Monday, October 30, 2017

From Page to Screen: An Interview with Windfall’s Jennifer E. Smith [Contributor: Megan Mann]

Imagine this: You’re in high school and so in love with a boy who’s just about to turn 18 that you decide to buy him a lottery ticket. It’s just for fun and it takes the pressure off of sending any sort of gift with a hidden message. But then you find out that the numbers you chose — the numbers that really did have meaning to you — were the winning numbers for the multi-million dollar jackpot. His entire life is turned upside down and how do you — how does this love for him that he can’t see is there — fit into that new life? And what does it mean for your life and future?

That, in a nutshell, is the great, sweeping story of Jennifer E. Smith’s May 2017 release, Windfall. It’s a tale about coming of age, finding out where you belong in the grand scheme of things, and how love isn’t always what we think it’s going to be.

Personally, I’m a colossal Jennifer E. Smith fan. I think she’s wonderful and her stories are more grounded in reality than most YA romances. There’s no catastrophic issue, or thinking you’ve read that story a thousand times. She simply writes stories that you could imagine yourself or your friends in. So as you can imagine, when this book was announced, I quickly threw my phone across the room and started screaming. I could hardly put the book down when it came out. And yes, I absolutely cried at one point.

... Which I was lucky enough to discuss with her!

How does it feel to finally have Windfall on shelves ready for eager readers to pick up?

Jennifer: It’s always both nerve-wracking and exhilarating when one of my books goes out into the world. For so long, it’s just mine. And then it becomes something that gets passed between me and my editor. And then, slowly, the circle starts to expand. On the one hand, it’s a really vulnerable thing, having it out there for anyone to read. And on the other, there’s this wonderful sense of letting go. Because after a certain point, it’s no longer mine anymore. The book belongs to the readers. As it should.

How does this book differ from your others?

Jennifer: It’s similar in a lot of ways, because I’m always very interested in exploring themes of fate and timing and chance. But this one also goes a little deeper than some of my other books, I think. It’s a bit more emotional and bigger in scope, which is what made writing it such an exciting challenge.

Writer’s note: I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. There’s one scene in particular when Alice is touring Northwestern that had me in tears.

What was it like setting the book in Chicago — a city, rather than a small town?

Jennifer: I love Chicago, and while I’ve set a couple of my other books in the suburbs, I’d never written one that takes place in the city. It’s always really fun to explore places that mean something to me through the eyes of fictional characters, and this one was no exception. It was a joy to follow Alice and Teddy around one of my favorite places in the world!

How did you end up choosing the lottery as a catalyst for the plot?

Jennifer: I’ve always been obsessed with moments in time that act as hinges — days where there’s a really clear split between a before and an after, and the lottery is such a perfect example of that. So I’d been wanting to write a story about it for a very long time.

What do you hope readers take from your books?

Jennifer: There’s an E.B. White quote that’s always struck such a chord with me: “All I hope to say in my books — all I ever hope to say — is that I love the world.” I feel exactly the same way.

A lot of our readers are also aspiring writers and love hearing advice from those who have achieved that career goal. What’s one word that you would use to describe your writing process and why?

Jennifer: Haphazard! I don’t have a set routine, which is definitely not something I’d recommend. I try to write a certain amount of words a day, but when things just aren’t working, I won’t spend hours banging my head against the keyboard. And on the flip side, when everything is really clicking, I’ll cancel my plans to keep going. So it just sort of depends on the day.

Finally, what do you enjoy doing when you’re not reading or writing books?

Jennifer: All sorts of different things, though the biggest is probably travel. There’s a quote from Zelda Fitzgerald that I’ve always loved: “I hate a room without an open suitcase. It seems so permanent.” That’s me too. I’m always on the move. I’ve been to forty-six of the fifty states and six of the seven continents. This year alone, I’ll have gone to eight different countries. Travel is a huge passion of mine, and because of that, it often finds its way into a lot of my books!


That last statement, I can surely agree on. If you’ve got a taste for wanderlust, I would absolutely recommend The Geography of You and Me or The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. If you want a relatable we’re-together-but-going-to-separate-colleges story, pick up You Are Here. If you want a bit of a Hollywood romance with a twist, I loved This Is What Happy Looks Like. Do you like sports and romance? The Comeback Season.

Jennifer E. Smith explores the depths of love, family, what brings us together, and what tears us apart. She shows how difficult making the right decision can sometimes be and how it’s okay not to be pulled together all the time. Life is messy and full of mistakes, but it’s full of love, hope, and a connectedness too. I could not recommend this lovely writer more. You’ll feel uplifted and hopeful, grateful and okay with knowing that things don’t always work out in the way we want them to, but that they work out how they’re supposed to.

Windfall is on shelves now and the rights have been purchased for the film. Read it before it hits screens!


Post a Comment