Interview with author, Holly Jennings

Hey, yall!  Hope you all had a great weekend and are ready to kick off the week! I’ve been so busy with school and my new job that things here at wearewordnerds headquarters are starting to pile up! I wanted to make sure I got this up for you guys, especially since this author is an AWARD WINNER and this sequel is dropping! She is super busy, too, but she took a few minutes to answer a few questions for us! Exciting stuff!

On to the show! (I mean interview….)

Interview with author, Holly Jennings



What inspired you to write your first book & what was it? Tell us about it.

When I was fourteen, I wrote my first “book,” though I can’t remember the total word count so it may not have really been long enough to really be considered a novel. It was like X-Men meets the X-Files, except not nearly as cool as that sounds. Fourteen-year-old me was pretty proud of it, though.

What genre do you usually write? Do you ever see yourself writing other genres?

I typically write science fiction, and sometimes a little fantasy. I’m a big geek at heart and grew up watching Star Trek TNG, so I have a hard time picturing myself writing something that wouldn’t belong in the nerd section at the bookstore. I have done some freelance work for companies developing their website content and other written material, and it feels great to do something different with my words. So maybe one day I will write a book outside of science fiction, but not any time soon.



Tell us about ARENA and GAUNTLET. What are they about, where’d the idea for this series come from?

Arena and Gauntlet are about a futuristic VR gaming team. It was inspired combining the novel Neuromancer and a documentary about competitive gaming. Also, I’ve played one too many video games myself, so it was partly inspired by my own experiences.

Is there a message you hope your readers come away with after reading ARENA and GAUNTLET?

There are aspects to the books that are important to me, but I hope everyone walks away with their own message. I can say that friendship was a driving theme in these books, as I think it’s an important thing for people in their early twenties (same age as my characters). As you break out on your own, your friends sort of become your new family and support you through the rough patches as you learn to do this thing called adulting.

What was the hardest part of writing your books?

Ever since I started writing short stories, people assume that the main character is an author avatar for me. It doesn’t matter if that character is male or female, young or old, whatever. People assume it’s me living vicariously through that person – and it couldn’t be further from the truth. I do put a little of myself in the story, but the main characters are never my doppelgangers.

This made me hyperaware of my protagonists’ motivations and sometimes it’s hard to put the words on the page. I’m constantly questioning if the character’s actions are actually my own and how people are going to perceive that. I guess that’s a good thing, but it does get a little tiresome at times.

How did it feel, finding out you were a recipient of an Alex Award?

That’s a funny story. I was actually sick that morning and trying to rest, so I was mad at my phone for chiming nonstop. I turned it off and whipped it across the room without even looking at the screen. When I was finally feeling a bit better around lunchtime, I retrieved my phone and found out all the messages were people congratulating me about the award.

I was dumbfounded at first, convinced there had been some sort of mistake. Since then, I’ve gone through a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Even now, I’m still convinced there’s some sort of error, especially when I look at the other winners. It’s completely humbling to see my book listed alongside novels that deal with surviving cancer or the state of civil rights in the U.S.


It’s got to be exciting getting published! What was that journey like for you? Was there a lot of rejection, etc.?

I started out writing short stories before novels and there was a lot of rejection. I probably totaled over a hundred in my first few years. It was worth it. Writing short stories is how I developed my voice. Plus, when I got my first acceptance and worked with an actual editor, I knew creative writing was the right career for me.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Find some great critiquing partners, swap stories and listen to what they say. I’ve learned that the less defensive I am to criticism, the faster I improve as a writer.

What are you working on now / what’s next for you?

I’m currently working on something new, an environmental sci-fi book that reads like a cross between Gattaca and Fury Road. I’m also upping my social media and online presence, and will be re-launching my blog in a few weeks.


Who is your favorite author & what do you think draws you to their work?

To be honest, I don’t have a clear cut favorite author but I love the style of Damien Angelica Walters. Her words are so graceful and fluid, it’s like silk for my brain.

And because our readers would LOVE to know: What book are YOU reading right now?

Unfortunately, my pleasure reading has been limited lately, but I have been reading a lot of short stories. I love Daily Science Fiction. They release a new story every weekday and often feature a beautiful blend between stories that make me laugh and ones that make me cry. The really good ones make me do both.


Gauntlet (Arena) by Holly Jennings|

Gauntlet (Arena) by Holly Jennings

Release Date: 2017-04-04

Plug back into the dangerous world of virtual gaming, in the next thrilling novel from the author of Arena.

Kali Ling has faced down death hundreds of times for the entertainment of millions. She knows fear—and she knows what’s truly terrifying…

There’s a new game in town. A brutal, winner-takes-all, international video game tournament showcasing the world’s most elite players, promising fame, prestige, and unbelievable fortune. But there’s a catch. The game uses new VR pods guaranteed to push digital warriors to their physical and psychological brink—adapting every time a gamer makes a move.

As the first female captain and youngest team owner in VGL history, Kali is used to defying the odds. But as the all-star tournament heats up, her determination begins to waver and the pressures of media, sponsors, and the game itself begin to put cracks in her hard-set convictions—and strain on her relationship with the one person who matters most.

If Kali and her teammates are to survive, they’ll have to find a way to be stronger than ever before. But battling the system may prove too difficult for even the most hardened of fighters…






Holly Jennings is a lifelong gamer who has spent innumerable hours playing World of Warcraft and Call of Duty. She is the author of the Arena novels, including Gauntlet and Arena.

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