Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Author Interview: Deborah Lynn Jacobs

Today for my author interview I have Deborah Lynn Jacobs. I met Deborah at a Writer's Workshop earlier this summer. She was filling in, at the last minute, for the speaker who was sick. It was scheduled to be a talk about YA. Unfortunately for Deborah wasn't aware she was going to be filling in until the last minute, so she didn't have any of her talks with her. It was, however, fortunate for us in the audience. It turned into a wonderful Q&A. We asked Deborah any and every question we could think of about writing, publishing, and querying. It was a very informative hour.

While there, I bought her book Choices. I loved it! It was a quick easy read, but the content was anything but easy. Kathleen has major choices to make and none of them are simple. It's a book that even after you put it down, you can't help but think back about the concept an story. It was wonderfully written.

Thanks, Deborah for answering all my questions!

JS:   You’ve had three books published. Can you tell us a little about them? 
DLJ:   Sure. The Same Difference is about a girl with Asperger’s syndrome, who has an autistic twin sister. The book explores the similarities and differences between the two girls, and between Casey and her high school peers. In Powers, two teens with latent psychic powers unlock each other’s potential, with disastrous results. Written in two voices, Powers is a story about power in all its guises. It’s a page-turner, with elements of mystery, suspense and a dash of romance. Choices explores the road not taken. Kathleen shifts between copies of herself in alternate universes. She both changes her life, and is changed by the choices she makes. In the end, she must make the most difficult choice of all. 

JS:   Choices is a book about a girl who shifts between alternate universes. How difficult was this to write? Did you do anything special to keep the universes separate? 
DLJ:  It was tricky keeping the characters separate and unique. As you know, the book starts with Kathleen, but splits into several versions of her as she shifts between copies of herself in alternate universes. I had to keep track of what each character was doing, even when they were off screen, because I would eventually come back to them. I used a flowchart, which I obsessed over, marked up with colored pens, stuck sticky notes on, erased, rewrote—you get the idea. By the end, I was juggling eight separate plot lines. I once woke up at three in the morning in a cold sweat, and had to run downstairs to make sure I hadn’t made a continuity error on my flow chart! 

JS:   What are you working on now? 
DLJ:  I’m currently working on a novel that explores privacy issues and government meddling in individual’s lives. It was sort of “future fiction” when I started it, but is rapidly becoming the evening news! 

JS:   How long, on average, does it take you to write a book? 
DLJ:  Depends. Six months to ten years, ha, ha. The ten years was for Powers. I was learning to write as I went along. I did so many revisions, and versions, and plot lines that it’s all a blur in my mind. Finally, I learned enough to get it right—or at least, semi-right. 

JS:   How did you get your inspiration for your books? 
DLJ:  I read a lot of science fiction when I was growing up. There wasn’t much written for young adults, so I went from juvenile fiction to adult novels. I loved the “what if?” nature of science fiction. I still love asking, “What if?” and going from there. 

JS:   When did you decide to write your first novel? 
DLJ:  My youngest was in junior kindergarten, half days. I’d see her off on the bus, walk the dog, then write until the bus dropped her off at noon. I wrote a novel in one school year, and revised it the next year. It was a terrible first novel, and didn’t sell, but the need to write was in my blood and I haven’t looked back. 

JS:   Have you always wanted to be a writer? 
DLJ:  That’s actually hard to answer. I wrote my first book when I was eight, but got stuck in the middle and stopped. I wrote for my school newspaper, and, later, in my job as a college counselor, I created a departmental newsletter and wrote a guide for adults returning to school. When we moved to a small town, I needed to cobble together a career. I taught at the college, worked at the employment center, and started writing for the town newspaper and some local magazines. Eventually, I got around to writing novels again. This time I finished them! 

JS:  How many query letters did you send out before you got an agent?
DLJ:  Somewhere between five and ten, I think. Some rejections were brutal. The worst, in my opinion, was a stock rejection, printed on a third of a piece of paper, and cut at an angle. Obviously, they’d printed a standard rejection three times on a sheet of paper, cut it into three (badly,) and sent it to three people. I mean, my work didn’t even warrant a whole piece of paper? Ouch. 

JS:   Is it easier to get published once you already have an agent and books published?
DLJ:  I think so. Many houses are closed to unsolicited queries, and will only look at agented submissions. One way to break in is to go to conferences. If you write for kids and teens you can join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators.) There are regional and national conferences, as well as local events. Usually, an agent or editor will accept submissions directly from conference attendees, allowing you to get your foot in the door of closed publishing houses. 

JS:   What advice do you have for any unpublished authors? 
DLJ:  I would say to polish your manuscript until it is the absolute best you can make it. If you have any doubts about it, don’t send it out yet. A critique group can be invaluable in helping you spot flaws in your own work.

 Random Questions

Vanilla or chocolate? Chocolate.
Coffee or tea? Both! Tea at breakfast, coffee at dinner.
Beach or snow? Snow.
Last book read? Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. Currently reading the second volume of Game of Thrones, by R. R. Martin.
Favorite author? That’s hard to answer! I read mostly YA novels, since that’s what I write. There are so many authors I admire: Gail Giles, Neal Shusterman, Alex Flinn, Jorden Sonnenblich, Brent Hartinger, Arthur Slade, Linda Sue Park, Cynthia Lord, Eric Luper…I could go on and on!
Most played song on iPod? Anything by Daughtry, David Cook, Rob Thomas—I’m partial to male vocalists.
Favorite movie? A Knight’s Tale, Fiddler on the Roof, Pretty Woman, Shanghai Noon, Romeo and Juliet (Franco Zeffirelli version,) Hamlet, First Knight, Galaxy Quest.
Outliner or panster? I start writing by the seat of my pants, but resort to an outline once I get lost in the story and need a plan.
Flats or heels? How about bare feet?
Lipstick or chapstick? Chapstick! I squirrel them all over the house, so I’m never without one.

Deborah Lynn Jacobs is the author of three books for young adults. Her most recent book, Choices, follows Kathleen as she slips between alternate copies of herself in parallel universes, trying to undo a tragic, irreversible choice. Choices was a Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, A Stellar Book Award winner, Sunburst Award Finalist, and was on the NYPL Books for the Teen Age list. Deborah is a transplanted Canadian, and has put down roots in Wisconsin. She is an active member of SCBWI, and enjoys outdoorsy things like gardening, bird watching, camping and canoeing.

Have you read any of Deborah's books? Any of them sound like something you'd like to read? Interested in being a part of my author interview? Just shoot me an e-mail.



Brooke R. Busse said...

I put CHOICES and THE SAME DIFFERENCE on my TBR list. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Choices sounds cool!

nutschell said...

awesome interview! Definitely interested in picking up Deborah's books--especially Powers, since I love fantasy. :)

Debra Harris-Johnson said...

All sound great and definitely books I want to read. I freaked out because we have almost the same name and the exact same initials.
Deborah Lynn Jacobs meet Debra Lynn Johnson.

Kelley Lynn said...

Ooo, adding these to the TBR list! Is she the one who's talking at the conference???

Paul Tobin said...

I enjoyed the interview, very perceptive.