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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Writing for your Audience: Interview with MG & YA Author Jen Calonita

You have a long list of published works. When did you publish your first book? At that time did you think you could make a career at it?
I wrote my first book in 2004 when my son Tyler was a newborn and it was called Secrets of My Hollywood Life. At the time, I was assigned two books and I just hoped I could get those off the ground so I could keep writing! I started and never looked back. I feel so grateful that I'm still writing today.

You write for the MG market. how do you find the voice for characters without writing down to them?
My boys are middle grade readers -- age 11 and 7 -- and I spend so much time talking to elementary school students that I think finding their voice comes easier to me than an older voice. At least at the moment! I love how they have so many ideas and opinions about the characters and I love pulling from my children's lives and incorporating their issues and friendship problems into my own work. I can relate as it feels like yesterday when I was in sixth grade and getting banished from my lunch table over a fight with friends. Those were dark days. :)

How do you decide when to end a series?
Sometimes you know going in when the series is going to end and sometimes you don't. I do know I get a definite feeling when I know my characters are ready to "graduate." With Fairy Tale Reform School I feel like I keep wanting to tell more and more stories so I'm excited that the world of Enchantasia -- and their problems -- will be around for a while.

How many rewrites do you do?
It definitely depends on the book, but I'd say that there is usually two solid rewrites. I find when you're really close to the source material you don't always see the flaws. When my editors get a hold of my work and make comments it shows me what I'm missing and then I'm excited to rework things.

How do you write? Did you do an outline first? Did you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
It depends on the project. I always outline but the last few books have been outlines on sticky notes! I have a wall of sticky notes in my object for a project and I move them around until the story feels write and the pace works for me.

Does your editor or publisher ever suggest you slant your books a certain way or push for a specific point to be made?
No, but my editors are amazing in that they love the worlds as much as I do and they always have great suggestions about how I can expand or improve upon a story I'm working on.

Since you've now proven yourself as a bankable writer, have any of your books been rejected by a publisher?
Of course! I don't know a writer friend out there who hasn't had a story idea rejected. Not every idea I'm going to come up with is going to work for various reasons. It's always disappointing, but I've learned to keep moving forward and start new projects.

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
The hardest thing for a writer to do is to sit down and write. It's so easy to imagine a story or think about writing a story but actually sitting there and pushing it out? That is hard. You just have to do

What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
Battle of the Bands, the next VIP book, was just released in July and it follows Mackenzie's continuing adventures on the road with Perfect Storm, her favorite band, and Tricked, the third Fairy Tale Reform School book, will be out March 2017. Something new is brewing too that I can't wait to share when the time comes!

What message would you like parents and children to take away from your books?
As a parent, I know I want my kids to fall in love with books that inspire them, excite them and help them grow. I hope my books can do that for other kids out there too!
That's it for today's interview. For more details on these books and others by Jen, here's some links to get you started: Amazon link to her books;
Jen's website:

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