In Jennifer's own words . . . "I think my bio explains not only me, but my way of writing also. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya a few years back I traveled quite a bit and now I just wish I was. A lot of the places I've written about I've been to, a lot of them I haven't. Rafting on the Nile in Uganda, living in a Montana ghost town, African safaris, European youth hostels, the Black Hills of South Dakota all fill my scrapbooks. Now a daughter takes up most of those pages, but I still travel in my head every time I write. That’s me in a nutshell, I’m saving up for a new trip here soon. Just have to decide where I want to go in the midst of all the places on my list to see."
Novelspot: You mention that you started writing when you read something disappointing and you realized you could do something better, and then did.--Had you felt an affinity for writing before that--any interest, knack or inclination, and if so, how did it manifest itself? And is there a reason you put it away, until later when you did take up writing (again?)
Jennifer: No, I never dreamed of being a writer as a child, that book I picked up when I was 18 so it was really as a child. I hated English class, all those papers comparing Beowulf to a modern day hero and all that never really sparked an interest. Research I always got into but then I’m a history nut so it’s a natural.
Novelspot: You have an interesting history as a peace corps volunteer--do you want to talk about that experience, and perhaps what you bring from the peace corps into your writing?
Jennifer: I served in Kenya from 97-99, that’s where I met my husband too. Married 3 months after we returned home. I think it does help having lived in that environment, especially writing historicals. I lived without running water, telephones, television, computers, washing machines, it makes it very easy to describe life in the past when you’ve known life without modern conveniences.
Novelspot: You have written quite a bit of historical fiction; what is there about historical fiction that draws you to it, as opposed as to...say, for example, science fiction (i.e. alternative worlds, parallel histories, etc)
Jennifer: By the 4th or 5th grade, I was out of the kids section and scouring the adult section for books mostly non-fiction history. History has always been an interest of mine. It’s a way to travel both places you’ve never been and places you can never go. Most of the stories I’ve written take place in countries, cities, etc that either I have been to, or I would like to go to.
Novelspot: Where do you find your inspiration? This could be anything--where you get your ideas, music you play when working, etc?
Jennifer: Ideas come from everywhere, movies, book, TV, things someone does. If there’s a child in the story, I think all but once it’s essentially what my own daughter is doing at that stage in her life when I am writing the story. Music I don’t listen to so much, except for the story I wrote set in a Cuban nightclub, I kept playing the music you would have heard there during that one. Usually if able, I’ll put a movie on, and have it playing in the background. Its more hearing people talk, getting the speech patterns down that I need help with.
Novelspot: What is your ideal work environment?
Jennifer: A desk with drawers. I know sounds odd but I just moved and my daughter took back her desk that I was using for lack of room in her room. Now I’m on a table with all my stuff in a box or three who knows where.
Novelspot: What is your preferred era and location, and why?
Jennifer: I don’t have one. The book I started writing was an Oregon trail story. I kept trying to add more story there than needed and the next thing I know I’m half writing fantasy, so I pulled all that out and started the shorter stories, my only favorite period is the one I’m writing at the moment. I just love travel even if it’s sitting at a computer.
Novelspot: Do you have any not-so-hidden agendas you've tacked in any of your stories? Such as issues you were faced with in the Peace Corps?
Jennifer: No, not usually, I don’t try to put a moral into my story, but I definitely work my experiences into my stories. Samburu Hills out at Chippewa Publishing is a story that I started in Kenya and while I moved the location of it, the descriptions that the woman sees out her window and writes home about are descriptions I noted while living there. I stick my characters in bad situations and then somewhere along the way a person that fixes the problem arrives. Some times it might be when the story is half over, almost over even. A lot like life in a way, when you aren’t looking for it that’s when things happen.
Novelspot: How have you advanced from your writing's beginnings? How has your writing improved, grown, changed?
Jennifer: I started writing when I was 18 and it was for me. I was had written some 30 stories if not more without any one looking at them. I’ve cut down the sometimes page of description, and my format, but mostly it’s still the same. Okay I’ve added a bit more sex to it than I wrote in the beginning. Not hard since there was none, and sex sells it seems. I never knew I wrote romance until about the 4th book published was accepted. I write stories where sometimes people fell in love. I think that’s my biggest change is knowing they will automatically be together, in my earlier ones there might never be a romance at all.
Novelspot: As such a prolific writer, do you have a particular method for finding the starting point of a story idea? Do you keep some kind of idea file you refer back to, which you methodically approach, or some other method of starting?
Jennifer: I have a spreadsheet that I keep things straight on and one page is ideas, sometimes just a name, or a thing, a phrase, others it’s a country and time period, others it’s a vague plot not more than a line or two. When I’m done with my current project I just go and start mixing and matching sometimes this name would go in that country. Oh that plot would be a start, but if that’s all the further it goes it still might sit there until another plot nugget pops in my head and then the whole thing takes off. A speakeasy named hell out in Sweet Challenge at Midnight Showcase, I had this flash of a woman in black sitting at a table smoking a cigarette listening to jazz. I had to go okay where would she be to listen to jazz, and the speakeasies of the 1920’s filled all of that flash of a picture I saw.
Novelspot: How do your stories change and grow as you are writing them? Have you had characters who were intended to be something else, turn out to be different from your original intentions?
Jennifer: I don’t sit down to write with an outline of the whole story, half the time I don’t even know the end. My story Crusader out at Dark Castle Lords I wanted to write a story in an abbey but couldn’t think of any nun or monk plots, I though okay what if its an empty abbey, who could find it. The version that is out now isn’t the first draft of it either, I had the woman in the story living there having found it and the man just happened to come by and that just seemed too coincidental so I rewrote most of it. First of all, I write for myself, I’m a stay at home mother for the last 7 years, I use my old hobby of writing to keep sane. I want to see how the story is going to end just as much as the readers do. I have a murder mystery that I didn’t even know who did it until I was about _’s of the way through.
Novelspot: Any writing anecdotes?
Jennifer: Not really.
Novelspot: What does the top of your writing desk look like--and how does it relate to your life, metaphorically speaking?
Jennifer: Usually it’s rather clear except when my daughter leaves things behind when she’s using the computer. Right now, though it’s fairly cluttered like the rest of my house that doesn’t seem to have enough storage where it’s needed but lots for things we don’t have. Metaphorical though I’m not sure it means anything though.
Novelspot: Which brings me to balance--with as many publishers you have (how many is it now--10?) and being a parent, how do you manage to balance your writing life with your demanding daily schedule? Any tips for fellow writers who would like to be as prolific as you are? Any daily disaster anecdotes?
Jennifer: People keep saying I’m prolific, it’s just that I had 13 years of stories to come out. It’s 8 publishers right now actually, I was up to 10 at one time for a while. Now that most of my backlog is published, my list has gotten rather short about those to come out. It’s back to my regular writing level maybe a couple a year. I used to only really write when the family had gone to sleep staying up to 1 at night, but now that my daughter is in school and has to get up I usually try to keep it during the day when she’s gone leaving my nights free.
Jennifer: Far From Home coming august 14th from Aphrodite’s Apples She's a highly placed lady in waiting and he's a lowly soldier guarding her as she sneaks out of the palace during the Byzantine empire. Each thinks the other wouldn't be interested but things change as the months drag on including the danger she's in.
Jennifer: The Angel of Bally Ferriter coming Sept. 1st from Aphrodite’s Apples. As a teacher Robert Ahearne has summers off and this time he’s staying in a little village in Ireland learning Gaelic. When another student starts harassing a local barmaid, there’s only one thing to do, team up and avoid the man together. Suddenly learning Gaelic just got a whole lot more interesting.
Jennifer: Ancient Walls coming date unknown from Mardi Gras publishing Maya Montgomery just wants a vacation with her son, that's it, but with her ex giving her trouble to the point of needing a restraining order, even relaxing involves a fight. At least until everyone in the hotel is kept inside with days of rain. After the way her ex has been all it will take is someone being nice to her and Carson is nothing but nice. Nice to look at, nice to talk to, nice to go to bed with. For once in her life, things are looking up, until her son is kidnapped and the note orders her to find a hidden treasure. Treasure not everyone is even convinced exists and her son's life depends on it. So much for a peaceful vacation.
Novelspot: If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?
Jennifer: Uhh I don’t know
Novelspot: Any last words?
Jennifer: Thanks for having me if you want more info on any of my books my website is www.jennifermuellerbooks.com and I have a yahoo group that I keep everyone up to date on all the latest news at. Now I have to get back to my latest story about a WW1 veteran embroiled in intrigue in 1920’s Ceylon.