I picked up Frenchie Garcia to read on a trip to Orlando for a Florida librarian conference. The book had been on my radar for a while. It was released around the same time as my book, and I was keeping up with the competition. I knew it had received a starred review from Kirkus, for example. And that it had made it onto their Best Of list at the end of the year. Jenny had been a member of the same group blog YA Outside the Lines. And a few weeks before, I'd bumped into her agent, the lovely Kerry Sparks, at another conference, and saw Jenny's book at the conference bookstore.
When I found out that Jenny lived in Orlando and would be coming to one of my events, it seemed like one of those serendipity things. Why the hell hadn't I read her book?
I read the entire thing on the plane down and was blown away. Jenny was sitting in the audience of my shared book signing with Jessica Martinez, (they are friends. The YA writing world, if you haven't guessed it by now, is small and tight) but all I wanted to do was switch places and sit in the audience myself and pepper Jenny with questions about her brilliant book.
So, I didn't get to do that, but after the event, I cornered her and requested an interview.
Which begins now...
Jenny: Are we having coffee?
Jody: Why not? I love coffee.
Jenny: Good. Let’s have coffee as we talk and sit on plushy chairs….oh, or let’s be on a Ferris wheel. With coffee (the carnival just came to town and I see the Ferris wheel every day as I drive to the bookstore where I write.)
Jody: All right. We're on a Ferris wheel and drinking our coffee. I hope we are turning very slowly...
|(Jenny Torres Sanchez possibly sitting on a virtual Ferris wheel)|
Okay, Jenny, you know I loved loved loved Frenchie so much and am recommending it to everyone I know. I must ask the question that every writer is asked--but I don't care!! I want to know!!-- where do you get your ideas?
Jenny: I don’t know. Great answer, huh? Okay, let me talk through this, because I’m serious about not knowing. Usually it starts with a character. They sort of show up and I know they’re going through something rough, but I don’t immediately know. So they hang out in my brain for a while as I figure out what has happened to them. I don’t remember coming up with the ideas for books at all, actually, at least not with The Downside of Being Charlie or Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia.
Jody: You talk about these characters or ideas sort of simmering in your head for a while-- what do you do at that point? Do you plan? Or do you just start writing and see where the story goes?
Jenny: I make up as I go. I’m terrible any other way. Planning never works for me because I can’t stick to the outline. My characters end up making all these other decisions and the story takes different turns. I know outlining works for a lot of writers, but when I plan, my writing tends to sound forced and just doesn’t really ring true. So, I let the story go where it wants to go and worry about editing later.
Jody: I haven't read your first book --The Downside of Being Charlie (it's on my TBR!). Was it the first book you wrote or do you have a few novels stuffed in a drawer?
Jenny: I started a couple of middle grade books when I was in college but I never finished them. Before writing novels, I mostly wrote short stories and I got a lot of rejections from those. But The Downside of Being Charlie was the first book I really set my mind to finish, and when I did, I started querying agents (I got a lot of rejections during this process too). Lucky for me, my now agent
Jody: Kerry Sparks--
Jenny: Yes, Kerry. She saw something in it and took a chance on me.
Jody: Is she hands-on when it comes to revision?
Jenny: Yeah, definitely. My stories can get lost, sort of wander around in circles, or sometimes they keep trying to get through a brick wall by running into it repeatedly. And I think of Kerry as this guide who points out little paths I missed and need to explore. And someone who reminds me to walk around the brick wall or climb over it. She’s fantastic.
Jody: Speaking of revision, do you have a process for that?
Jenny: (Insert laugh track) Ahahahahaha…ha…ha…ha…sigh. Yeah, so I’m all over the map with that. I mean, I definitely revise, but it’s not a very disciplined approach I guess. Sometimes I go back to what I wrote the day before and spend forever getting that paragraph, just that one paragraph, right.
Jody: OMG I do that too. It's a sickness.
Jenny: I know. Right? Other times, I’ll do a whole chapter. Or I’ll revise starting from the end of the manuscript and work my way to the beginning. It’s a bit chaotic, my process, but it works for me. Mostly. I think. I hope.
Jody: Switching gears a bit, what kind of work schedule do you have every day?
Jenny: Wake up. Do the school drop off thing w/ my two oldest kids and then drop off the smallest w/ my mom so I can write for a couple of hours. That’s it. Those couple of hours is all I have to actually sit and work, so I make sure I use every second of it. I’m pretty protective of that writing time, but I think you have to be.
Jody: I'm impressed. I had the hardest time writing when my kids were younger. There were so many things going on and writing kept falling further and further down the list. How do you balance your writing time with your other obligations?
Jenny: I guess what works for me is keeping it all separate. When it’s writing time, it’s writing time. That’s all I’m focused on. I don’t worry about other things I have to do, I don’t use that time for anything else, I just sit and write. Likewise, when it’s family time, I make sure not to even attempt to write.
Jody: Writing time, family time, and then there's a whole other big chunk of promotional time, which these days, means being on social media. What's your take on that?
Jenny: Hmm, I should probably talk more about my books on social media. But what I actually do is tweet a bit about them when they come out and give a few away. And then I tweet a lot about other things like music and art and things I love like other authors and essays that I find interesting. I guess I tend to use social media as more of a “hey look, isn’t this cool!” kind of thing than a promotional tool.
Jody: People are tired with the whole "BUY MY BOOK" kind of thing anyway.
Jenny: And that's good because I’m not great at constantly promoting myself on social media, so I do what makes me comfortable and I’m okay with that.
Jody: You mentioned before that you're working on something inspired by story you wrote in high school. Can you share a bit more about that?
Jenny: It's a weird story. There’s no other way to explain it. It’s weird, but it’s been a lot of fun working on it so far. It’s still in that fun stage where I don’t want to kill it yet. It’s in the early stages, so I’m still hush hush about it. But basically it came from that short story I wrote (and actually never finished). But sometimes stories do that, don’t they?
They stay with you for years and then suddenly surface again. In a weird way, I think they’re kind of writing themselves a little in the back of your mind, just waiting for the right time to come out. Anyway, I’ll share the image that inspired it too. It’s of a woman’s bloody pinky dangling from her hand, the tip of her finger gleaming with shell pink nail polish.
Jody: I'm getting chills.
Jenny: That’s about all I’ll say, but it’s interesting what happened to her. And how it affects the main character. ;)
Jody: Well, I now I've got a future book of yours to add to my TBR. Jenny, thank you so much for chatting with me.
And dear readers, if you'd like to more about Jenny and her books, check out the links below.
Jenny Torres Sanchez