Jenny Nelson is a fabulous debut author. Her novel, Georgia’s Kitchen, follows a top chef who suddenly finds her life thrown into chaos when a food reviewer destroys her reputation and her fiancée calls off their wedding. Brokenhearted, she escapes to one of the most beautiful places on earth, Italy. How heartwarming is that?! You can actually read an excerpt here for free.
With a BA in English Literature, Jenny was a former web editor and producer for iVillage, Vogue.com, and Style.com. She’s here today to share her story from writer to debut author!
1) The million dollar question: How did you become a published author?
When my twin daughters were born, I decided to stay home with them rather than return to work in an office. Though caring for them was a full-time, round-the-clock job, I found myself thinking more and more about the novel I’d always dreamed of one day writing. I signed up for a writing class and ended up writing what later became the first chapter of Georgia’s Kitchen, which is 100% different from the one in the book. When the class ended I continued writing and once I was about 50 pages in, I knew I wouldn’t stop until I’d finished telling Georgia’s story. From there I found my agent, revised my ms, sold it and voila! Ah, if only it had been so easy.
2) It does sound easy! I’m in the middle of querying myself. What was that process like for you?
It was a crazy and exciting time. I asked everyone I knew if they knew any agents and also used agentquery.com, which was an excellent resource (and is actually how I found my agent). I wrote the best query letter I could and blitzed it to tons of agents. For a while things were very quiet, then I started getting some rejections and then lots of interest. I ended up with several offers. While it can be a nail-biting time, I enjoyed the whole process: researching agents, putting together the packets, sending them out – after such a solitary writing experience, it was exhilarating to finally put my work out there and see how it measured up.
3) I agree 100%. In fact, my nails are gone. Did you ever feel like giving up?
Of course! If I found myself at a really difficult juncture and the words and ideas just weren’t coming, I’d simply stop and do something else. I always knew that I’d finish my manuscript, I just didn’t know when. I find that running is a terrific antidote to writer’s block – I’ve solved some of my toughest dilemmas while pounding the pavement!
4) Agents. Something every writer needs (sigh). How did you get your agent?
I found my agent, Stephanie Lehmann, on agentquery.com, and saw that her agency repped a writer I really liked. I had a few offers on the table and wasn’t sure which agent to go with, so I consulted with a friend, who’s also an agent. She said I’d be in the best of hands with Stephanie and wouldn’t have to worry about a thing. That sealed the deal for me.
5) Everyone also needs inspiration. Who has been your biggest influence when it comes to writing?
When I was in high school I enrolled in a summer-long writing course with Micahel Cunningham, well before he won the Pulitzer. Michael was everything I wanted in a teacher – he was passionate, accessible, encouraging and so cool, not in a standoffish way but in an I-wish-I-could-be-like-him way. (I still remember his earring and leather motorcycle jacket!) It was during that class that I decided I’d one day write a novel.
6) It sounds so thrilling to have published a novel. What has been your favorite author experience so far?
By far the coolest experience I’ve had was on the subway with my husband and twin six-year-old daughters on our way downtown to ride on the Staten Island ferry. We pulled into Times Square and I saw a woman waiting on the platform reading a book with a red cover. For a second I allowed myself to dream she was reading Georgia’s Kitchen, then snapped back to reality – there were a million books out there with red covers just like mine! She stepped onto our car and sat down, all the while her nose in a book – which, wouldn’t you know, turned out to be Georgia’s Kitchen. While I was too flabbergasted to do anything other than grin, my daughter and husband rushed over to tell her I’d written the book she was reading. As a New Yorker, I was thrilled. Even if I wasn’t a New Yorker, I’d be thrilled. Now if only I can have the same experience on a plane…
7) We want to know what your advice is for aspiring writers?!
Write! I feel like a broken record saying this, but the biggest impediment to writing is not writing. Don’t worry if what you’re writing is any good, just get the words down – there’ll be plenty of time for polishing, revising and plain old chucking (and believe me, I’ve done lots of this) later. If you can find a writing class, sign up. They’re great for learning craft and imposing deadlines and for making you feel part of a community of writers, which is really cool and really important.
8 ) Tell me about your debut novel, Georgia’s Kitchen, I’m already sold though…:
Georgia’s Kitchen tells the story of thirty-three-year-old Georgia Gray, the soon-to-be married head chef at a trendy New York City restaurant. When Georgia finds herself unemployed and unengaged, she takes her bruised ego to Tuscany, where she sharpens her skills at a new trattoria, turns up the heat with Gianni, the owner of the winery next door, and embarks on a crash course in self-discovery. Though Gianni tempts her to stay in Italy indefinitely, the desire for something more looms large in Georgia’s heart – the desire to run her own restaurant on her own terms in the city she loves.
9) I love Italy and it’s not just because Julia Robert’s was recently there. But why did you pick Italy?
Aside from being mecca for foodies, it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. I felt it was the perfect place for Georgia to rediscover her inner strengths and beliefs and her passion for cooking — and the option of throwing in a gorgeous Italian boyfriend didn’t hurt either!
10) What do you want readers to get from reading your novel?
The overall message is not to give up on yourself or your dreams, not to settle for pretty good when terrific could be just around the corner, as long as you dig in your heels and go for it.
11) Now if you could meet any author, who would it be??
I’d have to go F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby is my all-time favorite novel. I’ve been researching my next book, which is set in the 20s, and have been reading a ton about Scott and Zelda. I’m fascinated by his simultaneous brilliance and self-destruction.
12) Since your novel involves a top chef, what’s your favorite dish to cook?
Risotto di asparagi is my favorite dish to make, and now that asparagus is in season we’ll be eating lots of it!
13) I noticed you went to the University of Colorado at Denver. As a former ram from CSU in Fort Collins, what do you love the most about Colorado?! Not that there is anything not to love…
The Rockies! I miss seeing those majestic mountains every time I turn around. And the amazing weather, the laid-back scene and, again, the mountains!
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*What’s an all-time favorite dish you make yourself that you love?
For Example: It may sounds simple but everyone loves my chocolate chip cookies. Whether they’re from scratch or more often a Betty Crocker Bag mix, I’m always proud of them!