YA Author Tammar Stein Searches for a Hero in The Six-Day Hero

Tammer Stein

Tammer Stein

By Lindsey Wojcik

Nearly 50 years ago, Israel and the neighboring Arab states fought in what is now known as the Six-Day War. Just in time for the 50th anniversary in June, young adult author Tammar Stein's The Six-Day Hero will officially be released (it is currently available on Amazon).

While The Six-Day Hero is not directly about the conflict, it does aim to transport readers to the sounds, sights, and events of West Jerusalem during that time. The story follows 12-year-old Motti, a boy who dreams of being a hero, and thinks the only way to become one is by being a soldier like his older brother (who serves in the Israeli army).

Stein, the daughter of Israeli Defense Force soldiers, recently talked to me about her writing process, what inspired The Six-Day Hero, and her advice for other authors. 

Lindsey Wojcik: What made you want to pursue writing, specifically young adult fiction?

Tammar Stein: I love books, the physical feel of them, the look of them, the way that they’re gateways to making connections and getting lost in adventures. Even as a young child, I remember my mother scolding me to go outside and get some fresh air because I had been inside reading for hours. It felt inevitable for me to try and create that same kind of magic for someone else.

I never set out to write for young adults, but when my agent read my manuscript for Light Years, she felt it could be a great young adult title. The character was 20 years old; it never crossed my mind that that could be a YA title. But the themes were classic YA: figuring out who you are, who you want to be. We got great response from the YA editors and I never looked back.

LW: What is your writing process like? How has it evolved over time?

TS: My writing process used to be: sit, write, delete, and repeat 50 times. This is not the most efficient way to write a novel. Light Years, my first book, took me five years to write. It turns out that just because I knew a great book when I read it, didn’t mean I could just write a great book myself. My second novel, High Dive, was also kind of a pain to write. I wrote the whole draft of it, almost 300 pages, before realizing it just didn’t have that magic spark. And I started back on page one.

By my third novel, Kindred, I wised up. I outlined. Now I do that for all my books. Not necessarily a detailed breakdown of each chapter, but a strong, two-page outline so I don’t get lost getting from the beginning to the end. It’s harder than it sounds, but it’s helped me so much.

LW: What kind of research went into outlining and writing The Six-Day Hero?

TS: The first thing I did was read. Other than the fact that it lasted six days, I really didn’t know much about the war. So I read dozens of books on the subject. I read newspaper articles from the time period. I watched documentaries. I'm also the daughter of Israeli Defense Force soldiers, and once I had a good sense of the events, I started interviewing Israelis who had experienced the war. Some as soldiers, some as children. I ended up speaking with half a dozen Israelis, including my parents, whom I pestered on a weekly basis for more details.

LW: What made the Six-Day War an intriguing and important topic for you to write a fictional story about?

TS: In 1967, Israel teetered between existence and annihilation. By winning the Six-Day War, it averted annihilation…and began the modern dilemma of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This summer (June 5-11) marks the war’s 50th anniversary.

The West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Jewish Settlements are constantly in the news. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How in the world did we get into this hot mess?,” the answer is, the Six-Day War. That’s the war that started all this. This is a 50-year-old hot mess. In this book, I look at the history of the war through the eyes of the people living through it. And it's the first English book for younger readers set during the Six-Day War, giving context and perspective to the complexity the world is still trying to solve. I do believe this is a situation that will be resolved one day. We will move on. We will find a way for all these millions of people to live in peace with one another. But to do that, we have to understand how it got started.

You cannot shape the future without knowing the past. But because there are so many hard feelings, because people are tired of constantly hearing about the same conflict, there’s this tendency to just want to move on, to ignore it. Especially when it comes to kids. So there’s no one writing about it, no one publishing about it. And kids are just left in this vacuum. They hear the news, but they don’t have any basis for truly understanding it. I wanted to change that.

To be clear though, the book is not about the war. The book is about Motti, a 12-year-old boy, who wants to feel heroic. But when you read the book, you learn about the history of the war through his eyes. The violent details of war didn’t strike me as the best way to tell a kids’ story. Rather, I wrote a book about the struggles of a 12-year-old, struggles shaped by the same forces that shaped the war. I hope the book will transport young readers to the sounds, sights, and events of West Jerusalem 50 years ago.

LW: What inspired you to write it from a 12 year-old’s point of view?

TS: Motti just came to me. It’s one of the moments that felt almost mystical. I just had this scene pop into my mind: a restless, bored kid forced to sit through an assembly, desperate to get away. Motti is a scrappy boy, always looking for mischief and fun. He struggles to shine in the big shadow cast by his successful older brother, Gideon. Straight-arrow/Gideon is now a soldier in the Israeli army, and Motti is equally proud and jealous. Over the course of the next month, everything Motti knows about Israel, his brother, and himself will be put to the test. He will realize that war is not a game, and he will face harsh challenges to be the hero he always dreamed of.

LW: The Six-Day Hero will be officially released in time for the 50th anniversary of the war. How does the book honor its history?

TS: When you hear that something happened 50 years ago, there’s this reflexive feeling that it’s ancient history. That it barely matters. But I spoke with people who lived it, fought through it, and are still haunted by what happened. The whole world is still being shaped by what happened. It’s far from ancient history, and I wanted to make sure that there was something there for kids to connect to.

LW: What's next for you?

TS: The Six-Day War was just one in a chain of wars for Israel. The history of an Israeli family can really be told by tracing the family’s lives through the wars they fought. Six years later was the Yom Kippur War, and my next book is about Beni, Motti’s younger brother, with the Yom Kippur War as the setting.

LW: What's your advice for aspiring authors?

TS: My best piece of advice is to try to balance a sense of urgency with lots of patience. Both are absolutely necessary to write a book. If you don’t feel urgency, you’ll never write. It’s always much nicer to plan to do it later, in the evening, tomorrow morning, over the weekend. If you don’t feel urgency, you’ll always put it off. But you have to be patient with yourself and your work as well. Your first draft will be terrible. Your sense of urgency will shout at you to share it with your family and friends, to start sending it out to agents, to publish it as an e-book. Don’t do that. You need to go back and revise. Then you let it sit for a month (or three) and come back to it with fresh eyes. And just as you get comfortable with your patience and want to keep tinkering with your manuscript forevermore, your sense of urgency needs to rise up again and urge you to send it out and share it with the world.

To learn more about Tammar Stein, visit her official website, like her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter @TammarStein.

The Writer’s Bone Interviews Archive

A Conversation With Brutal Youth Author Anthony Breznican

Anthony Breznican 

Anthony Breznican 

By Author Steph Post

When I first set about reading Anthony Breznican’s debut novel Brutal Youth last fall, I have to admit that I was skeptical. A book about freshmen attending a Catholic high school? Really? I’m a high school teacher. I spend all day with teenagers. Did I really want to read about them as well? The book came so highly recommended, though, that I thought I’d give it a try. What the hell? It had a cool cover, which included a blurb from Stephen King. The title came from an Elvis Costello song. I’d see what it was all about. I cracked it open one night and within two days, stunned, I had turned the last page.

I was consumed. I was floored. This is not just a book about high school. Brutal Youth is a story about growing up, about good and evil, about love and friendship and, oh yeah, badassery. It’s about the bullies and the underdogs and the monsters and the heroes. It’s about right and wrong and the gaping gray space in between, the space that we move within, teenagers and adults alike.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of authors over the past year, but I’m proud to say that Anthony Breznican quickly moved from fellow writer to sage advice giver to good friend. Brutal Youth came out in paperback earlier this month and so if you haven’t read it yet, now is the time. I interviewed Breznican for my personal blog right after I fell in love with his book and I’m thrilled to bring you a second interview for Writer’s Bone to celebrate his success and future.

Steph Post: Brutal Youth landed in the hands of readers almost exactly a year ago and is now available in "bendy form."

Anthony Breznican: I love that. “Bendy form.” I think Caroline Kepnes, the author of You (which is out in paperback soon) coined that one.

SP: As I am very aware, having gone through a debut release myself this past year, having your book arrive on the scene is just the beginning of a whirlwind of emotions.

AB: Yes, and I’m going to turn this interview around for a moment and say everyone should go find your novel A Tree Born Crooked if they want a crime thriller with smarts and nerve. Richard Price better watch his ass, because you are coming for him.

SP: Well, thank you! Is there any one book-related moment from the past year that stands out for you? A moment that you'll never forget, that you may be able to look back on one day and say "damn, that was good..."?

AB: My favorite thing in the world is when somebody reads it and comes back with a reaction that has exclamation points on it. A reader named Marna Moore sent this tweet at me:

I’ve gotten a lot like that from readers, and I just want to hug them.

As far as single moments go, meeting a 12-year-old girl at Comic-Con who went through a lot of the teasing that’s described in Brutal Youth made it my turn on the emotional roller coaster. She also turned to the adults at her school for help and was told “boys will be boys” or some nonsense. I’ve met and heard from many, many people—both kids and teachers—who have witnessed first-hand that this kind of social Darwinism is real.

SP: I can read my share of books in a year but Brutal Youth has stuck with me all this time. I couldn't tell you the character names of half the books I've read in the past, but I don't know that I'll ever be able to forget Peter, Noah, and Lorelei. In so many ways, I felt like I knew these characters, that they could be students walking down the halls of the high school where I work.

AB: That means a lot to me, Steph, because I know you’re a teacher who invests a lot in her students (and having you care about my troublemakers makes me feel like they’d be in good hands in your classroom.)

I tried hard to make sure everyone had a distinct presence. I was recently asked to come up with a list of books these characters would love, and it was a fun exercise because it gave me a chance to revisit these kids and tell five new little micro stories about them. It was like … when you know someone really well, it’s not hard to pick out a birthday present for them. Do you know what I mean? I’m happy when a reader feels they’re distinctive, too.

SP: I've known teachers, too, who could easily be Mr. Zimmers and Ms. Bromines, but thankfully never a Father Mercedes. Have you had any readers tell you the same thing? Have you connected with any readers who felt the pull and the weight of your characters as I did?

AB: That’s funny because Father Mercedes is based on a real priest from my town who was embezzling money. The real guy’s name was Father Benz, so I didn’t even change him that much except to reduce his larceny to about a tenth of what the real guy stole.

I’ve known a lot of Mr. Zimmmers—the teacher who sticks his or her neck out for students in trouble, even if they end up absorbing some of that drama and difficulty as a result. And Ms. Bromine…I love when a reader says, “You know people like this…” She’s the little Napoleon who wields whatever power she has like a weapon.

The one criticism that truly irritates me is when I see a teacher on Goodreads say, “This kind of bullying would never happen. Not at my school.” All I can think is, “Yeah, right. You’d fit in great at the school in the book, where the teachers have convinced themselves of the same thing.” Whenever I see a news article about a kid who was bullied mercilessly I know there are teachers like this in that kid’s orbit.

SP: Which is despicable, but I agree with you, true. This is why we need students like your character Noah Stein, who aren’t afraid to stand up to these types of teachers. And though Noah will always be my hero from in Brutal Youth, the one character who I know I will never be able to forget is Colin Vickler. Perhaps because of the striking opening scene with Vickler standing on the roof of St. Michael's High School, threatening to take his life, or perhaps because of the pathos surrounding him, an outcast boy misunderstood and bullied mercilessly, "Clink" is a character that I found particularly moving. 

AB: I’m glad about that, too! Colin Vickler is introduced mainly as the worst-case scenario for the new kids coming into the school. He flips out in catastrophic fashion and starts pushing stone statues off the roof onto his classmates below. Then he disappears—or, rather, is disappeared by the school. The main question is whether Peter, Noah, or Lorelei will become like him, but I hoped the reader would still wonder and worry about him a little. He has a dangerous meltdown, but I wanted him to be sympathetic when you realize what led to it.

SP: I know you've mentioned before that one of the main characters of the novel, Lorelei, is a favorite. But are there any minor characters who hold a special place for you? Do you ever wish that you could have given these characters a more prominent role in story?

AB: There’s a character named Hector Greenwill, who is overweight, a great guitarist proficient in everything from punk to classical, and also the only black student at this all-white Catholic school. He has a prominent role in the Brutal Youth, but I’m eager to explore him more in the sequel. He’s one of the few main characters who come from a happy home, although it’s got its own challenges, for sure. His mother, whom we don’t meet in Brutal Youth, is really awesome—engaged and smart about when to let her kid fend for himself and when it’s appropriate for Mama Bear to intercede. His father’s more aloof, a tough-guy steelworker who has had to deal with a lot worse discrimination than his kid has faced…yet. Green also has a partially deaf brother, who, like Peter Davidek, is a good kid who is very susceptible to crossing over into a bad place. None of this is in the current book, but it was in my head and I can’t wait to explore his dimensions more in another story. Meanwhile, I hope Green’s arc in Brutal Youth is one people like, too.

SP: I’m pretty sure I just heard the word “sequel” there… but I’ll let that go for the moment. Brutal Youth is most certainly a book to be read and enjoyed by adults, but in the past year it seems that you've made a definite connection with young adult readers.

AB: I was surprised by that. Brutal Youth is set in the early 1990s, and the publisher felt it was too dark and too long ago to connect with YA readers. That has proven to be wildly off-mark. Young readers have written some of the most passionate reviews and been the biggest supporters of it.

SP: And this makes sense, given the high school setting of the novel, but also shows the sophistication of your younger readers.

AB: They are vastly more sophisticated than most grown-ups assume. It’s funny, because Brutal Youth is partly about how adults lose touch with the intensity of that age, and forget how emotional and significant it can be.

SP: I know that genre classification can be tricky, and a pain in the ass most of the time, but would you consider Brutal Youth to be a "young adult" novel or an adult novel accessible to teenagers as well? 

AB: I always just thought of it as a novel, same as I did for The Catcher in the Rye, which was never described as a “YA book” even though it definitely appeals to kids who are Holden Caulfield’s age. But now, I embrace the YA designation. I wrote this book for people who are still growing and changing, regardless of their age. That’s what YA means to me, and it’s a vibrant, lively place on the book world.

SP: With this in mind, who do you think has responded more strongly to Brutal Youth, adults or young adults? Does this have any impact on the novel's perceived genre?

AB: Young readers are definitely more intense about it. I think they are a little more big-hearted and forgiving of the mistakes the characters make, and they understand complexity, the mix of happiness and sadness, in ways they amaze me. Adults tend to want escapism, and they’re the ones who get angry when the bad go unpunished and the good pay a price for doing the right thing. I think that’s funny. Adults want the fantasy. Kids get bittersweet a little better.

SP: So with the school year ending, and teachers slipping into summer mode, I think it's a good time to remember the impact teachers can have on their students. Most of my own high school teachers linger in a faceless cloud, but I still remember by fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Castle, who marked me as a writer from the start and nurtured my creativity. 

AB: The best teachers don’t just teach the kid in front of them. They see the teenager or the adult that kid could become and teach them, too.

SP: In the acknowledgments of Brutal Youth you honor a former teacher of yours, John Carosella. Can you tell me a little more about him? Have there been any other teachers along the way who deserve a shout out for guiding you in the direction of becoming an author?

AB: Mr. C. started at my high school the same year I did, 1990, and he just retired after 25 years. Now he’s going to start his own school for creative arts, which I’m eager to support any way I can. Very early on, he figured out that all my anger and sarcasm and nervous energy could be put to good use in writing. I was a hopeless case in a lot of ways, but he cared about me like I was his own kid.

I was a rotten student. A smartass. Lazy, too. I never did the assigned reading, and when he asked me why, I said I didn’t care about any of these dumb old stories he was teaching. This surprised him because he knew that I liked to read Stephen King, so he said, “What if I teach a Stephen King story?” This caught me off guard, and caught my attention. All I had to do was read a month’s worth of short stories on the class schedule, and then we’d start the next month he would teach a Stephen King story of my choosing. I did it, and eventually the class read “The Reaper’s Image” from King’s short story collection Skeleton Crew. Carosella didn’t have to bribe me again. From that point on, we spoke each other’s language.

He did countless other things to help me too, and he rescued all sorts of other troubled kids who were on the edge. Many teachers are just as happy to let them fall off, but Mr. C…he made sure we never fell too far.

SP: Even though this has been your year to shine, you've been tremendously supportive of other authors. Sometimes the literary community can be a safe harbor for new writers and sometimes it can be a pool of vicious sharks, circling for blood.

AB: That’s true. It’s a lot like starting a new job or starting high school!

SP: Is there anything you've learned this past year that you'd most like to pass on to new authors before they dive into the world of publishing?

AB: If you’re just starting out, it’s okay to wave your own flag. When you get big and famous and rich, then you can be cool and coy and never tweet about your work. But…don’t only tweet about yourself. Use social media to talk about other things, and talk about other authors, too. There’s a Jewish proverb that I think encapsulates everything you need to know about life: “If I don’t stand for myself, who will stand for me? But if I stand only for myself … what am I?” Share the love. You’ll get more in return that way.

SP: I couldn’t agree more! Is there anything you wish that you had known ahead of time to prepare you for the world of a debut author?

AB: As far as the business goes, I learned eventually, but I did it the hard way, and I think that ignorance hurt me at times. Most new writers spend their time devoted to crafting the best story they can, but as you venture forth, be sure to talk to other scribes about the business, too—especially about how to tell a good agent from a bad agent. Agents are your Sherpa through this treacherous landscape, and a lousy one is worse than no guide at all. Be sure you are working with people who believe in you.

SP: And finally, of course, I have to ask what's next. With Brutal Youth just now arriving in paperback and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which you cover and write about for Entertainment Weekly, premiering this winter, you've got another busy year ahead of you. Still, I'm a selfish fan and already impatient to read more of your work. Can you whisper any details?

AB: About “Star Wars?” Hmm…Everything I know for sure, I write about ASAP. So I’m a little short of scoops here. I’ve heard some interesting things about the new actors and what their familial connection to some of the older characters may be. I can’t say anything yet, because I don’t know definitively, but if it pans out, I think people who love “Star Wars” will be very surprised. Sorry to be mysterious. I’m playing it a little safe because there is so much out there about these movies that is dead wrong.

As for fiction, I'm working on a new novel that's in the supernatural suspense/thriller genre. An old house. A troubled family. A secret history. Things that don't wait around for the night to go bumping around. I'm having a lot of fun playing around in this creepy place. No matter what else I'm doing, I want to go spend time in it. I hope readers feel the same when it's finished.

To learn more about Anthony Breznican, visit his official website, like his Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter @Breznican. Also check out Writer's Bone's first interview with the author

Steph Post is the author of A Tree Born Crooked , blogger, teacher, music lover, and fervent Writer's Bone supporter! 


Heroine Worship: 9 Questions With Thriller Writer Seeley James

Seeley James

Seeley James

By Sean Tuohy

In a market place filled with similar plot lines and leading characters, it is always refreshing when you discover an original voice from an author who has a true desire to tell a real story.

Seeley James brought readers to the edge with his Pia Sabel thrillers and brought the fiction world a leading female character that broke the mold. James has never fit in to the crowd of standard thriller writers, always setting himself part by writing hardened thrillers with true heart to them.

He took a break from creating a new thriller to sit down and talk about his writing process, his passion for writing, and his future.

Sean Tuohy: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Seeley James: As long as I can remember. In school, I wrote what today would be called flash fiction: short, satirical reflections on school life. When teachers would assign creative writing projects, I would write a batch of them and sell them to my friends for $10.

ST: Your Pia Sabel thrillers are fantastic reads. Where did this idea come from and how long did you have the character of Pia before you started writing?

SJ: The character was inspired by the resilience of my first daughter. When I was 19 and single, I adopted a 3-year-old girl and raised her up (long, boring blog about it here). When she graduated to adult life, and my second daughter began to exhibit similar character strengths (I married at 36 and started over), I reflected on how resilient young women can be in the face of my many parenting mistakes. I started to write stories featuring a similar, but larger-than-life, heroine. At first I wrote YA stories about a teenager, but I never had the right voice for that genre, so I brought Pia Sabel up to age 25. That journey has been about nine years total.

ST: Pia Sabel stands out as a female lead because does not pine after any man nor does she whine about how tough things are. She is a very real and down to earth character. When can we see her again in a new adventure?

SJ: Thanks, that means a lot to me. I’ve just published the second novel, Bring It, Omnibus Edition, which consolidated six serials. I’d written the serials because many readers thought Pia was too aloof and should pine, etc. I used the serials to experiment with observing Pia through different lenses. Jacob Stearne quickly emerged as a fan favorite.

While the experiment took longer than I’d imagined or would’ve liked, I learned a good deal about how to present Pia. I’m now about a third of the way into a first draft of the third book and am pleased with the shape it’s taking. I think Blue Death (sneak peak) will achieve the voice and pace I’ve been working toward for a decade. I hope to have it published by the end of summer.

ST: What is your writing process?

SJ: That has evolved a good deal over the last couple years. I’m a trial-and-error kinda guy with a heavy emphasis on error. As I write this, I feel that I’ve hit the better scenario: I keep a fluid, light outline going in Microsoft OneNote that keeps my eight-sequence climax points in focus. I add, subtract, change that outline at the beginning and ending of every writing session.

I write in two-hour blocks, sometimes without moving from my chair (which causes stiff joints in these old bones), and intersperse those blocks with book marketing, wasting time on social media, mountain climbing, lunch with pals, bank robbing, and chasing women. I try to put in three to four writing blocks a day. I think it’s like playing the piano or soccer; the more you do it, the better you get.

ST: Do you do a lot of research before you start writing?

SJ: No. Not a ‘lot.’ I think deep research can be an excuse or a time suck, but rarely a good thing. Stephen King said he spent half a day doing a ride along with a cop and that was all he needed for the rest of his career. I read some name-brand authors who constantly fall into the research pit. They want to regurgitate every detail they’ve learned regardless of how unrelated to the story it really is.

Now that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in research. I do a good deal of research. However, that’s all based on my reading and writing. First, I read a lot of non-fiction. Last year, I read Ali Soufan’s Black Banners (a must read for every American citizen) and decided to make waterboarding a plot point in Bring It. So there was a certain amount of organic pre-writing research (I read plenty of other books that don’t inspire me, but teach me something).

As I wrote Bring It, I looked up memoirs of World War II soldiers who were waterboarded, diaries and court cases, treaties and historical documents, and so on. But I only looked up those texts that were directly related to the scene I was writing at that time. I might spend an hour or two on scene-specific research, but only if it is a critical element. In that case, the scene at the end of Episode III has garnered many accolades in reviews, so I think I got it right.

If you go out and research for days, you’re going to regurgitate extraneous crap that will bore the reader. If you already know certain amounts through your every-day interests, then the research is more natural and specific to the story. The readers appreciate that kind of research.

ST: The ebook market place is a great place for a new writer to publish their work, but how does a writer make their work stand out in such a crowded market place?

SJ: It takes time. The Kindle Gold Rush is over. You have to develop an audience, develop your writing to fit that audience, constantly hone your craft, and participate in genre-specific forums as a reader. If you’re not keeping your ear to the chest of your readers, feeling and hearing the heartbeat, you’ll never stand out. At the same time, you can’t pander to them. Readers don’t like weasel-writers, they like strong, confident, bold writers who know them well.

ST: What is your advice to writers who just starting out?

SJ: Humility is your friend. Listen, try, read, try again, study, try harder. Hire a content editor and a copy editor. Seek out harsh critiques and learn from them. No amount of marketing or advertising or word of mouth will sell a bad book. The art of writing is something we’ll never perfect but can always improve.

ST: If you had the chance to sit down and have a meal with fictional character would you share the meal with?

SJ: Hmmm, good question. I’d like to say something intelligent and witty, like Quasimodo before he pushed Frollo. But I like to be honest and I’ve spent a lot of time with one guy lately: Jacob Stearne, my new leading character. He constantly surprises me. He tells me a different story about his past every day. I have a whole childhood-Christmas-disaster story in my head even though our circumstances couldn’t have been more disparate. Most of these stories have nothing to do with the Pia Sabel novels so I’m always wondering why he brings them up. Maybe he thinks I care.

ST: What is one random fact about yourself?

SJ: Just one? How about a slew: I’ve never killed anyone with malice aforethought. I grew up in a tent in the desert. I hiked the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim in ten hours with a pack of young studs and out-paced the whiny, little brats by a long shot. I’m happily married but not sure my wife is. My friends won’t let me drive their Ferraris because of one simple effing miscalculation. I’m a huge fan of your site.

To learn more about Seeley James, check out his official website, like his Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter  @SeeleyJamesAuth.

The Writer's Bone Interviews Archive

Plotting With Disturbia Diaries Author Jennifer Fischetto

Jennifer Fishchetto

Jennifer Fishchetto

By Sean Tuohy

The word that best sums up international best-selling author Jennifer Fischetto is busy. She currently works on two book series and has another one in works. She pens the award-winning, and very fun, Jamie Bond series with Gemma Halliday, while also working on her own YA series Disturbia Diaries. Fischetto has grown in a well-known author thanks to the humor and original tone she fills her novels with.

Fischetto was nice enough to take a moment to sit and chat with Writer's Bone about her works, her writing process, and what the future holds for her.

Sean Tuohy: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Jennifer Fischetto: My mother read fairy tales to me as a young child, and as soon as I knew how to write, I began creating my own stories (although I may have heavily borrowed ideas from these books!). I wrote a lot in junior high, and then in high school. I was a part of a creating writing class. I knew then I wanted to be a writer. I didn't quite believe it was possible though.

ST: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

JF: The clearest one is from eighth grade. We had a writing assignment in English, and, of course, I went full throttle and wrote a story about a 17-year-old girl who hid the fact that her parents died in a car accident so that she and her seven other siblings wouldn't be separated. It was supposed to be a short story, but mine was much longer. I still remember the construction paper cover I created for it.

ST: What attaches you to the YA genre?

JF: There's something special about this age group. There's the confusion and vulnerability of not knowing who you are and where you fit in yet. And there are such limitations when you're that age; between parents, school, and not having the freedom you desire. It's a time of struggle, and writing about that conflict appeals to me.

ST: Your Jamie Bond series is a wonderfully fun series, where did the idea for ex cover model turned P.I. come from?

JF: Actually, this series is the creation of Gemma Halliday. I had nothing to do with creating Jamie's job choices. It was an idea Gemma had started some years ago, but couldn't find the time to write. She and I had originally connected through "Romance Divas," an online community of (mostly) romance writers. Gemma had mentored me back in 2007. Then one day, out of the blue, she messaged me, asking if I was interested in co-authoring this series with her. A lot of what happens in the books comes from my imagination, but Jamie, herself, is Gemma's baby.

ST: Do you do any research for your novels? If so, what is that process like?

JF: Because I write mysteries, most of my research stems around criminal law and police procedure. There is a wonderful Yahoo group, “Crimescenewriters,” that answers all kinds of police procedural questions, and Google is my best friend. But since I write cozies and romantic mysteries, as opposed to, legal thrillers, I don't need to know intricate details.

ST: What is your writing process?

JF: I'm a plotter, so my process usually goes like this:

  • Brainstorm idea: I'll get a snippet of an idea for a plot or a character and ask a lot of "what ifs." This is my favorite part of the process. 
  • Plot: I plot scene-by-scene in Scrivener. This can be minimal or very detailed. Even with these virtual notecards, I don't always follow it exactly. 
  • First draft: I tell myself to write fast and dirty, but that doesn't always happen. In the beginning of a story, I tend to go back and edit a lot, but by time I reach the middle, I lock up my internal editor and just move forward. I write in chronological order. I've tried skipping around and it just confuses me. I tend to hold a lot of information in my head. I make notes, but I prefer going my memory, if I can. 
  • Revisions: This is the fun part, making all those words pretty and cohesive. And then finally, I end with polishing/editing. 

Depending on which series I'm writing, I'll either hand over my portion of a Jamie Bond book straight to my co-author, or for my YA series, if time allows, I'll also have my amazing criticism group, "YAFF," take a look.

ST: Do you have a different writing process for YA novels and adult novels?

JF: I do not. Other than the stories themselves, I usually write every book the same way.

ST: If given the chance which of your characters would you spend the day with and what would you do?

JF: I'm currently writing the first book of a new series. It's about a young woman who communicates with ghosts, much like my YA series, but this one is more fun. Her name is Gianna, and she works at her family deli, which is a beacon for ghosts. For reasons she's not sure, the recently departed cross over through the deli. Gianna is a hoot, and a day with her would keep me laughing.

ST: What advice do you give to young writers?

JF: Don't quit. Keep trying. And believe in yourself. Always believe that you can make your dreams come true. It may take time, and it may not be easy, but it's definitely doable. And read, read, read!

ST: What is one random fact about yourself?

JF: I have double-jointed thumbs. Seriously. I can bend them backwards much further than most people. It's something I rarely think about now, but as a kid, my family would always ask me to perform. The circus side show.

To learn more about Jennifer Fischetto, check out her official website, like her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter @JennFischetto.

The Writer's Bone Interviews Archive