APOCALYPSE NOW: Interview with Jennifer Shaw Wolf, author of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL
You must be so excited about your debut! Can you tell us a bit about your road to publication-- anything from abandoned non-published books, to your agent search, to finding the right home for your debut.
My road to publication in a nutshell (maybe a big nutshell)
I wrote a lot when I was younger, then I spent many years not writing (except in my head) while I raised my kids. I decided that I’d waited long enough so in April 2008 I just decided to sit down and do it. I wrote for fun, with no aspirations of publication and within about eight weeks (with encouragement from my sister and my teenage niece) I had finished my first novel. I sent it off to my sister-in-law who is a published author, and started on a sequel. She told me what I needed to change, I finished the sequel, revised, started querying, started taking writing classes, and I joined a critique group, and SCBWI.
When I was in about my millionth (maybe not that many) revision of my first novel with many rejections under my belt, I kept getting distracted by a story born of a writing prompt I did as part of my writing class. I finally broke down and wrote that one in about eight weeks. I took it to my critique group, did a little bit of revising and then sent that one out as a query at the end of April of 2010. This one really felt different than the other stories I’d written more “ready” or something. By the end of July I had four offers of representation from agents. I spent a week in agony chose Sara Megibow with Nelson Literary, (I’m still thrilled with that choice.) did some more tweaking and went on submission in September. BREAKING BEAUTIFUL (then TIGERSEYE) ended up in the hands of Mary Kate Castellani at Walker and she acquired it and spent the next six months helping me make it better.
Ironically, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL will come out almost exactly four years after I first decided to get back to writing and two years after I finished the manuscript.
How did you celebrate the sale of your first novel? And how are you celebrating the release of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL?
I never get sick, but for some reason I have always been sick when good book news comes out. I was sick the day Sara called me to say that BREAKING BEAUTIFUL had sold. I celebrated by getting a hot chocolate with my daughter as I took her to school, then I think I took a nap.
To celebrate the release of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL I had a launch party on release day, April 24th, at Fireside Bookstore, a small, but wonderful indie bookstore. There was music and cake and swag and lots of celebrating. I will also be participating in the Inside Story at Mockingbird books in Seattle with some other local authors on Wednesday, April 25th. On Saturday, April 28th I’m doing an author panel at the Tumwater library in Tumwater, Washington. That’s one way to celebrate all week long!
Your book has elements of a thriller and a mystery, as well as a dark contemporary. How did you decide to write this particular book? And what are you working on next? Do you play on staying in this genre of YA, and is it also what you primarily read?
BREAKING BEAUTIFUL was actually a lot different than the other two I wrote before it. I hadn’t considered writing a mystery and didn’t feel like I was a “dark” writer, but that’s how it came out. If I go back to what I read growing up though, I see a lot of mysteries, and a lot of dark things like Poe.
My next book, currently titled SHARDS OF GLASS is also dark and a mystery. It’s slated to come out from Walker in September 2013. I like the dark, contemporary, mystery genre, and I have a couple of other ideas along those lines, so I’m happy with that for now. Someday I would like to see my YA romance published, and I have another YA contemporary that isn’t a mystery that I would like to go somewhere with in the future.
I primarily read YA, but not necessarily just dark mysteries. I read lots of contemporary YA, but I also enjoy fantasy, historical fiction, and even some Science Fiction. I love to read, and rarely meet a book I don’t like.
I'd love to hear about your day-to-day life as a writer-- when do you write, where do you write, and what's your favorite part of the process-- do you love coming up with an idea, opening a new draft, working on the puzzle that is the revision process, or some other part of the long journey of writing a novel?
I used to write everywhere and anywhere I had the chance to. I still do to some extent, but now that I have deadlines and things like that, I set my writing time in the morning to make sure it happens. I’m a big multi-tasker so I often write on my treadmill while I walk.
Ideas are my favorite thing to come up with. I usually come up with great ideas in the middle of something else I should be working on. I’ve learned to write a little bit and then file those ideas away for future stories. I never discount them, after all, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL was the story that was distracting me from the revisions I was supposed to be doing.
I read in your bio that you grew up on a farm! How cool! Do you think that background has influenced your writing? Any plans to write a YA novel set in a farm setting?
SHARDS OF GLASS (the novel I just sold) is set in a similar setting to where I grew up. The idea came when I was home and I remembered a murder that had taken place in my little town when I was about eleven years old. However, it isn’t set in my home town, nor is it more than loosely based on that murder. I have other ideas that are more uniquely set where I grew up, but so far I haven’t gotten to those yet.
Congratulations on selling your next book! Can you tell us a little more about it? How was the process different-- both in writing and in the road to publication-- than your debut?
Thank you! I’m very excited about it. SHARDS OF GLASS is about Jaycee who starts her summer with her first real kiss and the murder of her best friend, Rachel. To the police, the case seems pretty cut and dried, but Jaycee is haunted by the message Rachel left for her and the memory of something that happened to both of them the summer before, something they swore to keep secret.
This path to publication was totally different. Walker had an option on my next novel and they were so great to work with me on this one. I tossed ideas back and forth with my editor for about eight months before SHARDS was sold on proposal. The scary thing about selling on proposal is that it’s sold before the manuscript is finished. That means I have to write it on deadline, no getting distracted by other ideas. I also know it has to be good the first time around so I’ve spent a lot more time outlining and figuring out plots and pacing.
Lastly, The Lucky 13s love superstitions. Do you have any, writing or otherwise?
As I said, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL was originally called TIGERSEYE because the main character has a tigerseye stone she keeps with her for courage. For our anniversary after I finished that manuscript, my husband gave me a tigerseye stone on a silver chain. I wear it all the time, but I especially have to have it on when I write.