October 12th, 2018
I asked Jensen where she would like to chat:
I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty nervous. I’ve dealt with minor social anxiety my entire life so meeting someone new, even someone I’ve spoken to online, is making my hands shake and heart race. Of course I arrived early too. Good job, Jensen.
I’m seated by a handsome waiter and order a cinnamon chip scone and some hazelnut coffee while I wait. Coffee totally won’t help but I like it and it’s a beautiful, albeit chilly, autumn day. My waiter leaves and I turn to the small park across the street. Most of the trees around the café are bright yellows and oranges, which match the leaf-printed scarf I chose for today. It goes well with my long sleeve brown shirt and calf-high boots. Totally one of my favorite outfits. There are a couple of families with small kids at the playground and their squeals make me smile. My boys would like this park, but we rarely come into the cities.
I’m halfway through my scone when I spot Laura. She’s looking gorgeous and, funnily enough, it appears we have the same boots and jeans on. My wave catches her eye and, with a wide smile, she waves back. The screams begin while she’s waiting for the crossing light to change. I’m startled enough that my coffee tips and quickly stains the white tablecloth brown. I jump back to keep it off of me, but the screaming is so loud now it pulls my focus. Several women, a child, and at least one man’s yells shatter the still air. In the park, a man in a sweatshirt and loose jeans tackles another off of a small girl. The girl’s screams assault my ears as I pull out my phone and dial 911. She stands and, even from across the street, I can see blood soaking into her pale yellow shirt. The man who was tackled flails wildly and claws at the one on top on him. I search for Laura as the line rings and rings in my ear. Horns honking several blocks down are quickly drowned out by sirens. I finally find Laura as she hurries across the street with her laptop bag clutched tightly in her arms. It reminds me of my own so I turn for it, but her startled yelp makes me spin around again.
Handsome waiter guy is between Laura and I, and shuffling towards her. We both yell at him but he doesn’t react. Without thought I heft the metal chair beside me and run towards him. It hits his head with a crack but he only stumbles a little before turning to me. My eyes widen as bloody tears roll down his face from pure white eyes. He opens his mouth and blood drools across his chin so I scramble for the wrapped silverware on the closest table and hope there is a knife. The red napkin floats on the breeze to the ground as I shove the knife into the waiter’s neck. He lets out a wet gurgle and stumbles into the table on his left before tumbling to the ground. I grab Laura’s wrist and find myself wondering if his eyes were rolled back or if the bright blue was washed out. I tug her away from the café and chaos.
“We need to get out of here, NOW,” I tell her as we begin to run.
“Wha.. what is this?” Her voice is shaky but her strides are strong as she matches mine.
“Frickin’ zombies,” I sigh as we dodge a crazy person on a bike. “We need to get out of the city.”
Laura Mae: Hello Jensen, how are you doing today?
Jensen Reed: I’m good. Exhausted as hell…but that’s mom life for ya.
L: Aw! Another mom writer! I love it! How many kids do you have?
J: I have two boys, 5.5 and 3.5. Both are in school this year – Kindergarten and Pre-K.
L: Oh that’s exciting! How are they liking it so far?
J: It’s been a big adjustment for the older one. He’s struggled, but we’re working through it. He loves his school though! It’s a STEM based elementary and is an AMAZING school. We are soooo happy he won the lottery for getting in. The little one loves the idea of school but doesn’t actually like being there until he’s been in class for like 10 minutes haha.
L: Lol That’s awesome! I’m glad they are getting adjusted. I bet now that they are in school, is mom able to get more writing in?
J: Nope! Little one is only in class 3x a week for 2.5 hours, and for one of the days I’m in the building with him in a class of my own where we learn about the kiddo’s development and meet with parents in the class. So I usually use my other two days to work in the preschool’s library (I’m a library co-chair with the parent advisory council) or catch up on blog stuff or whatever. My writing time is still designated to after the boys are in bed until I need to go to bed. It’s been that way since my oldest was one.
L: Oh wow! You’re kinda doing it all! Good for you, but as you said, I’m sure it’s exhausting. After bed would probably be the best time then. Can you tell us what you’re working on right now when you do have the time?
J: The Refuge Series. I’m revising book one, Ranch. It’s been my WIP since 2014. It has had several rewrites and has been completed twice. Here is the little blurby thing I have that totally isn’t finalized: My WIP is The Refuge Series. It’s a zombie apocalypse series that follows Lucky and Mack as the outbreak happens. Book one: Ranch Lucky Bailey is a decisive leader who strives to protect those he cares about. When shit hits the fan, he takes his twin sister and best friend to his parent’s ranch that’s an hour from the city. There they work to fortify it and keep everyone safe, including all those who arrive seeking shelter. Mack Canton comes to the Ranch with her best and only friend Kai, who works and lives there as a hired hand. She struggles with severe social anxiety and frequent panic attacks, but is a quick learner and intuitive. After an unexpected, but preventable, death occurs, events start spiraling and everything seems dark. How can Lucky and Mack pull everyone together and keep them safe? What happens when one of them leaves and doesn’t get back in time?
I am revising Ranch until NaNoWriMo when I plan to throw myself into writing book two, Recourse. There will be four books in total with a short novella prequel that explains WHY the ending events of Ranch occur as they do, because the characters never know for sure and I want people to know. I have a bunch of aesthetics on Instagram for it too. They’re fun to make.
L: Oh very cool, Jensen! I love zombies and apocalyptic stuff! Seems very involved with 4 books in the series. Good luck to you! Aesthetics are super fun! What do you think your inspiration behind Ranch was?
J: A dream! I had a dream where a couple was on the run and just had the overwhelming sense that SOMETHING was after them and it wasn’t safe. They end up hurt and I remember the “dad” passes off their kid to someone then flips like a kill switch kind of thing and the building they were at explodes. I woke up, wrote it all down, and went back to sleep because it was 2 something in the morning. This was in 2011. That sparked the very first draft of the books, which was then called Refuge and followed two different characters several years after the outbreak. I was posting it on my blog as I went and had a steady following, but ended up hitting a wall because I was SO focused on having it be perfect and presentable I couldn’t write. Now Lucky was in there and he was so easy for me to write as, so after I shelved the book for a couple years I decided to start at the beginning of the outbreak with him as my main character. I changed it all completely, but the dream inspiration still stands and comes into play in book three, Refuge, though those two characters are in it, it’s no longer from their POV. I’ve since rewritten Ranch to include Mack’s POV too, and I’m very glad because she’s such a good balance for Lucky.
L: I love it! You’ve put a lot of work and thought into the series! Of course I love your inspiration; dreaming. So awesome! I like your names too. Are they based off of anyone you know/knew? Or at least traits?
J: I weave myself and people I know into all of my characters. Mack’s social anxiety, Lucky’s survival knowledge, his twin’s love for plaid. All me. His mom is really modeled after my own. She was a huge supporter of my writing and there are so many aspects of her that just fit with Lucky’s mom. It’s great to include. Mack’s best friend Kai is molded after my childhood friend Liz, from the love of purple to the thick rings she wears. I’m sure all of the characters can relate to SOMEONE I know.
I can’t remember why Lucky was originally named that… His real name is Braiden and Lucky is a nickname but no one calls him Braiden…. Unless he’s in trouble lol. I have a story NOW of why he goes by the name though. And Mack is short for Mackenzie. She just wanted a shorter name and something different than her mother used once she left home. I wanted a gender neutral name for her and that was my first choice after my own name haha.
L: Nice! I was gonna say, I really like Mack as a girl name. Seems like she would be really fun! So Jensen, do you have any music that inspires you or any type of music you write to?
J: I’ve been told by several people she is really relatable. It makes me happy as an author. I have a wide variety of music. Usually it’s one or two lines in a song that inspires me. I have a YouTube playlist for each story I work on. Brantley Gilbert’s “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do” has always made me think of Mack and Lucky. The books show their friendship develop and grow and it isn’t until late in the series that they come to love each other. Or rather, acknowledge those feelings. “Heavy” by Linkin Park makes me think of Mack with her anxiety. “Break on Me” by Keith Urban. Later in Ranch i listened to a lot of Sam Smith. “Lay Me Down” and “Too Good At Goodbyes” especially. I also have some Parachute on the list. There is one line in Rascal Flatt’s “Come Wake Me Up” that makes me think of Mack for book three.
L: I love the variety! Rascal Flatts and Sam Smith especially! I like how you match up certain aspects of their personalities to songs. Very imaginative!
J: I can name songs for all of the short stories I’ve written too. There is always one! I have the fun ability to memorize lyrics so my brain is always like “SINGING, SINGING, SING-OH THIS MAKES ME THINK OF THAT CHARACTER FROM THE FANTASY STORY. WRITE IT DOWN!!!”
L: Nice! Lol! That sounds awesome. Who would you say your favorite literary character is?
J: Hmm. That’s so tough. All of the ones I like, I like for their own reasons, you know? It’s hard to compare them across books. Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt was my first fictional crush LOL, but I also love Min from Wheel of Time, and Adrian from Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series. Remus Lupin from Harry Potter. Roran from Inheritance Cycle. Rowan and Abraxos from Throne of Glass. There are so many!
L: Just all the characters! lol! I love Remus too! He was so great to Harry. So, Jensen, what is your favorite part of writing?
J: When I realize I subconsciously did something SUPER awesome and smart. During revision I realized that Lucky’s mom’s first zombie encounter AND last both happen on the ranch house’s back deck. And a beta pointed out that I did the J.K. Rowling thing where Lucky always notices WHERE Mack is even though it isn’t conscience for him. -J.K. did that with Harry and Ginny from the start but I didn’t know that was even a thing!- I just love it. I also enjoy when puzzle pieces slide together and something works out well with a rippling effect that WORKS and makes the story better.
L: I didn’t know that either! I love when that happens too! Like, you do something you didn’t plan, but you just keep writing and something amazing happens!
J: Oh can I add that I love when I go to reread a certain part in the book (Ranch) and end up getting sucked in and reading for several chapters or more? Because that happens to me a lot. Even though I wrote it….and know what will happen. It still interest me enough to suck me in.
L: I’ve done that too. But, when you haven’t read it in so long, you DO forget what you read sometimes and you’re like, “damn, this is good!” Lol Do you have any favorite tropes in books? And why?
J: I love the whole “friends before romance” thing. I’ve found that I do it in most of my stories. It just makes the relationships seem more satisfying when you have two who know each other and care for each other and you’re over in the corner rooting them on and dying over the shippy moments, only to have it all become canon and you just squeal in joy and get weird looks from people around you.
L: Yas! Same! Like Ron and Hermione! Lol What about your least favorite trope?
J: Mental Illness as a Quirk: Don’t get me wrong. It is so important to see mental illness accurately represented on the page. That can make a big difference in breaking down stigma. But if I see one more book that uses mental illness as something to make a character look oh so cool and weird–or worse to make the character seem star-crossed and fated for doom (I’m looking at you, Jennifer Niven)–I will defenestrate the book, the person reading the book, the editor, the publisher, the bookseller, and the author. So let’s defenestrate this trope instead before I throw everyone involved out of a window. —Rebecca Renner. I love defenestrate. It’s a new favorite word.
L: Well said, Rebecca! I agree though. It’s not cool at all to do that.
J: It’s something I’ve always been around/have experience with, and I want people to have relatable characters. My short story in Cocky-Tales anthology features a MC with Fibromyalgia. The short story I submitted to Stormy Island Publishing has a man with self-harm scars and a depression-heavy past. I have a short about a man on the verge of suicide who gets talked down by the ghost of his daughter. Mack has social anxiety, several characters in that book show signs of depression too. It infuriates me when people make light of serious mental illnesses.
L: That’s great that you’re able to write about that stuff though, and not take it so lightly. They are serious issues that need to be discussed seriously. When you aren’t writing and taking care of two little boys, what do you like to do in your spare time? Any hobbies or other interests?
J: I like reading, though I tend to stay up too late when I do read. I read Erin Crocker’s Synchronicity in a day. Love watching movies and shows with my husband. I taught myself to crochet but I haven’t really done it in the last year much. I love Lego and love building sets, then I’ll let the kiddos play with them. My favorites are the Elves line and Harry Potter sets. I’m pretty crafty and like to make things like origami book marks and wall art. But if I’m honest, writing related things take up 95% of my time, unless I’m sick. I usually only watch “my” shows when there are new episodes like Supernatural, and I’ll do a watch party with a friend where we watch at the same time but chat on messenger since we’re so far away from each other haha!
L: Aw that’s so cute! I hear that about writing. When not actually writing, you’re thinking of it, editing or marketing yourself because of your writing! Lol!
J: And with Pixie Forest Publishing now in the mix, that has all kinds of side projects and things added to my to-do lists.
L: Busy little bee! Haha! So Jensen, final question, what advise can you give to aspiring writers and authors?
J: I always like this question. I’m going to take an excerpt from the writing block article I wrote for Writing Bad: I’m a firm believer that there are three mental modes when it comes to writing: writing mode, editing mode, and reading mode. You need to focus on one mode at a time, in that order. Write first and get the whole story out. Then move into editing mode. Call on friends and beta readers for this step-as it makes the process much less stressful. Do reading mode last. This is when your editing mindset is turned off and you’re reading the story back as a reader, not a writer. This one is hard but necessary.
NEVER stop reading things that aren’t your story. You need to give your brain a break from writing or you’ll get burned out. One of my favorite quotes is actually my own, and it’s “Progress IS progress.” It doesn’t matter if you wrote a sentence, that’s one more sentence than you had. Don’t compare yourself. Everyone it at a different stage in their writing, comparison does nothing helpful because everyone is so different. And lastly, find support. In a group (Like Writing Bad) or with betas. Just find SOMEONE to lean on and bounce ideas off of. It makes so much of a difference.
L: Awesome advice Jensen!! Thank you so very much for taking time out of your day to chat with me!
J: Thank you for asking to interview me! This has been my favorite one to-date. I hope to designate a spot on my blog soon for all the interviews I’ve done. 🙂
Jensen Reed is a published author, co-owner of Pixie Forest Publishing, admin for Writing Bad, and mother to two young boys. She’s been married to her high school sweetheart for over seven years and is an all-around nerd who loves to inspire and support others. She is published in several anthologies including: Fangs and Broken Bones, Shards of Survival, Full Metal Horror, Cocky-Tales, Love Dust. She will have three more short stories in anthologies within the next few months. When not working for PFP or WB, she enjoys dabbling in writing genres and watching T.V. and movies. She is
currently feeding characters to zombies in her WIP series.
Open the pages to discover love that fights through war, abuse, curses, death, and withstands time itself. These stories will touch your heart, make you laugh, and make you cry. Let the authors show you the many ways love can tug at your heartstrings in Love Dust.