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  • Writer's pictureS.E. Reed

Author Interview with Jenni Howell

Sometimes social media can be a dumpster fire. But sometimes it can be a magical place where you meet interesting and beautiful souls that you connect with. The wonderful thing about the #WritingCommunity is that it is a micro-segment of social media, and a neat and tidy little place to connect with other writers; if you take the time to put yourself out there. Through a social connection, I was fortunate enough to become friends with the magnificent Jenni Howell, and (thank the Lord), she agreed to let me interview her about her writing process and upcoming debut YA novel, Boys with Sharp Teeth (Macmillan, 2025). I know you're all going to fawn over her just as much as I do... She's witty, feisty, and brilliant!

I hope you enjoy our interview!

Thank you so much for meeting with me today! Do you mind telling everyone a little about yourself. 

Yes! Thank you so much for having me. Well… I love pasta, overalls (They have pockets!! So many pockets!! For…pasta?), pugs, Jesus, and quiet. I live on a small slowly-going-to-seed farm with four homeschooled kids, a construction company I co-own with my husband, and a giant Labrador retriever, so you can imagine how much “quiet” I get. I love books and have gotten really good at reading while being talked to, but haven’t yet mastered reading while listening. There is always, always a drink in my hand and it is almost never, ever water. Thirty minutes past midnight is my favorite time of day. 

So, what type of material do you usually write? 

Creepy stuff, pretty much anything the opposite of how my face looks. My books are also guaranteed to have deep character work, lyrical language (words ahhhh I LOVE WORDS), and always, at least in some way, love. Love is difficult to define, and even more difficult to pin down on page without it being cliche, but I’ve felt it for real in my life and now I’m obsessed. 

Also, both because of and in spite of that love, there will be at least one really, really good kiss. No guarantees that the kiss will be a good decision for the kissers, but it’ll be fun to read ;-). 

Ooooh, I’m dying to know, what does your writing and revision process look like? 

FAST. AND CHAOTIC. I prefer to write as many drafts as possible instead of writing one very slowly. For me, this process helps me poke at all the different permutations of the book—which leads me to the most delicious twists. It also helps me nail down the heart of each character. Trying and failing to lead them down the manifold possible stories they hold inside them shows me what they’re actually made of, and where their greatest and most interesting pressure points are. And yes, I feel like an unhinged murder detective while I’m doing it. A block-long murder wall. Miles of red string. Enough thumbtacks to pin down Godzilla. 

But it works. And, strangely, writing what doesn’t work comforts me. At least I know what not to do. 

Eventually, though, it’s time to revise and not rewrite. That’s when my process changes a little bit. I still work very, very quickly—the revision timeline for developmental edits on my debut with Macmillan’s Roaring Brook Press gave me about two weeks to complete a massive overhaul—but now the goal isn’t to see all the places the story could go, but to dig deeper into the story that exists. The key with revising quickly is to first identify all of the parts, large and small, that make your story itself. The pieces that, if lost, would turn it into a different story. 

Then, once you’re holding those in your hands, to start turning the screws. Twist internal tensions from character interactions, internal MC motivations, villain motivations, emotions and wants/needs as hard and as tight as possible using external plot to make those necessary story moments hurt. Nothing is inconsequential—and nothing is sacred. Everything, absolutely every moment, has to work as hard as possible (and as in sync as possible!) to raise the stakes. 

It’s critical for me to have those irreplaceable story bits lined up first, though. Because there’s a million different ways to make a thrilling story. But there’s only a few—sometimes only one—way to make the specific thrill I want my readers to feel. 

What is the hardest part about writing, in your opinion?

Time. And motivation to use the time I have. I’m sure you can imagine how little time I have to actually sit without distractions at my laptop and scribe—or sit on the porch and brainstorm—or just be still and think. It’s…not much. So when I do get a few moments, it’s very very important to use each of them to the utmost. 

It’s equally tempting to use them to blob. 

Knowing when it’s time to knuckle down and when it’s time to indulge in rest is very difficult for me. I often daydream about what life would look like if I made a few trade-offs and had more time to write—but the reality is that no matter how much time I have, this part will be hard for me. Learning mental discipline now, when it’s absolutely necessary for my career, will serve me later when I’ve got all the time in the world and the chutzpah to use it.  

What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

I’m a highly distractible jack-of-all-trades who tried way too many careers before realizing if I became a writer I could be ALL careers in small bits, ha! I can be a pirate! Or a painter! Or an actress! I have excuses to take classes and talk to experts and dig deep into memoirs and research and special interest articles that would otherwise not have a natural place in my hectic life. I love people, and getting to know new lives and the passions that fill them is just the absolute best. 

What advice do you have for new/debut authors?

You write for a reason. Take the time to figure out what that is. Then write it down, and put it somewhere you can see it. 

There’s going to be days this industry—or your life—tries to drown out your why. Don’t let yourself lose it.  

Do you have any links or resources you’d like to share about writing or for your own materials?

Yes! The very first class on writing I ever took was an online seminar by Maggie Stiefvater. It totally changed the way I approached story ideation, and she’s got it available on her website for an absolute steal. I highly recommend it.

Who is your personal favorite author? Or what is your favorite book? 

If my last question doesn’t make that obvious, it’s Stiefvater, HA! I adore The Raven Boys, and so the fact that my editor pitches my debut novel Boys With Sharp Teeth as a dark, twisted Raven Boys will never, ever stop being surreal. Absolutely means the world to me, and if my debut is even a quarter the book TRB was I will be thrilled. 

So, where can everyone find you? 

BIO - Jenni Howell tried out archaeology, espionage, lion taming--wait, no, they call that "teaching middle school"--finance, and linguistics, but always got bored. Now she writes books, where her entire world changes every six months, and she'll never be bored again. 

She is the author of dark academia thriller BOYS WITH SHARP TEETH (Macmillan, April 2025) and a secret book no one knows about yet (Macmillan, 2026).


S.E. Reed

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