About the Author: “Jenna Evans Welch was the kind of insatiable child reader who had no choice but to grow up to become a writer. Her first novel, Love & Gelato, was a New York Times bestseller, a 2017 YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten title, a 2016 Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Best Young Adult Fiction, and a selection for the 2017 Texas Lone Star Reading List. It is currently being published in more than eighteen countries. When she isn’t writing girl-abroad stories, Jenna can be found chasing her babies or making elaborate messes in the kitchen. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and two children.” (Bio taken from the end of Love & Luck, and headshot taken from the author’s website.)
A special thank you to Jenna Evans Welch for the following interview! Don’t miss Jenna’s novels, Love & Gelato, Love & Luck, and the upcoming Love & Olives (releasing on November 10, 2020)! Also, check out our review of Love & Luck!
Wendy Waltrip: Your books, Love & Gelato and Love & Luck, both feature teenage girls traveling abroad and ultimately finding themselves in the middle of fascinating (and romantic) adventures. What can you tell us about the world and characters of these two books?
Jenna Evans Welch: What a wonderful way to sum up these books! I spent several years as a teenager living in Florence, Italy and the experience was very eye-opening to me. I loved the idea of writing books about young women discovering who they are in cultures/settings that are different than what they are used to. My first character, Lina, came to me very slowly, but as soon as I found her voice I had a wonderful time writing her. And the main character of my second novel (Addie in Love & Luck), appeared so naturally in the first book that I knew that I wanted to write about her next.
WW: How did you find your way into the literary world? Have you always wanted to be an author, or is that something that you found out later in life?
JW: I’ve known that I wanted to write books for teens since I was eleven years old. I was a voracious child reader, and I have a vivid memory of the day I decided that it was time to move on to the “teen” books and then how disappointed I was by what greeted me at my local library. The books I wanted to read didn’t exist—yet, and I remember pointing to the teens shelf and telling my mom that one day I would write the books that I wished were there. The YA world has absolutely exploded since then, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
WW: How do you find time to write in your busy life? What does your writing process look like because of this?
JW: My writing process has evolved along with my life. When I was childless, I wrote on my days off from work, and then when I had my first child, I woke up early to write before the rest of the day started. Now I have babysitters and scheduled blocks of time that are dedicated to writing. I’m constantly amazed by how easy it is to lose that time—especially in this busy season, it feels like the details of my life want to infringe on my writing time and I have to really fight for it.
WW: What inspired your choice to write novels about teenage girls abroad? What message are you hoping to send to readers through Lina and Addie?
JW: I was inspired by my own experiences as a teenager—living abroad changed my world view in some very drastic ways and really widened what I believed myself able to accomplish. I’m always hoping to send the message that life can be lived in lots of different ways and that ultimately you are the one in charge of your destiny.
WW: As someone who has traveled abroad myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the amazing descriptions of Italy and Ireland. How do you ensure that these descriptions are so accurate? Does it involve packing a suitcase and hopping on a flight?
JW: I am definitely a writer who has to see a place in order to feel confident about writing about it! As mentioned, I had plenty of firsthand experience with Italy, and I had my own madcap road trip in preparation for Love & Luck and was able to travel to (and fall madly in love with) Santorini, Greece in preparation for writing Love & Olives.
WW: The relationships between family members are very important in both Love & Gelato and Love & Luck. What would you like readers to take away from the portrayal of family in these novels?
JW: I think that family connections are my favorite thing to write. With both books, I wanted to make the point that family can look all kind of ways, and that our relationships should allow us the space to make mistakes, grow and change.
WW: I originally picked up Love & Gelato because the title includes two of my favorite things ever, and your descriptions of the creamy Italian dessert did not disappoint (and really made me crave some gelato). Purely out of curiosity, what’s your favorite flavor of gelato?
JW: Bacio! It’s chocolate with hazelnuts and its divine.
WW: What were your favorite moments in either of these books to write?
JW: I loved writing the party scene in Love & Gelato (I actually based it on a party I went to my final night in Florence as a teen), and I really, really loved the Queen Maeve ceremony in Love & Luck.
WW: Having now gone through the entire publishing process several times, if you could give any advice to the version of yourself writing the first draft of Love & Gelato (or to any aspiring authors out there), what would it be?
JW: Expect your first few attempts to be terrible! I was so discouraged by how downright awful my first few versions of Love & Gelato were, but my final product could not have existed without them.
WW: Finally, I understand your next book, Love & Olives, is coming out on November 10 (and I can’t wait to read it!). What can you tell us about this novel?
JW: I think that readers who loved Love & Gelato will really love this one. It’s about a girl who receives a postcard from her Atlantis-hunter father asking her to join him on a special project in Santorini, Greece, and her getting sucked into everything the island has to offer. I had so much fun writing this book.
PRR Writer, Wendy Waltrip