Meet Jennifer Shaw Wolf .
Jennifer Shaw Wolf feels like she has lived her teen years at least three times. First as a teen herself, second with the two teens, the former teens, and the teen to be who inhabit her house, and third through the teens she writes. At least in the third case, she can make the teens do what she wants (most of the time). Still, it makes for an angsty, hormone-charged, exciting journey of a life. But she wouldn’t have it any other way. She grew up in the tiny farming community of Wilford, Idaho is a graduate of South Fremont high school, Ricks College (BYU-I) and Brigham Young University, Provo. She lives in the lush, green, and sometimes mysterious (read: foggy and rainy) forests of Northwest Washington with the love of her life and their four minions. When she isn’t writing or chasing said minions, she can be found working as a job coach for developmentally disabled young adults, teaching English to Chinese students, reading, running, actually using her communications degree to produce videos, and on rare occasions, sleeping.
She is hiding at: http://www.jennifershawwolf.com
Now onto the interview…
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your About Me page. Did any of your adventures in life, so far, end up or influence any of your novels?
The quick answer to that question is yep. The scene in BREAKING BEAUTIFUL where the police officer puts Allie in his car while he checks her license happened to me when I was a junior in high school. The cop was a guy who had gone to my high school and was only about 5 years older than me—my dad was not happy about it. The rock fireplace from DEAD GIRLS DON’T LIE was based on one at my old grade school. We used to play on it and hide notes inside until someone fell off and got hurt and we were banned from being in on or around it. There are a few smaller things, but let’s just say, I’m usually glad my life isn’t as exciting as my characters’ lives.
How important do you think writing is to younger generations and how can you see writing changing in the upcoming century?
Writing has always been important to all generations and I only see it becoming more important. The only difference is the “how” has changed a bit. I do a school presentation where I tell the students that they are not only writers, they are published writers. Thanks to the internet it is extremely easy to write, then publish, then distribute pretty much anything you write whether it be a simple status update, a story, or even something really cruel. The books I write have been edited, fact-checked and revised dozens of times, and there are still mistakes and problems with them. Often we write texts, tweets, or status update without really thinking about it, but something you write now might actually be around longer than my books. The moral is of all that is “be careful what you write.” Through our writing, every one of us is leaving a footprint of who we are for generations to come. The best message I can send to upcoming generations is to be aware of what you are doing and make it a good footprint.
In your bio, you mentioned your underground newspaper that last two issues which got me thinking about character creation and letting them grow as you write. So, while writing, did any of your characters do something daring compared to maybe a safer route you had originally thought of for them or vice versa?
When you write a story there’s always a push to have your characters do something more interesting, daring, or dangerous or just have something worse happen to them. I’ve heard the phrase, “chase them up a tree and throw rocks at them.” You can’t have a story without conflict and you can’t have conflict without your characters doing things that are often…well, stupid. One problem I have when I begin to write a character is that I want them to be perfect. Maybe everyone around them is doing stupid things, but they know how to handle it. Boring, right? Real people do dumb things. They make mistakes. They get into trouble. Fictional characters do the same thing—but to extremes, this is how we end up with a good story. The trick is to allow your character to do dumb things without them coming off as…well stupid. I’ve gone to both extremes. I’ve had the editor eye roll “This sounds like a bad Scooby Doo episode.” And the editor push, “Can you make this scene more exciting?” At one point Allie may have uncovered a money laundering scheme (too much). And Jaycee and Eduardo may have gone to a dance where nothing really happened.
How did you tackle friendship in Dead Girls Don’t Lie? Was there a specific aspect of friendship that you were trying to get across to your readers?
I’ve seen teens reach a point in middle school or high school when their friends change for whatever reason. Even if they stay friends with the kids who have been your BFFs since kindergarten, those relationships evolve and take a beating through the rocky teen years. The two things I wanted to get across with Rachel and Jaycee’s friendship was that 1) a good friendship is a precious thing, something that shouldn’t be thrown away over something stupid, 2) true friends are always with you and will always have your back, even when it seems like the friendship has crumbled or ended. The friends I had in high school are still some of my greatest friends, even if we haven’t seen each other in years.
To bounce off the previous question, how did you tackle memory loss and small town suspicion in Breaking Beautiful and what struck you the most when writing the climax?
Memory loss: My sister was in a car accident when she was 20. She was in a coma for ten days. It took a while for her memories to come back and she’s never really remembered what happened right before the accident. I drew on her memories (or lack of memories) when writing about Allie’s memory loss. The tricky part was letting what Allie remembered about the accident trickle out a little at a time in a way that was believable, didn’t give too much away, and would help the plot move forward.
Small town suspicion: I grew up in a small town. I dearly love it. I dearly love going home and I dearly love the people in that small town. However, I also know what it is to live in a place where everyone knows everyone else’s business, where rumors and suspicion spread very quickly, and where your reputation can be based on things that the people who came before you have done.
The climax in BREAKING BEAUTIFUL: Before you asked whether I had ever had a character do something more extreme than what I was planning. The climax of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL is a good example of that. I had to play around with what was going to be the “big moment at the end.” My original idea was a bit tamer than what the climax ended up being. (In fact the ending changed a lot when I started working with my editor.) Without giving anything away, I needed Allie to make an ultimate choice, one that she thinks will save someone she loves for taking the blame for something she thinks is her fault. (Vague enough?) Also without giving anything away; I’m not afraid of water, and I’m not claustrophobic, but combine those two elements and I’m pretty freaked. Basically I put her in one of the scariest scenarios I could think of and then…
Thank you Jennifer for stopping by and taking the time to interview with me!
Jennifer has provided not one book but two books for me to giveaway!
1 paperback copy of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL
1 paperback copy of DEAD GIRLS DON’T LIE.
Giveaway will hosted (details included) on my Twitter (@astoryofmemory tomorrow!