Interview: Jen Knox

Jen Knox posing with a license plate.Jen Knox,starring as herself.

If life is a school of hard knocks, Jen Knox is a PhD. From a humble background in rural Ohio to a the grandeur and eccentricity of the Lone Star State, the author (and adjunct professor) has made a career out of telling stories both true and fantastical.  The road hasn’t been easy–filled with challenges and struggles that at times left her with doubt and loneliness, fear and pain. But fate has been kind to her–a promising writing career, honorable mentions from Glimmer Train, awards unbidden.

Recovering from a hand injury, the author took time to discuss books, blogging–and her favorite tenses.

JW: You recently won the Next Generation Indie Book Award.  How does it feel to be recognized by the literary community?

JK: It’s a wonderful thing to be recognized, especially as an indie author. I think that those writers who are working from the grassroots level, either through self-publication or with the support of a small independent press, have to work incredibly hard to be taken seriously by readers, so the credibility that goes with the award means a lot.

JW: Where did the idea for “To Begin Again” come from?

JK: The collection came together over the last three years. Actually, I wasn’t planning on releasing a collection at all, but as I went over the various stories I noticed that they were connected by a theme—each of the pieces focuses on a small life decision that grows exponentially leading to life-altering circumstance. I’m forever baffled by how easily a person’s life or perspective on life can change in an instant. This bafflement, I suppose, brought the collection together.

JW: In addition to being a writer, you also run a blog on the side.  How has that changed the way you write?

JK: I began blogging when my memoir, Musical Chairs, was released in 2009. To be honest, releasing my memoir was as traumatic as it was exciting. I began to record my thoughts (and emotions) concerning the process of publication and all that goes with the transition of entering my personal work into the public domain. My blog was a place to vent and tease out why I was so affected by the process. After a few months of this, however, I simply kept up the blog because it was a place to record general thoughts on the writing life; it’s a difficult but rewarding life, and there’s much to say. Blogging has been rewarding for me because it demands a regular writing schedule, which gives me some structure. Also, it offers community—connections and conversations with other writers that I might not have otherwise met.

JW: Are there any stories you aren’t willing to write?

JK: I haven’t come across one yet. I’ve been known to say I’d never write a story with a vampire in it, but who knows… The beauty about writing is that I never know what I’ll end up with until I reach the end of a story.

JW: Final Q: First, second or third person?  Which is better and why

Because memoir and personal essays are my favorite genre to read, I have to go with first person narration. I’ve read remarkable work from every perspective (though I find it rare in second person), so I don’t automatically like or dislike a story that is written from any perspective. But there’s something I love about the inclusiveness of a first person delivery. The sense that a writer (or narrator) is confiding in the reader can be especially powerful.