Today we have a guest blogger with us, author Jennifer Griffith. I hope you enjoy getting to know more about her and her latest book Big in Japan from Jolly Fish Press. I really enjoyed this interview. I loved how Jennifer’s personality comes alive on the page.
Red Vines or Twizzlers? Both! Red and black. And chocolate. And those nasty rainbow flavors. I love licorice of every make and model—including red licorice flavored saltwater taffy. Heaven! Have you tried that Australian black licorice? It’s super strong and really good. Sigh. I love candy. However, I might have to wait until the next life to eat them because about two years ago I made myself stop eating candy. It’s the saddest thing ever! I miss it every single day. Nevertheless, I still eat cold cereal. Like I say, “I have my double standard, and I’m sticking to it.”
Agent or no agent? Pros and cons. I don’t have an agent. This is simply because both publishers I’ve used have been small and no agent has been needed. I queried the publisher directly. I think I’ve been more fortunate in publishing situations than anyone else I’ve ever talked to, to be honest. My relationships with them have been wholly positive, almost family-like. Luckily, my lawyer husband has been able to sort out contractual jargon. I love working with a small publisher. If relationships are important to you as a writer, look to a small publisher. There are some real advantages to them if you get one you can get along with well.
How has social media helped you to reach/retain your readers and fan base? Any words of advice? Well, right now I have a really young publisher; at Jolly Fish Press they’re all really tech-savvy, and they have encouraged me and all their authors to use social media to the max. It’s been great to have some directed encouragement to put up an Amazon author page, to post regularly on Facebook, and to actually start using Twitter. It’s neat how something can spread like wildfire these days with social media. Boggles the mind.
I don’t know about the term “fan base,” but I do appreciate friends’ support of the book, etc. It’s been fun to see the book take off with everyone’s help.
Please give us a peek into your writing life. How much time each week do you spend writing? Is your desk messy or clean? Do you have a schedule or are you sporadic? What helps you stay motivated? I have five kids, so it’s catch-as-catch-can with writing time. I go through phases where I’m writing, and then phases where I’m trying to catch up on the house and kid stuff. Or, doing some other huge project like painting the interior of my whole house, like I almost finished last fall. Usually my best writing happens in the afternoon when the kids need a break to watch TV. No desk—I hide in my room and pull out my laptop. I try to avoid grabbing cereal on my way in. I try for clean, but it doesn’t always happen. Like right now, there’s a huge pile of laundry waiting for me to watch Downton Abbey and fold it.
The problem isn’t staying motivated, it’s finding balance. I tend to get really focused on the irrational self-imposed random goals I set for myself in writing, and I have to try to avoid neglecting more important things of life, because when I’m in a writing phase sometimes I’ll spend 30 hours a week immersed in the text. This is not ideal. I wish I could be more disciplined and just spend an hour or two a day instead.
If they were to do a movie of your book Big in Japan, who would you want to play your characters? Luckily for me, if Big in Japan became a movie, casting directors would do all the choosing, but I’d love to see someone really tall and blond become Buck Cooper. If Chris Farley were still alive and young, that’d be fun. Did you watch “Sonny With a Chance”—the Disney Channel show? There was a kid on there who maybe could do it, the likable blond kid with the stocky frame. I think his name was Doug Brochu.
I was really surprised at who the publishers chose for Alison Turner and Buck’s parents in the book trailer. Hilarious, perfect choices. I hadn’t thought of them that way, but it totally worked. Here’s the link for it: http://jollyfishpress.com/authors/Jennifer_Griffith/Big_in_Japan/big_in_japan.html It won an award at the League of Utah Writers conference last year. Good for them, right?
If you could make a soundtrack for Big in Japan what songs would you choose? Well, obviously, “Big in Japan” by Alphaville, and “I Think I’m Turning Japanese” by The Vapors. Then some sporty music. Maybe “All Star,” when he’s in the ring? The Rocky Theme might be fun at some point, like when he’s training. It could be so ironic that he’s so unfit and all the wrestlers look so unfit.
What has surprised you about the whole publishing world good or bad? I think the thing I have appreciated the most and that I didn’t really expect is the nice friendships I’ve made not only with the people working at my publishers but also with other authors. I think everyone assumes authors make a bunch of money, and that’s just not the case except for an elite few. For me, I really just write for the creative outlet. If it ever became a negative drag, I’d quit bothering in a heartbeat and just keep all my stuff in my computer, inflict it on my family members and close friends (poor saps). Luckily, in the publishing world I’ve met really super people who are upbeat and positive and great. That’s been the happiest surprise.
What was the inspiration behind Big In Japan? Have you lived in Japan? My husband was the inspiration for the story—as he is for everything. Well, he’s the muse, I should say, not the inspiration. One day we were sitting around talking about my experiences living in Japan as a missionary in the 1990s. I told him about an American guy I’d heard of who’d been a missionary and then came back to Japan because he wanted to be a sumo wrestler—and that he was “getting really big,” putting on weight, etc. My husband said, “That’d be such a great novel. American goes to Japan, becomes sumo wrestler, falls in love.” It spiraled from there.
What is the message of Big in Japan? I’m not sure there’s a built-in message, but I’ve heard of a few people who have taken different things away from the story. One group of women said it made them wish they could help their children “find their sumo”—the skill or talent or interest that transforms them into the being they’re meant to be. I’ve heard others say its message is to not let cultural ideas of beauty or acceptability prevent us from reaching our potential. Others have said, “There’s someone for everyone” is the message. I guess for me it’s just that the good guy can get the right girl if he stays true to his principles.
What writing project are you working on now? I’ve got a novel in the hopper, and it’s still a long way off, but it’s about art, which makes your next question freakishly insightful! Oh, and I spent a few weeks transcribing some oral history from great stories told by my father in law. I’d like to do a lot more of that. That’s something lasting and of worth, I think.
Describe for us what your surroundings would be if you walked into your favorite piece of art. Feel free to be as literal or figurative as you would like. You’ve opened a can of worms here, Rebekah. My favorite painting, an oil of the Castello Aragonese, an ancient fortress off the coast of the Isle of Ischia in Italy, is one I found in the Phoenix Museum of Art about 10 years ago, and it has since been relegated to some attic somewhere, I guess, because it’s not hanging in the museum anymore. This loss is part of the inspiration for my next story.
Here’s a link to the Wikipedia article on the castle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aragonese_Castle It’s such a cool looking thing! So, here goes. (Remember, you asked for this.)
The jolt of the earthquake rattled me to the core and the sandy berm shifted beneath my feet.
Just a half a mile now to the causeway.
I hadn’t been in Italy since I was a teenager, on my dad’s last job, the one that went wrong. I’d forgotten how seismically volatile the area was. Of course it made sense—the hot springs on Ischia, off the coast near Naples, which was why so many Germans and Swedes came to the spas here.
The Italian sea went from glassy to a choppy storm in a heartbeat, as another tremor shook the earth. Mt. Vesuvius in the distance might explode again. Or Mt. Aetna. Whichever. I couldn’t think—the world was too shaky.
I clutched my parcel, heading away from the island’s lush center and down toward the seashore. Blasted seashore. The dreaded water. Sharks, if I wasn’t mistaken. Unless those were just the whitecaps of the waves from the roiling ocean.
At last I reached the causeway, a rocky piling that led to the fortress guarding the bay where it stood on a rocky outcropping in the ocean. Brilliant move to build the massive structure. A castle indeed in the truest medieval sense. Syracuse built that thing to last—its first construction was 464 AD. Not even a brick looked ready to tremble in spite of the tremors rocking the area today.
It only took a few minutes to cover the half-mile distance of the causeway and to begin climbing the steps. I had to get atop the fortress before another aftershock hit.
A rumbling shook the stone steps as I ascended along the outer wall, and I lost my footing. Tiny rocks rained down on my head and shoulders. My knee scraped hard against a flat stone, and drew blood, but the pain didn’t compare to my fear of being crushed by falling rock—or falling myself. It was a long way down to the sea, with only rocky breakers below to break my fall. Or my bones. I scrambled to my feet and tore up the steps three at a time, the whole 600 of them, until I reached the top and entered the fortress proper.
That was when I heard the sound.
It wasn’t human, and it wasn’t geological—but it was louder and much closer than the seismic activity that had been rocking the area. A low growl mixed with a pained whine, perhaps of a dog—only the biggest dog voice I’d ever heard—or maybe a swine or a mythical beast. Whatever made the noise, it didn’t sound happy.
Big in Japan is currently available in both eBook and hard back.
Description: Buck Cooper doesn’t remember when he became invisible. It was probably around the time he hit 300 pounds, and that was quite a few pounds ago. At six-foot-six, he’s the elephant in the room nobody notices. Still, his social leprosy doesn’t keep him from putting in for a promotion in the stats department, or from carrying a torch for the gorgeous Alison, who just might see through the blubber to the real Buck inside.
So when Buck gets Shanghaied to Tokyo for a family emergency, the last thing he expects is to be marveled at everywhere he goes. Little kids run up to him and want to pull the hair on his arms. He’s suddenly the Jolly Blond Giant.
As his life takes a new turn in a country where being big can mean fame and fortune, Buck must embark on the most dangerous yet adventurous ride of his life–to find the ultimate meaning of love and acceptance. Even if it means risking his life and giving up everything he has.