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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Jess Redman here to share about her new MG magical realism/contemporary Quintessance. It sounds like it has sympathetic characters, some magic, and page-turning plot. It’s on my summer reading list. I also interviewed Jess last year when her debut THE MIRACULOUS released. You can read her interview here.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she told her parents that they did. Every day she feels less and less like herself.

Then Alma meets the ShopKeeper in the town's junk shop, The Fifth Point. The ShopKeeper gives her a telescope and this message:

Find the Elements.
Grow the Light.
Save the Starling.

That night, Alma watches as a star—a star that looks like a child—falls from the sky and into her backyard. Alma knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home, and with the help of some unlikely new friends from the Astronomy Club, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of astronomy, a little bit of alchemy, and her whole self.

QUINTESSENCE is a stunning story of friendship, self-discovery, interconnectedness, and the inexplicable elements that make you you.

Hi Jess! Thanks so much for joining us!

Hi, Natalie! I’m thrilled to be back on Literary Rambles!

1. For those who don’t know you, tell us about your road to getting your agent, Sara Crowe, and your first book deal.

I started writing my first middle-grade book about eight years ago. I sent that book out to many, many agents…no luck. Then I re-wrote it and sent it out again…no luck. Then I wrote another book and sent that one out…slightly better response but still, no luck.

Then I re-wrote that first book yet again, and I ended up with multiple offers of representation, including the fabulous Sara Crowe of Pippin Properties. Then we went on submission and…no luck!

I’ve found the best thing to do when I’m waiting for news or feedback or reviews is to write something new. So while that original book was still out on submission, I wrote THE MIRACULOUS, a story from my heart. And when that story went on submission nearly a year later, I was on the phone with multiple editors within two weeks.

What I take away from this: I’ve always wanted to be an author, but I was too afraid to actually try for many years because I knew it would involve a lot of rejection. AND I WAS RIGHT! Where I am now, having sold four books, there is still rejection and difficult edits and negative reviews. Katherine Paterson said, “To write, your heart has to be absolutely tender and you have to have the skin of a rhinoceros.” For me, that has been true.

2. I appreciate your honesty about the rejections as well as the happy moments of selling your manuscripts. Where did you get the idea for QUINTESSANCE?

QUINTESSENCE started off as a book being read by a character in another story I was working on. In that version, Alma was a two-dimensional girl on a quest. But as I worked on the story-within-a-story, Alma took on a life of her own and soon she was big enough and complex enough that I just had to give her her own book.

The story combines astronomy, alchemy, and mental health issues—specifically anxiety and panic disorders. I’ve always been fascinated by space, I’ve always loved all things magical, and I’m a former therapist. It took some time for these elements to fit together, but in the end, I did it.

3. It sounds like your story combines a lot of what you're interested in. Was writing this book harder than your first book because you had to write on deadline? What advice do you have for the rest of us about writing a book once we have a publishing contract and can’t take as much time to write it?

It definitely was! Learning to work on a deadline has been a challenge for me, but one that I am
gradually adjusting to.

One thing I wish I’d done was start working on something new a bit quicker. THE MIRACULOUS sold a little over two years before it was actually published, which is pretty standard for publishing. Once I knew Macmillan was going to publish the book, there was a gap of seven months before I actually started working on it with my editor. I wish I would have spent those seven months diving into something new!

Right now, I have QUINTESSENCE coming out next Tuesday (July 28th), I’m doing copy edits for the next book, and I’ve just turned in some options to my agent for what I hope will be the book after that. When writing was a hobby, I worked on one project at a time; now, I’ve learned to juggle multiple projects in various stages of completion.

4. I'd be happy just learning to write faster. it would be hard to juggle numerous projects. Alma sounds like a totally sympathetic and compelling character that you make readers care about. It sounds like one of your talents as a writer. How did you create her and your characters in general to make them so memorable?

That’s such a lovely compliment. In many ways, QUINTESSENCE and THE MIRACULOUS feel like companion stories. Both feature sensitive, thoughtful main characters who are trying to sort through some big feelings and big questions.

As a former therapist, I try to spend a lot of time getting to know my characters at a deep level. I write their backstories, I carry on imaginary conversations, and I just spend a lot of time with them mentally. Usually, if I stall out in my writing it’s because I don’t understand my characters well enough. I’m not letting them lead the action because I don’t know what they would do. So understanding my characters through and through is very important to me. The story wouldn’t get written at all otherwise.

5. I bet your experience as a therapist really help you know your characters better. What was your process of creating the magical realism aspect of your story? What appeals to you about writing in this genre?

So far, all of my stories that are published or under contract and all the ones for the foreseeable future contain some degree of magic. Fabulism and magical realism are also my favorite genres to read. I love exploring contemporary issues but with the volume turned up on reality.

For this story, I was inspired by the idea of the fifth element, which is sometimes called aether or quintessence. Stars were once thought to be made of this quintessence. So I started researching and drawing from both alchemy and astronomy, and then layering those ideas on this story of a girl who has moved to a new town. I experimented with turning the magic up and turning it down until I felt the balance was just right.

6. So the rest of us can learn from your experience as a debut author, share what you did to promote your book and what you would have done differently in retrospect assuming we weren’t in a pandemic?

When I was a debut, the first public “book thing” I did was sharing the Publishers Weekly announcement. Then, about seven months prior to pub date, I did a cover reveal, which was great fun.

Some other things I did: I made an unboxing video when I get my ARCs. I gave away copies at regular intervals on social media. I launched a pre-order campaign with prizes for everyone who preordered or requested the book from their library and a drawing for larger prizes. I developed a Teaching Guide with writing prompts, research prompts, and hands-on activities. I created a book trailer. I did lots of blog posts. I reached out to local media.

What I didn’t do: I didn’t do much in terms of in-person events. Being a debut author, I didn’t think many people would show up to a bookstore event other than my launch. If I were to do it again, I think I would have set up a few events with bookstores in my state in order to make more connections.

7. It's great to see what worked and what you'd add to what you did. How are you marketing Quintessence in light of the pandemic? What advice do you have for other authors who are having a book released during these challenging times? What’s the best way to find online opportunities?

This time around, I’ve done more media content. I made a character quiz using a free app, did several read aloud videos, and have posted more on Instagram. I did a book trailer again, which you can see here: https://youtu.be/EKMiQKojkeE and a pre-order campaign, which you can check out here: www.jessredman.com/preorder.

I had planned a small book tour for QUINTESSENCE. But—that’s not going to happen! However, I do have quite a few virtual events set up during publication week and throughout August. On July 28th my launch event will be hosted by Books & Books, and I’ll be in conversation with NYT bestselling author Natalie Lloyd (Snicker of Magic, The Problim Children series). So while I’m sad about the loss of in-person tour, I’m excited about the possibilities that virtual events have opened up. Would I have been able to get Natalie to fly to Florida for an in-person launch? Probably not. Would I be able to fly to Texas and North Carolina and NYC for events? Maybe, but maybe not.

So I’m trying to take this as an opportunity to explore new ways to connect with readers.

8. That's so awesome that you invited Natalie Lloyd to your book launch event.
What are you working on now?

My next middle-grade book comes out on May 4, 2021. It’s called THE ADVENTURE IS NOW It’s the story of video game-loving Milton P. Greene who has had the rottenest year of all time. Then it gets even rottener when his parents send him to stay with his research uncle on the electricity-free Lone Island for the summer. But on the island, Milton finds a field guide full of fantastical creatures, clues to a hidden treasure, and a definitely unrotten real-life adventure. I had so much fun writing this action-packed, quirky story.

As for what’s next…fingers crossed! My heart and my rhino skin are ready for anything.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jess. You can find Jess on Twitter and Instagram at @Jess__Red and at her website www.jessredman.com where she’s posted upcoming events, book trailers, a teaching guide, and information on the pre-order campaign. And you can purchase QUINTESSENCE here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374309763

Jess has generously offered a hardback of Quintessance for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog and leave a comment by August 1st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S.

 Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, July 22nd, Angela Ackerman of Writers Helping Writers will be here to celebrate the release of THE OCCUPATION THESAURUS written by Becca Puglisi and her with a big giveaway  

Monday, July 27th I have an interview with Olivia Wildenstein and a giveaway of her YA romance Not Another Love Song 

Wednesday, August 6th I have an interview with debut author Sasha Laurens and a giveaway of her YA fantasy A Wicked Magic and my IWSG post

Monday, August 10th I have an interview with debut author Chris Negron and a giveaway of his MG contemporary Unmasked

Monday, August 17th I have an interview with debut author KayLynn Flanders and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Shielded

Monday,  August 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with Veronica Park and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Love the Katherine Paterson quotation! Congratulations on the new release.

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

This sounds like a wonderful book! I appreciate that the main character has to deal with anxiety and panic attacks. It was particularly interesting to hear about how Redman connects to her characters. I'll pass on the giveaway, but thanks for the great interview!

Randomly Reading said...

This sounds like a great book, one that I will definite be reading. Thanks for the interesting, in-depth interview.

Greg Pattridge said...

Wonderful cover and a story to match. Thanks for featuring this inspiring interview on MMGM.

Patricia T. said...

I love magical realism and am particularly happy to see a book where the main character deals with anxiety and panic attacks -- not an unusual age for them to begin. Will be looking for this intriguing novel! Thanks for sharing! Congrats to Jess Redman!

Danielle H. said...

I enjoyed today's interview and have this book high on my wish list. This book has everything I enjoy about middle grade books and can't wait to read it. I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/624177710980284416/jess-redman-interview-and-quintessance-giveaway

Computer Tutor said...

What a charming book. I love the idea of finding a friend when you didn't expect it.

Jennifer Lane said...

Congratulations to Jess!

nashvillecats2 said...

Congrats to Jess on what I'm sure will be a successful book.
Also thanks Natalie for the excellent interview.

Take care.

Jenni said...

This books sounds wonderful. I work with a lot of students with anxiety issues. It is definitely on the rise, and I think it will help a lot of kids to see themselves in this book. I also think the background of the different elements is fascinating. Congrats to Jess and thanks for another wonderful interview, Natalie!

Rosi said...

I absolutely LOVED Miraculous and am really looking forward to Quintessence. It sounds terrific. I really enjoyed reading the interview and learned a lot. Thanks for the post.

Flower T. said...

The story sounds intriguing and the cover pulls me right in! Thanks for the interview.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Congratulations, Jess! I really enjoyed Miraculous and wish you all the best in Quintessence!
Thanks for sharing this, Natalie!

Natalie Cohn said...

This sounds like a great book! Good luck in marketing your new MG book. mady123@live.com

Jemi Fraser said...

Love the premise! Quintessence is a great title and the cover is awesome. Good luck with it!

gutierrezk said...

This book is so amazing!!! The cover and the concept is so beautiful! Congrats on another amazing set of pages!

Laura H. said...

I’m so excited for this book to come out! Congrats on the book release!

Melissa Miles said...

This looks like such a great book, and it's inspiring to read the time and effort it took for this to happen. It's easy to get frustrated with the query process. Thanks for sharing with us! And congrats on the new release. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Glad you're excited for Jess' book. Thanks for stopping by and entering for a chance to win.

Natalie Aguirre said...

So glad you stopped by to enter my contest. I hope you'll keep coming by to learn about other awesome MG and YA books.

Natalie Aguirre said...

So glad you are a fan of Jess. Hope you'll check out my other author interviews & giveaways.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes, querying can definitely be frustrating. Glad you are excited about Jess' new book.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Intriguing story! Great job with the interview.

June McCrary Jacobs said...

I enjoyed this interview, and I admire Jesse's attitude about never giving up on finding the right agent for her work. The cover art is amazing! Congratulations, Jesse!

Debra Branigan said...

The book sounds lovely and I hope to share it with my granddaughter. Best wishes to the author on the novel. shared on twitter (https://twitter.com/BraniganDebra/status/1285657871259230212?s=20) dbranigan27 (at) gmail.com

Liz A. said...

Sounds like a fun story. I do love books with magic in them.

Angie Quantrell said...

This sounds like such a fun story to read! Congratulations! Thanks for sharing so many details about your road to publication. It helped me!

Shared on Twitter. :)

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Thanks, ladies, for a great interview, and your book, Jess, sounds great. Congratulations. And best wishes to you.

Sandra Cox said...

Great interview and sounds like a fascinating read. I loved hearing about Jess's perseverance in getting her book out there and getting an agent.

Nancy P said...

Goodreads follower. Love this cover!

positive DOT ideas DOT 4you AT gmail DOT com

Melanie B said...

Following your blog and on twitter! Sounds like a great book, thanks for the chance!
Shared on twitter: https://twitter.com/craftychicky58/status/1287144335323078659
Email: melanie_brac (at) yahoo (dot) com

Sunnymay said...

This looks like an uplifting story with a child's sense of wonder.