Interview with Jennifer Quail!

Image of Jennifer Quail

Strange Roads: Book One of Omens in the Night


Jennifer Quail has lived in Virginia, Washington, D.C. and New England, and now resides in her native Michigan. When not working for a museum or writing about unusual vampires and reluctant mages, she owns dogs, manages cats, ballroom dances, collects antique oddities, and is keeper of a retired racehorse.

                                                         Bio from Jennifer Quail’s site

I was very honored to get a chance to interview Jennifer! She has written a unique story with a twist on magic. So sit back and enjoy our little interview with your favorite warm mug of hot bevarage. Please give a warm welcome to Jennifer Quail!

1. What makes for a good hook in your stories? Where does your inspiration come from?

Well, I try to open a book or a story with a sentence that immediately makes the reader wonder “What just happened?” The first line of “Strange Roads” is “Alan Graves was having a fairly normal day until the woman tackled him.” I want readers to immediately ask, “Who is Alan? Who’s the woman? Why did she tackle him? What is a normal day for him, anyway?” I want them just curious enough to keep reading to find out, and when they get the answers to a few those, there are more questions, and they keep reading to find out those.

I never quite know what to say about where I get inspirations from. Especially on this book, where I’ve been working on a variation of the theme for so long, I don’t remember where every idea came from. I get ideas from almost everywhere–what I read, going out for a walk, what I studied in school, watching “Top Gear” or whatever my favorite show of the moment is, where I lived, places I’ve worked…anything.

2. Are you an organized writer? Do you do things like take notes and make lists of characters? Or do you free write and work it out as you go?

Sort of in the middle. I will make notes on ideas I have, but I wouldn’t call them organized by any stretch. In fact they’re often scattered through notebooks or scraps of paper from my desk at work or in random WordPerfect files created so I won’t forget something (I have a character who doesn’t appear in “Strange Roads” but will be in the next book, and I have about two pages of smart remarks he makes that I didn’t want to forget!)
3. What is your normal writing day like? Do you write when you are inspired or do you have a schedule?

I don’t have what I’d call a normal writing day. Generally I write after dinner, sitting in front of the TV with my laptop, being interrupted by dogs (I have two, both second-hand) and cats (I have four, though two are unintentional-I couldn’t just LEAVE them to fend for themselves, and anyway their combined weight roughly equals the smaller of the other two and maybe 2/3 the weight of the bigger, so it’s really like having three.) I take my laptop almost everywhere, though, and one of my favorite places to write is on the train.
4. Who is your favorite author and how did they inspire you to write?

Oh, dear, there’s no short answer there. When I was a kid, I wrote a fan letter to Marguerite Henry, as I lived on her horse stories, and she wrote me a lovely reply suggesting I write the story I’d asked her to think about. As far as fantasy, the biggest influence as far as tone and theme goes is probably John Bellairs, author of YA books like “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” and “The Lamp From the Warlock’s Tomb” (the latter being the first book ever to scare me so much I stayed up until one in the morning, reading everything else I could grab that was happy and upbeat to try and stop thinking about it.) That also introduced me to my favorite writer/illustrator, Edward Gorey, who did some of Bellairs’s covers. And through a string of circumstances too complicated to relate here, I happened to have the good fortune to know Aaron Allston and Michael Stackpole, who are very gracious to aspiring writers.
5. It’s easy to see that you have a passion for writing but is there any part of it you don’t like?

Well, I’m not a big fan of formatting! I have a huge appreciation for what publishers and typesetters do.
6. Do you make time to read and if you do what are you reading right now?

I read more than I write, sad to say! At the moment, because of work I’m on a Titanic kick (I’m preparing a lecture about some local survivors for the 100th anniversary) and it’s a good excuse to reread books like “The Titanic Conspiracy” and “Titanic: The Great Lakes Connections.”
7. How did you get started in writing fantasy, Is there personal life experience in the writing?

I write what I like to read! Like a lot of people, I’ve written fan fiction (the fight scenes in “On Her Undying Majesty’s Secret Service” were actually very good practice for when I had to write the finale of “Strange Roads”!) and those were the genres that I liked.
8. Your books have been published with, Does this mean you see the publishing industry headed this way?

Well, I don’t think there’s any argument that e-books aren’t here to stay, but I think the self-publishing thing will hopefully die down as people get tired of weeding through the sheer volume of the sorts of things that would only have been published by vanity presses before electronic publishing. I still plan to submit to real publishers, and mostly am just using Amazon to demonstrate that a book that’s not easily slotted into a subgenre is marketable. Also, while I suspect that magazines in particular are going to die off in favor of the web, I can’t see print books disappearing completely. For starters you can’t really browse e-books. You have to at least go in with an idea what you’re looking for. There’s no wandering stacks or browsing a used bookstore. You’re actually more limited and unlikely to wander into styles or genres you’ve never read. I don’t even own an e-reader as I find reading on the screen too much work and with too many distractions, and I encourage people to buy the real edition of my book rather than the Kindle. I mean, I’ll take the royalties either way, but I think it’s better to have a proper book. Besides, you can’t get chocolate smudges on a Kindle and they add character.
9. Do you have any online sites where others can read more of your writings?

I don’t post my own fiction for free as the object is to sell it, but you can read some ancillary materials for Strange Roads, like characters’ “blog entries” and biographies, at and on the series Facebook page,
10. Do you have any more stories in the works? What kinds of stories do you plan to write next?

I recently submitted a story to Black Sails Press’s “Bloodsucking by Gaslight” anthology and am working on a story for a Steampunk Cthulhu anthology with a spring deadline. I also am working on the sequel to “Strange Roads”, “The Demon That Is Dreaming”.
11. Who would be your first choice to play Elaine Gates from your book “Strange Roads: Book One of Omens in the Night.”?

Hm. Well, she’d have to able come in and, as an actress in her late twenties/early thirties, be able to convincingly deliver George C. Scott’s opening speech from “Patton” and really sell it. Probably not an American as most American actors who “trained” here aren’t very good. If I HAVE to name names, though, if she could do a Michigan accent and would be willing to do the scarring makeup, Michelle Dockery (Susan Sto Helit from “Hogfather”, Lady Mary from “Downton Abbey”) is too pretty but might be able to pull the attitude off.
12. If you could meet anyone from any time who would it be and what would be your first question?

Hm. The part of me who LIVES to debunk conspiracy theories is torn between meeting Lee Harvey Oswald and getting a confession, and as I’m on a Titanic kick, First Officer William Murdoch to ask what the heck ACTUALLY happened on the bridge that night. But there are so many people I’d like to meet…I wouldn’t even know where to start.