Jennifer Rush is the author of the young adult sci-fi thriller Altered and the upcoming middle grade adventure Bot Wars. Jennifer lives in a “charmingly retro” house in Michigan with her husband and children, and rooted for Dean and Castiel in Hypable’s BattleShips.
Could you tell us 5 random facts about yourself?
1. I once had a cat named Gargamel.
2. I’m afraid of dark water.
3. I wanted to be an Egyptologist when I grew up.
4. I jumped out of a moving car when I was five because I didn’t want to go to the babysitters. (#toddlerbadass)
5. I could probably eat mashed potatoes every day of my life and never get sick of them.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.
I wrote a lot of books that sucked. So I wrote some more books. Books that didn’t suck as bad. And then I started receiving positive feedback from agents and editors and knew I was on the right track. I finally signed with my agent in 2010 and we sold Altered about three months later.
What has surprised you about writing and publishing?
How important it is to have an editor you love. Someone who is not only good at what they do, but is also just a genuinely lovely person. Writing and revising a book is an extremely personal, terrifying experience, and sometimes you need a push, or a little bit of encouragement. I’ve been extremely lucky with both of my editors. They are so good at giving me brilliant edit letters, while also telling me all the things I did right. When you’re in the thick of things, that’s important to your sanity.
Why do you feel drawn to the stories you write?
Prepare yourself for how shallow this answer will be: Hot guys. I like hot guys. I feel like I’m an expert in all things muscular and shirtless! Okay, I’m kidding. Slightly. I definitely write for the characters, first and foremost. But I really enjoy action. I’ve always been a fan of action-driven movies like the Bourne franchise and Tomb Raider and The Matrix.
At what point in the development of an idea do you know that it will become a full-length novel?
If I can get through the middle, then I generally write to The End. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a viable project! I never know if something is good, or worth publishing, until beta readers tell me so.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Characters are the most important element of storytelling for me. So when I hear they need work, or maybe a particular reader didn’t connect with them, it hurts.
What has been the best compliment you’ve received?
That my characters are well-drawn! But I also really dig when people tell me they were surprised by a plot twist.
Do you most relate to your main characters or to secondary characters?
Probably main characters, at least for Altered. With Anna, while her life is vastly different from mine, I still understand what it’s like to be a girl in love, to want to be accepted, to want to be strong and special and clever. I have no idea what it’s like to be a genetically altered teenaged boy!
How do you approach writing villains or antagonists?
I like charming villains, and super slick villains, so I try to imagine someone who I would be instantly smitten with, and then try to imagine all of the nefarious deeds they might be doing behind the scenes. I also always write down their goals, so I know why they’re doing what they’re doing.
What is your favorite chapter or scene you’ve written recently?
This is a hard question! Let’s see…well, all of the scenes I’ve written with Trev (one of the boys from Altered) in Altered 2 could probably be listed under favorites. They changed a lot from first draft to final revision. I was surprised by him more than once. I’m quite happy with how it all turned out.
Which is easier to write: The first line or the last line?
The last line. Definitely. I feel like you have at least the first through fifth line to capture a reader, but you only have one closing line to leave them with that feeling that I like to call the reader high. When you close the book and you let out a sigh and you are crushed that it’s over and excited for what comes next! The last line has to be perfect.
Where’s your favorite place to write?
In a coffee shop. I like being surrounded by people while I write. It’s something about the energy, and the company. At the same time, I get to stick to my own world. I guess I prefer being alone in a crowd.
Which one YA novel do you wish you had when you were a teen?
Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty. It is such a sweet book. Beautifully written. Brilliant characters. I love everything about that book.
Do you have things you need in order to write? (i.e. coffee, cupcakes, music?)
Music, definitely. I really like coffee, too. And a clean writing space.
What are you working on now?
I’m almost finished with Altered 2, and Bot Wars 2 is about to go into its first round of revisions. I’m also working on some new stuff that isn’t under contract: an MG fantasy and maybe, possibly, a contemporary YA or YA fantasy.
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