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Debut Author Interview: Jessica Olson and Sing Me Forgotten Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Jessica Olson here to share about her YA fantasy Sing Me Forgotten, which is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera. It’s a highly anticipated release for 2021, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.

Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, Isda was saved by Cyril, the opera house's owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high--and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.

But Isda breaks Cyril's cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she's ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.

Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place.

Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve been writing books since kindergarten, and I’m pretty sure my parents still have stacks of the books I wrote and illustrated as a kid moldering up in their attic. Compelling stories about little girls that got castles for Christmas and went on picnics and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When I fell in love with Harry Potter as a young teen was when I moved on from writing (terrible) picture books to writing (even worse) novels. I was constantly scribbling stories in notebooks instead of paying attention in class during middle school and high school, much to my teachers’ frustration.

I started querying with the intent of getting literary representation in 2009. A lot of rejections ensued, and more drafts and rewrites and new books and, finally, in 2018 I decided to submit to Pitch Wars for this new Phantom of the Opera story I’d just written. I was chosen, I signed with an agent shortly after the Pitch Wars showcase, and we sold a few months later to Inkyard/HarperCollins!

2. That’s so cool you have written for so long and that you parents saved some of your early stories. Where did you get the idea for Sing Me Forgotten?

Initially it was just a thought that struck me in the shower one day: What if memories were currency? Like you could buy and sell things with your memories? When this idea hit me, I’d been playing around with the concept of doing some kind of Phantom of the Opera retelling from the phantom’s perspective, and the two ideas kind of exploded together into what became Sing Me Forgotten. Initially, I’d wanted to write a Phantom story for a while, as I had always connected much more with the Phantom than with Christine and wanted to tell the story from that perspective, so when the idea of memory magic popped into my head that day, it sort of all took off from there.

3. I love how a fleeting thought while taking a shower gave you the initial idea for your story. I think many of us can agree to having ideas pop up in our minds when we are in the shower. I read that you wrote the first draft of Sing Me Forgotten really fast. Tell us a bit about how quickly you wrote the first draft and how long you spent revising it after that.

It was May of 2018 I believe, and I really wanted to enter Pitch Wars in August that year, but the book I’d been querying was on its last leg and I knew it didn’t stand a chance. So I decided to dive into this new Phantom idea and see if I could get it done in time for Pitch Wars. I wrote constantly, and was able to finish the first (very, very rough draft) within a month. Then I spent the remaining time until the Pitch Wars submission window trying to revise it, though at the time I still had a lot to learn about plot and story, so I still consider the draft I submitted for the contest to be very rough. 

But, in spite of the rough shape the book was in, I was lucky enough to be chosen, and after talking with my mentors and hearing their constructive critical feedback, I realized that the way I’d written the story was not the best way it could be written. So I scrapped the whole thing, put together a scene-by-scene outline for a new version, and wrote an entire new book from scratch in four weeks. I then did some revision with my mentors to get it ready for the Pitch Wars showcase, and then, once I signed with my agent, I did a small round with her before we went on submission. So from starting the first draft in May 2018 to going on submission in March 2019, it was a whirlwind ten months!

4. Wow! I would love to write a rough draft in a month. I also read that you used to be a panster but are now a plotter. When did you make the switch and how has it improved your writing? Which were you when you wrote Sing Me Forgotten?

Sing Me Forgotten was actually the book that taught me I worked better with an outline. I’d written several books before it, and I very solidly considered myself a pantser. I didn’t want to take away the surprise of discovery! But then, when I was in Pitch Wars and needed to turn around a whole new draft in a very short time frame, I realized I didn’t have time to pants it and possibly end up with something else that didn’t work and would need an overhaul. I needed to get it right the first time. So I gritted my teeth and forced myself to do an extensive outline for my new version of Sing Me Forgotten.

The result was eons better than anything I had ever written up to that point in my life. I also loved how quickly I was able to draft—since I’d already outlined the book, I didn’t need to do any thinking while drafting. I could simply sit down and GO. I have never written a book without an outline since!

5. Sing Me Forgotten is a standalone. Many fantasies are series. What made you decide to tell your story as a standalone instead?

Personal preference came into this decision for sure. I very much prefer reading standalone books, and even when books are a part of a series, I don’t often read the sequels unless I absolutely adored the first book. I think I just get antsy to see new worlds and meet new characters as a reader, and it seems that as a writer, I am no different.

Also, the story I told in Sing Me Forgotten very much came to the conclusion I wanted it to at the end. I felt that adding to it and writing a sequel would take away some of the wonder, the hope, and the mystery of Isda’s story, and it just felt complete to me the way it was.

6. You submitted this story to PitchWars in 2018. Tell us how being in the PitchWars helped strengthen your manuscript and help you get your agent, Christa Heschke.

Well, I think I’ve already expressed how much Pitch Wars taught me about my own process! I learned that I write much better books when I outline them first. I also learned a lot about what it’s like working with an agent or editor, because the mentor/mentee relationship mimics that author/editor relationship pretty well.

I certainly don’t think Sing Me Forgotten could have gotten me an agent in the state it was in before Pitch Wars, so I think the critique my mentors gave me, the things I learned about the craft, and the revision I did to the manuscript helped me obtain that offer of representation I’d been seeking for a decade. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I had to be selected for Pitch Wars. It truly changed my life.

7. Many of the authors I’ve interviewed also say how much Pitch Wars helped them on their writing journey. Your book was sold at auction to Inkyard/Harper Collins. What was it like to go through the process of selling your book at auction?

Oh, it was absolutely terrifying and exciting and nerve-wracking. The auction actually took place over a two-week time period, and I barely slept or ate the whole time. I was glued to my phone waiting for updates from my agent, wondering what was happening on her end and whether we’d get another offer or who would respond next. It was also very surreal that not only did one publisher want to purchase the rights to publish my book, but multiple did. I vacillated between ecstasy and all-encompassing anxiety at least thirty times a day throughout the whole process.

8. How did you celebrate your cover release? What advise do you have for other authors about revealing their cover and creating buzz for their book?

I worked together with YABooksCentral, as well as Storygram Tours and MTMC Tours on Instagram to help reveal and spread the word. I think my best advice for other authors handling their own cover reveal is to do what works for you—there’s no one right way to reveal a cover. Ultimately, people will be excited no matter what, and you need to aim to do whatever is going to feel right for you and your book. So if that’s simply announcing on your twitter account or if that’s pitching to big media outlets, the choice you make should be entirely about what brings you joy. Many people have told me that cover reveals don’t move the needle in sales at all, so it’s really just a fun way to celebrate the book finally starting its public journey into the world.

9. How are you planning to market your book, especially given the pandemic?

With lots of virtual engagement! I’ve been having so much fun meeting readers and writers on Instagram. I also recently just started using TikTok, and it really has done a lot to make such a lonely time not feel quite as isolating. I only hope that once life goes back to “normal” (if such a thing ever exists again), we can continue all these fun virtual launch parties and Instagram Live chats! It’s been so fun to be able to attend and support authors in events I normally wouldn’t be able to attend because of geographical location.

10. I really hope we can have some fun virtual events too when things are more normal. I’ve been able to connect with so many more authors through them. What are you working on now?

I’ve got a second contracted book with Inkyard/HarperCollins releasing tentatively in March 2022, so we’re finishing up final edits on that and getting it ready for ARCs soon! It’s surreal to already be working on another novel when Sing Me Forgotten is so fresh in the world, but I am beyond excited to continue to grow my career. I also am continuing to work on other projects that will hopefully find a home soon!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jessica. You can find Jessica at





Giveaway Details

Jessica has generously offered a hardback of Sing Me Forgotten for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by April 10th. 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. The giveaway is U.S.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Tuesday, April 6th I’m participating in the April Showers Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, April 7th I have an interview with debut author Alexandra Overy and a giveaway of her YA fantasy These Feathered Flames and my IWSG post

Monday, April 12th I have an interview with debut author Kaela Rivera and a giveaway of her MG fantasy based on Mexican mythology Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Wednesday, April 14th I have an agent spotlight interview with Emily Fortney and a query critique giveaway

Friday, April 16th I’m participating in the Rainbow on Roses Giveaway Hop

Monday, April 19th I have an interview with debut author Laekan Kemp and a giveaway of her YA contemporary Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Monday, April 26th I’m reviewing and giving away Rescue, a MG historical by Jennifer Nielsen, one of my favorite authors

Hope to see you next Tuesday!





nashvillecats2 said...

Wonderful interview Natalie, I wish Jessica every success with her book. A great theme for a book.
Have a good week.
Take care.

Jessica Lawson said...

I loved hearing about Jessica's book journey~ and the story sounds fantastic! That cover is gorgeous as well :)

Megan said...

I loved this interview!!! (Not entering the giveaway as I am not in the US? :)

Jenni said...

I heard about Jessica's book first on Writeoncon. I attended one of her workshops. I think it was about writing romance, and it was so good. I really like how she used Phantom as a jumping off point.
It was fascinating hearing about her journey!

Liz A. said...

That sounds like a great book (and it's a great cover). I find I do my best thinking in the shower, too.

ken ohl said...

this sounds intriguing love to check it out

Cindy S said...

Thanks for sharing your story. How exciting to have houses fighting over your work!

Leela said...

I'm a follower.

Sarah Meade said...

Congratulations, Jessica! This book sounds so intriguing.

Danielle H. said...

I loved this interview today and getting an in-depth look into pitch wars. I must outline my writing too and rarely write without one. Having publishers bid on your manuscript is a dream come true. I follow Natalie on Twitter and can't wait to read this exciting book.

Carl Scott said...

Sounds like an exciting debut. Congratulations Jessica, I'd love to have a copy.
I've tweeted a link to this post: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/1376960963031658497, and shared an image with a link on Pinterest too: https://www.pinterest.com.mx/pin/336573772158805902/.
I also follow the blog daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com.
Thanks again, have a great day everyone!

Rosi said...

Thanks for another interesting glimpse into a writer's journey. I will pass on the giveaway.

Jay Linden said...

So inspiring - thanks for sharing your journey Jessica - well deserved success and how exciting to have your first book auctioned - really intriguing idea - memory as currency! Good luck and I look forward to reading the book.

Mina's Blogs said...

Wonderful blog. I liked the words. I am following your blogs. I would be more than happy if you grant me the honor to follow my humble blogs.

Sandra Cox said...

Wishing you much success on this wonderful book, Jessica.
Thanks for sharing, Natalie. Have a fun, creative week.

leesy said...

My email is mselisamarks@yahoo.com and would love to win this book. It’s been getting so many good reviews!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Great interview. Sounds like my kind of story too. Put me down. Thanks, ladies.

Joy of Vegan Beauty said...

Thanks for the post. The story sounds great and the cover is cool. My email is cgigous@yahoo.com.

tetewa said...

Would love to get a copy of this! Enjoyed the post and interview today. tWarner419@aol.com

Debra Branigan said...

I enjoyed the interview. This one sounds interesting. Thank you for the chance. Shared on twitter (https://twitter.com/BraniganDebra/status/1377326796778184706?s=20)

KMc said...

I enjoyed reading this interview. Sing me Forgotten sounds intriguing, and I found the questions and replies useful. Thank you!

Sandra Cox said...

Pitch Wars would totally stress me. Sounds like the outcome, though, was definitely worth it.

Tonja Drecker said...

I love hearing about successful pitch things like this one. Congrats and good luck with everything!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Natalie and Jessica - what a wonderful post - chock full of ideas and thoughts ... good luck to you both - and have a peaceful Easter weekend ... Hilary

Computer Tutor said...

So much work in each of these posts. Just the updates are amazing. I have an education blog with thousands of links to websites. I try to update it once a year but it takes days!

diedre Knight said...

Wow! I love everything about "Sing Me Forgotten"!

Happy Easter, Ladies!

Anonymous said...

This is one I've been looking forward to! I follow via email.

Patsy said...

Gosh. A draft in a month is impressive!

Roseline Tinz said...

wow so many collections.
Would you like to follow each other? If the answer is yes, please follow me on my blog & I'll follow you back. thank you.


Natalie Aguirre said...

I'd love to follow your blog. Just added it to my blog roll.

Angie Quantrell said...

Oooh, this sounds great! Congratulations, Jessica!

I follow by email. :) Tweeting this post as well. Thanks, Natalie!