Hello bookish folks!
I’m happy to tell you that I have a lovely guest today! Those who have been following me for a while know that I read and reviewed Seeing Cinderella last month and I absolutely loved it. I don’t usually read middle grade books – not anymore – but this one was seriously amazing. So, to whet your appetite and show you how great this book is, I would like you to meet the author herself … *drumroll*
J: First of all I just want to say thanks so much for having me today. I feel constantly blessed by how supportive the book blogging and kidlit community is.
V: I’m happy to have you on Books, Biscuits, and Tea! Thank you for joining us today I really enjoyed your book but for those people who haven’t read it yet, please tell us a little bit about yourself and Seeing Cinderella.
J: Hmmm, I have a hard time talking about myself, that’s probably why I don’t blog more often. But here goes…I’m the mother of two rambunctious boys and a writer. This means I drink too much coffee, and my house is usually a mess. I’m horrible at most sports, but I play a mean game of hearts. I can’t carry a tune, but secretly when I’m alone in my car I rock out to Kelly Clarkson and unleash my inner diva…How’s that? :0)
Seeing Cinderella is my debut middle grade novel about a shy seventh grader who receives a pair of magic glasses that can read people’s thoughts. She uses the glasses to navigate middle school life and better understand the world around her. Or to put it another way, she spies on her mom, best friend, and long-time crush to find out what they really think of her.
V: What motivated you to write Seeing Cinderella? How much is it based on personal experiences and your own childhood?
J: Seeing Cinderella is partly inspired by an incident that that happened to me in the seventh grade. It involved my glasses, a cute boy, and spit. You can read about it here. I never owned a pair of magic glasses but I was much like Callie in that I felt overwhelmed by middle school life and wanted to hide out in my room with my books.
V: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
J: The hardest part by far was figuring out where I wanted to go with my initial idea. Originally I tried to write a short story about a girl who received a pair of magic glasses that could read people’s thoughts, but I could never make it work. Once I decided the idea was better suited as a novel it took me several months to develop the story. I kept asking myself what kind of girl needs magic glasses to really “see” the world around her. And I struggled to develop my secondary characters. Since Callie’s glasses would allow her to see their thoughts, I knew I needed to spend time getting to know them and get a feel for each character’s emotional world. All in all, it took me two and a half years to write Seeing Cinderella. Which is kind of funny, because it’s taken me two and half months to write my second book, Plastic Polly.
V: But it was worth it! What do you hope readers will learn from your book? What’s the main message you want to get across?
J: When I write a story, I never start with a message that I want to share. I always begin with an idea that intrigues me, or a character voice in my head that just won’t go away. But as I began writing Seeing Cinderella, I remembered how awkward and afraid I felt in seventh grade. In many ways I was frozen, afraid to pursue my interests, and certain everyone thought I was a dork. I guess it’s my hope that after reading this book, other girls will realize they’re not alone—that many other people share their worries and insecurities, even if they don’t voice them, and that they’ll be able to step confidently into the next season of their life.
V: Which character or characters could you relate to the most?
J: Callie was the character I related to the most, but actually, in some ways I related to all of them. Ellen, Callie’s outgoing and grade-obsessed best friend, was me in the fourth grade. Stacy, Ellen’s new friend and Callie’s rival, was someone I wanted to be in seventh grade. And Raven is me when I’m super cranky. (Though hopefully I do a better job keeping my crankiness to myself!)
V: Is there going to be a sequel to Seeing Cinderella or are you working on a new book at the moment?
J: At this time I have no plans to write a sequel, though one day I may write a book about Dr. Ingram (Callie’s optometrist/fairy godfather) helping another girl, though I suspect he won’t be an optometrist. Maybe a guidance counsellor? Currently, I’m revising my second novel, Plastic Polly, which comes out in Spring of 2013 and I’m having a blast with it.
V: Who or what was your biggest influence in becoming a writer?
J: When I was younger I loved to write, but I bought into the lie that I wasn’t “creative enough” to be a writer, so I never pursued it. Then after my kids were born I felt like I needed to do something for me—something that didn’t involve dishes or dirty diapers. After thinking about it, and praying about it for a while, I decided the time was right to start writing. I still sometimes struggle with the “I’m not creative enough” lie, but I’ve discovered that a lot of times we have it backwards: we think we need to have a great idea before we start writing. When in fact, the opposite is true: if we sit down and start writing, eventually, the ideas will come.
V: What are some of your favourite books?
J: I’m a committed Harry Potter and Hunger Games fan. But I also like adult literary novels—Empire Falls by Richard Russo is my favorite. As for other middle grade novels I loved Thirteen by Candice Ransom, when I was in middle school. I recently read Solving Zoe by Barbara Dee and loved it. The list could go on and on.
V: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
J: I love to read. In fact, it’s a toss-up which I enjoy more: reading or writing. I never have to force myself to read (although I frequently have to force myself to stop reading). But nothing fulfils me like writing. I also love getting together with my Journey Girls—six of my soul sisters—and catching up with each other over a long dinner. Also, I love time with my husband and two sons.
V: What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring authors?
J: Keep writing, and don’t give up. Seeing Cinderella is my first published novel, but it’s the second one I’ve written. My first novel also took me a couple years to write and when it came down to it, it just wasn’t good enough for publication. I was thirty when I started writing my first novel, and by the time Seeing Cinderella releases, I’ll have turned thirty-six. I’m glad I didn’t know how long it would take to get published.
My other piece of advice is don’t compare yourself with other authors. Some authors publish in less than six years, for some it takes much longer. Every writer has their own unique journey to publication, and it will only discourage you to measure yourself by other’s paths.
V: Night owl or early bird?
J: Early bird, definitely. Having kids has pretty much forced me to become an early bird.
V: What are some of your favourite places to travel?
J: I lived in Russia for a few months in Nizhny Novgorod when I was in college, and I miss it desperately. One day I’d like to take my husband there so he can see Moscow, Saint Petersberg, and Nizhny. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have to make a special stop in Hungary. We can drink tea and talk books! [I’m in, I’m SO in! ;-)]
V: Ebooks or paperback copies?
J: Paperbacks. At this point, I don’t own an e-reader.
V: Favourite films?
J: My all-time favorite film is Sleepless in Seattle. I’m pretty sure my husband is sick of watching it. And I’m so excited for the Hunger Games film to come out.
V: TV or Internet?
J: Internet. I watch very little TV. With the exception of Friday Night Lights, which I stream online.
V: Winter or summer?
J: I’ll go for Option C: Autumn. Northern California is beautiful in the fall. It’s by far my favorite time of the year.
Jenny, thank you so much for joining us today! I hope everyone will enjoy Seeing Cinderella just as much as I did. I’ve never been to the US before but I’m with you on the summer/winter debate: autumn and spring are the best. And I’ll definitely keep an eye on your website because I have a feeling that Plastic Polly is going to be a great read!
If you’d like to win a copy of Jenny’s book, Seeing Cinderella and a pair of funky socks, head over to her website and make sure to enter! The contest runs through midnight 12/4 Pacific Standard Time.Click here to enter