Jenna Zark: Author, Playwright, and Singer

Introduction: About You

3 Little Known or Interesting Things About You

  1. I used to be a singer in a punk-rock band called The Seizures
  2. I’m also a playwright
  3. I love horror movies – they’re my favorites!

Hogwarts House and/or Camp Halfblood Cabin (If you have not been sorted or if you have not taken a quiz, I have linked them for you.) 

Can I choose someone else like Arwen in “Lord of the Rings” ? I always loved that she was the evenstar of her people.

What is your writing Kryptonite? What kills me is not having the time I need – whether it’s because of work or house chores.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? I have a lot of writer friends – including Janet Stilson, Ellen Byron, Heidi Arneson, Kandi Wyatt, Galit Breen and many others. Their work and dedication to writing inspires me daily.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? I’m sure she has had a lot of attention, but I love Lauren Groff’s writing and I never feel she is appreciated enough. Her novel Fates and Furies knocked me out. I haven’t felt so involved with characters in a novel in a long, long time.

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

That’s a great question but I really don’t know! I just try to tell the story as compellingly as possible and make my characters as full and true to life as possible.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot or avatar?

Something feline – probably a leopard – but that’s mostly because I love the way they move. I love the way you won’t see them until they want to be seen – and by then, of course, it’s usually too late to do anything about it. I try to sabotage my readers that way too – so they are “captured” by the writing without knowing it. That’s my ambition, at least.

About Your Books

Tell us about your book(s)-length of time it took to write, journey, publishing, release dates, etc.

I’ve completed two books in a three-book series called The Beat Street Series. They are about a young girl growing up in the 1950s in what we now call the Beat Generation – a generation of artists dedicated to creating art that challenged stereotypes and broke conventional rules about what art should be.

I first learned about the Beats when my older sister brought me to a play in the Village and shared stories about the poets who walked its streets in the 1950s.Though long gone, their poems and books were in all the bookstores and I started to read them. When I was in college, I visited the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and heard more stories about Beats and the readings they had there. 

Years later, my sister and her family moved to Perry Street and I visited them every Friday after work. I began to imagine a young girl, trying to find the poets who were legends in her time. Would she want to be a poet herself? What would life be like for her? 

Turned out it was kind of rough—rougher than I thought it would be, and full of surprises. But the story kept growing until it became the Beat Street Series. Book 1 was published in 2016 and book 2 was released in December 2018.

Favorite line or quote from one of your books.

At the moment my favorite quote from The Beat on Ruby’s Street happens when the main character Ruby is at a party. She meets someone she knows must be a famous Beat poet, but can’t place him. He sees she has a notebook and asks her to read something aloud from it.

Ruby says to herself, “This can’t be happening, just can’t be. Famous people don’t just talk to kids. Do they?

“This is all just so weird. I skim through his notebook, trying not to let him see. But I can tell he’s looking at me. The sound of drums rolls out from a window somewhere above us and my heart starts beating fast. “Anyway,” I say. “I—don’t mean to bug you.” And then it gets even weirder because he holds out his hand, and I give him the notebook. Then he opens it. And reads.”

Describe the character that is most like you. 

That would have to be Ruby! She’s eleven years old (but a few days shy of twelve). It’s 1958 and she’s the opposite of a 1950s stereotype. She is fierce, funny and strong willed, the opposite of the feminine ideal of the time who was preoccupied by makeup and clothes. Ruby’s wry, knowing, yet compassionate voice guides us through her story.

In fact, Ruby dreams of meeting famous poets while becoming one herself. Instead, she’s accused of trying to steal fruit from a local vendor and is forced to live in a children’s home. In partnership with a new friend there, Ruby begins a hunger strike to protest the way she has been treated. Though the strike results in Ruby being allowed to go home, she soon discovers that her family has fallen apart during her absence. Ultimately, she must find a way to heal without the comforts she used to rely on as a child.

Everything Ruby thinks, does and is at this stage of her life is influenced by how she feels about her mother, father, brother, and her beloved cat, Solange. Ruby, whose mother (a painter) and father (a jazz musician, often out of town) may have differences too great to be able to work out, is realizing something we all do at some point: that our parents, whether well-matched or mis-matched, are only human, don’t have all the answers, and can’t protect us from everything.

Most of all, Ruby learns that life is not a fairy tale, and the real world can be troubling, frightening and painful. Yet, her journey leads her to understand that we can deal with the pain life throws at us by thinking creatively, staying optimistic, and aspiring to be an artist on some level, practical or not.

 “I guess you could say we’re trying to break out of the old world and start a new one,” Ruby explains. “The magazines say Beats are supposed to be cool, but who knows what that means? I can only tell you what it’s not. It’s not cool to be angry or nasty. It’s not cool to care about how you look. Because like my mother says, pretty fades, but cool is forever.”

Advice

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

I mainly think the best writing comes from the heart and isn’t something you choose, necessarily. I write because it’s the best way I know to save my own life – to stop obsessing about things that don’t matter and use writing to talk about what matters most.

Leave us with some wise words. What advice would you give the readers of this interview?

If you really, really want something, I think the best thing you can do is find out all you can about it, set up your life so you can go after it, and – maybe the most important – don’t give up.

Leave some links for us to follow you and buy your books:

Website: https://jennazark.com/

To find the Beat Street Series books:

https://books2read.com/BeatonJennasStreet
https://books2read.com/FoolsErrand

Facebook and Twitter pages:

Facebook page is called Jenna Zark Author – Playwright

Twitter is ZarkWriting

Thanks again for asking all these wonderful questions!

I am a middle school English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *