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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Jen Braaksma talks about her writing career and the creative writing that went into her new book, Evangeline’s Heaven.

JJ Barnes editor of The Table Read online creativity, arts and entertainment magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed author Jen Braaksma about her life and career, what inspired her to write her new book, Evangeline’s Heaven, and her creative writing process.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I’m an author, book coach and teacher in Ottawa, Canada where I live with my husband (soulmates do exist) and two teen daughters (Best. Kids. Ever.) I have the word “passion” tattooed on my wrist—literally! It’s my philosophy to live my passion. No surprise then, that my passion is reading and writing.

Jen Braaksma on The Table Read
Jen Braaksma

I veered into journalism, then into the classroom as a high school English teacher for almost two decades. Along with my Bachelor’s degrees in journalism and education, and my Master’s degree in cultural studies, I also earned a Graduate Certificate from Humber School for Writers.

Now, as a certified book coach, I work one-on-one with writers to help them share their stories.

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When did you first WANT to write a book?

My literary career began at age 8 when I “published” my first story (my mom typed it up) and earned glowing reviews (from my family). It was even an award winner, which took home the Woody Woodpecker Award of Excellence (a sticker my dad put on the first page). J

When did you take a step to start writing?

I was a D.I.Y (do-it-yourself) writer for a long time, trying to figure out how to write on my own. I always wrote short stories in high school, then paused in university. When I dove back into it about two decades ago, I read all the how-to-write books I could get my hands on, took courses and workshops, and enrolled in writing programs.

I wrote my first novel, a YA murder-mystery, and landed an agent but it wasn’t picked up by a publisher, so I started over, wrote another book, but when it didn’t get any traction, I dug deeper for help. That’s when I learned there are such things as book coaches (who knew??), and the one-on-one support and feedback I got from my own book coach made all the difference.

the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

More than a decade! I had the idea for a long time, did a lot of research on angels and angel lore, came up with a bunch of different angles and characters, then put it all on pause while I wrote three other novels. Finally, I came back to this one. From when I really focused on this version of the story to when I had a polished draft was about 8 months.

What made you want to write Evangeline’s Heaven?

I always loved the idea of good vs evil in stories, and I thought who better to be the antagonist than the character we most often associate with evil? But Lucifer is a complex character, who had once been an angel in Heaven. There’s a lot more to him than straight up evil, which makes him a much more interesting bad guy. And is one person’s “bad guy” another person’s “good guy”? That’s how the concept of telling the story from his daughter’s point of view came about. How do we see our parents? How do they reflect on us? Can we be more than our family’s legacies? Should we be?

Evangeline's Heaven by Jen Braaksma on The Table Read
Evangeline’s Heaven

Evangeline is forced to consider these questions when she starts to learn about her beloved father’s true goals.

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What were your biggest challenges with writing Evangeline’s Heaven?

The plot! I love delving into characters’ heads, and I love coming up with world-building and mythology, but putting it all together in a sequence of events that not only makes sense but also holds the reader’s interest was most challenging.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

My teen students. I love learning about their lives, their passions, their interests and their frustrations, which can sometimes include their families. Sometimes their parents have different goals than they do and I see them struggle with family loyalty vs. their own desires. They love their families, but they also want their own lives. How to balance the two? I took the idea of these conflicts and expanded them into something bigger for Evangeline to deal with.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

The lore and mythology of Lucifer. He’s a fallen angel, cast out of Heaven after he defied God, when he would not bow before God’s new creation, humans. What would make an angel turn his back on God? How did he recruit so many others? And how, exactly, did he lose the battle?

What is the inciting incident in Evangeline’s Heaven?

The war in the Seven Heavens is not going well for Lucifer and his Commoner supporters, and his daughter Evangeline is losing hope. But Lucifer tells her he’s discovered how to find the Key, an old relic that will allow them to reclaim their place in the Heavens and end the war. They’re attacked by the enemy archangels, but Lucifer escapes. When Evangeline overhears how they plan to destroy Lucifer, she must race through the Heavens to find him first.

What is the main conflict of Evangeline’s Heaven?

The obvious conflict is Evangeline, Lucifer and the Commoner angels fighting the archangels, but ultimately, it’s a story about Evangeline’s inner conflict as she comes to learn about the brutality of her father and she must determine who she’s going to be: her father’s daughter or her own person.

Did you plot Evangeline’s Heaven in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I tried the “pantser” approach with my earlier novels, to varying degrees of success—and failure. (A whole 300 pages of a novel written, only to get to the end and realize the inciting incident was totally unbelievable! The whole quest of my protagonist would never have happened! I chucked the whole thing. I cried.) But I also hate outlining, so my book coach introduced me to a hybrid method of a shorter outline that let me see the skeleton of my story while still allowing for lots of creativity as I wrote the scenes.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Evangeline’s Heaven need?

I worked with a book coach, which made all the difference. My coach not only helped me brainstorm, edits and offer feedback on my story as I wrote it, she was also an amazing emotional support, and she kept me on track with deadlines.

Jen Braaksma on The Table Read
Jen Braaksma

I needed that perfect combination of editorial expertise, cheerleader and accountability. It was such a positive experience that I dove into my own book coach training and now work full time as a book coach and author.

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What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Writing is hard! So it’s okay if it doesn’t come easy right away, or if you’re struggling or feel frustrated. Because we use stories in our everyday lives (think: “how was your weekend?”), we think it should be easy to pound out a good story. But like any skill, it takes knowledge and practice. And nobody gets their story perfect on the first draft anyway, so be kind and patient with yourself.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I’m finishing up an adult literary novel, The Fairy Tale Fringe Festival about the Greek goddess Muse Calliope, a human storyteller Fauna, a magic island and a different take on some well-known fairy tales.

I’m also diving into a sequel: Evangeline’s Hell, where she’ll have to travel to the UnderRealm on a high-stakes mission to save the Seven Heavens.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Yes! I love Evangeline and I love that I get to share her with the world. It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but absolutely it was worth writing every word.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

Twitter: @JenBraaksma

Instagram: @jenbraaksmabookcoach

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