TCL’s Countdown Questions #41: Author Natalie Jenner!

Typewriter Countdown Questions

An Alternative Author Interview:

TCL’s Countdown Questions.

This time I’m featuring author
Natalie Jenner!

I tried to get Natalie’s debut novel “The Jane Austen Society” as an ARC, but was denied access. Yet, I was so intrigued, I decided to buy a print copy all on my own.  Well, if you take a look at my review, you’ll see I was impressed. That’s why I’m thrilled to have just gotten the ARC for her second book! As is my wont, when I’ve discovered a new author, I have to ask them if they’ll participate in this little alternative author interview.  Let’s see how she replied to my five, fast, and fun questions.

  • If you could visit five (5) places you’ve never been, where would you go and why?

India for the colours, the history, and the people; Australia for much the same reasons, but also because it reminds me of a warmer version of Canada, where I live; Russia, especially by train, because it reminds me of a colder Canada; Kenya, because I studied the Masai tribe in grade school and have been fascinated with their culture ever since; and Amsterdam, because I have always wanted to visit the Anne Frank House and pay my respects to her in some way.

Museum | Anne Frank House

  • Name four (4) foods or dishes that you enjoy so much that they’ve practically become part of your personality.

For me, there is absolutely nothing better than a big bowl of pasta after a really hard work-out; steak frites is my go-to celebratory meal, along with really good champagne; I can out-eat anyone when it comes to dumplings; and for a snack nothing beats a nice, tart, crisp apple in the hand.

Dumpling, Taiwan, Tasty, Steamed Dumplings

  • There is the past, the present, and the future – if you could choose, which of these three (3) would you prefer to live in, and why?

That question is a difficult one for me because my husband has an incurable illness and one often thinks of things in terms of “before” and “after” when a devastating diagnosis comes your way. It is tempting, therefore, to say the past only for that reason, but that is the trauma in me talking. The present is and always should be the answer, because the present is the gift, the privilege, the state of being fully alive and experiencing all the good and bad that the world has to offer.

  • Best and/or worst – you choose which – name two (2) of either your best moments of your life, worst moments of your life, or one of each.

The two best moments of my life were meeting my daughter after a magical and most fortunate pregnancy, with my husband by my side, and the day I learned I would become a published author after twenty years of trying.

  • Name one (1) book you’ve read in the past year (or so) that you wish you had written, and why.

This is a cheat because I reread it every year, but Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This book not only has it all, but it established so much of what we love in the modern novel: the family dynamics, the hate-to-love trope with Darcy and Elizabeth, the strong female heroine, the irresistible cads, that wonderful ironic narrative voice, and the mixing of emotion, humour, drama, and romance in such a delightful brew that few humans can resist it. I would love to have written a book that could touch generations of people in the way that P&P has, and give them the comfort of such an entertaining read: what a privilege in life that would be.

Pride and Prejudice my copy

Thanks Natalie! I do NOT consider that book choice a cheat (this picture is a scan of my copy, by the way). You read it every year for a totally valid reason. I haven’t read mine for a long time, but I remember most of it, and I agree with you – what a privilege to write something that is enjoyed for so many generations, and still going strong!

Natalie-Jenner-HeadshotI have wanted to be a writer since I was three years old, before I could even read. I was your typical bookworm growing up, nose always in a book, anything from Henry James to Judith Krantz. I was thrilled to learn I could keep reading books at university on my way to getting a real job as a lawyer. While working and parenting, I wrote five different novels which I sent out to hundreds of agents. After decades of no success, I gave up my childhood dream of being a published writer and instead opened a small independent bookshop by the shore of Lake Ontario in Canada.

Four months later, life threw one of its infamous curveballs when my husband was diagnosed with a rare and terminal form of lung disease called IPF. We were forced to close down the shop to attend to the escalating financial, family and healthcare needs. 

I turned to reading Jane Austen for comfort during this time. Austen’s books have given me solace throughout my life, but this time their themes of community, grief and resilience resonated for me more deeply and profoundly than ever before. Intrigued by my new emotional response to her work, I next started to read every book on Austen that I could find, and even took a trip on my own to the small English village of Chawton where she had once lived, wanting to immerse myself in the beauty and the history of her own life’s story.

All of this turned out to be unintentional research for the book that lay ahead—a book that I had no idea I was about to write. Meanwhile life went on; our daughter finished high school; my husband’s lung decline began to stabilize with rare and innovative treatment, so much so that I write this with him still in good and productive health. With this new hope came inner peace, and with that a sense of freedom: for me, a state of mind that is critical to creativity. For the first time in years, I wanted to write again.  And my daughter recalls that one day, out of the blue, I looked up from my reading and said, very simply, “I am going to write a book about a group of people who come together to save Jane Austen’s house.” 

And that is still the tag-line for my debut novel.

Both of my books are, not coincidentally, about how our love for books can connect us, and comfort us, and even save us in challenging times. You will notice that there are not a lot of family members in my books—as a writer, I am most intrigued by whom we choose to love. Friendship has always struck me as one of the great joys in life, and community as one of its greatest sources of comfort and support. Most of all, given my own story, I love writing about people who fight to stay engaged with life, no matter the challenges that inevitably lie ahead. As one of my characters in The Jane Austen Society observes, life never completely gives up on us, if we don’t give up on it.

During this extremely difficult time, my greatest wish for my books is that you will find comfort in their words, hope for the future, and renewed faith in us all.

Natalie Jenner

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