Name: Jennifer Handford
Hometown: Tempe, Arizona
Based In: Northern Virginia
Education: BS and MS in Political Science, Portland State University
Briefly: Author of Daughters for a Time, and one-time Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award winner.
Favorite Read: Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True.
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book I’d Recommend: Stephen King’s On Writing
Up Next: Acts of Contrition, scheduled to release on April 15, 2014
As someone who had spent her entire life living in Arizona, was it pretty scary moving to Oregon for college?
Not at all. When I was younger—in college and in my twenties—I loved the idea of moving around, traveling abroad, and exploring different places.
What was the most helpful course you took while in college—in terms of how it helped your writing and creativity?
When I was a freshman, I took a creative writing course. I don’t remember what I learned, but I remember writing an essay about my parents’ divorce and the teacher commenting that it was “touching.” I still have that essay hidden away somewhere. I thought about that essay for years before I attempted to write a novel.
Was it difficult settling on that sepia photo as the cover for your book Daughters for a Time?
I’ve been very happy with the cover of Daughters for a Time. The softness of it seems to evoke the exact feeling I have about the book.
Now that novel won Amazon’s Breakthrough Writer’s Award. You’ve said in a previous interview that the contest really increased your productivity. Do you think it is best when a writer creates under pressure?
I believe that the writer should not excuse herself or himself from being efficient and productive just because the craft is “art” versus another type of job. The best writers, I believe, approach the craft as a job. Having said that, I’m the worst at following this advice! Writing is hard work, and I put it off as much as I can, kind of like exercising. But I’m not happy with myself when I procrastinate. I think that I should stick to a schedule, whether it is a page or five pages a day. Like many writers, the glory isn’t in writing, it’s in the “having written.”
Where are you most comfortable writing, and why do you think that is?
I write at home in a little nook that juts out of my bedroom. It has a large window so I can look out. And I have my space heater so I stay toasty warm.
What do you think of Reader’s Guides? Some can be helpful. Others not so much, to the point where they practically dictate what the author should think?
Like any book or guide, you take away from them what’s important to you. Good or bad, we learn from any kind of advice—what to do, what not to do.
With Acts of Contrition…would you say that it’s been the most draining of the books you’ve thus far published?
Writing, in general, is draining, because if one is going at it honestly, then he or she is pouring every ounce of themselves into the work. My writing style is to toe the line between being too heavy and too light. In general, my plot lines are fairly simple, but the complexity comes through with my themes. I really believe in theme, as a large portion of any piece of writing. It’s like watching a picture develop. At first you’re just catching a glimpse, but once the theme comes into full view, it’s pretty amazing.
You have a blog. Do you think it’s had had a hand in growing your readership?
If a writer lets it, the job of growing readership can take as much time as the writing itself. I would like to blog more, but it’s a matter of time. With only a few hours a day to call my own, I feel that I should be working on my next book.
Based on some of the things you’ve learned about writing, the business of books, and write-life balance, what sort of counsel would you give to aspiring authors?
If writing is a person’s only passion, then I think that person should write. He or she should approach it like a job and not quit until they achieved publication. However, if one has other interests, then I believe he or she might want to explore those interests, too, especially if that interest leads to a job. In other words, I think someone can be a serious writer and still hold down a day job.
What are your views on self-publishing?
I have heard that it is gaining more respect than it had. Many quality books are now being self-published. Having said this, I don’t have any experience with it so I’m certainly not an expert.