Interview with V.L. Jennings
What genre do you write and why?
I love writing juvenile science fiction, mostly at the middle grade level. There is very little science fiction out there for middle graders. I’ve chosen the middle grade level because the 5-8th grade years are key to catching students interests in science. My goal is to inspire students to ask questions, and to explore the hows and whys of the world around them so they can reach for their dreams.
Visionary From The Stars and The Alien Mind have both been previously published but in 2013 they were picked up by PDMI Publishing LLC and their science fiction imprint Rara Avis. They offered to breathe new life into my books and help me promote my books farther than I could do myself. Both books have been thoroughly edited and gone over; my apologies to all my fans who may find some changes in the newer editions, trust me- the changes were necessary and make for a better reading experience.
The brand new e-book editions release this November, The Alien Mind was released early this month. The paperback books will be released here soon as well. The covers and the interior illustrations are brand new and sport a modern futuristic twist thanks to PDMI’s amazing digital artist Matt Ostrum. He took my previous sketch designs and turned them into amazing works of art! Nessa Mckinney has also created a fantastic interior design layout that furthers the enjoyment of the reading experience as well.
I am very pleased at the transformation they have achieved with both of my books and I am very excited to share them with everyone!
What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
I learned that while I CAN self publish my own work it is very hard still for self publishers to gain acceptance by bookstores. Unless you have a large following or a large street team willing to spread the word about your books far and wide it is hard to get your work noticed. Being able to show that I have a publisher that believes in my work enough to invest their time and money into it has made a big difference. The one thing I stress over all though is to find a publisher that treats you and your book like family. Yes, they are providing you a service in editing, promoting, illustrating, and publishing your work. However, you are providing them the means to pay their bills as well, if you are not pleased with how your book turns out then you won’t be as energetic in your end of the promotion of it. Both of you should be working together and collaboratively in the design and promotion of your book because a non selling book hurts not just the publisher but you as well. You are both on the same team.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
Honestly, it was a mix of the Star Trek television series Enterprise and the space program that inspired me to become a writer. I wanted to go out there and explore new places and new possibilities. To discover how things work and help people. Unfortunately, I realized that the farthest we had gotten was sending some robots to Mars and we were many years away from feasibly being able to send people there.
So, instead, I decided to put my creativity to work exploring the universe and our place in it through storytelling.
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
It was through writing my books that I discovered that there are numerous alternate ways to achieve your dreams, to stretch your potential. I may not have actually explored other worlds but I feel like I have.
I’ve also unexpectedly discovered that characters don’t always turn out like you expect them to. If you write them correctly they come to life in your mind and often take over the story and tell you how the story will play out, how they intend to respond to situations, instead of allowing you to puppeteer the story in the direction that you had originally intended. It truly has been a wild ride!
Both books were influenced by CS Lewis’ story telling style as that was what I was reading at that point in my life. However, I have also been told that they also bear a bit of resemblance to Heinlen’s style as well. Beyond that, I believe readers are going to enjoy my books because there’s no mumbo jumbo thats going to throw you for a loop like other hard core science fiction books; just an adventure that will pique your curiosity in the unknowns along the way.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
Right now I am working on a sequel to The Alien Mind. The Alien Mind is a stand alone novel but things with the Aruk are gearing up to be much more troublesome in the second book. Rivinaig and Daniel’s relationship is growing and Rivi is struggling over whether to let it grow or whether she should ignore their connection due to the Aruk threat. I’ve realized that the outcome of the Aruk take over is greatly affected by her decision and I’m not entirely sure if she will be able to make the right decision in time- which is why this is a work in progress.
I have other, less developed stories that I am exploring as well, so the next completed story you read from me all depends on when Rivi decides to make up her mind.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Just this past year I was hired on to be PDMI’s Illustration Department Manager so much of my spare time goes into keeping the illustrators and authors organized, collaborating, and on track with their respective book projects. I also illustrate childrens books for PDMI, most notably the Wiggle Worm series by Karen and Kathy Sills.
When I am not doing any of these things I am busy with my three kids. I have a three year old that I stay home with and I also have a ten yr old and a 13yr old both of which have some medical issues. I’m a researcher at heart so between running them to doctors appointments I spend some of my free time researching things like Pectus Excavatum, Di George syndrome, and Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. I also have plans to go back to school for web designing. I also enjoy taking time out to watch tv shows like Doctor Who, Flash, and Walking Dead. On the weekends you might catch me at a comic book store or at my local theater watching the latest science fiction or action adventure movie.
I offer the same advice to writers that I give to every one else; never stop exploring your potential, never stop reaching for the stars. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Explore, learn, figure out what works and what doesn’t. Find people who will support you and help you along the way; that could be a publishing team or a street team. You can’t get very far working alone.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
Well, I ‘feel’ as though I am everywhere. The reality of it is I can most easily be found on my blog at www.virginialorijennings.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/vljennings. You may also catch me over on twitter or google+ from time to time, but those previous two places are where I hang out the most. For those of you who don’t have facebook... my page is public so you can still stop by if you’d like. I blog more than once a week but I pretty much always keep it open on my computer screen so if you’d like to chat with me feel free to start up a conversation any time!