', especially in this time of shrinking publishing houses, meant taking a leap and doing it myself. The more I get into it, the more I believe it is a great way to continue.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Books I have loved.
1) Life of Pi
2) To Kill a Mockingbird
3) The Kite Runner
4) The God of Small things
5) Skallagrigg

All of these stories are about the overcoming of adversity. The kind of adversity we would find it difficult to deal with ourselves, and therefore admire the strength of the characters we read about.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

Books by This Author

When Words Die
Series: Keri. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 34,150. Language: English. Published: November 23, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Social Issues, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Adventure
All Chloe wants is to have a quiet holiday reading books. She doesn't want to have to talk to anyone except her family. But visitors to her town force her to face her anxieties. Secrets are uncovered, and they will change her life.
Watch Me!
Series: Keri, Book 5. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 35,930. Language: English. Published: February 23, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Adventure, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Social Issues
When Claire finds a lump on her chest she decides she must have knocked into something. But her cousin Keri is coming to stay, there are the horse trekkers to deal with and three horses have gone missing. No time to think about it. But with Claire in hospital, Keri and Mereana end up dealing with more than missing animals. Before long it’s not just animals who are abducted.
Cold as Ice
Series: Keri, Book 4. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 31,540. Language: English. Published: January 3, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Family, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Adventure
Keri is trying to cope with a new High School and not enjoying it much. Keri's Mum has a new boyfriend. The new boyfriend has two children and they are both a bit weird. One of them, Sara, is in a class above Keri, and is not at all friendly. In fact she is mean. So a school ski trip sounds like a great adventure for Keri to forget her problems. But it doesn't turn out that way.
A Little Book of Short Stories for Boys
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 9,900. Language: English. Published: July 24, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories
Sometimes you just want to read some short stories, and sometimes you just want them about boys. Not girls. That's what this is. Short stories for boys.
Danger Signs
Series: Keri, Book 3. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 28,330. Language: English. Published: October 3, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Adventure
Sando is deeply resentful of his hearing impaired brother Jordan, begrudging the time and attention given to him. While on holiday at the beach Sando and Jordan become friends with the girls from another family. Resentful of the attention given to Jordan from Keri and Mereana, it is only after being put in a dangerous situation that he finds being able to communicate differently has its benefits.
Losing William
Series: Keri, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 29,180. Language: English. Published: September 17, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / Friendship, Fiction » Children’s books » Readers / Chapter Books
Losing William Keri Walker is in the middle of several crises; her best friend has moved away, she's been rejected by her previous friends, and her parents are separating. But then she loses her little brother in a shopping mall. Now she needs all the strength and help she can find.
Fire Island
Series: Keri, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 29,950. Language: English. Published: September 17, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / Bullying, Fiction » Children’s books » Readers / Chapter Books
Fire Island - Courage is Fire; Bullying is Smoke. Keri Walker is the victim of a gang of bullies, but when she finds that she is not the only one, she decides that something needs to be done.