Before he died, Melissa’s father told her about stars. He told her that the brightest stars weren’t always the most beautiful—that if people took the time to look at the smaller stars, if they looked with a telescope at the true essence of the star, they would find real beauty. But even though Melissa knows that beauty isn’t only skin deep, the people around her don’t seem to feel that way. There’s her gorgeous sister Ashley who will barely acknowledge Melissa at school, there's her best friend Ryan, who may be falling in love with the sophisticated Courtney, and there’s Melissa’s mother who’s dating someone new, someone who Melissa knows will never be able to replace her father.
To make sure she doesn’t lose her father completely, Melissa spends her time trying to piece together the last of his secrets and completing a journal her father began—one about love and relationships and the remarkable ways people find one another. But when tragedy strikes, Melissa has to start living and loving in the present, as she realizes that being beautiful on the outside doesn't mean you can't be beautiful on the inside.
Hello Jillian, it is so great to have you with us. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?
Jillian: First, let me say, thanks so much for inviting me to your blog today!
When I started college, I majored in English and thought I wanted to be a journalist. The summer after my freshman year, I got a reporting internship with a small paper, and I realized that I actually did not like journalistic writing at all! When I went back to college that fall, I took my first creative writing class, and I immediately fell in love. After I graduated from college, I went to graduate school for creative writing and got my MFA in fiction. I left with a lot of knowledge of craft, a lot of short stories, and a novel, but virtually no knowledge of the publishing industry, and I was never able to sell any of what I wrote there.
My real journey to getting published started about seven years ago, after I’d been out of graduate school for a year. After I got laid off from my job, I wrote the first draft of what would eventually be my first novel, THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS. It took me about three years of revising and querying on and off to get an agent. I originally thought the book was an adult book, and my agent sent it out to some adult editors, with no success. Then she suggested that maybe it was really a young adult book, and she helped me revise it to fit the genre a bit more. She went out with the book again, this time to young adult editors and the book sold to Harperteen in an auction.
I just love THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS. Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.
Jillian: In addition to being a writer, I’m also a stay at home mom to two little boys, so I spend the majority of my day with my kids. I usually get to write for an hour or so in the afternoon if/when they’re napping, but I get most of my writing done after I put the kids to bed, between the hours of 8-11 PM. If I have a deadline for a project or a revision, then I might spend weekend mornings writing as well.
Please tell us about your latest novel, THE LIFE OF GLASS, and what we can expect from your characters.
Jillian: My latest novel is THE LIFE OF GLASS (Harperteen, February 9, 2010) is the story of a 14-year-old girl named Melissa, who learns about life, love, loss, and beauty during her freshman year of high school. It takes place a little over a year after her father’s death, as Melissa must come to terms with her mother’s return to dating, her beauty-pageant obsessed older sister, and her new feelings for her best friend Ryan.
Sounds very awesome! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
Jillian: This coming fall my first book for adults, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS, will be released by Avon/HarperCollins. It’s the story of a woman who, after a fall from grace, begins dreaming things about her friends and family, only to learn that her dreams might actually be truth, and the truth she thought she knew might be a lie.
I just finished working on a new YA book, that is now out on submission with editors (so cross your fingers for me!). It’s about a girl who is sent to live with her grandmother in a small town on the US/Mexico border for the summer. The book recounts her summer, where she not only falls in love, but also learns that nothing on the border is what is seems.
Jillian, thank you so much for sharing with us! I wish you the best with all your fresh stories. Would you like to close with a writing tip?
Jilliian: The best tip I could offer an aspiring writer is, if you want to be a writer, keep writing, no matter what! Writing can be a long process with a lot of revision and rejection and more revision and more rejection. But learn what you can from the rejection, revise, and move on. A creative writing professor of mine used to like to tell us “a writer writes.” It sounds like a silly thing to say, but I’ve definitely been in a place where I’ve let rejection get me down and have either stopped writing for a while (or wanted to). But I always came back to that idea that if I really wanted to be a writer I had to keep writing -- something. I still get rejection, and I still come back to that idea!
That's not all, YA Freshers! Jillian is donating THREE COPIES of THE LIFE OF GLASS to lucky visitors! If you would like to be entered, please leave a comment from now until Sunday evening, February 7th, 2010. The three winners will be announced Monday, February 8th. Happy commenting!!
Jillian Cantor has a BA in English from Penn State University. She received her MFA from The University of Arizona and was the recipient of the national Jacob K. Javits fellowship. Her first novel, THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS, was called "memorable" and "startlingly real" by Publishers Weekly and was nominated as a YALSA Best Book For Young Adults. Her second novel, THE LIFE OF GLASS, will be available from Harperteen in February 2010, and her debut novel for adults, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS, will be available from Avon/HarperCollins in Fall 2010. She currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons. Visit her website, www.JillianCantor.com.