Interview with J.L. Cole

J.L. Cole’s debut novel, Silver Heights, is going to be hitting the shelves on August 13 thanks to Black Rose Writing!

I was lucky enough to have a chance to sit down with Jenna last week and talk about her life and her writing. Keep reading to learn more about her and the inspiration and work behind Silver Heights.

The Inspiration

J.L. Cole has had a passion for writing since she was a kid and knew that is was she wanted to do. She went to college for Print Journalism, thinking it was a practical way to write and get better at writing.

In 2016, she decided it was time to focus on her fiction writing and wanted to start writing a novel. Prior to that year, she had written a few short stories, but now it was time to find something she could expand.

She had a few false starts with some of the ideas she had for a novel. This caused her to have a hard time getting started. So, J.L. Cole decided to start with something she knew a lot about, something more personal, that wouldn’t require as much research.

Jenna joined a writing group and she describes this as being a major part of her ability to write and finish her first novel. She enjoyed going every week and being in a community of people that enjoyed writing. She is currently part of the Women’s Fiction Writing Association online which has been a big help to her through her experiences in writing and publishing Silver Heights.

Having grown up in a rural, country setting and marrying young, she knew what it was like to try and find yourself within a committed relationship. Her experiences and knowledge about these topics allowed her to keep writing in leu of procrastination and stopping to research.

The Writing

Although J.L. Cole wanted to be the person to just sit down and have a book pour from her fingertips, writing Silver Heights required that she plan out her scenes and create a roadmap for her story. This allowed her to be more productive because as she sat down to write, she knew what her focus was. She was able to have a loose plan in mind, a vision for the day, even if she ended up shifting it and not sticking to her plan.

Her writing day usually revolves around her children and what they allow her to get done. Jenna told me that she usually tries to spend an hour or two in the afternoon when the kids are napping. She likes to sit down with a cup of tea, will occasionally light a candle, and immerse herself in the book.

When she gets stuck, she listens to Adele to get her creative juices flowing again!

Silver Heights is told from multiple character perspectives. After learning about how J.L. Cole plans out her story, I asked her if she originally had a plan that included these character’s perspectives and when they would appear. Her answer was truly interesting!

She described this part of the writing as “a bit of a process”. Originally the book had been only told from Rayna’s perspective. Then, she wanted to see more about Ethan so she added his in there as well. After finishing her second draft, Jenna still didn’t feel like the book was what she wanted it to be so after a few days, she began adding other characters. Her focus shifted to include what everybody felt about Silver Heights. She started with Rayna’s mother-in-law Carol, which led her into adding sister-in-law and best friend Chloe.

The Setting: One of the greatest things I got to talk with J.L. Cole about was the setting for her book. I was curious how much of her literary world was based on her experiences and how much was from her imagination.

I learned that the title of the book, and the town in which her characters live, is the name of the road in which J.L. Cole grew up on. That little fun fact made the book that much more personal for her but also for me, the reader.

As far as the houses and location of the family within Silver Heights, Jenna described the “big house” as being similar to the farm where her Grandma lived. Rayna and Ethan live down the road, which reflected the house in which Jenna grew up. These connections to the author and her characters really allowed for more authenticity in her writing.

The Author

I asked Jenna what her favorite part about writing and publishing was. For writing, she said it was when you are really into the flow of your story, you get lost in the world, and you write and write. It is fun to sit back and think about what your characters are doing and where they are going.

Her favorite part about publishing is holding her book. After all the hard work of writing and editing, that physical copy is an accomplishment of a dream. Jenna also loves seeing people reading and enjoying her book.

“When you read a great book, it really inspires you to write better.”

J.L. Cole

As a reader, I couldn’t help but ask about J.L. Cole’s reading life. One of the books that was instrumental in helping her finish Silver Heights, was Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont. So much so, that she is rereading it as she writes her second book. Jenna also talked about how she enjoyed reading Liana Moriarty (Big Little Lies), Kristen Hannah (The Nightingale, The Great Alone), and Kate Quinn (The Alice Network).

Outside of writing, J.L. Cole is a dedicated mother, interested in drama and acting in the community theater, hunting, cooking, photography, and reading. She describes herself (and her family has a running joke about it) as a jack of all trades but the master of none.

The Future

Jenna is currently working on her second novel with a third one in mind. She has the scenes planned out and is about a quarter of the way through her first draft. Nothing resembles that of Silver Heights – new characters, new setting, new everything.

She continues to write short stories and blog posts when she can. She also writes monthly newsletters for an organization that she works for.

Her Advice: Her advice for other writers is to first limit distractions in your life when working on your first draft. She began writing when she was home with her first child and had the time to write during naps, but if she spent her time watching TV or scrolling social media, her creativity died.

She limited her TV time to 8pm, “when I wasn’t going to get anything done anyways” and sticks to that. She reads books about writing, listens to writing podcasts, and reads good books.

Jenna also encourages writers to join writing groups and find people who enjoy writing as much as you do. They can be your best encouragers to finish when finishing seems like the last thing you want to do.

I had a blast talking to J.L. Cole and learning all about her, her life, and her writing career.

Be sure to check out her personal website, complete with some of her short stories and information about her debut novel.

Look for Silver Heights on shelves and online, August 13th!

Happy reading!

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