Interview with Julie Jansen Author of Suburban Gnome Invasion

Suburban Gnome Invasion Cover Photo

Please tell us a little bit about your book:

Suburban Gnome Invasion is a science fiction/urban fantasy story about a family with a problem…gnomes move in under their house. They’re pesky critters that have invaded North America. I got the idea when some friends were having trouble with raccoons under their house. And in Olympia we have some nasty raccoons. I thought turning raccoons into gnomes would be a fun idea and voila…Suburban Gnome Invasion was born. It was recently selected an editors top pick by Musa Publishing.

Do you have a favorite Suburban Gnome Invasion character?

I like Reynir, the son. I could see him becoming a famous gnome trapper in a future story. I think I like him so much because he’s modeled after my youngest stepson, a boy you have to tear away from the PlayStation. For me Reynir is Drake (my stepson) finding a passion that involves the outdoors and not a television. 

What’s your writing schedule like?

I squeeze writing somewhere in between my two day jobs. In the winter, when Northwest Washington weather is rainy, dark and cold and I stay inside more, it’s easier to write. In the summer I don’t always have my laptop within arm’s reach. Usually I’m holding a hose or garden shears, but try to keep a notebook in my purse to jot down ideas. Those ideas might not be fully fleshed out until the rainy season comes.

Where do your story ideas come from?

From dreams, from the news, from cubicleland, from being a stepmom. I might wake up after a bizarre dream with an idea for a scene. Or be sitting in the yard and see the way a crow teams up with its buddies and chases off an eagle. Or the way weedy morning glory creeps into the perennial bed and tries to strangle my dahlias and think, wow that would be a great idea for a monster movie. Coming home from work and finding your home invaded by 20 teenagers filming a zombie movie, as part of a Spanish project doesn’t hurt either.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?  

Yes, I most definitely do experience writer’s block. I find it comes when I’m overly stressed out. When there are too many things going on, it’s hard to focus on the story I’m writing. The outside stressors sneak in and it’s hard to shut them out sometimes. If too much is going on and the words aren’t coming, I have to seek some other creative outlet and might paint a little, or pop some weeds. I’ve tried meditation, because one of my writer friends swears by it, but my mind seems to start wandering down the path of one of those worries I was trying to escape from. I usually have multiple writing projects, so if the words aren’t coming for one, I might be able to pick up a different project and have success with that one.

What do you think makes a good story?

For me, a good story sparks emotion. It makes me laugh or cry and at the end of the day is one I’m still thinking and talking about it. I just finished The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. I loved her character development and the way she wove her characters’ lives together. It made me feel like I was a part of the orchardist’s family. I knew why the characters were making the decisions they made and wanted to yell at them sometimes.

Do you think most authors understand the importance of marketing their own work?

Yes and no. I think most realize it’s important, but it’s hard to find the balance between marketing (and how to market) and writing. It’s especially hard when you have a full time day job. If you work full time you’re already trying to find a minute here or there to write, let alone market. With social media I frequently see authors marketing to other authors. While I think networking with other authors is important, trying to sell your work to them isn’t really the way to go. I know marketing is important, but I know I could be better at it. I’m still learning.

How do you market yourself?

I participate in blog hops and attend writer’s conventions. I’ve tried putting on a blog hop with another author friend. I’m not the greatest at promoting myself in all honesty.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m a gardener, a birdwatcher, and a painter. I teach Italian. I have a series of owl paintings I’m getting ready for an art event here in Olympia, Washington in September called Artswalk. I’m very close to my family and spend a lot of time making big dinners and working on some craft project or playing games with my nieces and stepsons.

Who would you say has been a major influence in your life?

My little sister and her two girls. My mom and dad.

Are you working on anything now?

I’ve been working on a horror comedy script for what seems to be forever. It’s a period piece set deep in the forests of the Northwest.

Do you ever use friends, family members or acquaintances as character models?

Yes!  My stepchildren for sure! The younger boy was the model for the son in Suburban Gnome Invasion.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I love Karel Capek who wrote the science fiction novel War With the Newts. He was from the Czech Republic and was an avid gardener, like me. I can picture him with his garden shears and hose, watching all the creatures in his yard and thinking of how their seemingly little world is actually very complicated. How we humans think we’re the greatest, but the ants and the lizards have given the Earth a run for its money in the past. It’s only a matter of time before they do it again. I also love Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Italo Calvino for their quirky brilliance and stories that keep you wondering. 

How do you deal with criticism?

Criticism is very important to every writer. As with any piece of art there will be some who love it and some who hate it. I’m cool with that and am not a person who’s easily offended. If everyone liked the same thing the world would be a very boring place. Listen to criticism. Sometimes it’s just someone’s opinion and you can let that pass on by, but someone may have a very valid point you hadn’t thought of before that could change your story for the better. If two or more people have that same suggestion, it might be something you want to consider changing.

Do you hear from your readers?

Rarely. But I’d love to hear more from readers about what they think of Suburban Gnome Invasion!

How can readers connect with you?

They can visit my blog www.juliejansen.blogspot.com .

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Write what you love. Keep getting those words on the page. Find a group of writers you click with and offer each other constructive criticism on a regular basis. Writers groups can be amazing tools and help you succeed.

Julie Jansen lives in Olympia, Washington where she spends her time writing science fiction and horror stories when she’s not teaching Italian. She’s an Associate Editor for Dark Moon Digest. Her work has appeared in Nature: the International Journal of Science, One Buck Horror, Twit Publishing’s Pulp Anthology, and State of Imagination.

Julie Jansen Author Photo

Suburban Gnome Invasion is available on Amazon.com for Kindle: