by Edward Fairfax:
I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with Jenni Frendswith, the author of the new novel Stonecraft, now available on Amazon.com. Her book is a part of a web-hosting program at the homesite of author Fletcher Rhoden (fletcherrhoden.com/links) where there is contact information and a discount code and link. In the interests of full disclosure, my own book Views of a Progressive Christian is also on the site.
Q: This is your first book, Jenni. What made you want to write, and why this story?
A: Well, I’ve always been a reader, read just about anything I could find. I guess it’s taken me this long to get up the nerve to write something myself. As for why I chose this story for my first book, well, I didn’t really have ten stories to chose from. This one just kind of popped into my head, and I liked it and I liked what I thought I could do with it, so that’s the one I wrote. I’m not sure I would have written anything at all if I didn’t have a great story to begin with.
Q: There are similarities to the Twilight Saga. Why should readers pick up Stonecraft?
A: Do people think it’s a lot like Twilight? Well, it does have a teenage girl who falls for a gorgeous guy with incredible powers and a mysterious past. But that’s, like, most every young adult or romance novel I’ve ever read. Fifty Shades of Grey is basically that but older and more erotic, right? They’re all kind of similar, yet each one different. My story is a different story than the one told in Twilight, there are just some similar themes, some structural similarities that all books of this type share. Without calling it better than any other story, I can say my own story moves quickly and has a lot of interesting twists. I think the writing is just descriptive enough without being overbearing. I like the action scenes quite a bit. I tend to appeal to the senses when I can, so there are a lot of textures and scents and flavors that I hope will really activate the readers’ imaginations. There’s just a little bit of social commentary, because I think if you’re going on and on for 50,000 words you might as well make a point or two along the way. I tried not to repeat things, such as an annoying and constant biting of the lip or whatever. I feel like the love between my two leads is really hard-won and well deserved. They don’t just fall instantly into an affair the way the Shades characters do. And I’m not saying Twilight’s Bella and Edward don’t deserve to be together. It’s not really better or worse, they’re just different -- different characters doing different things. I think there’s plenty of room for both. If somebody liked Twilight they’re bound to love Stonecraft. It doesn’t have to be either/or. Besides, if they’ve already read the Twilight books they’ve got read something else, right? I loved [F.D.Rhoden’s] Sisterella, but I wouldn’t sit around reading it over and over again.
Q: What publicity are you doing? What do you recommend other authors do?
A: I’m doing as much online publicity as I can, including the social media marketing outlets, that sort of thing. Even getting reviews can be tough because review copies are expensive to order and ship and there’s no way to know if you’re even going to get reviewed at all, much less a good review. But I’m doing interviews like these as much as I can, trying to reach as many people as possible. There are some blogs and .orgs and things like that. It’s not easy, but I really believe that cream rises to the top. If something is good, someone’ll find it and spread the word. I hope. And if not, I’m proud just to have written Stonecraft. That’s an amazing thing I never thought I’d be able to do.
Q: Why’s that?
A: It’s just so intimidating! So many words, they all have to be just right. And you’re opening yourself up to such scrutiny. It’s daunting to say the least. I’m really glad I did it. Even if I never sell another copy, nobody will ever be able to take that away from me.
Q: You worked with (Stonecraft editor and Gasping in the Shadows author) Lucretia Mars. What was that like?
A: It was great. I guess she’s got some kind of weird reputation because of her book, but I know Lucretia and I’m a big fan. I thought Gasping in the Shadows was really compelling! It’s pretty dark, for sure. I mean, I wouldn’t give it to my grandmother to read. But Lucretia’s got a really strong work ethic and a natural way with writing. She taught me a lot.
Q: Your book is a lot more mainstream than Gasping in the Shadows.
A: Well, like I said, her book has some dark stuff. A lot of people like that, though. Look at how well the Shades trilogy did. And even if you don’t find the fetish themes, um, to your taste, you can still appreciate Lucretia’s writing, the characterizations, the way the story is constructed. I think that could be a pretty hot movie franchise, but it’s not even as mainstream as the bondage elements of the Fifty Shades books. Hollywood might not be ready for Lucretia. But you never know.
Q: Stonecraft clearly establishes where the story will go in future installments. Is there a sequel planned? Do you hope for a movie franchise of your own?
A: There is a continuation of the story, absolutely. It stands alone quite well, I think. But the stage is set for the next one, for sure. I’ll only write it if the public shows a real interest in the first one. If nobody buys the first, there’s no real point in having a sequel, right? As for a film franchise, I think this would definitely be a huge movie thing, several films for sure. It’s got everything a movie like this needs and wants -- young couple, corrupt government operatives, love on the run. I’d go see it. And the next one... well, I don’t want to give anything away, but if the next Stonecraft novel comes out it will not disappoint, I promise you that.
Q: How many books ahead have you planned?
A: So far I know where the second book ends. Much of the third book probably won’t be uncovered until I’m through with the second. And that’s a when/if situation.
Q: What’s your opinion of the publishing market today?
A: I’m amazed by it. I think Harry Potter turned the whole thing around. It didn’t seem like anybody was really reading novels as much, there was a lot of nonfiction, self-help, and there still is. But look at the crazy success of the Potter books, the Twilight and Shades sagas. People are buying novels again, which I think is wonderful and not only because I’ve got a book to sell. Novels are great, they withstand the test of time the way a lot of other media just don’t or never will. There will never be a computer game that achieves the kind of longevity of a great book like Frankenstein or the Scarlet Letter.
Q: You mention Frankenstein. That’s kind of the basis for this story, isn’t it?
A: It’s the inspiration for it. The project designation Stonecraft is from [Frankenstein author] Mary Shelley’s middle name, Wollestonecraft. The hero’s own government handlers call him Rhett, short for Wretch, which is how Shelley often refers to Frankenstein’s creation in the book. To bring it back to the Twilight comparison; instead of vampires, it’s a man-made creature. But instead of parts of different bodies sewn together, it’s strands of different people’s DNA. That makes it relevant to today’s society, with our stem cell research and all that. But he’s still a compendium of other men, and like the original Frankenstein creature, he’s isolated and alone, outcast by his creators, shunned and hunted. There’s something about that which speaks to us all, isn’t there? Don’t we all feel that way sometimes? And, y’know, Rhett’s not green and lumbering with bolts in his neck. He’s gorgeous and intelligent, a superior man in just about every way. In a lot of ways, he could almost be Tarzan, who is a similar kind of character; primitive, isolated, powerful. Rhett is well-educated and not quite as primitive. And Rhett isn’t a product of the jungle or he almost would be Tarzan. Rhett is a product of science, and that puts him in a different fictive tradition.
Q: What’s the writing process like for you? What can you recommend to new or aspiring authors?
A: Well, this is my first book, so it’s hard to say that I have a process. I know authors take years and many books to refine their processes. I’m just not there. But I can tell you how I wrote this book, and that was to shut out as much of the rest of the world as I could. Once you’ve gotten the story and the characters and all that planned out, I think the real danger is in letting distractions get in your way, prevent you from finishing. I think, and more experienced authors have told me this, that most books which are begun never get finished, and that’ s why. Once the rough draft of Stonecraft was done, I just went back and kept going at it. But since the story and characters were all pretty well outlined, there wasn’t a lot of refining to do.
Q: You worked with an outline then.
A: Oh, absolutely! With a thing as big as a novel, I’d think it’d be pretty crazy not to outline. I guess some people can do that. But everything I studied and everybody I talked to pointed me in the same direction: Outline. The trick is, I think, not to be a slave to the outline, give yourself room to be inspired, to change your mind, to be inventive. Lucretia taught me that. You can change the outline as you go and discover new things about the story you never would have thought of before you started writing. For example, I didn’t know exactly what the last scene of the book was going to be, even if I did know how the climax was going to happen, how the denouement was going to go. If I’d paced around worried about the very last scene, I’d still be pacing and the book wouldn’t have been written at all.
Q: Your book has a very solid three-act structure, mid-point and other plot points in just the right spots. Where did you learn this?
A: Well, I actually learned the three-act from our web host’s DVD, [Fletcher Rhoden’s] Write Makes Might: Stronger Structure in Storytelling [on amazon]. I’m grateful to him for hosting my book, of course, but that’s not why I’m saying it. The reason I know him at all is through his DVD, which I bought and liked. I became a fan. It’s a great DVD for anybody who needs a crash course in storytelling. It’s like reading 10 books in 30 minutes.
Q: What’s next for Jenni Frendswith?
A: Just trying to get the word out on Stonecraft, waiting to see what that brings.
Q: Many good things, I’m sure. Thanks for taking some time to speak with me.
Q: My pleasure, Edward. Thank you.