Name: Jen Mann
Where are you from: Kansas City
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc :
I am a married, mother of 2. I live in Kansas City now. I’ve lived in Iowa, Kansas, New Jersey, and New York. I went to college in Iowa. I was a Realtor before I started writing. I started out as a blogger and then I moved to nonfiction humor books and I’ve recently written my first fiction book for teens.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m getting ready to publish my first fiction book in April 2017. It’s a funny book for teens called My Lame Life.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always been a writer, I think I wrote my first story when I was 5. I studied creative writing in college and my jobs since college usually involved writing. Either technical writing or speech writing or PR and marketing. In 2011 I started blogging as an outlet. I was working from home with my husband and two little kids and I needed a place to blow off steam, so I created my blog People I Want to Punch in the Throat. In late 2011 I wrote a post that went viral and was read over 1 million times in 24 hours. Overnight I found an audience. I started blogging 5 times a week after that and I grew my online followers to over 1 million. I published my first book in 2012 and I turned professional, full time writer in 2014 when Random House published People I Want to Punch in the Throat.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I felt like a “real” writer in 2014 when two of my books hit the New York Times bestseller list.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat. My first viral blog post was a Christmas-themed essay. My fans were asking for a book and a friend suggested I write a collection of funny holiday stories and include my viral essay as well. So that’s what I did.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m sarcastic and sweary and cringey. I say what everyone else is thinking and I don’t hold back. I let you see ALL of the dumb stuff that I do and I try to be as real as possible.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My husband was the one who thought of People I Want to Punch in the Throat. It was something I said a lot and so that stuck. I have another book called I Just Want to Pee Alone, that I wrote when my kids were young and still banging on the bathroom door every time I tried to find a moment to myself. So that title was inspired by my children. I felt like it was a sentiment that just about every mother could attest to. My fiction book is called My Lame Life. That one was also inspired by my children. My oldest is 12 and everything is soooo dramatic with him. I’m soooo embarrassing and I have dumb rules he must follow and I ruin his life on a daily basis.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My Lame Life is about owning who you are and finding your tribe. You don’t need to change to fit in to someone else’s idea of perfect or cool or whatever. Embrace your quirks and the things that make you unique and find the people who appreciate you for you.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My Lame Life draws a lot on the universal feelings we all had as teenagers: the need to fit in and to belong, while still figuring out who you are, the struggle to be independent from your parents, but still need their comfort sometimes. I struggled with these things as a teen and I see my kids already struggling too as tweens. There are some things plucked right out of our lives or stories that I’ve heard over the years from friends and family and some of it is just pure imagination.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I think every female writer who was a young girl in the 70s and 80s was influenced by Judy Blume. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was sort of our bible. Now I read a ton of middle grade and YA literature, but I didn’t start reading those genres as an adult until I picked up Harry Potter because I wanted to see what the hype was. J.K. Rowling reminded me that you can tell amazing “kid” stories that can appeal to everyone. Jen Lancaster is the one who really influenced my career, though, because I read Bitter is the New Black and realized that you could actually have a career writing funny stories about yourself fumbling through life and trying to be an adult. She was the blueprint that I used for People I Want to Punch in the Throat. My Lame Life is told in a diary format and I did that because I loved Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. I like that a diary story shows you all of the main character’s traits: the good and the bad. We can all relate to an over-sharing narrator who is telling us the story only from her point of view. It’s like having tea with a friend and listening to her stories.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’m always the last to know about new authors (I think I started the Harry Potter books when J.K. sas on book five and I didn’t hear about Twilight until the series was over.) so that’s probably not a question I should answer. I have a lot of favorite authors. Besides all the ones I’ve mentioned, I like Philippa Gregory, Kevin Kwan, Liane Moriarty, Stephen King, Justin Cronin, Sarah J. Maas, just to name a few.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The internet. The internet has been the best thing for me. I’ve found my people and I talk to them every day and I am so grateful that they’re hanging out with me and supporting my writing.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think so. Ask me again in a year. 🙂
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
From reading. I read a lot as a kid and I disappeared into books all the time and I wanted to write stories that would entertain my family.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Staying on task. I am easily distracted by everything shiny and bright. My pantry gets so organized when I’m on a deadline.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I travel several times a year.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Some of my covers were designed by Random House and my other covers were designed by J Caleb.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Tell your authentic, real story and put it out there, your audience will find you.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I love you more than my Crocs.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, but I remember reading Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman very early on, so maybe that was the first?
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Everything! For such a grumpy person, I feel everything A LOT. I was just telling a friend last night that I cry every time I watch “The Voice.” Hallmark commercials get me in the feels and those Folgers ones at Christmas where Peter comes home unexpectedly. Laughing is harder than crying. I’m kind of picky about what makes me laugh. I’d laugh at Tina Fey reading a phone book, though, so I guess not that picky?
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I’m a closet crafter. I have a craft room in my basement and I make glittery crap down there to relax. My glue gun is always hot. I joke that I started and angry, sweary blog, but I could have easily gone to the “dark” side and started a DIY blog.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m obsessed with The Americans right now. I’m binging all the seasons.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Chocolate and/or cheese/black/sappy
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Be an artist
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it? Www.peopleiwanttopunchinthethroat.com