Jenny Gardiner is the #1 Bestselling Kindle author of the award-winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver; the memoir Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me; the novels Slim to None (#1 bestseller on Kindle); Anywhere but Here; Where the Heart Is; and Accidentally on Purpose and Compromising Positions (writing as Erin Delany); and is a contributor to the humorous dog anthology I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship. Her work has been found in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post and on NPR’s Day to Day. She and her family live in Virginia. Check out her website here.
Let the conversation begin!
Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?
I’d like to publish lots of books–I love to write so the more books I can publish the better!
If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?
That’s a tough question. I have absolutely no idea! But I’d want it to be a fabulous story!
Do you begin with character or plot?
I start loosely with a plot but my books tend to be character-driven.
Tell us about the book you’re working on.
That’s hard to say because I’m always working on several books at once–and I don’t like to disclose anything about them till they’re ready to see the light of day!
What is your favorite quote?
Play the ball where the monkey drops it. I overheard someone talking about this once while I was in line at a bookstore. She was saying that her husband had been on a vacation golfing in Thailand, and apparently the monkeys tend to run off with golf balls, so the rules were to just hit the ball wherever the monkeys leave them. I thought it was a great metaphor for life: you gotta play the hand you’re dealt.
Describe your perfect day.
After a great night’s sleep I wake up to a beautiful sunrise, on board a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands. We (family and good friends) spend the day island-hopping, stopping at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke island, then tool over to Foxy’s on the other side of the island. Definitely some snorkeling throughout the day. Cook dinner on the sailboat, maybe sip champagne at sundown. Just kicking back with family and friends and having a fun and relaxing time.
What was the best thing that happened to you this weekend?
Funny you ask! We had a day-long meditation retreat that was the culmination of a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class I’d been taking. It was “mandatory” and I wasn’t sure if I was looking forward to a day of silence and meditation but it was absolutely amazing–a real gift. I’d highly recommend it to anyone!
Who inspires you and how are you a bit like them?
Oh, my. I take inspiration from all sorts of people and places. I’m inspired by fabulous writing to be a greater writer. I’m inspired by good people to be a better person. I’m inspired by a beautiful sunset or a powerful thunderstorm.
If you were an animal, who would you be?
Well….I have taken to being a little bit obsessed with baby polar bears ever since they showed that adorable baby polar bear Siku in Denmark. He is just so adorable I can’t stand it.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from all sorts of places. Sometimes I pull characteristics from all sorts of people I come across in my life and create them into composite characters. But I also pull things from things I hear in the news and just sort of use that for launching points in my books.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Trust in yourself and don’t give up. And don’t let success get to your head.
What was the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
Ha! Long ago we traveled in Africa and in Zaire we ate truly disgusting fondue (cooked in thick, cloying palm oil) and the meats served were boa constrictor, elephant ;-(, crocodile, and monkey. In Nairobi we ate ostrich, which is now more mainstream here since people farm ostriches.
What do you consider to the most valuable thing you own?
My family, though it’s not something I “own” but it’s the most valuable thing to me.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
One time John Grisham told me you have to write every day to be a writer. I think that’s the only writing advice I ever remember getting, so I guess I’ll put that down.
What one word describes you?
Determined. If only you knew what the amount of effort I’ve put into making it in this business you would certainly agree that I’m doggedly determined! No doubt it is rooted in the fact that I suck at math so my professional options have been more limited so it made it all the more incumbent upon me to succeed as a writer!
What would you like your life to look like in ten years?
Lots of bills paid off (please!), we’re able to travel a lot. Am writing a book or two a year and they’re self-sustaining enough that I don’t have to spend a ton of time doing marketing and publicity. Maybe I’d be a grandmother then. Yikes!
Most embarrassing moment?
When I was a high school cheerleader. Our little basketball team was in the playoffs, it was being held at a Catholic school, the court was like part of the church and the stands were in balconies, we had to run up and down the steps every time there was a time out. It was getting heated, the fans from the other school were being really ugly. It went into overtime, there was a time out, we ran downstairs, out onto the court, did our cheer. The other fans were yelling nasty things to us, we ended up cheer with our arms up in a “V”. And then I impulsively flipped the finger to the jeering crowd. Not my most shining moment, I admit…
What’s the first item on your bucket list?
I don’t have a bucket list!
The work is done. How do you recharge?
Love to go out to dinner with friends. That or just sit home with a fire in the fireplace and catch up on TV with my family.
What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?
Probably ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE. It was just an impulsive book I wrote after reading an article about a woman who’d been impregnated twice by a donor’s sperm and then she made this weird ritual with her children sort of idolizing their “donor” and then they ended up tracking him down and moving to the city where he lived and tried to insinuate themselves into his life. He was mildly intrigued with his progeny but had no interest in forming a family. I found that so fascinating so just started noodling ideas of doing something with a donor. It was also easy because it was early in my writing career before marketing and promotion sucked my time away, which is a great frustration.
Hardest book is whatever I’m currently writing because it is so hard to just find time to focus on that and not be distracted with the myriad marketing/promo things I have to do to sell books.
Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress?
Honestly I’d probably enjoy having someone read my work while I write to get a sense of if they like it, but it’s hard to find someone to actually commit to reading something in a timely manner. I used to try to get people to do it but it usually didn’t work.
Outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?
Total pantser. Outlining gives me hives.
What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue?
A spa. How about a lovely meditative waterfall? That would be peaceful. A really comfortable chair, some soundproofing maybe.
In grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer! (Partly because I sucked so much in math).
Easier to write before or after you were published?
Before, simply because now the demands on my time have become so great.
Earliest childhood memory?
It’s hard to know, it might just be from pictures that I remember it. But there’s this time when I was little dressed up in cute little girly girl clothes with a “mink” stole around my shoulders, while wearing a combat hat and with a toy machine gun slung over my shoulder, teetering around in a pair of my mom’s high heels.
What is your secret talent?
I can tie maraschino cherry stems in knots with my tongue.
What’s one rule you’re dying to break?
How about the rule that you can’t eat whatever you want and not gain weight?
If this was your last day on Earth, what would you do?
Spend it with my family.
What initially drew you to writing?
Books always spurred my imagination, and well-written books always motivated me aspire to that skill.
If you could spend a vacation with three authors, who would they be?
I love Jean Shepherd’s memoir IN GOD WE TRUST ALL OTHERS PAY CASH. His writing is so spot-on, clever, funny, compelling: I have a feeling he’d have been a really interesting person to hang out with. I loved CATCHER IN THE RYE a lot but JD Salinger, I don’t know, a bit hermit-ish to vacay with…I’m sure there are other authors I’d enjoy hanging with but off the top of my head can’t think of any. Certainly some of them who are friends of mine–that’d be fun!
Daily word count?
Hard to say. I write in spurts, sometimes I’ll knock out a ton, and then not do anything for weeks. Other times I am writing a lot but it’s for other things, not whatever novel I’m working on (i.e. freelance writing jobs, writing blogs, etc). When I get going on a book though I’ll just hunker down and block out the world and write. Feast or famine maybe.