SST: Jennifer Walkup Interview

A few months ago, I signed up for Sunday Street Team, a street team where we support a different author each month. This month we are promoting Jennifer Walkup’s book, The Ordinary Life!

1. What is your book, The Ordinary Life, about?

The short version: A teen with big dreams of making it in radio, struggles to hold her family together while dealing with her brother’s epilepsy, her mother’s alcoholism, and her own broken heart.

The back cover copy (long version):
High-school radio host Jasmine Torres’s life is full of family dysfunction, but if she can score the internship of her dreams with a New York City radio station, she knows she can turn things around.

That is, until her brother Danny’s latest seizure forces her to miss the interview, and she’s back to the endless loop of missing school for his doctor appointments, picking up the pieces of her mother’s booze-soaked life, and stressing about Danny’s future.

Then she meets Wes. He’s the perfect combination of smart, cute, and funny. He also happens to have epilepsy like her brother. Wes is living a normal life despite his medical issues, which gives Jasmine hope for Danny. But memories of her cheating ex-boyfriend keep Jasmine from going on a real date with Wes, no matter how many times he asks her.

Jasmine can’t control everything, not who wins the internship, not her mother’s addiction, not her brother’s health, not even where her heart will lead her. She wishes she could just have an ordinary life, but Jasmine may just discover that what she already has is pretty extraordinary after all.

2. What inspired you to write The Ordinary Life?

Jasmine came to me first – a strong main character who loves working at her school radio station and works hard for her ultimate dream – to be a real radio dj someday. But I knew she’d have struggles – a cheating ex boyfriend, an alcoholic mother, an absent father. Her brother’s epilepsy was central to her character. I wanted at least one character who is struggling with epilepsy. It’s a subject that’s important to me, and something I wanted to represent. When I wrote in Wes, the love interest, also with epilepsy, I wanted to show how characters are people first, disability second, and way more than the sum of their disabilities. Wes is a really great guy, and they quickly become good friends, and maybe more… Plus, Wes gives her support, attention, and love she hasn’t had before. But he also gives her the hope she needs to keep following her dreams and caring for her family.

3. How did you come up with the title of your book?

It’s funny how difficult titles can be. With my first book, I went through what felt like millions of titles. But with THIS ORDINARY LIFE, the title came to me almost as soon as the book did. Jasmine, the main character has lots of challenges in her life. She often wishes things were easier and simpler, but through the course of her struggles and chasing her dreams, she realizes that sometimes “ordinary” is found where we least expect it. And sometimes ordinary is more than good enough.

4. Which character(s) can you relate to most in the novel?

I can relate to most of the characters in the novel, in one way or another. Like Jasmine, I take care of someone with epilepsy and understand the unexpected struggles this sometimes bring. Like the Mom character, I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed. And like Ms. Hudson, I know what it’s like to believe in someone so much and be proud of someone else’s accomplishments as if they were my own, doing what I can to help them on their path.

5. Who was the hardest character to write about in your book and why?

The mother was probably the most difficult for me to write. As a mother myself, I can’t imagine making some of the choices Jasmine and Danny’s mom made. It was necessary for the story, but man did I get mad at her in some of those scenes.

6. What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

Creating characters and new worlds and putting my imagination on paper is pretty great. And when I hear from readers, that is truly one of the best things ever!

7. Did you always want to be a writer? If not, when and how did you realize you wanted to become one?

I did! I always wanted to be a writer. I have the first book I wrote in fourth grade, about a mouse who runs away and gets stranded on a desert island. It’s bound with duct tape and illustrated by yours truly. Hopefully my stories have gotten at least a little better since then.:)

8. Do you have a specific writing style?

Not really. I’m a pantser (meaning I don’t plan or write from an outline). This style of writing can be really exciting when the words are flowing, but frustrating when they’re not. For the most part, when I’m in the middle of a project, I write daily, at least a few hours at a time. I also take a good amount of time off between books.

9. What advice do you have to give to new authors or people who want to become authors?

Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Seriously. Write a ton, read a ton, and don’t ever stop writing. Also, grow a thick skin. Rejection stinks, but getting through it is the only way to the other side.

10. What would you like to say to your readers?

Thank you so very much to everyone who reads my books. I appreciate every single one of you

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