Earlier today I reviewed the brilliant The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S Alderson, and this evening Jennifer joins me to discuss A life in Books.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Travel and writing have always been an important part of my life. My father was an industrial engineer and designed aluminum recycling plants, meaning me moved every two years. We started out in my birthplace of San Francisco and slowly made our way up north to Seattle, Washington where an accident ended his career and our relocations.
My earliest memories are of writing stories with my father, mostly Steve King inspired novellas. I wrote my first full-length murder mystery when I was thirteen. At school I always wrote for the school newspapers and yearbooks. I studied print and television journalism and worked as journalist for a few years before transitioning into the ICT sector where I made a career as a multimedia developer. Burnout led me to art history, and my father’s unexpected death at the age of sixty-one motivated me to pursue my dreams of writing a novel worthy of publication.
In November 2015 I published Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery, a travel thriller set in Nepal and Thailand. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, an amateur sleuth mystery set in Amsterdam was released seven months later. I am overwhelmed to see the positive reaction to both by readers of all ages and nationalities. These are the first two books in what I hope will be a long running series following the adventures of culture and travel lover Zelda Richardson.
In May I released my third book, a travelogue entitled Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand. This novella-length book contains excerpts from my travel journal and email back home. Readers seem to be enjoying their journey!
This winter I hope to release my fourth book, currently entitled Smuggler’s Deceit, another art mystery in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series. This time readers will be transported to Papua New Guinea and follow along on anthropological expeditions as they try and solve mysteries of the past and present.
What was your favourite book from childhood?
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I still have my great-grandmother’s hardback copy, complete with hand-painted illustrations.
What type of books did you read as a teenager?
Mystery and adventure were (and still are) my go-to genres: the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Mysteries, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and all of the Agatha Christie mysteries. Though my favorite were the Choose Your Own Adventure books; this wonderful series taught me early on there is no ‘right’ answer in life.
When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. The author breaks every rule of writing, yet it is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It is truly a revelation in style and technique and the story told is a surprise, in every way possible.
What is your favourite classic book?
On The Road by Jack Kerouac. This is a book I have read many times and will continue to re-read because it always reminds me to think outside the box and challenge social norms as well as peoples’ expectations. Besides, it’s beautifully written and contains several of my favorite book quotes, such as this line by Sal Paradise: “For life is holy and every moment is precious.”
What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?
I have read so many wonderful books during the last five years, yet Het Diner (2010) by Herman Koch has probably stayed with me the longest. (It was translated from Dutch into English in 2013 as The Dinner). This is one of the most surprising and captivating books I’ve ever read. You will not guess what happens next, I almost guarantee it! It’s extraordinary well written but more importantly, well-conceived. I can’t say much about the story without ruining the plot, except buy it, you won’t be disappointed.
Two recent favorites are Bridge of Sighs and Dreams by Pamela Allegretto and Titian’s Boatman (renamed: The Return of the Courtesan) by Victoria Blake, published in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Both are beautifully written, absorbing historical fiction novels set in Italy, one of my favorite countries in the world.
What book to you think you should read but never get round to?
I am almost afraid to admit I have never read anything by Jane Austen or Sylvia Plath. Considering how highly regarded they are by most readers, I suppose I should read some of their works, one day.
What do you consider to be your favourite book?
On The Road by Jack Kerouac.
Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?
I am fascinated by Umberto Eco yet cannot seem to finish any of his books. I already had three of his novels collect dust on my bookshelf, then recently received his book On Ugliness as a gift. I still haven’t opened it but am determined to give it a go.
What are you reading now?
I just started reading Winter’s Mourning by Janice J. Richardson. It’s the second in a cozy mystery series set in a Canadian funeral home, and so far quite wonderful.
Kindle or Book?
Please take a look at my review for The Lover’s Portrait which I posted earlier today.
Down and Out in Kathmandu and The Lover’s Portrait are available now.