Author Interview: Jennieke Cohen, Dangerous Alliance

Pen Friends  ~ Our author interview today is with Jennieke Cohen, (who I met through the 2016 PitchWars gang.) Not only does she share about her debut, Dangerous Alliance, (which you can pre-order!) but about perseverance, Jane Austen, favorite books, fictional crushes, publishing, and more. Enjoy.

JenniekeCohen Headshot

SP: Hi Jennieke! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and how long have you have been writing?

JC: Thanks so much for having me! Even as a child, I liked telling stories and acting them out, and by high school, I thought I wanted to work in the film industry. I wrote my first screenplay—a dark, suspense story about a serial killer—in high school and even made it into a movie for one of my classes. After college, I started my first novel, which would later become Dangerous Alliance. Having ruled out working in the film business, I decided to intern with a literary agent (I later got promoted to her assistant), and then at Prima Games (then an imprint of Random House) while I pursued a master’s degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California. Nowadays, in my spare time, you’ll find me re-watching and over-analyzing old movies (a hard habit to break!), singing opera arias and show tunes, or discovering new foodie spots with my husband.

SP: Your debut, Dangerous Alliance, will come out December 3rd, 2019.

Here is the blurb:DA

Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older sister happily wed, the future of her family estate secure, and ample opportunity to while her time away in the fields around her home. But now Vicky must marry—or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with the wisdom she has gained from her beloved novels by Jane Austen, she enters society’s treacherous season.

Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky’s exact circumstances: whether the roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend, Tom Sherborne, is out for her dowry or for her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the unfortunate fashion sensibility. Most unfortunately of all, Vicky’s books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her…ones that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.

SP: Can you tell us a bit more about how this idea came about?

JC: This may sound somewhat cliché, but when I was twelve, I read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre and they had a much bigger impact on me than I could have guessed. I was expecting them to be dry and boring because they were “classics,” but the witty intelligence Jane Austen brought to her novels spoke to me in a way not many of the other books I’d read had. And I simply loved the romance and mystery elements of Jane Eyre. I found myself looking for all the historical novels I could find. That led to reading a lot of adult fiction and nonfiction because, at the time, there were very few European-set historical novels written specifically for teens and young adults. With Dangerous Alliance, I wanted to create the kind of novel I would have really enjoyed reading as a teen.

SP: Which character in Dangerous Alliance should we watch out for? As in, which character surprised you the most while writing him/her?

JC: One of Vicky’s love interests, Simon Carmichael, surprised me in a couple ways, but without revealing too much, I think I shall just say that his charm is quite beguiling. 😉

SP: Is Dangerous Alliance your first book? How long does it typically take for you to write a book?

JC: It is my first book! I don’t think I have a typical writing time yet. All told, Dangerous Alliance took me about 11 years to write. I wasn’t working on it that entire time, to be fair, but I kept coming back to it. I’m hoping my next book will be a much…ahem, shorter experience.

SP: What kind of research did you have to do for Dangerous Alliance? Anything thatsurprised you along the way?

JC: Besides all the research I had to do about the world of Regency England, such as what people ate and how they got around and how long it took to travel from place to place, I had to do quite a bit of in-depth research into the murky legal world of how women could get a divorce. In a lot of Regency-set fiction, it’s taken as a given that women were stuck in their marriages. But I really wanted to write a book about teenagers with supportive parents who would help their daughter get out of a terrible, abusive marriage (which is what happens to my main character’s sister). I was surprised to find that under certain circumstances, there were ways to make that happen.

SP: You’re pretty open about your love for Jane Austen books, so if you could live any one character’s life who would it be and why?

JC: I think Emma has the best life of all the Austen heroines, so I’d probably try hers on for size (even though she’s not one of my favorite characters). I’m not sure I could handle all of Elizabeth Bennet’s embarrassing family or the indignities most of the characters have to deal with—well, I could, but if I’m going into an Austen book for a vacation, Emma’s life of privilege sounds pretty good!

SP: Who was the first person to read Dangerous Alliance (any drafting stage) and what was their response?

JC: My then boyfriend (and now husband) was my first reader way back when, and he always had every confidence that I would one day get it published. I’m thrilled to finally prove him right!

SP: Publishing is a tricky business, often slow and buzzing in all directions except for straight. What has your publishing journey been like so far?

JC: This will take a long answer! After I got my master’s degree, I had every expectation that I would soon have an agent and be well on my way to getting published before I turned 25. Instead I spent years querying, getting some requests, getting some feedback, but never an offer. I’d take another year or so to revise the manuscript and try it all over again. Each time, the novel got better but I still had no offers. I took a few years off to start other novels and do other things, and then in 2016, I decided to do one final pass on Dangerous Alliance. My plan was to do one last round of querying, and if nothing panned out, I would self-publish the book.

At the same time I finished revising, I found out that the submission window for PitchWars was open. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I applied. And, then, miraculously, I got a request! But since I only got one request (and was so inoculated to getting requests that didn’t pan out), I didn’t get my hopes up. Then, even more miraculously, I was chosen! I have a whole post on how I got my agent here, but suffice it to say, after Pitch Wars, things seemed to move faster. I signed with my agent in April 2017, we went on submission in late May, and by September we had an offer! I didn’t know how I would handle the waiting until my release date in December 2019 came along, but now it’s almost here! The waiting was always agonizing, but I don’t think that ever changes. The only thing to do is come up with distractions, whatever they may be, and enjoy the good moments when you’re in them!

SP: Any tips for aspiring (& querying) authors?

JC: Do NOT self-reject!! In other words, don’t talk yourself out of submitting your writing to X contest, or Ms. Bigtime Agent. You’ll never know who will like your writing until you send it to them!

SP: Now to lighten things up: 

Favorite fictional crush? So tough! I think I’ll go with Henry Tilney from NORTHANGER ABBEY, though Mr. Darcy runs a close second!

Best recent read? HEARTS, STRINGS, AND OTHER BREAKABLE THINGS by Jacqueline Firkins (It’s a contemporary MANSFIELD PARK retelling with such a great voice!)

Favorite childhood book? THE NINE DAYS QUEEN by Karleen Bradford (Another book that influenced my love of British history.)

Fav drink/food while writing? Tea—all types!

Dream Vacation spot? Tetiaroa, Tahiti

SP: Thanks so much for sharing with us, Jennieke! We wish you the greatest success as Dangerous Alliance enters the world!

Readers, don’t forget to add Dangerous Alliance on Goodreads or PRE-order on Amazon, and connect with Jennieke on Twitter, Instagram, or her website!

Nova, signing off

Advertisements

Author Interview: Annie Sullivan, Tiger Queen

Pen Friends ~ Today’s interview is with YA Author Annie Sullivan talking about her latest book, Tiger Queen! We also just learned that she and Lauren Mansy (from our last interview) will go on tour together promoting, The Memory Thief, and Annie’s Tiger Queen, (& her debut, A Touch of Gold!) Be sure to check them all out!

as

SP: Hi Annie! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey? 

AS: Thanks so much for having me! I’m the author of fairytale and fantasy young adult novels. I love taking stories readers are familiar with and giving them an unexpected twist—whether that’s a new character or a new ending. I have a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Butler University and have been writing seriously since college. It’s always been a dream of mine to be a published author, and now, I’m so excited that it’s come true!

SP: Tiger Queen was just released into the world! Congrats! Can you tell us how this idea & its characters came about?tgg

AS: Tiger Queen is actually a loose retelling of Frank Stockton’s infamous short story “The Lady or the Tiger,” which has a cliffhanger ending. Ever since I read the story in grade school, I’ve always wanted to give that story the ending it always should have had (in my opinion.) So I’m so excited that I was finally able to make that happen in Tiger Queen as we follow Princess Kateri as she fights suitors in an arena to win her right to rule.

Here is blurb:

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger. Continue reading

Author Interview: Lauren Mansy, The Memory Thief

Pen Friends ~ Today’s interview is with YA Author, Lauren Mansy, talking about her debut, The Memory Thief. From what we have heard it has incredible world building and an intriguing premise! You can still pre-order it and it will arrive on your door on when it releases on October 1st!

LM

SP: Hi Lauren! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, could you share a bit about you and your writing journey? 

LM: Thank you so much for having me, Nova!

I’m from the western suburbs of Chicago, where work alongside my parents in our family business. In my free time, I love grabbing coffee with friends, staying active outdoors, and traveling – I have two nephews in California, so I’ll use any excuse to spend time with them! 🙂

My writing journey first began the summer after my college graduation. I’d hoped to go into children’s publishing, but my senior year, I’d been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of lymphatic cancer. I’m so thankful to say that I’ve now been cancer-free for seven years, but that was a very difficult time for me. After completing my treatments, I wasn’t healthy enough to find a job, so my parents suggested I do something creative to help in my healing process. For some reason, all I could think about was writing a book. And once I started writing, I found that I never wanted to stop! Writing fiction helped me express myself in ways that I’d never done before and helped me process through some of my most difficult memories. I’ll be forever grateful for that! Continue reading

Author Interview: Elizabeth Lim (Spin The Dawn)

Hi Pen Friends~ Ready for another YA author interview? Today’s guest is the ever-talented Elizabeth Lim, author of SPIN THE DAWN. Check out that cover below. A beauty, huh? And the words inside it have been spun wonderfully too. Now, on to the good stuff!

Elizabeth Lim

SP: Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for joining us! Spin the Dawn, came out in July and is getting A LOT of positive attention. People are enamored. And much deserved, I’d say.

Here is the blurb:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of 12 tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.
Spin the DawnSP: The blurb line “the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars” pretty much sold me on the book 🙂 

Can you tell us a bit more about how this idea came about? 

EL: The idea behind the dress is inspired by a French fairytale called Donkeyskin, in which a princess asks her father for dresses of the sun, moon, and sky. But there wasn’t ever really much description about the dresses aside from that, and having a background in music, I really wanted to evoke a poetic image whenever I described Amana’s dresses, and also evoke the legend and mythology behind them that I created for the world of Spin the Dawn.

SP: Can you tell us a bit about using Chinese culture in Spin the Dawn’s world & story building?  Continue reading

Author Interview: Joanna Hathaway

Pen Friends, I’m so excited to introduce you to debut YA Author, Joanna Hathaway who will talk about her YA Fantasy (with Historical aspects), Dark of the West, which comes out February tomorrow, the 5th!!! Let’s hear what she has to say about books, publishing, marketing and more!

JHSP: Hi, Joanna! Thanks for joining us! Congrats on your debut coming out in February! I bet you’re getting excited!  But before we dive into all the book stuff, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

JH: Thanks so very much for having me! Yes, it’s getting very exciting, and as you mentioned, Dark of the West is my debut. It’s my first book to be published — but it’s also the first book I’ve ever finished! I started working on it when I was in university, over a decade ago, and it was the only story that stuck with me through the years. I like to say that I “grew up” as a writer with this book. I’ve revised it so many times, and in so many different ways, that it’s taught me most of what I know about craft at this point. I know many authors write a few different books before they reach The One, but for me it took agonizing over countless drafts to makeDark of the West become The One!Dark of the West

SP: Your debut, Dark of the West, will come out February 5th! From the first moment I read your description, I knew I would LOVE this book!

Here is a blurb:

Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe. Continue reading

Author Interview: Kara McDowell

Pen Friends~ today’s interview is special because I was along side YA debut author Kara Jean McDowell as a fellow 2016 PitchWars mentee, witnessed her get an agent, and then a book deal, and now her book, Just For Clicks, will come out in February!

kara mcdowell author photo 1

SP: Hi Kara! Thanks for joining us. Before we dive into all the book stuff, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

KM: Hello! Thanks for having me! My name is Kara McDowell. I live with my husband and three young kids in Arizona. When I’m not writing or reading, I like to boat, bake, go on road trips, and watch Netflix.

SP: Your debut, Just for Clicks, will come out Feb 2019. First, we LOVE your incredibly adorable, genius, and timely idea!

Here is a blurb: Continue reading

Author Interview: Sarah Carlson

Pen Friends ~ You’re in for a treat today! We have debut Ya author, Sarah Carlson, here to talk about her upcoming book, All the Walls of BelfastFind out she got her agent and what keeps her going as she shares about her querying, publishing, marketing, traveling dreams, and writing process & journey. Learning from and listening to other authors can help us a lot. Enjoy!

SC, pic

SP: Hi Sarah! Thanks for joining us. First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

SC: Hey, thanks for having me! I write contemporary YA that touches on issues that make you think. By day, I’m a school psychologist working at an elementary school; my focus is on supporting mental health and behavioral needs. I also work to support and directly intervene around children who have been exposed to trauma. I’ve loved writing since 4thgrade, when I got picked to represent my grade at a writing competition. In middle school, it was hundreds of pages of Stephen King fan fic scrawled on loose-leaf paper. Then high school saw me creating an epic universe for a sci-fi novel that grew to over 240,000 words and will never again see the light of day. Continue reading

Author Interview: Helen Scheuerer

Pen Friends ~ As promised here comes another fantastic interview with Australian YA author and Writer’s Edit Guru, Helen Scheuerer! DO NOT MISS her tips for marketing, promotion, social media, editing and more–they’re useful to anyone in the industry that is traditionally or self-published. Check it out!

HelenS.jpg

SP: Welcome Helen! First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

HS: Sure! I’m a novelist, editor and publisher who lives by the beach in Sydney. I own and run the popular writers’ platform, Writer’s Edit and I’m the author of bestselling YA fantasy, Heart of Mist. I’ve been writing since I was about seven years old 🙂

SP: Reign of Mist, your upcoming release, is the second book in The Oremere Chronicles. Can you tell us a bit more about book one, Heart of Mist, and now its upcoming sequel?HEART-OF-MIST-CHOSEN-web Continue reading

Author Interview: Brittany Fichter

Pen Friends ~ Get ready for a long string of author interviews this month! We just love learning from other authors and hearing their stories from dreams to publication. We hope you do too!

Today’s interview is fantasy and fairytale-inspired author, Brittany Fichter! If you love fairytale spin-offs and heart throbbing arcs and characters, you have a list of books to choose from–See below for Brittany’s book pics!

Brittany Fichter

 

SP: Hi Brittany! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

 

Continue reading

Author Interview: Taylor Bennett

Pen Friends ~ We are delighted to have Taylor Bennett, debut author of Porch Swing Girl, here with us today!

Taylor Bennett Author Photo

Spinning Pen: Hi Taylor! Thanks for joining us. First, will you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

Taylor: Thank you so much for having me. I’m absolutely thrilled to be here! For those who don’t know me, I’m a seventeen-year-old homeschool senior, and I’ve been telling stories literally since I knew how to read. I’ve always loved beautiful words, and stringing those words together to create a story has always been one of my favorite things.

I never knew I could actually succeed in it, though, until I got offered a three-book contract! I write contemporary Christian young adult novels that tackle tough subjects and show light can shine even in the darkest night. When I’m not writing, you can usually find me taking pictures for my Instagram, eating really good food, or walking in the beauty of the PNW.

SP: We love the idea behind your debut novel, Porch Swing Girl (which is out now!)! How did this idea develop? How long did it take for you to write it?

I first got the idea for Porch Swing Girl by literally waking up. One morning, I honestly woke up, and the title was just there…I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I started playing with the idea of a girl on a porch swing. I didn’t know who she was or what she was doing, but I knew something had to be wrong. And…it all started from that! It took me nine months of off-and-on writing to finish the first draft, and about the same amount of time to edit it, which was waaay too long!! Now that I’m under contract for books two and three, I’m learning to write much faster 😉

SP: Will you tell us the story of your journey to getting your first contract?

Of course!

So…when Porch Swing Girl was still in its earliest stages of development (AKA I think I had maybe fifteen chapters written???) I decided to test the waters. I was already registered for the Oregon Christian Writers’ summer conference, and, because of that, I was able to send advance submissions to three editors of my choice.

I ran down the list of publishers and found three I liked–including Mountain Brook Ink–that were willing to look at a contemporary YA novel, sent off the queries, and went on my way.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I received an email from Miralee, the force behind Mountain Brook Ink, requesting to see more of my manuscript before the conference. I did a little happy dance, sent off the required chapters, and started counting the days until we would meet at the conference.

Porch Swing Girl coverWhen we connected a few weeks later, Miralee expressed a lot of interest in my book, and she was interested in seeing more–not just the rest of the still-unfinished manuscript–but a full proposal for a trilogy. I worked for an entire year to polish and perfect Porch Swing Girl, as well as start work on a second book. By the time the Oregon Christian Writers’ conference rolled around the next year, I was ready. And so was Miralee.

She found me in the hallway and invited me and my mom to meet with her later that afternoon. We did, and that was when she informally offered me a three-book contract. A total dream come true!!

SP: What are some books that have inspired you along the way? 

Every book that I read inspires me in one way or another! I’m particularly drawn to intense, raw stories like those written by Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray is one of my all-time favorites) and Joanne Bischof (her book, This Quiet Sky, rips my heart out every time I read it). But I also draw inspiration from the whimsy of classic children’s stories. The original Winnie-the-Pooh tales spark a desire in me to tell timeless, heartwarming tales. The way Jeanne Birdsall (author of the Penderwicks series) showcases the small bits of magic in everyday life constantly encourages me to do the same.

SP: What kind of a writer are you? Do you start with a scene? A big picture? Are you plotter? Gut feelings?

I’m what I’d call a “mood writer”. What I mean by that is I usually get my ideas from a feeling. Maybe I want to write a story that feels dark and a little bit edgy, but that also has the glimmering magic of a city skyline. Perhaps I get the urge to pen a tale full of light and life and hope. Every idea of mine revolves around a certain kind of aesthetic. I have billions (approximately) of Pinterest boards with different aesthetics, and each one represents a story I’d like tell someday.

For me, plotting is the most difficult part of writing. It’s easy to create characters, settings, and emotions, but plots often elude me! I know how I want the book to feel, and I usually have a vague idea of the type of emotional roller coaster (upside-down, dead drop, loop-de-loop, etc.) I want to take my readers on, but it’s a struggle for me to find the best way to create those big twists and turns.

SP: You’re still in high school (wow!)–how do you balance being an author with everything else you have going on as a teen?

Honestly, I’m not very good at this. I’ve never been good at balancing things. When I do something, I usually put in about 200%, which means I have a hard time stepping back and focusing on everything else in my life! One way that I’m working to get better at this is by making a to-do list at the start of each day. I’m homeschooled, so my schedule is pretty flexible. 🙂

I list all of the things that need to be done by the end of the day, but I don’t put them in order, and I don’t give myself a time limit for each individual activity. If I get everything done, great! If I let a few things slide…I have to add them to the next day’s to-do list. BUT, like I said, I’m still learning how to balance all of this myself, so my advice is far from expert!

SP: If you could pick the brain of any author, who would you want to hang out with, and why?

Hmm…maybe Sara Ella. She’s such a sweet, kind, and TALENTED author, and I am amazed by the success she’s had in both her writing and marketing. Her Instagram account is on point, and I love the way she connects with her readers in a real and honest way. I’d also love to go back in time and chat with A.A. Milne. His stories are so simple and childlike, yet they explore huge themes and have such a depth to them that makes my writer’s heart swoon.

SP: What’s your advice for other young writers who dream of being published?

Don’t be afraid to reach out! For a long time, I was nervous to connect with other authors, because I practically thought they were celebrities. And, yes, some of them kind of are. BUT there are a ton of super friendly, down-to-earth writers who are MORE THAN HAPPY to chat with you. Send them an email, track them down at a writer’s conference–trust me. They’ll be thrilled to hear from you!

When I first approached a published author, I was sure they would send me off with nothing more than a pat on the head. Instead, they were extremely kind and inspiring. They chatted with me, gave me advice and encouragement, and even read a bit of my work! So, no matter where you are in your writing journey, don’t be afraid to connect with other, bigger-than-you authors. Building relationships with them can be so motivating, and a real blessing for both you and them 🙂

SP: Favorite drink while writing? Snack? Distractions? 

Considering that I actually hate coffee and anything carbonated, I mostly drink water, though I have a certain weakness for unique blends of tea and flavored lemonade. My favorite distraction is Instagram. Hands down. Bookstagrammers are so creative!! And my favorite snack would have to be chips and hummus. I’m obsessed XD

SP: Where can we learn more about you and your book?

You can visit me on my website, or find me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and YouTube. I’d absolutely love to connect with you, so feel free to shoot me a message any time!

Thanks again, Taylor! 

Dana Black_Headshot 2017

Dana, signing off.