Welcome to my blog spot- grab a cup of coffee and a good book ;-)
I met the amazing writer and avid reader, Jennifer Soucy on Twitter last year when our buddy Marc formed a group that would later be known as my Twitt fam. These wonderfully talented people have been my sounding board, my ventilation shaft, and my shoulder to cry on. They’ve shared my accomplishments, trials, and tribulations. Jen has read and fallen in love with many of my characters over the last year and a half. She’s one of my most treasured betas and she truly has a heart of gold. She’s been a great friend and valued fellow writer.
She’s an author of several works including horror, so naturally when she was set to publish a book, I wanted to read it! I recently finished an ARC of her debut novel, Demon in Me. This baby premieres this Saturday, March 21st by the way and I was awed by her creative mind and eloquent words. I knew I had to ask her what inspired this work and her characters.
Here’s what she had to say:
Me: Hi Jennifer, tell me a little about yourself? When did you know you were going to be a writer?
Jen: Hey, Shanna! I’m 41 now--a Connecticut Yankee living in Georgia. My parents are down here too, as well as my younger twin sisters. I’ve worked most of my life in the service industry (25yrs now), but I absolutely love bartending the most. I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly twenty years and, while we don’t have kids, we adore our baby kitty Guinness (a 20lb siamese, so hardly a baby but you feel me!).
I always loved reading. My mom still talks about how I was 3 or 4, sitting alone in my room with my Golden Books and reading out loud. She was never sure if I had memorized the words from her reading them to me, or if I just caught on by myself, but it impressed her.
Ever since then, both her and my grandmother showered me with books and frequent trips to the library. I always excelled at writing--at least, in school--winning awards at a young age. When I was 12, my parents bought me one of those old-fashioned typewriters--you know, big metal beasts that require ribbon and ink. I was on it every day, writing what I was sure would be the next in a line of fantastic spooky stories (a very odd mashup of Stephen King and V.C. Andrews which I mostly wiped from my mind, but I was a kid)!
Life got in the way of my dreams, as it does for so many. I stopped writing, focusing on work and survival. When I was nearing 40, I had an epiphany while bartending: What in the hell am I doing with my life? And boom, that was it. I cut my hours and got to work, and I haven’t looked back since.
Me: Awesome! I love both those authors! Now, what inspired you to write Demon In Me?
Jen: Demon In Me was actually the third book I wrote after beginning my mid-life writing binge (3 novels from June to December 2018). It took me about 2 months to knock out the first draft because it flooded out. My family has suffered from addiction, something I toyed with in my youth as well. Also, I spent several years as a teenager in and out of hospitals for suicide attempts (one of which was nearly successful).
I wanted to create a character with similar struggles; although, Layla had it worse than me in almost every instance. I remember sitting in front of my computer, daydreaming as the story shaped up. I thought something like, “Everybody has inner demons. But they’re not real...are they?” That was all it took. And it ended up being my hook!
As I stated, I’m from Connecticut. While it wasn’t always bad growing up there, I fled as quick as I could--more because of me than the area or people. I fled to Georgia to start a new life, but I also lived for a time in Las Vegas with the same goal--a fresh start, trying something new. Las Vegas is definitely a city who welcomes and nurtures refugees, and I absolutely loved my time there. I wanted to convey that love in a story, too, even if we only see it briefly in the story.
Me: Isn’t it amazing how our works can be so personal. Even when we don’t intend to, we write facets of ourselves into our characters? You lived in Vegas? How cool! So, which character in this book is your favorite? Why?
Jen: Layla is my favorite, simply because we bonded through our similar experiences. Her struggles, insecurities, and doubts resonated with me so much. Plus, as a writer, first-person is a hugely intimate PoV. Which is why I can’t write a villain in 1st person--it would scare the crap out of me, for real.
If I had a second-favorite character, it would absolutely be Raij. I honestly think he birthed himself--one minute, he just popped on the page and I was like “Who are you?” He’s the best friend we all dream of and some of us are lucky enough to have. He’s funny, irreverent, gets into wild situations, but he’s got a heart of pure gold (you should see some of my deleted scenes, or the ones that never made it to the page!).
Me: LOL! It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? Now, did anyone in real life inspire your characters? Layla? Cole? Raij?
Jen: I’ve seen other authors attempt to tackle this question, so I’ll say my version of it. None of my characters was inspired by any one person in particular. However, for the people who are closest to me, they’ll definitely see familiar slivers here and there.
As far as Jake and Alice, the adorable nephew and niece, I was absolutely inspired by my 30+ nieces and nephews. I never had children, but I love these kids as if they were my own. I definitely channeled those emotions when building Layla’s relationship with the kids--how even when they’re not your own, nieces and nephews can absolutely melt your heart with their open and generous love.
Me: Ha ha, yes! Agreed! What are you working on now?
Jen: That’s a complicated question, lol. I have a contract with RhetAskew publishing for the first book I wrote in the summer of 2018. It’s a YA/NA dark fantasy/horror (due early 2021) about a teen from Boston who gets the shock of her life close to her 18th birthday. Someone breaks into her room, a girl who looks like a younger version of her dead mother...and, supernatural hijinks and Celtic folklore abound!
I have several queries out for 2 other finished novels. I also wrote nearly 10 short stories I’m shopping for various anthologies.
As for “in-progress” projects, I have a sequel nearly done for the YA/NA book above. And, I’m working on the next draft for a modern re-telling of the Persephone and Hades myth but with witches and satanists. Also, there’s a new novel shaping up but I can’t talk about it yet til I uncover more so...to be continued!
Me: How fun! I can’t wait to read more of your work!! So, tell us a little about your writing process?
Jen: For the most part, I prefer writing as soon as I wake up. I find the words and images flow best when I’m still half-asleep. However, when the story really kicks in, I’ve been known to go on binges for up to 10k words from sunrise to sunset. You know how it is, when it’s coming you have to get it down right then and there!
Another thing I do when starting any project is creating a playlist. Music is a huge part of my life, something I love as much as books. I find that having the songs play in the background distracts my conscious mind so my subconscious can run wild. Each playlist is specifically crafted to reflect certain characters or specific scenes/themes. It drives my boyfriend crazy cause he’ll look one over and be like, “Why do you have this song but not that one. How could you leave such a classic off?” But, I remind him every time, even if I love a song/artist they don’t make the playlist unless they fit the criteria!
As you know, I included an excerpt of the playlist for Demon In Me at the back of the book. With Layla as a musician, it just seemed appropriate. Plus, I’ve recently seen some authors doing it so I was inspired to add it as well.
Me: Same here, I get the best ideas when I’m still sleepy too! You got to go with the flow, literally LOL! And I agree, music is life!! Now, horror is one of my favorite genres? What drew you to it?
Jen: I blame fairy tales. And not the cute Disney versions, I’m talking the dark and bloody classics whispered over hearths for hundreds of years before being eventually written down for posterity. I do love Disney, of course, and those were some of my first and favorite movies. But, my grandmother encouraged my love of fairy tales by reading the old versions to me every time I slept over (which was a lot). Mutilation, abuse, cannibalism, trauma--you name it, she read it. And my little ears soaked it all up.
As I grew older, my reading diversified, of course. But I always gravitated towards fantastic tales, anything different from the world I knew--the darker, the better.
My first pure horror read was from Stephen King, naturally. My best friend at the time (we were 9) started reading It. I saw the size of that book and opted for something less intimidating, choosing The Shining. I honestly think I got the better end of the deal (even though It is amazing). The story of the Torrances and The Overlook blew my mind, and nearly scared the life out of me. But, I understood Danny Torrance and really connected with him. To this day, it’s one of my favorite books ever. Without Mr. King, I never would’ve dived into a genre that has become one of the cornerstones of my life. I cannot emphasize enough how much of a horror nerd/fangirl I am...to my mother’s constant dismay, lol.
Me: LOL! My mom and dad were fans too. My favorite movie at the age of eight was Silver Bullet, so I get it. So, who are your favorite authors/books?
Jen: There are so many, it’s ridiculous! And I’m sure I’ll forget a few, so I’ll try to keep it simple.
Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Peter Straub, Richard Matheson, William Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Anne Rice, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Daphne Du Maurier, Laura Esquivel, Anne Rivers Siddons, Frank Herbert, Neil Gaiman...ok, I should totally stop.
As far as modern horror authors (who are rocking the genre, btw), I love Paul Tremblay, Grady Hendrix, Stephen Graham Jones, Victor LaValle, Adam Nevill, Ania Ahlborn, Gabino Iglesias, Kealan Patrick Burke, Gwendolyn Kiste, Chad Lutzke, Gemma Amor, Jonathan Janz, Scott Thomas, Zoje Stage, and so many more. This is really a Golden Age for horror!
Me: Wow that’s quite a list. I’ll have to check some of these out! Now, what do you personally love about writing?
For me, writing has been a natural extension of reading--an escape to a different world. Not always a better world, especially with my love of dark fiction. But, sometimes that helps--a catharsis that increases when the characters have way worse lives than you.
One of my favorite parts about writing is the “a-ha!” moment. I tend more towards pantsing (a silly term, I know), although I create general outlines to start myself off. I always know certain key scenes will happen, and most times I start with an ending in mind. The fun is taking the characters I built and seeing how they arrive at those destinations, because sometimes they take me on some crazy detours. It’s sort of spooky, until I remind myself that no matter how real my characters feel they’re still me! But for a second, it’s an amazing sensation...connecting myself with something Other.
Me: Ha ha, I understand completely! I’m a "pantser" myself and it's always fun to see where these characters will take us.
Final question: What are you looking forward to this year?
Jen: I’m so looking forward to finishing the editing rounds on my YA/NA book for RA. I cannot wait to share Evie Bonaventura with the world. She’s my first baby, and one I’ll be working on in sequels because I love her so much (even though, she’d probably smack me for the shit I put her through lol).
I have some travel goals, if I can fit them in with work. I’d really love to go outside of the country, as I’ve never been (another bonus of reading, the travel!). I also would like to go to at least one horror convention sometime this year and try my hand at face-to-face networking.
As for the rest, I hope to continue working on my stories so I can share more with the world. There’s plenty of weirdness still up in my brain, dying for a chance to shine.
Me: Nice, well I know I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for you! And as always, my friend, I wish you the best of luck in all your adventures!
Jennifer Soucy is a quintessential New England girl, born and raised in Connecticut. A wanderer by nature, she moved to the Atlanta area with her family when she was nineteen and delights in being called a “Damn Yankee”. She also lived nearly two years in Las Vegas, her home away from home. Back in Georgia now, she started writing again to fulfill her childhood dreams. This writer, assistant editor, and professional bartender is also a proud nerd who enjoys anything involving horror and fantasy. She hopes to continue publishing books that occasionally make people sleep with the light on.
Check out my website at jenniferlsoucy.com for updates, blogs, and more!
Demon in Me premiers Saturday, be sure to pre-order your copy now!
Shanna Swenson, author of Abundance and PERSONAL FOUL
I write what the characters in my head tell me to ;-)