Interview by: Fatimah H. & Rebecca C.

In case you missed it, the 12th annual Texas Teen Book Festival took over the virtual world Halloween weekend! One of the amazing authors in this year’s lineup was Jenna Evans Welch! She talked to Teen Press Corps members Fatimah and Rebecca about her new book, Love & Olives. Check out the interview below!

Psst– don’t forget to buy your copy of Love & Olives here!

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TPC: Do you hide any secrets/easter eggs in your books for readers to find?

JW: I do have several details in Love & Olives that are meant for particular people in my life, sort of an inside joke that they’ll recognize is for them when they read it. I love the idea of planting an Easter egg in the future!

TPC: What does your research process look like for you before you write a book?

JW: It usually looks like a maxed-out library card (ha!). When I’m just starting out I tend to do very broad research and like to skim information in books or on websites to see what catches my interest the most. Right now I have 76 books out from the library on the topic I’m currently writing about and the more I read the easier it is for me to see which aspects of this topic intrigue me most! My research for Love & Olives was different than previous research because I watched a lot of documentaries—I included the ones that impacted me most in the Author’s Note at the end of the book, I highly recommend them!

TPC: What was your hardest scene to write?

JW: The intro! Figuring out where to start a book is always very tricky for me, because not only am I trying to capture your attention, I am also trying to figure out character and tone. I probably wrote six potential openers to Love & Olives before finding the right one.

TPC: What character did you enjoy writing the most?

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JW: This one is difficult for me to answer because I truly loved most of the characters in Love & Olives. Liv’s father Nico is very special to me, and Theo was a lot of fun, I also loved Bapou and Geoffrey The Canadian. (Oops. I think I just named every character in the book.)

TPC: What comes first for you: the plot or the characters?

JW: Setting! I haven’t ever heard another writer say this, but setting is typically the thing that inspires the story that then inspires a character for me. I am very inspired by visual images.

TPC: What’s your inspiration for writing books from different places around the globe?

JW: My experiences as a teenager. I spent my sophomore and junior years of high school in Florence, Italy and those years opened my world and mind exponentially. It was so exciting to realize how big the world was and how much I didn’t know yet. That feeling of excitement and adventure is something I am passionate about bringing into my work.

TPC: Do you or does someone you know have an affiliation with art? Or do you have a special place in your heart for art? 

JW: I LOVE ART. All of it. And I’m extremely interested in the way people incorporate art into their lives. I often say (sometimes jokingly, sometimes not) that I wish I had been born a painter rather than a writer, because it has always felt so calming to me to sit with a sheet of paper and a paintbrush. I love Instagram, and half the time I spend on there is me watching different types of artists make their art (dancers, ceramicists, muralists, calligraphers…) I love it all!

TPC: What character do you relate with most and why? Is that one your favorite? 

JW: In Love & Olives I relate the most with Liv. There have been many times in my life when I’ve tried to be someone I wasn’t in an attempt to fit in or protect myself, and giving Liv what she needed to transform was very satisfying.

TPC: What is your favorite type of olive? 

JW: The truth is, olives and I have a tough history. In college I worked at an Italian deli and one day I tried all twenty-four of the varieties we carried and couldn’t taste anything for three days (shudder).

TPC: What is your favorite work of Plato?

JW: After writing Love & Olives, Plato’s Timaeus and Critias will now always have a special place in my heart ☺.

Buy your copy of Love & Olives here!

Catch the replay of Jenna’s panel, along with authors Liara Tamani and Alice Oseman, here: