Author Spotlight: Jennifer Ponce

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Jeninfer Ponce is an urban fantasy author who published her first book The Bazaar in January, 2014. She works as an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault as well as travels throughout the Panhandle of Nebraska to speak about healthy relationships, the dynamics of intimate partner violence, and healthy sexuality. She’s been reading since forever and thinks the only bad book is one that hasn’t been written yet.

Authors Welcome had the opportunity to asked Jennifer a few questions about her book and her writing process.

AW: Tell us a little bit about your book.

Jennifer: The idea for The Bazaar started as a dream. Devany Miller, my main character, didn’t come until later, when I realized that the dream was only a scene. A good scene, but still, one scene does not a novel make. I had to work backward from the scene to figure out who it was happening to, why it was happening, and where I’d go after that. It took quite a bit of playing around with words to get to the book I have now. The first chapter was the hardest and I swear I rewrote that at least ten times. Completely rewrote it. Scrapped the old, started again. Good thing, too. I love the beginning now and it was worth the sweat and tears.

AW: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Jennifer: My “Ideal Reader” is someone who loves adventure and fantasy. They love strong female characters, horror, monsters, and funny stuff. I expected that women would enjoy my book and have been quite pleased that I’ve had several great reviews from men who thought it was great, too.

AW: How did you come up with the title for your book/series?

Jennifer: The title, The Bazaar, comes from the bazaar in the book, where the outlaw witches sell human body parts to fuel their magic. It’s not a good place. I used The Bazaar as well because it’s a homophone for bizarre—and there certainly are a lot of bizarre things in my book. (A floating, talking fleshcrawler head, for one. His name is Nex. He grows on you, dangling intestines and all.)

AW: Tell us a bit about your cover design? Who designed it and did you have a lot of input into the design?

Jennifer: Despite all current wisdom, I designed the cover myself. I found GIMP this summer and fell in love. How could I not make my own cover? Plus, I put Nex on there, using my youngest son’s head as the framework. He loves that he’s on the cover, albeit looking quite different! My cover went through almost as many incarnations as my first chapter. I asked a lot of people for their feedback and adjusted, changed, and revised until I had something I really liked, that represented the story I wrote.

AW: How long did it take to complete your novel?

Jennifer: This book took about six months to finish. Rewrites and revisions took about two years. I’ve learned I have to give myself deadlines in order to get things finished faster. I do think the extra rewrites and revisions helped me find the best first chapter, as well as gave me a chance to figure out that the book would be a series and not a standalone.

AW: Did you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what did you do to get out of the funk?

Jennifer: Yes. A lot of the block was me not setting a deadline for myself and not being disciplined enough to write every day no matter what. Now that I’ve made writing a habit (and I’ve written over 260 days in a row now) I don’t get writer’s block. I don’t allow it. If I have to write something brand new to get the words out, I do that. If I have to write utter dreck to get the words out, I do that. My deal with myself is that I write. Sick or not. Busy or not. Tired or not.

AW: Tell us about the challenges of getting your first novel published? About how long did it take?

Jennifer: I submitted my novel to Harper Voyager last year, during their open call. My book made it past the first, second, and third cuts (almost a year) before they finally sent me the rejection. By that time, I’d decided I didn’t want to submit and resubmit and subject myself to anymore year-long wait times. I’d been researching self-publishing for a long time, liking the idea of having control over my own destiny. I’m not only happy that I decided to do it on my own, I’ve become a better writer because of it. Or, perhaps it would be better to say, a more disciplined writer. I like the feeling of accomplishment. I like seeing my book on Amazon, on my Kindle, on my bookshelf and knowing I did the work to make that possible.

AW: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Jennifer: That’s a hard one! (And I’ll bet every writer says that, huh?) I love Devany, my main character. She is a lot braver and more courageous than I am. Then there’s Nex, a complete surprise as a character (I had no idea his mate would take his head and give it to Devany, and that, once severed, he could live on as a new creature.) Plus, I enjoy Neutria, the assassin spider (who was only going to be an assassin and not a main character. She was in that original dream. Little did I know how strong her personality was.)

AW: Who is your least favorite character and what makes them less appealing to you?

Jennifer: I don’t care for Yarnell. He’s the leader of the group of outlaw witches and he believes in the justness of what he’s doing. He thinks of humans as cattle and doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with dragging them to his world and using their body parts to fuel his magic. His people are losing their power and humans are an easy fix. If a cow could fuel your house for a month, effectively cutting your electric bill to zero, wouldn’t you go grab yourself a cow? He feels justified in taking lives and that makes him oogy, dangerous, and very unappealing.

AW: If you could change only one thing about your novel, what would it be?

Jennifer: There are a few bits and bobs of setting I would add to. I know my strong suit isn’t describing the setting and I wouldn’t mind going back and taking a crack at making the places in the book pop more.

AW: Give us an interesting or fun fact about your book/series.

Jennifer: Many of my characters, species, and other-worldly place names came from me playing with Google translate. For instance, I have beings called Skriven in my book. They are demon-like and they live in the spaces between worlds. I came up with Skriven by typing in demon and translating the word into other languages. A little adjustment. A little tweak, and voila.

AW: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike? Did they inspire you?

Jennifer: I really love Faith Hunter and her Jane Yellowrock series. At the time I wrote The Bazaar, only two of her books were out. I think her Beast and my Neutria would like each other, though Beast is a puma and Neutria is a spider. (A giant spider.) I think they would respect each other’s hunting abilities.

I also love Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series. Her demons are amazing and helped to inspire me to write my own.

AW: What made you decide to become an author?

Jennifer: My friend Kathy and I played with Barbie dolls growing up. Only we didn’t play the way a lot of kids did. We created elaborate plots, worked out all the scenes, and only then did the dolls come into play. It was only after carrying around the dolls became embarrassing that we had the brilliant idea of writing our stories down instead. My first writing was collaborative and fun and it grew from there.

AW: What is the toughest criticism that you have received as an author?

Jennifer: I love to write about funny things. Silliness. Vampires who fall in love with dumb but beautiful people. Karate chopping old ladies. In college I minored in fiction writing and my professor hated my funny stuff. He didn’t get it. I worked hard on the funny stuff and he knocked it down. So anytime I write funny, I scrutinize it extra hard because of that experience.

AW: What is the best compliment?

Jennifer: One of the reviewers on Amazon, who said, “Devany Miller has earned the distinction of becoming my most favorite, fictional female character.” That whole review made my day.

AW: Do you have another job or are you a full-time author?

Jennifer: I work at a domestic violence/sexual assault program. We work to empower victims of violence, help them stay safe, and raise awareness about these issues. A lot of what I do now is travel throughout our service area giving presentations and speaking to people about healthy relationships, dating violence, and sexual assault. I would like to write full-time someday. Until then, I’m working to change the world, one person at a time.

AW: What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have a new novel or project that you are working on?

Jennifer: I’ve recently created what I call my Epic Two-Year Writing Schedule. I’m editing a vampire horror novel which I plan to publish in April and a lighthearted paranormal mystery romance that I will publish in May. The Bazaar is part of a series. The second book is written and needs edits and I’m currently writing the third in the series. It’ll come out in June. And many more!

AW: Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Jennifer: Be organized. Keep track of who you’re submitting to and be persistent. I, admittedly, was not persistent or organized. I’m much more organized and persistent now, because I’m working for my own pleasure and working for myself. It made a big difference for me and my writing to go it alone.

AW: How do you market your book?

Jennifer: Good question! My next step is to sit down and work on an Epic Marketing Schedule to compliment my writing schedule.

AW: Do you have a Facebook author page or Twitter that we can give out to our readers so they can follow you?

Jennifer: I do! My Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/jenponceauthor My Twitter page is: @jenponceauthor. You can also visit my website at www.jenniferponce.com. I feature other authors on my page, you can see what my upcoming books are, and you can read some short stories on my blog. A one stop shop for sure.

 

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