About eighteen months ago, Cynthia Liu had an auction and I bid on a five-page critique from author Jennifer Brown. Her first book, The Hate List, was just about to be published and she took time to not only read the first five pages of Bix, but to request whatever I had because she enjoyed it so much. It was her encouragement and excitement over my idea that made me abandon my dystopian and focus on Bix. And once I read The Hate List, her words meant so much more, because it’s such a phenomenally powerful read—and that is not an overstatement.
Now, Jen’s second book, Bitter End, will be released on May 10th. Here’s the Amazon blurb for it:
When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole -- a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her -- she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate . . . someone who truly loves and understands her.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her close friend Zack, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all her time with another boy? As the months pass, though, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats.
As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose -- between her "true love" and herself.
It my pleasure to introduce all of our readers to Jen and welcome her to Word Wranglers.
1) Your second book is about to come out, what has been the biggest surprise you've encountered since you became published?
I'm still always surprised when I get an email from a stranger saying they've read my book and enjoyed it. For so many years, my family were the only ones doing the reading. It kind of blows my mind to think of someone I don't even know picking up my book and reading it. And liking it!
I have also been really surprised by how much I didn't, and still don't, know about writing, and especially about the publishing business. It's been a huge learning curve!
2) How would you describe your books? Just for the record, I always tell people that you’re like Jodi Picoult in that you tackle social issues and how they affect your teen characters.
I would describe them as character-driven books focusing on tough teen issues. (And I love Jodi Picoult! What a compliment!!!)
3) Pick a side. Pantser or plotter? And why it works for you?
Pantser, definitely. I am kind of superstitious, and I believe that talking about a project while I'm working on it will ruin the story for me. I'm afraid I'll feel like I've already told it and will not want to finish the writing part. Plotting certainly falls under the "talking about it" umbrella for me. I will write character descriptions before I begin writing, just so I feel like I know these people I'm about to spend months with, but that's about it.
My characters really come alive for me while I'm writing, and I like to give them the chance to shape the story themselves. If I had it all plotted down tight, there'd be no room for that.
4) What is the hardest part of your writing process? The easiest?
The hardest part for me is always "the middle." I always begin the story with an idea of where it starts and where it ends, but not much of what it does in the middle (see plotter or pantser question above), and sometimes the middle just gets boring to me while I wait for the characters to start doing something interesting. The easiest part of writing, for me, is getting ideas. I always have far more ideas than time to write them all down.
5) How many hours do you get to write in a week? Do you set and maintain goals? (And if so, how? I'd love to know)
Depends on the week. I spend a lot of time Skyping with classrooms and visiting schools and so forth, so some weeks I have precious little writing time, while some weeks I can write for full days, all week long, while the kids are at school. I'd say I get a consistent 7-10 writing hours per week. I'm also a stay-at-home mom, so during school breaks (and those infernal snow days, which seemed to never end this year), I get very little done.
I am a very goal-oriented person, but I don't always give myself word count goals. Sometimes, instead, I'll set myself "What I Want to Accomplish This Year" goals. For example, I wanted to finish two manuscripts this school year, and my one New Year's Resolution this year was to write one short story per month. So far I'm doing all right with those goals.
6) How do you know when you have the idea that will keep you company for the months to come?
The characters start talking to me and I start really listening. Also I start to think about the story when I should be doing other things.
7) Who are your favorite authors to read?
Too many to list! I do love John Green, but I'll read just about anything by any author. Some of my favorite books are Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick, and Crash Into Me by Albert Borris.
8) Your favorite writing quote or advice.
I once heard at a writer's conference the advice to "Begin your story on the day that is different." I have always loved that advice, and I do think about it every time I start a story -- "Is this the day that everything changes for my character?" If not, I find a different place to begin.
9) And finally, desert island time: Who's with you? What do you have to eat and what board game are you playing?
I'm with my husband and kids. We eat ice cream for every meal. And we're playing Ticket to Ride, because I cannot be beaten at that game! If I'm going to be playing the same game over and over again, I might as well bring one I can win. :::grin:::