Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Jennifer Haynie {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Jennifer...

After being an avid reader of suspense fiction for most of her life, Jennifer Haynie began writing and publishing suspense novels in 2012. She has now written over five indie suspense novels. In her spare time, she works for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, enjoys working out, and loves traveling. She currently lives outside of Raleigh with her husband and their Basenji dog.

Connect with Jennifer...

Twitter: @JenniferHaynie1
Pre-Order: Loose Ends (releases March 6, 2018)

Get to know Jennifer...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...

I started writing in high school out of boredom while in class. Classes were easy to me, so I filled my time scribbling in composition notebooks, at least until I got busted. I even won a short story contest my junior year in high school that was citywide. In college, I took a creative writing class, and the fact that I’m writing today after taking that class is a miracle. It’s kind of funny that I hear a lot of that from writers who didn’t major in English but went on to be quite successful. It was in college where I got the “why” I write. I took a women’s literature class, which overall I loved. What I didn’t like was that many of the women who were the heroines in these novels either went insane, killed themselves, or died. Huh? That was my first thought. Right then and there, I wanted to write about women who were strong women and prevailed over circumstances and antagonists.

The “how” part came much later. College and grad school consumed my life, so I restricted my writing to winter and summer break. When I entered the workaday world, I started getting more serious about it. I began learning the craft, first through an online course, then attending writing conferences and retreats starting in 2013. Probably some of the best things I learned came from when I paid for either proofreading or copy editing. I firmly believe that writers should never stop learning. When we do, it’s time to hang it up.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book...

Why did you write it?
I wrote this Loose Ends as a continuation of Book 1 of the Unit 28 series (Panama Deception). When I began writing it, I had maybe two books in mind, but it’s evolved into something more. The main driver of the series are the female characters. In Loose Ends, Alex Thornton is that character. More on her below. In general, I’m very curious about and want to examine the ability of women to thrive in a covert intelligence community but also the impact of such a line of work on family and faith.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
For this one, Alex Thornton has to be my favorite. She’s the main character, and she’s also, as we say in the South, a real piece of work. She’s tough as nails and successfully had a career with Unit 28 (a fictitious unit I placed in the Department of Homeland Security) as a field agent. Yet she’s also got this girlie, nurturing side. She’s close to her family, she loves wearing cute dresses and getting her nails done, and she loves needlework. Yet she also co-owns a contracting business with her sister-in-law and has now joined forces with Jabir al-Omri, her former partner at Unit 28, to become contractors for Unit 28. She’s also got this really intense personality. It comes out when she sees injustice, and it can get her into trouble sometimes.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
I think some can identify with the weight of family secrets. It can eat a family from the inside out. Also, truth craves the light. Bringing secrets to the light can bring peace eventually.

What’s the theme? How did you come up with it?
No good comes from kept secrets. That’s the tagline on the back of the book and one of the major themes of the novel. The point is that most secrets enslave people either to that particular secret or to the person who shares it. When I was wrapping up Panama Deception, the theme crept into my mind as a vague concept. Then, as I wrote the novel, it truly emerged. That’s the way my themes normally work. I usually can’t define them well until I’ve completed the first draft of the manuscript.

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
I have to thank one of my beta readers for this one. He stated that I needed to learn the difference between a clip and a magazine when it comes to guns. And I did. And I made that change. 😊


Now let's talk about writing...

How long did you write before you got published?
After I got serious about it (around 2004 or so), I wrote for 8 years. One of my former neighbors is a very accomplished urban fantasy writer (Lisa Shearin). We would always talk writing over the backyard fence. One time, she told me that it takes about a million words of writing to get published. I once guesstimated the number of words in my novels, and she was right. It took about 1,000,000 words.

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”? 
Hmmm. That’s a good one. If you’re starting out, don’t think you have to be an English major to write. Not true. I was a physics major and then got my Master’s Degree in Environmental Management. And if you take a creative writing class in college, beware of professors who try to persuade you not to pursue it. God puts that desire in your heart. Not some professor.

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I’m a bit unusual in that I’m an indie author (read, self-published). But the best rejection letter I ever got was from a very well known agent who wrote the kindest note. He said that while he disagreed with the premise of the novel I’d submitted, he said I have the craft. I still look at that letter when I get discouraged.

What did you learn along the path to publishing that you’d care to share as encouragement? 
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never, ever, ever give up. Writing is a tough business, especially if you’re going the trad publishing wroute. Find your encouragers. You’re going to need them because there will be times when you want to quit. But remember that God has called you to this passion. Even if you never make a sustainable living at it, you are being called. Also, don’t be afraid to go indie. You’ll learn a lot, but it’s also a tough business. I think the writing business is tough in general.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?
I have to say that it’s hard for me to write if there are singers. But I do enjoy listening to some soundtracks and groups. Enya and Enigma come to mind. And the sound track to The Constant Gardener is really cool. Look for sountracks and groups the trigger your imaginations.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
I actually am writing through several blog posts related to that, though right now I’m blogging about Loose Ends during the last run-up to it. I would say to enjoy the process and never stop learning. Carve out time for writing. Be adaptable to life changes. And get those encouragers around you.

How do you grow in your writing craft?
Conferences and retreats are the best. They don’t have to be big ones. But you can learn a lot and network with a lot of other writers.

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
That’s a tricky one since I’m a writer who works full time (as are many) in a pretty demanding day job. I have one night a week (I call it my Starbucks night) where I go and write at my local Starbucks. I crave that time. I’ve also learned, now that I’ve gotten my manuscript backlog down to nothing, that I need to throttle back a little. It’s easy to get unbalanced. I’ll be stepping back a little this spring, especially since we’re bringing a puppy home in March. Also, I encourage writers to make sure to spend time with family and friends. It’s easy to get so focused on a deadline, either self-made or from a publisher, that you ignore the rest of the world. And that’s not healthy. We need people.


What are you currently reading?
I just finished a book I picked up on vacation called Murder at the Volcano House. It takes place in Hawaii. Very fun read and quick as well.

What book is next on your TBR?
Hmmmm. I can’t decide. I’ve got a another fantasy book I picked up at a writer’s retreat. And then there’s that big stack on my nightstand. 😊

If you were a character in a book, what would your “quirk” be?
I drink lots of hot tea. But then again, so do many of my antagonist. My favorite is David Shepherd, the leading man from The Athena File. He’s a big guy, six-four, two-fifty, retired Special Forces. And he hates coffee and loves hot tea, especially peppermint tea. I can imagine the way his buddies would razz him, at least until they consider his size.

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