Q: Your story Life in a Nutshell made it to the top 10 of the 2014 edition of World’s Best Story. Did you think you were going to make it so far? How did you react when you got the news live from The Toronto International Book Fair during the live finale this past November?
A: When I entered Life in a Nutshell to World’s Best Story, I didn’t know what to expect. I was hopeful my title would be one of the finalists, but the competition was stiff, and, in this industry, it’s difficult to gage advance reader response.
As I watched Life in a Nutshell move up in the ranks, I was exhilarated and at the same time I felt a knotted fist in my gut. Hopeful but nervous too.
I was on top of the world when the announcement was made Life in a Nutshell was a top 10 finalist. I don’t think I’ve come down from the clouds yet.
Q: World’s Best Story 2014 Judge Cheryl Kaye Tardif gave Life in a Nutshell a review, “A great mix of humor and tension – a great read!” What did her review mean to you?
A: I was honored that Cheryl Kaye Tardif, an impressive presence in the literary world, found Life in a Nutshell a “great read”. It’s quite a feather in my cap that she took the time to read Life in a Nutshell, noting it was “A great mix of humor and tension”. I’d like to thank her and all the judge’s for World’s Best Story for their time and dedication.
Q: Life in a Nutshell introduces readers to Riley Jones whose husband, Jack, told her he was planning a blow up birthday surprise for her, but Riley didn’t expect the surprise to come prettily wrapped as divorce papers. Homeless, husbandless and penniless, Riley scrambles to pick up the pieces. Can you tell us a little more about Life in a Nutshell?
A: I’d be delighted. I’ve been gifted with the ability to find humor in life’s worst situations. Likely a finely honed coping skill dating back to a previous life on an alternate planet. Or, it could be I’m weird. A divorcee myself, it’s natural for “what if” scenarios to play through my mind. This series of “what ifs” breathed life into Riley Jones, the female lead in Life in a Nutshell. After that, it was easy to envision Riley running into a steamy old flame. From there, the characters began to create their own story, and I ran with it.
Q: Part of your prize package includes being published with FastPencil. How has the experience been so far?
A: It has been a pleasure to work with FastPencil. The FastPencil program is easily understood, even by someone as technologically challenged as me. The support team was there to advise and direct when I found myself lost in the matrix. Working with the expert FastPencil team, we were able to produce and publish a high quality work.
Q: Thanks to a lucky reader who won a 2000$ shopping spree from World’s Best Story sponsor, Beyond The Rack, he decided to give it to you. I hope you did not spend it all in one day. Care to share what some of your Beyond The Rack goodies were?
A: I was surprised (and humbled) when the shopping spree was generously gifted to me by a reader slash fan. I would like to say I went on a wild shopping spree and bought tons of frilly things, but I didn’t. My fingers stutter as I type this because there are things I do “behind the scenes” that I don’t want spotlighted.
The shopping spree was awarded in winter, a time when some in my community were battling the cold and struggling with utility bills. The majority of my gift went to purchase linens, towels, pillows and blankets to distribute to others who were doing without.
The prize winner’s generosity warmed the hearts and homes of many this past winter and he is greatly appreciated for his gesture.
Q: What story has influenced your life?
A: Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell, written in 1960. It’s based on the true story of Juana Maria, a Nicoleno Native American who was stranded on San Nicolas Island in the 19th century for eighteen years. My girlish imagination transported me to that island, where I envisioned myself watching for a rescue ship. The main character, Karana, appealed to my inner child-warrior. For a time, I was Karana, fighting off wild dogs, swimming against
strong ocean tides, building a home out of whale bones and learning to hunt for survival.
I was an avid reader as a child and devoured many fabulous books. Books were, and continue to be, delicious mind candy. Minus the calories.
Q: Do you have any advice to aspiring writers?
A: If you are passionate about writing, write. Tell your story using your own voice. Listen to those voices in your head. Don’t be afraid to break the rules. E. L. James broke the rules with Fifty Shades of Gray. Rules were meant to be broken. Write what scares you. There will be time for revising and editing later (putting the polish on the pickle, so to speak), the key is to tell the story. Read. Read a lot. Believe in yourself. Rejections go with the territory, expect them. Develop a thick hide. Hone your craft and connect with experts in the field and learn from them.
Q: What are the ingredients for a blockbuster story to you?
A: A blockbuster story must come alive for the reader. There are a series of believable conflicts and characters that readers identify with or feel connected to. The plot will be well paced with a series of highs and lows or unexpected twists and turns, to keep the reader engaged. It will have a conclusion that ties all pieces of the story together. Most importantly, it will be unforgettable.
Q: What story do you enjoy reading over and over again?
A: There’s a conglomeration of books I read repeatedly and it’s not limited to one genre. I enjoy comedies that carry a laugh out loud punch. Darynda Jones and Janet Evanovich deliver. If I want something darker, I reach for Stephen King or Dean Koontz.
Q: How would you increase literacy?
A: I’d start by unplugging electronics. Today’s child has advanced technology not available to previous generations. Turn off the television, disconnect the wi-fi, and pick up a book. Read. Stimulate a child’s imagination through the telling of stories and match those stories to each child’s interests. Get children so excited they reach for a book rather than a remote.
Q: What’s on the horizon for Jeannie Palmer?
A: There are many exciting things on the horizon. At present I’m completing the sequel to Life in a Nutshell, called Life Bites. Riley Jones’s adventures and misadventures continue, with a few added ingredients to spice things up. There will be new characters as well as the familiar characters you love.
I’m also working on my second YA book that’s apocalyptic in nature. The story is so alive inside me I can hardly wait to see how it turns out. When you write a story and you feel you are eating, breathing and living it, you know you’re onto something good.
Q: What is your favorite drink while writing and/or reading?
A: If a man created the perfect caffeine IV drip I believe I will have found my soul mate. I enjoy a steaming cup of Columbian coffee during cold weather and switch to my favorite iced coffee during the summer. Aside from that…there is no aside from that.
Q: What is your must have snack?
A: I don’t usually snack, but if time constraints keep me from preparing a meal, a tray of vegetables is at hand to nibble as I write. Alternatively, summer sausage, variety cheeses, and whole wheat crackers. I’m such a culinary daredevil.
Q: If heaven exists, what is the first thing you would like to hear from God when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
A: I write humor but I am strongly spiritual and believe in heaven so I hoped to have a really profound answer. What I would like to hear is “Welcome, my child, you have lived your life well.”
What I would likely hear, (In a big, booming voice) “What in tarnation were you thinking?”
You can follow Jeannie: http://jeanniepalmer.blogspot.ca/