Q: What’s your real name and who do you think you are using only your initials? You’re not J.K. Rowling, you know.
A: Well, duh! If I was J.K. Rowling I wouldn’t be living in Florida! I’d have some awesome chateau in England or something.
Q: You didn’t answer the question.
A: I didn’t? Are you sure? I’m quite positive I told you I wasn’t J.K. Rowling.
Q: That wasn’t my question. I asked why you use your initials.
A: Then what was all that hullaballoo about J.K. Rowling?
Q: Would you just answer the question?!
A: What question?
Q: What’s your real name and why do you only use your initials?
A: …that’s two questions.
A: Wow. I think someone needs a nap. Besides, that’s boring. No one wants to know that.
Q: Never mind…let’s move on. Writers say they talk to their characters. Do you?
Q: Really what?
A: That’s your question?
Q: Yes. Why?
A: It just seems like kind of a strange question.
A: Because I’m talking to you. That should be enough of an answer.
Q: I’m not a character in one of your books.
A: *Sips tea and smiles over rim of cup* Are you sure about that?
Q: Uh…you’re really weird.
A: Thank you.
Q: That wasn’t a compliment.
A: Sure it was.
Q: O-kay! Let’s try this one…and can I get a serious answer…?
A: You’re getting serious answers. You’re the one asking strange questions.
Q: *pushes chair back and stomps from room* *door slams*
A: *Looks around with wide eyes* What did I say?
Since it’s been sometime since the initial interview, Q has had some time to cool down and has decided to give J another chance. J has agreed to behave herself (for once) and will answer the following questions seriously (even though she wants every one to know that she still doesn’t understand why Q huffed off when she was answering his questions honestly and seriously.)
Q: Have you always been a writer?
J: Yes, in some form or fashion I’ve always been a writer. As most writers will tell you, it’s not usually something we just wake up wanting to do. It’s a life long adventure that gets in your blood and pokes at you until you do it. Eventually it becomes something you just can’t not do. It’s like breathing. Something you have to do.
In my case, I’m pretty sure it started when I realized I could get out of the trouble my imaginary friends always got me into by using that same imagination to tell my parents the “real” story. And then it just went on from there. I love making things up in my head.
Whenever I was bored, I would people watch and make up stories about them. The woman with the purple feathered hat wearing a coat in 100 deg weather? She wasn’t just some strange old lady, she was a spy from some far away place and those bananas she just picked up? They’re her communication device to her partner. It didn’t take me long before I started writing down the stories I saw in my head, which led to huge notebooks filled with characters and plot lines.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to write professionally?
J: In middle school when I was reading a book by Christopher Pike about a teenager who was a best-selling author. It struck some chord in me and even though it took years (and a visit from a dead uncle) for me to build up the courage to actually pursue publication, that was most definitely what started the dream.
Q: Why young adult?
J: I love the freshness of it. How teens see the world is so completely different than how any other age group sees it. They’re also probably the toughest group to write for. They’re open and more willing to suspend belief than adults, but they can sense an inauthentic voice a mile away. Teens are always experiencing new things and trying to figure out who they are. It’s a fun age, but also one that is probably the toughest we go through. So much is changing, and so fast and whether we want to admit it or not, we’re stuck in the middle of wanting to go back and be a little kid or facing the inevitable and growing up. And that’s exactly what I want to write about.
Q: What kind of reaction do you get from people when they learn what you write about?
J: I get a lot of smirks and blank stares. Mostly from people who think that YA literature isn’t “real” literature. Which is very frustrating, but doesn’t really bother me. I feel sorry for them, for not knowing how “real” YA is.
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
J: Almost anything is inspiration fodder for me. Movies, music, other books, even video games. If it’s happened, it’s probably going to spark an idea.
Q: Are your characters based on real people?
J: Yes…and no. I’m sure certain traits I’ve met leak into my writing, but every character comes directly from my imagination. There is not one person I can say that is a particular character.
Q: How many books did you write before you sold one?
J: Five. Three were from the first book I ever wrote and part of a series. They were all truly awful and will remain forever hidden on my hard drive. One was an adult contemporary romance that was fairly decent but still needs a good edit before it’s ready for the big time and I decided I didn’t really want to write that kind of story. And one was the story that got me my agent. I’m still hopeful that one will be published some day. The moral of the story? Never give up. Never surrender.
Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
J: A little of both, actually. I know the basic ending of my story and for the most part how they got there and where my story is going, but the characters tell me the in-between stuff. I never truly know the entire story until it’s written and revised about a 100 times.
Q: How long does it take you to write a first draft?
J: It took about 6 weeks from start to finish and included a 2 week stint of writer’s block. Although, I will say that 4-6 weeks is about average for me to write a first draft. However, it will take me at least 2 months to completely revise it to where I think it’s good enough for the eyes of my agent and editor.
Q: How long did it take you to find your agent?
J: From the time I seriously started writing to the offer was exactly 8 months. Seriously. Down to the DAY! It was kinda creepy. And exciting. But creepy. 🙂
Q: How long did it take for you to get an offer from an editor?
J: Almost two years and 6 finished manuscripts later. Incidentally, the book that sold was not the book that got me my agent.
Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?
J: Never give up. Keep writing. Read. Find other writers to critique your work. Read. Find readers to crit your book. Keep writing. Learn to take criticism. Read. DO YOUR RESEARCH when trying to find an agent/editor. Did I say keep writing and read? 🙂
Q: You said to find a crit partner…can I send you my story/query/synopsis/first born for your critique?
J: I do offer workshops and seminars and offer critiques as part of the curriculum, but other than those, no. I’m sorry. For several reasons. The biggest of which is I just don’t have time between my writing deadlines and those of my own crit partners and I can’t take on any new ones. Two: I don’t want to even think I may be influenced by your writing. Three: I already have a first born and do not wish to have anyone else’s.
Q: Enough about you already. Tell us about your book. Why an underwater city?
A: Why not? I love the ocean and I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live there. Besides, we already have a TON of surface stories. It was time to venture into new territory.
Q: Who published The Elysium Chronicles?
A: Tor Teen a division of Macmillan.
Q: When does it come out?
A: It debuted in Germany on August 20, 2012 and released November 13, 2012 in the US. REVELATIONS (Book 2) released November 2013, and the final installment, REBELLION will come out in 2016.
Q: Will there be more books?
J: Absolutely! I have plenty of books sitting in my head and on my hard drive waiting for readers.