Friday, May 29, 2015

Q&A with... Jennifer Yacovissi!!!

1. Tell us about your release. Give us a blurb to tease us!
Up the Hill to Home is my debut novel, which was just released by Apprentice House Press of Loyola University on 28 April 2015. Foreword Reviews magazine selected it as one of eight debut novels to be featured in their Summer 2015 issue, which is being distributed at BookExpo America, the American Library Association 2015 annual conference, and the Beijing International Book Festival. Foreword calls it “an emotionally powerful, gorgeously imparted family saga.”
Favorable reviews have also arrived from Kirkus.  RRT reviewed my book as a Perfect Ten.
Here’s a teaser:

Every town, every city, is built by everyday people, and Washington, D.C. is no exception. Anonymous, hard-working women and men form the backbone of the place their families call home: strong women like Mary Miller, who held her family together during the Civil War; Emma Beck, an inventor, career woman, and devoted mother; and Lillie Voith, whose dream of a large family was fulfilled by a tribe of nine children. They are matched by equally strong men, like Charley Beck, whose humor and wisdom served equally as glue and lubricant.

These are my ancestors, and Up the Hill to Home tells their story over most of a century, as their faith and love, home and family, and strength of character contributed to building the nation’s capital, their hometown.

2. Name five things (not research notes) that are on your desk right now.

1. My laptop, a MacBook Air.

2. Two books I’m reviewing for Historical Novel Society.

3. A Christmas present from a friend in anticipation of my April book launch. It’s a gift bag labeled “Day 1 Supplies”, and it contains 60 Bic pens and a bottle of Aleve.

4. Two gargoyle bookends (which are holding up my research notes).

5. A fresh supply of Up the Hill to Home bookmarks.


3. What’s the best advice (writing or personal) that anyone has ever given you?

The best personal advice I ever got was from my mother, who told me that I needed to actively choose what I did with my life, and to guard against allowing it to simply happen to me. “Because before you know it, you’ll wake up one day, look in the mirror and say, ‘When did I get old?’ And you’ll realize you didn’t do what you wanted to do.” I didn’t practice her advice as fully as I should have, but I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish so far.

4. What is your writing day like?

I don’t often get a full day to write, so when I do, I try to start by 8:00 a.m. No matter where I am in the process, I make sure I have a plan of what I am going to accomplish for the day. One of my worst habits is to interrupt myself because something occurs to me that needs to be done but is not on task, so I try very hard just to write that down and get back to where I was. If I’m doing concentrated research that demands I make an onsite visit—for example to the National Archives or Library of Congress—I schedule an entire day to do that and make absolutely sure I have a research plan, including a list of the specific things I’m trying to find out. Otherwise I know I won’t stay on task! If I don’t have a full day to write, then any writing I do is perhaps a half an hour in the early morning or a few hours at night, often between 9 p.m. and midnight. I am attempting to instill in myself enough discipline to write everyday, but it hasn’t taken hold yet. It’s a shame that you need discipline to develop discipline.

5. If you could have dinner anywhere with any five authors, dead or alive, which five would you choose?

The first four would be Annie Proulx, Ann Patchett, Alice McDermott, and Anthony Marra, because 1) I love and admire their writing deeply, 2) I could only hope to have my writing style and ability compared to theirs, 3) they are my favorite writers writing today (not sure why everyone’s name has to begin with A for them to be a favorite of mine), and 4) because they are all still alive, it’s actually within the realm of the possible for that dinner to happen. The fifth would be William Shakespeare. Not only is he completely timeless, but can you imagine a better dinner companion?

6. If you weren’t writing, what other career would you have?

I don’t have to wonder about that, since my writing does not yet pay the bills. I own a small project management and system engineering company. After college, I started as a technical writer for technology companies. I’ve spent my entire career working with computer scientists and electrical engineers, and some of my proudest moments have been when customers I’ve worked with for a long time are surprised to discover that my degree is not in engineering but in English literature. This just proves my long-standing position, in the debate over the value of a liberal arts education, that my college curriculum taught me critical thinking, which I apply in my job everyday.

While I’ve had a successful career, if I had a do-over, I would spend much more time focused on writing. Going back to that advice my mother gave me, while it’s of course important to make sure you can pay the mortgage, we all need to discover what it is that brings us joy. For me, that’s writing.

7. Finally….tell us how we can connect with you online.

2. Join my email list for all the latest news:

6. Amazon Author Page:

About Jennifer:

Jenny Yacovissi grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, just a bit farther up the hill from Washington, D.C. Her debut novel, Up the Hill to Home, is a fictionalized account of her mother’s family in D.C.

In addition to writing and reading historical and contemporary literary fiction, Jenny is a reviewer for Washington Independent Review of Books and the Historical Novel Society. She owns a small project management and engineering consulting firm, and enjoys gardening and being on the water. Jenny lives with her husband Jim in Crownsville, Maryland.

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