Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chatting Up The YA Misfits: An Interview With Jenny Kaczorowski!

So I had so much fun interviewing Dahlia Adler a few weeks ago that I've decided to make interviews a semi-regular feature here at Writer's Blog.

Today we're chatting with YA author and fellow YA Misfit, Jenny Kaczorowski!

Jenny paints some seriously beautiful (and sometimes truly creepy) pictures with her words (you can read more about them by clicking her name up above), is a mom to two of the most adorable mini-Misfits on the planet, and is currently seeking her dream agent. You can follow her on Twitter at @JennyKacz. She's also a fantastic cheerleader and a super sweet person, and I'm very glad she agreed to chat with us about her brand spankin' new draft, THE EXTRAORDINARY ART OF FALLING!

G: You just finished your newest ms, THE EXTRAORDINARY ART OF FALLING. Congrats! *Applause Applause* Tell us a little bit about it and what inspired you to write it.

J: Thank you! I’m so excited about this story! It taught me a lot about myself and how I write. Definitely a project that made me grow. THE ART OF FALLING is my first attempt at a straight YA contemporary romance. It grew out of a fantasy MS I’m working on (SIGNAL HILL). I wrote several scenes for a secondary plot, but the relationship between the two characters quickly overshadowed the main story arc and I knew I needed to cut it. I had about 10k that I knew wouldn’t work for SIGNAL HILL, but I didn’t know what to do with those scenes. I don’t write contemp, so I set them aside. Then in December, I had a late night Twitter chat with two of my fellow YA Misfits that led to me sending two of the cut (kissing) scenes. I hadn’t thought about those characters in months, but I couldn’t get them out of my head. I left my laptop at home while we visited family over the holidays and of course that’s when the muse struck!

THE ART OF FALLING is the story of Bria, a high school senior who wears combat boots, dyes her hair purple and is getting ready for art school. But when she falls for her best friend’s brother, Ben, she starts questioning the path everyone assumes she’ll take. Ben is the high school quarterback, Mr. Popularity, the crush of every girl in the school. The kind of boy girls like Bria are too cool to like. With application deadlines looming, she has to decide if she’s brave enough to defy everyone’s expectations to blaze her own trail in life and in love.

G: Okay then. I'm sold.  You normally write dark (and gorgeous) YA. Was it difficult to step outside your comfort zone for this story?

J: I was SO intimidated by the idea of writing contemp romance. I was scared I couldn’t make a story exciting without some kind of otherworldly element. It’s easy to create drama when you can just toss in another supernatural baddie. But once I started writing, this was the easiest story I’ve ever written. I KNOW these characters. I wrote the whole thing in a month. It took me 9 months to get a (ROUGH) rough draft of SIGNAL HILL finished!

Two things changed for me while writing FALLING. First, I realized that all fiction is fantasy. The idea that all contemp is sad or bland or ordinary is wrong. I’ve loved a lot of contemp stories so I don’t know why I had this hang up about writing it. This is story is just as much a fantasy as any other story I’ve written, just a different flavor. It’s an opportunity to step into another pair of shoes and lived in a world different from my own. Even if it looks like my world and behaves like my world, it’s still an escape from reality.

The second thing that changed is that I found this story. I don’t know if I have another contemp in me. My heart still belongs to fantasy. But this story needed to be told this way. It couldn’t be just a secondary storyline in something else. Writing was effortless because I love this story and these characters so much. It might happen again. It might not. But I can’t let genre dictate the stories I want to tell.

G: You also mentioned this was your first attempt at a “fast draft.” What was your timing/word count goal and did you meet it? (And more important, how did you pull it off being a working mom of a toddler and a newborn?!)

J: It was a crazy month! My son is 2 ½ (turning 3 in May) and my daughter was born in October. I basically wrote nothing while pregnant with her. It was a rough pregnancy and I slept as much as humanly possible with a toddler. After she was born, I felt so much better and couldn’t wait to get back to writing with a functional brain! I finished SIGNAL HILL in December and set it off to my CPs. I thought I’d take a break after that, but when I started jotting down ideas for FALLING, I knew I wanted to write it fast.

I started writing on January 2, the day after we flew back after the holidays. By the next day, I had over 5k written. I decided to attempt to write a 50k draft by February 1. I’m a slow writer. I research and edit as I go. I really only write when my kids are napping. On my best days I get 3 hours to write, but usually it’s more like 1-2. Plus, I started back at my day job in January (I work from home as a non-profit grant writer).

But I know I can write 1k in an hour IF I focus. I set of goal of 1,600 words a day. There were days I wrote more, days I wrote less, but I actually managed to get a decent rough draft finished by my deadline! It was completely exhausting. I typed at least 1/3 with my thumbs on my phone using Evernote (it syncs to my laptop). But I finished! And I don’t think it sucks. I’m still waiting to hear from my first CP ;)

I’ve talked a bit more about my process on my blog ( and, so I won’t get into too much detail, but basically, if I can do it, anyone can! Not that you have to or should feel guilty if you don’t – remember I’d barely written in a year – but it is possible if you want it bad enough.

G: You seriously impress me, lady. How long have you been writing and what made you decide to pursue publication?

J: I’m one of those obnoxious “I’ve written since I could hold a pencil” people. I remember making up stories for my sister when we were young enough that our mom still washed our hair. But I’ve been attempting to write novels since I was about 16. My first two YA MSs (a high fantasy and a gritty contemp about homeless teens) were bad enough I knew not to query them. But then in the post-Twilight world, I shared my urban fantasy (originally titles GUARDIAN) with a friend. She loved it. I entered the pitch in a contest and got a full request. I edited, queried and contested it until finally shelving it last fall. I’ve always dreamed of being a writer, of seeing my name on the spines at bookstores, and I’d hoped that MS would be the one. It isn’t and that was hard, but I’ve kept writing. I got so much great feedback on my UF – it’s just a tough genre to sell right now. My hope is to sell something else and eventually be able to get that book out once the trends die down and publishers are willing to look at it again.

G: What do you think is the most important advice for fellow writers in the querying stage?

J: Keep writing. I wish I’d taken this to heart sooner. I spent a lot of time try to remake my UF despite several agents telling me they loved my writing, but couldn’t sell UF. It’s vey hard to see new books popping up on shelves while agents are telling you it’s a dead genre. But publishing is a very, very slow moving machine. There’s a huge lag between when an agent signs a writer and when that book, IF it sells, is released.

Someone once told me the best thing to do when you send your first query is to start your next book. There’s so much wisdom in that. It’ll keep your writing skills sharp. It’ll give you more to offer an agent should he or she ask for more. It’ll keep you from obsessing over your inbox.

KEEP WRITING. No matter how hard it is. No matter how much you believe in your MS. Keep writing, keep reading, keep growing.

G: What do you strive for when you write? In other words, what are the things you hope to hear from your readers?

J: Memorable characters. The kind that invade your mind and you can’t stop thinking about, even after you reach the end. Once I caught my baby sister sketching characters from my UF and that’s the most successful I’ve ever felt as a writer. I want to write things you don’t want to put down. The kind of books that keep you up past your bedtime.

G: Because I'm food-obsessed, I have to ask: Favorite flavor of ice cream? Favorite kind of cookie? Any food you absolutely positively can't live without?

J: I can only pick one? You’re killing me. Ice cream is one of my favorite things ever. I worked in a gourmet ice cream shop in college. It was awesome. If I HAD to pick, a really high quality French vanilla. You can tell a lot about a brand of ice cream by their vanilla.

Cookies... I make white chocolate chip cookies that are killer. But normally I go for brownies over cookies.

Food I can’t live without would be cheese. I love cheese in just about any form. I was a vegan for a while in high school and I have NO idea how I lived without it.

G: And, last question. How would you fill in this blank? If I see _____ in one more YA novel, I will scream.

J: A girl who insists she never wants to fall in love or get married or have kids, then falls in love, gets married and has kids at the end of the series.

I’m happily married and I love my kids and while that wasn’t really on my radar in high school, I wasn’t vehemently opposed to the idea. Now it seems that’s the new way to make your character strong and independent. If that’s how she feels, fine. I’m good with that. But if you’re just going to have her change her mind at the end, just don’t. 

Thanks Jenny! Best of luck with your new projects and we hope you'll come back and share your success story when you bowl over your Dream Agent!


  1. That's why I love contemp stories. The writer can't rely on "extras" to make the story exciting. It has to be exciting without them.

    Great advice about starting your next novel while querying. Though that usually means I get so wrapped up in the new WIP, I forget to query the previous book. Oops!

  2. Great interview! I started a new manuscript recently and want to writer a fast draft, so I will check out Jenny's blog posts on her experience. I'm always impressed by writers who can finish a first draft in a month. :)