A conversation with Jenny
Q: Maine is a new setting for you. What was your inspiration for the change?
Jenny: The Second Mother actually opens in Wedeskyull, the fictional Adirondack town that’s been the setting for my first four novels. In fact, Julie, the heroine, is the niece of the police chief from my debut, Cover of Snow! Until I started writing, I didn’t even realize the police chief had a niece.
But Julie needs a fresh start, and she answers a help wanted ad for a teaching position in a one-room schoolhouse on a remote island in Maine…where things do not go as hoped. Why Maine? I spent some summer vacations there as a child, including trips to the tiny island of Monhegan. It lived on in my soul and my imagination—though the fictional Mercy Island is a darker place.
Q: You have a new publisher and you are launching a new novel in the midst of a pandemic. How is your launch different this time around?
Jenny: One word: virtual. As an author, I was known for going on what media called the world’s longest book tour. When my debut came out, my husband and I pulled the kids out of first and third grades to “car-school” them as we traveled the country, visiting bookstores, libraries, and book clubs. Fifteen months and 115,000 miles all told, over the course of three releases from Ballantine.
When I moved to Sourcebooks, they sent me out on a nine-week book tour on my own.
Neither approach is very quarantine-ready, right?
So, I am visiting bookstores that have become beloved to me for virtual events, hoping to meet with as many online book clubs as will have me—readers, please reach out with invites!—and relying on what has long been the best form of Word of Mouth…the book blogger/reviewers, who are the queens and kings of virtual word-spreading.
Q: What excites you most about this novel?
Jenny: The chance for readers to meet Julie and see how she triumphs over a force she can’t even put a face or name to at first! The Second Mother is about wealth, and privilege, and the bitter legacy they leave. I love seeing entrenched systems topple when they need to.
Q: What are you working on now?
Jenny: I just handed over my new book to my agent. It’s called Silent Son, and it’s about a mother whose child can’t speak, and the psychologist who hunts them down. It’s dark, and culturally relevant, and still allows for victory at the end.
Q: What is you favorite way to relax during this pandemic?
Jenny: Sit on my porch and stare at the mountain. Bake and eat the results. Watch movies and documentaries and reality TV—I recommend Blood and Money, the Netflix series on drugs and also Nadia from the GBBS has a new show of her own, and for pure feel-good escape combined with rubbernecking, Love Is Blind. Read. Currently in the middle of Lee Conell’s debut The Party Upstairs.