Seven minutes with Jennifer: Interview of Jody Provost!

S_m_w_JToday I have the honor of hosting Jody Provost on my blog! 

Welcome Jody. Please, tell us a something about yourself? 

I am 44 years old and spent over half of my life married to my best friend, Michael Provost. We have two grown children, ages 19 and 26, who have given my husband and me a beautiful grandchild each. I moved from NY to GA in 2004 and made a life change to decide what I really wanted to do with my life and my husband to improve his job prospects. I have sewn for over 23 years, having designed many fashions for fashion dolls such as Barbie and other collector dolls. After being diagnosed with facet joint disease and arthritis in my spine in early 2012, I decided it was time to pursue my writing and do something with my book that had been “a writing in progress” for over a year.

 

What is the genre of your books?

Originally, I started writing historical fiction geared toward older children and adults. I was inspired by Rachel Field who wrote the original book, “Hitty: Her First Hundred Years”. I decided the story should be continued, so I decided, why not? I sat down for a year and researched the 1930’s and the result was “Hitty and Her Next Hundred Years”. After that, I wrote 3 short stories involving the play character Hitty.

After feeling a bit burnt out on happy feelings and history, I needed a break and went back to my roots to write suspense thriller murder mysteries. Jumping from the frying pan into the fire it seemed since this genre was completely different than a sweet children’s story was a risk, but one I felt I should take.

When and why did you begin writing?

I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember, all the way back to the 5th grade. I wrote a letter to Hearst Publishing in 6th grade and that was my first taste of possibilities. I actually received a response, but my mother felt it was just for fun and never pursued it further. In 10th grade, I wrote a novella, which I still have, but never did anything further with it. Writing is part of who I am because I love a good story to read and enjoy, even more, to bring a story to someone else to enjoy that I created. Nora Roberts is an inspiration to me because she pulls you in from the beginning, which is a very difficult thing to do. My love of her books made me want to finally make my stories come to life on paper and in digital form.

Oh, there was a time when I read all of Nora Roberts’ books as well! When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Truthfully? Not until someone contacted me to do my first book signing just two short weeks after releasing my first book. I had been part of a large community of doll collectors for over 10 years online. Since Hitty is a little wooden doll, news of my book spread quickly. When I sat down at that table at the doll show and someone came over for an autograph, telling me how excited they were I was there, I felt as if I finally had arrived. Even if I sold that one book and not another, I knew someone took my writing seriously beside myself.

??????????Where do you get ideas for your stories?

My stories are inspired by my environment and by the people I encounter, even if it is so brief an encounter as shaking someone’s hand and speaking one or two words to one another. Hitty, as I said, was inspired from a book written in 1929 by Rachel Field. The stories in “Twisted Tales” were inspired by my husband and my travels around central Georgia this past summer looking for estate sales and garage sales since I am a collector and love antiques. One day, my oldest daughter Jole and I were driving to find a sale that, that day, could not be found. We saw a hot pink sign flapping in the wind pointing to a yard sale, and ended up on this creepy gravel road. It was like stepping back in time. That is when “Tag Sale”, the first story in “Twisted Tales” started to formulate. I started taking my camera with me when we went to new places I had never gone before. Certain places and elements around me sparked my vast imagination. Story after story came to me, but it seemed they were so short, but I sometimes have a short attention span. I thought, why not make it into a collection?

What was the hardest part of writing your books?

This book in particular was finding time to actually finish the story. My lifestyle is full of family and taking care of my dogs. I babysit my grandson while my daughter, Michaela, works two jobs. My husband works at night, so he sleeps when I have my “me” time in the morning. I found I had to go back and become more descriptive than I originally was because I wanted to get the concept down before I lost the flow of the story. Normally I write a lot, but this time around, it was something, it seemed, I had wanted to write for some time. Editing, after the fact, is always the hardest part as well. I self-edit sometimes as I write and that can interrupt the flow of the story.

Have you ever had a writer’s block and if yes, how did you make it go away?

Definitely and emphatically YES! I don’t think I know any writer that hasn’t had writer’s block. Aside from the obvious like getting up and walking away from what I am writing, sometimes I will watch a movie or especially listen to music. Music helps me focus more than anything. Sometimes physical activity like going outside with my dogs and playing with them or expounding the pent-up frustration is a huge help as well. I have a tendency not to eat as well while writing and many times realize late in the day I hadn’t eaten anything. I always preach the protein intake to help the brain focus better and give energy. A chocolate bar sometimes helps as well. LOL

Indie or traditional publishing?

I published my original print book through Lulu.com. It was recommended from a fellow writer and removed the waiting process of being accepted and rejected. After I got over my resistance to digital format, I decided to go to Amazon and learn the “joy” of doing eBooks. Originally I found it frustrating but was determined after a friend wanted to read my Hitty book, but couldn’t in traditional print because of her eyes. I still want to eventually possibly consider traditional publishing, but I feel from what I have read about contracts it may not be for me.

Sounds like we’re on a same path…Do you have any weird writing habits?

I am not sure if it is weird but I have to be the right temperature. I cannot be too hot or too cold while writing because then I cannot concentrate. In the summer I will have a tank top and shorts on. Wintertime, especially this cold Georgia winter, I have a favorite soft brown blanket I will wrap up in while I write. I also have to write in the dark either with just music going or no noise at all. Having it dark helps me focus JUST on what I am writing and nothing else around me. Unless, of course, my dog is barking at my door.

What do you do in your spare time? Do you still sew and is Fashion4Dolls still up?

I turned Fashion4Dolls into Jody Provost Originals about 5 years ago. I decided I wanted anything I designed to be associated with my name, like Chanel or Dolce and Gabbana. I do not sew as much as I once did since my hands aren’t what they once were and it is harder to sit for longer periods of time to finish an outfit because of my back. I miss it and it helped to have an extra income, no matter how small. I love fabric and color or any form of art. I sew when the mood strikes and need to get away from whatever else I may be dealing with. It’s a part of me and will always be part of who I am. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t quite cooperate like it once did. I also love to play Rock Band with my daughters because I love to sing and think family time is extremely important and so valuable.

I am active in raising public awareness about medical issues and education for young women, such as endometriosis, which my daughter Michaela was diagnosed with in 2011 at the age of 16. She had suffered for 3 years and the fight to get surgery or any kind of help is nearly impossible. In March, we will be going to Washington, DC for the Million Woman March for Endometriosis. My daughter is a precinct manager for Georgia and I support her wholeheartedly.

As a dog lover I’m more than curious to hear about your rescue dog career and the Facebook Shelter Crossposter project. Please, tell us more? If someone would like to help with the project, is it possible, and how do they do it?

Shelter Crossposting became something close to my heart after rescuing my dogs form various bad situations like the local shelter and people giving them away in Walmart parking lots. I used to be terribly afraid of dogs, but my shelter dog Bruno made me realize just how much a dog can enrich a person’s life. My local shelter has a page of dogs in need of saving from euthanization. Many do not realize how many animals are put down and think if they can no longer care for their companions, a shelter is a solution. It isn’t. Shelters only have so much space and after that space is filled, they have to pick and choose who to kill. A harsh reality when I first realized what it was all about.

I formed a Facebook group called “Shelter Moms”. It focuses on pregnant dogs who either are dumped while pregnant, give birth and the entire litter and Mom will be killed, or someone stole or sold a litter (like in the case of many pitbulls) and the mother is dumped as she no longer is useful for breeding purposes. I do not have a rescue myself, but help by sharing posts to raise donations, have transported from a shelter to a rescue in order to save a dog from dying that day, and raise awareness about the horrible conditions of some shelters and lack of funding. Just recently, Georgia finally got rid of the gas chambers used to kill multiple breeds and animals at once. Without going into graphic details, it was a horrific situation that now is no longer used. Many states still use this as a form of euthanization and is anything but humane. I am also for making it a felony that will mean several years, not days, of jail time for those who abuse, torture, and kill animals across our country.

Anyone wanting to help it is simple. Many think you have to give hundreds of dollars or post tons of pictures a day. No. My mindset is even if you save ONE animal only once, you have done something wonderful. Many people get angry with the “sad” posts or filling up their newsfeed with all the dogs and cats. The chain reaction of sharing the animals in need is important. Even if you cannot donate or adopt, someone out there in the millions of users on Facebook may be the one person who can. You never know.

Wow! You got me speechless. I heart you and your work with a big heart and truly hope people will step up and help!

T19Any current projects you’d like to share?

On February 1, 2014, “Twisted Tales”, a collection of three short stories, was released in eBook form on Amazon.com. The stories, “Tag Sale”, “Piano Man”, and “Danger Signs” encompass the lives of three different women in different stages of their lives who have realized what life has become for them. Inspired by the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, Agatha Christy, and J.D. Robb (AKA Nora Roberts), these stories came forth after a summer of local traveling and the need to write something different. While all that I had written for the public in the past had been very PG and children oriented, I decided to show a bit more of my true self that loves a good mystery and ironic endings. I had my first cover reveal on Facebook and I am also working on a book trailer with an artist that has written an original song that I chose and asked permission to use for the book trailer. This new year has been the beginning of many new things for me, including taking a risk with writing in a genre

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

Probably the toughest criticism, in my eyes, was being boring. I found it ironic because so many had enjoyed my writing and it made me falter (briefly). It also helped me take a good, hard look at my writing and want to improve the descriptions more. I have received criticism in some cases where the people did not understand the concept of the character, such as in the “Hitty” book, so that criticism was wasted. All criticism, no matter how harsh, should always be considered. Your feelings might be hurt at first, but in the long run, it may help you become a better writer.

What has been the best compliment?

I was floored when people started wanting autographed copies of my print book. I was told it was so they could hand my book in printed version down to their grandchildren or their child, or to be added to their vast book collection. To know that my words, my story that I had created, could last more than a generation, meant a great deal to me. Writing is a form of sharing a part of you. It would be wonderful if some day my grandchildren came across an old copy of my book that someone had and say their grandmother once knew me and be able to tell their own story of how it came about.

Favorite quote?

“Be not afraid of greatness” by William Shakespeare is my favorite quote. I confess I did not originally get it from him and instead from a fantastic writer of the series “Legend of the Seeker”, Terry Goodkind. I was watching an interview with him after watching the series on DVD. The manner in which he approached things spoke to me as a writer and a person. I was once told I was afraid of success. I realized in that moment, that person had been right. It was time to reach for success and see where it led me.

Where can people find out more about you and your books?

You can find all of my books on Amazon.com. My print book is currently out of print for a year. I took it off the market to see exactly what I wanted to do with it. All books now are in eBook format.

Hitty and Her Next Hundred Years: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A13UR2M

Hitty and the Halloween Pumpkin Patch Hunt: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009UW3EMK

Hitty’s Spring Full of Fun: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BVKII6G

Summertime Hitty Beach Party: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CR3UEV8

Twisted Tales: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I66RLWA

Quiet_Sickness_SignDo you want to tell us something about your book? 

I have always been interested in psychiatry and the human psyche. Before writing this collection of stories, I studied many cases of serial killers. The mindset of such individuals made me wonder what it was in their lives that formulated who they were. Abuse of some kind or life events can be a turning point for an individual, but some believe killers are born that way. What makes one individual “normal” and the other one “twisted”? “Twisted Tales” shows three women who had been affected in some way by events in their lives that made them the way they are. In some ways, these stories convey that we all should appreciate who we are and what we have without always wanting more or being unhappy. It also conveys that we have to make ourselves happy and others are not responsible for our happiness. We must stop putting too much value on materialistic objects and money, rather than the people in our lives. While all three women are different people, they represent three stages in life: youth, middle age and old age.

Here is an excerpt from “Tag Sale”, the first story in “Twisted Tales”.

“I veered off the road making a split decision to follow the sign. I immediately regretted it once my tires hit gravel and dirt with a hump in the middle of the road. It had gone from paved highway to country road in a heartbeat. It was as if I had stepped into a Stephen King novel as the trees above formed a tunnel of green that blocked out what little sun was peeking through the clouds. The scent of dirt and dust rose up to my nostrils as the heat and coming rain intensified the smell.

To my left was a field. It was behind the grove of trees that partially blocked my view. The gated driveway was not what I was used to. The fencing was electrified and the gate one you would see that led to a power substation or large farm. The house behind it was old and ominous, but the beauty of age shone through the darkened view.

Proceeding down the road, another field was unblocked from view. Antique farm machinery sat in the corner, listless and still. The rust from days gone by and stiffness of age was set into the tines of the great diggers that once must have plowed fields of cotton. What they must have witnessed as slaves, pulling it behind them or walking behind it as they worked in the heat. Then they would endure being whipped for having a mind of their own or to beg for a drink of water after their hard work. It was as if the ghosts of those slaves spoke to me as I drove past, telling me to turn around.

I wasn’t welcome here.”

 

Once a person reads this book, I want them to walk away and think, “WOW!” or come away feeling something. I want them to read it and think of the people in their lives and maybe appreciate them a little more, or take a look at their own lives and maybe make some changes for the better. Even if all they do is walk away and think, wow, this lady has one sick imagination, then I have done my job as a writer to make the reader feel some sort of emotion.

Thank you for the enjoyable experience being interviewed. I look forward to the reviews of “Twisted Tales”. There are still many strange tales in need of telling. There is more to come!

No, thank you! This has truly been a pleasure. I wish all the best to you in the future. Never give up for the good work that you’re doing.  

 

 

 

 

 

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About jenniferloiske

Jennifer Loiske lives in Finland in Naantali, which is a small sunny town on the southwest coast. She is a pre-school teacher by profession but she stayed at home when her youngest daughter suffered brain fever, which developed severe epilepsy in 2004. She is a workaholic Teen/Young Adult author, who loves dark fantasy, teen movies, chips and candies and warm sunny days. She’s also very keen on charity work and a big part of her royalties goes to the charity; mainly to help families with epileptic children but also to the epilepsy units in the hospitals. As a huge fan of dark novels Jennifer's bookshelf is full of books from L.J. Smith, Alyson Noel, Stephanie Meyer, Chloe Neill, Michelle Rowen, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Amanda Hocking and Lauren Kate. She’s also a huge fan of music from Evanescence, Linkin Park, Within Temptation, OneRepublic and Disturbed. But her hunger for music is endless and depend on what mood she’s in or what kind of book she’s working on. She can be pretty much an omnivore when it comes to music.
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