Women In SFF Author Spotlight: Jeffe Kennedy
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has won the prestigious RITA® Award from Romance Writers of America (RWA), has been a finalist twice, been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) as a Director at Large.
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Welcome to the Hive, Jeffe. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I’m reading PASSAGE, book 3 of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Sharing Knife fantasy series. Really loving it and wondering why I’d never read it before!
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
So… I’m an anomaly in the SFF world in that I’ve never played D&D. I’m not much into playing games full stop. I know a lot of people love them, but I’d always rather read. Is there a sorceress or shapeshifter character? I’d be that, with lots of magic!
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit?)
Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
Erm… dead shrimps?? No, thank you! I am definitely a gardener and I like to write in total silence. I live in the country, so it’s generally very quiet. Lots of birdsong. No shrimp wailing. I have a walking desk, so I walk as I type. Hand-writing is way too slow for me – I don’t know how people stand it! – so I use a wireless keyboard and type usually 800-1200 words for an hour at a time, walking at 2.2-2.4 miles per hour.
What (or who) are your most significant female fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
I would’ve loved to work with Anne McCaffrey, as she’s a major influence on me, and it’s one of my great regrets that she died before I could meet her. Other significant influences are Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley, Tanith Lee, Mercedes Lackey, Vonda McIntyre, Mary Stewart, Jacqueline Carey, and Anne Rice.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
No games for me! I don’t watch a lot of TV either. We stream a lot of movies, mostly. Most recently we watched Ad Astra, because my husband picked it out. For an actual TV show, the most recent one I watched was Star Trek: Picard.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Reading and gardening! Maybe drinking wine. I love a long, winey lunch ?
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
There are two in my metaphorical lap right now. I’m about 15K into a brand new book and world, which I’m calling my Dark Wizard story. It’s something I’ve wanted to write for a long time and I’m having great fun with it. The other is THE PROMISED QUEEN, book 3 in my Forgotten Empires trilogy with St. Martin’s Press. I just received (yesterday) the developmental edits from my editor there, Jennie Conway. So, I’ll be pausing Dark Wizard while I get those edits complete.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Most helpful is the advice no one wants to hear – which I fought for a long time – which is to write every day. It really works to build a productive writing habit.
Least helpful is that if you’re bored writing the story, your reader will be bored reading it. The speed and process of reading and writing are so vastly different that they can’t be compared. Maybe if you’re bored reading when you do your revision pass, after some time to step away, but not while you’re writing.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
That’s where having a good writing habit comes in. I don’t have to motivate myself, because I’m in the habit of writing. It feels weird if I don’t do it. Also, though, I support myself and my husband with my writing. It’s my job, so I need to show up and do the work.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Hmm. Maybe I’d go to ancient Egypt, just to see what it was really like.
Who are your favourite female characters in literature or pop culture? And do you have a favourite type of female character you enjoy writing?
I love a fierce, intelligent woman who’s determined to hold her own against the world. I love characters like Eve Dallas, Jessica Jones, Kerowyn, Lessa, Lissar, Natasha Romanoff, Phèdre, and Rowan Mayfair – extra points if you can identify them all! This is the kind of character I write, too.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I’m going to pick two: Robin McKinley’s DEERSKIN and Tanith Lee’s A HEROINE OF THE WORLD because I rarely hear those mentioned.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
I’m stealing this from one of my readers who used it today: kick@ss females with swords and magic. That about sums it up!
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.