I am very pleased to welcome Jen Nadol here to DarkFaerieTales.com to talk about her debut young adult novel, The Mark, which is now available in bookstores. You can also read an excerpt here.
DFT: Could you start things off by telling us a little about the book?
The main character, Cassie, realizes the light she’s always seen around certain people means it’s their day to die. She must decide what – if anything – to do about it.
DFT: What motivated you to write The Mark?
I’d always meant to be a writer, but wound up working your typical Corporate-type job after college to pay the bills. When I left, I realized I still had this unexplored goal/dream out there. So, I decided to give it a shot.
DFT: If you could describe your main character with only 3 words, what would they be?
Introspective, self-reliant, vulnerable.
DFT: Tell us something about your research process and the choices you make when creating the story.
If it’s something I don’t have much background in, like the philosophy in The Mark, I’ll do source reading first. But, if at all possible, I do the research after the story is written, which sounds completely backwards, but for me, it’s critical to get a story on paper first. Hospital scenes in The Mark are a good example of this. I wrote them, using what I thought would be correct, then did my double-checking later.
In terms of story choices…big ones, like the story arc, I usually have in mind when I start writing. Medium choices, like what conflict needs to present next to move the story along or how a character should develop emotionally are the things I work on during daily downtime – in the car, the shower and such. And small choices, like character or town names, are often things I decide after the story is finished, too. I use a “placeholder” – something picked very quickly so I don’t interrupt the flow of writing – then go back and really think about them and often change them, later.
DFT: What influences and inspirations (both literary and non-literary) did you draw from while writing The Mark?
Having children made the concept of time very tangible for me: how quickly it passes, how important it is to do the things we “mean” to because we don’t have unlimited time to do them – today might be our last chance. I think this kind of stuff, creeping throughout my subconscious, probably ultimately formed the idea for the book: what if you knew today was someone’s last?
As far as literary influences, I read tons of Stephen King growing up and, though I wouldn’t even begin to compare my work to his, I think he definitely influenced the kind of writing I do: real world, with otherworldly element thrown in. And Lisa McMann’s Wake taught me a lot about editing. It’s such a great example of tight, spare, effective prose.
DFT: Who is your favorite character in this book, and why?
I have to say Cassie, the main character. We’ve spent so much time together!
DFT: Do you have a long-term plan or goal for this story universe? What happens next?
There’s a sequel to The Mark that’s with my editor now, but it’s not contracted/sold so I can’t say too much about it…including whether it will even be published!
DFT: What other projects are you working on that you would like to tell us about?
I have three other YA novels in early stages. One paranormal, one dystopian and one that’s kind of paranormal, I think.
DFT: If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for The Mark to be award-winning, or for The Mark to be bestselling? Why?
Definitely bestselling. Unless you’re Dan Brown or the like, having a bestseller probably means the book really resonated with people and they told friends and so on. Creating something that lots and lots of people enjoyed would be more important to me than having it be critically acclaimed. Though writing a book that’s both would be the best!
DFT: What was the path to publication like for The Mark? Was it difficult to find an agent and a publisher?
Finding an agent was VERY difficult, largely because what I was submitting wasn’t really ready. I’ve never taken classes on crafting story or gone to conferences or anything so I was learning as I went. And it was sort of a long process. Once I had an agent, it sold within a month.
DFT: Why do you think there is the misconception that young adult books are not as deep or as complex as books for adults? What is your response to this misconception?
I think sometimes people have a tendency to voice uninformed or partially informed opinions – on a variety of topics, not just books or YA (I’m sure I’m as guilty of this as the next person!). It’s true that some YA is fluff, just as some adult fiction is fluff, but people who don’t think YA books can be deep should read more YA.
DFT: What is your favorite fairy tale? Why?
I had to go pull up a Wikipedia list of fairy tales, it’s been so long since I’ve read them…and now I want to sit down and read every one! Such fantastic plots and concepts! The Emperor’s New Clothes is a great one – I love the idea of someone innocent enough to call out a truth no one else is willing to acknowledge.
DFT: What books/genres do you read when you have the chance? Any must read authors or series?
I read almost exclusively YA books right now. I didn’t for a very long time, wasn’t really aware of the genre until I realized what I’d written was YA, so I have a lot of catching up to do! I love so many of them – The Hunger Games, Wake, Life As We Knew It, the Uglies series, After…
DFT: What is your definition of a “bad writing day”? How do you deal with bad writing days?
A “bad writing day” is one where the pressing busywork of everyday life steals my writing time. Insurance paperwork, taxes, doctor’s appointments – so frustrating! I don’t ever have days where I sit down to write and can’t. It’s just not an option. It doesn’t always flow beautifully and the pages aren’t always keepers, but when I have free time to write, I write.
DFT: Do you have a particular writing process or any writing rituals?
Butt in chair, get words on paper. It can be a slow, sometimes painful, but if you don’t get your story drafted, you’ve got nothing to work with.
DFT: What creature are you afraid of most?
Serial killers. If you believe TV shows, the world is crawling with them!
DFT: If you could be any paranormal creature. Which one would you be and why?
Something that flies and isn’t too scary and can live among regular people without attracting notice. What would that be…a faerie?
DFT: Thank you Jen for taking the time to stop by.
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