Jen Blood is a freelance writer and editor, Social Media Strategist at Gauss Media, and author of the mystery ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS, the first novel in the Erin Solomon series. The second novel in this page-turner series will be out at the end of June. I can hardly wait.
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Your book is set on the coast of Maine, and an island in Penobscot Bay. Have you lived on an island in the Bay?
I worked for Outward Bound for a long time, so I spent tons of time on Hurricane Island and have wonderful memories of my time out there. For those who don't know, Hurricane is an island about ten miles off the Rockland/Thomaston coast, and for years it was the go-to site for all things Outward Bound around here. I also spent some time out on Monhegan and Vinalhaven, and lived for a year out on Peak's Island. In ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS, Payson Isle is kind of an amalgamation of a few islands locally: Friendship Long Island, Hurricane, and Monhegan chief among them.
I love the insular feel of island living, how genuinely weird islanders are -- it seems to be a prerequisite that you have to be a little off kilter to choose living somewhere one can only access by boat -- and of course I love being surrounded by the ocean. It's a good way of life, all things considered.
How many books do you plan with Erin Solomon and Stein?
I have eight books planned in the Erin Solomon "arc," following the story of Erin's quest to learn the truth about her father and to put the final pieces together about the deaths out on Payson Isle. I also have at least one Diggs & Solomon novella planned outside that arc -- a noir prequel told from Diggs' perspective that takes place the first summer he and Erin "hooked up," in the course of their complicated history.
Erin chases truth for fun. What does Jen do for fun?
I write about Erin chasing the truth! What could be more fun than that?! J When I'm not writing, though, I love the outdoors and can usually be found hiking or biking with my dogs. I have a big geek streak, and get far too invested in my favorite TV shows (I'm so not that girl with no TV -- I always admire those people, but I'm just not one of them). I also run a website for mystery/thriller readers and writers (http://bloodwrites.com/), so I read a lot within the genre and review books for my site and for Awesome Indies. All things considered, it's a pretty fun life. Busy, true, but I have no complaints.
What inspired this mystery?
It started with the character of Erin Solomon -- though she was initially Anna Solomon, until I found out there's a fairly well established author by that name. I was listening to singer/songwriter Ellis Paul's album "Translucent Soul" obsessively at the time, which he wrote while he was going through a divorce. It's a very introspective, melancholy album, and suddenly Erin started whispering in my ear. At the same time, I was reading Laurie King's A DARKER PLACE, about a theologian whose husband and daughter are killed in a cult suicide. From there everything just kind of gelled and suddenly (ten years later) I had ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS.
Your beginnings in writing? Honing your craft?
My mom saved the first story I ever wrote (actually, I dictated it to her), which goes like this:
Once there was a girl named Jenny May. She had my blue eyes and my blonde hair and my tuna fish sandwich.
I was three at the time. My mom was convinced I was a genius, of course; I blame my obsession with the written word for the next thirty-five years on my parents' unbridled enthusiasm when I was a tot. I was super shy in elementary school, and definitely lived vicariously through my characters when I was younger. I didn't write as much in high school because I started doing theatre and really came out of my shell at that point, but at the end of the day always found myself coming back to my notebook to write down my thoughts. I find it hard to really figure out how I feel about anything if I don't have a little time to set it down on the page and sit with it for a while.
So...I picked up writing again after high school, then went to Goddard College and got my BA in Liberal Arts as a Creative Writing major, and went on to the University of Southern Maine to earn my MFA in Creative Writing/Popular Fiction. As for honing the craft, I think that's an ongoing process -- grad school really helped, because I had an opportunity to workshop with some phenomenal authors. I'm gonna strut my geek cred a little more here by saying that, in all honesty, a lot of what I learned about putting a story together came by writing fanfiction, which I still do whenever I find the time (though that’s honestly pretty rare at this point). It’s a great opportunity to play around with structure, figure out my own rhythm, and learn a little about producing content on (largely self-imposed) deadlines.
I also have an AWESOME writing group filled with some phenomenal writers who are very generous about giving honest feedback. At the end of the day, though, I think honing the craft is all about writing as much as possible and then forcing your work on whatever poor souls will read it and provide some insight until you're ready to actually start selling your stuff.
The marionettes are a fabulous macabre detail - what inspired them?
I love the marionettes, they just give me chills every time I think of them! I was initially pulled into the idea when I saw these dolls made by the Amish when I was living in Kentucky. They were beautifully made, but there was still a certain creep factor – mostly because dolls always kind of give me the creeps. I did some research and found that a number of communes and smaller religious groups rely on custom-made crafts as a source of income, so from there I started thinking about how the Paysons would make their living. I did a little more research and found this fabulously macabre angel marionette online, and that was it – from that point on, I had my image. At some point I want to actually do some kind of mock magazine cover featuring one of those actual marionettes – charred, of course. Hmm. That’s not weird, right?
You might be asking the wrong person, Jen. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I can't wait for Book Two to be released!
Jen’s website: http://bloodwrites.com/
Erin Solomon website: http://erinsolomon.com/
ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS on Amazon: HERE
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