9:10 AM

In the Author Spotlight & Contest

Jean Tennant

CONTEST: I’ll be giving an autographed copy of “Red & the Wolf,” as well as a copy of the 2010 Midwest anthology, “Amber Waves of Grain,” to the person who posts (in my opinion) the most interesting question. So try to come up with something a little more creative than “Where do you get your ideas”!


AL: Hi Jean! Thanks for being in the “Author Spotlight” this week.

Jean: Thank you for having me.

AL: So, tell us what’s happening with you.

Jean: Well, my pet population seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. A few years ago my husband and I took in a little Westie mix when his owner moved to a new apartment that didn’t allow pets. We knew Kirby and said we’d take him. He’s been a joy to have and a wonderful addition to our family. Then, a couple of years ago, my husband’s godmother, age 84, went into the nursing home and didn’t know what she was going to do with her dog, a 5-year-old Spitz. So we adopted Dakota. And just a couple of weeks ago my daughter was told by her landlord that she could no longer keep her Yorkie, Bella. We now have three dogs. My husband is a good sport, though sometimes the yapping does send him fleeing to the sanctity of his garage.

I also have a new grandchild, 4-month-old Brynnlee. I won’t mention her full name here, but her initials are BOSS, which might be prophetic.

AL: Please share with us about a current or upcoming release.

Jean: My most recently release is “Red & the Wolfe: a Lake Okoboji Fable,” which is a romance novel. A while back I kept hearing on the radio that old song, “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. It seemed to be everywhere, and each time I heard it the story would grow in my mind, until I finally had to sit down and start writing. “Red & the Wolfe” is a lighthearted story with serious undertones, and was great fun to write. Besides Red (Riley Renee Harrison), there’s the wolf (Aaron Wolfe), Riley’s grandmother, and even the woodsman (who works for the DNR).

AL: What other works are you deep into?

Jean: Well, with my additional duties as publisher and editor, I’m gathering stories for the upcoming Midwest anthology, titled “Make Hay While the Sun Shines: Fourth in the Series of Stories about Growing Up in and Around Small Towns in the Midwest.”

My publishing company, Shapato Publishing, produced an anthology, “Walking Beans Wasn’t Something You Did with Your Dog: Stories about Growing Up in and Around Small Towns in the Midwest” in 2008. (That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) It was intended to be a one-time thing, but the book proved to be so popular that we followed it up with a second, titled “Knee High by the Fourth of July: More Stories of Growing Up in and Around Small Towns in the Midwest” in 2009. After that, it seemed people expected us to put out another, and what else could we do but oblige? “Amber Waves of Grain: Third in the Series of Stories About Growing Up in and Around Small Towns in the Midwest” came out in November of 2010.

Back to the upcoming anthology … the deadline for submitting a story is April 30th. As we get down to the wire the stories typically come flooding in, which is the case this time as well. I’ve already started doing a sort of triage, where I put the submissions in piles labeled “Yes,” “No” and “Maybe.” “Maybe” is always the largest pile. Near the end of the month I’ll start contacting the authors whose stories did not make the cut, and let them know as gently as possible that I won’t have a place for their work in this anthology. Then I’ll make the hard decision of choosing approximately 35 stories from the “Yes” and “Maybe” piles. In some cases, if I liked a story but there simply wasn’t room for it, I’ll contact the author and ask for their permission to hang onto it for possible use next year. Then I’ll contact the authors of the 35 stories chosen and will let them know that a contract will be mailed shortly.

AL: What do you like best about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

Jean: I love creating characters. Fiction is so much fun, because the author has full creative control over the characters as well as the situation they’re in, and this is such a heady feeling. I haven’t written fantasy, but I’ve written horror (my early books, “Descendents,” “Orphans,” “Wild Card” and others were horror novels written under the name Jean Simon) and that truly is creating another world.

My least favorite part of writing is forcing myself to stop editing and to send my work out. Editing can be a never-ending job if you let it, and I’ve learned that I’ll never be completely satisfied. So at some point I just have to say “That’s enough!” and put it in an envelope. Then, as soon as it’s mailed out I’ll take a look at it on my computer and will say, “Oh, I wish I’d used a different word there,” or “I could have phrased that better.” Never fails.

AL: How do you decide upon your settings? What about the names of characters? Do you ever change either mid-stream into a story?

Jean: I’m an outliner and I work out these details in my first rough outlining process. I have to have my main characters named, the setting decided on and the book titled before I can get into writing my first rough draft. If I don’t have those things I just can’t move forward. Sometimes I’ll use a real town or city for my setting, but more often than not I’ll choose to create a fictional town. That way I don’t have to worry about getting the geography right. I can put a street wherever I want, can name a business whatever I want and don’t have to worry about offending anyone.

For the names of characters I refer to my handy “Ideas File.” In there I have all the names that have struck my fancy over the years and that I’ve just been waiting for the opportunity to use. I like offbeat names if the situation and character warrants it, but will use plain names for secondary or walk-on characters, because too many unusual names becomes a distraction.

And I do not change either mid-stream. Probably because I’ve worked all that out in the outlining process, and by the time I’m working on the book itself the characters are pretty well cemented in my mind. They have to be, for me to start working on the book.

AL: Who inspired you to follow your dream of writing?

Jean: That would be my grandmother, who passed away about 12 years ago at the age of 89. She was an avid reader, as was I as a child, and she was the one person I trusted to share my early attempts at writing with. She was always so encouraging. A few years ago I saw Jody Foster on TV, accepting an award, and she thanked her parents because, as she put it, “Every little picture I drew was a Picasso.” That’s how my grandmother was to me. Every story I wrote was a masterpiece, and that wonderful love and acceptance gave me to the courage to keep writing.

AL: It’s time to get personal! You’re snowed in for a week in the Swiss Alps. You’ve enough firewood and food to get you through the blizzard waging outside. What are three things that you would have to have with you?

Jean: Hmm… I’m assuming “snowed in” means no electricity, so my laptop is no good. In that case I’d want a spiral notebook and a few ink pens so I could write. (You see I very sneakily lumped paper and pens in as one thing.) I wrote my first few books in longhand, so that’s no problem for me, I’d just be going back to my roots.

Would my Kindle work in that setting? If so, definitely my Kindle because that would give me enough reading material for a lifetime. If the Kindle wouldn’t work, then I’d want a copy of “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. I’ve tried numerous times over the years to get through that 1200- page book and have never managed it. Yet it’s one of those I feel I should read, so maybe it would take a blizzard for me to finally accomplish that task.

The third thing would be my glasses. That may sound strange, but I usually wear contact lenses and if something happened to my contacts – if I lost one or they fogged up and couldn’t be cleaned properly – I’d absolutely have to have my glasses to see. I’m fairly blind, and all the reading and/or writing material in the world would be of no use to me if I couldn’t see. Remember that old Twilight Zone episode where Burgess Meredith was the sole survivor of a nuclear disaster, but he was happy because he was in the library and at last he had all the time in the world to read without interruption – then he dropped his very thick glasses and broke them? That would be me.

AL: What favorite movie; or T.V. show makes you hunker down on the sofa and settle in for the night?

Jean: I love the old movies, the classics. One of my favorites is A Face in the Crowd with Andy Griffith before he was ever Andy Taylor of Mayberry. He plays a sleazy character, very different than what people are accustomed to seeing him play. To Kill a Mockingbird is another one I never get tired of.

As for TV, I admit I’m something of a reality show junky. I’ve been watching Survivor since the very first one and I’m still fascinated by it. You couldn’t make up characters like that! So it’s doubly exciting for me that I’m currently editing Benjamin “Coach” Wade’s book, titled “No Turning Back: The South American Expedition of a Dragon Slayer,” which my company will publish it in June. Coach has been on Survivor twice. About 15 years ago he traveled alone by kayak from southern California to South American, a dangerous six-month journey during which he kept a journal. It was a very spiritual experience for him.

AL: What were you like as a kid?

Jean: I always had my nose in a book. I was a shy kid, introspective and moody, in an unhappy family situation (except for my grandmother) and books were a means of escape.

AL: What are you reading in your spare time?

Jean: Spare time??

Well, I just finished “You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness,” by Julie Klam; nonfiction, learning about love and life through dogs. I’m about halfway through “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back,” about a child’s near death experience. And I just purchased “The Promise of Hope: How True Stories of Hope and Inspiration Saved my Life and How they Can Transform Yours,” by Edward Grinnan, the editor-in-chief of Guideposts magazine.

It sounds like I real only nonfiction, doesn’t it? I am partial to nonfiction, but I read fiction as well. I just finished Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy and it was outstanding.

I do tend to read two and three books at a time, which is why my Kindle is such a wonderful device: I can carry dozens of books with my in one portable little package.

AL: Can you share some of your plans for 2011 and beyond?

Jean: I’ve started a blog on writing, which can be read at: www.spencerdailyreporter.com. Titled “The Mad Author,” I’m using it as a platform to put together a nonfiction how-to book of the same name. I want to finish Coach’s book and get it out on schedule. I’ll also be busy working on the upcoming anthology. And, in keeping up with the changing market, I’m busy formatting all of Shapato Publishing’s books for Kindle, Nook and other e-readers.

AL: Please share a favorite quote(s) with us.

Jean: That’s an easy one. “Outside of a book, man’s best friend is a dog. Inside of a book it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx.

AL: Thanks so much for sharing with us, Jean.

Jean: You’re very welcome, and thank you for having me. There’s nothing I enjoy more than talking about writing and books, so this has been a pleasure for me.

AL: If you’d like to find out more about Jean please visit:




Riley Harrison has traveled to her grandmother's house in Lake Okoboji, Iowa, where she plans to visit for a week . . . or so she thinks. All too soon, Riley learns that her grandmother isn't doing well, and can no longer care for the house and guest cabins that make up the Harrison Resort. While trying to straighten out her grandmother's finances, continue her job as a website designer long-distance, and renew old friendships, she meets Aaron Wolfe, a beguiling local restaurant owner and entrepreneur who seems to have his eye on Riley's grandmother's property. Or is his eye on Riley? Can she trust him? Or is he trying to seduce her only so he can get his hands on the Harrison Resort?


They climbed an open stairway to the third level of the house, and there Aaron guided her through a set of sliding glass doors, out onto a balcony. Up this high the wind was sharp and biting. Riley zipped her parka, pulled up the hood and tucked her hands deep into the pockets.

But the view was astonishing, and within moments she hardly felt the cold.

The front side of his house faced the lake, and from the third story balcony they had a clear view of much of the lake in its entire frozen splendor, shimmering with a silent, ghostly radiance. The lights of the amusement park twinkled far to one side, and on the other side she could see a long stretch of curving beach, most of the homes set far enough back on their lots as to be almost hidden among the trees. The moon overhead was a white globe above the treetops, the stars incandescent witness to the scene below.

“Oh, Aaron, this is beautiful,” she breathed. Tears came to her eyes. She tried to tell herself it was from the cold, and not the exquisiteness of the landscape below, but she was nonetheless surprised by her own reaction.

“Beautiful. Yes . . . it is,” Aaron agreed, his eyes only on her. He stepped closer, gripped the hood of her parka on each side of her face, and gently turned her to him.

REMEMBER: I’ll be giving an autographed copy of “Red & the Wolf,” as well as a copy of the 2010 Midwest anthology, “Amber Waves of Grain,” to the person who posts (in my opinion) the most interesting question. So try to come up with something a little more creative than “Where do you get your ideas”!

- Jean


Suzette Silva said...

The book looks interesting, esp being a take on a fairy tale. Do you have any other fairy tale books planned or in the works?

Jean Tennant said...

I'm currently working on another, titled "Goldie and the 3 Baers." The Baers are three brothers, and Goldie must decide which one is just right!

farmergirl said...

What was your favorite book as a child, and did it influence your writing later?

charliegarrett said...

Do you ever use real people in your novels, with only their names changes?

Jeanette J said...

Which one of your characters would you like to become for a week?

Jean Tennant said...

My favorite book as a child absolutely was "Little Women." It was the first one that engaged me as a reader, that was more substantial than the picture books I'd been reading, and I really related to the characters. I admired Jo's spunk and envied Amy's beauty and charm. I still get it out and re-read it every once in a while.

Jean Tennant said...

I've attempted a couple of times to use real people in my novels, but it just never worked. I'd find myself too straightjacketed (I know, I know, that's not a word) by thinking, "Oh, she'd never do that," or "What did he ever do to me that I'm putting him in that situation?" I finally stopped even trying, and now my characters are strictly my own creations.

Jean Tennant said...

From "Red & the Wolfe," I wouldn't want to be Riley, I'd rather be her friend, Lauren. Lauren is divorced, working full time and raising two kids on her own, and I admire her strength.

OMG- I just realized that was my life only a few years ago! Even Lauren's having two kids, a boy and a girl, is what I had at home at the time, struggling at times to get by, to spend time with my children and doing the best I could.

Maybe I patterned Lauren after myself without even realizing it.

marybelle said...

Do you ever lose yourself or immerse yourself so far into your writing that when you come back into the world you have a: "What the ..." moment?