The Queen of Afternoon Tea Interviews SNHU Creative Writing Student & Author Jennifer Steen

Nancy Jill Thames is the author of the Jillian Bradley Mysteries and “Queen of the Afternoon Tea” Celebrity Author Interviews

Welcome! Let me pour you a cup of peppermint tea; I heard it was your favorite. By the way, I’ve included your recipe at the end of the interview. Please help yourself to a roast beef and  brie sandwich. We also have a black raspberry torte for dessert.

Author and SNHU Creative Writing Student Jennifer Steen

Where do you live? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hey there! I live in Leander, Texas with my family. I’m a mother of three beautiful kiddies. I have two boys and a girl (7, 5, and 3). I love to write (obviously) and I played the marimba and occasionally paint. I also teach the children music at my church. My favorite things to do usually involve do things outdoors in beautiful places, and spending time with my kids. I’m also extremely addicted to writing. I basically write for work AND pleasure. I’m also pursuing an English/Creative Writing degree from Southern New Hampshire University.

I’m a Navy veteran, and served for six years between 2000 and 2006. I’ve traveled to many different states, and have been overseas. I decided to stay home with my kiddies while they were young (military life was super hard for my oldest when he was a baby so I wanted to slow things down a bit). Now, I’m gradually getting back into the real world since they are getting closer to school age. I feel like I’ve lived two totally different lives. I understand the working world and the stay at home mother world pretty well. I enjoy writing for women, teens, and I also like to write stories for a general audience. I do fiction as well as theater and I have a goal to add screen plays to my list of accomplishments at some point. I’ll have the opportunity to learn screen play format sometime during my degree program.

Are you a traditionally published or Indie author?
Well, I’m published through Twenty or Less Press and Books to Go Now. I do not represent myself, but those publishers are small, and they are considered Indie Publishers simply because of their size. Each one seems to be specializing in a certain chunk of the e-book market. I highly recommend them for any author who doesn’t have a lot of capital to invest in their own writing, but who would still like to get something out there. They do short stories and novellas mainly, and will do editing, promotion, and cover art at no extra cost—they just take a percentage of your royalties like any typical publisher.

What are your hobbies?
I play Marimba (it’s like a pretty sounding xylophone), I sketch and paint, and I take pictures to put on my walls. I’ve always enjoyed music, but the other hobbies I picked up in order to make my home look nice while still living on a budget. We are poor college students, but I personally like to feel like I have money, even if I don’t. Having my own paintings (water color/acrylic) and my own photography up makes me feel a lot of things, mainly artsy, brave, and pampered. All good things.

Tell us about your current book. What was your inspiration?
Well, the two books I have for sale currently are “Rain Plays Barefoot” and “A Little Push”. “Rain Plays Barefoot” was inspired by life as the only girl percussionist in my middle school. It may seem sort of backward, but in some schools there used to be some unspoken rules about which instruments girls were supposed to play and which instruments boys were supposed to play. I wanted to play the drums, and, I was pretty good. This sort of meant that I was changing things for people, like their mindsets, but really…I just wanted to do, what I wanted to do. There were quite a few awkward moments, breaking into a world of boys that had hither to been closed, and so I thought that some of those memories would be entertaining to people. And of course…there’s a crush and all of that. I’ve jumbled things up rather nicely, and I will never admit which of the parts of that escapade are true or untrue .

“A Little Push” is based on an epiphany I had one afternoon while riding a tandem bike with my oldest son. We always try to save money, and it had been a particularly annoying day, and we were riding up hill, and I had a backpack. I had a lot of worries on my mind, and then I realized that William was helping me get up the hill. Without even realizing it he was there pulling his weight. So, even though most of the events in the story are fictional, the epiphany was true to life, and represents a very special life lesson to me. I hope everyone can use it as inspiration in their own lives, no matter what sort of struggle they are going through.

How did you become a writer? When did you start?
I started writing when I was about 13 years old. My first novel ended up being a copy of Star Wars…only with different names. Yes, it was just bad! But, everyone has to start somewhere, and nearly everyone (especially children) emulates stories they love when they first start to write. One of the reasons I joined the Navy was because I knew, even at eighteen, that I wanted to be a writer, but I also knew that I didn’t have enough life experience to write compelling stories. I want to go out and explore and live life, and then I’d be able to take those experiences and process them for years afterward. This is very true, but now I understand that the best thing to do is write WHILE you’re living your life. So, it is good to go out and experience things to get inspiration, but you don’t need to wait for grand things to happen to you. You can find inspiration everywhere you are. You just have to have the right sort of eyes to see the stories there.

Rain Plays Barefoot

How long did it take you to finish your first book?
Well, it was only a short story. I wrote it in its first form in just a day or so. Then I let it sit on my Storywrite account for a few years. One day, I randomly decided that “this is the day, this is when I WILL get published!” So I searched through my files for something that I thought might tempt a publisher. “Rain Plays Barefoot” was the first one. First, I thought that Rain was a very compelling character. She just sort of jumps out at you from the page. You grow empathy for her almost immediately, and she’s very unique. Also, I liked that within the limited world of Middle School drama, she was doing a very brave thing. She was like a hero in miniature—if you look at Middle School as being a microcosm of the world at large—and that really appealed to me. So, I sent it into Books to Go Now, and in two weeks they sent me the acceptance letter. Actually, I had also sent in “A Little Push” out to a different publisher just two days after I sent RPB and I got both acceptances back on the same day. It was my birthday last year. Like seriously, that day was the luckiest day ever. I’ll never forget it.

I also recently got “Black Friday” accepted by Books to Go Now. It will most likely come out sometime near the Black Friday holiday. It’s something different than what I’ve done before. It’s a little dark actually. It’s a thriller, involves a serial killer, but it also has those little rays of light which I love. It is extremely dark—for me—but it does comment about our society as a whole. I sort of discovered something just as a person by writing it, and I hope that the readers discover something too. I just wanted it to be a little something more than just another gory slasher story. But admittedly, it does delve into murder, why it happens, how that person’s mind works. If you enjoy human psychology, then it certainly would be a good book for you.

Where do you like to write?
I write everywhere. At my house, at the library, in the car, and I’m actually building my own writing room in my garage. I also just love using pen and paper, and I have favorite haunts out by the lake, or on certain hiking trails. I also do people watching at the mall or I’ll even park at random gas stations and write about people as they fill up their cars. Yeah I know, I’m such a stalker! People probably think I’m weird, but I try not to be too obvious when I do it. Like I give myself one or two glances, and then I have to write whatever comes to my mind about them. That’s a brilliant way to find stories, or find characters by the way.

Favorite author(s)?
I read in a lot of different genres. Here we go:

Science Fiction/Fantasy: Anne McCaffery, Andre Norton, Orson Scott Card, Tolkein, JK Rowling, Frank Herbert

Classic Authors: Jane Austin, Elizabeth Gaskell, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, the Bronte Sisters, John Steinbeck

Screen Writers: Felicia Day, Andrew Davies, Tim Burton

Playwrights: Christopher Durang, Marsha Norman, Arthur Miller, Neil Simon (some of his plays are awesome, some are boring).

How many books have you written, so far? Do you plan to write more?
I have two short stories published, and I have hundreds of short stories written. I have one novel written, and thousands of story ideas. I am picky with what I will send out to publishers, but I hope to start a system to get more of my stories out to the public.

Would you like to share a link where we can purchase your books?
Sure. “Rain Barefoot” for Kindle and for Nook. “A Little Push” for Kindle and for Nook.

What about a link to your website?

One awesome review I’ve received:
Five Stars from Kiki and Jules Reviews: “As I have said before, Jennifer Steen is the short story goddess!! She once again pulls you into the life of her main character. You quickly become invested in the small twists and turns in the peek she gives you. This time Steen takes us back to middle school and what it was like to have that first crush. I was so taken back, and loved every minute of it.

Rain is not your typical tween. Not that she is weird, but she’s not really on the same page as her fellow classmates. As her best friend, Jacey, and the other girls her age primp and poof themselves in hopes to catch some young man’s attention, Rain would rather skip it all and just hang with the boys. She feels very comfortable in her own skin and feels no need to primp for attention. Not that she doesn’t care what others think, but feels she has to do what she is most comfortable with. Most of the time that’s on the basketball court with James or in band on the drum line with the rest of the guys. But there is a point where all Jacey’s talk of boys and her current pubescent emotions get the best of her and she develops her first crush. Rain ends up conflicted and changing her ways to fit the ideals of a boy.

I refuse to tell any more of this delightful short story and encourage you to read. I will say I love, love the ending. It is perfect and sends the message I would want my child to see. Always stay true to yourself. If people don’t love you just the way you are, then they aren’t the people for you!!”

Jenny, thank you so much for the interview today. It has been a pleasure. I wish you all the best in your writing endeavors, my friend. And for you readers, Jenny has shared her recipe for peppermint tea. Enjoy!

My favorite kind of tea is peppermint. I love, love this, and you can make it for a healthy Christmas substitute for hot chocolate.

Peppermint Tea

1 tbsp of peppermint leaves per cup of water. (Can get the fresh leaves they sell with rosemary and oregano at the grocery store)

Boil on stove until tasty

Poor in mugs, and add non-dairy creamer and a candy cane (if desired).

Also you can chuck the candy and creamer and it aids an upset stomach.

–herbal hobbyist