It’s New Years Eve, a time to reflect on all the great things that happened in 2013 – and time for an interview with one of the most exciting new authors to debut in 2013. Her YA contemporary THE ART OF FALLING only just came out from Bloomsbury Spark! You know you want it.
For seventeen-year-old Bria Hale, image is everything. She’s a militant vegan with purple hair, Doc Martens and a permanent scowl. Kissing captain of the football team Ben Harris? Definitely not part of that image.
Now with each secret kiss, she’s falling deeper for the boy every girl at Oceanside High is crushing on. Throw in a few forbidden bacon cheeseburgers and she’s facing one major identity crisis.
Ignoring Ben should be easy, but when a flashy display of artistic spirit lands her in close quarters after hours with the boy she’s too cool to like, she can’t keep pretending those kisses meant nothing. With her reputation and her heart on a collision course, Bria must either be true to herself or to the persona she’s spent all of high school creating.
Jenny writes almost possible impossible things, at least when she’s not wrangling her two wild children or working as a grant writer. She’s also an avid photographer, loves music despite no discernible musical talent and reads the dictionary for fun. She lives with her husband and kiddos near Los Angeles.
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?
THE ART OF FALLING started as a subplot for a fantasy manuscript. After about two scenes, I realized the characters of Ben and Bria and their relationship were too strong to be a subplot. I knew their story needed to be a contemporary romance, but I’d never written contemp so I stashed their scenes on my hard drive and kept writing. One night, I started talking about kissing scenes with two of my fellow YA Mistfit bloggers and share the scenes I’d written about Ben and Bria. After that, I couldn’t let them go. I left my laptop at home while I visited family for the holidays and, of course, that’s when inspiration struck. I wanted to write a story about a girl who risked her reputation as a cool, counter-culture artist because she falls for a jock (who happens to be her best friend’s brother). I know a lot of stories girls changing for a boy, but it’s usually because she’s a nerd and he can make her cool or he’s a rebel/bad boy of some sort. I wanted a heroine who is popular in her own little circle of friends. Someone who isn’t reaching or hoping to break into the popular crowd. Bria is confident in who she is and I love that about her.
How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?
THE ART OF FALLING is my original working title. This story takes place in the fall and my main character is an artist so I wanted to play with those words. I queried it as THE EXTRAORDINARY ART OF FALLING but my publisher preferred the simplicity of the first title.
What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?
I’m very new to contemp. I mostly read speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc) and always thought that was what I wanted to write. When this story struck me, I knew I’d really need to dig in to characterization and emotion for conflict instead of just throwing a supernatural baddy at them. I wrote this story very fast (about a month) and that helped me keep the adrenaline going and bring out the drama. I also took a crash-course in other contemp romance. It’s so important to be well-read in your genre and I’ve had some serious catching up to do!
Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone – music, for example?
I love listening to music for inspiration! I have a massive playlist for FALLING (you can see select tracks here). I usually do actual writing while my kids are napping, so I have to run silent, but I listen to my playlists before to pump myself up. Really, I can write anywhere. About 1/3 of this story I wrote on my phone using Evernote. With little kids, ideal writing time just doesn’t happen!
What is it about young adult fiction that draws you in as a writer?
The drama! I love how even small things take on so much importance. I love how raw and fresh everything is. I love experiencing that excitement and terror again. YA for me is so much about identity and yearning and the push-pull of wanting and hating responsibility. It’s such a pivotal time when friendships mean everything and heartbreak is earth-shattering.
Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?
Right before I wrote FALLING. I shelved my first serious manuscript in Fall 2012. It’s a sweet, slow paranormal that just couldn’t breakthrough a crowded market. Giving it up devastated me, but after two years of querying, I knew it was time. At the same time, my WiP wasn’t working at all. I had an ugly rough draft and those cut scenes. I left my laptop last December because I needed to be done. Less than a year later, my book will be published. It’s amazing how many writers have experienced the same thing. Sometimes I think you have to give up on publishing and just write to write before the magic can happen.
Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?
Keep writing and write from your heart. We all have stories inside. Don’t be afraid to tell them. Not all of them will sell. But all of them will make you a better writer. Don’t give up when it gets too hard, but know how to rest with purpose too. Every single writer was once unpublished. It takes conviction, dedication and a touch of luck to breakthrough.
Can you say anything about your next project/s?
I’m working on another contemp set in the same high school at FALLING that’s about a skater girl hoping to escape her past and a boy with hemophilia hoping he has a future. I’m about 3/5 through and the chemistry between these two is just so strong! After that, I’d like to go back to spec fic again! I need a little weird in my life. I have a supernatural murder mystery I’d like to play with or maybe I’ll finish that fantasy I cut Ben and Bria from.
Thank you so much, Jenny!