Interview with debut author Jenna Layne

Who or what inspired A Long Ride Home?

The inspiration for A Long Ride Home isn’t actually very exciting! I haven’t done any extensive bike riding myself, but it’s something I’ve been interested in attempting one day so I’ve read a lot online about other people’s experiences. Especially other women who ride alone. I actually had no intention of turning this bike ride idea into a story at all. But as I realized that writing is what I needed to do, that it was my true passion, the pieces sort of just fell together. The question of what storyline I wanted for this first novel hung out in the back of my mind for a several days once I decided that I wanted to write something. As I was browsing around online without much of an agenda, I came across a forum about cycling and then I realized that that would be kind of a cool topic to base a story around. Procrastination paid off this time! Once I knew that I wanted my main character to embark on this grand bicycle journey to discover herself, I just had to figure out what she needed to discover. A lot of Hannah’s mental and emotional journey has been inspired by my own journey. It took a long time for me to come to terms with my sexuality. Hannah stars off in a very similar place of knowing something isn’t right but not quite knowing how or why or how to fix it.


Who or what inspired you to start writing?

I’ve loved reading and writing since I was a kid. I dabbled here and there with writing in my childhood and teen years but never really took it seriously. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my abilities. I had dreamed for so long of becoming on author, but I also didn’t have a lot of confidence that it could ever really become a career. As I got older, grown up life happened, and I went to college and got a job and pretty much gave up on any hopes of writing anything let alone trying to pursue a new career path.


My best friend is responsible for this book in a big way. I wrote it, but I don’t know if I would have had the courage to actually sit down at my laptop without his help. He knew how badly I wanted to write but he also knew how great I was at making up excuses to not do it. A little bit of tough love and a lot of heart-to-hearts and soul searching finally got my butt in the chair. And now after so many years of thinking I couldn’t do it, I did it!


Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

A Long Ride Home is my first and only book (so far!) so I don’t have a lot of characters competing for #1 in my heart yet. But even still, it’s hard to choose one! They all mean a lot to me, especially this particular cast because they’re my first ever characters to actually get a complete story so I get all sentimental about that. But if I had to pick one from A Long Ride Home, it would have to be Shannon. Hannah is pretty similar to me in a lot of ways, so I’m pretty sure I ended up writing my dream girl in Shannon! But I also had a lot of fun writing her because she isso different from me. If writing Hannah was my comfort zone, writing Shannon was like getting to know someone new and really figure out who they are.


How do you approach writing a new storyline?

Funnily enough, as I was writing my first novel, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to think up another storyline! But as I got close to the end of the first draft, I’d started giving my next story more thought. And I realized that I wasable to come up with more ideas if I actually gave myself a chance. As with A Long Ride Home, the setting/situation took shape first. While Hannah and Shannon had almost a love at first sight type of situation (even though Hannah didn’t realize it right away), I’m a sucker for clashes of egos. I knew I wanted my next couple to be rivals of some sort and what inspires more competition than a sports team? So, like my first novel, once I knew what I wanted the situation to be, brainstorming ideas for how different people would react in that situation gave me a lot of ideas for my new couple.


I’m a planner by nature, so I did some general plotting with both books but gave myself enough wiggle room to allow the story to unfold organically. But of course, it’s pretty different than my first book so it’s been interesting to adjust to a new setting and thinking as new people. The first few thousand words felt like I was breaking in new shoes and finding my footing, if you will. But I found that once I stopped comparing my next book to my last book and how that process went and just letting it be its own unique experience, I really got into the groove of the new story. I think that’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind for all my future books!


Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

This is honestly pretty difficult for me to pinpoint. For Hannah, some of her traits were definitely inspired by me. And for Shannon, I thought about what kind of person Hannah would be so drawn to that she’d be forced to confront her own inner confusion and work on her issues. But ultimately the most important thing to me when developing their personalities and their backstories was just trying to be as real as possible. What could have led these people to these paths, and how have their past experiences shaped how they see the world and see love? And while I do plot out the major points and the main details about my main characters, I found that a lot of the backstory came out as I went along. That happened with the minor characters as well. I start out with a basic understanding of who they are and what’s been going on in their lives, and the story builds on it from there.


Where is your favorite place to write?

While I would one day love to have a home office, my “writing corner” of the living room does the trick for now! I’ll occasionally write from the couch if I’m feeling particularly unmotivated and need to ease myself into writing. But my favorite place to write is definitely my desk in the corner of the living room. I have lots of pictures of my family and friends on the wall above my desk so being able to see those front and center when I write warms my heart and can give me a little boost when I feel stuck or when I doubt myself. And now when I sit at my desk, I know it’s time to get down to business and write. It used to be intimidating when I first started writing and even sitting down at my desk felt like such a roadblock. But as I got more comfortable with the process and realized that I was really enjoying it, my desk became my best friend. While at my work desk, I dreamed of coming home to my writing desk and making more progress on my story. I’ve yet to try writing in a coffee shop or library but I plan on giving it a shot soon! Even still, I don’t think anything will beat my good old desk at home.


What is your writing process?

My writing process really transformed over the course of my first book. When I started, I worked full time in an office in a non-writing related job. Once I really committed to the idea of writing a book, it still took a while for me to develop good writing habits. At first, I would come home from work and write a few hundred words. But as with anything, I built up stamina and started writing a few thousand words when I got home from work. Then I started writing on the weekends. And then I started writing on my lunch breaks. Once I got past my mental blocks about writing, the words started flowing. But it did take time to get into a good rhythm. Also, throughout the course of writing this book, I started transitioning back into freelance work (what I’d been doing before I took the office job). It was pretty hectic for a while but even on days when I didn’t want to write or I felt like I was too tired or stressed, I always made myself sit down at my desk and open up my document and write even just a couple sentences. If that was all I could manage I’d leave it at that and promise to try again tomorrow. But a lot of the time I ended up writing far more than I expected. I’ve now gone back to freelancing from home, so my schedule is more flexible for my writing. Now, I sit down at my desk first thing in the morning and write in sprints of about 30-50 minutes and then take a short break.


How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I’ve learned a lot in the process of writing and publishing this first book so there’s definitely been some adjustments to my process and my outlook. As far as my process of writing itself, publishing this book gave me so much more confidence as a writer. Now that I’ve seen the finished product, I know I’m capable of doing it again. Writing doesn’t feel so scary and intimidating anymore so I’ve been approaching my writing process with a lot more zeal lately and really enjoying it.


What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I would say that the best money I ever spent as a writer actually went to my editor! I’m lucky to have a good friend who is an editor and her advice really helped me take my book and my writing in general to the next level. She caught a lot of things that totally slipped my mind or made sense to me but might not make as much sense to readers, both in terms of plot and characters as well as writing style. She helped me polish my book, but the best part of all was that a lot of the tips she gave me can be carried into the future. I’m being extra mindful of them as I write my next book so I can make it even better and keep growing as a writer. Absolutely worth every penny!


What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

I don’t have many readers or fans yet, but the ones I do have are so lovely! One of my favorite comments came from a reviewer that said she had tears in her eyes towards the end of the book. When I read that Ihad tears inmy eyes! I never expected that I would be able to reach someone to that extent and move them so much with my writing, so it was a very touching experience for me as well.


What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

Oh man, this is a tough one for me. I think I’ll have to go with The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I first read this in middle school and I’ve read it every year since. I’ve loved reading since I was a young child, but this was the first book I read that really got me to think about the bigger picture of life and society. It impacted me a lot during a formative time in my life and I realized for the first time that even though people might seem very different, we might have more in common with each other than we think. And the characters felt so real to me that I still cry every time I read it. I think that book taught me a lot about some important life lessons as well as the power really great writing can have.


Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

Yes, I have a new book in the works! It’s about two women on a college soccer team who are both very competitive and want to be the star of the team so of course they end up butting heads. They’re both driven by deeply rooted family expectations so neither of them feels like they can back down to the other. But over time they discover that they work really well together for the betterment of the whole team, and naturally they fall in love! There will be ups and downs and a lot of growth but ultimately they will get their happy ending.


How do you take your coffee?

I love coffee in many different ways! I usually like it with cream and sugar or a nice, flavorful creamer. But I have been experimenting with black coffee lately. I was convinced I would hate it but it’s actually growing on me!

Author: melzie88

Secondary education major specializing in English, book blogger, puppy mom.

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