Meet Jenn Bouchard and get her debut novel FIRST COURSE to be released on 6/21/21!
FIRST COURSE is set in coastal Maine, making it an ideal book to kick off summer. There is food… lots of food. The main character Janie is an incredible cook, and her delicious creations serve as a connection for the Whitman family as they deal with a tragic accident, infidelity, and a host of other issues. Reminiscent of Nora Ephron’s classic HEARTBURN, FIRST COURSE is about family dynamics, life’s second acts, and savoring a delicious antipasto, with plenty of humor and love.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your published book (s).
I live in the Boston suburbs with my husband; we met when we were undergraduate students at Bates College in Maine. We have a 14-year-old and a 10-year-old. Both kids play competitive sports, so we are on the run most of the time. I am an avid cook and enthusiastic Red Sox fan. I started contemplating writing a novel about 7 years ago, when I had just finished a major volunteer role; I had been the president of the Bates College Alumni Association. I was inching closer to 40 and needed something to fill that gap. I always say that FIRST COURSE was the answer to a midlife crisis for me. Now at 44, it’s about to be published.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer?
Yes! I have been teaching high school social studies for the past twenty-one years. I went right from undergrad to graduate school, completing a Masters program at Tufts University. I teach U.S. History and AP Government to juniors and seniors. Now that my own kids are approaching high school age, it’s nice to be able to understand things from their perspective a bit better than I might be able to do if I didn’t spend so much time with adolescents.
What is your typical writing routine like?
As a teacher, I do much of my long stretches of writing in the summer when the kids are at day camp. I usually drop them off, get some exercise, and then try to get a few hours of work in before I pick them up. During the school year, I have to be more creative with finding time; I need to schedule it just like an appointment. This past year has been much tougher, but I did manage to write two short stories, one of which will be published this summer. It’s called “Tape on the Floor,” and it will appear in this summer’s edition of the Little Patuxent Review. It’s a story about the very early days of the pandemic, when no one knew how to act or what to do, and many young adults ended up moving back in with their parents. I’m excited to share it.
What kind of message do your book (s) convey to readers?
It’s OK to change course; life doesn’t always follow the path we envision. Second acts can be delicious. You’re stronger than you realize, and above all, know your worth.
Does your book (s) incorporate certain aspects of your own life (and / or that of others)?
I love to cook, and I started cooking more seriously in my mid-twenties, which is the age of my main character in FIRST COURSE. I thought quite a bit about what kinds of things I liked to create at that age, especially when I was entertaining friends and family. I also incorporated many of my favorites places in the book, such as several locations on the Maine coast.
Additionally, all of my work as a college advancement volunteer helped me to frame the storyline that involved memorializing Janie and Alyssa’s parents.
Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
Where do I even begin? In writing FIRST COURSE, I was inspired by Nora Ephron’s classic HEARTBURN. She skillfully integrated elements of cooking and enjoying food with a story about love and loss, and she was just so funny. I have been reading Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin, and Elin Hilderbrand for years. 28 SUMMERS was one of my favorite books of 2020; I’ve always loved the movie “Same Time Next Year,” which it is based on. I am also a big fan of Louise Miller, who wrote THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING and THE LATE BLOOMERS’ CLUB, and Emily Belden, who wrote HOT MESS and HUSBAND MATERIAL. I can’t wait to see what both of them write next. I am in the middle of reading about five books right now, which seems to be a common theme among my writer friends.
Any advice you’d like to give for aspiring writers over 40?