I’d like to welcome a special guest to my blog today, Janni Lee Simner, Author and captivating workshop presenter. Janni was the inspiration for my post from last week’s blog. Please welcome Janni! I’m glad you’re here.

Hello. Thanks for having me today.

Janni, please tell your readers something interesting about yourself AND/OR your favorite character.

Here's my official bio:

Janni Lee Simner was born aboard a pirate ship, but as soon as she came of age booked passage with a caravan bound for the Sahara, and spent the next decade as a seeker of lost cities, hidden tombs, and ancient artifacts. While hiding from assassins in the lost Library of Alexandria, however, she discovered she really preferred telling stories, and so she settled down in the Sonoran desert to write, interrupted only by the occasional map-bearing stranger or man-eating Gila monster.(I promise at least part of it is true. :-)

My most recent YA fantasy, Faerie Winter, is due out the first week of April. I've published two other YA fantasies (Bones of Faerie and Thief Eyes), four books for younger readers, and more than 30 short stories.

What was your favorite book as a teen? Tell us about it and how it affected you as a person.

I read and reread Madeleine L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planetthroughout high school. I loved the fantasy and the world-saving adventure, I loved the mythology, I loved the unicorns, and most of all I loved the sense this book--which was about averting an all-out nuclear war--had that the awful things that could happen didn't have to happen. All of Madeleine L'Engle's Murray/O'Keefe books have this sense of fundamental all-rightness about the universe that's really stayed with me. I still believe that no matter how dark the world gets, there's always light to be found in it, too--and that somewhere deep down, things really are all right.

Tell us about the genre you have chosen to write for. Why do write specifically for them?

These days I'm writing mostly YA fantasy, though I've also written middle grade books and adult short stories. I think I write YA because I love coming of age stories, and because I love writing in that space where every decision we make seems to so very deeply matter. As for fantasy ... I've always been a fantasy reader, so it never really occurred to me to write stories without magic. I love so many things about fantasy: the sense of adventure, the reaching something beyond this world, and also, again, that tension among light and dark and all the shades in between that fantasy is so good at exploring. In fantasy, the stakes can be so high--entire worlds can be on the line--and yet fantasy is also very personal, and very much about what it means to be human.

Tell us about your new book. How did it come about and share your favorite excerpt/scene.

Faerie Winter
is a sequel to Bones of Faerie. Both stories are post-apocalyptic fantasies, set after the war between the human and faerie realms has destroyed the world. Bones of Faerie began with a single scene and a single image: a girl's father setting her sister, born touched by faerie magic, out on a hillside to die. In that scene, I already knew that there's been a war, and that it had left behind a land filled with deadly magic: trees that seek human flesh and blood, stones that glow with deadly light, darkness that can swallow a person whole. (That scene was all I knew when I started, though. Everything else, I had to learn as I wrote. I'm very much a find-the-story-as-I-tell-it sort of writer.)

It's hard to choose just one scene to share! But I have excerpts from the openings to both books online:

- <a href="
http://www.simner.com/bonesoffaerie/excerpt.html">Bones of Faerie</a>

- <a href="
http://www.simner.com/faeriewinter/excerpt.html">Faerie Winter</a>

How has writing affected your life? And what’s your favorite part of being a writer?

Ever since I was young, writing has always given me other worlds to escape to. It's also given me a way of observing the world--and a way of making sense of the world, too.

My favorite part of being a writer really is the writing, and the way that I always have a story (many stories, though I only write one at a time) in my head. There are other things I love too--I wouldn't have tried to publish if I didn't want to share my words with others--but in the end it always comes back to the words and the stories.

What advice can you give regarding the writing process?

Find the process that works best for you and embrace it. Writers tend to like to give advice, and often we forget to add a disclaimer: that this worked for me, but it may or may not work for you. Some writers outline; others (like me) just plunge in and find the story. Some write very clear first drafts; some write very messy first (and second, and third) drafts and worry about polishing later. There is no one right way to write, and time spent revising doesn't mean you made some sort of mistake with your earlier drafts. Try everything, but only keep what's useful to you. Every writer is different, and just because another writer, even a writer you admire, writes in a particular way doesn't mean you'll write in the same way.

Regarding publication and marketing, what advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Don't stress it too much. :-)

Write the best book you can. Then be professional, do your agent and editor research, and send out your query letters. As much as you can, think of this as a thing apart from the actual writing--a business thing you do, and do politely and courteously, and then let go. Once your queries are out, go back to working on your next book.

Also, no one can take the process of writing a book away from you. No matter what happens on the business side of things, the time spent writing your book, with all its joy and tears and discovery, is yours to keep forever.

Write what you love. There are no guarantees, but if you're writing what you love--that will show through, and make your stories better, and so also more commercial. Love is no more a guarantee than anything else, but it does add to the work--and to the process, because we live with our books for so long.

How can your fans find, follow or friend you?

I'm all sorts of places online--come visit!

My blog:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/janni

Twitter: innaj (that's janni, spelled backwards!)


My web page: www.simner.com

Web page for Faerie Winter: www.simner.com/faeriewinter/

Thanks so much for visiting with me Janni. It’s been wonderful getting to know you.
C.K. Volnek

I was treated with a most excellent workshop this past Saturday. ‘Finding Your (Sense of) Place As A Writer’, presented by Author Janni Lee Simner left me anxious to return home to pound away on the keyboard of my laptop. It was like waking up to a bright new world after being asleep, rearing for fun and adventure, the sun sending thrills down my arms as I let her words saturate my parched muse. I was enthralled with her use of language, setting her scenes full of description and emotion.

Janni described a young girl skipping under the towering arch in St. Louis, savoring her ice cream cone as she dipped her feet in the cool water of the Mississippi. Then Janie moved on to a young teen, barely able to breath in her steamy city apartment, the humidity so thick she could cut it with a knife, the searing breeze blowing the stench of garbage and smelly sneakers from the alley below.

The same girl, the same town…two totally different emotions. It was thrilling to see, hear, smell and feel Janni’s emotional descriptions.

“Emotion and description are closely linked because what we feel affects what we see and because the same place holds different meanings for different people” said Janni. (Even if it is the same person, but at different times of their life.)

Janni gave us a few tips.

- Look for words and descriptive details that reflect the emotions of your characters and the tone you’re trying to set for their scenes.

- Choose words and comparisons that arise naturally out of your characters’ worlds and lives. A tenth-century kid can’t feel and electric shock; a twenty-second century kid might not know what it means to dial a phone.

- One or two carefully chosen, specifi details have more power than a dozen more generic ones. Give those specific details the space they need.

Janni also gave us some great examples to experience what she was talking about. Each of the passages talk about storms, but it is amazing how different you feel about each one.


It was a dark and story night.

In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground.

The house shook.

Wrapped in her quilt, Meg shook.

-          from A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

Trees are the keepers of stories. If you could understand the languages of oak and elm and tallow, they might tell you about another storm, an earlier one, twenty-five years ago to be exact, a storm that barreled across the sky, filling up the streams and bayous, how it dipped and charged, rushing through the boughs. Its black clouds were enormous, thick and heavy with water it had scooped up from the Gulf of Mexico due south of here, swirling its way north, where it sucked up more moisture from the Sabine river to the east, the river that divides Texas and Louisiana.

This tree, a thousand years old, huge and wide, straight and true, would say how it lifted its branches and welcomed the heavy rain, how it shivered as the cool water ran down its trunk and washed the dust from its long needles. How it sighed in that coolness.

-          from The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt

We slept in the hay all night, waking when the wind was wild, sleeping again when it was quiet. And at dawn there was the sudden sound of hail, like stones tossed against the barn. We stared out the window, watching the ice marbles bounce on the ground. And when it was over we opened the barn door and walked out into the early-morning light. The hail crunched and melted beneath our feet. It was white and gleaming as far as we looked, like sun on glass. Like the sea.

-          from Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan

A thundercloud big as a mountain swept up the river just before sunset. Lightning danced at its edges like horses at a mad gallop, then the sky turned ink black and the storm crashed over us.

            - from Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Now, I’m sorry, but I have to go…my fingers are dancing along with my muse and yearning to practice this piece of craft on my own writing. Happy writing to one and all. May all your descriptions create the emotions of your heart!

C.K. Volnek