It is a pleasure to have Penni Jones with us for an interview today. Her featured book is The Utopia of Noah Lazarus.
How old are you?
I'm from the south, where you never ask a lady her age. But since I'm no longer in the south and not much of a lady, I guess I can tell you: 36.
Where do you currently live?
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Tell us a little bit about your life.
I have two preschool-aged children. They keep me busy all day. I write as much as possible at night.
When did you first start writing?
I've been writing since I could hold a pencil, but I took a very long break. I started writing again almost five years ago. Watching my son learn to walk inspired me to get over my fear of failure. He'd fall down and get back up over and over again. I realized the fear wasn't natural and I could get rid of it.
What was your very first story about?
I don't remember. I used to write non-sensical stories in high school about decaying produce and hairy legs. My first attempt at a real short story was for an English class, and it was terrible. I think it was about a nerdy girl who runs away with a mechanic who's a high-school drop-out.
Have you written anything that you were too afraid to let anyone read?
Yes! But I've written even more stuff that I did let people read and shouldn't have.
Did you experience anything you’ve written yourself?
The protaganist in my first novel had some of my characteristics and experiences. I shelved the book, so I'll never have to tell anyone what those are.
Who are several of your greatest literary inspirations?
Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Haskell Smith, Ariel Gore, Christopher Moore, to name a few. I'm inspired everytime I read a great book.
What kind of education have you received, and how has that affected your writing?
I have a business degree because I was trying to be practical. But it's not practical to ignore your dreams in favor of a desk job. I'm grateful for my education, because it made me a more rounded person. However, I sometimes regret that I didn't study creative writing instead.
How much research time customarily goes into your projects?
I usually read books and watch documentaries for research, so quite a few hours. I don't over do it, though. If I lose interest, I move on.
Tell us about your featured book.
My book is about three women who escaped a cult as teens after killing the leader. One of the women is summoned to return, and no one sees her alive again. The other two are pulled back in to save loved ones that remain on the compound.
Why did you write that?
I've always been interested in cults and why some people turn to them. I saw a documentary about Wayne Bent and the Lord our Righteousness Church, and realized the ideas I had for my book weren't unrealistic.
Is there anything special you would like your potential readers to know?
My book is fast-paced with a lot of characters. Get ready to hold on tight!
Where is the one place you’ve traveled where you’ve felt most like you fit in? I went to NYC recently and I couldn't believe how comfortable I was there. I'm from a small town in Arkansas, but didn't feel out of place in the City at all. I've always heard New Yorkers were rude, but I didn't find that to be true. I loved the energy in the streets.
What activity or hobby, besides writing, do you find most enjoyable?
Reading, watching movies, going to the gym, cooking, and spending time with my family.
What was your favorite childhood toy?
My Hot Wheels. My son found my collection recently. I let him play with them, but only under strict supervision. Some of those cars are over 30 years old.
If you lost the ability to see every color but one, which one would it be?
Blue- both of my kids have blue eyes and I'd hate to not see them.
How do you treat people you’re not fond of?
I try to be polite but not fake, but it's difficult.
What is hiding in your closet as we speak?
Birthday presents for my daughter.
What do you see as your greatest achievement?
Pursuing my writing dreams, and, of course, becoming a mom.
What, to you, is absolutely wrong?
Judgmental people- everyone has their own issues, problems and circumstances. It's not for us to decide what's right and wrong for everyone.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
You make your own happiness.
If you had to explain the concept of “love” to someone who’s never heard of it before, how would you?
That's tough because they are so many kinds of love. I guess I'd say that love is the feeling you get when you would do anything to protect someone.
What about “hate?”
Hate is intolerance's older brother.
You’ve decided to buy an exotic pet, what do you go for?
I don't think I could go for any exotic pet. They kind of creep me out.
If you could learn one new thing instantly, what would it be?
A foreign language-I'm not sure which one, but it would really freak people out if I were suddenly bilingual.
Finish this sentence. “I sometimes find it hard to…”
Keep my mouth shut.
Who is your most favorite literary character?
Tyler Durden-he's a multi-faceted 'everyman' with issues galore.
Who is your favorite character of your own creation?
Kricket, the protaganist in the book I recently finished writing. She's a kick-ass mama.
Jodie is my favorite character in the Utopia of Noah Lazarus. She was the most relatable for me. She drinks too much and feels at home in a dive bar.
If you were ever to write an autobiography, what would its title be?
Nobody's Moral Compass
To be or not to be?
To be. How can we not?
Our special thanks to Penni for taking the time to answer our bothersome questions. Check out her work right away, and take your vitamins. Both are good for you.