AUTHOR JENNIFER IRWIN
Please welcome Jennifer Irwin author of A Dress the Color of the Sky. The film rights have been sold and the book isn’t even published yet! Wowsers! That’s pretty impressive if I say so myself.
Have you written anything before this book?
No. This is my first novel.
How did you come to teach Pilates?
I retired from working in advertising after my third son was born but still wanted to work part time. I enjoy helping women feel better about themselves and teaching Pilates was a great avenue to fulfill that desire. I have really enjoyed getting to know all sorts of women through being a Pilates teacher.
There is something very fulfilling being able to help others. I’m glad found something that works for you!
How has writing this book help you heal?
Writing is a great creative outlet. I found that the more I put my characters into difficult situations the better I felt. I also enjoyed creating wonderful female friendships for my protagonist, Prudence Aldrich. Women bond through sharing life experiences and it was healing for me to develop female characters who were super supportive of each other.
I find that very interesting. That does sound very healing, in a creative kind of way. Love it.
“Writing is a great creative outlet. I found that the more I put my characters into difficult situations the better I felt.”-Jennifer Irwin
How can this book help others heal?
A Dress the Color of the Sky is the story of a woman healing from a traumatic childhood. After seeing the astounding response to Kelly Oxford’s tweet about her sexual assault experience I am confident that this story will speak to many women. We are all stronger than we believe and we can’t let difficult experiences ruin our lives. It’s important to heal from the past in order to move forward and lead a healthy, happy life. Healing takes work but with the help of a professional it is possible. Prudence had not dealt with her traumatic childhood and as a result she could not seek out healthy relationships nor could she respect herself.
Several of these statements really resonate on many levels. I believe healing is critical to our going forward in life. There are a few things I’m still healing from myself. Thank you!
What was your response when you realized the story resonated with women?
Over the past few years I have sought input from test readers. I searched for women whom I believed might not choose a novel like mine. One woman in particular was a senior in college and a pre-professional zoology major. I can honestly say that her review is one of my favorites because I was so surprised by how much my book affected her. She not only couldn’t put it down but the story really spoke to her. Honestly, I can’t wait to share it with the world!
That’s awesome! It has to be the most rewarding experience knowing that your words have affected someone the way it did. I’m jealous 🙂
Is it true the rights have been sold for movie production?
Yes! I have sold the feature film rights and A Dress the color of the sky will be made into a major motion picture.
SWEEEEEEETTTT!!!!! I’m so happy for you. You must’ve been thrilled to hear that. I’m thrilled myself and it isn’t even my book!
Tell us about your motivation to get your book published.
When I first started querying agents I literally had no idea what I was doing. I do believe that there are a lot of people out there who will take advantage of an author who is chasing their dream. I encourage all authors to be very careful. My first conundrum was writing the perfect query letter. I was fortunate enough to have my query letter chosen to be critiqued on the blog Query Shark. Although I took a bit of a beating I am grateful for the shark’s input and advise. Once I felt I had the perfect query letter I realized that my book needed work so I halted sending out query’s until I felt more confident in my book. Writer’s Digest has a ice little program where you can pay to have your first few pages critiqued by an agent. I got some great input through this program. All the while, I continued to seek input from test readers to improve my novel. I received some lovely responses from literary agents. Although agents are very intimidating and the publishing business is closed, some are very helpful and nice. I ended up entering a publishing contest in which your book idea is voted on.When you meet certain voting platforms you have to complete homework and get a certain grade to move to the next level. my book ended up being the most voted on book idea in the history of the contest and I was offered a publishing contract. It was right then that I received the film rights offer. i will say that through the publishing contest I learned that most of books marketing falls on the author’s shoulders and how important it is to market your book before it gets published. Entering the publishing contest was one of my best moves towards getting published because I learned a tremendous amount from the publisher about social media and how to market on various platforms. It was really valuable to me. Once I sold the film rights I invested in a writing coach and tore my book apart and rebuilt it. Since then, I have signed with a literary agent and have also received a contract offer from a small indie publisher. I guess this is my long answer to your question and the short answer is never give up!
I love your determination and what you’ve learned of the marketing and publishing experience. This is food for encouragement for us all. Hip-hip hooray!! Keep learning.
How did the sample readers relate to the main character?
Since seeking out test readers, I have only received one negative critique and i was from a woman my writing coach chose who never reads fiction. Other than that, every single test reader has related to my book and to the protagonist. I would say the man connection is that pretty much every single human on earth has endured some form of child abuse whether it be something small or big. There’s a scene in my book where Prudence is told to eat everything on her plate. I think most people can relate to having to eat something displeasing when they were a child. I think the other way people relate to Prudence is by reading what she’s thinking in her head which I do a lot in the book. That voice we all have in our head that can be a little mean at times. Everyone seems to relate to that.
I can understand and relate to the statements here. Everyone has some form of abuse, wound, or pain of some sort. Sometimes it’s very obvious, sometimes it’s well hidden. In my childhood we were “spanked” pretty heavily; which would be easily considered child abuse by today’s standards. You also mentioned the point of view that we would relate to. I always find this aspect of a character the most rewarding experience. To feel, experience, see as they do. I recently heard an interesting statement from a sign at my son’s school. It read: “be careful how you speak to your child, because it will become their inner voice.”. What a statement! So true. That becomes the voice that we tend to hear in our heads.
How has conducting research affected your understanding of the main character?
Although I can’t really understand exactly how it feels to be an addict I have learned a lot about how addicts recover and heal. There is a saying,”once an addict always an addict” so the work is there every single day which is why AA follows the motto, “one day at a time.” I read every book on sex addiction by Patrick Carnes who is an expert in the field. His assistant recently asked me for an advanced copy of my book which is very exciting. I attended a variety of meetings through the AA program and spoke to many people in recovery. I’d say the best research I did was by accident because my father was a drug addict and alcoholic. I learned through experience how his addiction affected myself, my family and my father.
I appreciate the research you’ve put into this project. It’ll definitely show when people begin to read your work.
When you saw people being rehabilitated what was your experience?
Recovering from an addiction takes a tremendous amount of work. it appears to me that success happens when there is a large community of sober people helping. The relapse rate for recovered addicts who stay longer in after care is less than those who try to white knuckle it alone after a ninety day inpatient treatment program. I tried to be careful with all of this and to respect the recovery process in my book. The best results happen with complete immersion in the program. There needs to be a total lifestyle shift and that takes time and commitment. I also learned that addiction does not discriminate and affects a wide cross section of genders, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. I doubt that you will meet anyone who has not either directly or indirectly been affected by addiction.
May many people read and find the stubborn wings of hope through the message you send through this book.
Speak about the power of addiction and the concepts about rehabilitation.
Since I do not have a degree in addiction recovery, nor am I a therapist, I am not comfortable speaking in depth about the concept of rehabilitating an addict. I am simply an author who has been affected by addiction and wrote a novel about an addict. I really can’t give sage professional advice to anyone because I am not trained to do so. From a laymen point of view, addiction is a very powerful thing that I cannot personally understand because I am not an addict. It does seem to be very, very powerful to those who are in recovery.
Well said. I think of all the people who are under the relentless power of addiction. May they really find the help that they need.
“The only mistake you can make is not asking for help.”-Sandeep Jauhar
What message is sent through the main character?
The message sent through the main character is that traumatic childhood experiences can change how you feel about yourself. Because Prudence was abused she viewed herself as a victim. As a result, she was not equipped to choose a healthy partner to share her life with and she didn’t have the strength to endure difficult situations that can arise in relationships. Prudence needed to let go of the shame put on her during her childhood in order to heal and find self love. If a person does not heal from their past they cannot seek out healthy relationships because they are not healthy themselves.
I love this! Very therapeutic.
“If a person does not heal from their past they cannot seek out healthy relationships because they are not healthy themselves.”-Jennifer Irwin
When will your book be published?
I should be making a decision on who will be publishing my book within the next few months. Once I sign the publishing contract I will have a release date which I can’t wait to announce!
We’ll be desperately waiting.
What’s your next writing project?
I am pitching to write the screenplay with the help of a very accomplished television writer who believes that I have the talent to be a strong contender. Writing the screenplay would be a dream come true! I am also putting together an outline for my next novel which will be a stand alone sequel to A Dress the Color of the Sky.
That sounds really fun. Keep us posted on your progress, we’d love to hear about it.
Thanks for ridin’ the train folks! Now don’t be a stranger, come see us again you hear?