Before I get to my fantastic interview, I want to let you know that Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have moved their blog, THE BOOKSHELF MUSE. If you don't follow them, they have a fantastic blog about the craft of writing and are the authors of THE EMOTIONAL THESAURUS and the soon to be published THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS and THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS. They're doing a huge e-book giveaway to celebrate. Go HERE to find their new blog.
Next I have two winners to announce.
The winner of THE DREAM THIEVES is Sandra!
And the winner of ORLEANS is Anna Moore!
Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your books. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.
Today I’m thrilled to have Jenny Lundquist back to share about her new YA fantasy, THE PRINCESS IN THE OPAL MASK. I first interviewed Jenny last year when she debuted with her middle grade contemporary story with a touch of magical realism, SEEING CINDERELLA, was released and again in March, 2013, when her second contemporary middle grade, PLASTIC POLLY, was released. I’ve really enjoyed watching Jenny’s career progress as she’s moved from debut author to a seasoned writer.
I was especially excited to hear she was writing THE PRINCESS IN THE OPAL MASK, because fantasy is one of my favorite genres. And I loved this book! I stayed up WAY too late reading it. I found the whole idea of a princess forced to wear an opal mask at all times so intriguing. And both Elara (love that name) and Princess Wilha are such different characters with complex back stories. It was fascinating watching how their lives became intertwined.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
Orphaned as a child in the crumbling village of Tulan, Elara is determined to learn her true identity, even if it means wielding a dagger. Meanwhile, in Galandria's royal capital, Princess Wilha stands out as someone to either worship or fear. Though no one knows why the king has always made her conceal her face--including Wilha herself.
When an assassination attempt threatens the peace of neighboring kingdoms, Elara and Wilha are brought face to face . . . with a chance at claiming new identities. However, with dark revelations now surfacing, both girls will need to decide if brighter futures are worth the binding risks.
Hi Jenny. Thanks so much for joining us again.
Thanks for having me! You and Casey always make me feel so welcome.
1. For anyone who doesn’t know you, tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer.
Hmm…every time I answer this question I feel like I’m taking out a personal ad. So here goes: I’m a stay-at-home mom with a fondness for journaling, prayer, long walks on the beach, and laughter with friends. I prefer coffee in the morning, wine at night, and chocolate anytime in between. Also, I am a huge Harry Potter fan, and may dress as Lily Potter for Halloween this year.
I always knew I liked to write, but it was more like I figured I’d get around to writing…someday. After my second son was born, I was going through a lot personally and decided my “someday” needed to become “now” and I started writing. I challenged myself to finish the first draft of a middle grade novel, and I’ve been writing regularly ever since.
2. Awesome how you started writing. And it’s so taken off! Where did you come up with the idea of THE PRINCESS IN THE OPAL MASK? I found the whole idea of it so intriguing.
The idea came to me in pieces: A few paragraphs I heard in my head almost ten years ago; an image that came to me one night a few years after that (for those of you that have, or plan to read the book, I’ve recreated it in chapters 16-18); my love of masquerade masks (originally, Wilha was going to wear a veil, but that just wasn’t fun enough for me). Slowly, I realized I had a YA story I wanted to tell and started keeping a journal of my notes. For the longest time this book was my secret project and it wasn’t until around the time that Seeing Cinderella released that I decided I just needed to go ahead and start writing it.
3. So interesting how the idea came in bits and pieces. I loved the world building of Tulan, the small town Elara was from, the Opal Palace, and then the land of Kyrenica where Elara and Wilha travel to. Share a bit about your world building process and any tips you could share with the rest of us.
I did a lot of my world-building for this book while I was on a trip to Boston with my husband for our
I wish I could tell you I had a precise “system” in place for my world building. But I don’t use worksheets (or character building worksheets) they’re too soul-sucking, and, well, organized for my messy ways. My process is a little more organic. For instance, Kyrenica is located north of Galandria and is considered quite a bit colder, particularly in the winter. I decided this on the same trip to Boston when my husband and I drove north to Portland, Maine and my whimpy California self couldn’t handle it.
4. I think that’s cool that Boston inspired you. I’ve found too that the real world can give me ideas for my world building. And glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t use worksheets. So your two first books are middle grade stories and this is a YA one. What did you find different about writing a YA book vs. a middle grade one? Do you have a preference for writing for either age group?
I stared writing middle grade because middle school was so brutal for me, but I enjoy writing in both genres. In MG, I think the question protagonists often ask themselves is “How do I fit into the world around me?” But in YA I think the protagonists are asking themselves, “How can I help remake the world around me, in the way that circumstance or my own desires are calling me to?” which makes them a little more self-focused. (And rightly so, IMHO.)
5. Those two questions really nail the difference in MG and YA characters. And I love exploring both. Who was the harder character’s POV to write from—Elara or Wilha—and why?
I wouldn’t say one POV was harder to write than the other; the biggest challenge was keeping the two POV’s separate and not accidentally “blending” them. Originally, I only wanted one of the girls to be the main character in the story. But I fell in love with both Elara and Wilha and eventually decided that the only way to do justice to the story was to split the narrative between the girls and make them both main characters. But the two POV’s are both female, both teenagers, and both written in the first person present tense, and that was definitely a challenge. I just kept trying to go back to the fact that Wilha was a princess and remembering that her speech and mannerisms would be more formal. For Elara, I tried to remember that she struggled with anger and bitterness and was more impulsive. “Voice” is really important to me, so I have to say I’m a little nervous to see how Elara and Wilha’s will be perceived once the book is out.
6. I think you did a great job keeping them separate. They are definitely such different characters. So this is your third book published since 2012. You have to be productive to finish so many books in such a relatively short period of time. What’s your writing schedule like and how do you stay disciplined and not distracted by social media? I could use some tips on that as I confess it sucks up too much of my time.
I’m a stay-at-home mom, so my writing schedule varies depending on the school year. While my kids are in class, I treat the morning and early afternoon as my “office hours” so I can focus on being “mom” as soon as they get out of school. After they’re in bed, I read novels, which is the single biggest way I improve as a writer—by reading others’ work.
During the summer, it’s a lot more chaotic. I had a huge deadline to meet this past August, so I set myself a 3,000 words a day deadline. Practically speaking, this meant that I got up really early in the morning, or stayed up really late at night, or ran to my computer the minute I let my kids pop a movie into the DVD player. But this also meant that while our family was on vacation there were days that my husband took the kids out on an adventure while I typed in the hotel room. And it also meant that sometimes I was writing in the hotel bathroom in the middle of the night while everyone else slept. One time my husband and I sat in a coffee shop writing side by side for our “date night,” because we both had projects we needed to work on. (Does it still count as a “date” if you’re not actually speaking to each other?)
Publishing three books in two years is definitely starting to take a toll though, so after I finish my current work-in-progress I’m going to take a bit of a break and recharge. I’ve promised my family, and myself, less of a chaotic summer in 2014. Of course, I say that now, but I have a journal and a Pinterest board dedicated to my new “Secret Project,” so we’ll have to see when or if I get around to actually writing it.
As far as not getting distracted by social media…when someone else figures that out, can they please tell me how?
7. I know about the famous last words about a relaxing summer. It’s inspiring to see how you squeezed in the writing this summer. Has marketing your new YA book been different than your two middle grade ones? How so?
Marketing is definitely different this time around. Between meeting deadlines for my current WIP, juggling my kids’ schedules, and trying to market my other books, I hit a wall of exhaustion over the summer where I just felt like I needed some help. This was about the time that author Elana Johnson announced she was going to start coordinating blog tours. I’ve been a committed reader of her blog for years and her rates seemed really reasonable, so I emailed her asking if she had time in her schedule to accommodate a tour for Princess. She did, and I have been so thankful. Besides being extraordinarily kind, Elana Johnson may actually be the most organized person on the planet.
8. I love Elana’s blog too. And I’ve worked with her on blog tours in the past and am impressed how well she sets them up. What are you working on now?
Right now I’m revising the sequel to The Princess in the Opal Mask, which is a good thing, because the file I originally emailed to my editor gives new meaning to the phrase “crappy first draft.” The sequel will come out in October of 2014 and it’s so fun right now to be working on the actual ending of the series.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jenny. You can find Jenny on her website at:
Jenny generously offered an ARC of THE PRINCESS IN THE OPAL MASK for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through October 26th. I’ll announce the winner on October 28st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. International entries are welcome.
Here’s what’s coming up:
Tomorrow I’m participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop. There have been lots of great new releases this Fall and I’ve got lots of awesome book choices for you. This is a really big hop and I’ve never done it, so I’m excited.
On Wednesday, I’m super excited to feature Tu Publishing books. This is a fantastic publishing house that publishes fantasy and sci-fi middle grade and picture book stories that promote diversity. I’ll be giving away THE MONSTER IN THE MUDBALL, a fun middle grade adventure, WOLF MARK, a YA paranormal story, and CAT GIRL’S DAY OFF, a YA urban fantasy.
Next Monday, I’m interviewing author Ruth McNally Barshaw’s 10th grade daughter for my ASK THE EXPERT series and giving away a copy of THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US and A HERO'S GUIDE TO STORMING THE CASTLE. Ruth is the author of the fantastic Ellie McDoodle middle grade series.
Next Wednesday, I’m interviewing my awesome critique partner Lori Sawicki, who recently self-published her MG contemporary story, THE POWER OF TWO. It’s a fantastic contemporary story about bullying and friendship. I loved the vivid, complex characters Lori created in Jamie and Pru.
The following Monday, I’ll be giving away my signed ARC of EXILE, book two in the MG fantasy series by Shannon Messenger and a signed copy of LET THE SKY FALL, her YA fantasy, and sharing about getting to meet Shannon. It was SO awesome!
And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.
Hope to see you tomorrow!