Author Interview: Jenn Bouchard

1.Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I love this question! I have made it a point to engage with readers in many ways. One of the things that I did in my debut year was place copies of FIRST COURSE in little free libraries around the country. In order to do this, I put out an open call on my personal social media for help. So many people came out of the woodwork, including friends I hadn’t seen in decades. It was great to connect with them and ultimately to reach so many more readers. I also love doing interviews like this as well as live interviews on Instagram and Facebook and Zoom, where I can answer questions directly. For many of my New England readers, they loved reading about places they were familiar with. And almost everyone said the book made them hungry.

2.Do you play music while you write — and, if so, what’s your favorite?

I do, and it really does vary. I listened almost exclusively to Ben Folds while writing FIRST COURSE, which is why there are so many references in the book. While drafting PALMS ON THE CAPE last year, I craved jazz. I listened to the John Coltrane station on Pandora throughout the process. Now that I am working on CONSIDERING US, it’s more of a variety. I am gravitating toward a mix of Yacht Rock and late ’90s tunes–things like Oasis, Counting Crows, Dave Matthews, Pearl Jam–the kinds of music my characters would have grown up listening to. I’m still finding my rhythm with that book.

3. Have you ever traveled as research for your book?

Definitely! I only write about places I have been to, and they tend to be mostly around the Northeast. I did include Chicago, where I used to live, and Lake Tahoe, where my sister lives, in FIRST COURSE, because I was so familiar with them. I took extensive notes on a drive (as a passenger) from Portland, Maine to Camden as I wanted to get it 100% right for FIRST COURSE. Several readers have commented that I included all of the bridges along the way… there are so many! I even locate houses in some places where I imagine my characters living. Carlos’ house in PALMS IN THE CAPE was important for me to envision. I found it last summer when I was walking along Mayflower Beach in Dennis on Cape Cod. I could see everything playing out there right in front of me.

4. How did you come up with the title for your book?

While doing laundry. I have no idea why this happens to me, but I get a ton of really important ideas while doing mundane tasks like laundry. Then I have to quickly jot it down so I won’t forget it.

5. How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

A glass of good champagne! I think it’s always important to celebrate. Writing a book is a huge accomplishment, even if it’s just a first draft. You can fix the problems later.

6. How much research did you need to do for your book?

Quite a bit. There are many jokes about the search history of authors since we look up all kinds of strange things. Since I write coastal books, I am often looking up the tides at various beaches, sunrise, sunset, etc. I’ve researched bus, plane, ferry, and train schedules. I look at Google Maps all the time, both to see routes and roads, but also to figure out typical driving distances. I am creating a fake island for my current work-in-progress, so even figuring out logistically where it could sit was important. I also like to include a lot of real-life places in my books, and often that involves visiting them.

7. What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?

We all get stuck sometimes. Sitting down to write can be a big challenge, especially when there are so many other things we have to do in our lives. I had a very tough time writing during the height of the pandemic. I finally made it a goal to write a short story, and that’s when I wrote “Tape on the Floor,” which was published in June 2021 by the Little Patuxent Review. Having a smaller goal for myself was helpful and more manageable. I did the same thing again several months later and wrote “Reveille, Retreat, Taps,” which will be published by MARY. Writing short pieces got me ready to write a novel again. Once I got going with PALMS ON THE CAPE, it went quickly. Those short stories were a good way to get unstuck for me.

8. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

This is not easy for me, since I am a full-time teacher and have two teenage children. I have to schedule writing like one would schedule a doctor’s appointment. It often involves looking at the week and figuring out when I can squeeze in a time slot. I need to have at least an hour to work, preferably two. And if I work too late at night, I can’t sleep. I think about the characters too much and they keep me awake!

9. What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

Author Andria Williams (THE LONGEST NIGHT) told me very early on to be tenacious. That was the best advice I could have heard, because I could easily do that. Writing and publishing isn’t the easiest road, but tenacity can take you pretty far.

10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

The writing community is wonderful. I have made so many new friends since I became a part of it. The writers I have met have been a fabulous support system, and we all look out for each other. I never could have imagined that I would find such a lovely thing to be a part of through writing books.

Jenn Bouchard

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook: @JennBouchardBOS

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