Saturday, November 8, 2014

Author Spotlight - Award Winning Author, Jennifer Gibson

WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER AND WHY?: It wasn’t until after I graduated from Sheridan College in Illustration that I began to become more interested in writing. While attending school, I had been taking additional courses such as photography and creative writing. My writing professor loved my stories and had encouraged me to seriously consider switching full time to Creative Writing. I can remember thinking that I was very surprised that my professor would say that to me and I had always kept that in the back of my mind. I loved writing, but I also enjoyed art and photography.

After I had spent several years running my own business as a illustrator and photographer, I began to grow more interested in writing. Intrigued, I decided to go back to school and focused on Creative Writing. To my surprise, I found that I had a knack for it and it felt so right to do this. Then one day, I met the singer Michael Buble in Toronto. I just happened to be in the area where he was performing later that night and he decided to approach me. He was wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans with a baseball cap which cast a shadow across his face. I didn’t know who he was until he spoke to me. He asked, in a husky voice, “May I help you?” I knew that voice! I replied, rather shyly, “Are you Michael Buble?” He said yes, then leaned in and gave me a hug. As he took a step back, he held onto my hand and gazed at me, really slowly, from head to toe and exclaimed, “You look beautiful.” I’ve never had a man treat me with so kindness as he did that day. He made me feel right at home, like an old friend. At that concert a few hours later, as I watched him perform, something clicked in me. That was the moment that I realized that I needed to listen to my heart. He inspired me to go after my dreams. Call it a quirk of fate but I think that this chance meeting was meant to happen.

After that, I sat down and began writing the first book in the trilogy series, Sway, about a hearing impaired teen. I chose to base it on my life and incorporate actual scenarios so that the readers could make a strong connection. It worked, just a few months after I self-published it on KOBO, it became a TOP 50 bestseller. It was at that moment that I truly realized that I made the right choice.

I wanted to be an artist like my mother and a photographer like my father. Both were doctors but they had hobbies that they were passionate about which appealed to me. They taught me to go after my passion and follow my heart. They believed in doing something that was truly enjoyable and they were right. I love my job as an illustrator, book cover designer, photographer and writer - it doesn’t even seem like a job since I have so much fun doing it!

HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR AWARD WINNING TITLE?: The title Sway was from a Michael Buble song which is featured in the story. It signifies the importance of a very special moment where Jessie falls in love with Ethan. Sway is also part of a theme for all of the books in the trilogy series, it conveys a sense of direction where the decisions we make in life can have a monumental impact in the future.

TELL US SOMETHING RANDOM/INTERESTING/FUNNY ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WRITER: I was recently on vacation in Florida and extremely ill from a sinus and double ear infection. I had to go to an emergency health care clinic and was standing at the nurses station getting my prescription when I noticed that one of the staff members was staring at me. She said, “I know you. Why is your name so familiar?” I reached in my purse and gave all of them my business cards which displayed the covers of my books. She looked at them, then replied, “I’ve seen your books online!” I was stunned speechless. Well, I had laryngitis at the time, but still, I was so surprised that I was recognized.

WHICH AUTHOR HAS MOST GREATLY INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING STYLE?: Several authors have made a huge impact on my writing. Growing up, I adored Madeleine L’Engle and her incredibly imaginative books such as A Wrinkle in Time as well as Gordon Kormon’s summer camp series, Bruno and Boots. That really instilled a sense of love for creative novels in me. JIm Butcher of the Dresden Files series and Janet Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum adventures is definitely a contributing factor to my writing style. I learned a lot from them and truly admire their stories.

WHAT BOOK HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE?: I would have to say A Wrinkle in Time from my childhood. Growing up, I had a really tough time in school where I was struggling with my disability, books were always a safe place for me to retreat to when I got home. It gave me freedom to explore my dreams and expand my imagination.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT?: Producing a trilogy series based on my life growing up with a hearing loss is a deeply personal achievement. For my books to have received so much recognition and numerous awards is simply amazing. I’m thrilled that so many readers are enjoying my books and discovering what it’s like to have a hearing impairment at the same time.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF BECOMING PUBLISHED AND ANY TIPS YOU MIGHT OFFER FOR OTHER ASPIRING AUTHORS?: I had originally self-published Sway at KOBO. As I continued to write the series, I decide to send out queries to publishers across Canada, hoping that someone would pick it up. After I went ahead and self-published the second book, Compass, I decided to try sending the queries to US publishers. Within months, all three of my books were chosen by Black Opal Books! This entire process took nearly two years, it didn’t happen overnight or within weeks. I knew that I had to follow my dreams and didn’t want to give up. That’s why I decided to try a different approach and it worked. Trust your instincts and keep going, you never know what will happen.

CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON HOW BEST TO PROMOTE THEIR BOOK? Definitely get involved with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and have your own website. Those are huge marketing tools to use right now. It’s a great way to reach out to the readers and stay in touch with them. It may seem scary to do that but it’s worth it in the long run.

Compass (Book 2)
Destiny (Book 3)
A Touch of Winter (Black Opal Books Anthology).

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?: There’s a reason why we have dreams, they inspire the passion within us and give us a sense of hope for the future. And that’s exactly what we need.

All three of my books have special messages in them, where the overall theme is hope. Each book has an inspirational quote: For Sway - “To reach the stars…all you have to do is believe.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS?: I’ve been writing a series of short stories and hoping to publish them soon. One of my short stories is being featured in a local anthology which is slated to be released later this year. I’m also interested in writing a science fiction novel which is a very exciting prospect and an entirely new perspective for me.

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval

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