We have YA author Jody Sparks with us today. Welcome Jody! Visit her at:
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I landed an agent. When that didn’t work out, I kept the title though.
What genre do you write? Have you considered writing in any others?
So far I’ve only written contemporary YA fiction, but I’d like to write an historical fiction novel and a sci-fi novel — keeping in the Young Adult genre.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Yes. It was subbed to 10 publishing houses and received a few friendly rejections. I’m currently noodling over how I might revise it to make it salable.
Can you tell us about the current book you’re writing?
Sure, I’m getting ready to query a book I’m calling POVERTY ISLAND. It’s contemporary YA fiction that feels like The Goonies meets Post Secret. (http://www.postsecret.com/)
How long does it take you to write a book?
About three years
What are your thoughts on writing about sex in YA?
I wrote a blog post (http://jodysparks.com/2010/04/16/lets-talk-about-sex-ed/) on it last year because my then 12-year old was going through sex ed classes in her public school, and I was comparing how a public school deals with the subject and how YA writers deal with the subject. Summation: YA writers are certainly more honest and interesting. I’m glad to be a part of that. Also, I’d much rather write about the awkwardness of first love and sex than I would violence and gore. I don’t know why people get so worked up about sex. Violence is far more offensive to me.
What’s your writing process?
I’m a pantser. I start writing, get about 3/4 of the way through and if I don’t feel empathy for the characters, then I re-evaluate and start over. I usually do this about four times. Then I polish the last draft.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Besides rejection? The slowness. I’m slow. The publishing world is slow. It’s all very slow.
Do fads/trends affect your writing?
I avoid them. I usually find myself seeking out a setting no one is writing about. Book I was ROTC/Boot Camp and Book II is a tiny island where there may or may not be buried treasure. But, I love reading trends and fads.
What’s been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What’s been the best compliment?
Well, someone recently left a comment on my blog saying I was a pretentious, unpublished, and failed author. Some jackass nobody on the internet saying that to me didn’t hurt as much as the friendliest of rejections I’ve received from editors. It’s almost like the nicer the rejection, the more confusing they are. I appreciate the effort to be kind, though. And like landing any job, when another “applicant” is chosen over you, it rarely means you lack the talent for the position. Even so, there are some jobs you reeeeeeeeally want and it still hurts to be passed over.
The best compliment was so simple: “I love your book.” It was given to me by my former agent. And it was the first time anyone had said it. I hadn’t let my family read my books and I don’t expect my critiquers to ever love my work. In fact, I prefer them to be harsh and get down to making it better. So hearing that simple phrase was a wonderful kind of jolt. I wonder what I looked like. We were face to face at a conference.
Who is your favorite author and why?
I love many authors. I generally have favorite books, though. A few authors I love and go back to over and over include, Jerry Spinelli, Blake Nelson, Pete Hautman, Sara Zarr, Markus Zusak, Garrett Freyman-Weyr, and Cecil Castelucci. Why are they my favorites? I don’t know, it’s like they get me. In adult fiction, I love Kurt Vonnegut. He understands being a Hoosier. And, finding his writing in college was perfectly timed and perfectly placed for my life.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Watching my oldest daughter be brave about moving away from her best friend. She was five years old, and it sucked so bad for her, and I felt awful. And I thought, well, she is full person now. She’s learned something about overcoming what’s ugly in the world. And as she gets older, it keeps happening–not the moving, well, actually that too. But, the being brave is what I mean. Both my daughters have LOTS of opportunities for being brave, and it’s in those moments that I feel the most empathy a person can feel. It makes me want to write.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Work. Read. Watch movies. Play Scrabble.
Do you have a day job as well?
I work full-time at a tech startup. I’m a content editor for multiple kinds of web copy written for our clients.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
It’s nothing you haven’t heard before: Read. A lot.
Where can we find you on the web?
http://jodysparks.com/ Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Donna! I loved being here.