CURRENT GIVEAWAY CONTESTS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

Quressa Robinson Query Critique through November 11th
DARK MIGHTY THINGS through November 25th

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

Elizabeth Bewley Agent Spotlight Interview on 1/10/18
Molly O'Neill Agent Spotlight Interview on 1/22/18

INTERVIEW WITH JANET SUMNER JOHNSON AND THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Janet Sumner Johnson here to share about her contemporary MG THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY. It sounds like a great contemporary story dealing with an issue many families have dealt with—preventing a foreclosure.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:


Some things are better together. Like peanut butter and jelly. Or Annie and Jason. So when her best friend's house is threatened with foreclosure, Annie Jenkins is bursting with ideas to save Jason's home. She could sell her appendix on eBay. (Why not?) Win the lottery. (It's worth a shot!). Face the evil bankers herself. (She's one tough cookie, after all.) Or hunt down an elusive (and questionably real) pirate treasure. Whatever the plan, it has to work, or this is undoubtedly THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY.

Hi Janet! Thanks so much for joining us!

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Hi Natalie! I'm thrilled to be here.

So I have always loved writing for fun. I never ever planned to be a writer because even as a kid, I knew how hard it was to get published and support oneself as an author. And plus, I was good at math, so I figured I was set. After batting around career ideas like engineer, scientist, lawyer, and teacher, I finally decided to major in English and see what that got me (Because I LOVED that we had to read for homework). However, after realizing how useless that degree was by itself, I got a master's in French and became a linguist.

I taught some college classes in there (like French 1010 and 1020, and Research Writing for Science Majors), but when I was given the opportunity to translate, I found that suited me just perfectly. And through all of that I wrote for fun.

But when I finished my first book, it seemed crazy not to TRY to publish it . . . even though I still declared I didn't want to be an author. Clearly I was lying to myself. And now I can't imagine my life without writing in it!

2. What a fun journey to becoming a writer. Where did you get your idea for THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY?

The very, very first draft of PB&J was a series of chapters based on my childhood. There was no
actual plot, but they featured Annie and Jason and their crazy friendship. After setting it aside for years, I came back to it. And while I was horrified by the terrible writing, I was drawn to these two characters and knew I had to fix their story.

That was about the same time as the housing market crash, and having had a friend face foreclosure, and seeing the haunted looks in her kids' eyes, I knew I needed to write about foreclosure.

3. Many of the reviews of your book comment on the sweet friendship between Annie and Jason. Tell us a bit about how that developed as you wrote your manuscript.

Their friendship was always the basis for the book (even before I'd figured out the plot), so I love that it was real to others, too. I based Annie and Jason's friendship on my own childhood friendship. Because of that, I had a great understanding of their characters, and why this friendship was important to them. However, getting that understanding to my readers was a whole different story. I was shocked when my critique partners questioned why the friendship was so important.

But I'm so grateful to them! After considering their comments, I spent a lot of revision time working on scenes that highlighted what each of them brought to the friendship. It was tedious, and at times I wanted to pull my hair out, but I'm really pleased with the end result.

4. Glad your critique partners helped you with such a critical part of your book. The story revolves in part around Annie trying to help Jason save his home from foreclosure. Why did you pick this as the problem and did you have to do any research into how this affects families to write your story?

As I mentioned above, I have a friend who faced foreclosure with her family, which included children. I felt pretty helpless, and writing is how I deal with that.

I did do some research into various aspects of foreclosure. How and when a bank decides to foreclose on a house. What options are available to a person who is foreclosed on. I also had to research the welfare options available. In addition, I searched for other fiction books on this topic, particularly ones for kids. I was surprised to find very few books available. That's when I knew for sure I needed to write this book.

5. Yes, foreclosure is so traumatic not only for the kids but the parents. I counseled many people during the Great Recession who ultimately made the painful decision to let their house go into foreclosure. Even though your book deals with heavy topics like foreclosure, it also is funny. I’m terrible at trying to write a humorous story, and I bet other people struggle with this too. Share your tips on how to insert humor into your story.

Aww . . . well, thank you! I've always found that if I can laugh at a situation, I can deal with it better, so I always try to find the humor in a situation. Even the super serious situations. Especially the super serious ones. (That said, I've probably laughed at some pretty inappropriate things in my life, but it has kept me sane – so uh, Dad, if you're reading this, sorry again for laughing when you broke your leg! And Mike? That knife up your nose? Yeah, sorry about that, too. Laughing was really inappropriate.).

So tips on being funny. Hmmm . . . this is a tough question! But let me try.

Tip #1: Go for the unexpected. That is often what makes a joke or situation funny. For example, suppose someone tells you to name your favorite fruit. You expect to hear strawberries, or apples, or peaches. Whatever. You don't expect someone to say, "Fred." Unexpected. You see this type of humor a lot in movies.

Tip #2: If you have to explain a joke, it's never funny. Ever. Trust your reader to get it.


Tip #3: For a bigger laugh, set up your jokes in advance—just like a mystery writer weaves in clues throughout the whole book, weave in your information that will make a situation funny. It takes patience, waiting for that payoff, but oh, this is my absolute favorite when the foundation for some humorous bit has been laid out way in advance.

I highly recommend studying Janette Rallison's books for amazing examples of this. She is a master at it. (See especially Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To Do List)

Tip #4: Keep it simple. If a person has to think too hard about your joke to understand it, you'll lose your audience.

Tip #5: Timing is everything.

Tip #6: Physical humor never gets old. Think the three stooges.

6. Such great tips. You make it sound easy. What was a big challenge you faced in writing THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge was probably getting past the idea that I had to completely re-write the book from the first draft to the second. There's just something paralyzing about the idea of starting over. I knew it wasn't good, but that was still a hard step. Probably because it felt like so much wasted time and effort.

However, since that time, I've come to understand that there is no such thing as wasted time or effort when it comes to writing. All of it goes toward that finished product to make it what it is.

Time was how I overcame it. I set the book aside and worked on something else until I was mentally ready to let go. It can be hard to let something you've worked on for so long just sit, because it all feels so urgent. But very little is urgent in the publishing world. That is something I've definitely learned. So I'm a huge advocate of setting your work aside before revising.

7. Good for you in taking the plunge to rewrite your manuscript. Your agent is Victoria Marini. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

She is! Victoria and I connected through Brenda Drake's pitch madness contest. I was fortunate to get a lot of interest from the participating agents, so Victoria didn't actually win my manuscript, but she requested to see it after the 1-week exclusive ended.

A week after I sent it to her, I got an email requesting a phone call. In that email, she wrote, "You had me at 'We do not traffic in body parts in this household, young lady!'"

And I pretty much knew right then that I would love working with her.

The road to publication for me was long. PB&J went to 5 different acquisitions meetings before finally finding a home at Capstone. And one rejection said, "A year ago I would have offered on this . . ." My publication path really emphasized to me how important timing is in the publishing world. Just because a book isn't published . . . or because it's rejected by an editor, does NOT mean that it's no good. I think that's an important thing to remember for any writers out there who are trying to get published.

8. How are you planning to spread the word about your book?

Great question! In addition to the things my publisher is doing, I've been fortunate to be invited for interviews at a few different blogs (like this one. Thanks, Natalie!). I'll also be doing some travelling to help promote, but mostly in places where I have a connection.

In another week I'll be off to Maryland to participate in the Behind the pages tour along with Kathy MacMillan (author of Sword and Verse), Laura Shovan (author of The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary), and Ava Jae (author of Beyond the Red). We'll be presenting a couple of library panels and have some book signings.

I'll also have the chance to teach a class at the MD/DE/WV SCBWI's spring conference, Team SCBWI. I guess, in short, I hope to spread the word by being out there and connecting with people both in person and via social media. Really, just trying to be friendly.

I feel pretty strongly that if I'm just trying to sell my book, I won't be very successful. But if I'm sincerely trying to connect with people who have similar interests, then I can't lose (whether I sell a book or not).


9. Awesome that you're doing a book signing with Kathy. What are you working on now?

Well, I've got two manuscripts with my agent right now, but I'm just starting a brand new shiny idea that I'm excited about. I don't want to say too much, because I'm still debating on a few plot points, but I will say that it involves two former best friends and a bet. Writing a first draft is a fascinating process to me because I always have new ideas and learn new information in the writing of it.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Janet. You can find Janet at Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website Goodreads  Amazon


Janet has generously offered an ARC of THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through March 19th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, let me know this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

On Wednesday I have an Agent Spotlight Interview with agent Patricia Nelson and a query critique giveaway.

Next Monday I have a guest post by debut author Andrew Brumbach and his agent Danielle Chiotti with a query critique giveaway by Danielle and an ARC giveaway of Andrew's MG historical adventure  THE EYE OF MIDNIGHT.

The following Monday I have a joint interview with debut author Kathryn Purdie and Margo Barbo, her editor at  Katherine Teagan, and a giveaway of Kathryn's YA fantasy BURNING GLASS.

The next Monday I have a guest post by debut author Kristy Acevedo and a giveaway of her YA science fiction CONSIDER.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!





74 comments:

  1. Thank you for the interview!I appreciate your tips on writing humor and enjoyed hearing about how your story developed. Wishing you much success with your submitted projects and future work. This is just the sort of MG book I love to read.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This sounds like a great book. I always appreciate posts like this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't Natalie and Casey do such a great job? I'm so honored to be on their blog!

      Delete
  3. I already was looking forward to this, but now I can't wait to read it! I love good MG friendship stories.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Congratulations to Janet! The tips on writing humor are excellent. I love to inject humor into my stories, but I sometimes struggle with it as I get so serious or my timing is off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! And good luck with your writing! Humor is definitely harder than it looks, and you can never please everyone. But it sure is satisfying when someone laughs at something you wrote. :)

      Delete
  5. Bravo, Janet! I related to so much of your writing and publishing journey - I even have a "foreclosure" novel plotted out that I set aside to focus on a different story instead. Enjoy your book events, and best of luck with your brand new shiny idea. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Kristin! It's a long journey, isn't it? :)

      Good luck with your new story!

      Delete
  6. Yay, Janet! The long wait is almost over!
    No need to enter me in the giveaway. I already have a copy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you believe it, Dianne?!!! Such a crazy long process! Thanks so much for all your support through this whole thing!

      Delete
  7. How lucky it was that she revisited her old manuscript! This made for a great writer's journey tale. Good luck and I'm entering.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely agree! Very lucky indeed!

      Delete
  8. I loved her thoughts on humor and another one on letting your work rest. I can't wait to read your book, Janet. Thanks for the in depth insights.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Congratulations to Janet! Great tips on adding humor to a story, and look forward to reading about Annie and Jason.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Brenda! And I hope you enjoy it!

      Delete
  10. Foreclosure is a dark topic. Humor would be a must to balance it out. It is how people deal with tough situations.

    Congrats, Janet.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Natalie, Thanks again for having me! Such great questions, it was a real pleasure to be here.

    And good luck everyone with the giveaway!

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a great interview. I always enjoy reading about what goes on behind the scenes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Heidi! I love reading that stuff, too. So interesting! :)

      Delete
  13. Fun interview and it sounds like a fun adventure story. Love the tips on humor and will bookmark this. When I try to write humor, it always comes out too serious and dark. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Joanne! And funny, when I try to write serious and dark, it comes out humorous. But I hope those tips help! :)

      Delete
  14. Enjoyable interview. I loved her advice about rewrite -- put the ms. aside until your are ready. I'm going through that process now. For three weeks I've been meaning to start my rewrite, but haven't felt ready. He book sounds great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Elizabeth! And good luck on that rewrite when you're ready for it. :)

      Delete
  15. What a fabulous interview! I loved reading about your entire writing process from first/second draft to finding an agent and publisher. For everyone reading, The Las Great Adventure of the PB&J Society is such a wonderful read. Well worth it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww, thanks so much, Angie! You're the best! :)

      Delete
  16. Thanks for this interview! It's fun to read more about went into this story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Myrna! Can't wait to read your book one day (hopefully soon!). :)

      Delete
  17. Sounds like a great book. I loved the blurb.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hey, someone else who never planned on being an author! Awesome. Congratulations, Janet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You, too??? Funny how these things work out. And thank you!

      Delete
  19. I really enjoyed this interview! I loved Janet's tips on humor--something I'm always working on. This sounds like such a timely read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jenni! I hope it is not only enjoyed, but helpful to anyone facing the same. :)

      Delete
  20. Great interview! I love the cover and it sounds like a book many of my students would enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jemi! I'm a fan of the cover, too. And good to see you here! It's been way too long. :)

      Delete
  21. Hooray for Janet and this book~ I've been looking forward to it since I saw a summary (I think maybe it was in that Pitch Madness contest~ or maybe over at Miss Snark's First Victim?)! Loved the interview~ thanks ladies!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jess! And who knows?? We faced off in so many pitch contests, it's hard to say. :)

      Delete
  22. Sounds like a great book! I think this is a wonderful idea. Wishing Janet well. :)

    Thanks for the intro, Natalie. I'll pass on the giveaway this time around. Enjoy your week!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I rather like the idea of hunting for pirate treasure.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thanks for the interview with Janet. Appreciate the tips as I write humorous middle grade. Would love to win a copy of THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rachna! And good luck in the giveaway!

      Delete
  25. Thanks for a wonderful interview. I'm always on the lookout for humorous MG, so am looking forward to reading THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Marilyn! And I hope you enjoy it. :)

      Delete
  26. Excellent article! Thank you for all the great advice. My new favorite fruit is Fred ;)

    ReplyDelete
  27. I love all the interviews! Thank you. I "retweeted" the giveaway on Twitter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Natalie and Casey do such a great job, don't they?!

      Delete
  28. I love humor in books I read and appreciate your tips on writing humor. Thanks for the great interview and chance to win! I posted on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/140700220212/literary-rambles-interview-with-janet-sumner

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P&J society-- That's brilliant.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Danielle! Good luck in the giveaway!

      And thank you, Mirka! :)

      Delete
  29. This sounds like an awfully lot of fun. Thanks for telling me about this book and for the wonderful interview.

    ReplyDelete
  30. OMG I'm so out of the loop with the old blogging circle. I had no idea Janet had landed a book deal. I remember seeing the first chapter or two of the original version. So glad she never gave up on it. Congrats, Janet!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! I can't keep up with it all either and so much stuff has happened since way back when. But I've loved watching all those bloggers I met back then grow and progress in the writing world. And I'm very happy for all your success! So well-deserved!

      Delete
  31. This sounds like such a fun book! I love the title, too. glindathegood@bellsouth.net

    ReplyDelete
  32. Lovely title, and the voice of the character sounds really intriguing. Great way to employ elements from real life experiences too:)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Great interview and thank you for the chance!!!
    Tweeted:https://twitter.com/artdem83/status/707515783820288000

    artgiote at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  34. YAY!!! for Janet! I'm so excited for her. I've known her quite a while through the blogosphere and she's wonderful. Can't wait to read!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Congratulations, Janet, on your new book! I enjoyed your interview, and thanks for the great humor tips. The book is still timely as I see so many vacant homes around. What a great idea bringing this information to the middle grade. I've shared your wonderful giveaway offer on twitter, facebook, and google+. Thank you for this chance to win a book. ~Victoria Marie Lees

    ReplyDelete
  36. I don't recall hearing of this book before- but it definitely sounds like fun. I love a book with a good strong friendship and humor. :) Wishing Janet the best of luck. Thanks for a chance to win the book.
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete
  37. Congrats to Janet on her release! With such an adorable title and premise, I don't see how it could be anything but a big success! :)

    ReplyDelete
  38. This sounds like a really interesting book. Thank you for the interview and giveaway :)

    ReplyDelete
  39. Congrats to Janet on her release! Great interview! Thanks for the giveaway! :)
    GFC: Valentina BV
    Shared: https://www.facebook.com/valentina.bv.77/posts/1024505104293756
    E-mail: bv_byby27@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  40. Sounds like a fun story!
    GFC: Holly Letson

    bookaholicholly at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  41. Hi, so good to have these tips and to see you at the SCBWI conference this weekend, Janet! Can't wait to read your book, foreclosure is a hot topic - I just read Crenshaw.
    Ljeffsummers@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete