Write It Sideways

Interview with “The Threadbare Heart” Author, Jennie Nash

Today, I’m thrilled to have Author Jennie Nash tell about her writing and her upcoming novel, The Threadbare Heart. Don’t forget to enter her upcoming Mother’s Day Contest at Write It Sideways, for your chance to win some great prizes. Thanks, Jennie!

Can you tell us about your latest book, The Threadbare Heart?

It’s a love story. Well, actually, it’s three love stories. There’s a mother and a daughter and one of them loses the love of her life and the other one gains the love of her life. What happens as a result is that these two women finally find a way to love each other. It’s set in Santa Barbara, California, during fire season. Santa Barbara’s my hometown, and it was really fun to write a story set there.

The main character in The Threadbare Heart is a fabric collector – but she doesn’t like to actually use her fabric. She doesn’t like giving up all the possibilities of what that fabric could be. She has one special piece of lace she’s had for more than 40 years. At the end of the story, after a profound loss, she finally picks up a pair of scissors and….well, you’ll have to read it to find out….

Where did you find the inspiration for this particular story?

I wanted to write about a woman who lost the love of her life. That’s really where it all began. There was a character like this in The Last Beach Bungalow (my first novel) and she didn’t get much space in the story. I wanted to turn the focus on her and tell her whole story. I’m fascinated by what makes a long marriage work – and by happens when that marriage ends.

What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I can’t plot my way out of a paper bag. Here’s a perfect example: there’s a fire at the center of The Threadbare Heart . There was a point when it happened on page one. There was another point when it happened on page 250. I think it finally ended up happening somewhere around page 100. I envision scenes, and then I try to figure out where they go and they I try to figure out what they mean. It’s a totally inefficient process. I don’t recommend that anyone follow it. If you can have a sense of how the story is going to unfold, and why what happens happens, then you will save yourself a great deal of time and angst.

What books have had a profound effect on your writing?

Oh my goodness, there are so many. A few that come to mind?

Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink. Caddie just jumps off the page; it took me forever to be convinced that she wasn’t a real person – I mean, until I was an adult.

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, the environmentalist. The sound of his voice is so clear on the page, and so strong. It’s like he’s sitting there in the room with you.

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. This was one of the books that convinced me that what’s known as “domestic fiction” – which is what I write – can transcend its narrow confines to be funny and beautiful and moving and profound.

Another recent book that drove this home is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

When did you know you were meant to be an author?

When I was in fourth grade. We made a book of poems. You could submit as many as you wanted. I just kept writing and writing and writing – and when that book came out, there was my name in purple mimeographed ink above the words I’d written. I was so full of pride and joy. I can remember that feeling to this day. I loved it.

What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a soccer mom – except that my kids actually play water polo. I’m totally into it. I’m the Spirit Rep for the team at school, the president of the Booster Club. I leap out of my seat and scream when things are going well in the pool – and when they don’t? I recently spent an entire day in tears over a water polo game.

How much time do you spend on social media and promotion?

Too much – and not enough. It’s a giant time suck – but also a fantastic bridge to the world and to my readers. You can’t ignore it, and yet in order to write, you sort of have to. It’s quite a dilemma!

How did you find your agent?

I’ve had three agents in my career. All of them have served me well. I adore my current agent. I found her on an online search engine–Agent Query. It’s the best website ever. You can go on there and type in any criteria under the sun, and you will get a list of agents who meet those criteria. It will also tell you exactly how to approach them – and how not to, as well.

When you started querying agents, were you fairly confident in your writing, or were you still unsure of yourself?

Both. I was both confident and unsure. I’m still that way. I can go from thinking that I’m going to hit the bestseller list to thinking that I’ll never sell another book as long as I live – all in the course of an afternoon. I think this is an important point for writers early in their career to know: the doubt doesn’t go away. Seasoned writers just learn to pull a chair up to the table and invite the doubt to dinner.

You can pre-order your copy of The Threadbare Heart on Amazon, or preview the first chapter here. Learn more about Jennie at her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter.