Monday, July 13, 2015

Choosing to Dream with Jennifer Senhaji

I've needed to do a writerly 10-Question interviews in a while. Here now is lab experiment brave volunteer, author Jennifer Senhaji stepping to the screen.

1) You published Sweet Dreams in July 2014, a story in Unwrapping Love in December 2014, the novella Sea Breeze in May 2015, and you have the sequel to Sweet Dreams, Choosing to Dream, coming out this month. You also have a full time job, a husband, and children. Do you sleep? Can you unpack for us how you make it work, writing with all those other major demands competing for your time? 

Honestly, I am constantly sleep deprived. I do sleep, but am hard pressed to get more than six hours a night, and I love sleep. My body really needs at least eight hours. My husband works nights, so I get most of my writing done at night while he’s at work. It’s hard. Time is something that I am always battling. But when you are passionate about something, you have to pick and choose what you want to spend your time doing. I’ve pretty much given up TV. It’s always on in my house, two kids and all, but I usually just catch glimpses of the Food Network or cartoons over the top edge of my laptop while I work. A normal day includes the day job, home at 6:30 pm, homework, dinner, then laptop. I don’t write every day. I work on blog posts, catch up on marketing, edit, and then write.

2) In Sweet Dreams, cafe owner Jenna Morris begins a secret romantic friendship with A-list actor and sexiest man alive Jacob Walker. Have you ever had a secret friendship or romance with a celebrity, or know someone who has?

I haven’t. I’ve met a few celebrities in my life though, and I’m always surprised at how normal they seem up close. Totally different than our perceptions. I will let you in on a little secret… Sweet Dreams is actually based on a recurring dream I’ve had for years where I did have a secret friendship with a celebrity.

3) You seem to like the "J" names for your characters: Jordan, Jenna, Jacob, Jerry. Where did "Eric" in Sea Breeze come from, name-wise? You did know there were more "J" names available? 

Ha. Yes, I like using "J" names. Actually, in Angels in Disguise, my holiday anthology story which will end up as the kick-off to a new series, the main characters are Alex and Gabe. Supporting character is Jaime though, so I didn’t escape the "J" name there. Eric is a name I have always loved and come to think of it, I did once know and work with a bartender named Eric. He was not the inspiration for the character though, just a funny coincidence.

4) I notice you used a LOT of songs that wrapped their way into the story of Sweet Dreams. Do you decide on a song list for your novel before you begin writing, and have that inform your story, or does the story itself, as you're writing it, suggest songs that you add to your playlist? Do you put song X on repeat as you are working on that chapter, or...? 

The songs come to me during the scenes. When it feels right, I jot them down and add them to a playlist that is also edited down to the final list once the book is edited and done. When I am writing a particularly juicy scene, like the wedding scene in Italy in Sweet Dreams, I do keep the song on repeat, in this case Anything, Anything by Dramarama. It really amps up the tension for me and puts me smack dab in the middle of the action.

5) Jordan in Sea Breeze mixes a drink quite impressively. Tapping on your own skills, or just great research? 

I have worked in almost every facet of the restaurant business including being a cocktail waitress and a bartender. I certainly know how to mix a cocktail and always loved working a busy bar. There is something about the adrenaline of pouring drinks at a busy bar. I can spin a shaker in my hand, but that’s about it. I’m an impressive klutz, so being a flair bartender was never in the cards for me.

6) Both of us belong to a group of women (and a few men) called Writing Wenches. Can you tell us how support groups, online or in person, help a writer advance her/his career? And is there any downside to social networking among peers? 

Honestly, I’ve made wonderful friends in writing groups. Here’s the thing, I’m a member of a lot of groups, and it’s hard to find the right one. Some are purely marketing based. Some are more friend based. Others are writing based. I have found a perfect medium in the Writing Wenches for me. We support each other because we are friends, not out of obligation. Some groups will have requirements and rules that need to be followed, so make sure to read those carefully before joining a group. The only downside is finding the group that works for you. It can take time and patience, but in the end is absolutely worth it.

7) Complete this sentence, "I know I will have 'made it' as a writer when..." What's your own happily ever after?

When I quit the day job to write full time… But I don’t know if I will ever quit the day job, I love my career. Instead, how about… I will have made it when I can travel and write on location. That is the dream.

8) Moroccan. You bio says that you speak Moroccan (along with Spanish and a little French). For the ignorant among us *raises hand* who did not know that the people of Morocco had their own language, can you educate us a little on the people, the culture, and the language? Will we be seeing any Moroccan or Moroccan-American characters in a Jennifer Senhaji work of fiction anytime in the near future?

Fifteen years ago, I married a man from Morocco who I met while I was traveling in Morocco. I’ve been there several times and love it. The culture, the food, the people. It’s a happy blend of ancient and modern, that you can see in the architecture of the old medina surrounded by new construction. It’s a Muslim country, but extremely tolerant and open-minded with a European feel. The official languages are Arabic and French. However, Moroccan is the local dialect that is spoken in all households. When they write, it’s in French or Arabic. The nightly news is given in Arabic, French, and Moroccan. I learned the language through my husband and his family. My daughter is fairly fluent and my son is learning. The language itself is a combo of Arabic, French, Spanish, in my opinion. All Moroccans can speak to and understand people speaking Arabic and French, but they have their own language as well. A country full of people that speak three languages fluently is pretty impressive. And when you go to northern Morocco, most people also speak Spanish since Spain is only a ferry ride away. I will incorporate Morocco here and there in different books down the road, but eventually I will publish my story, when I’m ready. That is the first book I ever tried to write and had to put it down because it was too close. Someday.

9) Choosing to Dream releases this month. What will we love about Jen and Jake in this book? Do we need to read Sweet Dreams first, or does each book work as a stand-alone? 

The angst is definitely amped up in this book. It’s all about long distance relationships, which is something I know a little about since my husband and I dated long distance for almost two years before we got married. You do not have to read Sweet Dreams before this book. However, the story of Jake and Jenna coming together is so awesome, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to.

10) What question have you never been asked, but always wanted to answer? And what's the answer?

Hmmm, this is hard. But I’ve often wondered why no one has asked me about my logo “Your Sweet and Spicy Romance Author,” and whether or not it applies to my regular life and not just my writing. The answer is yes, and I am fairly certain my husband will agree.

Jennifer Senhaji was born and raised in San Francisco, CA. About herself, she says: Music is an addiction. I can often be found in the car, singing at the top of my lungs with whatever is playing. I work full time, and I split my spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. I’m a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into my head—my kids are the only ones that really get it. I’m an only child, and so of course I married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, I speak Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. I love to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of my life, and I now love writing. I’m a klutz, and in my own mind, I’m hilarious.

Questions? Comments?
If you've read Jennifer's work, what did you like about it?