Sunday, October 14, 2012

❤author: Jess Lourey Interview and Giveaway!

❤ Today, I'm thrilled to welcome author, Jess Lourey, to the blog today. Welcome to ¡Miraculous!, Jess! Will you please share a short bio with us?

I am the author of The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One, the first in a young adult series that celebrates the danger and excitement of reading. I also write the critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month Mysteries for adults with a sense of humor. I've been teaching writing and sociology at the college level since 1998. When not gardening, writing, or hanging out with my wonderful kids and dorky dog, you can find me reading, watching SyFy-channel original movies, and dreaming big.

Tell us little bit about your newest release, The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One.

Aine (pronounced "Aw-nee") believes herself to be a regular teenager in 1930s Alabama, but when a blue-eyed monster named Biblos attacks, she discovers that the reclusive woman raising her isn't really her grandmother and that she's been living inside a book for the past five years. With her blind brother, Spenser, she flees the pages of the novel she's called home, one terrifying step ahead of Biblos' black magic. Her only chance at survival lies in beating him to the three objects that he desires more than life.

As she undertakes her strange and dangerous odyssey, Aine must choose between a family she doesn't remember and her growing attraction to a mysterious young man named Gilgamesh. Only through treacherous adventures into The Time Machine, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Tale of Two Cities, and the epic Indian saga The Ramayana will she learn her true heritage and restore the balance of the worlds... if she can stay alive.

❤ How did you choose the names of your characters in it?

The premise of the novel is that you can actually enter books, and that authors are not who you think they are. So, all the characters are either famous literary/historical figures (Spenser, Gilgamesh, Tru, Aine) or literary terms (Kenning, Tone, Caesura). If you can pick up which famous figure the name refers to, you'll begin to collect clues as to who is really writing the stories, and how their stories will ultimately end.

How did you first get published? Tell us your call story.

It took four hundred and twenty three rejections before I signed my first book contract. Not very good odds, but I'm running with them. It started when I was six. I wrote this Minnesota haiku for my awesome grandpa:

Grandpas are full of love

Grandpas are full of tickles

But grandpas are especially full of pickles.

People loved it. Aunts hugged me, cousins were jealous, uncles asked me to next immortalize them. My poetry skills have not evolved since that day, but the enchantment with words and their power to make people see the world through my eyes has grown like a watermelon seed.

I wrote my first novel when I was 26. It featured three women traveling across the United States, three women suspiciously like myself and the two best friends I had taken a road trip with a couple years earlier. Like most first novels, it was embarrassingly self-involved, full of overwritten description and twenty-pound dialogue tags:

"Why doesn't my alcoholic father accept me for who I am?" Hannah asked pityingly, rubbing the burning, salty tears from her chocolate brown eyes.

Amazingly, no publisher would take a look at the first three chapters. (The fact that I was submitting directly to publishers shows just how green I was.) I tried some light revising, working under the new author misconception that my work was great and the world just wasn't ready for it yet. When the adding of more adjectives didn't net me a three-book deal, I took a sabbatical from writing the Great American Novel and got a real job. I ended up with two Master's degrees, one in English and one in Sociology, and a teaching job at a rural technical college.

But, like most writers, I couldn't stop thinking of book ideas, writing down sparks of description or snatches of conversation that I overheard and would love to work into a story, feeling lazy and envious when I read a fantastic novel. When the nagging sense of ignoring something important got too strong, I started writing May Day. I hired a freelance editor and pumped May Day up to 52,000 words. Next, I wrote June Bug. Then I implemented my systematic plan to wear down the publishing behemoth. I sent out 200 query letters. When the rejections started trickling in, I sent out 150 more. Not an agent or small press was spared. 

Finally, a bite. I found an agent. We never met — she lived out west on a commune, where she edited technical manuals and studied the healing power of crystals. After six months and a handful of offers from publish-on-demand companies, we parted ways amicably. I found another agent shortly after that, and after a year of rejections from New York publishing houses, she found my books a home. I've written eight in that series so far.

I love reading and writing mysteries, but in 2008, around the time my kids started reading chapter books, I realized that there is this amazing genre called young adult (YA). I started devouring my kids' books (figuratively speaking, munch munch bwahaaa, crazy mom), and somewhere in there, the kernel for my own YA trilogy sprouted, and I wrote The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One.

So, as of today, I'm at 436 rejections and nine novels. Most people would have given up a while ago with those odds, and there is a word for those type of people: sensible. The rest of us, we're called writers.

❤ WOW — that's an incredible journey. Sounds like you learned a lot too! :) How much of your actual life gets written into your fictional stories?

The main characters in The Toadhouse Trilogy, Aine and Spenser, are loosely based on my complicated, amazing children, Zoe and Xander. Otherwise, that book is entirely made up. A lot of real life ends up in my mysteries, though.

 What do you consider your biggest strengths and weaknesses as an author?

My biggest strength is my imagination. My biggest weakness is my lack of time, and a superhuman procrastination power.

❤ How would you describe your writing style and tone?

Hmm. I hope my YA is fast-paced and suspenseful, with deep character development. My mysteries are light and funny, though the series is getting darker as I go.

 What's the greatest thing you learned in school? 

To read. Seriously — how amazing is that? You open a book, you enter a world.

❤ How do you react to a negative or harsh review to your books?

I post them online for all the world to see. It's like pulling the bandaid off quick for me — get it all out there, ugliness and all. Then, I read through it to see if any of it is true and how I can become a better writer for it, and then I eat a pint of ice cream and curse the reviewer, and then I try to let it all go.

❤ Sounds like a sensible thing to do — very therapeutic too! Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

Your first book might not be sellable, but you learn a lot by writing it. Don't give up.

❤ Now give us your best personal advice — something you wish you had known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.

Learn from the bad things that happen to you, and move on a stronger person. Trust the good things that happen to you because you deserve them.

❤ What would you say are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

Dogged determination or a pathological unresponsiveness to reality. They're the same thing, so pick whichever sounds better to you. :)

❤ What’s something that you see other authors do, that really drives you up the wall?

I think it takes a lot of courage to be a writer, and short of over-promoting oneself at the expense of everyone else around you, I don't think there are any bad mistakes to make.

❤ Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer?

Lack of money and time.

❤ What’s something you love to see your readers do or say? 

I love to receive fan letters/emails from readers and hearing that my characters came alive for them.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Jess! Where can readers find you on the web?

Jess has been generous enough to offer an autographed copy of The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One to two lucky readers! To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway runs through October 29th, 2012 at 11.59 pm (EST).
Open to all readers, international folks included!
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤ and you get additional entries ;)
Good luck!