I know Dannie and was excited to hear she had written a book. When I first started to read Desert Heat, I did so with a critical eye because it was...
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Our book club had the opportunity and privilege to meet and have a lively discussion of "Desert Heat" with Dannie Marsden...a great story with strong...
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Wow! Such a good story.I enjoyed it so much.I think what got me the most was that I don`t think most people would give a second thought to what kind...
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I am waiting for the next book to come out! The story was a page turner and I also enjoyed the portrayal of a variety of lesbians and how we interact...
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Nancy: When did you first know that you wanted to write?
Jen: Well, I've always wanted to write really. I grew up in a household where everyone was reading, and my mother is a writer as well. I just enjoyed writing stories. But I never thought about getting published, I was just writing for myself. It was only when I was coming up to retirement last year, that I thought I really need to be doing something. I can't just sit around. So I dug out some stories that I had written a while back and I had a look at them and thought ‘okay well maybe I can finish one of these off and send it off and see what happens’. So that's how that came about.
Nancy: Was it very hard to decide to do? You said you've always written, but only for yourself, so how big of a step was that?
Jen: It was a big hurdle for me because I'm quite shy, and my partner hasn't even read any of my stuff.
Nancy: Oh really?
Jen: She read the short story that I just recently came out with, There Was a Time. She really liked it, so that's encouraging. She's not a fan of lesbian fiction, so she didn't want to read my stuff. But now that it has been published…
Nancy: Oh so now that it's published, she will read it huh?
Nancy: You said your mother is an author, is she well known?
Jen: She is in Canada. She's done pretty well. She's not a bestseller, but she's done okay. She has received the Order of Canada and two Queen’s Jubilee Medals.
Nancy: Who or what actually inspire you to write? Was it your mom, or just something you felt you had to do?
Jen: It’s just something that I've always wanted to do. As I said, I enjoy reading, and later on in life, I thought I’d like to read stories about real lesbians, and there didn't seem to be a lot around at the time. Obviously, there is a lot more around now. And so much of the stuff, especially the way lesbians have been portrayed, on TV particularly is very depressing. They always end up being a bad one, or killing themselves or something.
Nancy: I know, when I was around 20, I first started finding lesbian novels. Unfortunately for me, the ones I read are probably not the ones you would want to read first. I read Paula Christian first, and every one of her books, while well-written, were all bummers. Girl gets girl, girl loses girl. And I'm thinking to myself crap is this what I have to look forward to? I was ecstatic when I found the first one with a happy ending.
Nancy: Where do you get your ideas from for your stories?
Jen: It can be from anything really. It might be something I overhear in a conversation, it might be a line from a song, it's hard to pin down. It could be something from an article in the newspaper or I see a headline and I think ‘oh that's interesting’, then it starts to percolate a bit.
Nancy: When you're writing, do you have any quirks that you do every time?
Jen: Not that I'm aware of, but my partner might have a different idea.
Nancy: (laughing) okay, I will have to ask her later.
Jen: As far as I'm concerned, I come into my little office and sit down and write. I don't need a cup of coffee or anything. I just like to sit down and get on with it.
Nancy: Do you like music or noise in the background when you write, or do you prefer complete silence?
Jen: For me it's mixed. Sometimes I like music and then it just becomes a background noise. If I'm involved in the story, the music gets lost.
Nancy: Are you ever a character in your stories?
Jen: Nope. I don't think so.
Nancy: How about anyone you know, are they characters?
Jen: Now that I'm getting published, when I do tell people, one of the first questions asked is am I in it? And I have to tell them as far as I know they are not.
I think that with any writer, it might be a mixture of people you know. I don't think that with the one coming out, Starting Over, has anybody that I actually know in it. If any of them come up to me and say that's me, well, no it's not. (Laughing)
Nancy: Naming your characters, do you find that easy or not?
Jen: This particular book, Starting Over, the names came to me quite quickly. Maybe it was the situation and I was able to fit the names around that. Sometimes if I'm stuck, I look at names on a baby names website. This is a bit worrying for my partner, she sees this and it's like… Are we adopting or what?
Nancy: (laughing) I would imagine. I bet she gives you a double take when she sees something like that on your computer.
Nancy: What about naming your books?
Jen: This one was from a song, and the way that the story developed it just fit, so that was all good.
Nancy: What would you do if your story stops flowing?
Jen: Well, apart from wanting to commit suicide…
Nancy: (laughing) That's not an option.
Jen: There's been a few times where it did seem to get stuck. I find that a good thing for me is to not write on the computer. That's when I will take up pen and paper. I find that the ideas seem to flow a bit more easily. So I will write out a scene and go back to the computer and it will start flowing again.
Nancy: Who writes your stories, you or your characters? What I mean is, do you know what’s going to happen all the time, or do you write what your characters tell you to write?
Jen: I have no idea what is going to happen. I'm of the, plot, what plot, variety. For me, it starts with the characters and the situation and I see how that develops. It's usually the characters that dictate how it will go.
Nancy: Do you use an outline at all for your stories?
Jen: The first chapter or so, I'm just writing off the top of my head to get the ideas down. Then it starts to take shape, and that's when I start to think, well okay, this is going on in this chapter and this will happen further down the line. But I don't plot it out like I know some do, with index cards and timelines. It develops more organically as I go along. I am a novice, so things may change.
Nancy: I don't know about that. What you are doing seems to be working just fine, so why change a good thing?
Nancy: How much research goes into your writing?
Jen: Thank God for the Internet, because I use Google quite a bit.
Nancy: (laughing) Google is your friend?
Jen: Yes, Google is my friend, and I now see your friend. (At this point in the interview, Gabrielle decided to voice her hello to Jen, and stick her face in front of the camera to be seen)
Jen: With Starting Over, I was familiar with the area, but I made up the details of the dig, that was totally fictional. With the book I am writing at the moment, I’m using sites that are actual places where this is happening. So I had to do a lot more research. From newspaper articles, and more in-depth research online. One of the places I had actually gone to visit, because it wasn’t somewhere that I’ve been, but I wanted to be able to describe it. So went on that train journey and had a nice day out.
Nancy: When this new book comes out, you plan on reading the reviews?
Jen: I’m not sure. As I’ve said, I’m new to this. I can imagine getting a bad review can hurt a lot. From my mother’s experience, I know that it can be quite devastating. So I don’t know, we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.
Nancy: You just have to let your partner read them for you first, huh?
Nancy: You mentioned that you’ve always written, but if there were no outlets for your written words, would you still write.
Jen: Yes I would, because basically I’ve always written stories for myself. So yes I would continue.
Nancy: Is there any kind of book you wouldn’t write?
Jen: Probably books that I don’t like to read myself, like horror, or vampires or zombies, that kind of thing.
Nancy: Would you have a problem writing erotica?
Jen: Possibly, I don’t know. I find writing sex scenes quite difficult, to make them sound realistic. I’ve read a lot of books with sex scenes in them, and quite honestly I get kinda fed up with the same terminology. My scenes are mainly fade to black scenes. I know some people find it irritating, but on the other hand a poorly written sex scene is worse. So I try to stick with things I can hopefully make sound real enough.
Nancy: You said most of your scenes are fade to black, so you might not be able to answer this but do you think it would be harder to write a love scene or a sex scene?
Jen: Well a love scene would have more emotions, and it’s hard to write. I think writing a love scene is more involved than writing the sex scene. And I think people might get fed up with too much sex but I don’t know, it depends on the story I guess.
Nancy: I recently read a book where I thought the sex was just over the top. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy sex in the books I read, but it needs to be there for a reason and not just to put sex in the book. I know young love will do stupid things, but I don’t care how hot I am for her, I don’t think that if I was in the middle of being chased by bad guys trying to kill me I’d pull off to the side of the road just to have sex.
Nancy: What do you find most challenging about writing?
Jen: It’s sitting down and actually doing it. I think having a target for myself is useful. So I’ve been trying to do this 1000 words a day sort of thing. And I find is good to have that goal otherwise I’ll sit here and think okay I’ve written 100 words that’s good. I can go have coffee. Even if it’s total rubbish, something that I might not use, I’ve got to get myself writing. Because it’s just too easy to be distracted by other things.
Nancy: Is that working out good for you, the writing 1000 words a day?
Jen: It’s been good, yes. I have this goal to work for, and then I can also post it on Facebook, and say I’ve done this, have gotten this much written and stuff.
Nancy: Have you taken any formal writing classes?
Jen: Years and years ago I did some creative writing classes, but that’s going back 40 years.
Nancy: Did you say 1-4 years or 4-0 years?
Jen: 4-0, I was fairly young.
Nancy: Yeah, what you are three when you took classes? (Laughing)
Jen: (laughing) Yeah, I was just coming out of the womb at the time. But that was mainly for poetry and stuff like that. Just recently I went on an Arvon Foundation writing course. The foundation is based here in the UK. They have several places dotted around the country, like writers retreats, they are very isolated places. You go there, you can have some instruction, but basically you just sit and write in very nice surroundings. That was interesting, there were 16 other people on this course with me, to do with novel writing, character development and that sort of thing. I think one of the most useful things from this course, for me, towards the end of the week, each person had to read some of what they had written. I chose a bit from Starting Over, and it seemed to go down quite well, and that was a bit of a hurdle for me to get over, for me to read my work in front of other people.
Nancy: Earlier in this interview, you mentioned that you are shy, and even though we are each on our computers a gazillion miles away from each other, you are still coming off very, very shy. You haven’t loosened up at all, and with this being on video, I can see that you still look very nervous. So I imagine it must of been pretty hard getting up in front of all those people. Were they critiquing what you wrote, or were you just reading?
Jen: On those occasions we were just reading, we already had some critiquing done. All the writers were very supportive, obviously they knew they had to get up and read also. So it was a very good environment to do it in.
Nancy: So now that you’re going to be a published writer, do you write any differently?
Jen: That’s a good question. I don’t think I do. While I’m typing, I might be more conscious of any mistakes I might be making, like typos and things. If I have a story to tell, that’s what I try to get down on paper, so I don’t think that’s any different than before.
Nancy: Your first novel is being released October 1, are you pretty excited about that?
Jen: Yes, I’m very excited about that. It’s amazing.
Nancy: Does your mom know about the novel coming out?
Jen: Oh yes, she knows.
Nancy: Is she pretty excited for you too?
Jen: She is, she’s thrilled, absolutely.
Nancy: Has she read it yet?
Jen: Not yet, she’s going to wait until it comes out.
Nancy: Really, she’s going to wait until it comes out? Are you going to give her a copy or make her buy it?
Jen: (laughing) Oh I’m going to make her buy it.
Nancy: (laughing) Really?
Jen: (still laughing) And my sister as well, she’s going to buy it.
Nancy: Now for some personal questions. When you are reading, do you prefer a print book or an e-book?
Jen: Right, I like both. I have a Kindle, I have an iPad, I find that when I’m traveling, having the Kindle is great. I can have several books on it at once, and if I start reading something I don’t like, I can switch to something else and not have to carry a whole library full of books with me. I do like reading print books as well, obviously, I have shelves full of books. Sometimes I go back to reread things and I like having them there.
Nancy: Are you single or in a relationship?
Jen: I’m in a relationship. We had a civil partnership eight years ago, and I think later this year we might be able to convert it into a marriage. We’ve been together 27 years.
Nancy: Wow! That’s wonderful. Can I ask your partner’s name?
Jen: Yes, her name is Anne, and I dedicated the book to her.
Nancy: That’s nice.
Jen: She would’ve never forgiven me if I hadn’t.
Nancy: Do you have any pets?
Jen: No, unfortunately we are both allergic to cats and dogs. Anne would love to have a Yorkshire Terrier, but she is very allergic, and I would like to have a cat myself. But no, we’d both be sneezing all the time.
Nancy: It would be kinda hard to have pets when you are both allergic.
Jen: Occasionally, we’ve looked after other people’s pets, and that’s fine, we just can’t have them full-time.
Nancy: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Jen: Very much a morning person. Luckily we both are, we go to bed early and get up early. That’s when I like to do most of my writing, in the morning, I’m not much good in the afternoons.
Nancy: Do you use a Mac or PC?
Jen: I use a Mac. I’ve had to use PCs when I worked, but I much prefer a Mac.
Nancy: Are you using your real name or a pen name when you write?
Jen: I use a pen name.
Nancy: How did you come by your pen name?
Jen: Well I was trying to think of something, and then Anne went for a walk, and when she came back she said, ‘Oh I think Jen Silver would be a nice name. Easy to remember, rolls off the tongue sort of thing’. And I thought yeah that’s a nice name.
Nancy: Really, just like that she came up with your name?
Jen: Yeah just like that, and I really like it. And when I told my mother I had this new name she said ‘oh yes, I like that’. So I’m going to have to change my name. (Laughing)
Nancy: (Laughing) Nah, I like your real name too. You’re the first person who’s ever told me that their partner came up with their pen name, just like that. Most of them are kinda sorta part of their real name, or their middle name or something like that so is easy for them to remember. It’s very interesting.
Nancy: What do you do for relaxation?
Jen: Well, I have several hobbies. I play golf, we both play golf so that’s a nice thing we do together. I took up archery about four years ago.
Jen: Yes, I use a longbow now. I started out with a recurve, like what you see in the Olympics. Now I’m shooting with just a piece of wood and a string.
Nancy: Does Anne do this too?
Jen: No, she does not do that, no.
Nancy: You will have to send me a picture of you with your longbow, that would be a nice picture for your author profile.
Jen: Well, I have one of me dressed up as well. Every year they have this St. George’s event, and people dress up. A lot of the guys go as crusaders and things like that, and I have this sort of Robin Hood like outfit, and I have a Robin Hood hat.
Nancy: Now you definitely have to send me a picture of you in costume with your longbow. I think that’s pretty interesting and I’m not sure exactly what a longbow is.
Nancy: What your favorite meal?
Jen: I like chicken a lot, chicken fajitas. I’m not really a meat and potatoes sort of person, we don’t eat a lot of meat nowadays.
Nancy: Are you a pretty good cook or you just throw things together?
Jen: Actually Anne does most of the cooking. I think the kitchen is mainly her domain, I just do the washing up, and pour drinks.
Nancy: Pouring drinks is very important.
Nancy: If you’re going on a getaway, would you go to the water or to the woods?
Jen: I would go to a golf course.
Nancy: (laughing) That wasn’t an option but it will work. I guess you get them both at the golf course, the water and the woods.
Jen: Yes, you get the water, and if your ball goes off course you get the woods.
Nancy: You want it all huh?
Nancy: If you could have anything you wanted, what would you ask for?
Jen: I think the most important thing at this time of my life is having good health. I’d like that for both of us so we can continue doing what we like doing together.
Nancy: Who are some of your favorite authors? You can name mainstream and lesfic.
Jen: Mainstream, Ursula Le Guin, Virginia Woolf is one of my favorites as well, and for adventure stories I like Bernard Cornwall, he did a really good series on King Arthur. Lesbian authors, Katherine V Forrest, she’s obviously a favorite, I liked the series that Jean Stewart did, and Chris Anne Wolf I liked as well, her Aggar series.
Nancy: They were talking about her just recently on Facebook. I picked up the first book in the series and I really enjoyed it. Enough so that I will be buying the other two.
Jen: Yes, she imagined the future world well I thought.
Nancy: What are you working on next?
Jen: I’m just coming to the end of another novel. It’s a sequel really, to Starting Over. I’ve just explored some of the other characters who were minor characters in that book.
Nancy: So it does not deal with the two main characters that were in the original book correct?
Jen: No, but they are sort of featured in it.
Nancy: So can I ask who this new story is going to be about?
Jen: In the first book there is Dr. Moss the archaeologist, and the reporter. So this book is mostly about what happens with them.
Nancy: That’s cool. I really liked their dynamics in Starting Over, the reporter was a player, and Dr. Moss was so serious. You felt her change a little bit when she met Dr. Moss, so it will be interesting to see what happens between the two.
Nancy: How do you discover the e-books that you read right now?
Jen: Mainly from what I’m reading on Facebook. Some of the groups there are always discussing new books, and authors. So that’s great because I see a different variety of authors and books to choose from.
Nancy: I think Facebook has helped an awful lot in promoting books. When I first started looking for lesbian books on Amazon, some of the books that the search brought up, were books I would never even think of reading. And with Facebook, they talk about so many different authors and so many different books, and they’re books that we are interested in. It never ceases to amaze me how a book that is obviously heterosexual, can make it in the top 50 on the Amazon lesbian books listing. And with all the different books and authors that are being brought up on Facebook if you like it, you can research it more to see if you want to buy it. If it’s not what you’re into, just go on to the next suggestion.
Jen: Yeah, and you also get to know people and what they like, and you get to find out if you like the same things or not. And then after a while you recognize the names and you think if that is what they recommended, the chances are you will like it too because so far it’s worked out that way.
Nancy: You remember the first story you ever wrote?
Jen: Um, the first story I ever wrote? It was quite a sad story. I had a tortoise, one of those real little ones that you get from the fair. So I had it in a bowl in my room and it died and I had to bury it. So I had written a story about that.
Nancy: That’s cute, what was his name?
Jen: His name was Tommy.
Nancy: How old were you when you wrote that?
Jen: I was probably about six or seven at the time.
Nancy: Remember the first lesbian story you ever read?
Jen: The first one I ever read, I can’t remember, I never read Well of Loneliness or anything like that.
Nancy: Consider yourself fortunate.
Jen: It was probably a Katherine V Forrest or Claire McNab book.
Nancy: It really is hard to remember the first book you ever read.
Jen: It really is, since I’ve read so many since then.
Nancy: What is your favorite thing about writing?
Jen: Probably being able to see it in print. Also when you feel it coming together, the story, the characters and everything - that’s when I really start to enjoy it.
Nancy: When you write the end on your story, whether it’s physical or just in your head, is it really the end? Or do you second-guess yourself a lot and say/think, maybe I should add this, maybe this character should do that?
Jen: Yes, like with this one that I’m writing, I thought I’d come to the end, but just this morning I was thinking, no, I don’t think it’s quite the end yet.
Nancy: How do you go about figuring what you want on your cover?
Jen: (laughing) Well I just take your advice on the covers.
Nancy: (laughing) Well pretend like I’m not here and I didn’t design the cover for you.
Now the background cover of the book, it was taken by you, and it’s a beautiful picture. It fits a storyline so well. Was it done on purpose, did you take a picture with the hopes that it will be used as the new book cover?
Jen: No, I had just been doing some research and decided to drive around the area. And I thought I might as well take some pictures while I was there. I figured it would help me while I was writing having the pictures there on the screen, using one as my screensaver.
Nancy: How did you choose Affinity is your publisher?
Jen: Once I decided to submit the work, I took a look at some submission guidelines. So I got some names of some of the publishers from books I read, and I checked the websites for their submission guidelines. And I have to say, that your guidelines seemed the friendliest. Or user-friendly anyway. So then I sent my work in, and on my email to Submissions, I put in that I tried to follow the Chicago manual of style, but I’d like to keep the English spellings. I’m English, and I prefer my u’s and s’s, and that sort of thing. When Julie wrote back, she said don’t worry about it, I’m from the UK and I understand. So I thought that was a good thing as well. And I have to say I’ve been impressed with everything so far.
It was a pleasure getting to know a bit more about Jen. She has a delightful accent, (I am a sucker for those!), and every once in a while, her sense of humor broke through her shyness. I am looking forward to the release of Starting Over, the sequel, and whatever else she decides to pen.
Most of the people who know me, know that I am pretty easy going, easy to get along with, and to talk to. The interview with Jen lasted about one and a half hours, and in that time, I usually have a good rapport with all of my victims, umm, I mean interviewees. While Jen and I got along very well, I could still see how shy she was. If we ever meet in person, I am warning her now, I am going to try my best to break her out of that shyness! She will either succumb to my wit and charm, or run like hell! LOL