J.A. Blake (Jennifer) has been working in school public relations and marketing for more than 15 years. Her areas of strength are in feature and press release writing, publication design, speech writing and presentation, special event planning, and meeting facilitation. She has won numerous commendations from professional organizations, including awards from the Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals. In addition to her work with schools, Jennifer is the owner of Blake Communications, a small company specializing in writing, design, and editing services.
Jennifer received a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Neumann University and a Master of Science in Management from Rosemont College. She is a member of several professional organizations, including the Public Relations Society of America. She is a lifelong writer and reader who, in her spare time, enjoys traveling with her husband, Kai, and playing with their dogs – two pugs named Calvin and Lucy.
Stephanie: Jennifer, congrats on winning the B.R.A.G Medallion! I absolutely love the title of your book, “They All Fall Down.” Please tell me a little about your story.
Jennifer: They All Fall Down is about London Drake, an aspiring musician with a haunting past. When he was 11 years old, London came home from school to find the murder/suicide of his grandparents. As an adult, he is diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and has difficulty coping with his past and the memories around his family. He is unable to form lasting romantic relationships and tends to use people, particularly women. As he becomes more and more successful as a musician, he becomes less and less able to cope, almost caving under the pressure. But London is a complicated character. He is very aware of his shortcomings – to the point that he’s in therapy for them. He longs to be a stronger, kinder person, but seems unable to make any significant change and often falls back into his familiar habits. He struggles with the love he feels for his family and the anger that his family’s past causes him. He must reconcile those feelings to find the happiness for which he longs.
The title, They All Fall Down, is actually a play on words for some of the themes in the novel:
First, we see in the novel that even the perceived strongest things are fallible. There’s a scene in the novel that references September 11 and the fall of the twin towers. London’s father, looking out the window of a hospital, points at the skyline where the towers once stood and says, “As big as they are, as tough as we build them, as strong as the walls are…they all fall down.” This line was written to give the reader pause … to consider whether London’s father is talking about the towers, or his own failing health. He could also be referencing the death of his own father, which is a main theme of the book.
Secondly, the idea of letting things fall away is the predominant theme for the book. For London, he needs to let the anger he feels for his family fall away. It consumes him and controls him. In addition, he has to let down his guard and trust in the goodness of other people. For any of us to connect with each other, we need to let our emotional walls fall down.
Stephanie: I can tell your story is heartfelt. What was your inspiration for writing it?
Jennifer: I co-wrote this novel with Nick Moccia, a friend and musician who I’ve known for almost 15 years. Many of the events in They All Fall Down actually happened in his life and his story is what inspired me to want to write the novel. While the book is a work of fiction, many of the scenes and characters are inspired by real people and events.
In addition, They All Fall Down includes an original music soundtrack, written and performed by Nick Moccia. Many of the songs on the soundtrack are reference in the novel. So as one reads about the music, he/she can also listen to it and experience the character’s voice and emotion. I found this connection to music very inspiring.
Stephanie: Was there any research involved?
Jennifer: Yes! This book took three years to write! Because the book is based on real life events, Nick and I spent a significant amount of time talking about the events that happened in his life. I learned about his family and his upbringing, and I visited many of the places referenced in the novel. In addition, Nick took a recorder to his actual therapy sessions where many of the themes in the novel were discussed. He recorded these sessions (with permission from his therapist) and we listened to them together. Then we wrote. In total, there were about 30 therapy sessions which represent almost 30 hours of conversation.
In addition to the therapy sessions with Nick, we also researched places in New York where some of the scenes are set and we looked into police records from events referenced in the novel.
Stephanie: Sounds like your research was really in-depth and rewarding. As a writer, what are some of the challenges you face and what are the awarding moments of writing for you?
Jennifer: As a writer, my biggest challenge is actually finding time to write, as writing is not my full-time “day” job. It is important for me to keep my relationship with characters going and to make the story move forward. I am also not a linear writer (I don’t write chapter one, then chapter two, etc.). I write as ideas and inspiration come to me and then I have to piece those paragraphs together. When I’m engaged in writing a novel or story, the characters I am developing live with me. I consider them in every situation I’m in … trying to determine how they might react.
The biggest reward for me is when readers respond favorably to my work. More importantly, when they tell me that they’ve been able to connect with my story or with one of the characters, I am just thrilled. My goal in writing is always to connect with other people … to shed light on some shared human condition and to encourage readers to think about how they might react. When a reader says that the saw themselves or those they love in one of my characters, it makes all the hard work worth it!
Stephanie: I can so relate to finding the time to write and you have a clear picture of what it is like for the writer. To connect with other people and to encourage the reader to think about how they might react. When a writer can do that….the writer has written a good story. Have you written other stories?
Jennifer: I have been a writer since I was a child. I wrote mostly poetry as a child and young adult and I have written some short stories. They All Fall Down is my first novel.
Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?
Jennifer: I designed the book cover. I also have a background in graphic and publication design. The images on the cover represent elements in the book.
Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?
Jennifer: After we published They All Fall Down, I was doing some research on the internet about ways to promote/market the book. I came across the web site for indieBRAG and was immediately drawn to its mission of promoting self- published authors.
Stephanie: Please tell me what your writing schedule for the week is like?
Jennifer: I write something every day, even if it is just in my journal. I just started my second book and try to spend at least a few hours on that every week. But I also started blogging recently (www.jablakewrites.wordpress.com) and am really enjoying that. I also am trying to spend more time every week reading. I believe that strong and frequent readers make strong writers.
Stephanie: Is there something you like to say to your readers?
Jennifer: I guess I would say thank you to those who’ve already read the book and have shared their feedback. I appreciate the interest readers have taken in London and his friends. I also appreciate constructive criticism. I believe it makes me better. Readers can follow me on Facebook (TheyAllFallDown2012) and on Twitter at prjenntacular or theyallfallbook. I’d encourage them to connect with me and share their thoughts about They All Fall Down or any of my writing.
Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?
Jennifer: They All Fall Down is currently available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and a number of independent web sites. It is available for Kindle and Nook as well. Direct links can be found on our web site at www.theyallfalldown.net
Twitter @theyallfallbook or @prjenntacular
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jennifer Blake, who is the author of, They All Fall Down, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, They All Fall Down, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.