Q+A w/ an Author You Need to Know
Welcome to installment, #5 with Author, Jennifer Harris
The smart, genuine and often outspoken author of Ruby, Jennifer Harris joins us here at Life Goes On, Vonna.
Jennifer lives in her hometown, St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and two daughters, where she is busy finishing her BFA at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Additionally, Harris works as a freelance editor and blogger, AND runs the platforms, The Ideal Firestarter (http://theidealfirestarter.com) as Lead Administrator and her second platform
I Breathe Fire (http://jenniferharrisbreathesfire.com) where her other work can be found.
Harris's first novel, RUBY, was published in September 2018. It is available on Amazon.
Q: WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
A: I was born June 24th, six months before Christmas. Some calendars call my birthday, St. John the Baptist Day.
Q: WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE WRITERS?
A: I’m such a bibliophile! Some of my favorite writers are: Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni and Anne Rice.
Q: DO YOU KNOW THE STORY OF HOW YOU WERE NAMED?
A: Ha! The story of how I was named is pretty funny, actually. My mother was a fan of the 1980’s show, Heart to Heart. She liked Jennifer Heart, and thought that would be a good first name for a girl. My mother and Godmother were a fan of the show Dynasty. There was a character on the show named Fallon. My father misheard this and thought it was Phylon. From that mishap, I was named Jennifer Phylon.
Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you? A: Writing energizes me! It is this thing that I can do to create, get more energy, and to center me in a shifting world. When I write? I am most myself.
Q: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? Or want to?
A: When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I went on a pilgrimage of sorts to Calvary Cemetery here in St. Louis. I went to visit the grave of Thomas Lanier Williams—known throughout the world as Tennessee Williams. I needed to be reminded that I was writer. One of his famous quotes which came from his time living in St. Louis, before moving to New Orleans, was St. Louis was a ‘necessary adversary.’ Between the demands of motherhood, my marriage ending, and fighting to write, I needed to ‘see’ someone who, too, felt that way. I needed to see his grave as proof I wouldn’t, couldn’t die holding all I had to say.
Q: What does literary success look like to you?
A: Literary success to me is being able to write full-time, with no need for a day job. This includes having my work recognized on best-seller lists, namely the New York Times Best Seller list! The additional successes that follow, I would hope, would include having my work adapted for stage and screen.
Q: Do you think there is a void in the industry that you could fill? If so, where and how could you fill it?
A: I believe there is a void in the industry as it relates to representation and support of Black writers. I believe through the mentorship program I have created that issue of being seen and heard will change. This program will give those whom have a desire confidence to know they can. While, providing a community to network within.
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I have been writing as a career since 2014, although I have been writing since I was 8.
Q: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A: I have considered myself a writer when I was about 12. I no longer wanted to go to medical school, I wanted to go to NYU to study English. Words came more natural to me. The shift from science, to the arts was confirmation of the gifts I had.
Q: How do you handle writer’s block?
A: Hmm. I handle writer’s block one of two ways. The first is I step away from the work. I take a break from it altogether: I let my mind rest. Once I rest a little, then I can go back to it.
The second way I handle writer’s block is to answer this question: “What am I scared to say?” If I can answer that, when I answer that, I work through it. I have to wonder, why is it a fear? Should it be a fear? This act of deconstruction allows me to free myself of the hang-ups that come with writing about certain topics.
Q: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
A: At last count, I have written 11. My favorite book that I have written, is actually a memoir called, WriteLife.
In this book, I was able to talk about my love of writing. I was able to express why I consider this a craft, and why I'm continually drawn to it.
Q: Do you have a favorite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special.
A: Amina. She is character I created in a 10-part story called History Making. The reason why she is so special to me is she allowed me to dip back into my first love: horror writing. Amina was a vampire and completely able to be loving and savage. It was good to be able to stretch my talents.
Q: What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?
A: If I could have one author to be my mentor, it would be Nikki Giovanni. I have always loved how unapologetic she is. I have just now tapped into that power of being okay with writing angry. Of being passionate, and clear in my written intent. I would love or her to be my mentor. I believe she could give me tools and confidence to truly write better about this Black, female experience.
My favorite song of the moment is NFWMB, by Hozier.
Where to find more on author, Jennifer Harris:
The Ideal Firestarter (http://theidealfirestarter.com)
I Breathe Fire (http://jenniferharrisbreathesfire.com)