Friday, 15 April 2016

Interview with Denise L. Jenne

At the beginning of April, my Grandson, Dreydon and I reviewed an ecopy of the children’s picture book, Annalise's Up and Down Day by Denise L. Jenne.

Today Denise has been kind enough to drop in and answer a few questions.
For three decades prior to pursuing a career as a fiction writer, Jenne taught Criminal Justice and Sociology at the college level, and several of her scholarly works have been published in the field of corrections. Annalise’s Up and Down Day is her first work of children’s fiction.

Hi Denise, welcome to Just Books.
Please start by telling us what drew you to write a children’s book? Do you write other genres?
I’m a people watcher, and children are awesome
people to watch. Ever since my niece was born,
about three and a half decades ago, I started keeping a journal of cute things she would say or do. The practice continued for a long time and was extended to include my nephew when he was born. Today, I do the same with my great-niece. Through the years, other children have also occasionally made their way onto my journal pages. I’ve always enjoyed kids – watching them, playing with them, interacting with them.
Since my first job, when I was an adolescent myself, I have worked with teenagers and college-aged people in various capacities from youth worker to college professor. Many of these experiences were also recorded in my journal. It should come as no surprise then, my next project will be a young adult novel.
These journals have provided me with much food for characters and storylines.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Only in a vague, general sense. Reading, expressing myself on paper and storytelling have always been a significant part of my life. If you ask my Mom, she will tell you how, even as a child, I would weave a tale that could last for hours. Of course, this wasn’t always viewed positively by my audience!

Do you have a special time to write?
No, I’m not that organized or structured.

What inspired Annalise's Up and Down Day? And Is Annalise based on someone you know?
Annalise absolutely is real, as are her parents. She is my great-niece and the primary inspiration for Annalise’s Day. One day when she was three years old, she and the family came for a visit. During their stay, she looked up at a hanging plant and said, "Leaves up." Scanning the room, she stopped with her feet. “Annalise down.” I thought she was searching for something to climb on so she could reach the leaves. But, as the day progressed, she repeated the opposites with different items. Annalise’s grandmother, my sister, confirmed that, throughout any given day, she'll identify various items by stating their name and position.

What was the biggest challenge in creating your book?

Finding the right illustrator turned out to be the most difficult part of creating Annalise’s Day. Fortunately, from my years of teaching at a local university, I met Julie Iannone, who was an Art Education major at the time. Although her true aspiration was -- and still is -- to teach, I was able to convince her that her painting style was exactly what Annalise’s Day needed and, perhaps more importantly, she was up to the task of illustrating an entire children's picture book.

So, what can we expect from you in the future?
As I mentioned, I’m currently working on a YA novel. It’s the story of a teen-aged girl who refuses to allow the confines of society or being in a wheelchair to limit her life, set against the tumultuous social upheaval of the 1970s.
After that, I hope to do another children’s picture book.

Ok, lets put the book to one side for now and find out a bit about you.
What is your favourite book...?
That’s a hard one. I’ve read so many wonderful books, but, picking just one, I can limit myself to a recent one – I’ll Be Seeing You, by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan. It's about two war wives during WW2. They couldn't be more dissimilar, but they become good friends when they offhandedly start a correspondence. Having myself found close, long-term friendships this way, I identify with the book. And I love how the authors developed their respective characters and the plot through the exchange of emails, and, in doing so, created a believable, gripping story. It’s the kind of book you don’t want to put down and the kind that makes you laugh and cry. What more would you want from a novel?

...And which fictional character, book or film, would you like to meet and why?
Harold Cooper in the film The Big Chill. He just seems like a nice guy who’s comfortable with himself and his life, the kind of person that’s good to be around. And his group of friends who come together for a weekend in the film remind me of some of my friends, so, if Harold and I met, we could have more weekends like that.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I enjoy reading, of course. I also enjoy being with my family and friends, spending time outside (except in the winter!), going to concerts, and scrapbooking, among other things.

"I wanted to be a nun and was devastated to learn we weren’t Catholic."

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
At what age? I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to be anything but a teacher. I wanted to go to the US Naval Academy and be a naval officer, but that was before they accepted women into the Academy. After seeing all those 1960s Hayley Mills type films, I wanted to be a nun and was devastated to learn we weren’t Catholic. I wanted to be an attorney…. I think you get the idea.

One last question before you leave us, Denise.
If you were ever stranded on a deserted island what would you miss and which three books would you take along?
There is no question I would most miss my family and my computer.
The three books I would want with me requires a lot more thought. One choice would be an anthology of Steinbeck’s shorter novels. And, for my other choices, I would want a new Khaled Hosseini and a new Kate Morton. I can’t imagine not liking anything they would write at this point in their careers, and both books would provide something to sink my teeth into.

Thank you very much for joining us, Denise. Good luck with your YA novel, and all future projects.

and connect with Denise on social media:

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