Author Spotlight: Jennifer Willcock
By Jennifer Willcock
Jennifer Willcock grew up telling herself stories in the middle of the night to keep away the monsters that lurked in the dark. Once she realized there weren’t any real monsters, she kept telling stories.
A voracious reader, Jennifer reads many different genres, but she never outgrew young adult fiction. A degree in English Literature enabled her to keep her love affair with reading and writing alive. A blogger, speaker, and writer, she belongs to the MOPS Network of Speakers.
Jennifer studied ballet through the Royal Academy of Dance during her teen years and into adulthood. She has taught in private and community settings and choreographed productions for her church over the years.
In 2017, Jennifer decided she was brave enough to try and write fiction and joined NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. She “won” it, writing fifty thousand words in thirty days. The result is Exit Stage Right, a dream she thought was impossible to achieve. In 2019, the novel made the short list of the Word Alive Press fiction writing contest.
Besides being a mom to two sons, she is married to Mark, a pastor. She works part-time in the local library, where she’s inspired every day to write a book that will one day be on the shelves. The family’s pet dwarf rabbit, Whiskers, is her muse as he sits at her feet while she writes.
Q: How did you come to write Exit Stage Right?
A: I wrote Exit Stage Right during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2017 where you write 50 000 words in 30 days in the month of November. The idea is to write, write, write and never edit. Editing can be done after but November is for writing.
This was my first serious attempt at fiction, so I wanted to write about a subject I knew a lot about and in a genre I was familiar with – so I chose the world of dance – ballet, and I love YA and read a lot of it so that was an easy decision. I was also thinking a lot about the prodigal in the bible so I decided to write a loose retelling of that parable set in the world of competitive ballet.
Q: In the book, Coco is a pastor’s kid and that creates a lot of tension in her life – were you a pastor’s kid?
A: No but I did grow up in a home that served at church and my dad was an elder. I did however marry a pastor and have seen first-hand the effect ministry has on the pastoral family. It can create a lot of tension for the family, especially the kids. I wanted to explore that relationship with Coco and her parents because it’s complicated, messy and fascinating.
Q: You’ve also written a non-fiction book called Whole: Hope for the Broken Pastor’s Wife. What have you found to be the biggest difference between writing fiction and non-fiction?
A: The Fun Factor – writing fiction is so much more fun! You can let your imagination run away and create worlds that you’d like to visit and characters you’d be friends with. One of my flaws is my desire to be in control but writing fiction lets me control my character’s fate and I kinda like it.
Writing Whole: Hope for the Broken Pastor’s Wife was telling my own story and weaving it around women in the bible so there was a lot of research involved which is not one of my strong suits. I can’t say I love it. It also took me ten years to write whereas I wrote the rough draft of Exit Stage Right in one month.
Q: What’s your writing process?
A: I’ve found NaNoWriMo to be a great motivator to sit down and write. It’s a very productive time for me. There’s no pressure other than to get 50 000 words. I’m what you’d call a pantser – I fly by the seat of my pants because I don’t do a lot of plotting ahead of time which works well in writing so quickly with no editing. I write in the early morning because I find that’s when my house is quiet and everyone else is asleep. It works for me. I get up around 5:30 am and write for a couple of hours and by 8 am I have my word count in, which is about 2000 words per day. Last year during NaNoWriMo I wrote another YA novel which is a twist on a fairy tale which I’m currently revising along with its sequel, which I wrote last spring and fall at a couple of writing retreats.
Q: Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this November?
A: Yes I’m prepping for it now – Starts Nov 1, 2019. I’m writing another YA novel which combines hockey skates and tutus.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A: I remember being told at a writer’s conference to read everything you can get your hands on. I’ve always been an avid reader, reading on average about 140 books a year, over half of them are YA. Reading equals research. The more you read, the more you learn about plot, character development and building worlds for your characters. You become so familiar with the genre that you’ll find when you sit down and write, it’s not as hard as you thought it would be.
The second piece of advice I’d give is just write. Carve out a time that works for you – morning, afternoon or evening- and then just write. Nothing is going to happen with a blank page but even with a really bad, rough draft, there’s potential there. You can work with the bones of a story but not with a blank page. Don’t give up.
Finally, it’s been said before but write the book you want to read. I love books about ballet, teens and swoon-worthy romance. So that’s what I wrote in Exit Stage Right.
I have always wanted to write a novel but I told myself that I wasn’t a good enough writer; that I didn’t have the imagination to be a novelist. Eventually my desire to give it a go beat out my doubts and I sat down to write. And I found out I could do it and it was fun. Then I began to question how God could use fictional stories for his kingdom – what was the purpose in writing novels?
Sometimes we are our own worst detractors because a story, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction is a powerful tool that Jesus used a lot in his ministry here on earth. We resonate with story and God can use it mightily to change the world and make a difference.
Join Jennifer for the book launch for Exit Stage Right
When: December 1, 2019 from 2-4 pm
Where: Country Hills Church, Kitchener, ON
About this Contributor:
Jennifer Willcock is a writer and speaker, and she’s thrilled that her English degree is finally being put to good use. Jennifer spent some of her best hours at the dance barre. She lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, two sons, and their pet dwarf rabbit, Whiskers.
She would love for you to visit her at jenniferwillcock.com or you can follow her on Instagram at @jenniferwillcock, and on Facebook at @wholePW.