Interview with self-published author Jennifer Bogart
Every time, these interviews are a unique journey of exploration for me. I am the lucky one who gets the first peek into these wonderful people’s lives. When I have this overall picture of their background and ideas, I read (a sample of) their work on my Kindle and start piecing the parts together.
Canadian author Jennifer Bogart was one on these really wonderful surprises to me. Such a genuinely nice person! Wish she was my next-door neighbour! Then her work: I love the romance genre, was a Harlequin translator for a bit myself so know the background, and how women’s lit can evolve from that level and become more than a short shot of escapism. That is exactly what Jennifer has done with her book Remember Newvember, it’s not just a romance story, in fact the challenge Willow, the main character, embarks upon is something we can all learn from. How to come out of our comfort zones, break the routine patterns.
Jennifer’s style is relaxed and fresh, quality writing and immaculate editing. Her characters are three-dimensional and the pace feels just right. I wish her loads of luck with her book and all the next ones she’s going to (self) publish.
Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
I live just outside of Montreal, Quebec in what used to be a very small town. Unfortunately, development has gone crazy so it’s not so small anymore. I was born and spent the first half of my life in South Western Ontario before moving to a small town just outside of Toronto. All very boring stuff.
What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?
I had no idea this would be such a tricky question. I like most food – that is, if I’m not allergic to them. Among my favourite: chocolate (of course), cheese, pasta, and unique salads. Of course food is important to me – I snack all day long while writing, not necessarily a good habit, but if the chip bowl is nearby, the ideas just seem to fly. As for cooking – you would have to ask my husband that question. After all, we are all our own worst critics.
Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other hobbies?
I’m not “sporty” but I do go to the gym on average 3 to 5 times a week. Favourite classes include spinning, body pump and hot yoga. I need my workouts the same as I need food. Aside from the health benefits, it’s a way to blow off steam, clear my mind and take time just for me.
Do you have kids? If so, please tell us a little about them?
I have four boys, aged 9 to 14, so our house is a little on the busy side. Occasionally I think I’m ready to be a grandparent. Then I can just spoil the kids rotten, love them, play with them and send them home at the end of the day and leave all the hard stuff for their real parents. Seriously, I wouldn’t trade my boys for anything. One of them is even writing a children’s book. It started out as a gift idea for his little cousins and now he thinks if he self-publishes it, he’ll be a millionaire. It’s nice to see I have some influence over my kids.
Do you like travelling? Where do you go then?
Travelling is a bit of a dream, with four growing boys, and only one solid income, there isn’t much opportunity. Mostly we embark on road trips to visit family and friends.
Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?
In a past life, I worked as a technical writer, but it sucked the creativity out of me. When my two oldest boys were still toddlers, I made the decision to stay home and raise them. So, yes, I have a full-time job of being a mom, wife and community volunteer. We always seem to be busy, but never really doing anything.
How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
I honestly don’t think anyone thinks any differently about me than before I published my book. I have an incredible group of amazing girl-friends who are always encouraging and supportive. There are the usual jokes of “will you remember me you’re famous?”, or “I’m so excited to know a published author”. For the most part, they still feel free to tell me when I’m being an idiot – and that’s what friends are for. The most interesting part of publishing is the friends who come out of the woodwork from days gone by. There are several people, who I haven’t really spoken to since those far-off days of high school, who have asked for signed copies of my book. It’s very flattering to be remembered and terrific to reconnect.
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
For the most part, I’m a very social person. Writing is a lonely activity that I need to balance with other things, so I volunteer at my children’s schools, spend time at the gym and get involved in the community.
Which character trait do you like best about yourself and why? Which trait would you rather do without?
I can tell you I don’t like how lazy I can be. I could even be crowned the Queen of
Procrastination as I have it down to fine art. My best character trait? My husband tells me people like me – I’m not sure what that means, exactly. I guess I make people feel comfortable around me, always have an ear to lend and try really hard to not be judgemental – you never know how a person got to where he is in this journey called life, so it’s really not fair to make assumptions before really getting to know someone. In general, I like people.
Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
I write in the kitchen – in the middle of everything at an old wooden desk my husband used as a child. My view is of the basement door, but if I turn around, I can see our overgrown backyard. I need to be where the chaos is. For some reason, finding a quiet place to write just doesn’t work for me.
Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?
I need coffee, music and my dog, Panda. Sounds strange, I know, but she’s great company when the house is too quiet. She generally lays near my feet, and occasionally lets me know she’s still there by nuzzling my leg or begging for whatever snacks I might have at hand. I guess you could say Panda is my mascot.
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
Remember Newvember is Chick Lit – it’s a bit of fluff and stuff that will carry you through the adventure of someone else’s life and maybe make you take a second look at your own. My favourite description someone offered was “deep investigative thinking disguised as Chick Lit.” My work in progress is more women’s fiction, tackling issues such as body image, self confidence and self-worth.
When I was younger I made attempts at writing both romance and fantasy, those books are hidden away in the basement and only taken out when I need a good chuckle. I think I just “fell into” writing women’s fiction, after all, I am a woman.
At some point you decided to self-publish. Can you tell us how that process developed?
This might sound a little strange, but here is my explanation as to how I came to self-publish. After completing Remember Newvember, including numerous rewrites and edits I queried it out to agents in Canada. There are only about fifteen who will consider women’s fiction, so I knew then that the chances of finding an agent were slim. I gave myself a three-month timeline; if I didn’t get a positive response, I would go ahead and publish it as an e-book, followed by the paperback with the audio soon to be released. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I worried that if I didn’t
constantly move forward with deadlines and goals, I would get stuck on the one book and never write or complete the next one. Maybe Remember Newvember won’t
be the next best seller, but that’s okay, because I have hundreds of other stories just waiting to be written.
How do you feel about self-publishing now? What are the advantages, disadvantages, pitfalls, etc.?
Self publishing is a lot of work, I won’t deny it. You can pay someone to edit, format and distribute your book, but unless there’s a guarantee sale, you’re out of pocket – I’d like to say I did it all myself, but I had a lot of help from fabulously talented friends. I really like that I have complete control over the process. Things like cover design, release dates, and price point are all very important to me. The self-promotion is more work than I had anticipated, but I am learning as I go and starting to figure out how to manage my time more effectively.
Are you in a network of Indie authors? How do you market your own book?
I am a member of Authonomy, which is great for receiving initial feedback in the early stages of the writing process. I follow the Indie Book Collective, whose website is a terrific resource, but to be honest, I haven’t joined any networks of Indie authors.
Currently, my marketing endeavours are very small. Facebook, blog and twitter seem to be the standard. Interviews with other bloggers, and of course, word of mouth. Recently, I spent time delivering copies of my book to local libraries. Libraries are important, because librarians talk – so if they like your book, they’ll promote it. I have also started the leg-work of approaching Independent book stores, and that seems to be going well. It’s all about balancing time for writing, editing, marketing
and distribution. For the most part, book sales have been a result of word of mouth, and I’m okay with that.
When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?
My book was first released at the end of May, 2011. We were on holiday in Jamaica when it finally went live on Kindle. I was so
excited, I kept sneaking off to the internet cafe at our resort to check on my book. After that, I became addicted to checking the sales report. The paperback version has only been available since the beginning of August and I honestly believe my friends and family are more excited about that one than the e-book. It’s something they can hold in their hands and they have all been doing a lot of promoting on my behalf. It’s all very exciting.
Can you tell us some background information on the book? (How did you get the idea, how long did it take you to write and edit it, is it part of a sequel, how does the published book make you feel now?)
Remember Newvember started as my own personal dare. I kept saying I was going to write a book once my children were all in school, but instead I got caught up in volunteering for their school and finding a thousand other excuses. A childhood friend “dared” me to do the NaNoWriMo challenge. I mentioned earlier that I’m lazy, but I also have a small competitive streak, so if I’m challenged to do something and I know it’s my reach, I’ll put my all into it. To make the writing “easy” for me, and to force me to write everyday for 30 days, I decided to write the book in the style of a
journal. The book isn’t any anyway autobiographical, even if a few smaller details from my own life filtered into the work. Essentially, I wrote the book in 30 days, and then spent the following eighteen months rewriting, revising, and editing.
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
I write when I can – it’s that simple. I used to write late at night, but that didn’t really work for our family dynamics. It’s easier to get up earlier and squeeze in an hour of writing while the boys are still sleeping. Once school starts, I’ll have my days to myself and the “plan” is to treat writing like a full-time job. I’m fortunate that our lifestyle allows me to work this way, and I know it’s a tremendous privilege for a writer to be able to devote so much time to her work.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
Since studying Canadian Literature at University, I have to say my biggest influence has to be Margaret Atwood. She started her writing career dashing off Harlequin romances, and has evolved into a tremendous talent. I love her characters, her poetic prose and her ability to take everyday life and make it something exotic. Other favourites include Michael Ondaatje, although I know I could never write like him, and Judy Blume – who, in my opinion, will always be the best writer for preteen girls.
Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
Like ever writer, I see myself sitting in the world’s biggest chain bookstores, sitting on the shelf amongst the best sellers and translated into hundreds of different languages. Well, that would be the dream. Perhaps in five years’ time I’ll be comfortable enough to write in my office, publish a book a year and feel like I’ve really accomplished something with my writing.
THANK YOU SO MUCH Jennifer!!!