Today we have the wonderful honor of having YA author Jaclyn Dolamore here for a quick interview. Her debut novel was published by Bloomsbury USA in December 2009 and she is represented by the fabulous Jennifer Laughran of the Andrea Brown agency.
Jaclyn Dolamore was homeschooled in a hippie sort of way and spent her childhood reading as many books as her skinny nerd-body could lug from the library and playing elaborate pretend games with her sister Kate. She skipped college and spent eight years drudging through retail jobs, developing her thrifty cooking skills and pursuing a lifelong writing dream. She has a passion for history, thrift stores, vintage dresses, David Bowie, drawing, and organic food. She lives with her partner and plot-sounding-board, Dade, and two black tabbies who have ruined her carpeting.
How long have you been writing? Was it always a passion or was it a craft you slowly grew to love?
As far back as I can remember, books were precious to me—I’ve stepped into a library hundreds of times in my life, but my heart never fails to quicken at the thought of what I might find—and writing was a natural extension of that. The urge to tell a story feels almost like the very essence of myself, as slightly pretentious as that sounds.
Any insider tips for stress-release after a grueling day of writing, editing, or waiting for news?
Exercise. Just 10 minutes. It reminds me that I have a body and that body would like to move once in awhile. And get the heck out of the house. I’ve kept my sanity this summer by planning a couple of cheap vacations and dragging myself out to critique groups, book clubs, and meeting friends…
Can you tell us a little about your writing process and how long it takes you to write your novels?
I have kind of an assembly line. While I’m writing or editing one thing, I’m mulling over a handful of other projects, trying to work out their problems. I don’t take breaks between projects—even if I’ve been in a whirlwind of finishing something, when it’s done I might take two or three days off and then I’m right back into something else, and usually excited about it, because I’ve been getting ideas for it all along. I write with a flexible outline and I don’t do messy first drafts—while I know I’ll go back and change things, I don’t like to put anything on paper I would be ashamed to show someone else. It takes me, on average, nine months to write and revise a novel, but it’s much better if that nine months is spread out over a year or more as I move around between projects.
What is the best writing advice you can pass on to other aspiring authors?
The “best” advice depends on where you are in the process, but one thing is—keep writing and learning. No matter where you are. Don’t get hung up on one book being the one, don’t get distracted if said book gets an agent or even sells—keep pushing yourself to better achievement.
When your book Magic Under Glass was first released, there was a lot of controversy about your cover. It has now been changed because of that, what are your feeling about that whole debacle and is there anything you want people to learn from it?
Well, obviously I hope people will make accurate covers… Although I think we’re seeing a lot of covers with no people on them and things like that, to get around the issue. It’s kind of a rough patch, but it’s a good thing—when I was a kid/teen in the 90s, this wasn’t even an issue because books just plain weren’t diverse, except in the most clichéd ways. Even as a kid, it frustrated me but there was no internet to talk to other readers and go, hey, why are no fantasy books inspired by non-western mythology and why are disabled characters always either saints or incredibly bitter? So the fact that we even have these issues shows how much more diverse books have become, and I think that trend will continue, and we’ll see more diverse covers, slowly but surely. We live in such a global world nowadays.
You were homeschooled, how has this affected your writing? Do you believe that has helped or hindered you in the process of writing and how so?
Helped! Definitely helped! I was unschooled, which means little to no structure or textbooks or things like that. If I wanted to spend the whole day writing, I could. If I wanted to spend the whole day reading about Japan or Victorian architecture or the life of Charlotte Bronte, I could do that too. It’s a lot like how my professional writer’s life is, actually. No time was wasted slogging through some topic I didn’t care about and would forget in a week.
What is the most difficult thing about writing for you?
I hate writing endings. Real life rarely has a tidy wrap-up point, and I always find it hard to wrap up a book. Plus I always want to know what happens after. I have issues letting go…
Congratulations on the recent release of Magic Under Glass. It is an awesome book and I enjoyed it tremendously. It’s so different from any of the YA literature out there now and a completely different type of romance, where did you get the idea for it?
After reading and writing, history is my third true love! Especially domestic/social/cultural history. So the pseudo Victorian setting and much of the plot comes from history and from my twisting of 19th century plot tropes, especially Jane Eyre. As for the love interest, well, I grew up on some very unlikely love stories in 80s movies like Mannequin and Splash. I was always writing stories about people with some major—and weird—physical obstacles to love. Love with a robot seemed pretty plausible in the realm of 80s movies…
How many books did you have to write before your wonderful agent picked you up?
I wrote four. One I knew was just too weird and never sent out. Magic Under Glass alone was sent out to agents three separate times, drastically different each time, so it was almost like three books in itself.
Magic Under Glass was bought in a three-book deal, can you tell us a little bit about the sequel?
It was actually a two-book deal, for Magic Under Glass and a “mermaid book” I was working on at the time, and then Magic Under Stone was acquired separately after Magic Under Glass came out. So my next book will be Between the Sea and Sky, a love story between a mermaid and a winged guy, in spring 2011. In 2012, Magic Under Stone will deal with the emotional repercussions of Magic Under Glass for Erris and Nimira. I think it’s a bit more of a thoughtful, snowy, nature-y book…although there is still plenty going on.
BONUS QUESTION: You're stranded on a desert oasis...what one book would you want with you?
Well, putting aside practical answers like a survival guide, or maybe some kind of spiritual guide to meditation and making peace with a lack of material goods, maybe the complete works of Jane Austen. That ought to keep me busy. Since you can get them in the form of one volume, I say it’s not cheating. ;)
Nimira is a music-hall girl used to dancing for pennies. So when wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing accompaniment to a mysterious piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it will be the start of a better life.
In Parry's world, long-buried secrets are about to stir. Unsettling rumors begin to swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry’s involvement in a group of corrupt sorcerers for whom the rules of the living and dead are meant to be broken for greater power.
When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing fairy gentleman is trapped within the automaton, she is determined to break the curse. But even as the two fall into a love that seems hopeless, breaking the curse becomes a perilous race against time. Because it's not just the future of these star-crossed lovers that's at stake, but the fate of the entire magical world.