These Are the Moments is the debut novel by American author Jenny Bravo. It follows the story of Wendy Lake and Simon Guidry in two timelines - the past and the present, together and not together. It's the story of that person everyone has or had in their lives, who made a life-changing impact. However, the narrative is anything but cliche. Jenny Bravo tells this story in a fresh and utterly engaging way, with her crisp prose and deep, relatable characters.
Jenny Bravo made the brave decision to self-publish TATM alongside a publishing team she handpicked herself, from Pinterest of all places. So far, her novel has received rave reviews and has her being compared to authors such as John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park).
Jenny is also the author of Kindling short story 'Carry-Urns and Stowaways', and the celebrated blogger behind the platform Blots & Plots, where she chronicles her writing process, and shares advice for writers. In the interview below, Jenny talks to Writer's Edit about her inspiration, how she created her characters, what it's like to self-publish and more...
Where did the idea for TATM come from? Do you remember a specific 'light bulb' moment?
I wish I had a cool story to tell you about how one day I tripped over a penny and then lightbulb, eureka! However, my TATM writing story was much more gradual than that. Originally, I thought of the concept in high school. I wrote a draft and let my friend read and edit it for me. Then, it found its place in a drawer.
After college, TATM found its way back into my life. I found myself asking, well what if it happened like this? And then, pen hit paper, and a book was born. (If only it were that simple, right?)
How did you go about creating such well-rounded characters? Did you use any specific techniques such as character profiling, or basing them on people from your own life?
Thank you for the compliment! The TATM crew is a pretty fun group of characters. They're a mixture of real-life inspiration as well as pure imagination. They started as concepts, and slowly grew into people that could stand on their own. (In the literary sense, of course.)
For me, it helped to just let them talk, so I did a great deal of dialogue work. I put the three girl friends into a room, and let them hang out as real friends would. A lot of the one-liners came from that exercise. In rereading this, it makes me sound like a crazy person. Note: Let the record show that I know my characters are fictional.
What was your writing process like, given the non-linear structure?
Since my novel is told in two timelines, it presented a bit of a challenge. Initially, I treated the timelines as completely separate stories, so that they had the ability to stand independent of each other. I wrote scene by scene, in no certain order, until I felt everything had been written.
Then, I said my prayers, and combined the two timelines. Luckily for me, I didn't need to do much rearranging. The two timelines each had a relatively even scene count, by some miracle, and then it was simply a matter of making the words sound pretty.
What made you decide to self-publish?
I love this question. After graduating college, I had every intention to write a great novel, find the perfect agent, and watch my book grace the shelves of bookstores everywhere. And then I found out about self-publishing, and it changed the game for me.
With great self-publishers like Hugh Howey and Ksenia Anske, it made me take a second look at the publishing game. I could tell you, I decided to self-publish so I could make more money in the grand scheme, but that's not the case. By self-publishing, I got to maintain complete artistic control, which was really important to me. I formed my own publishing team, handpicked my book cover, and ran my own marketing campaign. It made me appreciate the process so much more.
How did you go about forming your own publishing team?
In the most unexpected way possible, I formed my dream team through Pinterest. I know, it's kind of crazy. For my editor, Tanya Gold, Pinterest led me to a website called Freelancer's Union. Tanya and I became instant friends. I knew after our first phone call that I would probably sell my own hair if it meant I got the chance to work with her.
Tanya connected me with my proofreader, Miranda Martin. Then, all that was left was my cover designer. I found Kisscut Design by searching "book cover design" on Pinterest. It led me to one of Natalie's creations, and I reached out to her. She seemed so professional and her work spoke for itself. I couldn't have asked for a better, more fitting product.
Since launching TATM, what has the experience been like?
To quote my character Vivian, it feels "like [I] just ate a bowl of clouds for breakfast." Honestly, I have to remind myself that I wrote a book, and people are reading it, and they're liking it. It's this amazing sort of feeling that is really difficult to place into words.
Allow me to try. Sometimes I wake up, and I've already sold two books. Sometimes, I check Twitter and someone has tweeted me, "your book broke my heart! in the best way!" Sometimes, people like you ask to interview me. I don't say these things because I think I'm super awesome or anything. I'm a first-time author, and I think it's important to know that this kind of thing is possible. For anyone.
Would you consider traditional publishing in future?
Absolutely! I'm not sure where my publishing path will lead me. I love a challenge, and I hope that I keep moving forward in my writing career.
Speaking of the future, what are your plans? Is there another book on the horizon yet?
I have a few plans at the moment! I'm revising my prequel to TATM called 'Those Were the Days' and plan to release it on Kindle within the next few months. Also, I've started writing my second novel. It's kind of top-secret at the moment, but I'm planning a fun guess-the-writing-project game, so make sure to stay tuned for that.
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Writer's Edit would like to thank Jenny Bravo for taking the time to share her journey and insights with us.