Denise Jaden is a B.C.-based Young Adult author and NaNoWriMo champion who I had the chance to work with at Surrey Libraries when she delivered writing workshops for our enthusiastic teen writers. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Denise!
Tell us a little about yourself!
Let’s see…I have been writing for a little over thirteen years, and before that, through most of my life, I was a reluctant reader and writer. Aside from dancing, I homeschool my son, act in TV and movies filmed around the Vancouver area, and dance with a Polynesian dance troupe. It’s a varied and fun life!
Can you walk us through your writing career? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I did not have any inclination that I wanted to be a writer until about thirteen years ago, and I can only blame it on pregnant brain. All of a sudden I couldn’t get enough of writing down characters and stories. It really did come out of nowhere for me. I spent a few years diligently learning the craft of writing, then about three years looking for an agent. Once I had an agent, we sold my first book to Simon & Schuster (Losing Faith, 2010) quite quickly. Now I have seven books out altogether, with various publishers—five young adult novels, and two nonfiction guides for writers.
What are you working on at the minute?
For the last couple of years, I’ve sunk myself into a YA series. I haven’t written a series before, so the learning curve is large, but I’m really enjoying getting to spend so much time with the same characters. I hope to release the first book in the series next year.
The first draft of your debut novel was written during NaNoWriMo! Can you tell us about your NaNoWriMo strategy, and any tips you might have to writers who are thinking about tackling a novel in a month?
I have found that fast drafting a first draft works really well for me. It’s easier to keep the writing momentum up, and I find I can take the pressure off myself about everything having to be polished and good when I’m trying hard to rack up words each day. This, in turn, has led me to some really wonderful plots that I don’t think I would’ve found if I wasn’t in that headspace of letting myself make mistakes along the way. I believe in the process so heartily, in fact, that I wrote a book on the subject. It’s called Fast Fiction, and is available wherever books are sold.
What draws you to young adult fiction?
The choice to write young adult was about as accidental as my choice to become a writer in the first place. My first novel (still unpublished) was in the head of a thirty-year-old man. When I sent if off to critique partners, they came back and said, “are you sure this shouldn’t be young adult?” At the time, I argued them. But when I wrote my second book (Never Enough) I started it in a teen’s point of view and it felt right immediately. Eventually I went back and turned that first book into a teen novel as well.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?
For my novels, I generally plan them out for a couple of months before writing them. I have an app on my phone where I make ongoing notes, because I always have it with me, and brainstorms seem to come at the oddest times! Then I fast draft a first draft, usually during one month, and put it aside for a while. The revision process is always different, but I always get lots of feedback and I always like to take long breaks in order to get renewed perspective on each project.
How long on average does it take you to write a book? What is a typically timeline between putting pen to paper and seeing a book in print?
While I tend to stick to the one month for a first draft timeline, there’s really no rhyme or reason to how long it takes from first word to published book. One book took about nine months, another took about twelve years.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read a lot and write a lot. Take note of what, specifically, you love in other books and movies. Is it the characters? If so, what makes these characters special? Is it the hero’s goal? If so, what makes that goal feel important to you? Once you realize what works for you as a reader, and why, you’ll start to be able to deliver those things better to your readers.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Only that I have a new YA novel that was released at the end of last year, on November 21st. It’s called Avalanche and is about two teens who head up to a winter resort as enemies, but need to learn to rely on each other to survive when their resort world comes crashing—literally—down around them.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
The best way is through my website at www.denisejaden.com, but I’m also regularly on Twitter @denisejaden or on Facebook at denisejadenauthor. I am very approachable online and love to hear from readers and writers alike!