Friday, June 14, 2019

Author Spotlight: Jeff Zentner

There are awesome people. There are awesome authors. And then there are super-awesome people-authors who also have incredibly fluffy dogs, such as Jeff Zentner. Okay, okay, there's more to him than Greg, but come on- have you seen Greg?!

All fluff balls of adorableness aside, Zentner is not only one of the kindest, most genuine, most supportive folks out there, he's also an extremely talented young adult author with three award-winning titles under his belt now, including The Serpent King and Goodbye Days. Read on...

Who: Jeff Zentner
Latest Book: Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee 
Follow!: @jeffzentner
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What do you tell yourself when you begin to doubt yourself as a writer? How often do you doubt yourself?

I tell myself that while I may not be as good a writer as my favorite writers, I’m the only person who’s able to tell my stories, and I write the kind of stories I would want to read. So, while I’m in awe of the unattainable talents of the Cormac McCarthys, Jesmyn Wards, Mohsin Hamids, Michael Ondaatjes, and Donna Tartts of the world, none of them have written or will ever write The Serpent King, Goodbye Days, and Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee. How often do I doubt myself? Constantly. But the worst writers are the ones who never doubt themselves.

What is the worst reason to become an author? What is the best?

The worst reason to become an author is to become rich and famous. Even if you become book-famous, that doesn’t translate into much real-world fame. If you went to the Walgreens on my corner and asked the people there who any of the people currently on the New York Times Bestseller List are, they wouldn’t know. And only about ten percent of authors make a living solely writing books. There’s an even tinier subset of that number who get rich writing books. If you want to be famous, get on The Voice. If you want to be rich, invent an app. Write books for the best reason: that you want to tell stories and give a voice to the imaginary people who live in your head and won’t leave you alone until you do.

What’s your favorite thing to do to procrastinate from writing?

I’m personally a big fan of “story research.” This is where I study the story structures and character development on my favorite TV shows. In other words: watching Netflix.

Who has been the most difficult character for you to write? The easiest? 

I’m currently writing a character who’s a genius. Her mind works in ways unknowable to normal people. As it happens, I am not a genius, and therefore have to use my non-genius brain to figure out how a genius thinks. What I’ve settled on is having her thought processes appear unknowable to her non-genius best friend, my main character and the easiest type of character for me to write—a young man who is basically decent and reasonably smart and loves the beauty of the world. This is a character close to my own heart and therefore easy to write. The genius? Not so easy.

Do you have a secret for handling bad book reviews? And, yes, what is it?

I do. I go to the Goodreads page for my favorite books—the works of unalloyed brilliance, of utter perfection—and I read one star reviews of them to remind myself that there is no such thing as the universally adored piece of art.  Also, I remind myself what a gift it is to have my art so widely distributed throughout the world that it can reach people who feel no obligation to spare my feelings. As someone who self-released music for years before becoming a writer, I can attest that art doesn’t always make it that far.

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