Please will you tell us about your latest book?
My latest release is TATTOO, a teen novel that blends supernatural adventure with a contemporary high school setting. When four friends apply the temporary tattoos they bought at the mall, they each receive a psychic power and must use their powers- and their friendship- to stop an ancient evil from attacking their school dance. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
How long have you been writing and what made you start?
I’ve been writing for pretty much as long as I can remember, but until my senior year of high school, I had this habit of writing the first twenty pages of a book and then moving onto a new one the second I got a fresh idea. My senior year, I finished my first book-length work (a middle grade spy novel), which NOBODY will ever be allowed to read. After that, I discovered that finishing a book is even more addicting than starting one, so I just kept writing, and eventually, I wrote Golden (my first published book), the summer I was nineteen.
Many people spend a long time finding an agent, can you tell us about your agent hunt?
I actually didn’t have much of an agent hunt. Golden was the seventh book I wrote and the first I sold, and for the three and a half years prior to selling Golden, I spent most of my time sending queries to publishers. By my fifth and sixth books, I’d managed to get requests from five or six houses- many of them closed- and at that point, when I was handling submissions with a bunch of different editors, a good friend suggested that I really needed an agent so that I could spend less time worrying about the business end of things, and more time writing. Since I was doing pretty well on my own, I wanted to be very careful about submitting to agents, to ensure that I found the perfect fit, and eventually, I decided on submitting to my agent, because she came very highly recommended. I sent her a query, sample chapters, and an index of my works (which started with the fifth book I’d written, since by then, I’d permanently shelved the first four). The agent wrote back and requested three of my books- two of which were already in requested at a variety of houses, and one of which nobody had ever seen. The latter was Golden, and after revising it with my agent, I ended up signing with her. She submitted Golden, and it sold in just under three weeks. My agent has been fabulous, but I’m glad I didn’t try to start out in this business by submitting to agents. If I’d submitted to her any earlier, I wouldn’t have been ready, and she probably wouldn’t have signed me.
Everyone loves a good call story, what was yours?
I was in baby lab (the infant cognition lab at Yale), in a meeting with a graduate student, talking about one of the child cognition experiments we were running, when my cell phone rang. It was one of those things where my heart started pounded the moment I heard the ring tone, and after I checked caller ID and saw the 310 area code, I quickly excused myself from the meeting, walked out of the room, and took the call from my agent that Delacorte had made an offer. There was a ton of shrieking involved before I went back to my meeting.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I have two pieces of advice I usually give people. The first is targeted specifically to teens, but I think it works for everybody, and that’s this: if you want to be a writer, there are three things you need to do: read, write, and do stuff that’s not reading or writing. Sometimes- especially since now is kind of the heyday of young authors- it’s easy for teens to get really wrapped up in pursuing writing as a career, and I think it’s easy for people, especially young people, to forget that if you’re not out there DOING stuff and living your life, pretty soon, you won’t have anything to write about. This is something I have to remind myself about all the time! And the second piece of advice is for writers who are already at the stage in their careers when they’re submitting, and it’s basically the writerly version of don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Write a project, let it sit, revise it, tear it apart, and then some, but at the same time, once you’ve made a piece all it can be, don’t be afraid to move on, and don’t feel like the first book you write HAS to be the first you publish. Sometimes, it takes a few tries (*cough* seven cough cough) to get things right.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on now and what books are coming out in the future?
Right now, I’m working on the sequel to TATTOO, which will be out in the Fall of 2008. Between then and now, I have three more YA releases: PLATINUM (which is the sequel to my first book, GOLDEN, told from the POV of the school’s Queen Bee, who just happens to be developing a supernatural power that involves hot ghost boys), and the first two books in a new series about a group of teenage secret agents whose secret is that they’re their school’s varsity cheerleading squad. I like to think of it as “Charlie’s Angels” meets “Bring It On.” PLATINUM will be out this September, and THE SQUAD and THE SQUAD: KILLER SPIRIT will both be out in early 2008.
Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed. It’s been such a pleasure.
BIO: A Native Oklahoman, Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a recent graduate of Yale University, where she studied cognitive science (the study of the brain and thought). Jennifer is a 2006-2007 Fulbright Scholar in the United Kingdom, where she is currently doing autism research at Cambridge University. She wrote her first book, Golden, when she was a teenager and wrote several others – including Tattoo- while still in college. Her next book, Platinum (a sequel to Golden), will be released in September of 2007. You can visit Jen on the web at http://www.jenniferlynnbarnes.com.