WINNERS have been picked! Thank you to the twenty commenters! Renee Bess and Nerdgirl1115 are the lucky winners of an ebook of their choice. Jeanine will contact you to arrange the dispensing of the goods 🙂
Hey everyone! It’s that time again, yeah, the second Monday of the month! Today we are about to visit with the inimitable Jeanine Hoffman! I think I met Jeanine, holy cow…is it possible it’s been almost ten years ago??? at a long ago and far away Golden Crown Literary Conference. She’s one of the most bubbly, energetic, smiley writers I know, and through it all she’s had to deal with some very serious health problems. This poor girl has been though—and continues to go—a crapload of medical hell and constantly manages to persevere, wit and smiles intact. She’s one of my heroes, and I adore her! Jeanine has a brand new book out, Stranger Than Fiction, and another new one due in June called Credit Worthy. She has ever so kindly agreed to gift an ebook of choice to a lucky commenter. Drop a comment within the next week and you’ll be entered into a drawing for said ebook.
Andddddd here we go!
Jessie: You’ve worked in some interesting occupations! Can you tell us a little about the different employment adventures you’ve had?
Jeanine: Wow—you aren’t kidding! I’ve worked in healthcare, cooking, security (as a bouncer), as an EMT, firefighter, UPS worker, banking in a number of roles, and of course, author. Of all my jobs, least favorite was working for Friendly’s as the fountain manager. The hours were bad but what got me was the total lack of ethics and morality in that franchise. The place was gross with mice, poor refrigeration, and other issues. I brought the violations to the District Manager who promptly fired me. Turns out he was the one making the payoffs to the health department. Karma is vengeful, though. A few years later I heard the DM was let go for gross negligence and a few months later the venue I’d worked in burned to the ground in a “mysterious fire.” I’d been in the ambulance company for a 24 hour shift so I was clean but I will admit to enjoying listening to the scanner for that call.
I’ve learned a lot in my various jobs. As much about who I want to be as who I am. I’ve been exposed to a lot of things and learned that no matter what, if I can, I like to help people. I also learned that asking for help can actually make you stronger, not weaker.
Jessie: You were originally born in Connecticut, and lived a long time in Pennsylvania. In the fall of 2015, you moved to the Pacific Northwest. How did all that come about?
Jeanine: Connecticut was a weird place to grow up. Maybe it was my family. In some ways I was pretty sheltered. I spent a lot of my formative years with my grandparents in Yonkers, NY. My mother was in and out of hospitals after I was born so my grandparents would steal me away. I learned to read pretty early and used books to escape from the world. My grandparents really encouraged my reading as long as I remembered to go outside and play sometimes too. I read a book about the Oregon Trail and the Willamette Valley and I knew, from about age five or six, that I wanted to see that place.
My time in Pennsylvania was brought about by my first attempt at college when I was seventeen. I was so not ready for college. Too many issues that I hadn’t dealt with and so much I didn’t know about myself. However, friends from college helped me get my first apartment there and due to issues back in CT with my family, I stayed on in PA and made a life.
Thankfully, GCLS held a con here in Portland and my wife fell in love with the mountains as much as I did. Then we explored a bit and the differences from the east to west coast were astounding. So, we set up a plan to move out here. It took almost two years but we made it!
Jessie: How’s Oregon now that you’ve been there a few months?
Jeanine: Even as a writer, I have no words to describe how much we love Oregon! Sure, it rains. We had a bad experience with our first apartment but we got out of there and into a truly cute little duplex that we love. We see Mt. Hood a lot from our town and we’ve gone to see it in person too.
We have a great writing community out here and we’ve been fortunate to have some friends in place when we moved. We’re involved in board game nights—both with friends and at a local game shop. We’re part of a writers group with Lori. L. Lake and a bunch of other folks. Its been wonderful and I can’t rave enough about the wonderful experiences we’ve had here.
Jessie: You’ve battled some serious health problems that have had a lasting impact, yet you’ve managed to not only survive, but thrive. What happened, and how have you managed to persevere? You are my hero!
Jeanine: Damn, you made me blush! I thank you for your kindness. As to health, I have a few issues that led to others. I had a cancer, Merkel Cell Carcinoma and it’s usually fatal if not caught early. Thankfully my medical folks did a wonderful job and listened to me when I described what was going on. It was caught swiftly and the treatments, though they kicked my butt, saved me as well. Some of the side effects actually took years to make themselves known. The surgery removed some muscle and did some nerve damage. My left hand is weaker and I lose my grip plus that shoulder missing the muscle sometimes partially dislocates. I’ve become brilliant at reseating it. I also have a brain injury from the radiation, which led to my disability and vertigo. This vertigo is tough because it will never go away unless they find a way to fix radiation damage that causes brain micro fractures. My suggestion of dumping in electrical conducting glue was not met with the enthusiasm I’d hoped for when I raised the idea.
The other big illness is my bipolar disorder and associated anxiety. I keep it in check with regular visits to a psychiatrist and being very strict about my medication use, routines, and restricting my time in crowds. I also see a therapist if things get out of control for me. Usually only big stuff sets me off to the head shrinker these days but I find it good to check in with one now and again.
For each of these, I did the usual grief cycle and I sure had my stop at anger after getting hit with those diagnoses. I decided, especially for the cancer, that I could laugh or cry my way through. I’ve seen the positive effects of humor in healthcare before and I made a choice to take that route. I wore t-shirts with funny or sarcastic sayings to my treatments at the cancer center. The staff would stop me at check-in each time to read my shirts. I brought a trick light bulb in and walked around telling people that while my treatments might make my skin and mouth burn and my hair fall out, I could at least save on my shampoo and electric bills. I even wore a shirt to my first meeting with my psychiatrist that told him that he was jealous that the voices in my head were talking to me and not him. Truly, humor saved my life. Then, Heather Jane, my wife, made life worth living with even more exuberance.
Jessie: Vertigo is and has been causing you trouble for a long time. In order to keep it in check while you write, you use a special little machine thingy. Can you tell us what it is, how it works, and how it helps you?
Jeanine: I believe that would be my AlphaSmart 3000. Nat Burns, a fellow brain injury survivor suggested it to me in Portland at the Con that year. I did try a typewriter but it was hard to remember that the words didn’t wrap around. Then I had to scan and format. The AphaSmart looks like it was made by Playskool but it lets me work with almost no screen then upload to my computer into a preformatted document. I can pound out way more words that way and it’s really portable and great on battery life.
My vertigo gets aggravated by too much screen time and the larger the screen, the worse it gets. I don’t watch TV as much as I listen to it. I mostly access Facebook, e-mail, and the internet from my iPhone. The smaller screen means I can waste more time playing on social media. I’m also going to admit, since its legal where I live, that when we moved to Oregon, I got a medical card for marijuana. I’d never used it before and I don’t smoke it. I do use patches, like pain or nicotine patches but they have a ton of canaboids in them. It helps keep my nausea down and I use some edibles, the ones I can find that don’t taste like pot, to help relieve my anxiety and sleep at night. I have also started vaping oil as I can use it throughout the day to micro dose and manage my nausea and pain that way. It’s helped me become far more productive in my life and I’ve been able, under medical supervision, which to me is key, to reduce some of my other medications for sleep, anxiety and nausea. I still manage to trigger the vertigo and it is also weather induced at times, but I can manage it a lot better now. I still have days when I’m mostly unable to function but they are less with the treatment.
Jessie: You have a new release, Stranger Than Fiction, and the upcoming Credit Worthy! Congrats! Exciting stuff! Can you tell us a little about Stranger and how you came up with the idea?
Jeanine: Thanks! I’m really proud of STF because it was my first foray into one of my favorite genres to read. I have to give credit to Shawn Blackhawk for getting this going though. We met at one of the GCLS Con’s in Orlando and we were both with L-Book publishing at the time.
We started talking about ideas with shifters and other paranormal things and eventually, struck up a friendship and partnership. We’re slowly working on a series together but in the meantime, that world called to me. Shawn was fine with me running with the character I came up with for our project and using her and opening that part of the world up. Kiersten Mueller is that character and while she plays a vital role in my “Fiction” series, a good portion of her life will play out with the books Shawn and I are working on. I went with a brand new character and decided to explore social issues through a different lens.
Tori Monroe is an artist and writer who comes from this huge backstory but she isn’t even aware of it. I’m using this series to not only explore her story but also open up and expand the world that I built with Shawn. Shawn’s portion is more military as that’s her character’s POV. I’m exploring the social and medical avenues.
This world truly stirs my imagination and writing it is rarely difficult until I hit a point of science or culture that I need to research further. Then, I research and I have my wife, Heather help with that so I can limit screen time on my computer.
Jessie: Credit Worth, due out in June, is a financial love story, yes? Tell us the impetus for this and what inspired you to write it!
Jeanine: Financial love story with some intrigue in it. The first bit was actually culled from a flight I took on my way to Provincetown one year for Women’s Week. I was inspired by the pilot and I took notes and used them.
The intrigue part, believe it or not, you sort of had a hand in that one. You didn’t know it but when we were hanging out after the Portland Con, I loved listening to how your mind works with regard to writing your own work. I’ve so enjoyed your Shay series that while I didn’t want to go that far into the mystery genre I decided to bring some of the intrigue into a romance. Part of my goal was simply to keep the reader guessing about some things but let them find other bits in the story. My beta readers and publisher loved it and it will be released in June. I just finished the proofs on it in fact.
Jessie: I certainly did NOT know that! Very cool! May 16th is creeping up on us fast! Why is that a Very Important Date for you?
Jeanine: While May the 4th be with you is awesome, the 16th is the day my wonderful and gorgeous wife married me. We were married in our former church, Unitarian Universalists of Delaware County, in Media, PA. It was honestly the best wedding I’ve ever been to and we had a blast planning it. This year, we have extra cause to celebrate as the next day is my long-awaited hearing with Social Security on the determination that my brain injury is actually real and limits my job holding capabilities. Most employers don’t look for staff who randomly call out or vomit at work. For some reason, it isn’t a work trait that is looked for by most companies. Thankfully, Heather is awesome and has been a true friend and loving wife during the stress of waiting.
Jessie: I’ll bet that will be a huge load off! Fingers crossed it all goes well! Getting back to that wedding thing…your wedding was Dr. Who themed, right? Who’s the Who fan and what’s the attraction?
Jeanine: Totally Doctor Who. That show was one of the early things she and I talked about and found common ground in. Of course, I’m convinced that Dr. Ten, David Tennent, is the best doctor. Heather thinks it’s Dr. Eleven, Matt Smith. We’ll duke it out. As to the wedding planning, it started small. We loved some rings on Etsy that had the Doctor’s language of Galifrean on them. They are the right blue color and say: “I will love you through space and time.” Inside I had the wedding date inscribed in the British style of day, month, year. I wanted to wear a suit with suspenders and a bow tie like Matt Smith, and high-tops like David Tennent. I found the shoes with swirling TARDIS’s all over them, and a woman who made my bow tie and pocket square in TARDIS blue. She even painted the small phone boxes on both. Then I found a large TARDIS cut-out online and thought it would be so cool to have people take pictures with it. I already had a sonic screwdriver but I thought the cupcake towers would look cooler if they were protected. Heather forbid the creepy weeping angels but I did have Daleks surrounding the cupcake towers to protect from early snatch attempts. Heather finally conceded the whole thing would be Dr. Who themed, and bought a dress and shoes inspired by River Song, the Doctor’s wife. We arranged a few more things like lights shaped like the TARDIS, some other things, and one of my favorite bits was having everyone read quotes from the show to get us to kiss instead of tapping glasses. I now have a killer tattoo of the TARDIS on my right arm to commemorate that day.
Jessie: Wow! One of these days I might have to check out Dr. Who. In the meantime, I’m hungry. You are a foodie. You love to cook. How did that happen? I’m still trying not to burn water!
Jeanine: It’s a myth. You can’t burn water, only the pot that used to contain it before it boiled away, silly girl. As to cooking, it’s a family thing. My grandmother loved to cook great meals for her family. It could be pancakes for breakfast, or a huge holiday meal. Whatever she made she did it with intuition, skill, and lots of love. My mother, for all of her health problems, also loved to cook. She got me exploring lots of food cultures outside of my grandmother’s strictly kosher kitchen.
I view cooking as both a creative outlet and an act of showing my love for my family and friends. As a result, some of that makes its way into my books. I’ve got to admit, I’m a huge fan of various cooking shows. I go on binges of watching all of one show and then move to another. I’ve also been loving the fresh and local ingredients in Oregon. Just recently I set up a tomato and herb garden. I did it all with waist-high in containers and I’ll probably add to it. Heather loves tomatoes and anything you can make with them.
Jessie: Speaking of food, have you found a favorite restaurant in Portland?
Jeanine: Nope. I’ve found a bunch of favorites! First advice, ignore VooDoo donuts! Long lines, and while they have an okay donut, most of them are overly sweet for my taste. I know this because our first full day here we checked it out. I had ignored the VooDoo draw during the Con but when we moved, we were without pots, pans or other things for ten days. I figured donuts for breakfast would be awesome. We overdosed.
There’s a great family-run place, Nicholas, in Gresham and in Portland. Wonderful, fresh Mediterranean food. I’m a gyro and falafel junkie and they are the best! Pizza is tough, lots of different styles out here, but I was spoiled with New Haven and New York pizza. I think Wall Street Pizza is one of the best we’ve had out here, but just across from the stadium where the Portland Thorns play (women’s soccer) is Hotlips Pizza—the closest to NY style I’ve found. Pie—you go to Shari’s. No if, ands, or buts. We also have a great Thai place, the Thai Bistro, in downtown Gresham that’s off the charts. We eat there sometimes before we go to game night at a local shop. We always have leftovers to go home with too.
Jessie: Yeah. Hungry. But don’t mind me. Any last words?
Jeanine: We who are about to garden, salute you! Oh, and thank you so much for having me and asking such awesome questions. Mr. Bones sends his love as well.
Jessie: My pleasure Jeanine! Right back at you!
Born in Connecticut, Jeanine Hoffman has spent most of her adult life living in Pennsylvania. She’s worked in several fields including Emergency Medical Services, food service, hospitalities, banking and finance, and writing. She is re-releasing Strength in Numbers as well as Lights & Sirens through Regal Crest prior to releasing her third novel, Backswing. Look for improved editing, some new bits, and new cover art with the re-releases. Backswing is actually a look back at Riley’s life before she met Jay in SiN.
Jeanine and her wife moved (along with their cat and dog) to Oregon during the fall of 2015. In addition to adoring the culture and beauty of the area, she has found the mountains to be inspiring in her work. Jeanine can be contacted through her website at http://www.jeanine.hoffman.com