This week we showcase fabulous and darkly honest Jenny Blenk. She has a story that will be published in an upcoming Writerpunk Press anthology. Instead of telling you which one, I’ll let Jenny tell us in her own words. Keep an eye out for a surprise cameo from a cute and fuzzy bunny.
My name is Jenny. I’m a Washingtonian native who recently transplanted to Portland, OR to start a Master’s program in English literature. I grew up on the Olympic Peninsula, playing in the woods and reading too many sci-fi and fantasy novels, and started writing my first novel in the 5th grade. That one never went beyond the first draft, but I was hooked nonetheless. Creative writing became my favorite pastime. After high school, I moved to Bellingham to do my undergraduate work at Western Washington University. I earned a BA there in English Literature and Spanish, and decided to go back to school for an MA after working for a few years in the book industry. Ideally I’ll end up writing, teaching, and doing publicity for a literary foundation or publisher.
Have you always been interested in Punk Fiction or is this a recent development in your life?
I first discovered Goth my sophomore year of high school and have identified as such ever since. This has led to forays into multiple punk genres and I love the freedom that they all embody, to become someone else or to twist time and culture past, present and future! That sense of adventure and struggle in all the punk genres is what really draws me to them, as both a reader and a writer. Probably the first novel I read to get me looking into punk genres was Jules Verne’s “A Journey To The Center Of The Earth.” This was when I was in about 6th grade.
What road did you travel to become a writer?
I’ve always been a writer, mostly of novels but of short stories too. Most recently I’ve been working on short stories since they’re easier to focus on and complete while I’m doing school assignments too. My dad was an English major in college, and both of my amazing parents supported my semi-addictive reading habit growing up. I suppose that reading great stories is what made me want to create them, and my parents are the ones who encouraged the idea that I could do it if I worked at it.
How did you end up getting involved with the Punkwriters group and Writerpunk Press?
I had the pleasure of working with Steampunk author Jeffrey Cook at a book-signing event while I was still working in the book industry. He mentioned Punkwriters in passing and I had to ask about it. The thought of a group of people all dedicated to representing and exploring punk genres together was so exciting! I knew I had to get involved. And everyone is so enthusiastic and supportive in the group, it’s impossible to feel unwelcome.
What anthology are you helping with or hoping to help with?
The upcoming Poe anthology, “Merely This And Nothing More,” will feature my adaptation of “The Fall of the House of Usher.” It’s a nanopunk version of the iconic Poe story, full of advanced tech and questions about sentience. It was so much fun to put my own twist on a work that I love, and the project was the perfect excuse to revisit one of my favorite authors.
What it is about the punk genre that inspires you as a writer?
As I mentioned before, I love the freedom and adventure that the wide variety of subject matter can provide for both the writer (creatively) and the reader (so many possibilities!). This can mean creating an ideal personal world that you would love to be in, or figuring out a way for your protagonists to escape (or be defeated by?) a crushing futuristic society. There are so many lives that I want to live, and all of them seem to fit into punk genres. Since those were the worlds I wanted to see, they were the ones I started to create in my writing.
Of all the various *punk genres and subgenres, which one would you like to live?
Aw, I have to pick just one? I really like the idea of growing up to be a pirate queen, so maybe I’d choose Steampunk for that scenario. But being a cybernetic assassin/special ops soldier (á la “Ghost in the Shell”) also sounds interesting, so I’d probably choose Cyberpunk for that.
What is your favorite genre to read/write?
I’m going to cheat on this question and use the umbrella term “Speculative Fiction,” which encompasses punk genres, sci-fi, fantasy, alternate history, and cross-genre books within those themes. I like everything from high fantasy (like Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson) to pure sci-fi (Robert A. Heinlein or Ursula K. LeGuin). Looking at my favorite aspects of great writers’ works and trying to adapt them into my own writing keeps me heading back to the bookshelves for more inspiration.
What inspired you to work on this specific project?
I’m a Goth. I love Poe. And any excuse to geek out on literature with other Poe and punk fans is a good one in my book.
Can you tell us a bit about some of the writers that influence you the most?
The incredible sense of atmospheric dread and horror that Poe and H.P. Lovecraft can produce always makes me swoon (and sometimes curl up in the fetal position), but I also love the darkly beautiful stories spun by Neil Gaiman and Patrick Rothfuss. I also read Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series purely for the interesting story line, and Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters Trilogy is a perennial favorite. My “guilty pleasure” is Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel trilogy.
Do you have anything shown/published outside of Writerpunk Press?
I’ve had bits and pieces of poetry published over the years, but this is the first time that I’ve been organized enough to actually see a project through to its completion. I’m hoping to focus more on submitting my store of completed work over the next two years since my academic writing will take up most of my time and producing new work will be more of a challenge.
Do you have a set routine when you work?
I find that I’m most productive when I leave the house to work. Usually I end up hunkering down in a coffee shop or at the library. I think it’s because there aren’t as many distractions when I bring what I need in order to write, and that’s it.
What is your life like when you aren’t being one of those weird creative types?
I’m always a reclusive little creäture at heart. But when I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, gardening, knitting, and world travel. I’m passionate about good beer and delicious coffee, and my best friend is a little black rabbit named Bernadette.
Because honestly, who doesn’t love rabbits?
Can you tell us what you have taken away from working with Writerpunk Press and the Punkwriters Facebook group?
So far the takeaway has really been that community is key. We all contribute something, through writing or organizing or publicity, and most of us wear at least a couple of different hats. Community means encouragement, support and responsibility, and since everyone involved is there because they want to be, we all actively contribute what we can. It’s so much easier to stick with a difficult project, meet your writing goal, or submit something for editing or publication when you have other people there on the same journey who want you to be successful.
Do you have anything else you want to tell our adoring public or add to this interview in any way?
Support your local writers! Especially if you’re one of them! And if you’re looking for speculative fiction book recommendations feel free to check out my blog: jennyblenk.blogspot.com. I don’t post on it as much as I used to, since school prevents me from doing much extracurricular reading, but there’s a backlog of good specific suggestions.
Thanks for the Interview, Jenny! W look forward to reading your story in the upcoming Poe Goes Punk Anthology. To learn more about Jenny Blenk and read her thoughts on a variety of things, visit her blog by clicking here. (As mentioned above by Jenny herself, but doubling down never hurts.)