| by Winter Lawrence |
Before I officially started writing, I found the notion of writer’s block to be a curious thing. I suppose that’s because I struggle with ADD tendencies, so my mind is always pinging from one topic to another—constantly in motion—which is sometimes a blessing; other times a horrific curse. So writer’s block has always fascinated me because it was a problem I never thought I’d have…Then I started writing professionally, which seemed to tempt fate far too much, because for the past couple of years, the writer’s block monster has come to pay me a few visits.
Granted, it doesn’t necessarily “block” me from writing. My ADD causes my mind to skip around to so many different topics that I can always find something to spark my creative juices. So the problem, for me at least, isn’t an inability to write—it’s just that I don’t want to! What my particular brand of writer’s block monster likes to do is create idleness. I have ideas, and in some cases I’ve even planned, but I cannot bring myself to go anywhere near my computer. I will think of anything and everything to avoid writing (to the lengths of even volunteering for yard work—I know. Crazy, right!). Thankfully, I’ve learned how to combat my writer’s block monster with the most formidable of weapons—a great book!
Reading, especially when it’s a story I love, inspires me to write. It reminds me of why I chose my profession. So this month, while my writer’s block monster was in full swing (and nearly cost me a finger doing yard work!), I decided to rest my weary green thumbs and dive into Jennifer Zamboni’s very awesome Urban Fantasy “Beauty is the Beast: Beasts Among Us - Book 1.” Afterward, I reached out to her with a few candid questions about her book and her writing process. Here’s what she had to say…
(Q) Jennifer! Thanks so much for stopping by my Author Spotlight segment! And many, many thanks for such a fun, great read! I enjoyed it so much that it scared away my writer’s block monster and I was finally able to get back to work! On that note, I have to begin by asking, in your writing career, have you ever had to deal with writer’s block, or have you known anyone who struggled with it? And do you have any suggestions on ways to overcome it?
(A) Not true writer’s block. Procrastination, most definitely. First off, I have a notebook of story ideas, so that’s usually my starting point. Next, I’m a big fan of plotting. Now, that’s not to say I stick religiously to my outlines. They function more like roadmaps, my characters take detours all the time, or take the scenic route, if you will, and then come back to the plan. The other thing I do, when I just can settle in, is I have my characters do something mundane, like fold laundry, just to get into their heads, and usually I get sucked right in.
(Q) Can you share with us your inspiration behind “Beauty is the Beast?” And do tell, have you ever, at some point, worked in a salon? Because you capture the essence of that atmosphere so well!
(A) I worked in a salon as a stylist for 8 years! From when I was 19 right up until I had my first kid. There are definitely instances that inspired certain scenes (Greg the client has some basis in reality towards a former coworker. And there’s a creepy caller that will make an appearance in book 2). The original concept, which I came up with during cosmetology school, was a horror story where a freshly graduated stylist gets hired to a salon that turns out to be run by a witch, werewolf, and vampire. The MC was going to die.
(Q) Let’s talk names, because I love it when I’m reading a book and I encounter a great variety of them scattered throughout the text (my favorites, by the way, were Lunden and Burn!). In your book, you have a huge cast of characters, so how did you go about picking all of their names, and do any of them have a special meaning? Also, can you share a few of your favorites and why?
(A) I collect names! A lot of that came from when I did work in a salon. We were a walk-in only and there was a sign-in sheet. I’d write down any name that struck me. I also use baby name books/websites. For the last names, I used a phone book, because I wanted them to be authentic to the area. Gretchen is what my grandfather used to call me when he was teasing me when I was wee bitty (I am NOT Gretchen! I’m Jenny!...for the record, I don’t go by Jenny anymore) so that’s where the MC got her name. Others I’ve used and love are: Ondrea, Journey, Gwenhwyfar (she’ll show up in book three, and I wrote her origin story years ago. There’s a chance I’ll clean it up and publish it), and of course: Natasha the Russian (who isn’t really Russian…).
(Q) In Beauty is the Beast, you do an amazing job of bringing together all of the major fantasy players. You’ve got werewolves, vampires, Fae, and carnies! And, you’ve merged all types of lore, from Arthurian to Greek mythology! It’s spectacular! Can you tell us a little about your research process and how you came about the idea of mixing folklore?
(A) I’ve love mythology, I’ve been fascinated ever since we studied it. The more I dug, the more I wanted to know. For instance, my original basis was in Arthurian legend (for Gwen’s story) and then I wanted to connect my “Beasts Among Us” to that. And then I started thinking: What if? What if there’s truth behind all the stories? What would that look like? How would they function in the modern world? And so on! So, this whole world explores that. Stories shift and change over time, and I’m coming up with what would be the origins.
(Q) You have three amazing, strong female leads as the focal points of this story, but Gretchen, at least for this book, is definitely the star of the show. Can you share your inspiration for such a sassy, kick-ass, violin-playing werewolf, and what does the future have in store for her?
(A) I wanted to write a woman who could potentially become the alpha of her own pack. She had to be strong to survive for so long, plus there aren’t many female werewolves (whether because they don’t typically survive the bite, or the other wolves don’t think they will is up for debate). As for the violin playing, I grew up playing flute and I ended up owning my great (great?) grandfather’s violin, and while I don’t play, I wanted someone to, so that is Gretchen! I grew up around music, my dad was always in a band and I sometimes sang with them. Music is part of who I am as a person. Also, I wanted to write well-rounded characters. I wanted them to have jobs, make mistakes, fall in love, and live life.
Jennifer! Thanks again for stopping by and sharing all of this wonderful information about yourself, your writing process, and your very, very cool book. I love the bit of advice about having your character doing something mundane to get into their heads! I will definitely use that technique from here on in! And I absolutely adored your book and I can’t wait to see where the series goes, especially with all of the new characters you’ve shared with us (Natasha the Russian, who really isn’t Russian, definitely has me intrigued!).
Readers, Beauty is the Beast: Beasts Among Us - Book 1 is available on Amazon now, so be sure to grab your copy today. I promise you’ll love it! Book two is due out soon, so be sure to visit Jennifer’s Facebook and blog page for the most up-to-date information!
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Jennifer is an Urban Fantasy writer based out of Maine. She’s made it her mission to help Indie authors get the exposure they deserve (including her!). She has a projected four-book series in the works, the first of which was published October 24, 2018!
She’s a stay-at-home-mom in charge of two rambunctious tots and married to the most amazing man on earth. There are two dogs, three cats, and a cockatiel living with them. Their home is under construction, kind of like her writing and her website!
Jennifer was a hairstylist for eight years, and she still holds her license, though she doesn’t do much hair anymore.
Writing and reading are her passions and she hopes to keep up an informative blog, both about her writing and about the authors she’s come in contact with. She always invites folks to poke around her website to see what she’s up to!
The big question that plagues her is: What if?