Indie Support Sunday: Jen Trinh
I honestly don’t know when I discovered Jen Trinh and her books, but I can tell you that my life is better with her stories (and herself) in it. Jen’s stories are funny and sexy all at once, and she puts Asian Americans in the forefront of all the stories she tells. And beyond that, Jen is such a funny person outside of being a great human. Her sense of humour produces some really great reels and content on her Instagram feed and her constant support of fellow Asian American creatives is incredible.
Her debut series—Burlfriends—follows a group of friends who are also climbers. The stories are fresh and captivating, featuring really interesting characters and plots that blew me away. Her debut featured a character named Anna in the lead and I was so nervous about reading a romance with a character sharing my name, but I must admit that Anna in Crushing on You is a good person to look upto. (ICYMI, the audiobook is now available!)
Currently working on a new novel, Jen and her partner go on food adventures, lots of climbing and they’re both so cute together in her stories and on her feed. Jen is truly one of the most incredible people I’ve met through this community and I am so honoured to have her part of this series.
Jen’s Burlfriends series is complete and available everywhere you get books!
What inspired you to write—was it another author or books you read as you grew up?
I've always loved books. I used to consume books like they were Flaming Hot Cheetos! But it wasn't until after years of navigating academia and tech that I realized that books are my passion (duh!), and that it was possible, through indie publishing, to write and publish a book on my own terms. Since then, other indie authors have inspired me to keep going! It's such a vibrant, supportive community.
Why did you choose romance as the genre to write in?
Romance brings people so much joy! At a time when I wasn't feeling the happiest, writing a romance novel was the most fun that I'd had in years. These days, I think we could all use a little more joy in our lives. And romance novels, like all books, have the power to broaden perspectives, both for the author and the reader. It's lovely to see and celebrate so many different journeys of love among so many different kinds of characters.
Why did you choose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?
Speed and control. I wanted to hit a personal milestone (publish before I turned 30), which required me to move quickly, and traditional publishing tends to move at a much slower pace. I didn't want to spend time navigating the query process, wait a year or two for my book to be published, only to have no/little say about my book covers. I have no idea what they would've looked like, but I love the ones I have, thanks to my talented husband.
I don't think one or the other (indie or trad publishing) is better, though—it's just whatever works best for the author! Many authors do both.
What’s the best and worst part about being an indie author?
Best part: the community. It's a warm, heady feeling when readers reach out and tell you how much your book meant to them. Worst: holding myself accountable for all of the work that needs to get done. Sometimes, it's overwhelming. I'm grateful to my readers and author friends who give me advice and encouragement exactly when I need it.
Do you write full time or is this something you do on the side? And would you want to write full time?
I currently write full time, but I may switch to writing part time. San Francisco is an expensive city!
Other than writing, what is something you enjoy and are really good at?
Hand jobs. JUST KIDDING. I'm moderately good at many things, but nothing stands out as a particular talent. I do enjoy rock climbing, though!
If not romance/subgenres of romance, what genre would you like to write in?
Fantasy. Literature is where I first fell in love with books, but fantasy is my ultimate love. When I'm not working on my contemporary romance WIP, I'm working on world-building for my first fantasy novel.
What are your top 5 tips or pieces of advice for aspiring authors?
Raise the stakes. Do you ever feel like your writing is boring? It might be because the stakes aren't high enough. What do your characters want, why do they want/need it, what stands in their way, and what are they willing to do to get it? Make it clear so that readers can feel a character's desperation, their depths of sadness, lust, frustration, etc.
Write what you love. If you enjoy writing or reading your own work, chances are that other people will, too. Your passion will come through on the page!
Find author friends. Writing can be a lonely profession, especially if you're an indie author, so it's important to find people with whom you can compare notes and trade WIPs. Don't be shy—authors are a friendly bunch, and if you message them or interact with them on social media, chances are they'll be willing to chat with you or repost your stuff.
Read read read. If you find yourself in a writing slump, pick up a book and get inspired. Whenever I read a great book, it makes me want to write better, too. It also helps to read craft books, which will give you concrete ideas for how to improve your writing.
Don't stop. Authors are just writers who kept going.
Can you briefly tell me about the books you've published so far?
My first three books are part of a contemporary romance series called the Burlfriends, which is a word that I made up and that no one understands (good marketing decision, right?). It's meant to be a play on the words "burly" and "girlfriends," as in a group of strong women who climb hard together. The series follows six people who are tied together through their friendships and their love of rock climbing. It's a pot of steamy, angsty stew with a side of fried silly. If you find it hard to be an adult/Millennial and you like puns and explicit sex scenes, these books are for you.
Of your books, who is your favourite character?
Tom Ong from Take Me. He's not conventionally hot, and he's got this awkward, deadpan sense of humor that weirds people out at first. But as you get to know him, you realize how fun he is...especially in bed. As a weird, awkward person myself, I related to him a lot, and it was super satisfying to give him an HEA.
When you write these stories, what are you hoping your readers will feel?
Everything: heartbreak, joy, lust, annoyance, thoughtfulness. I want readers to finish my books and feel completely wrung.
What is a story/stories that you really want to tell?
I want to write stories about Asian Americans falling in love, ideally pairings that we haven't seen much of before in print—billionaire lesbians or hardware store owners or landscape architects with Thai, Hmong, Chinese, etc. backgrounds. I want to normalize the idea that Asian Americans come in all (literal and figurative) shapes and sizes, and we aren't a monolith. There aren't a ton of romances with Asian American characters, so the field is wide open!
What’s next on the bookshelf for you? Anything you can tell us about a future project?
I'm currently working on a standalone contemporary romance about a famous rom-com actor and a goth fashion designer, both of whom are Asian American. It takes place in Los Angeles. It's so fun and I've loved writing it! But also, I'm deep in editing mode, so I'm kind of sick of looking at it haha. Can't wait for it to be done!
THIS OR THAT
Ebooks and audiobooks (Ebooks for fiction, audiobooks for non-fiction)
Historical romance or romantic suspense
Single or Dual POV
Standalones or series
Music and silence while writing
Plotter, pantser or plantser
Tea and coffee
Cold or warm weather
Morning person or night owl
Illustrated cover or photo cover
To stay updated on everything Jen Trinh, follow her on Instagram and TikTok. You can buy signed copies of her paperback from Etsy and sign up for newsletter, if you want to get regular updates about upcoming books!