Today on the blog we are featuring author Jennifer L. Allen. Her latest book, Right Place Right Time, is releasing July 22, 2016! You can also catch her at Sassy in Jacksonville this Saturday, June 4, 2016.
To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as an author?
I live a pretty ordinary life. I grew up on Long Island, in New York, where a lot of my family still is. I moved to South Carolina 14 years ago, shortly after my parents retired here, and met my husband a year later. We’ve been married 8 years now. I have three sisters, 2 sisters-in-law, 7 brothers-in-law, and 7 nieces and nephews. I enjoy traveling and taking pictures, especially of new places and experiences. I love listening to music, particularly rock music. I also love to read and consider myself a reader first, and a writer second.
I never expected to write a book, let alone publish one. It just sort of happened. I’ve always enjoyed writing, I think it’s because I tend to have a lot to say about things! I enjoyed writing assignments in school and buried somewhere in my house are old school assignments where I wrote poems and short stories that my mom had saved. Since grade school, I’ve written essays for college – and yes, I actually enjoyed doing it! And I used to have a blog that served as sort of a journal for me.
I’ve also always been a reader. I loved RL Stine and Stephen King as a kid (thanks to my three older sisters), and I even read some Harlequin and Silhouette romance novels. I then moved on to James Patterson, and eventually some different vampire fiction series. My reading sort of got put on hold while I was finishing my bachelor degree, then one of my sisters recommended Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless, and my love affair with contemporary romance began. It hasn’t ended yet! I read A LOT. I average several books a week. I just can’t put them down.
Anyway, all these new stories I devoured started giving me ideas for stories I’d like to read…which eventually turned into stories I’d write. My first book, Our Moon, came to me in little snippets in dreams. I would type it up, think I was crazy for even entertaining the idea of writing a book, and delete the file. I probably did this at least three times before I finally committed to it. Even when it was finished, I still wasn’t sure I’d publish it. I knew nothing about publishing – about being an author at all. But I did research and learned what I could, reached out to other people for help and advice, and eventually self-published my first book. It was a crazy experience, but totally amazing. I learned a lot – what to do, what not to do. I met some amazing people on that particular journey that I know are going to be a part of my life for years to come. (See what I mean about having a lot to say? lol)
You have a book signing event coming up on June 4, 2016 in Jacksonville, FL. Congratulations! How did you get involved in this event? Can you tell us any more about it?
Thank you! I am so excited to be participating in Sassy in Jacksonville. It will be my first signing as an author. I guess I’m both excited AND terrified, but I keep reminding myself that I’m a reader and these are my people. In October, I attended Sassy in Savannah, put on by the same organizer, as a reader. It was the first signing event I’d attended, and I had such a great time. I couldn’t speak to the first three authors, I was so nervous, but eventually I chilled out. I dragged my poor husband with me and he was a trooper, holding my book bag, retrieving the books I’d requested when we reached the tables, and wearing all the bracelet swag I could get my hands on. Anyway, when I’d heard about Sassy in Jacksonville, I pounced. It’s about three hours from home, so it’s convenient, and it’s being put on by the same organizers as Savannah, so I know it will be a good time. The event is being held at the Hyatt Regency in Jacksonville, and it’s Saturday from 12pm-4pm. VIP tickets will get you in the door an hour earlier. I’ll be there, eager to meet some readers! I’ll also have a friend with me, a reader I met during one of the takeovers I did while promoting Our Moon prior to its release. So I’m also excited about meeting her in person! More information about the signing and tickets can be found on my website.
Right Place Right Time is your fourth published book. What is one of the biggest things you have learned along the way?
I’ve learned so much! I’ve learned not to let negative reviews bring me down. I haven’t gotten a lot of them, but I’ve had a few where the reader didn’t like my book, or didn’t like something that happened in the book, the way it was written, etc. I’ve learned that that’s okay. Again, I remind myself that I’m a reader, too, and I don’t like every book I read. It’s funny, because one of my favorite reviews is a three star and I loved it because the reader was honest about how she felt. I’ve also learned that not every book is going to get the same response from readers, so I try to set new expectations with each release and not to expect for what happened with one to happen with another. And I’ve also learned ways to improve my processes so I’m more efficient and organized. I’m a pantser (fly by the seat of my pants when writing), and sometimes that works for me, other times I need more structure to keep myself in line, so that’s something I’m working on.
You mention on your blog that you work, attend graduate school, and write, all while balancing family life. How do you make time for everything? Do you have any tips for readers who may find themselves in a similar position?
Good question! I actually get asked this a lot by people who learn that I work full-time, take classes, and write. I seriously have no idea how I make time for anything sometimes. Each week, heck, each day, is completely different. It all depends on what that days schedule looks like and what my mood is. There are times during a school semester where I’ll go weeks without writing a word because I’m too busy with work and class. Then there are weeks where I’ll easily bang out 10k words in a story.
This is one of the reasons I’ve been working on developing some structure. I make lists. Lots and lots of lists so I don’t forget the things I need to get done. I’ve also started giving myself tentative deadlines so I have goals to work towards, like finish first draft by X, finish re-writes by Y, send to betas by Z, etc.
One of the things I love about self-publishing is that I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself when it comes to deadlines and such. I can be as flexible as I need to be, which is important to me right now because school is my priority. I generally don’t announce a book until I’ve finished writing it and sent it off to betas, and I don’t assign a release date until it’s with my editor. I don’t want to make promises to readers that I can’t keep, and I’d hate to disappoint them by saying X book will be out on Y date, and then not be able to follow through. So I wait until particular milestones to do those things because by those points, I have a better idea of the rest of the timeline.
Of course, readers of my JACT series know to expect stories for the two remaining band members, Joey and Alex, and I hope to have them published within the next year or so.
With all that being said, what I’d suggest to anyone struggling with a lot on their plate is to come up with a system that works for them. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else, just as long as they understand it and it helps them stay organized and focused. Everyone is different, so it’s hard to specifically say what they should do or try, and they know themselves better than anyone else. I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error this year, trying to find my groove, and it’s still a work in progress. Another piece of advice I’d offer is that it’s okay to take a step back if you need to. If everything seems to be too much, take a breather. During finals Spring semester, I had a test in each of my three classes in one week…I pretty much disappeared from my author life and let my school life completely takeover until I had gotten through my tests. Sometimes, something’s gotta give.
What’s next for your writing career? What are you working on now?
I’ve got a couple works in progress at the moment. One is a secret project I’m working on that I’m so excited about. It’s something I’ve been dreaming up for a while now and I am thrilled it’s all finally coming together. There are so many different pieces to it, I can’t wait until I can share it all. I will say that it’s a rock star romance and it’s not as sweet as JACT. The other project is the third story in my JACT series, following band member Joey. I actually wrote about 10k of it immediately after I finished Our Moon, then I got a little bit of writer’s block while the characters from Change of Heart were trying to get my attention. So I shelved JACT, and wrote Change of Heart. But now I’ve pulled it back out and I’m picking at it a little bit. It’ll be a short story/novella, as it’s a look back at how Joey and his wife, Evie, met, and their subsequent whirlwind romance.
What is one of your biggest writing challenges? Biggest source of success?
It’s kind of funny, but my biggest writing challenge seems to be reading. I love to read and I always have a book in my hand. I have to tell myself to put down the book and write my own, but I don’t always listen. Then I’ll bargain with myself, saying if I write a chapter, I can read a chapter. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. As far as writing successes, I get most of my writing done when I have a book hangover because I’m not ready to pick up another book just yet. Then I get into a groove and that’s when I usually end up typing out 10-20k words.
You mention in your bio loving to read. What’s your go-to five-star read that you recommend to everyone?
It’s so hard to recommend just one. It usually depends on the preference of the person I’m talking to. If they like sports romance, I’ll probably say Real by Katy Evans or the Carolina Cold Fury series by Sawyer Bennett. If they’re looking for new adult, I’d recommend Fallen Crest High by Tijan or the Marked Men series by Jay Crownover. Mafia style…the Eagle Elite series by Rachel Van Dyken. Something funny…The Duet by R.S. Grey or Word Play by Amalie Silver. Cowboy…anything by Susan Fisher-Davis. Rock star romance…Vagabonds or Bullet series by Jade C. Jamison, Runaway Train series by Katie Ashley, or the Black Falcon series Michelle Valentine. And still, there are so many more I could recommend, but when I have a book hangover or can’t decide on something new to read, those are the books I will turn to and read again and again. And I have, multiple times.
OMG!! Amazing list!! My TBR needs updating now. 🙂
Where can readers find out more about you or your work? On which sites are you most active?
I work very hard to keep my website up-to-date, so that’s probably the best place to check for updates. As far as interacting, I’m probably most active on Facebook, though I am trying to increase my presence elsewhere as well. I’ve been posting on my blog once a week about my writing process, interviews with authors and bloggers I’ve become acquainted with, and random stuff about me, so readers can follow me there and get an email when I post each week. I also do a once-a-month newsletter. I’m on Twitter, but I’m not super good at it. As you can tell, I like to talk, and the Twitter word count is a buzzkill for me.
Mailing List: https://tinyletter.com/JenniferLAllenAuthor
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1HGvygy
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13941116.Jennifer_L_Allen
Are there any questions I haven’t asked you yet that you’d like to share with the Book Buddy readers?
I can’t think of anything off-hand. I absolutely loved these questions though, and really appreciate you having me. I am very accessible via my author page on Facebook and email, so if there’s anything anyone would like to know, or know more about, shoot me a message! I love chatting with readers about books, and not just my books either!
Thank you so much for joining in on the Author Interview Series!! It’s been a pleasure. 😀