27 June 2007

Author Answers with Jennifer O'Connell

This week's featured author is Jennifer O'Connell (aka Jenny O'Connell) who writes both YA and adult fiction books.
For more on O'Connell, check out her website.

WN: You write books for both adults and teens. What got you started doing both?
O'CONNELL: The publisher of my adult books was about to start an imprint focused on teen girls and they asked if I’d be interested in writing YA. I hadn’t seriously thought about it up until that point, but once I started thinking I had an idea for PLAN B. It went to auction and ultimately MTV won so my adult publisher didn’t get the book, but I’m thankful they made me sit down and think about it.

WN: You just put together an anthology “Everything I Need to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume.” How did you get the idea for this collection? What did you learn from Judy Blume?
O'CONNELL: I was beginning to write PLAN B and in the process I realized that the teen girls in my book were just younger versions of my adult characters. The issues were similar albeit in high school versus the workplace, etc. And then I thought, “Everything I needed to know about being a girl I learned from Judy Blume.” I’m friends with a lot of women authors who write both YA and adult and I thought it would be a lot of fun to work with them on the anthology. The essays are awesome.

WN: You make yourself available to do book club call-ins…Why is this something you make time for?
O'CONNELL: Because there’s nothing more fun than talking to people who’ve read your books and listening to how they interpreted the story and character, what they liked and disliked, what worked for them and what didn’t. It’s as beneficial to me as a writer as it is fun.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid… what turned you on to reading/writing books?
O'CONNELL: I always loved to read. And I loved to read about girls like me – wasn’t into mysteries or fantasy, no Nancy Drew or Narnia. Just girls going to school and encountering the trials and tribulations of every day life.

WN: What’s the best part of being a writer to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
O'CONNELL: The best part has been meeting a bunch of very cool women writers in the process. They’re smart and funny and we have a blast together – and I never would have met them if I hadn’t started writing. They’re very supportive and we can laugh at ourselves and the business we’re in. The most challenging part is sitting down and writing. I like having ideas for new books. Hate having to actually write them. I enjoy writing the beginning and the ending, but in between I’m hitting the word count function on my computer every ten minutes to see how far I’ve gone. I have zero attention span, which, when you’re writing twenty chapters, isn’t such a great thing.

WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
O'CONNELL: I just sold the first two books in a series to MTV. They take place on Martha’s Vineyard, where the island transforms during the summer with rich teen socialites and the local girls are reminded there are two types of people – the ones who get to leave at summer’s end and the ones who are left behind. I’m looking forward to writing about the Vineyard, a place I love.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
O'CONNELL: I loved everything by Norma Klein growing up. Her girl characters lived in NYC, were super smart and just went through normal things like applying to college, boyfriends, divorce, etc. Her books are out of print but I’ve since gone back and purchased all of them for my daughter so she can read them one day. I also went back and re-read them all before beginning writing for teens.

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