Jennifer Theriot - Love Stories for Middle-Aged Women
After her friends dared her to write a love story for middle aged women, Jennifer Theriot wrote Out of the Box Awakening. Little did she know that this book would take off, win five star awards and result in a 3-book series. Today, we chat with Jennifer about how she wrote her own feelings into the story, why she writes for middle-aged people and how her characters don't always cooperate the way they were supposed to.
Please give us a short introduction to Out of the Box Awakening
Out of the Box Awakening is love story, written primarily for middle-aged women (BUT, there are a lot of younger characters) It addresses issues I think women my age face. For years, you've put your life on hold, raised children, taken care of a spouse/partner and family has been your center point. Somehow, I think women unknowingly lose sight of themselves - the core being of who they are and what they enjoy.
I was humbled when I found out that Out of the Box Awakening had been awarded a Five Star Silver Medal in Women's Fiction by the esteemed Reader's Favorite. This was unexpected and such a rewarding surprise!
What made you decide to write a love story about middle aged people?
I'm an avid romance reader and while I love stories about the younger generation, I felt there were slim pickings when it came to romance reads about women my age. I was at dinner with two of my closest friends and we were discussing that. They actually dared me to write a book and I took that dare.....six books later, here I am - still writing.
Out of the Box awakening was your debut novel. What was the experience like?
I found that a lot of my own feelings came out while writing. Thankfully, I never had to deal with infidelity, but a lot of Olivia was me. It was kind of liberating, actually and I found that through Olivia's words - I became a better person, felt better about myself and began to look at life from a new and fresh perspective if that makes sense.
What surprised you the most about readers' reactions to your book?
Probably the most surprising and empowering feeling is when a reader emails me or writes in a review how refreshing it is to read a romance novel about someone their own age. Even more so when they comment that they relate to Olivia.
Apart from only focusing on the love between your main characters, you also explore the depth of relationships with friends and children. Why did you take this approach?
Family and friends are tantamount in my own life. I wanted to write a story with multiple characters - characters who each lent an important part to the story. I've read a lot of reviews on romance reads where there is criticism about the story having too many characters and how confusing that was to the reader. That gave me the idea and challenge to be diligent in creating and developing endearing characters that the reader could easily follow, identify with and would lend to a positive reading experience. In addition, the friendship that developed between Olivia and Todd was probably the most fun to develop. It's a very unlikely friendship, by traditional means. After all, how likely is it for a fifty-seven-year-old woman and a twenty-eight-year-old tatted up and pierced seemingly arrogant rock star to become BFFs? As the story developed, we see just what a teddy bear heart Todd has - he's a guy who has lost loved ones, and is hurting from those losses. In addition, he admits to Olivia that he is looking for Miss Right. He is very protective of his friend Olivia and that's what makes their relationship all the more special. Todd was one of the characters my readers liked most I think. There are a lot of F-bombs spewed by Todd in the book, but readers will find that he uses the word as a noun, adjective and a verb. It's all relative to his personality and Todd would not be Todd without them...hehe!
Tell us a bit more about Olivia. What makes her so special? And why did you decide to make her a married woman?
Olivia is a good woman. She's selfless and caring. Her husband, kids and family always came first - above her own needs in many cases. She's young at heart and relates to the younger generation. She's the mom everyone comes to with their problems. As for making her a married woman, I wanted to write a story where unexpected heartache and life situations sometimes have a way of turning out to be blessings in disguise. In doing this, I wanted to give hope to those who feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I also wanted to emphasize the need for family and friends to get you through those hard times.
Which character did you find the most challenging to create?
Ash Harper, hands down was the most difficult. I wanted him to be a strong alpha male, however I knew that Ash had to have kind eyes, a personality that commands respect, but exudes wisdom, a family loving guy and above all, a good heart. Not the typical dominating alpha male.
The way things went down for Olivia told me that Ash had to be her knight in shining armor and definitely swoon worthy!
Have changes in your own life affected any of your characters?
In general, I think the growing old process and reflecting on my own mortality got me to thinking really hard about things. A lot of my own thoughts are incorporated into the story. The way I see people, the thoughts I've had as a middle-aged woman, my relationship with my own kids - that's all in there. Olivia just happened to be my kindred spirit.
Where do you like to go to find inspiration?
Music is a huge inspiration to me! I'll hear a song and my mind starts swirling. From that, I'll see a 'scene' that needs to go into the book. When I first start a book, I make a Spotify music playlist of songs that would fit into the particular book I'm working on and I find it very inspiring to listen to that playlist while I write.
I also find that people watching is inspiring. Today, I was waiting in line to get gas and saw a nice looking young man filling his tank in front of me. He looked exactly like one of the characters in a new novella I'm working on, so I watched his mannerisms and it gave me a lot of writing inspiration. Sounds silly, but it works for me.
How do you force yourself to finish what you're doing before starting the next project when the new idea is nagging at you?
That's really hard! I always wondered how authors could be working on more than one manuscript at a time and I have to admit, I've got four going right now. Not all of your characters speak to you on demand and at a given time. I'll start a manuscript, get my copyright and go on to another.
Characters have a mind of their own and don't always cooperate ;)
How do you balance the responsibilities of a full-time job and family life with writing?
I'm a multi-tasker by nature and I get bored easily. I have a hard time with 'down time' so when I get home from the office, my laptop comes out and I start writing. My husband and I have three kids who are all grown and married with kids of their own, so we’re empty nesters. We've been married thirty years, and he is very self-sufficient which affords me more writing time. I've got a great marriage and a supportive husband and family.
I do take sabbaticals from writing - family time is at the top of my list and I'm lucky that all the kids live within a thirty-minute radius from us.
My husband teasingly tells people that his wife writes 'smut', but I don't consider it smut at all. Yes, the books have sex in them, but it's sex in a loving and committed relationship. The books also carry a message that second chances at life and love are possible.
Say Out of the Box Awakening ever gets a movie adaptation, which actors would you like to see in the leading roles?
I was actually contacted by Wind Dancer Films that Out of the Box Awakening was one of ten books they had selected for film/television consideration. I submitted a 3,500-word synopsis and hope they love the story as much as I do. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I got the email....
As for characters, here they are in my mind:
Olivia Petersen - Diane Lane
Alan Petersen - Kevin Spacey
Ash Harper - Kevin Costner
(Oh my - I just realized that the two men in Olivia's life that I would cast are both Kevins...)
Todd O'Malley - Adam Levine (I think Adam needs a good movie roll)
Lainey Petersen Childress - Emma Stone
Dalton Petersen - Alex O'Loughlin
Bradley Petersen- Jensen Ackles
Tommy Harper - Alex Pettyfer
Hayden and Wesley Harper - Liam and Chris Hemsworth
Emily Evans - Alexis Bledel
Kyra Edwards - Amanda Seyfried
What are you working on right now?
Let's see: I’m currently working on a new series called ‘The Green Room Chronicles’. I just released the first in the series, Desperately Seeking Sixty-Nine. This series is what I'd call 'erotically incorrect' paranormal humor. It's written under J.D. Frettier. DS69 is a fun lunchtime read (only 12K words) about a couple, Bonnie & Peter Hampton who met at Woodstock in 1969. Bonnie passes away and she is whisked up to Purgatory (aka, The Green Room). I'm now working on the second book in The Green Room Chronicles called Linda Gets Her Groove Thing. This series is meant to make you laugh out loud and all have feel good happy ever afters.
I'm also working on the sequel to Unwrapping Noel, called Finding Joy. This series is about a full figured woman named Noel who is down on her luck when a sexy silver fox named Leon Hallas falls for her. (Did you get the palindrome? Leon/Noel?)
Fortissimo Legato ~ Bound to BriAnna is a companion novella to the Out of the Box series. Back in 2014, I released Toccata Obbligato~Serenading Kyra which is the first companion novella, written from Todd O'Malley's POV. Fortissimo is written from the POV of Brian, the drummer from Avenue (the band featured in the Out of the Box series).
Lastly, I'm working on Fortune Sprawling, which is the follow-up to the Fortune series (which consists of Fortune Calling and Fortune Brawling) It's a fun, Thelma and Louise type read about two female musicians, Dallas Fortune and Jodie Marie Jennings. I'm writing this with Hunter S. Jones, who is a best-selling author in her own right. Our tagline for this series is "When Texas meets Tennessee, the end result spells T.R.O.U.B.L.E"
That's all I've got in my bag of tricks for now, but that changes on a daily basis.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I LOVE to hear from readers!
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