Jennie Shortridge on her Writing

Please welcome Jennie Shortridge, author of When She Flew (click for my review).  Today, she’ll be talking about her writing and her inspiration for her latest novel.

Here’s the thing. I am an organized, neat person when it comes to the vast majority of my life. My car is always clean (on the inside), my house is always relatively picked up and presentable. So why does my home office look like a paper recycling plant exploded all over it? 

I’m a piler. I have piles and piles of very important things to do. Some day. I have piles that represent the current book I’m writing, the last book published which I’m usually still promoting, ideas for future books, contacts I need to save and really should do something about, book events coming up, events that I’d like to do, friends’ pages I need to read, students’ work I need to read, complete strangers’ work I will never read but feel I need to at least consider before realizing that’s ridiculous and I really need to concentrate on what’s most important: writing. 

I wrote my first book in a nice home office in the foothills near Denver, where I looked out my window at a brown dusty landscape. I wrote my second book largely in bed on my new laptop, in Portland, OR, where we’d recently moved. I wrote my third book in a home office in Seattle, where we’d again recently moved, because I’d hurt my neck writing my second book in bed. I wrote my fourth book, When She Flew, in same said office, but also on the train between Seattle and Portland, where I went to do research into the true story that inspired it. 

In 2004, Portland police found a Vietnam vet raising his daughter in the woods. I was fascinated by the story, and not just of the man and girl. One of the police officers chose to help the two in an unconventional way, possibly putting his job and reputation at risk. I contacted this police officer and spent the next year and a half visiting him in Portland, asking him questions, listening to his stories, hiking in the woods, and dreaming my fictional story. The result is When She Flew, the story of an Iraq war veteran raising his 13-year-old daughter in the Oregon woods and a single mom cop is on the search team to find them. Told in the alternating viewpoints of the female cop and the young girl, it’s my most action-packed story yet, and my least personal, yet it touches on themes that are very personal to so many of us: how we raise children, the connections between parents and kids, and issues of safety and security in today’s society. 

And now, I’m writing my fifth book back home in my messy office. I thought I’d clean it out between books, but I never did. Maybe it would feel too sterile if I did, and dampen my creativity. Um . . . yeah. Let’s go with that. I don’t have time to clean.

Thanks for sharing your writing and your inspiration with us.  If you’d like to win a copy of When She Flew, follow these guidelines.  This giveaway is US/Canada only!  However, if you would like a copy and live abroad, email me!  The first one to email me will receive a copy of the book.

1.  Leave a comment on this guest post with an email.
2.  Leave a comment on my review for a second entry.
3.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc. about the contest, and leave a link here for a third entry.

Deadline is Jan. 3, 2010, 11:59PM EST

FTC Disclosure:  Clicking on links to titles will take you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.

When She Flew by Jennie Shortridge

Jennie Shortridge’s When She Flew is a beautifully written novel about pivotal decisions and their unexpected consequences.  Told from the point of view of Officer Jessica Villareal and Melinda aka Lindy Wiggs, the novel shifts from the legal ramifications of Villareal’s decision not to split up Melinda from her family and Melinda’s experiences with her Iraq War veteran father, her drug addicted mother, and her new home.  The novel is peppered with beautiful imagery and a number of passages with birds, which emphasize flight and escape.

“Pater keeps looking out the windows, walking from on to the other, hitching up his pants.  he reminds me of a finch, all nervous and fidgety, eyes darting this way and that.”  (Page 255)

Lindy’s narration focuses mainly on the love of the forest in which she lives, of her father, and even of her mother whom she left behind, but there are glimpses into the terrible events of her life under the guardianship of her mother while her father served his country.  She misses her mother, but for the most part there is a sense of contentment until one day she follows a blue heron too far.

“The central library was my favorite building.  It’s like going to a palace full of books.  I feel like a princess or an important person when I walk up the steps toward that huge brick building with its pretty windows and a roof that looks like a steeple, and go inside the tall oak doors, and the man in uniform smiles and says, ‘Good afternoon.’  I feel even more like royalty when we glide across the shiny stone floor.  Everything is so elegant that I want to just stand and look but Pater always says to hurry along.”  (Page 14)

Officer Villareal is a mother who hasn’t exactly lived up to her own expectations as an officer or as a mother, but she copes with her circumstances by working and burying herself in memories of her daughter Nina, who escaped her mother’s tight supervision to live with her father and raise her own son.

“The dirt dwellers she dealt with were like subterranean worms and bugs:  drug dealers and pimps, abusive parents, gangsters and thieves.  She had tried for years not to notice them when off duty, but she couldn’t help it.”  (Page 5)

Shortridge’s prose is gorgeous and immediate, sucking readers into the world she’s created in the wilderness of Oregon and the small town outside the forest.  When She Flew is about finding one’s convictions to break the mold and follow the right path.  It is about striving to be better and to find the freedom to grow.  Shortridge’s writing will blow readers away.

As an additional treat, later today, Jennie Shortridge will visit with us and talk about her writing, so stay tuned.  Oh, and there will be a giveaway!

FTC Disclosure:  Thank you to Jennie Shortridge and Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting fpr sending me a free copy of When She Flew for review.  Links to book images and titles will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchases are necessary.