Born and raised in Florida, Jennings spent her early years reading anything she could get her hands on, when she wasn’t spending time in and on the water. She won a prize in the 6th grade for her science fiction stories.
Jennings attended the University of Tampa, graduating with a B.A. in Political Science, and almost enough credits for B.A.s in both English and History. She attended graduate school at the University of West Florida, studying Psychology. She spent time over the years doing various kinds of business writing, editing, and teaching writing, but mostly having and raising her family, homeschooling her children, owning and running a business with her husband, and starting a non-profit.
Thanks to a crazy idea called NaNoWriMo, Jennings got back into creative writing in 2011 and hasn’t stopped since. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, also a writer and two children, and travels extensively with her family, and her non-profit in Uganda and Andros.
What inspires you to write?
I have always written, and have journaled daily for at least twenty years. Once I wrote Solomon’s Throne, my first novel, floodgates opened! My family are very supportive, and I love that this is my job.
Tell us about your writing process.
I come up with stories by coming across interesting locations. Once something strikes me, I noodle it around until I can come up with a plot that suits it. The last thing I come up with are characters, and they are loosely sketched out when I start writing. I am a “plotting pantser,” meaning I come up with very loose outlines (the beginning, the end, 7 or 8 plot points in the middle) and then let the story flow as I write. I like giant Stickie notes when I’m planning, and I’ll put them up on the wall, but once I start I rarely look at them. I don’t do any editing while I’m writing the first draft, which helps the story to flow naturally. Once that first draft is done, then the heavy lifting of editing begins in earnest!
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I don’t talk to them, but I do listen. At least, I try to get inside their heads and see things from their point of view. I enjoy writing dialogue, and I do hear that in my head when I’m working. I’ve written books with distinct accents or dialects, as well as historical sections in which the dialogue is much different than modern day. I can clearly hear it!
What advice would you give other writers?
Write! I have a lot of people who tell me that they want to write, and even plan what they’ll do when the book is published, but they don’t actually write. Once you’ve written the first draft, edit well, use beta readers and take their advice. My rule of thumb on beta readers is this: if one person makes a comment, I accept or dismiss it as I feel appropriate. If 2 people say something, I pay attention and really think about whether I should change it. If 3 or more say something – LISTEN! I also don’t send my beta readers a final draft – I send them a fairly rough draft and ask only for comments on big things like characterization, plot continuity, dialogue… No grammar nazis allowed! This is because I don’t want to spend a lot of time editing something that is universally disliked. (It hasn’t happened yet, but you never know!) Spend a lot of time editing and proofreading. And even then, you’ll have mistakes. No manuscript is perfect, even traditionally published one. Do your best work, then set it free.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I read Joe Konrath’s blog The Newbies Guide to Publishing, and found out the significant advantages to self-publishing. Before I read that blog the first time, I’d sent out a half dozen or so queries. After that, I didn’t send out a one. I’ve been self-employed for a long time, so self-publishing suits me. I don’t mind being responsible for the success or failure of my work. I would suggest that writers really research publishing trends, and also examine how much work they’re willing to do on their own (even in traditional publishing these days you have to do most of your own marketing). There are some hybrid options that are emerging, too, which might be a good match for some.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think indies are the wave of the future, just like in music. With modern technology now, there is no need for a middleman who is going to take a huge chunk of the money your books make.
What do you use?
Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
YA dystopian sci-fi fantasy, cozy action adventure, Christian historical romance, Christian nonfiction
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print