Monday, June 20, 2011

In Which I Interview Janet Fox about her new YA, Forgiven. Plus a Contest!

Janet Fox is not only an amazing writer, she is also an amazing friend. We buddied up during our Class of 2k9 debut author days and have stayed that way ever since. At that time, she lived in College Station, Texas, which was only about an hour or so from me. It was Janet who introduced me to the Austin writing crew, including Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith and Varian Johnson, among many others. We’ve had many writer adventures together, Janet and I - appearing together at conferences, hiking the aisles at TLA, exploring the wilds of Oklahoma City and Disney World. (You have to love the NCTE folks for placing last year’s conference in Orlando!) So it’s my absolute pleasure to host her here with her newest book – Forgiven, which is a companion to Faithful and on shelves now!

AND PLEASE READ TO THE END. Janet is giving away a signed copy of Forgiven. The contest is explained below.

Here’s the Amazon product description of Forgiven:

Product Description
Kula Baker never expected to find herself on the streets of San Francisco, alone but for a letter of introduction. Though she has come to the city to save her father from a cruel fate, Kula soon finds herself swept up in a world of art and elegance - a world she hardly dared dream of back in Montana, where she was no more than the daughter of an outlaw. And then there is the handsome David Wong, whose smiling eyes and soft-spoken manner have an uncanny way of breaking through Kula's carefully crafted reserve. Yet when disaster strikes and the wreckage threatens all she holds dear, Kula realizes that only by unlocking her heart can she begin to carve a new future for herself.

And here’s what Janet had to say when we sat down at our laptops to chat:

Joy: So tell us a little bit about why you decided to mine the character of Kula for a companion novel to Faithful. What was it about Kula and her story that kept speaking to you? Did you always know that you might write Forgiven?

Janet: I didn’t know that I would write Forgiven until about six months before the novel was due. But Kula was a favorite character from the time she sprang out of my imagination. I loved her feisty spirit and her flaws – her bull-headed stubborn personality appealed to me. I could see through her superficial defensiveness to what I knew was an open heart. That’s why I had to tell her story: I wanted to know what she’d do when I put her in a difficult situation.

Joy: Forgiven is set with the backdrop of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. Tell us what drew you to that setting and time period.

Janet: I have an MS in geology, and I’m fascinated by natural processes. When it came time to write Kula’s story I wanted her to be in a place that was challenging, and what better challenge than suffering through a major natural disaster? The world has seen its fair share of natural disasters lately (although I obviously had no idea how resonant an earthquake would be). But I also knew a bit about the San Francisco earthquake and I admired how the people of the city rose up afterward and rebuilt her. I love that perseverance. And I love the rapid change of society of the early 20th century.

Joy: You definitely have a thing for strong women characters who have to learn to use their inner strength and find their path. Is this something you consciously think about?

Janet: Not consciously, but I do admire strong women (and thanks for that lovely compliment!) My own mother was a strong woman with a very lady-like veneer, and my grandmother, my father’s mother, was a true pioneering spirit, so perhaps I inherited their willful natures. I do think it’s important for me to write about strong girls, because I firmly believe that tween and teen readers today need to see strong female role models taking on challenges and not just letting the guy be the hero who solves the girl’s problems for her.

Joy: As a writer, I'm always fascinated with the journey to publication. Has the second book journey been the same as the first? Any notable differences?

Janet: The biggest difference between Faithful and Forgiven was how quickly I had to write the second book (six months from start to finish.) I couldn’t have done that if I had to start from scratch; I already knew Kula and the time period so I was able to pull it off. Now I’m writing a novel that requires a new load of research and this journey is very different – I have more time, and it’s a very different story with a very different protagonist. But the primary difference for me is that these subsequent books were already bought by the publisher. I feel lucky because this gives me the courage to try new things, knowing that my editor will guide me, as long as I produce the best possible work.

Joy: I know the next novel you're working on is also historical fiction. What attracts you to this genre? What advice might you give prospective writers who are crafting a work of historical fiction?

Janet: First, I do love the research. It’s so much fun to find interesting tidbits of history – to feel like I can “live” in another time. And second, I love making history relevant: finding those places where historical and contemporary issues collide and overlap, and helping teens/tweens see that there is truly something to be gained by understanding the past. For prospective writers of historical fiction I suggest that they read widely in the genre of historical fiction, and also once they decide on a period they’d like to write about, to read novels or pieces actually published in that period, which gives a great sense of the “voice” of that period.

Joy: Stuff you need when you write? (tea? a special chair? chocolate? music?)

Janet: I need silence. I love the “idea” of working to music, but in fact it drives me nuts. I can write anywhere, any time, as long as I have silence. And coffee in the morning. And the ability to walk around once every hour or so and talk out loud to myself.

Joy: You've recently moved to Montana. Is your writing different now that you're looking out the window at the mountains rather than the concrete of College Station, Texas?

Janet: Actually, no. I feel like I plunge down a rabbit hole when I write and I only rarely look out of it. Even when I’m wandering around talking to myself, my inner eye is focused on the scene I’m writing. Having said that, once the end of the day rolls around and I finally gaze out the window, I am deeply inspired by – in love with – the mountains and the big skies of Montana.


Comment on this post and answer the following question: Janet finds much inspiration in places in the West, especially Montana, where she now lives, not far from Yellowstone National Park. What place or places inspire you? How? Why?

We’ll place the best answers in the contest hat and pick a winner for the autographed copy. Contest is open through Friday, June 24th.


Melissa Smith said...

Places that inspire me are seascapes and beaches. Especially places along the West Coast.

Mickey @ imabookshark said...

Being able to wake up and see mountains here in the PHX valley is pretty inspirational. Those things are larger than life, and it's an amazing sight to see! They make me remember my road to living here, being much happier than I've been in my life. I'm very thankful :o)

Thanks so much for the giveaway. I'm looking forward to reading this book! Nice interview as well.

imabookshark AT yahoo DOT com

Mickey @ imabookshark

FloeticFlo said...

This is spoken like a true Floridian, but definitely the beach! The calming sound of the waves...the warmth...

TweetyB99 at aol dot com

Bee said...

Beaches inspire me because they have an atmosphere of freedom, where the ocean opens up and lets you imagination unfold.

Of course, the fact that I'm a water sign helps.

Na said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Na said...

I find my inspiration in nature, both in the mand-made parks and landscapes, as well as the untamed wilderness. Everything from the sound of a breeze whispering in your eyes, to the smell of Fall weeks before it has arrived, to the simple hypnotizing lapping of the water in a lake. I think everyone should experience nature (nature lover or not), it's not only relaxing and refreshing but invigorating for the senses. I'm happy to say I lived in a plac where I can see mountains on clear days (when it's not raining), I am a drive away from countless parks and lakes.


Lisa said...

I find my inspiration at the beach. There is a specific beach in Florida where I go, to decompress which in turns inspires me with new ideas to improve my work.

crystal allen said...

I'm inspired on cruise ships. Once we're out in the open waters, when everything I see on a daily basis disappears, where the waters meet the horizon, where it's even too far for birds to soar, my mind opens and allows me to create just about anything.

samantha35 said...

The place that inspires me is my bed- I am all cozy and can dream big there
great giveaway

Corey said...

Forests, fields, farms, and bodies of water inspire me. Especially when it's cloudy and/or raining. It's just so beautiful and inspiring. Even poems or stories with a setting like that inspire me.


Roara said...

Belive it or not the place I find inspiring is the seat near a window. The window in my library looks out on my drought withered back yard. The window in my favorit cafe in down town looks out on the refurbished street and old buildings with lofts and landscaping. The window of my childhood looked out on the ranch pastures. Windows are how I've seen most of life, either from the outside looking in or the inside looking out. The possibility of being accepted versus the possibilities of adventure have fed my imagination for years.
There is always something beyond the window, something more to be had, or felt, or seen. I like the saying that the eyes are the window to the soul because so much can lie beyond or behind a window, all you have to do is open it.

kristina shields said...

I live in West Virginia, right near the mountains. I love just looking at the majestic beauty. It is so pretty and peaceful to just be there looking out over it. It always inspires me and calms me down with its beauty.

Sylvia Sanchez said...

All life I always dreamed of moving as far away from home as I possibly could and when I graduated high school my dream came true. I left my home in NYC and went to a very small college in Florida called Saint Leo University. It was the first time in my life that I was truly happy and made me feel proud of myself. Everytime I feel depressed I just visit and it puts all my doubts about myself right out of my mind.

My most favorite place in the world and the place that inspires me is a beautiful lake behind my dorm at Saint Leo. To me its the most magical place. Living in the Bonx, I really never had a place to about nature but looking out at the lake made me realize how much more there is outside of new york waiting for me to find it.

My nephew Raymond came to visit me once while I was at Saint Leo and I took him to my lake so we can relax under the weeping willow trees and talk. Raymond is autistic and has never been to a "normal" school but confessed he dreamed of going to college but knew he had to go to a regular high school in order to do it. We talked for hours and while siting on the shore an alligator floated by (since this was florida no one thought to warn me of huge reptiles living in my backyard) and for some strange reason it inspired Raymond to try for high school saying "if the gator can live here and not eat me then I can go to can happen"

That day on the lake was over 8 yrs ago but Raymond went to High school and graduated. he is attending community college.