Sunday, January 28, 2007

Interview with American Title Finalist Jenny Gardiner!

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Big Congratulations to Jenny Gardiner, who is one of four finalists in the Romantic Times American Title contest! I asked her for an interview and she graciously agreed. Meet Jenny, and please don't forget to vote by clicking here. Voting in this round ends February 4th.

1. First off, tell us a little about your story.

I like to say that SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER is a coming-of-middle-age story about Everywoman, in that it's the story of a woman who is reaching middle age and coming to terms with her life: what's wrong with it, why, and how to fix it. I think many women go through a renaissance and a bit of soul-searching when they get to be in their late 30's, early 40's, and women often become empowered by that. So I wanted to explore this theme in fiction, which is how WARD came about.

Here's the blurb on the story:

Claire Doolittle, is in a near-mid-life crisis. The great guy she married years earlier has morphed into a bossy stick-in-the-mud who acts like the stern, domineering Ward Cleaver of sitcom fame, and he's making her life miserable. Enter a flame from her past trying to woo her back, throw in a predatory hottie from husband Jack's office who's got designs on him, and Claire is soon facing life decisions that threaten to throw her already chaotic world into an epic upheaval.

2. What made you decide to enter?
I knew little about the contest last spring when I noticed on a writing loop I'm on that Dorchester Publishing was accepting submissions for the contest, and they were specifically looking for humorous women's fiction. I was more than happy to try to get my material in front of an editor, so submitted my partial. I was shocked and delighted when they requested my full in the summer, and then stunned to learn I'd been chosen as a finalist.

3. What has been the toughest part so far?

You have to do a LOT of campaigning, which takes away from writing time (and for that matter, cleaning my house time, cooking dinner at a reasonable hour time, etc. ;-) . I can't even begin to tell you the number of hours I've spent emailing to friends, family, etc, urging them to vote for me. I certainly expect a case of carpal tunnel syndrome by the time this is over! Plus I'm sure there are plenty of people who will be glad not to hear from me for a while after this contest is over!

4. Readers just see the authors work and the judges comments. Is there anything else that goes on behind the scenes?

The ten finalists share a Yahoo loop and talk fairly regularly. The previous winners, Gerri Russell (whose winning book, the Warrior Trainer, was just released this month!) and Janice Lynn were gracious enough to facilitate our getting together and have provided moral support to us all. In fact, a number of previous finalists have been very generous in offering their support to us (and they helped to launch us in the Title Wave blog, which they're still contributing to regularly).

Besides that, there has been a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. When we were selected, we were given a very short period of time in which to submit all of our entries, so we had to scramble. I was in the middle of revisions on that and another manuscript, so that task was lurking in the background. Plus most of us didn't have websites, so we hastened to get those up and live.

Each month when the voting starts, we're all in a frenzy trying to enlist as many votes as possible. After the voting ends, we all wait an interminable half day or so before receiving notification about who is still in and who has been eliminated. The voting ends on a Sunday and we don't usually hear till about 11 a.m. Monday. It gets a little nerve-wracking!

5. Have you had any feelers from agents or editors about your story during the competition?

I have this and some other manuscripts out with a few agents right now, and we've all been querying like crazy on top of everything else, trying to capitalize on the higher profile this contest has granted us. I sheepishly admit I haven't been querying as much as I ought to be, but in addition to the contest and all the work inherent in remaining in it, and writing (that crazy little job we've forgotten about!), I write a column in my local paper, I do radio essays for an NPR affiliate, I've also continued soliciting magazines, etc, AND I've got 3 kids, two dogs, a cat, a parrot--oh, and a husband! Sometimes I feel a bit like one of those guys you used to see on the Ed Sullivan show who tries to keep 10 plates spinning at once without any falling off and breaking!

6. Any idea on how you'll react if you win?

I may for the first time EVER be rendered speechless. Though I don't think anyone who knows me will believe that to be possible! It would be pretty awesome. This is SUCH a tough business, that when you get good news, it's almost magnified in its intensity. If I scream and yell my dogs will go crazy barking, my parrot will then fall off the cage and then the dogs will try to eat her, so I'd better try to suppress that ;-). Oh, I'll tell you what I'll do: I have a running joke with the barista at this coffee shop where I get my cappuccino. One day I was there and I asked how he was doing and he said "absolutely fabulous". And I was so impressed that he wasn't just fine, okay, so-so, or whatever, so I joked about that and said I wanted to be "absolutely fabulous" too. So if I find out I win the contest, I will most definitely go in and tell John that I'm officially "absolutely fabulous"!

7. Finally...any advice for anyone interested in next year's competition?

I say go for it. In a million years I didn't expect to find myself in the final four in this competition, but it's been a wonderful experience (anxiety aside!), I've met a lot of very nice, extremely supportive people, the folks at Romantic Times have been terrific, and I'm very fortunate to have had the opportunity.


Thanks for chatting with us, and good luck Jenny!


jenny said...

Thanks Patti!

Rachelle Chase said...

Wonderful interview, Patti and Jenny -- and Jenny, I've been voting for you. :-) My fingers and toes are crossed, too ...