Jennifer Larmar – Australian Author
I write using my pen name, Jennifer Larmar, which also happens to be my maiden name.
Names and dates of published novels?
I have written a series of novels entitled Til the End of Time, with Volume 1, Silken Images, being published on December 23, 2013 and Volume 2, Fractured Symphony on April 30, 2014. Since then I have published an extended version of Silken Images which was first made available for sale on Amazon shelves on August 14th, 2014. Both novels will soon be available at selected bookstores around Australia.
What genre or sub-genres do you write in?
The genre that best suits my story lines is contemporary fiction or contemporary romance, primarily geared towards a mature female audience, although I have had wonderful reviews from several mature male readers. The catchcry for my novels is “Blending the joy of words and music…” as I usually try to incorporate music of some form in each one – either as a major feature or as a form of solace during times of trouble for my characters.
How long have you been writing?
From when I was a teenager I dabbled in poetry – mainly for friends or work colleagues for special occasions. During the 1980’s, I wrote the lyrics for several songs which I used to sing in cafes and coffee shops as part of a song-writing duo. In 2001, I won a competition to write a public school anthem and the children still sing it on assembly every Friday morning. In 2012, I won an award for a review written for a musical theatre production. In addition, I write articles for a far-reaching Facebook community page, as well as book and movie reviews for three large publishing houses along with an Australian cinema chain. As far as penning novels, I first sat down to write Silken Images on August 9th, 2011 and haven’t really stopped writing since then.
What made you want to be a writer? Have you always wanted to write?
I have always enjoyed writing from when I was very young, but the catalyst for writing novels was in August 2011 after seeing the musical Doctor Zhivago – A New Musical when the show had its world premiere in Australia. As a teenager, I adored the love story in the novel, even though the actual story line was extremely heavy, so when the movie came out I was enthralled by Omar Sharif and Julie Christie’s portrayal of those poignant characters. To then be given the opportunity to see it on a musical theatre stage added another even more memorable layer; as that glorious music added a new dimension that stirred my senses and seemed to draw me into Yuri and Lara’s love story even further. For many years, I had been harbouring a desire to write a novel. After witnessing the musical for the first time, it was as though a door opened in my heart and soul and the words just flowed. I ended up seeing the musical four times in three weeks and eight months later, over 800 draft pages of my first two novels sat in a folder on my computer.
Who is your favorite author?
I have several for different reasons. I adore the poignancy and heartbreak of Nicholas Sparks’ stories; I enjoy a gentle novel by Irene Hunter Steiner entitled The Year Growing Ancient; Judy Nunn writes epic stories usually of my homeland, Australia; and Colleen McCulloch’s large tome, The Thorn Birds I managed to read in one sitting when I was about 22 years of age. Wilbur Smith’s, Eagle in the Sky, is a fabulously gruesome tale enfolding a tragic love story, while I also enjoy novels by Katherine Scholes for her wistful stories usually set in Africa or Australia.
What was the first piece of fiction that you fell in love with?
I was about six years old when I first picked up a book to read by myself and since then I haven’t stopped. In fact, I still can’t go to sleep without reading a few chapters before turning the light out. The first series I read over and over again was The Famous Five novels by Enid Blyton, interspersed with all the Heidi chronicles by Joanna Spry, Little Women and her sequels by Louisa May Alcott, Pollyanna, all the Anne of Green Gables tales, as well as several others. When I was in high school, I came across a novel in the school library by Catherine Gaskin entitled I Know My Love, which was about the Eureka Stockade during Australia’s Gold Rush back in the 1800s. It is beautifully written with compelling characters and had an unexpected ending. Since then, I have been captivated with the world of storytelling.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
As I always say, “To me, writing is like going on holidays every single day … without the expense. I can take my characters anywhere, to do anything – and all from the comfort of my study.” I find the way my characters talk to me continually is a compelling reason to get back to my computer as often as possible!
How long did it take to write your first/last novel?
Eight months to write the first draft – almost two years more to get it to a place where I felt it was worthy to be read by others.
What are three words that you would choose to describe your writing style?
Descriptive, tender, and passionate.
Are your characters inspired by real life people, or do you make them up 100%?
Both. When it comes to my protagonists, I think it’s almost impossible to create them without adding some blending of characteristics or mannerisms of real people in my life, as well as a few experiences or careers I’ve had along the way. Minor characters usually just come out of the air, purely to fit the situation.
What sort of mood or feelings did you hope to convey to your readers with your latest work?
A feeling of connection with their situation, where a reader wishes they could actually meet the characters and then put the book down and feel as though they have made new friends. I once had a reader say she wanted to grab my lead male by the hand and fly him over to Italy to be with the woman he loved during a time of crisis in her life. I’ve also had others say they were moved to tears in several places – and for all the right reasons! – which to me is every writer’s dream. Who wouldn’t want their characters to touch a heart like that?
Tell us about the main character of your most recent novel.
Adam is an architect in a large city firm. He is married to a violent alcoholic who makes his life hell on earth. His integrity to his vows and the commitment he made means that when he meets a young single mother who has been through her own form of hell, his heart is torn in two very different and complex directions.
How do you go about building an antagonist?
They just seem to flow with the emotion behind the story. It begins with a mysterious introduction to their character and then building up to show them in their true colors.
Can you describe for us your writing process?
I usually begin with an idea that can come from anything at all – usually when I’m on holidays in some out of the way place and then the ideas just grow from there. All of my novels are fictional characters based around a true event of some form. While I am writing, I make a timeline from beginning to end so I don’t confuse ages or events as the story line continues. I also make a character list with pet names, hair/skin color, ages, distinctive features, relationship to others, etc, so that I have a point of reference for each one and can be consistent throughout the story line. After I finish each chapter, I write a short synopsis for each one so I can easily find something and ensure continuity as I go along. I write every morning for about five hours as that is when I’m the freshest. I then take a break in the afternoon to get on with my normal life, and usually write again for a few hours each night. I find I need to be completely isolated from everything to ensure the voices in my head aren’t interrupted over and over. I always ensure I finish a chapter before taking a break or else I lose the train of thought and it’s hard to pick up that particular passage again.
What kinds of activities do you enjoy besides writing?
Goodness, so many! They can often be where my ideas first come from. Travelling, especially to out of the way places, and mostly overseas; music of almost any genre; musical theatre; those gorgeous creatures with long manes and tails that send my heart beating loudly when I’m perched on their back during a long gallop; snorkeling and discovering the beauty below the sea; sharing a good meal in a quiet out of the way place with my husband, my daughter, or with my best friends; or, spending time with my only grandson who is five years old and the joy of my heart.
Do you ever need to escape from writing? What do you do to get away?
Not really – I take it everywhere I go and I’m always jotting things down that I want to include – especially in the middle of the night! If ever I do need an escape, it’s usually to a beach or the countryside, but only because I live in an apartment in the centre of a large city so sometimes it’s nice to be away from the hustle and bustle and just chill out – but then again, almost always an idea for either the novel I’m working on or one of many residing in my soul comes to me out of the blue.
What is the hardest part for you as an author? Easiest?
The hardest part is the final edit. You become so familiar with what you expect to read that you often miss a blaring error! The first edit is exciting – the fourth or fifth is just hard slog! The easiest is just bringing new characters to life – it’s a delicious feeling!
Any author pet peeves?
I’m not exactly sure what you mean. I do know when I’m reading someone else’s work, I find I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to because I can’t help thinking of the way I would phrase certain passages. I really have to learn to block out my author’s brain and just try to read it from a novice’s point of view.
Are there any authors that you feel directly inspired you, your works, or your style?
Nicholas Sparks, LaVyrle Spencer – her contemporary novels more than her historical ones, Irene Hunter Steiner, Judy Nunn, Colleen McCulloch, Katherine Scholes – most of my favourites!
Would you say that you were good at English in high school? If not, what were you good at?
I was above average but not in the top echelon for English, although I always received top marks for my penmanship. I loved German, although I wish I’d chosen French as my second language for its exquisite inflections and form. I actually received my highest marks for typing and shorthand, which now come in handy for writing long novels!
Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, what are some ways that you overcome it?
Not really. Maybe some days I’m not as motivated, but I find that usually happens when I’m editing. Writing itself is a breeze, as I love every part of it.
Any current projects that we can look forward to?
At the moment I’m about a third of the way through Broken Pieces, a love story set in Rwanda a few years after the genocide. It is the story of two Aussie medical personnel who volunteer their time in a remote village and the joys and heartbreaks they encounter along the way.
What are your long-term goals as a writer?
To keep writing until I have no more stories to tell and that won’t be for a very long time. As I often say to my husband, “We’re not going on holidays any more. No matter where we go another story comes to me and I’ll have to live until I’m 150 to tell them all!” Needless to say, we have several more holidays up our sleeve!
Are you planning any spin-off novels?
Not for Broken Pieces – but then again, you never can tell. My first novel was supposed to be a standalone but it turned out to be a series, so I’ll just have to wait and see how long this one ends up!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
No matter what you think, Mum and Dad really do know what’s best for you in most things, and they want you to be successful and happy. Stay in school until twelfth grade, go to uni and study architecture; make wise choices when you go to New Zealand for a working holiday; be careful with the relationships you think will be good for you. First and foremost, enjoy life – God only gives you this today once, so smile and make the most of it – but think things through carefully before finally deciding on something. Remember, He only wants what’s best for you and even though people will let you down, He never will.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write, write and write. Don’t worry what your first draft looks like – it’s purely for your indulgence. Then go through it again with the eyes of a reader and make the necessary changes so it reads well – and check for inconsistencies as you go. Make a timeline, character list and a short synopsis for every chapter to ensure you stay on track – and enjoy the ride! Oh, and keep a journal or something beside the bed so you can jot down all those thoughts that will come to you in the middle of the night!
Any other interesting things that you would like your readers to know?
Because of my love for the musical ‘Doctor Zhivago’ I was graciously given permission from the New York based composer, Lucy Simon, and the LA based co-lyricists, Amy Power and Michael Korie, to include the lyrics from one of their numbers, ‘On the Edge of Time’, at the conclusion of ‘Fractured Symphony’. When the musical opened on Broadway, I was presented with tickets to opening night and Amy Power’s private pre-show party as well as the after-show party at the Rockefeller Centre, which went into the early hours of the morning. Such an exciting night and one that was totally unexpected, as it meant I was able to meet the creative team in person to thank them for their generosity.
How can your readers find out more about you and your books?
Great question to finish with! I have a Facebook business page: ‘Jennifer Larmar – Australian Author’, I also have a Twitter account: ‘JemaLovesD’. My website has links to each of my novels as well as upcoming events/announcements, reviews for and excerpts from each of my novels, and a blog page which can all be found at: www.sbandta.wix.com/jenniferlarmar I am known on both Amazon and Goodreads as Jennifer Larmar and reviews for each of my novels can be found on both the amazon.com.au and amazon.com sites (for some reason Amazon doesn’t link them to each other).