Interview with J.A. Souders!

I'm here today to present the awesome award to Jessica Souders for her amazing novel Renegade. I read this book under the disguise of "beta" during the Spring semester, but I did very little betaing and a lot more oohing and aahing as I skipped classes to continue reading (don't tell Mom). It is my pleasure to present the award and also to present to you, my readers, this interview I forced out of her recently. It is also partially posted over at TWFT, but you can find the whole version below.

You have recently signed your awesome novel Renegade with Tor Teen (Macmillan). Can you tell us a little about this process and your experiences?

I’m assuming you mean the process of being on sub, then getting an offer? Finding an editor has taken a bit longer than I expect it would, but so far it’s been absolutely amazing.

We went on sub with R in March and I hunkered down with my TBR pile and prepared for a long wait. It wasn’t a week later that I got an email from Natalie, letting me know that one of the editors had read it already and really liked it, but wanted to see what else I had. A week later, she wanted an R&R on this other MS and I had another R&R from another editor on R.

At the 4 week mark, I was told I was going to acquisitions and then the next week (the day before I was supposed to go acquisitions) I got an offer from yet another house.

I couldn’t believe it. I had so much interest in this story! And the editor of one of my favorite authors had made an offer. I was in tears and vacillating between laughing and crying for the next few weeks while I waited to see what was happening with the rest of the editors, then the negotiations.

A few weeks after accepting the offer from Tor, I went up to NY/NJ to meet Natalie and Mel. I already knew Natalie was awesome and meeting her didn’t change my mind. But what I wasn’t expecting was that Mel would be just as awesome (I thought she might, since she bought R ;), but I was terrified she’d be like that woman from The Devil Wears Prada). She, of course, is the exact opposite and I love her. She is just fantastic and she gets me and R. I just got the first rounds of edits from her and they’re EXACTLY right.

So you are my agent-sister; how did you end up with Agent-o’-awesome Natalie Fischer?

I’m so glad we’re agent sisters! I can’t believe how unbelievably lucky I am with who my agent (and now editor) sisters are. My agent and now editor sisters are so awesome.

I’m a slush pile baby. LOL. I love telling people this; especially those that think you need to know someone in the industry to get published. I’m proof you don’t. I didn’t know anyone. I was just persistent.

Okay, so to make a long story short I saw her name on while I was looking for more agents to query. She sounded perfect for me, so I researched her (read STALKED. LOL.) after a week or so of biting my nails and trying to decide if I could afford to print out 50 pages and pay for postage even if she didn’t respond, I decided to just go for it (due to a not so gentle nudge from The Husband). A few weeks later, she asked for a full day, and then a few days later she offered. I accepted that night.

You recently went, with Natalie and some agent sisters (not me - *sad face*), to SCBWI NJ. How does conferencing help authors, in your opinion? Does meeting fellow writers help you in your writing?

I’m so sad you weren’t there! It was so much fun! RT, baby! :D (Ahem. Now back to the question. :P) I LOVE conferences. They’re always filled with great information. Not to mention it’s always fun networking with other authors, editors, and agents.

Word of warning, though. Don’t go to conferences to “snag” that agent or editor. It rarely happens. Not that it doesn’t or won’t happen. It has, but it should never be the main reason to go. However, it is a great place to meet new author friends, learn more on the craft of writing, and talk with like-minded individuals (you know the ones that aren’t going to look at you like at you with glazed eyes when you can’t shut up about that new WIP. :P)

Could you tell us something particular you learned at the conference?

This past conference I learned it’s important for authors to do a lot of their own marketing in addition to whatever the publisher is doing. And that the traditional marketing things (i.e bookmarks, postcards, pens, etc) aren’t that effective. You want something that people will hang onto and/or share with others. Stuff that can be thrown away, usually does.

Describe Renegade in 10 words or less?

10? That’s it?! Didn’t the others get 20? So unfair. Someone must know I’m long-winded. LOL.

Underwater dystopian about an assassin who is losing her mind.

What inspired your amazing novel?

I’ve always been a fan of science fiction and when I was teenager I was a HUGE fan of Sea Quest (Hush! It wasn’t THAT long ago. LOL.) In fact, it started me on the path of being a writer (and it’s the reason I went to college to be a marine biologist—I wanted to live in an Underwater city--and partially the reason The Parentals moved me to Florida from Wisconsin.) I have drawers filled with notebooks of underwater-based stories that I just couldn’t get right. Then when I was writing another story, I was sitting next to my son who was playing a video game and I was procrastinating by reading a story about people’s obsession about being perfect. And it hit me. I HAD to stop writing the other story to write RENEGADE.

What is your ideal writing environment? Music or silence? Hot or cold beverages? Desk or magical garden?

Ooh! Did you say magical garden? Yes please! That way all I have to do is think the scene and it’ll magically appear in my WIP. :P Cold beverages, for sure ( I live in Florida after all.) And music, as loud as I can stand it. I usually write wherever I can, but The Husband just cleaned up the backyard and I think I’ll be spending a lot of time out there.

Do you outline? If yes, how does outlining help you? If no, did you make a conscious decision not to outline or simply felt driven to let the words flow?

Before RENEGADE the answer would have been no outline, but with it I’ve found that outlining was a godsend. When the idea for R hit me, I wrote the entire book in synopsis form w/in a half an hour. Then I took a few days to outline it chapter-by-chapter, trying to come up with the main theme for each, or whatever I MOST wanted to happen in the chapter.

Do you set deadlines? Do you work well under pressure or does it freak you out?

I don’t really do deadlines, but I do set goals. Whenever I’m drafting, I have a goal of 2k a day. I did this to stop myself from editing instead of writing. But I found while writing R it went so smoothly I usually blew past that goal and I was writing between 4-5k a day.

However, while editing, I give myself deadlines, or I’ll procrastinate. Depending on the types of edits, I’ll give myself at most a month to finish them. That gives me a week to think about the notes from Natalie or my CPs/betas, 2 weeks to fix them, and another week to read over the changes before sending them back out.

I absolutely work better under deadlines. I won’t lie, though, it does freak me out. However, I think this is what makes me work better under deadlines.

Tell us three facts about you that have nothing to do with writing!

What’s with all the tough questions? LOL. Hmm, okay, 1) I LOVE SCUBA diving and swimming in the ocean, but I’m TERRIFIED to swim in a pool or lake. 2) I LOVE reading things that scare the crap out of me, but I can’t watch a horror movie 3) I love getting in front of people and speaking/debating, and acting in plays, etc, but I’m terrified of meeting people face-to-face.

Thanks for the interview Jessica. Renegade is the shizzle.
Visit Jessica at her website! You won't regret it!