Today marks the third year of operation for Joseph’s Reviews! One of the things that I hope to do this year is to conduct more interviews with published authors, and so today we’re kicking off a new column, The Author’s Perspective. This interview is with Jenna Blum, the author of The Stormchasers: A Novel, which we rated as highly recommended.
1. Do you view the novel as a “life’s lesson” transmitter? In other words, it took me years to learn this, so in my book I’m trying to impart that to others in the form of a story.
Both of my novels are about emotional questions that I began asking long ago, to which there are no easy answers. Those Who Save Us, my first novel, about a German woman who became an SS officer’s mistress to protect herself and her little daughter, was written in part to answer the question I started asking when I first learned, at age 4, about the Holocaust: “How can people be so mean to each other?” What causes people’s inhumanity to their fellow man — or woman? We sometimes like to think we know a simple answer — we can lay blame on a person’s nationality, race religion — but what I wanted to do with Those Who Save Us was put the reader in some very unpopular shoes (a German woman during WWII) and show that the answers are not always so black and white.
My second novel, The Stormchasers, which is about twins, one of whom is bipolar, was written in response to my having beloved family members who are bipolar; the question this novel asks is, “What can you do to help someone you love? How far can you go before you erase yourself and your life completely?” There is no easy answer to the “problem” of bipolar disorder, and that’s what the book addresses. My hope is that it will help readers who are bipolar, or who love people who are, feel less alone. That’s what all good fiction does: it reaches a hand across the void that exists between all human beings and says, “Hey, you’re not the only one who feels this way.”
I don’t think my novels transmit lessons; I think they ask questions without ready answers.
2. Living one’s life as research for a novel… Did you just happen to storm-chase and write a book about it, or did you deliberately get engaged in the activity in order to do the proper background work?
One of the great things about being a writer is that you get to do all the crazy things you’ve always wanted to do and call it research, thereby writing it off on your taxes. I’m kidding, of course. Well, half. In fact, both of my novels did require extensive research, and my third novel will too — I seem to be incapable of writing a novel that doesn’t necessitate at least 3 years’ worth of research!
For Those Who Save Us, I went to Germany 4 times with my mom, which was arguably scarier than the 5 years of stormchasing I did to research The Stormchasers. For Those Who Save Us, I also interviewed Holocaust survivors for the Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, an unbelievable privilege that I did not spin into the novel but that helped inform the emotional spectrum along which the characters live. I write about the things I’m interested in, fascinated with, consumed by — so the research is part of my life, and my life becomes the research.
I did chase storms for several years as an amateur before I started chasing with professional stormchase company Tempest Tours (I’m hosting my own tours with Tempest this year, so please come along!). During the past 5 years with Tempest, while chasing tornadoes I took notes, carried a reporter’s recorder, wrote nonfiction about the tour company and stormchasing, took photos and video (all up on my website). That was all a very deliberate and specific research campaign.
3. What is the hardest part of publicizing a novel? Is it answering personal questions, the time spent traveling, trying to write the next book as you travel, missing friends and family, etc.?
I actually love publicizing my novels, so I don’t find anything about it difficult! I do admit that I’m something of an extremist. I travel a lot more than many writers do, 300 days of the year… (To be continued.)
This concludes part one of a two-part interview with Jenna Blum. For more information on Jenna, visit her website:
For more information on Tempest Tours, go to: