by Kim Kelly

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REFLECTIONS OF YOU
JENN

I have a very special authorlady Reflector on the blog today – the one and only, the most fabulous, Jenn J McLeod. For those who don’t know Jenn, she is the author of four novels, and her latest, The Other Side of the Season, has just been published.

Apart from writing richly textured stories of family, friends, lovers and small town Australia, Jenn is one of the most generous people I know in the writing business. She’s so supportive of other writers and their work, and she’s been a massive support to me over the last few years. I couldn’t wish for a lovelier confrere.  Even if she’s recently taken to calling me Swiz, after ‘swizzle stick’ because she’s so grown up.

And now here she is, answering our Big Seven questions on life and love…

Who are you and where were you born?

Good question.

I am a gypsy, a blogging, tweeting, facebooking fifty-six year old sea-change champion, and an advocate for dogs, because they can’t speak for themselves (although they do speak to me).

I was born in Manly hospital and spoilt rotten by wonderful parents. So what did I do? I ran away from a perfectly good marriage (well, my family thought it was perfectly good) and started again.

Not sure where I would be or what I’d be doing if I hadn’t been brave enough to go with my heart. I do know I wouldn’t be Jenn J McLeod – a bestselling Aussie author of contemporary women’s fiction (and bloody proud of myself, too!).

 What’s your most treasured childhood memory?

My dad was a hard-working man—a policeman by day and a musician by night. The Don Lewis Trio did weddings, parties, anything!

When I’d wake up the morning after he’d been at a gig, I’d find my bedroom filled with balloons, streamers, party favours and wedding bombonieres—whatever was left after the party was over.

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What does home mean for you?

For the last two years it’s meant learning to adapt to life on the road. I am writing my way around Oz in a 24-foot fifth-wheeler caravan. We’d never towed anything bigger than a box trailer before this, so it has been daunting, thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. Hoping the scales will tip to ‘free and easy’ eventually. We feel very vulnerable without the security of four brick walls and a roof. So I’m learning to listen to the seasons and I’m seeing things with fresh eyes. (I’m also learning to read weather forecasts in order to prepare for storms. Not that there’s much we can do. And let me tell you, a hailstorm in a caravan is something else!)

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 What makes you smile?

Dogs! Any dogs. I can be having the worst day until I see a dog and I am filled with joy. I’ve owned two sets of rescue dogs over the last thirty years. Sadly I lost my two little white muses—Strawberry in 2104 and Daiquiri recently. My little one-eyed dude dog was the bravest dog in the world and I both cry and smile at the same time when I picture her face.

The caravan feels very empty right now. But The J and I have decided we need to get to know who we are as a couple without dogs. (Yes, we actually have to talk to each other, rather than the dogs! You’d be surprised how much a dog can factor into the every day.) We’ve also decided, rather than go and get a dog, we’ll wait for a little dog to find us. We know there’ll be one out there when the time’s right. Maybe then we’ll call her Chance, Karma, Destiny, or Serendipity (or maybe Daisy, coz I love saying upsidaisy!)

What was the hardest lesson you ever had to learn?

Patience – and there is no better teacher than the publishing biz!! I’m still learning!

(Oh, and plucking your eyebrows too thin as a teenager will leave you with something akin to two deranged-looking caterpillars when you are older. Take note, young people.)

Who or what is the love of your life?

My partner of 33 years, who is also ‘The J’ in Jenn J McLeod. I ran away from a marriage in 1984 and we travelled the country in a Ford F100 and a tent. In 2014 we hit the road again, but this time with style and comfort (and an en suite!). There would be no Jenn J McLeod Author without The J and I feel blessed every day that I was brave enough to let myself love and be loved in return.

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What does your past, your history and family heritage mean to you?

Wow! I think answering this question taught me something about myself. I didn’t know how to answer this at first, as I’ve never really been family oriented and that made me sound a bit . . . well, indifferent. Of course family is important. I LOVE that ‘Find My Family’ show on the tele and ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, and I know a lot about my own family tree:

  • I know my first settler was a grave planner in Paynham, South Australia (and yes there is a family plot!)
  • I know my grandfather, Clement Lewis, was pretty high up in the South Australian Government (managing the SA War Loans campaign)
  • And I totally LOVE that my Aunty Joy was Joy Richardson—founder of the South Australian Animal Welfare League that still exists today (and will be the benefactor of my $millions in book royalties, once I’m gone!! I kind thought that a nice full-circle thing to do!)

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 Anyway . . .

Late in his teens, my dad moved away from his very strong Methodist family. He worked hard, married, and as a family we lived independently of the South Aussie crew. (Dad used to say we were the black sheep in NSW!!) That, and perhaps having no children myself, is why I’m not particularly family oriented.

But . . .  could this explain why I write the stories I do? Is this ‘family’ thing a bit of an enigma and I secretly have a desire to reconnect and rediscover my own country roots through storytelling? Hmm!!!

I’m not saying family isn’t important in my life. I am fortunate to have people who are loving and accepting, as many others don’t.

Feeling blessed.

Thank you, Jenn, for sharing these glimpses of you with us. What a beautiful, inspiring woman you are.

If you, dear reader, would like to explore more of Jenn’s world, you can find her blog here.

And if you’d like to have a look at Jenn’s new novel The Other Side of the Season, and I heartily suggest you do, you can find it here. By sweet coincidence, this novel has quite a theme of reflections in it, too…