An introduction to Jennie Shortridge, the author of Love Water Memory (Gallery Books, 2013). Her previous novels include When She Flew and Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe. The story unfolds in Love Water Memory as Lucie explores the mystery of her past, and gets to know herself as if for the first time while recovering from amnesia. When Erica Bauermeister interviewed her at Rakestraw Books, Shortridge explained that writing a mystery “became like a little dance—how much to reveal when.” Shortridge also shared the fun fact that “all of the characters were named for someone’s favorite grandparent.” That started with Grady, named for Shortridge’s grandfather, and as she talked with other friends about their grandparents, she started a quiet tribute by using their names for characters in the book. After Bauermeister and Shortridge discussed the writing process, and what it’s like to work with agents, editors, and publishing companies, Shortridge brought it all together with a simple point: “We write because we love stories.”
Quick Facts on Jennie Shortridge
- Website: jennieshortridge.com | Facebook: www.facebook.com/JennieShortridgeAuthor
- Home: Seattle, Washington
- Comfort food: chocolate chip anything
- Top reads: Mark Twain, E E Cummings, Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Tyler, and new favorite, John Green
- Current reads: I am not reading, but I am yearning to read A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
What are you working on at the moment?
My tour for Love Water Memory! Going on tour these days involves the writing of many guest blog posts and essays and things. I have started a new novel, but I’m not paying all that much attention to it yet.
Where did the idea come from for Love Water Memory?
A Seattle Times article in February 2007. The headline was: “His memory fails him, but his heart won’t forget.” It was about a man who suffered from a rare condition that steals his memory and makes him flee his life, over and over, and about his fiancée, who goes to get him. It made me want to know what would happen, so I wrote a book to find out.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Satisfaction with the story, and hope.
Where and when do you prefer to write?
In the mornings, in my little office at home.
Do you listen to anything while you write?
Where would you most want to live and write?
I think I could be really happy writing on a tropical beach the rest of my life. I’d like to try, anyway.
Do you have a philosophy for how and why you write?
“I write to examine
the universal story
through the personal lens.”
I think it’s important to know why you write, so I’m really glad you ask that question. I write to examine the universal story through the personal lens. I write with an agenda, to expose and examine things that I think are worth thinking and talking about. I write because, truly, I love every minute of it and can’t imagine doing anything else.
How do you balance content with form? How does the structure of the book influence the story?
I believe we’re innate storytellers, with story structure passed down through the ages and present now in much the same way it always has been. I write to that innate sense, that rhythm of rising tension and relief. I study structure a lot, but in the end, when I write, I just follow how the story wants to be told. The content dictates the structure.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Time. Just getting enough time.
How have your goals as a writer changed over time?
I mean, at first I just wanted to be published, anywhere and by anyone. Now I’d like to be published well. I’d like readers, which I never even thought about before I published my first book. But I still want to tell a story that feels beautiful and true, so in that way, not so much.
“I still want to tell a story
that feels beautiful and true.”
Is there a quote about writing that motivates or inspires you?
Clarissa Pinkola Estes: “Writing, real writing, should leave a small sweet bruise somewhere on the reader . . . and on the writer.”
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Learn your craft. Then practice, practice, practice. Marketing? Think about it in five years.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a writer?
Never submit too early. I still need to remind myself of that one!
Is there a question you find surprising that people ask about your work?
“Is it based on you?” It’s the natural assumption. I feel it, too, when I read a novel. I start working out how it relates to the author’s life.
Is there something that you wish people would ask about your work more often?
In general, I wish readers would ask, “What was the author’s intention?” rather than judging something from their personal point of view and life experience. We’re all so different, and the writer writes every single word with purpose.
“The writer writes
every single word with purpose.”
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
Hang with friends and family, cook, watch movies with my husband, take long walks, be in nature. Travel. Sleep. Dream.
About Jennie Shortridge
Jennie Shortridge is the author of five novels, including her latest, Love Water Memory. When not writing or teaching, she spends her time volunteering with kids. She is the co-founder of Seattle7Writers.org, a nonprofit collective of authors who raise money and awareness for literacy in the community.
[Toffoli, Marissa B. “Interview With Writer Jennie Shortridge.” Words With Writers (May 22, 2013), https://wordswithwriters.com/2013/05/22/jennie-shortridge.]