Author’s note: In the following passage from my novel, Johnnie Come Lately (Camel Press), the protagonist, Johnnie Kitchen, is standing at the kitchen sink reflecting on her mother who’s been missing for twenty-three years. Johnnie’s husband, Dale, spotted Mama at the war memorial the day before.
Her mind drifted to the empty bench in front of
the war memorial a few blocks to the west. She imagined a
woman, limber and lithe, making her way to the bench. Once
seated, the woman tilted her head and said something to the
soldier. Then the birds scattered and the woman rushed away,
leaving nothing behind. As if she’d never been there.
“What are you thinking so hard about?”
Startled, Johnnie turned from the window and caught Dale
gazing at her.
The cherry tomatoes were still cupped in her hands. Water
My name is Jenny Zovein. Colorado has been my home for the last 47 years. I was born in Pennsylvania in 1949. Shortly before my first birthday, my family moved to Colorado. During my childhood I lived throughout the United States in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah, California, Alabama, and Maryland. Doing a full circle brought me back to Colorado in 1969. I am retired and spend many hours doing my artwork. I started when I was a little child but only started watercolor painting in 2014.
I am the mother of two grown children. My son and his wife live in San Francisco and my daughter lives near me. They both give me inspiration to continue what I love doing.
I was fortunate to travel to Europe and visited Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France, and England. This trip was a big factor in my love for art and culture.
To see more of Jenny’s work, click on the following links:
Kathleen: How does it feel to go from being a writer with a fiction manuscript to being a published novelist? There is a difference.
Karoline: Thank you for having me on your blog, Kathleen. Yes, I agree, there is a difference. It feels awesome! This has been my dream for so long, and I’m very excited to share The Art of Being Rebekkah with my readers.
Q:Give us a brief summary of the book. What is your genre and who is your target audience?
A: When talented Jewish artist, Rebekkah Gelles finds out her husband has a frightening dark side, she wants out of her marriage; but her life gets complicated when she moves back to her parents’ home in Park Slope, Brooklyn and falls for the charming Italian detective who’s investigating her estranged husband. Convinced he’s all wrong for her—he’s not Jewish for one thing—Rebekkah struggles with love, faith, family, and a surprise pregnancy. It’s women’s fiction with a romantic element. My target audience is women (ages 19-99), although I have given Advanced Readers Copies to a few men, including my sons and a Rabbi, and hope they enjoy it, too!
Q: How long did it take you to write the book? Can you talk a bit about the process? Do you write from an outline, notes, or do you wing it? Did the story change over time from the original vision you had in your head or did any scenes appear that surprised you?
A: It took about a year to write The Art of Being Rebekkah. I outline, outline, outline! I also have notes all over. I need to see where the story is going before I begin writing. The story definitely changed from the original version; I started over when I got to chapter fifteen because I realized I had no idea where this book was going. In my original draft, I had a totally different bad guy.
Q: Your literary agent (Frances Black) is also your publisher (E-LIT Books). How long did it take you to find an agent and can you elaborate on this new trend in publishing – where the agent is also the publisher?
A: I finished The Art of Being Rebekkah in November 2011. I began querying in January 2012. I signed with Fran in October of 2012. The publishing world is changing so much these days; I fully support agents being publishers. It’s creating more opportunities for writers who don’t get a publishing deal right away, but who have written terrific books. E-Lit Books and DJC Communications have done a fantastic job publishing and promoting their authors.
Q: Before I started the query process to find an agent for my second novel, I hired a copyeditor to help me polish the manuscript before I sent it out into the world. Did you hire a copyeditor or did your publisher provide the editing?
A: I worked with an editor while I was writing my book. I’d send her two or three chapters at a time. My agent also gave me suggestions, which definitely improved my book.
Q: According to your website, you were born in upstate New York and you’ve lived in many places. I am fascinated that you lived in South America at one time. How old were you then and how long did you live there? Will this experience ever inform your fiction?
A: My family moved to São Paulo, Brazil when I was one and stayed until I was twelve. I loved it! My favorite things were the food and the beach. I’ve never used that experience in my writing. So far.
Q: I love that you modeled your detective character after a man that visited your home to collect rubbish. What was it about this gentleman that grabbed you? Was it his looks? His gestures? His personality or all of these things?
A: Actually, he came to my in-laws co-op in Queens, N.Y. His name was Dominick (my detective is named after him), and I just loved his name, good looks and personality. Very take charge and outgoing. I knew someday I’d have to use him.
Q: I read somewhere that you don’t like math. This cracked me up as I have a huge fear of math. I even gave this same fear of math to my protagonist in my latest novel. How old were you when you realized math was not your favorite subject?
A: In grade school when my father (an electrical engineer) tried helping me with my math homework; I just didn’t get it! I still don’t—even though math plays a huge part in my “day” job.
Q: What were your favorite subjects in elementary school, and what is the first book that had an impact on you?
A: English and history. My mother, a great reader herself, instilled a love of books in me at a very early age. The first books I remember liking were Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers series.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Besides writing, what other jobs have you had?
A: I’ve always wanted to write. It just took me a while to get here! I’ve worked for the phone company, a public library, and now, as I mentioned, I work with math all day as my “day job!” I think God has a sense of humor!
Q: When my first novel was released in 2008 by a small traditional press, I had to do most of the promotion myself. I didn’t have the funds to hire an expensive publicist so I became a one-woman-marketing-machine. How do you plan to promote your book? Will you and your publisher work as a team? Do you have speaking engagements and book signings lined up in your area or out of town? If so, please include them here or a link to your website.
A: I have a wonderful publicist who has arranged a whole package of blog tours (you’re one of the stops on it!) for me, she also arranged for me to do an article for JMag, the magazine of JDate, the premier Jewish online singles community, and they are promoting my book. I promote it on Twitter, Facebook, online writing groups to which I belong, and wherever else I can. I do hope to have both speaking engagements and book signings in the future.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: A cozy mystery called (so far) An Apple A Day Can Be Murder. It’s set in upstate New York, and I hope it will become a series. It features Molly Tyler, owner of Batter Up Bakery.
Q: God forbid, but if you were to suddenly lose the use of your hands, would you find a way to still write?
A: That’s quite a question. I’d like to say yes, but on the other hand (no pun intended), how would I manage that?
Bio: Karoline Barrettwas born in upstate New York and has lived in South America, Indiana, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. At the moment, she lives in a small Connecticut town with her husband. When she’s not writing, she loves reading, spending time by the water, traveling, and doing anything that has nothing to do with math. She’s currently working on her second novel, a cozy mystery set in upstate N.Y.