Jennifer is an award winning photographer, freelance Illustrator, graphic designer and published author. Her photography & graphic design has been featured extensively in many media formats including CHEX TV, National Geographic, SNAP magazine and Watershed Magazine as well as various local tourism/promotional materials. Jennifer's current line of work features professionally designed book covers for authors from around the world.
Jennifer was selected as one of 12 winners for the prestigious 2010 Oticon Focus on People Award and the only Canadian to have won in this national competition (North America). She was nominated as an outstanding individual with a hearing loss and for the portrayal of a hearing impaired teen in her young adult novel entitled Sway. The Hear Strong Foundation has named Jennifer Gibson a Hear Strong Champion! Jennifer's dedication to helping change the stigmas surrounding hearing loss makes her pretty amazing!
Welcome Jennifer and thanks so much for joining us here. Shall we begin to learn more about you, your writing, and your unique trilogy series featuring a hearing impaired teen.
SJ: Okay, Jenn, or is it Jennifer? Which do you prefer to go by? Let's take it from the very top: Photographer, author, illustrator. Is there anything that you don't do? How did you get started in photography, illustrating and writing? Did one lead to the other? If you could choose only one profession to go by, which would it be and why?
JG: Hi! Most people call me Jenn. I’m a graduate of Sheridan College in Illustration so that’s where my artistic training comes from. Growing up, my mother loved art, particularly sketching and watercolour and this is where my creative interest comes from. Both my father and uncle were avid photographers, and when I was given my own camera, I followed in their footsteps. When I went to college to study illustration, I also took courses in photography and creative writing. I discovered that I excelled in writing and in fact, was encouraged by my professor to switch programs. At the time, I was so invested in art that I didn’t really consider writing as a career. It wasn’t until several years later that I started go back into it and really took an interest in it. I realized that I enjoyed doing it and took more courses in writing to fine tune my style.
Then one day, I met Michael Bublé in Toronto. It was fate that he happened to see me walking on the sidewalk outside of the Hummingbird centre. He was hanging out with the caterers and approached me. At first, I didn’t know who it was since his baseball cap cast a shadow across his face. When he spoke, I recognized his voice. I’d nervously asked him if he was Michael Buble, he said “yes” in a husky tone. My knees shook and I told him that I made the pink jacket I was wearing. He held onto my hand, let his eyes slowly gaze at me from my toes to the top of my head and said, “You look beautiful.” I tried not to cry. He treated me like a perfect gentleman and an old friend. He was incredibly warm and down to earth, so easy going. Michael continued to talk to me and we took some pictures with his dog and fiancé (at the time). When I watched him on stage, singing his heart out to us, I realized that if he could follow his dreams, I can too. That’s when I seriously considered writing a novel. I needed a topic and my mother made the suggestion that I consider using my life experiences to inspire other people with disabilities. It was perfect and I enjoyed writing a series about a teen with a hearing loss since it was so personal and liberating.
SJ: Awesome. I'm impressed and fascinated at the same time. What an experience for you! I understand you also do book covers. How do you go about illustrating a book cover? Is it a difficult process for you, or an easy one? Is your photography involved in illustrating your covers?
JG: Yes, I have extensive experience in Photoshop, courtesy of Sheridan College and Loyalist College. I went back to college to upgrade my skills in Digital Production at Loyalist which also included animation, website design, and Photoshop. When I self published my first book, Sway, I realized that I needed to do the cover as well. Once people saw my covers, they started asking me to do their book covers as well.
I truly enjoy designing book covers and my skills as a professional graphic designer and photographer really come into play. It’s a fun process which involves many complex layers and oodles of patience. Yes, I do often include my own images on the covers if it’s the right subject matter since I’m primarily a nature photographer. It does take time, anywhere from three to five days to complete a full book cover. Hiring a professional book cover designer can make a world of difference in the quality of the covers and really boost sales.
SJ: I'm fascinated by how book covers come to be and you've enlightened me here. Thank you for that. Have we ever seen any of your covers anywhere? Do you have any pictures to share of your covers?
JG: Yes, they are featured worldwide at many online bookstores including Amazon, KOBO and Barnes and Noble as well as iTunes. I’ve the had the pleasure of designing book covers for my publisher Black Opal Books, Aneta Cruz, Nana Prah, Debbie Christiana, Tonya Royston and several other authors. I’m currently working on four covers right now and loving it!
In fact, one of the book covers I designed for Tonya Royston recently gained international attention when actors, Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries) and Nikki Reed (Twilight and Sleepy Hollow), showcased it on their Instagram account! Needless to say, both Tonya and I were pleasantly surprised by their endorsement.
You can view the covers on my website at: http://www.jennifergibson.ca/spotlight.php
SJ: What was the most difficult problem you encounter being a photographer, author and illustrator? How do you balance your time?
JG: I think the biggest issue is time, trying to balance all of my different jobs. I do enjoy the varied work since it keeps me on my toes and always moving my skills forward. It keeps me engaged and the challenge makes it more exciting for me. It’s a great thrill when I complete the job and the client is happy with my work, it’s a wonderful accomplishment for me.
One thing that I’ve learned is being aware of my schedule and booking jobs ahead of time. The beauty of working at home is that I can shift my work around and do tasks that I know can be achieved quickly so that I have more time to work on the more intensive projects. Some projects that involve custom artwork can take weeks to complete, especially if it’s for a corporation since it typically involves creating additional products such as brochures, posters, customized PowerPoint presentations, and banners.
SJ: Now that we've learned about the illustrator, let's discuss the author. What was the easiest thing for you to write about?
JG: I find short stories easy to write since I can do them quickly with a sense of fresh energy. They are fun to do! I’ve written articles for several magazines and also enjoyed doing those as well. I’ve noticed that writing about my personal experiences for the series was a great time saver since I was able to tap into those existing emotions and reactions for certain situations. Writing from life really does help.
SJ: Real life certainly does help. Can you tell us a bit about HearStrong and your connection to it?
JG: Being named a HearStrong Champion was a huge surprise. I had no idea that I was nominated. It wasn’t until they contacted me for more information about my life that I discovered what it was about. Their organization promotes unique individuals who have a hearing loss and refuse to let their disability get in the way of their success and living life to the fullest. Yes, hearing loss is a disability, it’s an invisible one. There is a still stigma associated with wearing hearing aids since people see it as a sign of aging. This is one of the reasons why HearStrong is trying to make a difference in our lives by showing the rest of the world that we cam achieve our goals by staying strong.
SJ: Certainly a worthwhile cause. You are a great example for others to follow. On that vein, what do you love most about being a writer? Least?
JG: I love coming up with new and exciting characters and unique story lines. My series has been a very rewarding experience for me since it’s one of my biggest accomplishments. To get paid for doing what I love is truly remarkable. Going on a journey with Jessie, a teen with a hearing loss like mine, was an eye-opening experience, it was an incredible revelation for me in terms of what I’ve had to overcome in my life. In a strange way, writing about my life made me see it from a different perspective which was surprising. The least thing about being a writer is the deadlines, trying to get as much done in a short period of time. Thank god for chocolate and caffeine, my fuel for inspiration.
A point of interest, I write my books by hand. This system works well for me. The one thing I dislike about doing it this way, is that I have to type it all up once I’ve finished writing it. Even though the book is completed, it’s not actually finalized until I typed the last word on the computer. Time seems to move slower this way and that really tests my patience since I’m eager to release it.
SJ: I can relate. I used to write long hand but no more. Let's get to what writer inspired you most and how?
JG: Growing up, I loved reading books by Gordon Kormon and Madelaine L’Engle. Our home was often surrounded by books and I enjoyed reading them, especially when I came home from school, they were a form of escapism for me. It was a chance for me to tune out the negative aspects of my life and delve into an entirely new world. I loved the way I felt, living someone else’s life for awhile.
SJ: What is a favorite book you enjoyed reading and would recommend without hesitation? Why?
JG: I’ve read so many books that it would be hard for me to narrow it down to a single one. You’ll often find me reading books by my favourite authors: Jim Butcher and Janet Evanovich. If you’re a fan of young adult books with a dystopian feel, I do recommend Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. I also recommend reading books published by Black Opal Books, they feature quite a collection of unique stories.
SJ: Thanks for the recommendations, Jenn. As a writer, if you could give just one piece of important writing advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
JG: Simple. Don’t give up. Listen to your heart and follow your dreams, you won’t know how successful you will be until you give it a try.
SJ: I absolutely concur. In closing, can you give us a hint into your next project (s)?
JG: Right now, I’m in the process of editing my forth novel which is slated to be released later this year. The series was originally meant to be a trilogy and I didn’t expect to write another novel for it. It wasn’t until a few months ago when I was hit with inspiration and a renewed determination to write another book about Jessie, and it has been an absolute pleasure to join her on a new journey. I have a feeling that this book will become a favourite amongst my readers.
Wonderful Jenn. I can't wait to hear more about it. Thank you, Jenn for your time and allowing us to take some time out of your busy schedule and interview you. Readers, take note you may purchase a copy of her trilogy series for young adults featuring a (hard-of-hearing) teen: Sway, Compass and Destiny at:
You can also find a copy at: http://www.amazon.com
Jenn also has an Amazon Author page at: www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Gibson/e/B00CAWK4TS
For more information about Jenn and her writing, please check out her website at:
BUT before we go we can't leave without adding a Blurb about Jenn's marvelous trilogy:
The trilogy series was based on a true story featuring snapshots of the author's life growing up with a severe hearing loss. Many real life scenarios have been incorporated into the story to provide a rich and sometimes, gritty setting that can be shocking at times to read. Aside from the moral lesson of dealing with a disability, it offers an amazing sense of appreciation of how much it takes to persevere through a difficult time in life.
From the very beginning we watch Jessie as she tries to find her place in the community. She does a lot of soul searching, trying to find ways to fit into a society that has trouble accepting her. In Sway, we begin to see her change and make interesting decisions based on what happens to her. Gradually, her path in life begins to shift and goes towards a new direction in Compass. She becomes more aware of who she is as a young person. In the third book Destiny, it becomes a pivotal turning point that sets her on the right path where she becomes empowered and emerges a stronger person.
Throughout the turmoil in her life, Jessie discovers that she has friends in the most unexpected places. Together they guide her through some of the darkest moments she has to endure and they help her rise up and believe in herself once again.
And while we're at it here's a Synopsis for Destiny, Book 3:
Jessie’s journey began in Sway and Compass. As we continue to follow her in Destiny, she stumbles across a revelation that could change everything and finds herself standing on the precipice of life.
Jessie is determined not to let her hearing loss hold her back. She aims her sights even higher as she ventures in a new direction. With a Black Belt on the horizon, and so close to achieving it, she is unaware of the danger closing in on her. Will she be strong enough to hold on or will she succumb to the darkness that surrounds her?
*Includes BONUS SHORT STORY - Happy Holidays...or is it?
And on top of that, here's an Excerpt:
I had taken just a few steps when the lights sputtered, dimmed, went bright, dimmed again then suddenly went to being completely black. I stood frozen to the spot, fear holding me hostage. Aw Crap, I thought.
There was an eerie, loud wail down the hall. My hands began to shake, rattling the ice cubes in the pitchers. Another long moan floated towards me from down the hallway.
Well, that’s just creeptastic, I thought darkly as my breath came out in shaky gasps.
“Okay, I can do this. I’m not a scaredy cat. It’s just a dark hallway, keep going.” I muttered to myself, trying summon up the courage to move my feet, but they weren’t listening.
Then there was a loud bang and followed by sounds of something crashing. Another high pitched warbling wail rose in the air.
Okay, now that’s what I call scary, I thought.
Some of the lights came back on sporadically, leaving dark cones of shadows throughout the corridor. A figure suddenly appeared in the doorway off to my right and I flinched, nearly dropping the pitchers. A sucked in a hard gasp, trying not to scream.
Wow! Did that intrigue you as much as it did me? Good. Don't forget to look for the trilogy series by Jennifer Gibson and feel free to leave a comment to let her know you were here. If you read one of all her books, let her know.
Thank you all for visiting with us. Until next month...every one please stay safe. Smile. Be happy. Show compassion. Be nice to others. Put a little love into your heart. Please speak up for those without a voice, whether it be a dog, cat, elephant or monkey. One person, one voice can make a difference. Read a book and pass it on. Leave a review. Reviews are important for authors. Believe me. I know. Thank you!
S. J. Francis
Advocate for the underdog, and cat, and supporting writers, et al.
In Shattered Lies: "It's All About Family." Available now from Black Opal Books and for sale at all on-line retailers and independent booksellers.
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And now for some legal stuff: Copyright 2015 by S.J. Francis. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the author, S. J. Francis and the guest author and are meant to entertain, inform and enlighten, and intend to offend no one.