Thursday, August 13, 2020

Jennifer Greer

Jennifer Greer began her writing career as a journalist. She graduated from California State University, Fresno with a degree in journalism and worked as a crime reporter for the Fresno Bee. Interested in foreign affairs, she traveled to Russia in the late 80s and lived in London studying art and literature. While abroad she traveled into the war regions of Croatia and wrote an award winning article on the women and children refugees. She lives on the Oregon Coast.

A Desperate Place is Greer's first novel.

My Q&A with the author:

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

I grappled with lots of different titles, but nothing really seemed to fit my story until I stumbled on A Desperate Place, which is a metaphor. It foreshadows the psychological place from which some of my characters were motivated to make disastrous choices. Those characters, who were for the most part successful people were driven by greed or perhaps fear. They enjoyed a charmed life, but when they looked down to where their footsteps led them in the future, they saw a dark black hole and panic set in…

What's in a name?

What do you call an adventurous woman with a strong will and endless curiosity about the world who is driven by a sometimes-false sense of justice? I found this challenging because there are so many great heroines out there. ‘Whit’, short for Whitney was one name that had not been taken that I liked. Whit McKenna sounded strong and adventurous, so she was born.

McKenna, a world traveling journalist with a fearless ambition, suddenly finds herself grappling with panic attacks after her photojournalist husband’s brutal death in Afghanistan. Emotionally devastated, this award-winning L.A. Times war correspondent and mother of two, moves to the small town of Medford, Oregon, where her parents live. She starts over at a small-time newspaper as a crime reporter. And this is where our stories begins…

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

That was a long time ago, and many lessons. My two main characters, McKenna and Riggs are virtual realities of the types of things I like and admire in journalists and women who rise to the challenge of careers that didn’t accommodate women back in my teens. Panetta, my lead male character, is a strong ex-Navy SEAL with a big heart for the things that are important to him. My favorite male character in my teens was Atticus in To Kill A Mockingbird and the other spectrum was Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. Both of these men are wrapped up in Panetta so my teen self would be in love!

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

Endings for sure! I could gleefully write beginnings all day long, but how do you tie all the loose ends together in a way that stays true to all the characters? That’s the hard part. So, I try to let my characters figure that out.

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

Yes! McKenna is very much like me. When I was younger, in my early twenties, I had some health problems that eventually led to something like agoraphobia. My panic attacks were very real and terrifying. It took me several years to work my way out of that, so when I write about McKenna suffering through those, I know how that feels.

I also spent a week in Croatia during the war. After my ‘Foreign Correspondents’ course was over in Berlin, I hooked up with a couple of other free-lancers, rented a car and traveled into the war zone to get a story. We had some frightening experiences, but I felt like I was covering something very important. After that, being a war correspondent became my goal, until I discovered I was pregnant. That changed everything!

A few years later my husband died in a car accident when my two daughters were very young. I decided to stay home with my children and raised them on my own. So, the years flew by and now I live vicariously through Whit McKenna. Not that I don’t have my own adventures!

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I’m a news junkie! Read multiple sources every day. I’m not currently happy with the condition of a lot of media outlets who are no longer writing the news, instead they have become platforms with political agendas. Most people just want the news without being told what to think! We just want the news! So, yes…reading the news is my biggest source of inspiration for stories.
Visit Jennifer Greer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue