It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Jennifer Stults, author of Carry on Castle.
About Jennifer Stults:
Jennifer Stults grew up in a suburb of Portland, Oregon. As a child she was teased mercilessly for her red hair. With the discovery of the MC1R gene and the ensuing “ginger revolution,” her red hair has become something to be proud of.
Jenny has five siblings and cannot fathom what it is like to be an only child. She spends her time with her thousand family members, driving her teenager all over the state and throwing the ball approximately 10 million times a day for her Border Collie. She has a “chapter two,” (widow speak for a second partner,) who adores her. They love fishing and going to the beach together.In a city with the biggest book store in the world and where everyone and their dog wants to be a writer she never gave writing much thought. When tragedy struck she found it to be the only way out.”
About Carry on Castle:
High school sweethearts Dan and Jenny Stults were living their happily ever after. They had a beautiful daughter and dreams of more children. Their life was ripped apart in January of 2015, when 36 year old Dan died suddenly, leaving Jenny and their 7 year old daughter to carry on alone. Despite unfathomable grief, they endured.
In CARRY ON CASTLE, her memoir of true love, sudden death, and penetrating grief, Jenny recounts the story of this nearly impossible task. Deep in the hell of widowhood, she found that her only deliverance was to tell her story. Throughout the book, Jenny weaves in Dan’s own words and shares his voice, his passions, his compassion, and his unforgettable personality. But she also has her own voice: brave, enduring, and insightful. This fierce, raw, brutally honest journey into the world of grief has been empowering to other widows and eye-opening to those who have been fortunate enough not to have endured this type of pain.
Author Interview with Jennifer Stults:
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- What does literary success look like to you?
In a perfect world: Oprah would read my book and interview me on one of her shows, then she would give my book to Lin Manuel Miranda who would turn it into his next hit musical. Isn’t that what every author wants?
In the real world? I think I may have already achieved it. I needed to tell my story, and I did. You could say it was a yearning or a desire, or an obsession; but it was deeper and more powerful than that. It was a calling. I couldn’t not write, which was strange for me because I’m not a writer.
Furthermore, and I didn’t originally set out to do this, but it turns out that I have been able to help a lot of other widows. I have heard from so many that say things like, “this is exactly how I feel!” I had one thank me for sharing my story, because she didn’t feel brave enough to share hers. I don’t think bravery has anything to do with it, but I am able to talk about death and grief. Not everyone can, but they can read my story and realize that they aren’t alone, that their feelings are normal. That is a strength that I didn’t realize I had in me.
- What have you found is the best way to market your books?
I haven’t. Getting my book seen has been the hardest thing about writing. Self published authors have to do all of their own marketing. That’s hard. There are only so many times I can post, “Hey, did you read my book yet?” on social media, before people start unfriending me because I’m obnoxious. I’d love more marketing ideas from the authors who have walked this path before me.
- Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Is cathartic a spiritual practice? I’m going to say it counts. I find writing very cathartic. I started writing about my grief as a blog, and I only did that because I wanted to sleep. I was so tired. It was 3 am and I couldn’t sleep because all I could do was think about my husband dying.
My therapist suggested I write it down in a blog to get it out of my head. I told her that was a stupid idea and said, “No one is going to read my 3am ramblings about my dead husband.” She said that it didn’t matter if anyone read them. So I started writing when I couldn’t sleep, which was every night. People actually read them and liked them. That motivated me to write a book.
I will never forget when I finished it, there was a release in me. Like I let a weight go that was holding me down. It wasn’t closure, but there was a release. I was lighter, I could breathe just a little bit better. Sometimes though it backfires on me because I waste my time at night actually sleeping now and I don’t have time to write.
- Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Every single one. I haven’t gotten any bad ones yet. When I do I will try to remember what my daughter told me once. She was in first grade. She came home from school that day, and said she had gotten in trouble but hadn’t done anything wrong. “My teacher must have been having a really bad day,” she explained.
When I get a bad review, I will just assume that the person who wrote it was having a really bad day and their life is harder than mine right now.
- Does your family support your career as a writer?
My family and friends have always been very supportive of me in whatever I do. I told my besties once that they are so supportive that I could pick my nose and they would say, “Great job, Jenny! That was excellent nose picking!”
They replied, “But you do pick your nose really well!”
It is largely due to my friends and family that I was able to write a book. They encouraged me to do it, even while I insisted that I wasn’t a writer.
- Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No. I never wanted to be a writer, it was the furthest thing from my mind. My husband Dan was a writer. He wrote everything: poems, stories, he had opening chapters of books everywhere. He had papers everywhere. Remember that line in Hamilton?
“Why do you write like you’re running out of time, write day and night like you’re running out of time?”
That was Dan. He was always writing. He was the writer, not me. I still don’t consider myself a writer. I wrote a book, because it had to be written, but I’m not a writer.
- How do you come up with the titles to your books?
People always ask me about CARRY ON CASTLE. It’s not really a name that screams “grief memoir.”
Dan and I always viewed our relationship as something out of a fairy tale. We were the prince and princess living happily ever after in our castle. Our castle was a teeny tiny apartment and then a tiny tiny house, but it was still our castle. Then one day the prince died, and the princess was left to carry on in their castle by herself.
My friends knew of this metaphor and when we had to move, about a year after Dan died, one of them suggested I name my new house Carry on Castle. It was just my castle now but I was still a princess and I still carried on, just without my prince. The name Carry on Castle became the name of my blog and my book.
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
Indiana Jones. I still want to be Indiana Jones. I would love to travel the world and find ancient treasures, to know all folklore and history. I love history. Find the things people didn’t think existed, to prove that they’re true. I seriously considered becoming a real archaeologist but I decided it was too much math. I hate math. Our daughter’s name is India and my husband always said I named her after Indiana Jones, but that’s not entirely true.
- What’s your favorite spot to visit in your own country? And what makes it so special to you?
The beach feels like home to me. I breathe in the fresh ocean air and smell home. I breathe out and sigh “I am home.” I didn’t grow up at the beach, but it was close enough that we went to the beach often. We still do. It feels like going to grandma’s house. You feel comfortable and at peace there. I love walking down the beach for miles while the freezing water tries to catch my toes. I love exploring rocks, caves, and tide pools. I love looking for sea shells and agates. I could sit at the beach all day and watch the waves roll in and out. I love sitting in a house or hotel on stormy days and watching the fierce ocean crash against the shoreline. The beach is a part of me. It lives in my soul.
To learn more about Jennifer Stults, here’s where you can find her:
- Website: https://carryoncastle.blogspot.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/livingwithgriefcarryoncastle