She will be on faculty at the SCBWI Summer Conference (Aug 3-6, 2012) in Los Angeles.
Her apocalyptic Young Adult novel, STRUCK, comes out today (May 8, 2012!)
Before the interview, you have to watch her remarkable book trailer:
Lee: Hi Jennifer! Thanks for taking the time to chat. I just watched your trailer again, and I am *struck* (Heh, heh) at how amazing it is. I'm feeling like there's a new idea about book trailers, from Sara Wilson Etienne's trailer for Harbinger to yours for Struck, that envisions a book trailer almost like a movie trailer, and not just a video that pans the cover and puts up promotional quotes.
Jennifer: You know, it's really all about the reader or potential reader's experience, and I think Sara and I both understood going into it that a trailer's first job is to entertain. It's a commercial, after all, and people don't watch commercials anymore unless they have a very good reason to, or unless they actually want to. And if people are entertained by the trailer, they're going to want more. It's as simple as that.
Lee: It certainly kept me entertained! Is there a worry that having a face - a look - for the characters changes a reader's interior view of what things look like? I'm thinking about how I generally like to read a book before watching the movie, since I get to make all those decisions.
Jennifer: I definitely think there's a danger, and it's a risk the author has to decide whether or not he/she is willing to take. We were extremely careful when it came to casting the lead, and ended up doing two casting sessions to find the right girl. As soon as she walked in the door, we knew it was her. When you have that feeling, I think you're okay. If you feel like you settled for someone who doesn't embody the part, you might be heading down a track that will alienate readers. Luckily, there are enough great, undiscovered actors and actresses in Los Angeles that it wasn't an issue for us. I feel great about our "Mia Price."
Lee: Yeah, she's great in the role. Okay, so you had casting sessions, but I'd like to know more about how you made this trailer. I can imagine things like getting an actor to stand in a hallway and look cute/mysterious, or another wearing spooky contact lenses, but some of the special effects – the cars falling into the hole in the street, the skyscrapers blowing up from lightning hits... How did you do all that?
Jennifer: I can't take a lick of credit for any of that. My husband, Ryan Bosworth, and his sister, Erin Bosworth (of Team Bosworth) did all the special effects. It took months. Not only months, but long, long hours of every day for months. I'm surprised Team Bosworth made it through the visual effects portion alive. They basically did the work of a entire VFX facility. After the book is released, I'll be posting the making of video which will explain in more detail the technical side of destroying Los Angeles. It's an incredible, intimidating process.
Lee: The results are remarkable, and I'm relieved to hear that you had a team! I was reflecting on how trailer music sets a tone, kind of like the opening lines of a book. Your opening to STRUCK set the same exciting tone:
Three days until the storm...
I don’t sleep much. An hour here. Two hours there. Chronic insomnia, it’s one of my more tolerable lightning strike aftereffects. Not as bad as the veiny red scars that cover me from neck to toes, or the burning in my chest that flares hotter when I get a little emotional. Insomnia? Eh. It could be worse (and usually is.) Most people wish they had more hours in the day. I keep almost the full twenty-four.
Can you tell us more about writing the beginning of Struck? Did the story always start in this way?
Jennifer: I started this story so many times in so many different ways, I can barely remember them all. But the very first beginning is now the middle of STRUCK. I started in the Waste (destroyed downtown Los Angeles) and then just kept working backward until I found the point that clicked. I tend to feel my way through each draft. I know when something works and when it doesn't, but I don't always know why. It's an intuitive process for me. It's like falling in love. You know when you're in, and I think you also know when you're out.
Lee: That's so interesting about finding the starting point. You’re going to be on one of two SCBWI Success Stories panels at the SCBWI Summer Conference – without giving your whole success story away, can you tell us how long you’ve been a member?
Jennifer: I joined SCBWI four years ago, right about the time I realized that I was writing YA. I'd written several books previous to STRUCK, all of them quasi-adult, but it took me years to understand that I had a YA voice. Once I did, I had another of those moments when things click into place. But I think back on the first SCBWI conference I attended, and remember how overwhelmed I felt. I didn't know anyone, and I had no idea what I was doing there. It's amazing how much can change in a few years. While you're living them, struggling through them, the climb seems slow, but when I say "four years" that really doesn't seem like very long.
Lee: What do you think is the best thing you’ve gotten from being part of SCBWI?
Jennifer: A community. And from that community, inspiration. I get to be surrounded by writers all the time, and I'm in awe of their talent. Not just the published authors. ALL of them. There is so much collective greatness among the members of SCBWI, it's staggering to look upon. Sometimes I have to shut my eyes so their light doesn't melt my face like in Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Lee: Ha! But I totally hear you. Community. As Lin Oliver likes to say, we're a tribe! You’ll also be teaching a pro track workshop on the Sunday of the summer conference, “The Conspicuous Writer: Helping Readers Discover Your Work.” Can you tell us more about that?
Jennifer: It's a subject I've had to think a lot about now that it's actually applicable. Now that children's books are so popular, there are more choices for buyers. But when there are so many book choices, how does an author position their book to stand out in the market?
What I want to talk about in the workshop is how to set yourself apart as an author, and how to make your work attract attention. I'll be doing author case studies, and I'm hoping to use some live visual aides.
Lee: I wonder if you'll be talking as well about things like the other video you had on your website – the one where you’re opening the package from your editor with the first hard-cover copy of STRUCK, and you see it for the first time. And then you share the dedication page with the viewers. It’s so different from the flash and drama of the trailer, so simple, and yet it was very endearing and emotional. You made us like YOU as an author (well, I know you outside of social media, and already like you) but I imagine it will win readers over to your side.
Jennifer: I do want to talk about that video, and what it accomplished. It was honest and the emotion was genuine and unscripted. I actually choke up every time I think about that moment. I'm getting misty right now just writing about it. I think we authors have to remember that, even though we're trying to be professional, readers want to see us as human. They want to see heart and vulnerability. When we become public figures, we're almost like characters in a book. If we don't show our true selves, it doesn't give readers a chance to connect with us.
Lee: Here’s something I’ve been wondering about: Is there a difference between getting out there in social media so people can find your book and celebritizing yourself?
Jennifer: Haha. That's a good question, and I'm not sure it has a definite answer. For me, it's all about making a connection with individuals. I hate feeling like a phony, so when people follow me on Twitter I read each and every one of their bios, and I try to comment on them if we have something in common. Someone followed me recently who said she was a belly dancer, and I took belly dancing lessons ten years ago, so I told her that and we connected. I'll remember her, and I think she'll remember me. But I don't think you can try to become a celebrity. It happens or it doesn't. If authors start leaking sex tapes, I'll be worried.
Lee: Yikes! Me, too.
Last lines are also really important – and the last lines of your trailer are still echoing in my head: “My name is Mia Price. I’m a lightning addict. And the fate of the world is in my hands.” But don’t tell us the last lines of STRUCK – we’ll need to earn them by reading it!
Congratulations on your book being released Today!
And I’ll give you the last line of our interview...
Jennifer: Fantastic! This was so much fun, Lee!
To find out more about Jennifer and STRUCK, check out her website.
You can meet Jennifer and attend her conference sessions by registering for the SCBWI Summer Conference. Click here for details and registration.
Illustrate and Write On,