Writing is often a lonely venture. Those blessed with the gift of creative thought and storytelling are notorious for submerging themselves in the world they’re trying to describe on paper, putting up blinders to the real world around them, letting it consume their every waking thought.
Jennifer Conner is one of the fortunate. Instead of spending the last fifteen years writing with only her thoughts for company, she has had the pleasure of being a part of a hyper critical group of writers. Together, they brainstorm story ideas, share and critique drafts, question the motives of characters, and scrutinize plots. It is with their critical aide, their encouragement, and a dash of storytelling talent that Jennifer Conner has found herself the victor of numerous national writing contests, the author of more than 80+ published books, and the founder of local Seattle publishing firm, Books To Go Now.
Q: Why did you decide to start your own publishing firm?
A: When I won my first contest, as part of the prize I was invited to go to New York to meet with some big-shot literary agents. Instead of asking me what my strengths were as a writer or what genre I felt comfortable with, they spent our sessions together lecturing me on what I should and shouldn’t write. What was “in” and what was “out”. I walked away from those meetings frustrated and disheartened. I wasn’t new to writing at the time, but I was new to writing seriously, and that experience did little to encourage me or give me hope that my writing career might be a bright one.
I founded Books To Go Now with that experience in mind. I wanted to give new writers a better experience than what I had. Instead of telling them what they should or shouldn’t do, I wanted to encourage the style that worked best for them. But we don’t just work with new writers. Books To Go Now partners with writers from all walks of life, with all different kinds of writing experience, telling stories about every subject imaginable.
Q: You also work with a company called, Romance Novel Covers Now. Between that and Books To Go Now, how do you find time to write?
A: I don’t have a particular time of the day that I block off for writing, like some authors do. I write best in the morning, but with such a busy schedule to juggle, it’s not always possible to write at the most ideal times. The only consistency I abide by is having a couple chapters written every 2 weeks to bring to my writing group for critique.
Q: One of your most recently published books is, Fighting the Fire – the tale of a romance between a firefighter and a woman who is cursed, or maybe blessed, with mysterious powers. What inspired the idea for this story?
A: I was always a big fan of Stephen King’s novel, Firestarter, and I thought it would be fun to write a story with similar themes that was rooted in a great romance. It was a vague image to base the outline on, but the story really found itself once I started writing. As the words flowed, I thought up background stories for the main characters that would keep them from just being bland, one-dimensional characters and I deviated from my original ending to introduce a villain that would give the story more depth.
We asked Jennifer to give us her take on the story’s two main characters – Cy Brennon, the hunky headstrong firefighter, and Mia Koda, the Native American beauty battling to control powers she knows nothing about. Here’s what she had to say.
“People that don’t know Cy Brennon think that he grew up with a cushy, normal life – and Mia is guilty of this assumption, too. But he didn’t. His father was abusive, a liar, a vicious drunk, and a murderer that lacked remorse for his sins. And the pain he endured during his childhood left him with emotional scars that he still struggles to deal with as an adult, and I thought that that made him an interesting character. It gave him depth and it made him a more interesting character to write.
Mia Koda was a lost soul when Cy met her. No family. She was always scared because of the power she wielded and she considered herself to be a threat to those around her. It wasn’t until she found her family and the learned the history of her powers – known as Empath – and the role her bloodline had to play in the magic’s existence that she started to view both her gift and herself as something other than dangerous.
I think that it’s because they both have endured pain at the hands of a family member that Cy was so drawn to Mia. He saw himself in her, she saw that he understood her, and their path of healing united them.
Q: Who was your favorite character to write?
A: All of my characters were fun to write, but if I had to choose, I would pick Orenda. She is witty, kind to Cy, supportive of his blooming relationship with Mia, and eager to help Mia understand what her powers are and where they came from. She’s just a fun and great person.
Q: Do you have a favorite moment in the story?
A: I love the opening scene. The fire burning. Cy rushing into the house to save Mia, despite his captain’s orders to stay back. Mia, shroud in a blue bubble of aura, naked and unharmed and surrounded by a raging fire. It was a fun scene to visualize and a challenging to write – in a good way.
Q: You recently won the Oregon Screenfest Horror contest with your screenplay, Starvation Heights, which is based on an abandoned mansion less than 2 miles from your home in Port Orchard. What’s the story there?
A: The mansion that serves as the setting for Starvation Heights has been around since the early 1900s. As a child, people would tell stories about devil worshippers that used the abandoned mansion for their satanic rituals. I never found out if that was true or not, but I did come to find out that the mansion was the site of murder.
There was a woman, back in the day, who turned the mansion into a hospital. She would starve her patients until they died, steal whatever possessions they had on them, and then bury their corpses. She wasn’t caught until two British heiresses fell victim to her sinister medical practices and their families saw to it that she was jailed for her crimes. After her six year sentence, she moved to Australia and started another hospital, where she starved, robbed, and buried her patients. Years later, our killer returned to Port Orchard and opened yet another hospital, killing and stealing as she had always done, until she eventually became sick herself. As it turned out, this woman believed that extreme starvation was a legitimate form of medicine, so she starved herself to fight off her disease, but it killed her instead of curing her, as it had done so many others.
When I shared this story with my writing group, knowing that I loved TV shows and movies rooted in horror, they suggested that I use the mansion as the centerpiece of a story.
Books to Go Now website – http://bookstogonow.com/
Romance Novel Covers Now? website – https://romancenovelcoversnow.com/