Monday, September 11, 2023

Jennifer Hamm Interview - One Friday in Napa

Photo Content from Jennifer Hamm

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Jennifer Hamm graduated with a BA in English at UCLA and began her writing career developing screenplays for movies and television. As a travel writer, she has covered the globe on assignment for various magazines and brands. She also writes It’s Only for A Year, a long-running blog chronicling her adventures raising her four boys in two countries. Hamm currently splits her time between London and Los Angeles. One Friday in Napa is her first novel.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Haha. My four sons. Not their fault – I just didn’t really know how to juggle both motherhood and writing for years. A friend told me about Darren Hardy’s (life coach) 90-minute targeted time frames for any type of production. Basically, you tune out the world, email, calls, everything, and just do one thing for 90 minutes straight. And you will be amazed at your productivity. So, I tried it. Shut the door and the phone, tried not to panic that any emergency would arise, and began writing this novel. A year later I had a very workable first draft.

What chapter was the most memorable to write and why?
Probably the end. I cried. Without giving too much away, I felt so much for both of my main characters. Their journeys are life- long struggles that need resolutions for peace. And the ticking clock of Olivia dying makes their struggles heightened and intense up until the last moment.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
Honestly, Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. I was 16 and that book taught me a philosophy that influenced the rest of my life.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I think people who write and tell stories give voice to everyone’s human experience. I wrote a blog for ten years telling stories about raising my boys in two countries. It wasn’t that my stories were so unique - the attention the blog received came from others who saw themselves in my stories and enjoyed ‘their’ stories being told.

Can you tell us when you started ONE FRIDAY IN NAPA, how that came about?
Six years ago. My house guest and friend, Kelly Hail, wanted to make a thank you dinner for us having her stay. She borrowed one of my cookbooks and started writing notes all over one of the recipes…in ink! When I said ‘wtf????’ she apologized as it was always something she did, her cookbooks read more like diaries than anything else. It reminded me of my grandmother’s cookbooks as well. That got us thinking …what if a daughter found her mother’s cookbook/diary and discovered a totally different version of the woman she knows? It was a great starting point for a story.

What were your feelings when your first novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
Total elation that a publisher like She Writes Press saw in my book what I intended. And then the finished product is so beautiful. Absolutely perfect.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
That they started talking to me all the time, regardless if I was writing them or not.

Your Journey to Publication
I chose to answer this question because I was/am always curious how authors figure it out! Not having much connection to the publishing world, this process required a huge learning curve for me. I spoke to the couple author friends I had, the few people I knew who had something to do with this world, and of course, my editor. Everyone was very honest about traditional publishing and how difficult that was going to be given I’m not a celebrity and I don’t have a huge social media presence. I was just an author who spent four years writing a book! But I tried the traditional route of submitting the book to agents to then get a publisher to see how the book was being received. I must admit, even that step was confusing. Most agents didn’t seem to accept cold submissions, but I didn’t know most agents! Felt like the acting days all over again. But, I did know a few. And so did a fellow author who helped me out. Together the list was under ten – enough to get a good feel. Must admit, I got the most incredibly kind rejection letters. People really loved the novel but simply couldn’t or wouldn’t take the next step with me. I too was looking for someone passionate about my work and wanting a partnership and felt submitting to round two in this path was somehow not going to ultimately give me what I was looking for.

All the while, I researched hybrid publishers. For months the same name came back at me, She Writes Press. I kept their tab open on my computer for eight months. This process takes ages, mostly because you need others to actually read your manuscript. So after many months, I finally submitted to SWP. Their internal selection process involves a lot of work on the author’s part up front. You have to write out chapter summaries alongside all the other typical pitches/summary/one liners you present. When they ultimately said yes, and being a selective hybrid they only say yes to about 10-15% of all submissions, I was beyond thrilled. I knew instantly that this was my home – that these incredible women who started a publishing company to support authors they believed in, regardless of numbers/followers/track records, wanted my book, well, that was the best feeling in the world.

As for friends and family support – I’m blessed to have both. Having a ‘debut’ in my 50’s means that I am in unmarked territory in my life and it comes with huge vulnerability and yet a lot of life experience to help keep me positive and grounded.

What is the first job you have had?
Mrs. Fields cookies. I got fired after putting walnuts in the chocolate almond cookie.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why?
English. It always made sense.

Name one thing you miss about being a kid.
Not having to worry about anything.

What is your most missed memory?
My dad. He died in 2001 and I think about him all the time.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
Is there even a choice in that one?? Being in love is the most glorious states of mind to be in. It takes different shapes and energies over time, but it teaches you more about yourself than anything else possibly could. So yeah, I’d forsake a broken heart to feel what real love is for sure.

At a movie theater which arm rest is yours?
I’m the youngest of four. So, the answer has always been, both! I’ve had to fight for my turn in the front seat, my food! Brothers, right??

What is your greatest adventure?

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
Waves. After a near fatal swim in the ocean at 11 and getting chewed up and spit out by monstrous waves, I just can’t bring myself to get beyond the break without totally freaking out. Not good.

When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
Five minutes ago.
What is your happiest childhood memory?

I am lucky to have loads of happy memories of my childhood. I’d say playing knuckles card game with my two brothers and sister in a hotel room when our parents were out for dinner stands out. Not sure why, as the description of the game is in the title…if you lost the winner got to take the deck and smack your knuckles! But the joy and fun in just being together, room service and a lot of laughter. My mom took us everywhere together. That philosophy was passed down to me and my boys went en masse everywhere with me. No wonder I enjoy chaos so much! 

Vene feels like she and her mother have always been at odds—since she was a child, the first word she used to describe Olivia was “cold.” When news of her mother’s imminent death comes, Vene returns to her family’s home in Napa to see if their strained relationship can be mended, only to find Olivia as harsh as ever and their reconciliation seemingly unreachable.

But when Vene stumbles upon Olivia’s old cookbook, she discovers a passion within her mother she didn’t know existed. The clipped tone and quick judgments of her dying mother don’t match the young woman whose voice she finds between the pages—one that tells a story of romance, longing, duty, and aching heartbreak. Curiosity consumes Vene, and she embarks on an intimate journey to learn about the Olivia she never got to meet—before it’s too late.

A captivating story told in alternating perspectives a half-century apart, One Friday in Napa explores the pains and joys of devotion as two women learn the price of loyalty, the power of secrets, and the meaning of sacrifice.

You can purchase One Friday in Napa at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JENNIFER HAMM for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of One Friday in Napa by Jennifer Hamm.

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