Welcome to the seventh Author Spotlight post of 2022! Every month, I showcase an indie author and interview them to find out more about their writing life.
This month, the author in the spotlight is Jennifer E. Lindsay! Jen is in my author mastermind group, and she is a fantastic writer and editor! She has been a huge support for me in my writing journey, and her book The Writer as the Protagonist is a useful tool I recommend for authors.
Bio: Jennifer Lindsay officially began freelance editing in 2017. Prior to that, she spent 10 years working as a copyeditor and managing editor for a hobby magazine, as a ghostwriter, and worked with international non-profits creating training materials and informational resources for those working with victims and survivors of sex trafficking.
These days, she spends the bulk of her time working alongside authors retelling myths and legends or creating new stories for middle grade and young adult audiences. She is passionate about helping writers develop the skills and confidence they need to create a fulfilling writing career.
Her clients include award-winning, traditionally published authors, as well as previously unpublished writers who have gone on to successfully self-publish their work or receive full submission requests from agents/editors.
Her recently self-published e-book, The Writer as the Protagonist, helps writers re-imagine themselves as the hero of their own story as they embark on a great writing adventure.
Q: You are an editor as well as an author, and it’s clear from your platforms that you enjoy encouraging other writers. Can you tell readers a bit about your mission?
A: I have the blessing of being surrounded by family and loved ones who have encouraged and supported me in my various passions and creative pursuits since childhood, but I know that isn’t often the case for others.
My mission through The Writer’s Wellspring, my writing, and my editing is all the same: To encourage other creatives and to help them grow in confidence as writers. My faith plays a large role in this. I believe that we that we were created by a Creative God and that we were imbued with that same desire to create and to connect with others. As writers, I believe we are uniquely positioned to use our words to bring hope to others—especially through stories that deal with hurts, griefs, and despair.
When I work with writers, my goal is always to help them grow in their understanding of the writing craft, to develop their own unique voice, and to dig deeper into their stories to find that main idea they want their readers to hold on to long after they read the story’s final words.
Q: Can you tell readers a bit about The Writer as the Protagonist and the inspiration behind it?
A: The Writer as the Protagonist asks the question, “What would my writing journey look like if I took the same approach as the characters I write?” Each short chapter offers an example based on some of my favorite fictional protagonists growing up and concludes with thought provoking questions that are intended to help writers discover their hero type; uncover their core desire and fear as a writer; identify helpful guides, allies, and companions; and how to recognize and respond to antagonists, conflict, and dead ends they face as they pursue their writing careers. The original question was one that I asked myself while attending a writing webinar on handling conflict in fiction and I took about a year to process that on my own. While I was processing, I shared some of my thoughts on Instagram and discovered that this concept really resonated with a number of other writers. So I expanded on the idea and, with the help and encouragement of other writer friends (including Brenna!) I took the terrifying step of self-publishing it as an e-book. The responses I’ve received from other writers who’ve read it has proven to me that we do need more resources like this as writers, and it’s my hope to continuing building on this e-book in the years to come.
Q: In your experience, how is writing nonfiction different from writing fiction?
A: In some ways it’s easier because I’m writing as myself instead of through the lens of my fictional characters. In some ways it’s harder because it requires a deeper level of authenticity and vulnerability. I can’t hide behind my characters, so to speak.
Generally speaking, non-fiction readers are looking for information and they want it fast, so the words need to be clear and succinct. If they don’t see the point or the purpose within the first paragraph or two, they’re not going to finish the piece I’ve written. Fiction readers tend to be a little more forgiving. Unless it’s very poorly written and edited (or offensive/triggering), they’ll often continue reading a book they don’t necessarily connect with through the end just to see if the final payoff makes it worthwhile.
That said, fiction and non-fiction have more in common than we sometimes think. Whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction, I still connect best with my reader through the components of storytelling. And the promise that’s made in the first sentence needs to be fulfilled by the end.
Q: Why did you choose the self-publishing route?
A: In the case of The Writer as the Protagonist, I chose to self-publish because it’s a very small book written with a very targeted audience in mind. I could have spent years writing proposals and submitting to the handful of publishers who traditionally publish Writing Craft books, but I wanted it to be out there in my readers' hands sooner rather than later. It was also a challenge to myself, to prove that I could do something that felt impossibly big and out of my reach.
Q: What advice would you give authors who are looking into self-publishing?
A: Talk to other writers who have done it. There are so many things to learn that you don’t even know about in the beginning. Listening to what works and doesn’t work well from others who’ve already gone through the process is going to save you extra stress, unnecessary expenditures, and will help set you up for success. As an editor, I would also strongly advise not skipping out on that investment! Either Brenna or I would be happy to talk to you more about that if you have any questions!
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g., lighting a candle before you write, meditating before you write, going for a walk to get ideas)
A: I don’t have any rituals per se, but I do have a few things I do to cut down on distractions. I have focus times set up on my phone that silences calls and notifications. I also turn off my wi-fi unless I’m working on something that requires checking online sources. Once a week, I head down to one of my local coffee shops and meet up with two dear friends for 2 hours to write. During that time, the only project I work on is my own.
Q: What does your research process look like for your writing, if there is one?
A: The internet is great for sparking ideas, but nothing beats actual books. When I’m starting a project, I often make a trip to the library to find similar titles to the story I want to write, just to see what others have done. I also love grabbing non-fiction books that will help inform my world-building. I try to keep this stage limited to a month, then I start compiling that info to create my rough synopsis, which acts as a rough guide for the book.
Q: Do you have any specific authors or books that you've learned from on your writing journey?
A: I’ve had the privilege of being mentored by James Scott Bell, who I met at a writing intensive that he helped teach at. He’s been an incredible champion for me in the years since and I continue to learn from most of his craft books (which have become a bit dog-eared). I also highly recommend Write Your Novel by the team at Go Teen Writers. There’s a lot of great info in this book, regardless of your age, and the women who make up this team are absolutely lovely! Donald Mass, Sol Stein, and Angela Ackermann & Becca Puglisi are also some of my top go-to recommendations for fellow writers and clients.
Q: What’s your number one tip for tackling imposter syndrome?
A: There’s a great quote attributed to Francis of Assisi, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
When we start hearing those negative voices (internally or externally) we can do what’s necessary first—acknowledge that they’re hogwash. They’re based on a lie. Then we can take the next step of doing what’s possible. That might be writing a few sentences or reading a writing craft book to learn how to do a specific thing. When we are consistent in that process over time, we can learn how to process those feelings, recognize what is true and untrue, and then press on in our writing journey.
Q: How do you refill your creative well?
A: By stopping and giving myself space to just be. Sometimes I’ll go visit one of my siblings and get down on the floor with my nieces and nephews (who are all under 5). Sometimes I’ll head home to the family homestead and walk barefoot through the dirt and listen to the wind in the trees. Most often, I turn off my phone and my computer, turn on some quiet piano music, and I’ll either take a nap or re-read one of my favorite books.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I am currently approaching the halfway mark of a YA fantasy. This project is one that goes back to a concept I played around with back in 2002, and it has been rewritten more times than I can count. It was originally envisioned as a middle grade book, but never found a home. A few years ago, a well-respected editor asked me about some of my projects and I told him about this story. It was his suggestion to rewrite the book with a YA audience in mind, but it took me some time to really take up his advice. I’m so glad I did. I’m also glad that I’m writing this story now instead of 20 years ago, because I’ve grown so much as a writer and I’m finally in a place where I have the tools and skillset needed to tell the story I’ve always wanted to tell.
If you'd like to follow Jennifer E. Lindsay on her writing journey or find out more about her stories, this is where you can find her:
Facebook: The Writer's Wellspring