Interview with Penni Jones: Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up
Penni Jones is a writer, mom, and caffeine addict. She specializes in women’s fiction set in the dirty South. Penni currently resides in Michigan, where she complains all winter. She is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen of Stonesong.
If you haven't done so already, check out Penni's award-winning story, "Danny Dead-Eyes," and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! 2014 Spring Flash Fiction Contest. What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write this particular story?
Penni: We've obviously had an abundance of shooting rampages in recent history. We often hear about the shooter's parents, and the guilt and grief they experience over what their child did. But I realized a few months ago that we don't hear much about the siblings. The siblings also have to live with this for the rest of their lives. If your brother or sister did something so horrific, you would never shake the effects of their actions.
The story didn't necessarily go the way I intended it to, but stories rarely do. It became more about how what we believe about a person can become true.
WOW: One of my favorite aspects of writing is not knowing exactly where a story will go as I’m writing it. In general, what is your writing process like?
Penni: All of my stories grow from a spark of an idea. Sometimes just a phrase, but usually an idea about a character. I love character-driven stories. I try to sit and write every day, but life gets in the way. I'm constantly striving to become more disciplined.
WOW: I hear you! I think many of us can relate to that! In your bio, you say you live in Michigan and complain all winter. What effect (positive or negative) does the Michigan winter have on your writing process or productivity?
Penni: I become more introverted during winter. So I have more time to write, but I'm also less motivated. It's probably a wash.
WOW: If you could have dinner with any writer, dead or alive, who would you choose, and why?
Penni: I know you asked for dead or alive, but I have to answer both.
Dead: Kurt Vonnegut. He was a genius. He's one of those authors I can read over and over, yet never nail down his pattern. He had a distinct voice and a unique style. Vonnegut was truly in a class of his own.
Alive: Gloria Steinem. Her writing career followed an unbelievable path. Her activism, which I don't intend to minimize at all, often overshadows her writing. I would love to speak with her about her fascinating life.
WOW: Great choices! Are you working on any other writing projects right now?
Penni: Yes! I'm in the process of revising two novel manuscripts. Both have strong female protagonists. One is about a woman who was just released from prison and goes to live in her sister's halfway house. The other is about a single mother and activist in a US without freedom of religion.
WOW: Fantastic! I am drawn to books with strong female protagonists, so I hope to see your books out in the near future! Anything else you’d like to add?
Penni: Thank you so much for choosing me as a runner up in this contest. I'm honored to be among such talented writers.
WOW: You are very welcome! Keep writing, and we hope to see more of your work in the future.
Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt: writer and writing instructor