Welcome to Author Interview Thursday hosted by the Never Too Old for YA and NA Books group on Goodreads.
Today we welcome author Jessica Brody to the blog!
Thanks so much for being here today, Jessica!
Take it away!
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
The short answer is yes. Although it took me a long time to figure that out. In second grade I turned in a four page book report (the assignment was to write one paragraph) and the teacher made such a huge deal about it. I really couldn’t understand why. Writing just came naturally to me. At that moment I remember wanting to be a writer. But somewhere along the way I convinced myself that I needed to get a “serious” job…you know, one that comes with dental insurance. So I majored in Economics in college (very serious!) and went on to be a financial analyst for MGM Studios. It wasn’t until later that I realized “serious” wasn’t for me. So I quit to pick up where I left off at age seven.
How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
On average, it takes me about 3 months to write the first draft. Then my editor comes in and tells me how to fix it and I do another draft in a few weeks. Then they do what’s called a “line edit” which is when the editor goes line by line and fixes grammar and cuts out parts that aren’t needed, etc. That takes about another month. And then after that it’s the Copyediting phase where they make sure EVERYTHING is perfect. That takes another few weeks. So total, about 9-12 months before it’s perfect and ready to be printed.
How do you come up with themes for your stories?
I really love themes. If a theme is well hidden in a book or movie it becomes like a scavenger hunt for me. I become the Thematic Sherlock Holmes! For my own books, I start by asking the question, “What does this character have to learn from this plot?” In other words, why does this character HAVE to experience this story? The answer is usually the theme of the book. Like with one of my contemporary stories, MY LIFE UNDECIDED, the character had to learn how to make her own choices and deal with the consequences of them. So the theme became “It’s okay to make mistakes.”
Do you have a schedule of when you write?
I can only write for about 2-3 hours a day. For one, I get antsy and can’t still for much longer than that and I always seem to have so many other things to do. I’m a full time writer, but you’d be amazed at how much other work besides writing piles up. When you work for yourself you also end up being your own tech person, graphic designer, accountant, publicist, assistant, photocopier, filer, and online marketing specialist! I try to do all my writing in the morning. Like first thing after I wake up. If I don’t, it miraculously NEVER gets done!
How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?
What other aspects of my life? Haha! Seriously though, I don’t do much else. My career as a writer is my life. If I’m not working on a book, then I’m traveling to promote a previous book. On my rare down time I like to watch TV, read, travel for fun, and hang out with my doggies.
What elements do you think make a great story line?
For me, I think all great stories have some kind of “fish out of water” element. A character who is out of their comfort zone and trying something new. Trying new things and having new experiences are what force us to change as human beings. And great characters always have some changing/learning to do. Otherwise, why do we want to read about them!? So, on that note, another element that makes a great story is transformation.
What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
Act 2! Or the dreaded “middle.” Act 1 is my favorite. It’s the set-up. Everything is fresh, the character is new and fun and novel. You get to lay the groundwork for the story, build suspense, layer in complex plot points that will be resolved later. And then comes the Act 2. The heart of the story. Also known as “my nemesis.” The character is now totally grating my nerves, everything I set up in Act 1 absolutely sucks, I have no idea why I’m even a writer to begin with, I have the vocabulary of a five year old, all the “complex plot points” I thought I was setting up now actually have to be dealt with (yikes!) and I become nearly impossible to live with. And yet, somehow, incredibly, magically (as if little elves snuck in my house in the middle of the night and fixed everything that was wrong with my story), I finally arrive at act 3, the conclusion and then I’m like, “That wasn’t so bad. I don’t know why I was so freaked out!”
How many books have you written so far? Do you have a favorite?
I have written eleven full-length novels. Only eight have been contracted to be published. And of those, only seven are currently “out.” The last book in the Unremembered trilogy, UNCHANGED, will be released in February of 2015!
Favorite? That’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child! They’re all my babies. My favorite character is Brooklyn Pierce from MY LIFE UNDECIDED. My favorite plot is 52 REASONS TO HATE MY FATHER. And the book I’m most proud of is UNCHANGED, the final book in the trilogy.
Do you have a favorite character?
Where do you write?
I used to only be able to write outside of my house. Like in coffee shops and things. Now I can pretty much write anywhere. And I have to because of all the travel I do.
When deciding on how to publish, what directed you to the route you took?
I took pretty much the most traditional route to becoming a traditionally published author. And that is, find an agent and have the agent sell your book. It was the only route I really knew of. Back then, when I first got published, self-publishing wasn’t really a thing yet. It was just starting out. It wasn’t as easy as accessible as it is now. I’m not sure if that would have changed my course. I really wanted to be published by a major publisher so that was the route I took! It took me five years to get there, but it was worth the struggle.
Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?
I think my biggest fan is my little sister. She loves the Unremembered trilogy. She gets to read all the books early. She just finished UNCHANGED and called me right away to squeal about the ending. The ending is a bit of a shocker.
What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?
Don’t be afraid to write badly. All writers have awful first drafts. That’s why they’re called first drafts. Sometimes you have to just get through the story before you can make it pretty. I think a lot of new authors quit halfway through the book because they’re afraid that it’s not good. The first draft won’t be good. Just finish it and fix it later. The hardest part about writing a book is getting to that last page.
What is your favorite book? favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?
My favorite book changes by the day! Right now it’s READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline. Gosh, I loved that book! Favorite authors include: Suzanne Collins, Sophie Kinsella, Jandy Nelson, Rainbow Rowell, and J.K. Rowling .
Do you have any go to people when writing a book that help you with your story lines as well as editing, beta reading and such?
My dad and my husband are my first readers. I’ve also collected a lot of “plot solvers” along the way. These are fellow authors who I call upon when I’m stuck on a plot problem.
Are you working on anything now?
YES! I’m working on a new contemporary standalone! Unfortunately I can’t tell you much else about it at this point, but it will be similar to my previous contemporaries. And after that, well, I have a ton of other fun ideas!
Thanks so much for being here today, Jessica! IT was so great to have you and an't wait to hear more about your newest book!
Jessica Brody knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started self "publishing" her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples and electrical tape.
After graduating from Smith College in 2001 where she double majored in Economics and French and minored in Japanese, Jessica later went on to work for MGM Studios as a Manager of Acquisitions and Business Development. In May of 2005, Jessica quit her job to follow her dream of becoming a published author.
In four short years, Jessica has sold nine novels (two adult novels to St. Martin's Press and seven young adult novels to Farrar, Straus, Giroux.) THE FIDELITY FILES, her debut, released in stores (in real binding) in June of 2008 and the the follow-up, LOVE UNDER COVER in November 2009. THE KARMA CLUB, Jessica's debut young adult novel released in April of 2010 and her second YA release, MY LIFE UNDECIDED just recently hit bookstores in June 2011.
52 REASONS TO HATE MY FATHER (which was recently optioned for film) will be out in Summer 2012 and UNREMEMBERED, (also optioned for film), the first book in a new teen sci-fi series, will be released in early 2013.
Jessica's books are published and translated in over twelve foreign countries including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Russia, Brazil, China, Portugal, Israel, Indonesia and Taiwan.
Jessica now works full time as a writer and producer. She currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Colorado.