Tuesday, 23 March 2010

RBC Book Club with Jenny B Jones

After reading Jenny B Jones' debut adult contemporary novel last year, Just Between You and Me, I decided immediately to select it for my book club in 2010.

Reading Jenny's tweets always brighten my day so I knew she was just the author to speak to with my book club. So facilitated by the lovely Jeane Wynn of Wynn~Wynn Media, Jenny graciously agreed to a conference call.

My book club had the pleasure of discussing Just Between You and Me last Friday night and the book gave us much food for thought on matters regarding dysfunctional families, mental health issues, community involvement in hurting families, the binding tentacles of fear and the need to hope and embrace certain risks to enjoy life to the full. So bound up in our conversation, I forgot the time and I am sure poor Jenny, who arisen in the very wee hours of the morning to compensate for the time difference between Arkansas and Melbourne, Australia, was sitting in the dark wondering if we were ever going to call!

After a moment of anxious waiting while the phone rang (I'm always nervous I am going to get a number wrong and wake up some unsuspecting American at 5am!), Jenny's voice greeted us, sounding way too chirpy for that hour of the morning! Fortunately, Jenny has a good ear and she understood our Aussie (and South African) accents perfectly.

Here are some of the things we talked about:~

  • the very speedy process of writing Just Between You and Me
  • the similarities and differences between writing YA and Adult fiction
  • balancing teaching and writing
  • the range of responses from her students to her books, from starting a good conversation to "yeah, whatever..."!!
  • trends in Christian Fiction
  • how she deals with reader criticism
  • her passion for young people
  • faith
  • her recent exposure to the celebrity press
  • the Amish fiction explosion
  • her reading tastes
  • and more.......

And while we talked we laughed! Jen has a fabulously dry wit which we loved and quite simply she was a delight to talk with. We particularly enjoyed talking about current trends in Christian Fiction and our desire to read realistic stories with authentic characters, ones that struggle with life and don't always make the best choices. Jenny was able to do that in Just Between You and Me and we admire her for that as it seems to fly in the face of the burgeoning interest in saccharine, fairytale stories that offer momentary escapism but not much in the way of reflection, challenge or encouragement to do better.

Most of my book club members are smack dab in the middle of the demographic publishers are targeting for cookie cutter sweet Amish or fairy tale contemporary romance between the beautiful and/or wealthy and other such novels - white, middle class women between the ages of 30 and 45. Each of my book club members who were present on Friday night, including the ones who are in their 20s and 50s, were in stark raving agreement that we want something more from our Christian authors and novels.

Now, don't get me wrong, there is a place for Amish and romance stories and I am in no way deriding authors who write these stories. There are authors writing books in these genres which have substance and reality in spades. In addition, I'm certainly not beyond reading a book purely to escape my own reality from time to time and be swept away. But I want more than just sweetness and light in whatever genre I am reading! More to stimulate my mind, my heart and my soul.

How about you?

For more of this discussion and Jenny's take on it, check out her blog post following our chat with her.

Relz Reviewz Extras

Character spotlight on Maggie & Connor
Review of Just Between You and Me
Visit Jenny's
website and blog
Buy Jenny's books at Amazon or Koorong


Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

What an adorable cover :)

Richard Mabry said...

I'm so thankful that my publisher allows me to present a novel showing that, for the Christian, sometimes we overcome, sometimes we don't, and sometimes the ending isn't what we pictured. I think readers are beginning to demand more realistic fiction written from a Christian worldview, and I'm glad the members of your book club fall into that category.
PS--You can call me at 5 AM if you need to. Just don't expect me to be cogent until I've had at least one cup of coffee.

Shauna said...

I love Jenny, I love her books, and I agree with you, Relz. My other favorite Christian novelists are Lisa Samson, Mary DeMuth, Athol Dickson, and Claudia Mair Burney, who create realistic, flawed characters and well-written stories that don't offer easy answers.

I haven't been reviewing much Christian fiction lately because the offerings seem to be heavy on the romance. I still don't get the whole Amish trend, but admittedly I haven't read any. I don't mind when romantic elements are incorporated into a story (Just Between You and Me is a good example), but I don't generally read stuff that is classified as romance.

Rel said...

Start pouring that coffee, Richard! Looking forward to reading about your characters and their flaws :)

Shauna ~ I am with you on those authors. Their books are terrific. Thanks for sharing :)

Aaron McCarver said...

As a college English professor, I understand looking for what many consider to be meatier fiction. I will say, however, that like beauty literary (or meaty or realistic) fiction is in the eye of the beholder. What is wonderful to me is that there are now so many wonderful genres available in Christian fiction. I have the authors you mentioned when I am in the mood for that type and other wonderful authors for my other moods. Just remember that Scripture tells us that anything that is truly of God is profitable to man. Thanks for your great blog.

Rel said...

Hey Aaron - thanks for your comment and encouragement!

One of the things we commented on in our discussion was how far Christian Fiction has come, especially in the past 10 years, with the expansion of genres and the growth of participating authors, across the spectrum of Christianity.

Atypical Girl said...

Great book. Jenny B. Jones is a great author and an amazing person. Love her writing and personality to bits.

Deborah said...

as you know I do read Amish fiction BUT I only like the Amish fiction that describes the community and lifestyle without pushing its agenda on you. meaning, i detest the ones where someone from the outside world becomes amish because they want to give up their cell phone. i hate the books that totally make the Amish seem like a perfect utopia because they are not. Talk to me about their food, don't tell me that I need to give up my lifestyle. interestingly, many of those Amish books NEVER talk about the doctrine of the Amish.

anywho, lately i've been reading more gritty stuff when I freely choose my Christian fiction (ie. not for blog tours, or sent for review). i like fluff every now and then but I prefer reading reality. hence why I love books like Jenny's who don't make me put the book down and groan at the unrealism of the situation. It's interesting how I rarely groan when reading a general market fiction book but I find myself doing that quite a bit with Christian fiction.

Tracy said...

Do you suppose it would be considered stalking if we phoned Jenny about once a year...just for a chat?! LOL.

I'm finding all these comments really intriguing. You know me Rel, I'll read and enjoy just about anything. I'm beginning to become pickier with Amish fiction, only because I've read so much of it. I find it interesting that readers have such varied expectations from the books they read. I know I shouldn't be surprised...nevertheless, I am.

jenny b. jones said...

Tracy and Rel, LOVED talking to your group. Let's do make it a yearly event! We don't even have to talk about my books. We can talk about someone else's!

Really enjoyed hanging out with you ladies. Great conversation and I really left with things to think about.

scrappy quilter said...

How I wish I could get our book club to do a book like this one. They only want to do secular books and definitely refuse doing inspirational. Drives me nuts!!

Rel said...

Jenny B Jones has posted her thoughts after chatting with our book club on this issue and more. Well worth a read :)


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