...Interview Jenny Drummey

This is Jenny.

And this is Jenny's debut novel! Order it here.

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One quick housekeeping note. I was at the Maryland Writers Association conference this past Saturday, and had the chance to hang with one of my literary heroes (and blurbers of my book), Rafael Alvarez. On Sunday I exhibited at the Kensington Book Fesitval with Alan Orloff and other writers from Mystery Writers of America. And then, last night, I was the guest speaker for Marymount University's English Night, which was a great experience. I loved the teachers at that school, and I was really honored to be included in that event.

I met Jenny because I have a disobedient parrot and Jenny specializes in training parrots. So she came to my house, worked with me, my wife and our bird (DoWop) and we got to talking and discovered that we both write. We kept in touch, traded and edited writing back and forth, and I soon realized, holy shit, she's the real deal. So I was beyond excited when she told me that her debut literary novel, UNREQUITED, had sold to Rebel ePublishers. The book is beautiful, and Jenny writes in a uniquely engaging style. I fell in love with it. You will too.

Here's my interview with Jenny. An excerpt of her book follows.

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What led to you writing UNREQUITED?

It started as a short story that I shared with my friend Mary Overton who said that she wanted to know more about the characters. I was not working at the time, so what else was I going to do?

How long did UNREQUITED take to write?

About a year and a half.

Do you have other books planned and, if so, will they continue the stories of any of these characters?

I want to resuscitate a novel I wrote and rewrote for about 10 years. I gave up on it when I realized that my last rewrite was like trying to stuff a fat guy into an undersized coffin. But all that effort taught me what not to do, and guided me when writing Unrequited.

I’ll perform an autopsy on my dead-fat-guy of a novel to determine cause of death. Maybe I can zombie-fy him and get him moving again.

The book is called Hurricane Frank, and the hurricane is a character, and, yes, he does get interviewed on a television show on the Natural Disaster Channel (in case you were wondering).

Why did you pursue an MFA in Poetry?

I wanted two years to devote to writing. Fortunately, I was savvy enough to know that a poet can’t pay the rent, so I didn’t go into debt for it.

Unfortunately, the more poetry readings I attended, the more aware I became of that poetry-reading voice – the affected diction that fails to cut through the impenetrable, self-referential thickets of the poet’s personal tropes. When I learned about Language Poetry (the free jazz of the genre) I wondered – who is reading this?

Poetry is like any other creative product: 99% of it stinks, but that 1% (A 1% that I can gladly get behind) is fantastic.

But being a poet did teach me about economy of language. From our friends Strunk and White: Omit needless words.

Do you put any parameters on your writing? Is there any topic you consider taboo?

Boring writing is my taboo. Great writing can make almost any topic acceptable. Perfect example is Hubert Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn: crazy good, but a book I would never read again. As soon as I finished it, I got it out of the house.  Almost every character is horrible or has horrible things done to them. He also wrote The Room, which is a prisoner’s monologue from his jail cell. He captured the madness that erupts in isolation, along with graphic descriptions of the torture he would inflict on his captors. I actually had to skip pages. There are some things you can’t unread.

I feel the same way about Requiem for a Dream, the movie based on Selby’s book. It was an incredible experience that I never want to have again.

Why birds?

I had too much free time.

But really, I blame David Attenborough! I watched his series The Life of Birds and that started my fascination. I got my first parrot 13 years ago, and have a flock of 4 now.

Birds are a lifestyle, they’re not a pet. The amount of work to keep a parrot in your home should be enough to turn most people off from acquiring them, but unfortunately it’s not. For ten years, I have been a volunteer for Phoenix Landing, a nonprofit that educates people about parrot care and finds homes for birds if their caretakers have to give them up.

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If you want to learn more about Jenny and UNREQUITED, visit her web site. And you can follow her on Twitter and Facebook. And now, here's that except I promised:

 

The phone in Frank Zimbalist III’s empty office kept ringing.

One female caller, pleased with the Zimbalist Holistic Recliner, offered to perform a number of potentially pleasurable acts on Frankie.

There were a few inquiries about buying the Recliner for institutions, and whether wholesale rates were available.

But most of the messages were from the same people: Dr. Gary Huff, or the representative from BeWell Enterprises, or that lady Frankie had met at the Sober Living Solutions conference in Tucson, or half a dozen other people who had Zimbalist Holistic Recliners.

The first message from each party was polite and professional. Some of the callers spelled out their names or repeated their phone numbers slowly, to make a busy man’s job returning phone messages that much easier.

They were certain, after all, that selling the remarkable Zimbalist was a demanding job. 
But as the number of unreturned messages from each party increased, the politeness and professionalism fell away.

By the fourth attempt, the callers barely contained their frustration. Some threatened that Frankie would be hearing from a lawyer. Some pleaded tearfully for him to please call them back.

All wanted to understand what the Recliner was telling them. They wanted to know what it was designed to do and whether they were using it in the right way.

One whispered, menacingly, that the Zimbalist had revealed his true purpose in life. If he fulfilled that purpose, it would be very unfortunate for Frankie.

But then there were the calls from Dr. Gary, who always remained calm, evenly modulated, patient. Dr. Gary did not believe in getting angry over the phone. He left the same message every time.

When Frankie nervously called in for his messages at the end of each day, he never knew what craziness he might hear on the other end of the line.

But Dr. Gary’s voice was always professional and kind.

Because of this, even though Frankie Zimbalist was on the run from a bunch of patent lawyers and ex-wives and other bloodsuckers, Dr. Gary was the only one he considered calling back, the only one whose number he had written down. Once he could be somewhere for a few days and just think. Once he could get himself together and away from all the revelations the chair that bore his name had given him, he swore, he promised, he included in his prayers every night before he started drinking, he would “call that Huff guy back. Out of all of those sonsabitches, God, he’s the one who deserves to know the truth.”

Read more here.

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INTERVIEW ROLL CALL:

Michelle Davidson Argyle (writer)

Cathrina Constantine (writer)

Jenny Drummey (writer)

Kristen Elise (writer)

Sunny Frazier (writer, publisher)

Chris F. Holm (writer)

Maxim Jakubowski (writer, editor)

Sara Jones (musician)

Nik Korpon (writer)

Barry Lancet (writer)

Sommer Marsden (writer)

K.D. McCrite (writer)

Abby Mott (musician)

Alan Orloff (writer)

Alice Peck (editor)

Lucie Smoker (writer)

Ellie Ann Soderstrom (writer, editor)

Art Taylor (writer, critic)

Steve Weddle (writer)

Sarah Weinman (writer, critic)

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