This Blog Blank: I like to start each interview by giving the author a chance to discuss their latest work. What can you share with us about it?
Jen Estes: I’m currently preparing my first novel, Big Leagues, for publication. It’s going to be released December 1 in print and e-book and it’s currently available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Big Leagues is the first in my Foul Ball Mystery Series, featuring Cat McDaniel, a rookie sportswriter who finds herself at the plate in a deadly game of hardball.
TBB: So, baseball and murder. Throw in a beer, and you have the perfect American novel. How did you go from baseball blogger to sportswriter, and now to author?
JE: It all came from my love of the game. Blogging started after a trip to Spring Training. I wanted to document the experience for all the fans that have never been to the camps and when Opening Day came, I just kept going. I sought out sportswriting after I was solicited to write an article on Cubs’ history and did a few freelance pieces after that. It was actually due to winter boredom (once again, the offseason came a little too soon for this Cubs fan) that led to my first novel.
TBB: So, you’ve sold three books to Camel Press. Given today’s environment, that’s quite an achievement in itself. Based on your experience, what advice would you give upcoming writers who want to get published?
JE: Don’t limit yourself to just the “Big Six” publishers. There are a lot of ways to get published. Smaller and indie publishers not only give their authors a lot of hands-on attention, but they get your books in stores just the same.
TBB: I hear writers all the time say that they “write for themselves.” Whom do you write for? Why?
JE: I started writing for myself, but now I write for people who love my writing. Every smile, every chuckle, every page-turn and every good review just make me want to churn out another story.
TBB: The questions I get from my non-writer friends most often regarding writing is, “Which character are you?” or, “Can you put me in your next book?” How much of your characters end up being you, or those closest to you?
JE: I think a little bit of me goes into every character, even the villains, but the characteristics are so much more exaggerated. For example, my main character’s love interest cares about the environment — like me — but he goes as far as lecturing strangers on buying cut flowers, even equating florists to taxidermists. I’m not that bad…yet! I haven’t put anyone I know in my writing, but the names of my background ballplayers come from favorite schoolteachers I had growing up.
TBB: What authors influenced your writing the most?
JE: I am inspired by John Grisham’s work. He combines his two passions — law and literature — and I think that’s what makes his writing so enthralling, his devotion is contagious. I forgot to go to law school… but I’m just as passionate as he is about baseball.
TBB: What do you like most about your writing? What do you want people to take from it?
JE: I am a lighthearted person and I think it comes out in my writing. I’ve been told I have a colorful, breezy style and that’s exactly what I want. I want to lift the weight off my readers’ shoulders for three-hundred pages of fun. “Let me entertain you… ”
TBB: Be honest: Cubs Win the World Series, or your book hits the New York Times Bestseller’s list? If you had one wish, which one would you pick? (Yeah, I know the question’s unfair. Sue me. Heh.)
JE: Yikes. Can’t I just choose which of my [fictitious] children I’d give to the Nazis instead? Okay, okay, so it’s nowhere near a Sophie’s Choice but that’s a gut-wrenching decision for any Cubs fan. Now that I’ve prefaced it with a tasteless joke and gratuitous posturing, the NYT all the way. Sorry Cubbies, you’ve had 103 years. It’s my turn!
TBB: I imagine, that like a lot of writers, you’ve been reading most of your life. What changes have you seen in fiction that move you, or anger you?
JE: There’s so much more available now. I grew up in a tiny town and all that was available to read was the mainstream library staples. Now, not only can readers access anything, but thanks e-books, absolutely everything is out there. The only thing that angers me is the old-fashioned stigmas that still exist despite the ever-changing world of publishing. A good book is a good book, no matter who publishes it.
TBB: What part of writing do you like the most? The least?
JE: I love character development, from names to personalities. I keep a spreadsheet with everybody’s eye color, body build, idiosyncrasies, etc. to help me truly develop each one inside & out. However, I despise editing. I didn’t mind the first edit, but once my editor got a hold of my manuscript, we went back and forth about twenty times. By the nineteenth draft, I was ready to off each of those characters I so meticulously developed months earlier.
TBB: If you could change any one thing about the writing or publishing process, what would it be?
JE: Time. I have a theory that the industry must still use the Julian calendar because time moves so much more slowly with agents, editors and publishers than it does in “our world.” I can’t imagine what response times must have been like in the days of snail mail, because even with email and instantly-delivered manuscripts, it still takes months to hear a peep.
TBB: So, what are you reading now?
JE: I’m reading now because I’m currently immersed in a world of dreams and dragons, thoroughly enjoying the fantastical world you’ve created in The Stream: Discovery.
(TBB: Aw, shucks. You can find Jen’s Review on Amazon.com)
TBB: What do you want potential readers to know about your writing?
JE: You don’t have to be a baseball fan to read it! I tried to keep Big Leagues layperson-friendly and my editor, who’s not a baseball person, made sure I wasn’t a total statgeek. I think baseball fans will definitely enjoy the setting, but just as you don’t have to be a cop to watch CSI, you don’t have to be a ballhawk to read Big Leagues.
TBB: How can they find your work? (Hint, hint: links, pics and cover art are welcome. I also usually include the author’s bio.)
JE: I’m on the web at www.jenestes.com and there you can find updates and links to my trailers, events and books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you’re on Twitter, please follow me @jenestesdotcom. I tweet about baseball, writing, cats and my random thoughts in between.
JEN ESTES is an author living in Illinois. She started her writing career as a baseball blogger in 2007, expanded to freelance sportswriting in 2009 and sold her first three books to Camel Press in 2011.
She is a committed supporter of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, the White Sox Volunteer Corps and Cubs Care/McCormick Foundation. She is also an active member of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), Springfield Poets & Writers, Sisters in Crime and the National Writers Union (NWU).
Like all enduring Chicago Cubs fans, Jen is an eternal optimist – despite rhyme or reason, season after heartbreaking season. She was born when the crosstown Southsiders clinched the AL West title. She left for college as the diapered Diamondbacks became the fastest team in history to win the World Series. She married while the rivaled Cards headed to yet another postseason, and honeymooned as the kindred Sox reversed their curse. Nevertheless, Jen continues to “wait ’til next year” and fills the offseason with a league of her own: sassy heroines breaking into the world of professional baseball and discovering the mysteries that lie beyond the diamond. From doping dugouts to awful agents, swindling scouts to reckless rookies, Machiavellian managers to fixated fans, her leading ladies always have to play hardball.
When she isn’t writing, Jen enjoys running, practicing yoga, traveling and watching the game with her husband and cat.