In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose their own interview by handpicking which questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Jenny Lundquist is the author of The Princess in the Opal Mask, where a teenage princess and a commoner search to find their true identities. Here is what Jenny had to say about reading, writing, and managing a chaotic schedule.
Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?
I am a part-time writer and full-time mom. I’ve released two middle-grade novels, Seeing Cinderella and Plastic Polly, through Simon & Schuster. My first young adult novel, The Princess in the Opal Mask, was released last month through Running Press. I feel like I have the best of all possible worlds. In the morning, I get to write, but in the afternoon when the kids come home, I click over into Mom mode.
I always liked writing when I was a child, but I never saw it as a viable career option. As far as I was concerned, people who wrote books were the super-creative, artsy types who had three brilliant ideas before breakfast. But shortly after my second son was born life became very difficult, and I felt like I needed a creative outlet that didn’t involve diapers or dirty dishes. I had always said I wanted to write a book…someday. But on that day, I realized that someday would never come unless I stared saying, I want to write today. I’ve been writing ever since.
I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?
I love that analogy! I guess I have my own Linus Blanket—a really ratty orange Nike sweatshirt that I like to write in. I firmly believe I’m more creative when I write in my sweatshirt and pj’s. I also need coffee when I’m writing, even if I forget to drink it. I usually try to start a writing session by brewing a new cup. When things aren’t going well, I stress eat, and chocolate becomes my best friend.
Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?
I need to read while I’m writing; otherwise, I start to feel like I’m trying to drag water from a dry well. But increasingly I’m realizing that I can’t read in the same genre that I’m writing in. When I was working on my middle grade novels, I read young adult. But right now while I’m working in the young adult genre, I find myself reading more literary adult novels. I just finished Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker and loved it.
In the past I have visited a blog called Daily Routines and it’s all about the schedules of writers and creative people. What does a typical day look like for you and how do you manage a busy schedule?
My day varies depending upon the season. During the school year, I might get up early, between 5-6 if I have a deadline, and try to get some work done before I have to begin my morning routine with the kids. After I’ve successfully gotten them off to school (and if I haven’t lost my sanity in the process) I can usually sit down at my desk by 9am, where I work on and off (depending on how distracted I get), until about 2:30, when I have to go and pick them up again. If I’m facing a pretty heavy deadline, I’ll try to slip in more time while they’re playing outside after dinner and then again after they go to bed. It can be pretty chaotic sometimes, but such is life with kids.
Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be? How involved were in choosing the name of the book?
The Princess in the Opal Mask was my idea, and my publisher was really supportive in keeping it. The book is a re-imagination of The Man in the Iron Mask, so I wanted a title that paid homage to it.
What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?
When I was growing up, reading was my salvation. I was the shy awkward girl in upper elementary and middle school. I wasn’t ready for all of the changes and experiences that I saw my friends diving headlong into. One day it seemed like everyone was fine, the next, it seemed like all my friends had become boy-crazy aliens. I wasn’t ready for that, and I found solace in books. They provided a safe place for me when it seemed like the world was spinning too fast. Although I’d like to write in many different genres one day, that’s why I’ve started with middle grade and young adult: I really want to contribute to a body of literature that gave so much to me at a time when I desperately needed it.
As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?
I think the biggest surprise is that I get just as insecure about my writing as I did before I was published. I think prior to obtaining my first book contract, I looked at a book deal as a golden ticket to security and confidence, and that’s just not the way it works.
Currently I’m working on the sequel to The Princess in the Opal Mask, it will be out in October of 2014.
About the Author: Jenny Lundquist was born and raised in Huntington Beach, CA, the original “Surf City USA.” She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies with a minor in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) at Biola University. Her favorite part of college was spending one semester living in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, where she drank lots of tea, met some really interesting people, and honed her Yahtzee skills. She’s painted an orphanage in Mexico, taught English at a university in Russia, and hopes one day to kiss her husband at a café in Paris. She lives in northern California with her wonderful husband Ryan, two sons and Rambo, the world’s whiniest cat.