Not even a beautiful woman can save Richard Tanner from his past.
Following an explosive—and public—argument with his ex-girlfriend, artist Richard Tanner races into a rainstorm, gripped by a powerful migraine. He wanders to the gazebo in University Park, where he meets the beautiful and mysterious Jenny—a brief encounter that leaves an indelible impression on his mind—and in his paintings.
When Detective Jack Hargrave accuses Richard of the brutal assault on his ex, he finds himself confronting demons of a past he doesn’t remember. A time when little Richie Tanner walked into University Park whole, was beaten and left to die…a time that may hold the key to his future.
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Peg: Where on earth did the idea for Portrait of Jenny come from?
Ok, to the question. I’ve always said that my ideas, inspiration, etc., come from God. Jenny is no different in that matter than anything else I’ve ever written—published or unpublished. I was first “given” this title what seems a million years ago as it was back in high school. What triggered it? I’ve no idea. The title came into my head with the admonishment that I wasn’t to forget it—there was a story here that would come later. I never forgot the title or that promise.
Peg: Portrait of Jenny is told solely through the point of view of Richard Tanner. What made you choose a male protagonist?
Peg: The presence of constant rain and thunderstorms add to the overall darkness of the story, and it works well. In fact, you might say “rain” was one of the characters. So, this may be like asking “Which came first . . . the chicken or the egg” but, at what point in Portrait of Jenny did the storms come into play?
Peg: Okay, now tell me about Jenny, the elusive, ‘now you see her, now you don’t,’ who is herself one of the lead characters.
Peg: Well I certainly was! So, Richard is an artist, and you depicted the process so expertly—at least I thought so. What kind of research did you have to do for those scenes?
Peg: Ah, that explains a lot! That brings me to the matter of the migraine headaches. Both my ex, my daughter and youngest son suffer from them, sometimes quite debilitating. How did you learn about them in order to write about Richard’s?
Peg: Back to Jenny. Without giving anything away, how did you come up with her and that whole concept?
Peg: You have a warning on the book about bad language and implied sexuality, which I thought was done well, by the way. What made you decide to write the book with that sort of content?
Ok, out of 150,000 words I counted 100 swear words—including “questionable” ones. This count was done on the final reading before going to the publisher. And trust me when I say that during the four previous readings, I’d changed many of these for others—on my own—only to realize that I had to change them back. There was a lot of prayer going on here—A LOT OF PRAYER. And a lot of time that was spent agonizing over things. But I finally got it, LISTENED, truly listened when He said “Stop preaching to the choir. Let it stand.” That’s when I was finally able to finish what we’d started.
As for the “implied sexuality,” you’re right, it’s there. Richard’s best friend, Chuck, is a womanizer, and proud of it. Richard frowns on Chuck’s activities, but they’re still friends. Richard also acknowledges his own desire for a real relationship. So, yes, there is mention of sex, but NO SEX ACTS. Sensuality, yes, but NO SEX.
Peg: To date, Portrait of Jenny has six five-star reviews on Amazon. Congratulations! (I’ll be posting one, too, after this interview goes live.) But I’m curious. Was this a hard sell to your publisher?
Peg: I know you have extremely sensitive fingers and sometimes use the eraser end of pencils to write on the keyboard. So how did you manage to write such a long book, and how long did it take you to finish it?
Anyway, between the typewriter and my DOS based Leading Edge computer at home, the book was written and then submitted to the agent I had at the time. Fast forward to last September and me facing over 500 typed pages and wondering how with my hands and brain that doesn’t always work right, how was I going to ever get this book rewritten. Answer: my brilliant SIL Greg. When I finally got around to asking him, it took maybe a week, if that long, for him to write a program that took the manuscript out of the old word processing program and into Word. Then it was up to me to fix the formatting and start bringing it back to “life.” But I had a hang-up; I was worried that it wouldn’t be accepted by the people who’d come to know my writing—that they wouldn’t accept me. Then, I stopped worrying about ME and remembered WHO had told me to get this book out of mothballs in the first place. God.
I’m Irish and German; stubborn, hardheaded, a fighter (that comes in handy when you have so many chronic disabilities), and not always the best listener. But I finally got it. Finally understood. So, in answer to how long this book took me—a lifetime.
Peg: Is there anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t covered?
Not every book is right for EVERY person. Sometimes things can be light, funny, other times, dark and “stormy,” but they can all be good—even if they aren’t exactly right for you. Change is inevitable. It’s not always good or bad, just is—just like books and authors. And sometimes, even when you’re not sure you’re doing the right thing for others, it just might be the “right thing” for you . . . That, my friend, is between you and God. And I’m not ashamed of what He’s given me.
Thank you so much Alice, for your time here and for your frank and honest answers. I wish you well with this book. Your transparency is refreshing.
Romantic mystery/suspense Portrait of Jenny is the newest book of 2010 ACFW Carol Award winning author, Alice K. Arenz. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, her first three novels were honored by two finals and one win in ACFW’s Carol Award: cozy mysteries The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (a 2009 finalist), The Case of the Mystified M.D., (2010 winner), and mystery/suspense Mirrored Image (a 2011 finalist), all re-released by Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications. Last August, An American Gothic, also a romantic mystery/suspense, was released by Forget Me Not Romances.
Visit her at her website www.akawriter.com