Selkies' Skins

Selkies' Skins
Current book in series Temple and Skinquest. Enjoy Castle and Well from Amazon, B&N and Smashwords while waiting for that and the prequel's audiobook "Pearls of Sea and Stone: Book of Seals".

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Interviewing Jo Jewell

Today I am reading the interview I had with author Jo Jewell of Pen It! Publications.

I plan to do several interviews to work into my postings. I'll be interviewing authors, a game creator, hopefully some illustrators and editors and others involved in the publishing industry. I already have two others to record the answers from as well. I'll be sending out a few at a time to that I don't overload myself with content to do around my work, so if I've worked with you in the past on a project rest assured you will eventually be getting a mailing from me. If you're involved in the publishing industry and would like to be interviewed please contact me and I will send you the list of questions. It is my hope that these interviews help spotlight people and their work, but also help introduce people to the people that make the industry go, perhaps even give others the courage to participate as well. I doubt this will be anywhere as popular as Reading Rainbow, but if it helps even one person it is worth it.

Pen It Publications:
Jo Jewell Amazon Author Page:

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Podcast/Youtube/Blog Interview Notes

Pre Interview Questions:
a) What name and gender are being used to refer to you? If they do not match your birth name and gender are you open about it? You do not have to disclose legal/birth name and gender, but if you want it mentioned you write under an assumed identity or have more than one identity you work under for this industry that can open up new lines of discussion.
I am female and I go by Jo Jewell which is the name I write under. Jo is actually my middle name.

b) Are you an author, poet, illustrator, editor, game writer, game creator, publisher, or multiple? If you have multiple roles in the publishing community then which ones are they? If you have multiple roles feel free to answer each question with sections for each role.
I am an author. 

c) What books, games, or other publishing related projects have you been involved in the production of?
I’ve written for many years and worn many hats. I was a political writer for a time, I’ve had two newspaper columns that focused on the pets in my life and raising two rambunctious boys. I wrote puppet plays for a disability program about loving who you are and loving what makes you different. I’ve written poetry under the name of Nikki King, I’ve written inspirational stories, and I even wrote for an art coffee table book for an artist in Oregon. Pretty much if it meant writing, I’d write it. 
In 2010, I had the trifecta of tragedies. 
Round One) I came home from work June 26th, 2010 and found my husband, my furniture and my money gone. I was left alone and penniless BUT I had a job so all was not lost. I just had to find my new normal. Unknown to me, house payments had not been made so our house went into foreclosure. So now, I’m penniless and homeless. I moved in with a friend from work. I didn’t know her very well, but it was better than being on the street.
Round Two) On December 10th, my roommate and I went to a charity run. It was extremely cold that day with bouts of icy rain. You guessed it. I ended up with double lower lobe pneumonia. One lung was completely shut down and the other was at only 13% capacity. I was hospitalized for two weeks and in recovery for three months.
Round Three) On March 3rd, 2011, my employer went through a drastic downsizing and consequently was laid off from my job. ***This is all leading somewhere, I promise.
I was out of work for 13 months and during that time, I received a call from a wrong number. Instead of the usual, Gosh, I’m sorry. No harm done. We ended up having a four hour conversation and hung up as friends. It was an older gentleman, around 86 years-young. He told me stories of growing up and his wife who he enjoyed 67 years of marriage. When we hung up, I kept thinking about all those wrong number calls we get and I started to wonder. What if, in taking the time to speak with the caller, something occurred that would change the life of the receiver and generation and generation after? I’d never written a novel, should I try?
I often write stories for my Facebook friends, so the logical thing to do was to start writing the story and posting it. The response was stunning! I have a very dear friend who messaged me and told me to quit posting, finish the story and send it out to a publisher! No one would want to read my silly stories, I told her. She made me promise, so I finished writing the story. I titled it: The Old Man and The Watch. I sent it out prepared for the dozens of rejection letters I was sure to receive. Instead, I never received a single rejection letter, but rather three publishers who wanted to publish it! I just walked around in disbelief until the phone calls started. I did decide on a lovely publisher and with her help and encouragement, The Old Man and The Watch hit the market.


1. What got you interested in (writing/illustrating/editing, etc)?
  To be honest, I don’t know how to answer that. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I taught myself to read at a very early age and as soon as I learned to read, I began to write. I won my first National Poetry Contest, sponsored by my elementary school when I was six years-old.

2. What company or companies are you doing work for/with?
I am now retired and writing to my heart’s content. I am currently with PenIt! Publications and couldn’t be happier. I guess it would be safe to say, my readers are my employers now.

3. What projects are you currently working on?
I just finished The Old Man and The Watch series. Yeah, it took on a life of its own and my stand alone book became a five book series! Now, I’m gearing up for a new series titled: Probably Magic.

4. Do you have any future projects in mind to take on?
I will just keep writing. I really don’t plan too much in the future. I never know what story will be whispered in the wind, and I want to be open to hear it.

5. What is your favorite project?
I guess I have two. 
The one I’m most proud of is my minor role in creating the Maryland State Task Force for Abused, Abandoned, and Neglected Children. I was writing for a newspaper at the time and doing a series of articles on child abuse. The articles caught the eye of a state senator and he invited me to testify before the Maryland State Legislature. The bill passed and the Task Force was put into action based on my research and testimony. I have always felt, if that simple act saves children and families, it was worth every nerve-wracking, heartbreaking, knee-knocking minute.
The second is the one I most enjoyed. The fourth book in the series is titled: The Glory Plains, The Raising of a Thousand Voices. It takes place in Africa and takes on the subject of poaching. I learned so much through my research. There is an albino baby elephant named Thandie, and with that, I fell in love with elephants.

6. Is this career something that you always wanted to do?
Writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do. It has been part-time for the biggest part of my life as I had to have jobs, raise children, and make a home. I took early retirement just so I could realize my dream. I’m having a blast doing it!

7. Do you find it difficult, or find some aspects more difficult than others?
I hate doing my own marketing. Writing is no problem. Getting the story to the heart strings of my readers is no problem. Love the research. However, finding the money and a reputable marketer has been challenging and, at times, very stressful. I love doing book signings because I love meeting my readers and hearing what they have to say. I am more on the human level than business level. I often will have lunch with a reader, or visit, or communicate. I have created The Old Man and The Watch family. It’s a place where you will always be encouraged and celebrated and loved for just being yourself.

8. What is a normal day like for you? Is this your side job or main job?
I moved to Indiana from Tennessee two years ago. My best friend of 52 years recently lost her husband and she asked me to come live with her. So, here I am with nine cats, a puppy, and my best friend. We garden, we’re making a fairy garden, we lunch with friends, and really, quite frankly, we’re just enjoying life.

9. How do you manage balancing this with family and any other work you may have?
Oh, sometimes the cats want to help me type. LOL I have found the house is the quietest around 2:00 AM. I will often get up and write while the house is quiet and everyone else is sleeping.

10. What hobbies do you have?
I’m an animal lover as you probably surmised. I love to garden and create. I have a passion for Black Bears and have an extensive collection of collectible bears. I’m pretty much a nature girl and when I lived in Tennessee, you could usually find me in the mountains. I also do a lot of coloring as a stress reliever.

11. If you could be anything in the world besides this, what would it be?
Not a danged thing. If I didn’t write, couldn’t write, there would be no more oxygen for me to breathe nor blood to pump through my heart. Writing is my soul and my life. It would be nice to be discovered and celebrated…or would it? I’m not so sure that’s the life I would want.

12. Do you feel that school helped set you up toward following this path in the publishing industry?
I know a teacher in 8th grade made me feel I had potential. I was so horribly shy and for many, many years refused to share my writing with anyone. She drew me out. She taught me the importance of communication and being true to your heart. I also took some communications classes at Ashford University. I maintained a 4.0 grade point average and to be blunt about it, I found it boring.

13. If you could go back to school is there anything you wish you had paid more attention to?
Not really. My circumstances were not conducive to a learning environment. I wouldn’t go back for all the money in the world.

14. What advice do you have for the next generation?
When we are young, we feel like we have all the time in the world. We let life get in the way. We get so busy keeping schedules, trying to fulfill expectations, rushing to the next big thing. Let me tell you, Lovelies, time passes in the blink of an eye. You go to bed with huge dreams and plans and then one morning you wake and wonder where all those years went. My advice: Protect your dreams as though they were a precious child and don’t let anything steer you away. Be willing and strong enough to say “No” to distractions, no matter how attractive they seem. Put value on yourself and your dreams will follow.

15. What advice do you have for your age peers that may also want to take part in the publishing industry and specifically with your area within it?
I am very, very encouraging to those who express a desire to write. I try to make resources available to them. I answer questions based on my experience or send them to someone who will correctly answer them. I am their loudest cheerleader. However, I cannot give them the desire and the drive to write. I think for “true” writers, those are the strongest elements in making that dream come true.

16. Is there anything else that you’d like to add that we didn’t discuss?
People often ask me how I come up with ideas. How do I know how to put them on paper and make those ideas form a picture? I don’t know that I can answer that, except to say, inspiration comes from observation. When I sit at the computer, I don’t feel like I’m writing. I feel like my characters want to tell their story and I am only the vehicle. Often, I even close my eyes and watch the story unfold and I feel it is out of my control. When I go back over what I’ve written, I’m surprised at the passion, the need for them to tell their story, in their own words. Where do those ideas come from? I don’t know. Maybe a secret place in my imagination. Maybe it’s the soul begging to be heard. My new series, Probably Magic, came from a dream. It wouldn’t go away. In fact, it grew more and more insistent with time until I finally set her free. So, to the people who ask, my ideas come from a messy, disorganized chaos, frustrating, and triumphant, unpredictable life. You just have to pay attention.
I tell them, just sit down and write. Worry about the editing, order, grammar, and public later. Everyone has ideas, everyone has a story inside them wanting to be set free.

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