Q&A: Paul Jenkins

There are a lot of wonderful writers living in our state, some full-time, some part-time.  As the Director of the NH Center for the Book I get the opportunity to talk to many of them. This interview series of Q&As with New Hampshire authors here on Book Notes lets me share that experience a bit with my blog readers.   

If someone hasn't read your work yet, where should they start?
Probably best to start with my most recent book, Bluegrass Ambassadors: The McLain Family Band in Appalachia and the World.  The McLains’ story is fascinating and involved, even if readers are not bluegrass music fans.  

When did you first think of yourself as a writer? I first began to think of myself as a writer when a couple of short stories of mine were published in my college literary magazine.  When my first book was published in 2005, this credential made me feel comfortable calling myself an author.  

How did you end up living in NH?  My wife and I moved to New Hampshire from Cincinnati in 2016.  I’d lived in Cincinnati since 1988, but we decided to move to Goffstown in order to help care for my wife’s elderly parents.  Two of my books have been completed while living in the Granite State. 

Where do you like to write?  I do most of my writing in my office at home, but if time allows I sometimes work on current projects while at work.  My desk at home is populated by all manner of inspiring knickknacks, including 2.5” figures of Charles Dickens and one of his most famous creations, Mr. Pickwick.  

How important is place in your writing?  Since I write mainly non-fiction, the idea of place is relevant only to my material.  Exploring and understanding the region of Appalachia was central to my book on  the McLain Family Band, and Liverpool pervades everything I write about the Beatles.  

What do you do when you aren't writing?  I am the University Librarian at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire.  In my leisure hours I enjoy reading, playing tennis, hiking, playing and singing folk songs, and painting toy soldiers.  

What's the best piece of advice (writing or otherwise) you were ever given?  A few maxims spring to mind.  People are good at different things.  Play to your strengths.  Try hard and be kind.  Specific to writing, I think it is important to mainly stick to what you know, unless you are a truly inspired fiction writer.  

What books do you love and what about them speaks to you? I love Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Hardy. Among more contemporary writers, I think John Irving and Ian McEwan are very good.  I am drawn to books that portray suffering.  Sounds a bit bleak, I know, but who wants to read about people whose lives present no challenges?  

What are you working on now?  I’m going to try to write some short stories.  I’ve had one published already, but I am largely new to the genre.  I also want to try my hand at writing a children’s book.  My main field is music, though.  I’m working on writing pieces on John Prine and Al Stewart right now.  

What do you want to share that I neglected to ask about?  Reading has brought me great joy throughout my life.  As my father, an English professor, said: “reading is the only dependable pleasure.”  So as a writer I find great satisfaction in having produced four books that may have proved stimulating to interested readers.  My books about musicians are sort of like mixed tapes: I want to expose listeners to what I consider great music.  One of my books is about the Beatles.  Everyone knows about them, but two others feature musicians whose work would be new to most.  

Learn more about Paul's work at https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B0028OI8XC


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