When I met Jen Brooks, we were both unpublished book authors, searching for the fiction dream. Jen had an agent at the time; I was still banging my head against the wall. After commiserating over several e-mails, a whirlwind turn of events put me together with Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management, and Jen graciously guided me through those first awkward moments of agentdom. When Wish landed a publishing contract, Jen was thrilled, and I had no doubt that I would be able to reflect that enthusiasm back to her. Sure enough, a great publisher snatched up her manuscript… and threw in a contract for a follow-up!
Jen’s book doesn’t come out until next spring, but I wanted to chat with her a bit leading up to it, as her book is already available for pre-order (see below for all the necessary links).
Tell us, first, about your soon-to-be-released debut novel.
In A World Just Right releases from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on April 28, 2015. It’s a young adult novel classified as contemporary romantic fantasy.
Here is the summary I use on Goodreads: High school senior Jonathan Aubrey creates worlds at will. In Kylie-Simms-is-my-girlfriend, he’s given himself everything he doesn’t have in real life—the track team, passing grades, and his dream girl—until one day he confuses his worlds and almost kisses the real Kylie Simms, Now his girlfriend Kylie and the real Kylie are changing, and Jonathan must solve the mystery of his own life to save his love from a gruesome fate.
What drew you to this genre?
I started out writing science fiction and fantasy for adults. After completing two manuscripts, people noticed I tended to use young adult characters as protagonists, and I was encouraged to try writing a young adult novel. Although having a teen protagonist is one requirement of young adult literature, I knew that overall, I’d have to learn some things before writing for that audience. I read a bunch and decided to give it a try. What I like most about writing YA books is that there is so much more ability to genre blend, which is another tendency of mine.
Where were you when you got the call that a contract was going to be offered?
I was ripping up and re-laying bricks on my front walkway. We were living in a new house and trying like crazy to get it ready for hosting a shower.
Tell us a bit about your writing background, and how it evolved to lead you to In A World Just Right?
I was a high school English teacher for fourteen years. About ten years in, it was time to earn a graduate degree in order to move up the pay scale, so I enrolled in the Writing Popular Fiction master’s program at Seton Hill University. I have always loved to write, but at the time I wasn’t seriously considering jumping careers. My experience at Seton Hill taught me a lot about myself and about being a writer. When I left teaching to have my son, I went back to Seton Hill for the MFA and decided if I were going to be a mom at home, I would give publishing a shot.
While I was shopping around my MFA thesis, waiting to hear back from agents who had requested the manuscript, I decided to use the time to work on a new project. I called it World Maker, and it began one September as a page-a-day experiment. I realized about half-way through that it was a better book than the one I had on submission, so I stopped sending the other book out. World Maker landed me an agent, then a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster, and went on to be retitled In A World Just Right.
Give us the Most Exciting Moments of your writing career so far (knowing that they will all probably be eclipsed once you see your book in a store for the first time).
1. Getting “the call” from an agent who wanted to represent me and my book.
2. Closing the deal with my editor at Simon & Schuster.
3. Any time someone reads my book (I have Advanced Reader Copies out to reviewers) and says nice things about it.
Give us the Most Painful Moments of your writing career so far (knowing that they will all probably be eclipsed once you have a book presentation or signing somewhere and no one shows up).
1. I was quite literally in pain while completing the first draft of book two of my contract. It’s hard to sit in a chair for fourteen hours a day!
2. Other things aren’t painful so much as stressful: waiting for various stages of the process to be completed, worrying about marketing and publicity, finding the time to write when you are responsible for other things, etc.
What is your go-to thing/superstition/stuffed animal/drink/etc. that either helps you get in the writing mood, or that you just absolutely have to do or have with you when you write?
Am I the only person who doesn’t have one of these? I guess the one thing that really makes me sit down and write is a deadline.
How has working on your second book differed from working on your debut?
With the debut book, there was never any timeline for completion, never any guarantee it would be published. I was able to have lots of people read and critique for me, and I produced numerous drafts before it went on submission. By the time my editor saw the book, it was pretty clean.
I had just under a year to write my second book, but I spent a large amount of that time in revisions of the first book with my editor, learning the things I needed to learn about being a professional author, and dealing with some other things behind the scenes. I didn’t begin my book two in earnest until March of this year, and it turned out to be a long, complicated book that I didn’t have much opportunity to revise before turning it in. My editor very kindly suggested some ideas for revision, saying it wasn’t ready for a full-on manuscript edit yet, and now I’m in the process of doing that revision.
Thanks for chatting, Jen! You have some exciting times ahead of you leading up to the release of In A World Just Right!
Thanks, Jake, for the opportunity to be interviewed! It’s been fun sharing this whole publishing process with you!
About Jen Brooks: After graduating from Dartmouth College, Jen taught high school English for fourteen years. She holds an MA and MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. A competitive hurdler and jumper in high school and college, she coached high school cross-country and track & field for thirty-one seasons. When she’s not writing in her office overlooking her backyard pond, you can find her running, hiking, visiting national parks, or going out for ice cream with her husband and son.
Jen’s Website: http://www.jenbrookswriter.com/
On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18304348-in-a-world-just-right
Pre-order on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1rsNnri
Links to other Pre-Order Retailers: http://www.jenbrookswriter.com/books/in-a-world-just-right/