Good morning and welcome to Extra Gravy, a Harrison Bergeron Production coming to you from the glass-enclosed studios in Biscuit City, a wonderful magical land where all your dreams come true, everyone is intelligent and beautiful and has a ton of money! And it’s 72 degrees and sunny year ‘round. This is Dan Verner, the host of Extra Gravy, and our guest today is Jolene Perry, a writer of romance novels from Alaska. She has published The Next Door Boys and will be bringing out Night Sky and Knee Deep this spring. Jolene, can you tell us what kind of books these are?
Jolene: The Next Door Boys is LDS Fiction, Night Sky is general YA fiction and releases March 1st. Knee Deep, also general YA fiction, releases May 1st.
Dan: Well, thank you for that. I’m glad you’re here, especially since you live in Wasilla, Alaska. I have to ask: do you know Sarah Palin?
Jolene: I know where her house is – and you can take that however you’d like to.
Dan: Could you tell us something about where you live?
Jolene: I have a love/hate relationship with where I live. I forget how harsh the climate is until I talk with someone who thinks 35 is cold, when 35 is sweatshirt weather. I love how many outdoor activities are at my fingertips. I hate that in February, when my lower 48 friends are getting ready to garden, we’re still two months away from the end of winter.
Dan: Fascinating! I would have to say that most of us in the Lower 48 don’t know much about Alaska. You were telling me earlier that you’ve had temperatures as low as minus 30 this winter. What’s it like to try to live in -30 degree temperatures?
Jolene: Just like living somewhere that it hits 110 – only opposite. There’s something cool about it, but it hurts your eyes, your lungs… I’ve frost bitten fingers, toes, nose, and cheeks more than once. But when it’s that cold, everything sparkles, and the kids and I go outside to blow bubbles, which immediately freeze and are much more fun to pop than the boring old regular bubbles.
Dan: That is so cool, but it makes me cold just to think about it! You Alaskans are real troupers. We get half an inch of snow and panic sets in.
So, I met you on Facebook when you commented on a profile I did of Heidi Willis, who has written a book called Some Kind of Normal, a marvelous first novel (Heidi, there’s your plug!) You wrote something that made me think you were a writer so I messaged you and asked “Are you a writer?” Do you want to describe what happened next and how we got to know each other on FB?
Jolene: MWAHAHA – Dan here tried to get me to sew him a Napoleonic Era Naval Uniform (or something of the sort - I’d just finished one for my husband). It resulted in a few days of hilarity and banter involving jail time, cars that aren’t silver, and replacing lost buttons once a modern uniform was stripped from its royal owner.
Dan: I should add that I had put up as a profile picture on my FB page a Colonial Williamsburg person in a long blue coat playing a recorder. He looked a bit like me and Jo asked about my costume. I had to confess that the picture wasn’t me, and she returned, “So this relationship is based on a LIE.” This cracked me up and I tried to get her to sew a nice 18th century British admiral’s uniform for me since she said she had just done one for her husband. She kept wanting a car in return and I’m too cheap to do that, so I said I would mug Prince Phillip and take his uniform. Jo offered to come make alterations for me in prison. Hilarity reigned for days, as Jo noted.
Jo, I checked some of your websites and blogs. You have quite a presence there and have published The Next Door Boys, which is billed as a LDS romance. I had never heard of this genre. What can you tell me about it?
Jolene: The genre or the book? LOL. It’s simply that the characters are LDS. It’s a fun romantic story with LDS characters.
Dan: I’ve read the book (my first romance novel!) and it is well-written and exceptionally engaging even though I am nowhere near the demographic for the YA genre. How did you get started with this type of writing?
Jolene: I joined the Mormon church?? LOL. Honestly, I started in this genre because I thought it would be easier to break into that market, and once I wrote one, it turned fun, so I wrote a few more.
Dan: I’m putting the sled ahead of the sled dog (a little Alaskan style saying there), so let me ask how you got started as a writer.
Jolene: I wrote when I was a kid, and then wrote songs when I learned to play the guitar (my husband was deployed in the military) and then my first book was written sort of by accident. I started on a story at the suggestion of my husband. When I got to 100 pages, I realized that I had a LOT more story left to tell.
Dan: How did you learn to write, and who encouraged you?
Jolene: It’s not that I “learned” to write, it’s that I found the confidence to write in my own voice – in other words – to make my writing MINE. That’s simply a practice thing.
Dan: Discovering one’s voice in writing seems to be a key for writers. Tell me about writing your first novel, please.
Jolene: When I wrote my first novel, I didn’t intend to write a whole novel, and then I did. That one is a great story with disastrous writing and is shelved. When I started The Next Door Boys, I knew it would be a novel, so the first draft of that one was a lot cleaner.
Dan: And how did it come to be published?
Jolene: It was a matter of finding some people with a lot more talent than myself to read it and tell me what I did wrong, and what I did right. Then doing research as to where it might go to be published.
Dan: How has your book been received?
Jolene: The people who haven’t liked it (a few), have been quiet, and the people who love it have been loud :D
Dan: Let’s hear it for the loud ones! I see from some of the online reviews that some people fault the book for having Mormon elements although it is clearly labeled as a LDS romance novel. You told me earlier that you found these comments amusing. Why is that? I find them evidence that people were not paying good attention.
Jolene: I find it hysterical when people don’t like a book based on something they could have learned while READING THE DESCRIPTION. It makes their opinion much less valid.
Dan: I should tell our readers that you have a wicked sense of humor, but you claim you’re not funny. Please tell us about this (and try to be funny)!
Jolene: Oh . . . the pressure of being funny . . . SO – three guys walked into a bar, and . . . Kidding. Mostly I think it’s cool when people use “wicked” to describe me, especially when it has nothing to do with ACTUAL
Dan: Well, I find that you’re ROTFL funny. And Wicked was a boffo musical.
You have two small children. How do you find the time to take care of them and also write?
Jolene: They pretty much fend for themselves. I mean, it’s sort of like cats, right? Some petting, food, water, and a good place to sleep.
Dan: Wish I’d known that when our kids were small. We’ve always had at least one cat, and I could have just added another food dish and filled it with Cheerios.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing or taking care of your children?
Jolene: This is a LONG list. I’ll try to keep it down. I’m a bit of a daredevil on a snowmachine. I hike. I sew. I play the guitar. I sing. I take my kids to the museum. I love to take pictures. We have a raft for whitewater, that’s used most often on lakes.
Dan: How does your husband regard your writing career?
Jolene: I think the “career” part is just as exciting to him as it is to me. He’s a HUGE support, which I need with our small kids.
My husband was in the Army. He was Military Police, and we both gained a HUGE amount of life experience from that – part of which was living right on Prince William Sound, surviving a few military deployments, and gaining a whole new perspective on what military families go through.
Dan: And you’re from Anchorage. What was growing up like?
Jolene: My dad owned a bush plane, and we were out almost every weekend. I ate so much moose meat that I thought beef tasted funny. For a long time I didn’t know there was any other kind of fish to eat besides salmon. I went on my first camping trip when I was about 6 months old – I don’t remember this of course, but I also don’t remember a time when my family wasn’t busy doing something OUTDOORS.
Dan: That’s so interesting. Alaska really is a whole new world (that would make a good song title) for us.
You wrote that you would like to meet local novelist Heidi Willis. Have you considered coming to the D.C. area for a visit? I’m sure Heidi would be glad to have you stay with her. (Right, Heidi? Heidi?) You and your husband could drive here in the hot Mustang of yours. It’s only about 4200 miles and takes about three and a half days. So, what do you say? (Say yes!) (Only half kidding about this!) Heidi would also be glad to show you the sights!
Jolene: If you drive all day and all night, it takes three days to get to Seattle – so I’m guessing your time estimates might be off a tad ;-D I LOVE D.C.! I taught history and have only been there once. I was pregnant with my first at the time, feeling a bit queasy, and both the National Archives and the Capitol Building were shut down for restoration L The area definitely needs another visit.
Dan: I was going by the Google map estimate for the driving time. You mean that not everything on the internet is true? I’m so disillusioned…
I hope you and your fam will be able to make it back here soon. Everything is open except for the Washington Monument which is closed because of damage from the August earthquake. We could prevail on someone to throw a nice writers’ reception for you and invite local writers to meet you. I don’t do receptions but my daughters are dynamite at staging them.
I want to thank you for being with us in the Biscuit City studios today. I wish you well with your novel and your writing. You’ve been a delightful guest. Stay warm and please don’t break your neck snowmobiling!
We’d love to have you back to talk about your upcoming books when they come out. Do you have anything you’d like to add to this interview?
Jolene: Thanks, and even though you have been nice enough to have me on your blog for a day, I’m still not sewing you a uniform until a shiny new car hits my driveway ;-D
Dan: Dang! I was hoping…I have one final question. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
Jolene: A Medrona Tree. They’re incredibly beautiful and the wood is just . . . unique and amazing.
Dan: We’ve been talking with Jolene Perry, novelist, mother, wife, wit, maker of period military costumes and Alaska resident. This has been the Local Writer of the Week feature, Global Village Edition, brought to you on the Extra Gravy show on the Biscuit City Network. The Local Writer of the Week is a Harrison Bergeron Production and is sponsored by Molly Bolt molly bolts, the best bolt there is for being securely anchored. Remember, if it’s not a Molly Bolt, it’s not going to hold! So hold on and insist on the best—Molly Bolt brand molly bolts! This is Dan Verner, bidding you a fond adieu from the glass-enclosed nerve center of the Biscuit City Network until next time when we’ll talk to another local writer.