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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Jennifer Bardsley here to talk about her YA speculative fiction book GENESIS GIRL that released in June. It sounds like a really thought provoking story about our addiction to the technical world.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet.

Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable.

By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online.

Hi Jennifer! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Jennifer: I’ve always told stories to myself before I fall asleep—which is probably why I suffer from insomnia. About ten years ago I finally wrote one of them down in a serious way. No agent wanted to represent me because that first manuscript was horrible, but several years later I wrote another book and that attracted the interest of my agent, Liza Fleissig. She helped sell Genesis Girl to Georgia McBride Media Group as a two-book deal.

2. Awesome how you stuck with it. Where did you get the idea for GENESIS GIRL?

Jennifer: Prepare to be disgusted. Genesis Girl was inspired by opera’s dirty secret. In the 1700s there were parents who would castrate their young sons in the hopes they would become famous singing superstars called castrati. Opera fans adored castrati because they could hit the highest notes.
In the futurist world of Genesis Girl, parents castrate the digital identities of their children in the hopes they will become famous members of the Vestal order. Vestals like my main character Blanca, never go online and don’t even know who to text. They are blank slates, and their digital purity makes them valuable.

3. What a story! What tips do you have for other writers wanting to write speculative fiction?

Jennifer: There’s a big debate happening right now in the YA world and it’s whether or not YA Sci-Fi books can sell. Hopefully Zenith by Lindsay Cummings and Sasha Alsberg has proved once and for all that yes, there is a market for YA Sci-Fi. But speculative fiction also includes everything from YA Fantasy to YA Paranormal. Basically, anything that isn’t Real with a capital R. My tip for writers wanting to write speculative fiction, would to follow your heart and see where your imagination takes you.

4. Share a bit about Blanca as a character and what surprised you about her character


Jennifer: When people ask me to describe my main character from Genesis Girl I tell them that
Blanca is like a Sci-Fi Amish girl, No, she’s not actually Amish, but she does shun all forms of modern technology such as texting and the Internet. She won’t even let her picture be taken because she’s afraid it will be posted online. Blanca is a Vestal, and she and the rest of her Brethren are an elite community that hides from the outside world. They wear white as a symbol of their purity.
The clash between Blanca’s strict upbringing and her entry into the real world was fun to write about, but it was also a struggle. I had to think of all the ways Vestals would protect themselves from accidentally having their pictures taken. I also had to deal with a character who only wore white. One of my beta-readers kept pointing out to me “Strawberries? Shrimp? Wouldn’t that be messy?”
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the way Blanca’s characters develops from a sheltered teenager who believes what her teachers tell her to believe, into a young adult who can think for herself, was my favorite part of writing the book.

5. That's such an interesting world. I read that your manuscript went through 22 revisions before you submitted it to your agent.What did you learn from the revision process?

Jennifer: I learned that I revise differently on the computer versus reading on my Kindle, or holding printed out copies in my hand. Each format helps me think about improving my words in new ways. I killed a lot of trees printing out hard copies, but I also utilized technology. Sending drafts as word documents to my Kindle was convenient because it meant I could edit five minutes here, five minutes there while I was waiting to pick up my kids from school.

6. Yes, many authors say looking at the printed version is different. Your agent is Liza Fleissig. How did she become your agent and what was your road topublication like?

Jennifer: When I began writing in earnest I joined The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. They provided me with what’s called “The Book,” a gigantic resource of agents, publishers, and other paths to publication. As soon as my young adult manuscript was complete, I queried agents I discovered via SCBWI. Liza Flessig of the Liza Royce Agency was willing to take a chance on me. She brokered a two-book deal for “Genesis Girl” with my publisher. Signing the contract was just the beginning. It took another two and a half years to see my book in print.

7. You’ve written several articles giving advice on creating a Facebook author page. Share some

of your tips on creating a good Facebook author page and using it to promote your book.

Jennifer: The way Facebook works is that the more likes, comments and shares a post gathers, the more people see it. The algorithm rewards popular posts, and punishes things the community finds boring. The trick is to post something really exciting that everybody loves.

Using my own page The YA Gal as an example, with 20,000 followers sometimes I get 1,000 people viewing a post, sometimes 40,000, depending upon the engagement. Early, immediate engagement seems to make a difference, so I keep track of popular days and times for my audience. Sometimes I schedule posts in advance if I know I’m going to be busy. I use an app called Trackgram to make memes I think my audience might find share-worthy, and also post YA-related questions to spark discussions.

8. Wow! I didn't know any of that. Thanks. Since your book released several months ago, you’ve had some time to see what worked welland what didn’t work so effectively in marketing your book. Share some of your marketingexperiences and what you have learned from them.

Jennifer: I wish I knew with 100% certainty what worked well and what didn’t but I have no idea. My publisher did a blog tour through Chapter by Chapter, and I did a boosktagram and booktube tour with Grace from LovingDemBooks. But what exactly boosted sales (or did not boost sales) is still a mystery.

I will share my pet-peeve though. If you look up the #GenesisGirl hashtag on Instagram you’ll find pictures of my book from all over the world. You’ll also find pictures of cars posted by proud Hyundai Genesis owners. It’s really annoying! Every time I see a car picture pop up in the #GenesisGirl feed I want to tear off my shirt and turn green.

9. I know the Chapter and Chapter blog and like it. What are you working on now?

Jennifer: Damaged Goods, the sequel to Genesis Girl, is with my publisher right now. I can’t wait for readers to find out what happens to Blanca next!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jennifer. Ways you can find Jennifer:

Jennifer generously offered a paperback of GENESIS GIRL to one winner. 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 1st 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, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This in an international giveaway wherever the Book Depository ships for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday I have a special treat. Our follower and my friend Kristin Lenz is debuting as a YA author. I'll be interviewing her with a giveaway of her YA contemporary THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO.

The following Monday Natalie Lorenzi will be doing a guest post with a giveaway of her MG historical A LONG PITCH HOME.

The Monday after that follower and debut author Sheri Larson will be here with a guest post and a giveaway of her MG fantasy MOTLEY EDUCATION. 

The following Monday debut author  Ellie Swartz will be here for an interview and giveaway of her MG contemporary FINDING PERFECT.

Hope to see you on Monday!


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Sometimes it takes a lot of dead trees to get it right.

Freaky premise. One would really have to be sheltered not to ever experience the Internet.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Interesting premise. As for printing out to edit, I have only done that once. I found that if I change the size and type of font I can do just as well as printing it (though it was a rush the first time I held my own ms in my hands).

Nick Wilford said...

That sounds like an intriguing and timely premise. Thanks for sharing the Facebook tips, an author page is something I have yet to do. Tweeted about the contest!

Bish Denham said...

Interesting premise. I'm curious as to why the Vestals are so valuable and what is done with them. I guess I'll need to read the book! I've tweeted.

Greg Pattridge said...

What an intriguing story line. I don't have much time for YA books but I'd give this one a go. I was also listening to an industry panel at a conference this past weekend and they were posed the same question about sci-fi trends in YA. They each said don't worry about trends. If the story is good it will sell.

Christine Rains said...

Wonderful interview, and what a unique sounding book. I love the description of a sci-fi Amish girl. Best of luck to Jennifer!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Digital purity. What a fascinating concept!

And I don't know why anyone thinks YA Science Fiction doesn't sell. Hellooooo, dystopian novels are science fiction and my teenage daughter reads nothing but.

Karen Lange said...

Wow, what a story - interesting stuff, for sure. It's nice to meet Jennifer. Wishing her well!

Thanks for hosting, Natalie! I'll skip the giveaway this time around. Have a good week! :)

abnormalalien said...

Sounds cool in a weird way. I remember learning about the poor boys who were castrated for music in a class in college. I remember being surprised to learn what people would do for art.

jpetroroy said...

This looks like such a cool concept!

Tamara Narayan said...

What a timely concept. I love it. Sometimes I wish I could shield my kids from the internet just because of all the time they spend watching YouTube videos.

I wouldn't worry to much about the Hyundai connection. Think of it as another audience to tap into! Seems like a good marketing trick if you can link up your book title to something people search for all the time.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

What an unusual premise. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of "digital purity." Congrats to Jennifer!

Melissa said...

Sounds like a great book!

Crystal Collier said...

What a concept! Yikes. I'll admit, I'm curious.

Insomniacs of the world, unite! I was up in the middle of the night fighting for sleep. Jennifer sounds like a like-minded lunatic in that regard. =)

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats on Genesis Girl and the sequel, Jennifer! It looks like it's getting some great buzz!

cleemckenzie said...

First, I absolutely love Tabula Rasa School. That is one perfect name for a school. And the idea of digital purity is fascinating.

I keep hearing that so many older people enjoy YA now. The books are generally shorter (max 70-80K), they deal with adult topics, but aren't steeped in explicit sex. These factors have appeal to a lot of older readers of fiction. Hope that trend continues.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Two and a half years - long time.
Blanca probably doesn't eat much spaghetti, either.
Congratulations, Jennifer.

S.P. Bowers said...

Author pages, that's a whole other world I'm avoiding. I know I need to do it, but I'm scared to try. Much easier to just write a book than to try and market it.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

What an interesting premise for a book. I also liked the tips about author pages.

Jenni said...

This sounds like an interesting book! Sometimes I wish I could totally unplug at times. Can't wait to read this one! Congrats to Jennifer!

Agustina Z said...

Can't wait to read GENESIS GIRL! It's already on my TBR, it sounds so amazing! I shared it on Twitter:
And my email is: lasalasdeagustina@gmail.com
Congrats to Jennifer!

Mary Preston said...

Such an interesting world & characters.


erin said...

sounds fabulous! Thanks for sharing :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I've missed your awesome reviews and interviews!! So glad to be back. :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

It's hard to imagine such an innocent frame of mind as Blanca's initially. I'm sure it was enjoyable for Jennifer to create her journey into self-awareness and independence.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congrats Jennifer, GENESIS GIRL sounds very intriguing. I like the sound of Blanca's character: a Vestal. I agree that sometimes it takes many drafts and revisions to get a book in shape. I would love to win a copy of this book.

Danielle H. said...

This is such a great idea for a book and the inspiration/idea is kind of creepy, but proof that ideas do come from everywhere. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this exciting book and news that it will have a sequel. I shared on twitter: https://twitter.com/dhammelef/status/778295678229504000

M Pax said...

Interesting source of inspiration for the story. Congrats to Jennifer.

Denise Covey said...

Hi Natalie! Hi Jennifer! Wow! I hadn't heard of the castrati. How absolutely horrible. I hope this book is a winner!

Carol Riggs said...

Oooh! I'd love to win this book. Sounds so interesting. Great interview, great details about the book--and Facebook. lol

Carl Scott said...

I first heard about this book a while ago and it sounded interesting back then as well. Thanks for the interview and the chance to win a copy.
+1 - I also tweeted a link to this post: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/778455459418116096https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/778455459418116096

Carl Scott said...

Hmm...The Twitter shows up twice, it's only half of that: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/778455459418116096

Unknown said...

Thanks for the chance.

Unknown said...

Interesting! I haven't seen this before, but that's a great angle with social media to follow.

I'm a GFC follower and my email is broke(dot)book(dot)bank(at)gmail(dot)com


Nicola said...

Congratulations to Jennifer. It sounds like a great read and I loved the interview. Thank you for sharing.

Suzanne Warr said...

What an interesting premise--so fresh and new! I also really appreciated Jennifer's insights into managing a FB author page, since I recently launched my Lily Black page and am finding it all a mystery. Great post and interview, Natalie!

Anonymous said...

Yay! :D

Valentina B-v said...

Wonderful interview. It sounds like an intriguing and unique book!
GFC: Valentina BV
Shared: https://www.facebook.com/valentina.bv.77/posts/1154629247948007
E-mail: bv_byby27@yahoo.com
Thanks for the chance!

DMS said...

What an interesting interview! I really enjoyed learning more about Jennifer. Her book sounds fascinating. I am intrigued by the main character and look forward to checking it out. Thanks for sharing and for the chance to win a copy. :)

Natasha said...

Great interview!
This one sounds like an amazing read!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

finnthefearless said...

I love the idea and can't wait to read it! Thanks! finnthefearless(at)gmail(dot)com