by Sophie Schmidt
Author Jennifer E. Smith is not only an amazing writer, but she’s also super sweet! She’s written several books – The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight anyone? Her latest novel, Windfall, follows two teens who win the lottery and discover themselves in the process. We love her books so much we jumped at the chance to catch up with her and learn more.
Justine Magazine: What is a quirk about you that we can’t read about in your bio?
Jennifer E. Smith: I can juggle. I’m a firm believer that everyone should know a good trick, a good poem, and a good joke.
JM: Luck and chance are two major elements in all of your books. What compels you to write about them?
JES: I’ve always been obsessed with moments in time that act as hinges. Days where there is a really clear split of a before and after. Yesterday your life was one way and tomorrow it’s completely different. There’s something about that moment of great change that fascinated me, and of course, fate, chance, serendipity. I think every writer has certain things they like to revisit, and those are things I like to perennially am interested in.
JM: How did you come up with this particular story?
JES: Because I’m obsessed with those types of questions and themes, I’ve wanted to write about the lottery for a very long time. I don’t think that anything represents that quite so well in terms of a huge shift in your life. I had been wanting to write it, but couldn’t find a way into the story. I was standing in line at a bodega in New York behind this young guy who was buying this huge stack of lottery tickets, and all of the sudden I thought, There’s my book. I’m going to write about someone really young winning a huge amount of money before they’ve quite figured out who they are yet. I wanted to tell it from the point of view of the person who sets it all in motion.
JM: Do you relate to any of the characters?
JES: Yeah, I think I have to at some level relate to each of their characters because you have to find your way into their point of view. I definitely relate to Alice the most in this one. She was a really fun character to explore. Her passion for volunteering and giving back to the community are a message I really wanted to get across. They’re always important, but especially now with the world being what it is I think it’s even more important to put as much goodness out in the world as you can.
JM: I really enjoyed that Alice is more concerned with the aspect of giving back versus doing it for her college applications. It’s something that doesn’t come up often in YA lit. Speaking of college, these characters face a murky future throughout the story. Were you as unsure as they are when you were in their shoes or did you have more of a plan?
JES: Absolutely, and I didn’t have a 140 million dollar wrench thrown into my life. I’m still unsure. I think you’re always questioning – what’s next, am I in the right place, am I where I want to be — I could absolutely relate to that. I wasn’t grappling with this huge thing that happens. It seems like it’s good, and often it is, but also complicates things quite a bit.
JM: How was writing this one different than all your other books?
JES: I think in some ways it’s a similar kind of a book and readers of my other books will come to it and find the things they always gravitate towards. I think it’s a little bit deeper, a little bit bigger in scope, and in some ways it feels like slightly apart. That’s why I was excited about the new cover direction and it’s a one-word title. It feels like it’s of a piece with my other work but also maybe slightly different.
JM: What was your favorite scene to write?
JES: Probably some scenes toward the end which I don’t want to spoil!
Big thank you to Jen for taking the time to sit down with us! Make sure you check out Windfall if you haven’t already! The characters and hint of romance makes it the perfect summer beach read.