It’s Author Interview Thursday! Woohoo! Are you ready to rumble? Yes? Good. Then let’s get right to it. I came to know our featured author through Sherrill S. Cannon who was on the hot seat a few moons ago. She’s the author of the popular Rachel Racoon and Sammy Skunk series. In the build up to this interview, I discovered that she has a rich knowledge of conservation and a passion for nature. This passion is revealed in all her books and readers of her books will not only be entertained by her stories but will come away with a better understanding of the world around us. I’m so glad she’s chosen to spend some time with us today, so please join me in welcoming Jannifer Powelson.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the first time someone complemented you on something you had written? I have enjoyed writing since I was a young girl, though I decided to major in biology in college. However, since I follow the age-old adage and write about what I know, I’ve incorporated much of my biology background into my books. I don’t remember the first time someone complimented me on my writing, but I’ve had several lovely comments about my books. When children tell me Rachel and Sammy books are their favourites, it means the world to me!
What can a reader expect when they pick up a book written by Jannifer Powelson? Whether you read my children’s books or my new mystery novel for adults, you can expect to read and learn about nature.
There seems to be a theme around nature and animals that runs through your books. Can you tell us if this is intentional and where that stems from? I grew up on a farm, where I spent much time working and playing outdoors. My fondness for nature and conservation started early. I majored in biology in college, and I work as a conservationist.
Your most recent book ‘When Nature Calls’ is a departure from your other kidlit books as it’s a full length novel. Can you tell us about some of the challenges you encountered while writing this book?
I really enjoyed writing When Nature Calls. Since it was my first novel, I learned a lot along the way. I had to work on fleshing out some of the characters and making things fairly believable. I self edited this book several times before, during, and after a professional edit. It was much more challenging to edit and proof a novel in comparison to a shorter children’s book.
How do you handle bad reviews?
I have tried to develop a thicker skin. When you write books you put your heart and soul into them. When they are published, you open yourself up to criticism. I know not everyone will enjoy my books; you can’t please everyone. I try to remember that for any negative review, there are plenty of positive reviews to counteract the effects of a bad one.
Since my children’s books are educational, I use the books as part of educational programs about nature. The books are for sale during these events, and they seem to sell well in conjunction with programs. I target my marketing efforts toward nature centers, state and national parks, museums, and, botanical gardens, as well as many small town businesses that are willing to stock books by local authors.
You own the publishing firm Progressive Rising Phoenix Press with your business partner Amanda Thrasher. Can you tell us how you juggle being a publisher and a writer?
Sometimes it’s hard to find the time for everything. Amanda and I divide up the workload so we can both have time to focus on our books. Progressive Rising Phoenix Press is growing quickly, so there is much work to do. Often times our own books must wait until we have completed work on another author’s book.
What were some of your favourite books as a child?
I loved to read Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries and also enjoyed reading books by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume as well.
I’m still learning to write dialogue well. I try not to turn dialogue into monologue. I avoid writing dialogue that is too long or cumbersome. I attempt to get inside the characters’ heads and pretend like they are having a real conversation, so it sounds more natural.
What book or film has the best dialogue that inspires you to be a better writer and why?
There is no one particular book that influences me. I love reading and really enjoy various cozy mystery series. Even though I read for pleasure, I still pay attention to the details that make a great book, such as believable characters and storylines, descriptive settings, and interesting twists and turns. Toy Story or Shrek? Shrek movies have grown on me over the years.
Though Illinois is not normally on everyone’s ideal vacation list, there are several pretty areas to explore. Check out the unglaciated Northwest corner that is hilly and scenic. Southern Illinois contains the Shawnee Forest, and the northern and central portions of Illinois have some beautiful prairie remnants. I try to imagine what it looked like two hundred years ago, before the endless acres of lush prairie were converted to other uses. Of course, you’ll want to check out Chicago and Lake Michigan too.
You grew up on a farm with lots of animals. Can you tell us about an unforgettable experience you had with one of the farm animals?
Though working with livestock is always very interesting, I can’t single out a single event. Many animals have their own unique personalities, just like humans, so observing and experiencing animal behaviour can be entertaining at times. One experience that is very vivid in my mind took place during my wildlife research days as a graduate student. I worked with raccoons but also encountered other animals. One day when letting a skunk loose from a live trap, it became very agitated and sprayed me in the face. Since most of the skunks I accidentally captured were even tempered, this was quite a surprise. Rachel Raccoon and Sammy Skunk characters are derived from my research experiences.
What can we expect from Jannifer Powelson in the next 12 months?
I plan to get busy working on the second book in The Nature Station Mystery Series soon, An Unnatural Selection.
Website – www.janniferpowelson.com
Twitter - @JCPowelson
Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the industry?
Whether you are writing a book or trying to market your work, keep your “to-do” list up to date, and try to tackle a few action items every day. Thanks for being with us today. I have to agree with your last statement because little drops of water do make a mighty ocean. Jannifer made some insightful remarks in this interview and we’d both be delighted to hear your questions or comments. Simply leave your question or comment and remember to share with the social buttons below.