Interview with cozy mystery author Jenna Lynn Badger

june & wigglesworth

Give us a brief summary of your life till now (education, work, etc) and how it led you to write.

My husband and I had kids early in our marriage, before I was even finished with college. It was a conscious decision to have one of us at home, rather than sending the kids to day care. It’s a decision I have never regretted, but it meant that I started in on a career a lot later in life than most people.

I have always loved creating things, and have dabbled in drawing, crocheting, baking, and writing over the years. It was an innate urge that had me creating over-complicated birthday cakes for my kids or sewing Christmas presents and Halloween costumes.

As the kids got older and required less of our time, my husband began to get back into writing. It would be a couple of years before I started considering that path and what a long one it would be! But as I watched him, I couldn’t help remembering that I was an aspiring writer once, too. The urge to create something of my own grew and after attending a writer’s conference with him and being inspired by some of the speakers there, I decided that’s what I would do.

I am a fairly self-motivated person, so once I set my mind to it, I began hammering away at the keyboard every day. I have two different mottos when it comes to writing. One is, “you can always delete,” and the other is, “be the tortoise.” It doesn’t matter how much your draft seems like garbage. You can always delete it or change it later. Just keep going. That’s where the tortoise comes in. I’m not the fastest writer, but I will reach the finish line because I just keep going.

What prompted you to choose alpacas rather than other large animals like horses or cattle?

It might be fun to do one of those animals in a different series, especially horses. I’ve always loved them and was always a bit jealous of my cousins who had their own. But for the cozy mystery series, I wanted an animal that creates something valuable, like chickens and their eggs, or sheep and their wool. I needed to give my campground owner a reason to keep the animals around. But I also wanted to do something different. So, I brainstormed it with my husband, and he came up with the idea of alpacas. I was instantly in love with it even though I knew almost nothing about alpacas at the time. What’s better than an animal who basically grows yarn? The more I researched them, the more I fell in love. Alpacas are fun and quirky. They are the “something different,” and they’re super cute.

What led you to place your mysteries at a campground? Do you enjoy traveling via RV?

We love RVing. Some of the best memories I have with my younger kids were ones with our little pop-up camp trailer. Last summer, we rented a 30ft RV and took three of our four kids all the way to Washington State. We had such a great time, and there was so much I wanted to see that we just didn’t have the time for. I just love that style of travel. There is something so much nicer about taking your home-away-from-home with you than adjusting to a hotel room every night. It’s so much less stress. It’s also nice to pull off the side of a road to hit the bathroom or make a sandwich anytime.

For a while, I considered having my main character travel to a new campsite each book, but I didn’t want to have to introduce all new characters and locations constantly. It would be tedious for me and the readers. So, an RV park was the next best thing. Besides, having several characters in such a small space gives that small town feel that cozy mystery readers enjoy. Once I created those characters, I knew I would have a hard time leaving them behind.

Tell us about your next project.Shear-Terror 

My next project is Shear Terror, the second book in the series. It’s currently with my beta reader team right now and I honestly can’t wait to get back into that particular story. It’s the first book that has an actual murder in it and I feel like I’ve fleshed out a few things better. There are some scenes like the one when Mr. Bigglesworth attacks Prince Albert that were just too much fun to write.

What’s your research process like?

I interrupt my writing frequently to look things up. Just recently, I was writing a short story from Nora’s perspective. She’s one of the characters at the camp who we haven’t seen much of yet. I stopped and gathered pictures of her husband, her dog, and her RV so I could describe them accurately.

I suppose I could have done all that research before starting the story, but I don’t get too distracted by researching. I’m usually looking for something specific. I grab the information I need then come back to the project. With Nora, I wrote probably a paragraph before I realized I had a lot of research to do, but once that was over, I was back to work. I will tell you that there are several good websites and a lot of useful information on YouTube about raising alpacas. But my favorite research to date is when we visited an alpaca farm on that big summer trip. It was so great to see them in person, and to see how the moms interacted with their cria.

What’s your writing routine? Do you have a dedicated office, or do you write at the kitchen table? Do you write longhand or type everything?

I have a morning routine that involves meditation, writing up my to-do list by hand and setting goals for the day.

I’m usually impatient to get to work, and most of the time between breakfast and lunch time is filled with writing. When I’m feeling lazy, I take my laptop and sit at the couch, but for the most part I treat my writing like a job. I expect myself to put in the hours to finish the books, and I don’t relax until my work for the day is done. Sometimes my husband has to drag me away from my desk to watch a movie because I didn’t get all my tasks done that day.

Do you outline your stories or let the characters take you where they want to go? Do your characters speak to you?

I cannot work without an outline. I’ve tried just writing without one. Despite my routine, if I have no idea where the story is going, I find myself giving up on the project before it’s finished. Each chapter has at least a couple of sentences outlining what happens in that scene and I rarely stray too far from it.

I think most writers will tell you that characters do have a mind of their own. Sometimes I look at what I have to write for that day and think, “June would never do that.” Then I have to change what’s in the outline and maybe move around a few scenes, but it’s usually not too invasive. The better I know my characters from the beginning, the better I know their motivations and what makes them tick, the better I’m able to stick to the outline.

What writers do you admire, past or present?TerryPratchett

I admire so many different authors in so many different genres. I will always be a fan of Agatha Christie’s. I was so glad when I read Murder on the Orient Express that I hadn’t seen the movie because I did not see that twist ending coming and it took my breath away. I enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes books I could get my hands on and was disappointed when there weren’t more of them. I love everything I’ve read by Katherine Hayton, HY Hanna, and Ceecee James. I love Phillip Pullman for the way he touches your soul, and Terry Pratchett for the ridiculous worlds that he has created and the crazy amount of fun he had as an author.

What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like least?

I think my daughter put it best when she said, “Real life is boring. That’s why we seek fiction.” I love waking up every day, knowing that I get to hang out with an alpaca who is well meaning but full of himself, a widow who has taken a crazy leap of faith, and an anti-social and always-hungry cat. I love my job! I think it’s important that I’m having fun and I hope that comes out in my writing. I strive to have my books be fun, heartwarming tales, to help combat all the depressing news and troubles in the world.

What I don’t like is waiting. I hate not being able to move forward on a project because my head is not in the right space. Yes, I have short stories to work on, newsletters, and Instagram posts, but none of those feel like moving toward my goals the way a book does. Writing requires a clear mind, and it’s not every day that I have one. Sometimes I do have to put a task on hold, and it frustrates both me and my production calendar to no end.

What little personal quirk would you like to reveal to your readers?

I love the writing, but releasing the books is a terrifying process. Logically I know that I wrote them so people could read and enjoy them, but when my first short story was available on BookFunnel, I was distracted all day by how many people downloaded it and scared that no one would like it. I mean, I thought that alpaca costumes were funny, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does. I am constantly surprised when people tell me how much they enjoyed my story. My readers have definitely helped me realize that I’m on the right path and I can’t thank them enough for the support.

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