Interview with YA Debut Author Jenn Marie Thorne
I first met Jenn Marie Thorne back in 2007 when I joined her and fellow writers for a Wednesday writing group in Santa Monica. We met weekly to discuss our own work, read writing, and support each other. I moved to the Bay Area in 2010, moved back to LA in 2013, and by then Jenn had moved to Florida. But I’ve been tracking her writing career as a young adult author and it’s amazing to see an artist grow from back then to now! Her very first young adult novel is out tomorrow, but I’m sure it won’t be her last. Jenn was kind enough to share about her experience as a first-time author and what’s she learned in the process. Here’s a bit more about her book (grab a copy here):
THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT description
Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate’s moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate’s new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign’s talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn’t necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?
Set against a backdrop of politics, family, and first love, this is a story of personal responsibility, complicated romance, and trying to discover who you are even as everyone tells you who you should be.
1) How did you get started in writing young adult books?
The first full-length novel I ever wrote was actually a middle grade fantasy, but I realized in revision that one of the problems with it was that I kept dwelling on a subplot involving the protagonist’s teenaged sister. I mulled rewriting it as her story, but then a bunch of other ideas took precedence—and they were all YA. My second book got my agent’s attention, but she signed me after reading my third one, and that’s the one that became THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT.
2) Your debut novel, WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT, is about Kate Quinn who discovers that her biological father is a politician running for president. Since your novel deals with politics, what research did you do to create the world of your book?
I started by reading some great political nonfiction, like Game Change. I watched The War Room, that amazing documentary about the Clinton ’92 campaign and that gave me a really strong sense of the feel of a campaign, the camaraderie and stress, along with a sense of the visuals. I had friends who were active in the Obama campaign as well, some quite high up in the ranks, so I looked through their Facebook feeds and videos for more intel. And I googled extensively, whenever I had a question about a detail.
3) What was your process from the idea to publication?
I did a plotting workshop as part of an online writers forum, which was pretty revelatory, and then I did NaNo, with an extensive outline in hand. I revised over the holidays, sent to beta readers in the new year, and had a draft ready to send to my now agent by March. And, of course, I revised the book approximately one gazillion more times between my book deal and the final draft.
4) What advice would you give to writers who want to break into YA?
Read YA. Read tons and tons and tons of YA novels—and not just the ones that have been made into movies. When I wrote my MG novel, I had no idea how derivative it was, because I hadn’t read widely in my genre. I’m grateful for that drawer novel, but it would have behooved me to hold off on writing it before I’d gotten a stronger understanding of, become inspired by, and formed a point of difference from what was out there already.
5) What YA books are on your to-be-read list?
SO MANY. The absolute top of my TBR right now is The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. That’ll be my reward after my book launches and I can take a little break. I’m also drooling over another forthcoming debut, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh.