Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Jennifer Ryan

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Ryan lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she isn’t writing a book, she’s reading one. Her obsession with both is often revealed in the state of her home, and how late dinner is to the table. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.

Ryan's new novel is Sisters and Secrets.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

A lot! It basically conveys the major plot and tells you exactly the kind of story you’re getting.

For me, titles are hard. You want the reader passing by the shelf to see the title and think, “I want to read that.” It’s not always easy to come up with something that goes with the story really well. In this case, it did. But Sisters and Secrets wasn’t the original title. When I turned in the book, the title was The Silva Sisters Secrets. The publisher and I loved it. But the book distributor thought it was too fussy with all the s sounds, so I simplified it. I like the new title a lot better. It felt like that should have been the title all along.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

The beginning is always the hardest part for me. I don’t outline. I usually know how the book opens, who my characters are in a general way, and I go from there.

I like to write from beginning to end. I spend time revising the beginning because it’s the set up for everything that follows. Once I have the beginning the way I want, I write to the end with very little revision until it’s finished. Then I do several rounds of edits adding in details and making sure there’s continuity.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

There are pieces of me in every book. But I really relate to these sisters in different ways.

Sierra is the most like me. She’s the middle sister. So am I, though I have two brothers. She’s self-sufficient and very capable. Asking for help is not her way, because she feels like she can do it all. I’ve always been that way.

Amy is a bit neurotic and a perfectionist. I’m a little bit of this, but not as much as Amy. I get her desire to make her family happy by giving them a nice home life and being the best mom she can be. I don’t go overboard like Amy does, which actually makes her family resent her a bit. My kids would probably say I tend to get lost in books and ignore them – but they get that about me. And I make them brownies to make up for it.

Heather is a free spirit who leans toward being selfish. She’s more a combination of people I know, who justify their actions for lots of reasons even when they hurt others.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I find a lot of inspiration in country music, TV, and movies. People watching is a lot of fun for me. I like to make up stories about people I see doing things in real life.
Visit Jennifer Ryan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue