Today is installment number fifteen of my series on successful authors from QueryTracker. Some of my guests have agents, others have found success in less conventional ways. But one thing they all have in common is the utilization of the QueryTracker website to help make their tracks in the publishing world.
Today’s guest, Jenn Johansson, signed with her agent Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency at the end of March last year. To read her "Call" story, visit this post on her blog. One of the things I like about Jenn is her wacked out sense of humor. It shines through her tweets and blog posts. In fact, she even receieved the coveted Mad As a Hatter blog award from my Wonderland Bloggie Awards last year. So it's intriguing to me that this lady with such a keen wit is drawn to the darker side in her writing. Let's find out what makes her tick.
Welcome Jenn, and on with the interview!
AGH: Could you give us a quick summary of the book which snagged your agent?
JJ: Sixteen-year-old Parker spends every night trapped in the dreams of the last person he made eye contact with, and it’s killing him. He misses soccer practice, falls asleep at the wheel, and his mom thinks he has a drug problem. His exhaustion from never reaching the deeper levels of sleep is getting worse every day, and he knows his time is running out. Until he meets Mia.
Mia’s dreams are the first Parker’s encountered where he can finally get real sleep. A good night of rest after so long is addictive. He has to have it. But getting it means he must follow Mia and find a way to make eye contact every day. Mia is increasingly freaked out, even turning Parker’s best friends against him. To make matters worse, Mia starts to receive threatening e-mails, and her wonderful dreams become scenes of a horror movie—and Parker is cast as the villain. He must discover who is truly tormenting her, and clear his name, before she turns him in for a crime he hasn’t committed–or worse, the true stalker makes good on his threats to end Mia's dreams forever.
AGH: Before you signed with your agent, how many books had you tried to query?
JJ: I'd gone the rounds and then some with another book before moving on to INSOMNIA and signing with Kathleen.
AGH: What were the responses to those queries (stat-wise: fulls, partials, etc.)?
JJ: Unfortunately, I don't have the stats on my first book. I know it was no where near the percentages of my second. Let's just leave it at that. But on INSOMNIA, I queried 40 agents, had 19 requests--11 fulls and 9 partials.
AGH: What genre(s) do you write?
JJ: I stick with YA, but within that arena I like to dabble. I've done some sci-fi, urban fantasy and even horror. INSOMNIA is a supernatural psychological thriller. No matter which genre I'm writing though, I tend to stick toward the darker end of the spectrum. I love a lot of dark and twisty in my stories.
AGH: What inspired your very first book idea?
JJ: I'm honestly not really sure where the idea came from. I was going through a rough time in my life and then suddenly there was this story in my head that just wouldn't let go of me until I wrote it down. It wasn't even an option really. I HAD to write it.
AGH: How do you come up with titles?
JJ: I don't worry myself much about titles. Usually by the time I have the story written and have gone through the first couple of rounds of revisions, I have a title that just clicks with me.
AGH: What books / authors have most influenced your own style and concepts?
JJ: There are really so many, but to name a couple I'm a big fan of Holly Black's White Cat series, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game Series and anything by Stephen King.
AGH: How did you find QueryTracker, and how did it help you in your effort to get inside the publishing doors?
JJ: QueryTracker was recommended to me by a fellow writer and I loved the way it allowed me to research, track and update all in one place. It saved me so much time and made it so I could focus on what I needed to, the writing.
AGH: Have you recently learned anything about the business side of publishing that you can share with up and coming writers?
JJ: I've learned that even when you feel like you've learned an enormous amount about this business, there is still so much more to discover. For example, I knew nothing about literary scouts until one helped my book sell overseas before it sold here. I posted on my blog about literary scouts and how that side of the business works, if you're interested, you can find the post here.
AGH: Do you have any current news to announce?
JJ: Toward the end of last year, I sold my debut novel, INSOMNIA, at auction in Germany to Heyne (Random House), and to Newton Compton in Italy. It was an awesome and crazy year--also, auctions are every bit as fun as they sound. l'm currently waiting on final dates for INSOMNIA to release in Italy and Germany. I'm working on a new project while we're on submission here. So, no--nothing really current yet, but stay tuned to my blog and I'll update you as things move forward.
***Five For Fun***
1) In your opinion, what was the best thing before sliced bread?
JJ: Wow, hmm...fruit? I love fruit. I also think it was brilliant to spread smooshed fruit on top of sliced bread. Mmmmm...now I'm hungry.
2) Are you Team Dog or Team Cat?
JJ: Team Cat, at least I was until Christmas. My kitten tried to build a nest in my Christmas tree every night. I think she is part bird. No wonder she freaks out when she looks in the mirror. Perhaps she needs therapy.
3) If you could morph into any food, what kind would you become and why?
JJ: Probably brussel sprouts. I feel like I'm less likely to be eaten that way.
4) If you were tight with one of the Greek gods, which one would it be and what favor would you ask of them?
JJ: Probably Athena, I could use some wisdom in my life. And a little strategy couldn't hurt either.
5) What would be the first thing you would do if you woke up to find you were a fish?
JJ: Figure out how to stop swimming in circles. But I still haven't figured that out as a human, so my hopes aren't high.
Thank you so much for having me, Anita! It's been so fun to answer these fantastic interview questions!
And thank you, Jenn. Your "five for fun" answers cracked me up!
Also, congrats on those amazing foreign sales! If you'd like to give a shout out to Jenn in the comments, I know she'd love to hear from you. To read an excerpt from her awesome YA thriller, check out her website. And don't forget to find her on twitter: @jennjohansson.
Thanks for stopping by, and have a wonderful weekend!