Longtime Invi member Jennifer Bowen (aka “J-Bo”) talks about being Queen Bee at BookHive, her new novel that sprung from a former play and that time she and her husband won the internet and were crowned “Dateline Super Fan Finalists.”
InViolet: How do you identify in the theater world?
Jennifer: I started out as an actor, and any chance I have to see a play, I get something from it. The story, experience (or even lack thereof) will leave an impression, possibly spark something in my own writing.
InViolet: Tell us about your journey with InViolet.
Jennifer: I’ve been a member of InViolet for about seven years. I started out acting, wrote my first full-length play because of InViolet, and these days, writing is my focus.
InViolet: Do you have a favorite InViolet memory you can share?
Jennifer: Probably all of the retreats, the reading of my play Ruin (after working it through the InViolet machine of feedback of two retreats and meetings.)
InViolet: Several times InViolet has had the honor of your service as Props Mistress on our productions. Is this a secret passion of yours? One of your many talents? Or perhaps we roped you into it against your will?:)
Jennifer: I think I just pitched in to help!! But I was glad to. I loved it when props would sometimes be mentioned in reviews – I was getting prop famous!!
InViolet: BookHive! You are the Queen Bee/Mastermind/Boss-lady/CEO of this amazing literary empire. We wanna know all about it. Give us the scoop and don’t leave anything out.
Jennifer: BookHive is a company I launched two and a half years ago. We do beta reader editorial research for novelists. It came out of myself writing my first YA book, and wondering if teenagers would really respond to it. So I pulled together some teens to read it and was startled by the feedback! I realized then that it could be a service for other novelists. We have groups of 500+ beta readers from all over the country (and we just opened up to International readers). From that pool, we select beta readers to read the authors novel, and then give feedback via an online survey. The author receives a 35+ page report full of both qualitative and quantitative feedback. Some of our authors have gone on to find agents, get published traditionally, and also self-publish. It’s been an honor to be witness to so many people’s stories growing and coming into fruition.
InViolet: A while back, you and your husband Garrett started doing online video reviews of Dateline. It took the Internet by storm and we were all clamoring for more. How did this start? Can we expect more of this awesome in the future?
Jennifer: We’re weird and in love and are obsessed with Keith Morrison’s dramatic retelling of sordid tales. We then got self-conscious (are we tactless talking about this??) but it was FUN while we did it. And I don’t want to brag, but we were selected by Dateline as a super fan finalist during a contest!
InViolet: We had a wild and wonderful InProgress production of your play Little Prince$$ a few years ago. There was Bunraku! Puppets galore! Ke$ha music! It was glorious. What was that whole experience like for you?
Jennifer: I felt blessed to work with Mark Cirnigliaro as the director. He brought a lot of creative vision to the project (puppets!) All of the actors really brought it as well. Instead of just seeing the play at music stands, Mark allowed me to see the journey of the characters fully realized – it was awesome.
InViolet: You unabashedly post the delicious food you cook on Facebook and make the rest of us feel jealous. Is cooking a big passion for you?
Jennifer: It is. I feel better when I eat food that I’ve cooked. I’ve always loved cooking. Feels like a creative hobby for me.
InViolet: We spent time at meetings and our company retreat working on your beautiful, complicated play, Ruin. Word on the street is that you’re adapting it to become a novel. Can you talk about that?
Jennifer: First I stole the title from another play My Grief is Golden and True and that is the name of the fiction project inspired by Ruin. I was intrigued by the characters and wanted to take a deeper look. Everything is tweaking and changing. Certain dynamics and characters that can exist well in the play need to be expanded to sustain in a book. I was first inspired to write it after seeing Chan-wook Park’s film Stoker. My play was sort of a response to it. I think one can write in many styles, but some of us have strengths. I think my strengths are in examining gritty, darkly comic, realistic personal dynamics. That is what I am diving into.
InViolet: What’s next for you?
Jennifer: Well, I’m five chapters into My Grief is Golden and True (14,000 words!) and am taking another fiction class at Sackett Writer Workshop where I studied (and started) My Grief this fall. My general goal is to get a draft of the novel out by July. But I’ve also learned one needs to find the balance between being disciplined and flexible. If it doesn’t happen, it means I need more time. But I will do my best to read books that inspire me and carve time out to write, and hopefully the magic will happen.