Jen agreed to let me
torture interview her. Here’s how it went down…
So let’s get this party started. What made you decide to enter Pitch Madness, and how did you feel during the contest?
The short answer is that I entered because I listened to my parents. The long answer is that one of my critique partners was entering and had suggested I do the same. I was hesitant because I’d done a different contest not long before and I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to do another one so soon, especially since there was some overlap between the agents involved in both. I called my parents who listened to me go back and forth before finally saying, “Do it! What do you have to lose?” So, I listened to them, and I’m so glad I did!
I was super nervous for the draft – I planted myself at my computer, got out a legal pad so I could keep track of the picks, and hit refresh like a madwoman. I was ecstatic when my entry was chosen! From then on, my nerves went away. I felt like I’d already won and I knew I’d be happy with whatever came next.
I’m so glad you entered! Which blog were you (though I already know) on and what was the title of your entry? How many requests did you get? Any other details you’d like to share?
I was on Brenda Drake’s blog (go #RedTeam) and I got 9 requests for my entry, THE FAN GENE. I was thrilled to have gotten such a strong response!
Carrie Howland had requested that I send the first five chapters to her assistant – the wonderful Taylor McCabe. I got an email from Taylor a week later asking for the full. About four days after that, I got another email from Taylor telling me how much she liked my manuscript and that she had sent it to Carrie. Five days after that, I got the world’s most lovely email from Carrie, offering representation.
Okay, this is my favorite part *sits at the edge of her seat*. Tell us about THE Call.
Since Carrie and I are both based in New York City, our version of THE CALL actually happened in person. We met at a coffee shop and talked for nearly two hours. I left that meeting buzzing (and I’d had decaf so I know it was the conversation). We truly clicked and I knew she really got what I was trying to do with my story. We spent that meeting getting to know each other and Carrie also gave me wonderful editorial notes.
Can you tell us a little about your book?
THE FAN GENE is a contemporary YA novel. Here’s the pitch that I used in the contest: What happens when a sixteen-year-old superfan and the eighteen-year-old actor she’s obsessed with meet in a New York City psychiatrist’s office? He’s a patient. She’s the afternoon receptionist. Her mother is the psychiatrist.
My team loved that premise so much we had to have it on the Red Team! How long had you been querying before you got your agent?
I was in a unique position because I’d had an agent before. But, when her focus shifted away from YA, we decided to part ways and I started querying. I’d been in the query trenches for about nine months.
Okay, let’s have some fun. Coffee or Tea?
Tea. More specifically, unsweetened green ice tea – the bigger the better. At my local Starbucks, they start making it when I walk in the door since I get it every day (sometimes more than once a day).
Potato chips or chocolate?
Chocolate (of course!)
Of course! And what’s your favorite cookie?
Chocolate chip, preferably a little well done and still warm from the oven.
Which vacation would you prefer: camping out in the wilderness or shopping in a quaint town?
Shopping in a quaint town.
Where do you write?
I usually write at a coffee shop or at the library.
Writing in a coffee shop is the best – unlimited coffee (well, for me, that is). So whose work inspired you to start writing?
Growing up, I read all the MG and YA I could get my hands on. In 6th grade my school had a program where they matched us up with people in the community doing the jobs we wanted when we grew up. I told them I wanted to be a writer so they matched me with the fantastic Norma Fox Mazer, a local author I loved. I remember getting to go to her house to interview her and being totally star struck.
What author would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her?
I’m a huge musical theater fan so I’ll pick Tim Federle. I think we’re obsessed with the same shows – so I’d want a day where we could see both a matinee and an evening show and eat some awesome food in between. And somewhere in there we’d talk writing, of course 🙂 .
What book character or movie character best describes your personality?
Cath from Rainbow Rowell’s FANGIRL. I identify with her passion and commitment to writing, her family, and her favorite characters. And I also relate to the way she sometimes feels more comfortable with the stories in her head than with the people around her.
And the big question, are you an outline or panster type?
I made a chapter-by-chapter outline for the first book I ever tried to write. I was so sure that if I stuck to the outline, I’d have a book in no time. Ha! A couple of chapters in, I realized how much was missing from the outline and how little room I’d given myself for the surprises that pop up along the way. I ended up having to throw the outline away. So now, I go into each book with a pretty clear idea of the main character’s journey, but I leave the rest of it open. Waiting to see how the story unfolds – all the surprising twists and turns – is the fun of it for me!
Before I untie you from the chair, do you have any advice for those seeking representation? Anything you wished you’d done differently?
Community is so very important. Writing is by nature a solitary activity, so finding others who are in it with you can be a lifesaver. I found many of my writing lifesavers through SCBWI and twitter. So, my advice is to join SCBWI, go to conferences, and check out the writing conversations online. It’s truly an inspirational and amazingly supportive community. Jump in!
Thanks, Jen, for taking the time to do this interview. I can’t wait to hold the actual book when it comes out. Congratulations, and here’s hoping you sell tons of books. And now it’s time to dance!