This is my stop on the YA Shot Blog Tour and today this post is my collaboration with YA author Jeannie Waudby. Jeannie has written a book called One of Us, published by Chicken House.
Today I’ll be doing a Q&A with Jeannie, asking her about her inspiration for her book, what the process of writing was like and how to get a book published.
Eloise: Your book deals with the theme of extremism. Why did you think this was important to discuss in a YA book?
Jeannie: I didn’t consciously plan to write a book about extremism. The first germ of the idea was about a girl who had taken a false identity to infiltrate a group she didn’t belong to. It was always going to be a love story and gradually the idea seeped into it that one of the biggest things to divide people would be if one of them was a terrorist, and the other wasn’t. I had the idea for One Of Us a year after the London bombs, and I think it was on my mind because I was so aware that we all live with the threat of terrorist attacks. Young people are bombarded with stories and images of this on a daily basis – they have to grow up with this fear. I think it’s good to look things in the face, talk about and explore them.
E: What was writing like? What did you do to get in the right zone?
J: Writing the first draft for One Of Us was easy because I didn’t think I was writing a novel. I had my characters, who were connected to each other by lies and mistrust as well as friendship and love, so I just wrote scenes about this, with the end in sight. I wrote at night in a notebook before going to sleep. Of course, editing the book was a nightmare because none of my scenes were in order. To get in the right zone I used to listen to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. And there was one scene that I wrote to Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars.
E: How did you go about getting your book published? Did you choose your publisher or did they choose you?
J: I met Barry Cunningham of Chicken House at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference. I told him about my book and he said I could send it to him. He didn’t take it, but he wrote a really useful paragraph of why he hadn’t. It clarified what I needed to do with the story, so I rewrote it and asked if he would look at it again. And this time he said yes!
E: Writing can be a lonely business. Did you join any writers’ groups?
J: When I started seriously thinking about trying to get published, I decided I needed some company. One Friday night I googled everything I could find about writing for children and I came across a website by an American author, mentioning SCBWI. So I joined it and through that I met many other children’s writers. I joined two critique groups, one online and one face-to-face, both of which have helped and inspired me enormously as well as now being good friends, along with other writers I’ve met along the way. It’s very important to me to have those friendships and to be able to encourage each other because on your own it’s hard to keep the doubts at bay.
E: After spending so much time working alone on your book, what is it like working with an editor?
J: It was an amazing experience. My book actually had two editors and that was interesting too. When I first read the comments in my manuscript, it was as if someone was talking in my head. It’s quite an intense experience. I think you really need to trust your editor and I had that trust. I realized that the story wasn’t just mine any more but now all these talented professionals were also working on it. That’s quite hard to believe, even a little strange at first. But it’s also wonderful and the things I learned from my editors are with me as I edit my current book.
Thank you to Jeannie Waudby and the YA Shot team for this experience. I have learned a lot about writing and editing from talking to Jeannie, and I hope you too can learn something and be inspired. Next time you read a book, think of how much time, work and love has gone into making it for you.