Thursday, April 5, 2007
Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.
Today’s interview is with Jennifer Lynn Barnes, author of three popular YA novels. Ms. Barnes a graduate of Yale studied cognitive science (the study of brain and thought). Her amazing research has been featured on ABC's World News, The New York Times and The Animal Planet. Jennifer Barnes spends a year doing autism research at the University of Cambridge.
E. I :Thank you for stopping by. Please tell your fans what part of working on a book is most enjoyable to you?
J.Barnes: For me, the most enjoyable part of a book is writing the very beginning and very end of a first draft. Starting a new book is always so satisfying, because when I sit down to write, I don't know much about where things are going, so the beginning of a book is full of really neat discoveries. As for the end, well, there's really nothing quite like finishing a book. It's the most unbelievable adrenaline rush in the world.
E. I. What changes took place after you published your first novel, i.e. how different has writing been since you turned it into a career?
J. Barnes: Writing hasn't changed all that much for me, in part because I really try to keep the business and creative ends separate. The biggest change is probably the fact that I'm more aware of my audience now. Even though I still write primarily for myself, some part of my mind knows that there's a good chance that people will be reading it. That can be an awesome feeling, and it can also be a little scary.
E. I. Has there ever been a character in one of your novels that people clamored to see again, but you just didn't want to bring back? If so, which character?
J. Barnes: Not really. Right now, I have two books out, and both of them have sequels with pretty much the same cast. The closest I've come to not bringing a character back is to let that character slide out of focus for a while, which happens with several characters from GOLDEN in the sequel, PLATINUM, because the two books are told from different POV's, so some of the supporting cast from GOLDEN (including the love interest) only make cameos in the sequel.
E. I. Has your writing based on experience affected your creativity/ imagination?
J. Barnes: My imagination isn't affected by much; it's pretty much in overtime, 24 hours a day, no matter what.
E. I. Did you feel pressure, either self-imposed or external, to duplicate that success for your second book?
J. Barnes: I was actually very lucky on this front, because I wrote TATTOO before I sold GOLDEN, so I didn't have to deal with the pressure a lot of first-time authors feel to match their first book with their second. By the time GOLDEN came out, TATTOO was already in galley form, so there wasn't much pressure there, either. I think there's always some anxiety with the release of a second book, though, because you want people to like it as much as the first one- preferably more!
E. I. Can you share with us some of the toughest experiences you had to go through to finally get published?
J. Barnes: My first published novel is actually the seventh one I wrote, so there were definitely times with the first six when the rejections would start piling up, and-especially until you get used to it- that can be hard. When I queried my first book, all I got were rejections. I couldn't even get anyone to read it. When I got my first request in the mail (for my fifth book), I absolutely couldn't believe it. I'd just gotten so used to people saying "no" from the get-go.
E. I. Your fans like to get behind the author's writing routine. What would you like to share with your readers a typical writing day schedule?
J. Barnes: While I was in undergrad, my typical writing day went from about 2 AM to 4 AM. I liked writing when everyone else was asleep, because I never wanted to miss out on any part of the college experience. Now that I'm a graduate student and my schedule requires more early mornings, I often write for a couple of hours right after work. I've got about a three mile walk home from lab each day, so I bisect the walk by stopping in the city centre for food, and I usually end up at the Borders for a few hours to write.
E. I. Do you have any fascinating experiences while writing your book, or while researching for your novel?
J. Barnes: When I write, I usually just go into the zone. I don't really hear what's going on around me, even if things are very loud. Towards the end of a book, I write really feverishly, and in very large chunks. The last nine thousand words of Golden were written in one sitting, and that last fourteen thousand or so words of my most recent WIP came within one twenty-four hour period. Beyond that, I can't think of anything that other people find really interesting, except for the fact that after writing from Lissy's perspective in GOLDEN, I'm pretty good at guessing what color somebody's aura would be if they lived in Lissy's world.
E. I. Do you write books with having them adapted to the movies in mind?.
J. Barnes: When I sit down to write, I don't have much in mind other than the characters and the story, but I'm a very visual person, and I tend to write high concept books with lots of dialogue, so the end product sometimes feels somewhat filmic. That said, I think most of my books would probably make better TV shows than movies.
E. I. Please tell us about your latest book "TATTOO".
J. Barnes: TATTOO is a story about four best friends who put on temporary tattoos that turn out to be mystical in origin. Each girl receives a different supernatural power from her tattoo, and they have to use their powers- and their friendship- to stop an ancient evil from ending the world, starting with their high school dance. For me, TATTOO is a mix of your basic friendship story with supernatural adventure.
E. I. If you were allowed total control of a Hollywood version of TATTOO? who would be in it? In your own opinion who do you think should direct?
J. Barnes: If I could have any director I wanted, I'd pick either Bryan Singer or Joss Whedon, because I really, really love their work, and because they've both done wonderful things with supernatural material in the past. Casting-wise, it would depend on whether we were going for ACTUAL teens playing the girls, or actresses in their twenties playing younger, but my top picks right now of the younger set are Hayden Panettiere, Willa Holland, and Lucy Hale as Zo, Annabelle, and Delia respectively. I don't have a clue about who to cast as my narrator, Bailey, because I can't think of anyone who's quite right for the part.
E. I. When you look back at your work, do you have a favorite lines or sections in each of the books?
J. Barnes: I do have favorite lines in most of my books, but I can never remember them off the top of my head. I just know them when I see them.
E. I. Your next book, PLATINUM is due to be out in Sept 2007....What do you think your fans should expect differently from your characters?
J. Barnes: Fans should expect PLATINUM to be a very different book from GOLDEN, because it's told from the point of view of the lead popular girl, and it offers a totally different perspective on all of the characters from the first book. So I guess readers should just expect the unexpected and come to it with an open mind.
E. I. Would you like to close the interview with any of your writing tip to other young aspiring authors?
J. Barnes: I usually tell young authors to do three things-write, read, and do stuff that isn't reading or writing. Life experience is so important; everything I've done that isn't writing has made me a better story teller in the long run. Another thing I'd tell young authors is not to even think about publishing until they've finished a book and feel strongly about it. I see so many teens these days who've already decided they want to sell a book by the time they're eighteen or twenty-one or whatever, and they do all this research on the market and start worrying about submitting long before they've actually got something to submit. I think it's really important to put creativity and story above getting published; write your book because you want to write it and because it needs to be written, not just because you'd like to be a published author.
To learn more about Jennifer Lynn Barnes, please visit her at:
Posted by E. I. Johnson at 11:59 PM