A well-crafted first line in a novel has a big job. Whether it's mysterious, romantic, enigmatic, funny or atmospheric, it must grab and entice the reader.
In the case of local writer Jennifer Kincheloe's debut novel, "The Secret Life of Anna Blanc," the opening words bring you into a very special world: "Anna Blanc wore a six-inch hairpiece made from the tresses of a yak."
Set in 1907 Los Angeles, it's the story of a socialite Gibson Girl who only wants to escape the scrutiny of her tyrannical father, marry Mr. Wright (yes, that's his name), and join the police force, which was not an option in 1907. Madcap adventures ensue for the heroine, including eluding chaperones, uncovering police corruption, donning a false name and lots of murder.
Kincheloe is one of 25 semi-finalists (out of 10,000 entries) in the Mystery & Thriller category of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. If she wins this category, she'll be a finalist and will win a $15,000 prize and a publishing contract with Amazon. There are four other categories of works (general fiction, romance, young adult and science fiction/fantasy/horror) competing for the grand prize, which is $50,000 and an Amazon publishing contract. The finalists and grand prize winner will be announced later this month.
Along with her husband, two children and a rowdy beagle, Jennifer moved to Denver seven years ago from Los Angeles, where she was on the faculty at UCLA and worked as a public health research scientist. Growing up in Ventura, she devoured books by C.S. Lewis, Beverly Cleary, Mark Twain and J.R.R. Tolkien. These days, she works part-time in public health research and pursues her new passion, writing: "About four and half years ago, I got sick for two months and didn't work. I read dozens of books on tape. When I finally got out of bed, I began to write. I don't know why, but I loved it so much that I just kept doing it. My previous writing experience included Christmas letters and academic articles and reports."
Jennifer began developing her skills by reading books on writing, such as Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass, The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler and Stephen King's On Writing. Although written for aspiring screenwriters, she also used Story by Robert McKee and The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri.
Jennifer is also a member of the Denver Writer’s Workshop, a group of about 15 aspiring writers. “I stood on their shoulders – they taught me how to write and gave me feeback.” A supportive family makes it possible for her to find the time to write: “I let things go, pared down my life. I write whenever I’m not doing something else. It could be midnight or 7 a.m. My family made a lot of sacrifices while I wrote the book."
Writers of historical fiction have to research their book's era, which might include slang, fashion, prices, and attitudes about everything from sex to the role of women. Jennifer says, "One title that I read, The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart, was published in 1907 and features a female sleuth. To my delight, the Denver Public Library has it on audiobook. Rinehart is often called 'The American Agatha Christie.'"
To preview (and review) chapter one of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, "buy" it for $0.00 on the Amazon website and download it to your computer, Kindle or phone.
Thanks, Lisa. If Jennifer's novel is as sumptuous as her Pinterest page, I think it'll be a winner. What a clever way for an author to visually categorize her research! Best of luck, Jennifer.
Cool interview with an intriguing (and soon to be famous?) writer -- thanks! I'd like to see Ellen Page play Anna in the movie. She'd look good in yak.
I won't be surprised if very soon we come across announcements of a movie or tv series deal. Yes, the novel is definitely movie material! I can't wait to get myself a copy. Good luck to Jennifer!
Can't wait for the book to come out!