Winter in the Soul, Jennifer Novotney’s debut novel, is a young adult fantasy released by Anaiah Press on July 15. I had the privilege of chatting with Jennifer about her writing and her life, and today I’m sharing our conversation with you. Be sure to read my review of her novel following the interview.
Tell my readers a little bit about who Jennifer Novotney is. I’ve been teaching English and writing for over ten years. I’m originally from Los Angeles, California, but moved to the east coast five years ago with my husband and daughter. My first publication was a poem when I was seventeen years old. I loved poetry in high school and college and always thought I’d be a poet. A few years ago, when I was teaching at Pennsylvania State University, I started writing fiction. I had my first short story publication in 2011 and never looked back. Winter in the Soul is my debut novel and I couldn’t be happier.
What’s the hardest thing about being a writer? I think one of the hardest things about being a writer is the wait time. The publication process is a slow one and sometimes, it can feel impossible to wait for a response from editors and agents. From the time a writer signs a contract to the time the book actually comes out can feel like an eternity. The writing is the easiest part about it. The wait time can be the toughest.
You said in your author interview that you wanted to inspire your readers in the way that Paulo Coelho inspired his. What would you like your readers to be inspired to do? I would like my readers to be inspired to follow their dreams, to live a meaningful life, and to never underestimate the power of a well-planned goal. To read about characters who persevere, no matter how difficult the obstacles, can be truly inspiring. I love those type of characters and I strove to create this world in Winter in the Soul.
Now that Lilika is fully developed, is she like you, like someone in your life, or is she completely different from anyone you know? Lilika is an innocent, pure soul. I’d love to say that she is like me, but I’ve had way too many life experiences for that to be true. I think I am similar to Lilika in her determination and her intense curiosity. Those are things I’m glad I’ve never lost. Lilika reminds me very much of some of my students. She is tenacious, brave, and curious. Those are traits I see in my students every day.
In your author interview, you also said that Lilika had to move past her comfort zone and that she gained by doing so. How have you moved past your comfort zone in your writing, and what, if anything, have you gained? I always thought of myself as a good writer. All my life I’ve been told that I was one. While that may have been true for academic writing, I still had work to do with my fiction writing. It’s been an interesting experience for me to work on my own writing and it definitely offers a perspective shift since I’m usually the one teaching. I have a better appreciation for my students and how flexible they are with improving their writing. That is the most valuable aspect of improving my writing that I’ve gained. I think I’m a better teacher for it.
Lilika is drawn to Winter in the Soul, that unknown, forbidden place that arouses her curiosity. Is there such a place in your life or in your writing? There is always that element of excitement to go to a place, whether literal or figurative, that is forbidden. It does arouse one’s curiosity! I think for Lilika, Winter in the Soul is intriguing because she knows her parents originated from there, but she’s not allowed to visit. I like to live beyond boundaries. If something is off limits for me, that only makes me more curious about it. Sometimes this is dangerous, but often times, it leads to growth in my life. I’m never afraid to go that extra mile to explore various facets in life and in my writing.
When you’re not reading or teaching, what do you do for fun? I love spending time with my family. I’m off for the summer with my six year old daughter and we go swimming almost every day. This is time that I treasure and I’m so happy to share these days with her. My husband and I love watching movies together. He’s a filmmaker, so we watch movies in every category you could imagine.
What’s the number one thing on your bucket list? Wow, this is one thing I haven’t thought of much because I have the type of personality where if I want to do something, I just do it. 🙂 One thing I’d love to do with my family is travel to Europe. That’s probably the one thing my husband and I talk about the most.
What’s the next step for you in your writing career? The sequel to Winter in the Soul is in the works. I’ve also just completed another young adult book.
My Review: An Entertaining Tale of Good versus Evil
Jennifer Novotney does a masterful job of describing the world she created in her debut novel, Winter In the Soul. Her rich descriptions of the sights, sounds, and smells of Spring Bloom, Summer Harvest, and Winter In the Soul give her readers a sense of being part of the story rather than simply observing it. “The sky was restless. Black and gray clouds moved at a moderate pace, exposing the dark sky and a few bright stars desperate to shine.”
This young adult fantasy takes us on a journey of discovery with Lilika as she first finds a mysterious golden locket; then, the world outside her home town of Spring Bloom; next, an engaging young man named Talon; and ultimately, her destiny. We feel her growing anxiety as she sits on the road alone, guarding the cart that carries to market both the harvest and the hopes of her friends and neighbors. When she hears the approach of someone in the surrounding darkness followed by a friendly voice, we feel her initial shock, and then we feel her relief. Throughout the story, Novotney offers a full range of experiences, from excitement to terror, from new friendship to new love, from doubt to determination.
Winter In the Soul presents an entertaining tale of good versus evil that leaves just enough questions to make us wonder how long we’ll have to wait for the sequel. I look forward to watching Jennifer Novotney’s progress as a writer and to reading what happens next to Lilika and Talon.
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