On April 5, Jenna Cossey came to the Manchester Arts Center for a Q&A and book signing, promoting her new book, Dunnigan.
Cossey is a school teacher and has a love for the profession. She reflects some of this love of teaching in her book. “I am a school teacher by day, and I always think ‘What am I going to do when I go home from here?’ I have a lot of hobbies,” Cossey stated.
The author stated that she had always enjoyed writing, even when she was a child. She wrote pieces the likes of short stories, poems and songs. “I would say what possessed me to jump into a whole novel is a few people in my life. One of my family members, my cousin June and I, went to Nashville for a book release, and when you hear authors talk about their craft and you enjoy creativity, it sort of inspires you to be creative.”
Cossey then decided that she wanted to write a book one day, and her cousin asked, “Why don’t you?” Cossey said that the statement flipped a switch for her and she decided to tackle writing her biggest project yet. “I have that event to credit to going down that path, and I appreciate June for it.”
Cossey touched on the fact that her book is told from multiple points of view. She decided to write the story in such a fashion due to the multiple angles we face every day in life. “I think what you’ll find is that every person in the story comes from a different place in life,” said Cossey, being careful to not spoil anything about the novel.
Cossey attributes the setting of the story to her love for the 1920’s and through familial research, discovered that some of her family was from Alabama. With the imagined city of Dunnigan, Cossey took the two elements and thus the setting was born.
“My hope when you read the story is that some of these characters are relatable to you, and that they stick with you,” mentioned the author, while talking about the relationship between her characters and her real life influences.
“I had to learn a lot. I started this process and just had to figure it out. When you get to the point of just getting it on the page, there is so much you have to refine.” Cossey stated that she had no creative writing background so the composing of a novel proved to be a challenge for her. Cossey stated that the first quarter of the book was the hardest, but as she placed things on the page it became easier. “Once you learn the characters you’re writing, you just look through a ‘window’ and think ‘”Well what are they doing today,” and then it’s just easier.”
The author went on to talk about how it’s important to take constructive criticisms and you can’t let it hurt your feelings. Through the stages of refining, according to Cossey, it dwindles down and becomes much easier to draft the further you get along in the process.
It took Cossey roughly three years to finish writing Dunnigan. Through the journey of writing the story, and taking into account what the story is about, Cossey hopes that the readers of her story will learn to be more empathetic and learn to appreciate the simple moments in life. “I hope the story brings the reader to a moment when things were slower, sweeter and simpler. I just want the story to remind people that there was a slower moment. We don’t have to be robbed of that. It’s an active choice to slow your life down. I hope people read and think about how things were a lot simpler and strive to have that again. Empathy… I hope it shows people that. But I hope it reminds people to slow down.”