Join us as we chat with Bestselling Author Jennie Shortridge about her Curvy Book Eating Heaven, her current release and her literary journey
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1)Tell us about yourself? I am a middle child (other middle children know what that entails) and I grew up in a household that had its share of stuff. My mom suffered from mental illness and we sometimes had a tough go of it. My three sisters made life so much better; we were and are very close. I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for eight years now, but grew up mostly in Denver. My husband, who is from Australia, and I met as musicians twenty years ago and still like to spend time in our home studio. We have no kids but we do have one very spoiled cat.
2)How long have you been writing? I’ve always written stories and poems, and songs as a working musician for much of my adult life. I’ve been writing as a sole profession since 1995 when I burned out on corporate America. I started out as a freelance magazine writer and published in Mademoiselle, Glamour, Natural Home, and a bunch of other magazines and newspapers.
3)What drove you to pick up that pen for the first time? I seem to have a need to make sense of the world, to make sense of people and the things they do, undoubtedly because of my childhood. I’ve always written as a way to do this, in some way or another. I wrote short stories that were largely unpublished for years; the first time I thought to try a novel was in 1997, after one of the few got published and a publisher asked if I might write a novel based on it. I acted as though I’d already thought of that, and discovered on page one that I was made to write “long” instead of “short.”
4)Your novel Eating Heaven features a plus size heroine and has received excellent review both in the US and overseas. Tell us a little about Eating Heaven and its plus size heroine. Eating Heaven has at its heart a large and lonely food magazine writer, Ellie, who has been reduced to writing “lighten up your French favorites till they taste like cardboard” recipes to make a living. When her favorite uncle is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she is his only option as caregiver and moves in with him, cooking all his favorite foods “one last time” and discovering family secrets in the process.
5)Why did you decide to feature a plus size heroine in Eating Heaven?
Ellie is a good eater, like me. She loves to cook, loves to eat, and loves to feed others. Her generosity was best portrayed in a woman with some substance, I thought, but I left her actual size up to readers, saying only that she felt too big, and had been called big her entire life. Most of us, I think, feel too big, or too something, and I wanted to call attention to that in our anorexic-crazed society.
6)Are there any plans to write more books featuring plus size characters?
Characters come to me as who they are, and they are all different body shapes and sizes. In my current book, When She Flew, Officer Jessica Villareal would really like to fit back into size 12 uniform pants, but that doesn’t rule her life. Her mission in the story is to save a girl in trouble as a way to make up for the loss of her own daughter.
7)Your most recent novel, When She Flew, is the story of an Iraq war veteran raising his daughter off the radar and the woman who forced with the choice of tearing this family apart. Tell us a little about this novel and how you came up with the concept for this novel. When She Flew is based on true events that took place in the woods near Portland, OR in 2004, when police found a Vietnam vet raising his 12-year-old daughter in an encampment. I was mesmerized by the story at the time, and in 2007 made contact with the police sergeant in charge of the search team, and we worked together for the next year as I created fictional characters and subplots, while using true police and forest details.
8)What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing When She Flew?
I had to continually figure out what to fictionalize and what to use from the actual story. I didn’t want to write about the real people involved because they’d been hassled so much by the media. I ended up with Ray, an Iraq war vet dealing with PTSD, his daughter Lindy, who is totally enamored of birds and nature, and Jess, a second generation cop whose own teenage daughter has left home with her baby. These characters all relate to each other on many levels, and the themes of parenting, safety, security, and how society views alternative lifestyles rose to the top.
9)When will your next book be released? If you can, tell us a little about your next book? The next book will be summer 2011, and is another fictionalization of true events when a man went missing for six weeks, and was found many states away suffering from amnesia. In the news story, his fiancée has gone to get him and bring him home and start again, even though he had no memory of her. I loved that story and wanted to know what happened next, so I’m writing it!
10)What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a writer? It’s a challenging profession in many ways, from learning how to write a novel-length work to trying to get it published. I think my biggest challenge now is finding time to write while also getting out into the world to promote the book I’ve most recently published. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had, and the one I’ve loved the most.
11)Where do you see yourself a year from now? My new book (which I’ve tentatively titled The Amnesiac’s Love Story) will be almost out and I’ll be gearing up for a tour and writing the next next book. Hopefully I’ll have sneaked in a vacation to somewhere beachy between now and then!
12)What are you reading now? Who are your favorite authors? On my nightstand is The Girl Who Fell to Earth by Heidi Durrow. There are so many great authors these days, that when I think of my favorites, they’re always the ones from my childhood and young adulthood: Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Walker, John Irving, Tom Robbins.
13)Tell us about any online and offline personal appearances you have planned over the next couple of months. Where can readers connect with you up close and personal? I’m always doing events and teaching, and these are always posted on the events page of my web site, www.jennieshortridge.com. I’m also on Facebook pretty much every day! Come see me.
14)How can readers get in contact with you? Do you have a website? First and foremost, I connect with most readers on Facebook these days, and I also have a web site with tons of background material and info, www.jennieshortridge.com
15)What is the one thing you would like all of your readers to know about you?
That they are the reason I write. I love my readers, and connect on a deep level with so many of them. I love their emails and letters and notes. They make my day!
About The Author: Author Jennie Shortridge has published four bestselling novels: When She Flew (2009), Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe (2008), Eating Heaven (2005) and Riding with the Queen, (NAL 2003). When not writing books, teaching writers workshops, or volunteering with kids, Jennie stays busy as a founding member of Seattle7Writers.org, a collective of Northwest authors devoted both to raising funds for community literacy projects and to raising awareness of Northwest literature. On occasion, Jennie and her husband Matt record music in their Seattle home studio.