Today I am excited to be interviewing Author Merry Jones. She will be sharing with us some details about her new upcoming book What You Don’t Know which is set to debut on October 10th, 2019. I will be having a separate post to review the book on that day.
Merry Jones is the award-winning author of twenty books of fiction (including WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW, and CHILD’S PLAY), non-fiction (including BIRTHMOTHERS) and humor (including I LOVE HIM, BUT…). Her work has been translated into seven languages and appeared in magazines including GLAMOUR and AMERICAN WOMAN. Jones taught college level writing for over a dozen years (Temple University, Rosemont College, Delaware County Community College), and has led dozens of workshops for community colleges, conferences and writing organizations. Before writing books, Jones ran her own video production company, writing, directing and producing programs for corporate and industrial clients. She holds a Masters in Communications from the Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelors in English and Social Psychology from Cornell. She is a member of The Authors Guild, International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Women’s National Book Association, and the Philadelphia Liars Club, for whom she cohosts a monthly writers’ coffeehouse and a weekly podcast (The Oddcast). The mother of two and grandmother of one (so far), she lives with her recently retired husband in Philadelphia, where they are both avid scullers on the Schuylkill River.
- What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc? Oh gee. I wish I had an “average” writing day! Ideally, I row or go to the gym in the mornings and write in the afternoon. But I have a grandbaby now, and I watch her a few times a week. And my husband has retired, so he’s around and we end up doing things together. So, my writing gets squeezed into precious time slots. I need a new routine.
- How many books have you written? Any unpublished work? My 21st book is due out in April. It’s my first “detective’ novel, called The Woman in the Cupboard. I do have two early books that never got published, plus the one I’m working on now.
- As a child did you have a dream job in mind? Yes. I wanted to be a writer.
- Do you read reviews? How do you handle the good and the bad reviews? I do read them. I celebrate the good reviews. I’ve never gotten a really bad one, just mixed. I try not to be defensive and to learn from negative comments. But usually, reviewers have been kind to me.
- What kind of research do you do? And how long you spend researching before you write the book? Oh man. Each book demands its own kind of research, and it can take LOTS of time. For some books, I’ve traveled—OUTSIDE EDEN took me to the middle east, SUMMER SESSION to upstate New York. I also do interviews of experts. For the NANNY MURDERS, I interviewed a homicide detective. But I’ve also interviewed psychologists, army vets, surgeons, sleep specialists, social workers, prison guards, teachers, lawyers—whoever has expertise I need to write the book. Of course, I use Google a lot, too. But wherever possible, I like to get primary source material.
- Have you ever Google yourself? What did you find? Oh. No, I haven’t. But now that you mention it, maybe I will today. I imagine they’d have my website, and maybe some reviews?
- If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? Hard to imagine. I used to be a video producer, for about 20 years. And I taught college writing. But I think if I were to start over and couldn’t write? I’d probably be a doctor.
- How many hours a day do you use to write? I try for three or four.
- What’s one thing you would give up to be a better writer? Hmm. Maybe carrot cake? I’d give up carrot cake, yes. Seriously, I don’t see the tradeoff. I’d simply keep working, reading, striving. So, I’d give up some time and effort.
- What kind of books you read? Who is your favorite author? I read all kinds. Women’s fiction, lately. But also suspense, historical fiction and non-fiction. Don’t have a favorite author. But I’m in awe of several. Amor Towles, Mark Twain, Madeline Miller.
Lets talk about your book What You Don’t Know
- How did you come up with the idea to this story? I often start with an issue. In this case, it was abuse. Spousal abuse. Abuse of friendship. And bullying. I began with the story of Nora responding to varying kinds of abuse as an adult and realized that her actions made no sense. The reader needed to know her backstory to understand why she reacted as she did to friends and spouse, and to betrayals real and imagined. So, I added the story of her earlier character—and fell in love with the younger Nora.
- How long did it take you to write and finish this book? I kept getting interrupted. If I add it up and squish it together, maybe a year?
- How did you select the characters’ names? Names are SO hard for me. I usually give my protagonists short names because I have to type them so often. But I named one character after a bully from my high school, another after my high school boyfriend. I used “Tommy” because it sounds innocent and sweet. Nora? No idea. I often change names of characters after the book is finished. This time, I just kept them.
- What was your hardest scene to write? There were a few. The scene where Paul attacks and violates Nora was graphic and difficult for me. I found it abhorrent to have to put it on paper. But also, all the scenes involving bullying were painful. I wanted to step into the pages and intervene. I wanted to scold the bullies, even as I was the one creating them and their actions.
- How do you want your readers to see Tommy? Did you want is to love him or hate him? What about Nora? I love this question. I want more love for Tommy than hate. I love Tommy. But he is, no question, different, difficult and sometimes even cruel. He internalizes the bullying he suffers and unfairly dumps it onto his little sister. (Abused people tend to become abusers.) So, he becomes what he hates. As for Nora, she endures, observes, resents, learns to survive. Her relationships are scarred and shaped by the bullying and the bullies she knew early in life. And she is determined to protect herself and her kids—at any cost. So, I have compassion for her, but I don’t fully love or hate her.
- What did you edit from this book? Mostly redundancies. And I modified Paul’s attack on Nora.
- What do you hope the outcome will be on Debut day? It’s a small publisher. But I hope the reception will be good.
- What other projects are you working on? Any more books coming out soon? Yes, as I said above—I have a new book coming out in April, 2020. And I’m almost halfway through another novel. Too soon to give details, other than that it’s dark and involves sisters.
Thank you for your time, and answering our questions 🙂 I am glad to be able to get to know you a little better
Thanks so much for the interview! Great questions. Fun to answer.