Recently I participated in a charity auction, where I was the highest bidder for a debut young adult novel by Janet Fox, Faithful. I read the book over the holidays, and enjoyed it so much that I contacted the author for an interview. So have fun learning about Faithful and about Janet, and leave a comment below if you want to be entered to win that signed copy!
Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?
Janet: Sure! I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil…but I began writing for children as I was trying to teach my son to read. He’s dyslexic, and I thought if I made up stories for him that captured his imagination, it might make reading easier for him and more fun. Then I found the local chapter of SCBWI – this was in Texas – and the retiring Regional Advisor was Kathi Appelt. She put me in touch with the group and I found soul mates, inspiration, and guidance. And I found my critique partners (Kathy Whitehead and Shirley Hoskins) who were truly responsible for helping me hone my craft. With their guidance I sold a magazine story and an article.
My very first book sale was my non-fiction book, Get Organized Without Losing It. I literally woke up in the middle of the night with the idea for it, and within a week had written the book proposal and put it in the mail to Free Spirit Publishing. That was an inspired moment in my life – it happened because of my passion around my son’s difficulties.
It was at an SCBWI conference in San Antonio that I met my agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin, when I had the luck to be paired with her for a critique. She signed me based on her reading of ten pages of Faithful, and after we worked on it together – she’s a very hands-on agent – she sold it as part of a two-book deal to Penguin.
I’d like to add that Kathi then persuaded me to attend Vermont College of Fine Arts, from which I graduated last July with an MFA in writing for children. This degree and the lessons learned at VCFA have truly grown me as a writer. I know the rest of my career will be profoundly impacted by that experience.
Please tell us about your novel, Faithful, and what we can expect from your characters.
Janet: Faithful is historical fiction set in 1904 in Yellowstone National Park. I wanted to tell the story of Maggie, a rich Newport girl who finds herself suddenly poor and removed from her comfort zone by her father after her mother disappears and is presumed dead. Maggie misses her mother; but she also must come to terms with her place in a society in which upper class girls are expected to be subservient, and she must come to terms with how much more she is like her bohemian mother than she is like her society friends.
Maggie also finds an unexpected love in Yellowstone, both human (with a young man she meets) and environmental, as she slowly comes to respect and then love the beauty of the wild and exotic Park. She also discovers, through an older mentor, that she has an artistic gift and can express it through photography.
What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
Janet: second YA novel, Forgiven, will be out in May/June 2011. Forgiven follows a secondary character from Faithful, Kula Baker. Kula is a feisty and determined young woman who grew up with little and desires nothing more than to become a society girl (like Maggie was) and wishes to find a prosperous man to support her, but she must learn that she carries her own strength of purpose within her, and that she is free to make her life important irrespective of social standing.
Kula travels to San Francisco in early 1906, and is there when the great earthquake and fires devastate the city, so that event obviously plays an important role in the story.
And she also falls in love, twice over…although there are some tragedies in Kula’s life (and I can’t spoil the surprises around that!)
Would you like to close with a writing tip?
Janet: Sure! When I was trying to discover Maggie’s character I created a scrapbook, as if she’d made it. I used pictures, stickers, words – it was a real scrapbook in every sense. The idea came from a workshop I did with the late Paula Danziger. I discovered things I might never have learned about Maggie – how much she loved her horse, Ghost; the name of her nanny, Mina; details about her relationship with her father; how she felt about wearing corsets. Just changing from my usual brainstorming with words to brainstorming using pictures and a first person narrative was liberating.
In fact, I’m going to use that on my next character, for the novel under construction now…!
Thanks, Janet! And now for our readers: to be entered to win this signed (and gently read) copy of Faithful, simply leave a comment for us the name of a National Park you’ve either visited--or would like to!
The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!