Monday, June 14, 2010

Interview with Jo Knowles

In the Fall of 2007, my Writing for Children I classmates and I got to witness our professor's transformation from pre-published to published author. Lessons from a Dead Girl was released halfway through the semester, serving as reassurance to us all that real, live humans - Simmons grads, at that - could write actual books.

Since then, Jo Knowles has grown into an author total strangers have heard of. Jumping Off Swings came out last summer, and there's more on the way! Jo graciously agreed to let me interview her about what's happened and what she's learned since her first Publication Day.

How was the release of your second book, Jumping Off Swings, different for you from the release of Lessons from a Dead Girl?

Well, I knew a little bit more about what to expect in terms of the sad truth that a parade was not going to run through town announcing the book’s arrival. :-) But seriously, it was just as exciting to have a second book hit the shelves. A dream come true is a dream come true and it’s just as special the second time as the first.

What do you know now that you wish you knew two and a half years ago?

Stop eating so much chocolate, it’s going to go right to your hips.

That mean VOYA review isn’t going to kill you or the book.

Getting your book banned from a school really does improve sales, even if it sucks.

You can survive public speaking, but it’s still a good idea not to eat anything that day.

Your son is growing up too fast, spend more time with him.

Don’t waste time fretting while you wait, just keep writing.

Rejections still happen. But so do sales. Again, just keep writing.

What's been the most pleasant surprise?

Hearing from teen readers who connected with the books. That never gets old. Never.

Where do your ideas tend to come from these days?

I wish I knew! They just pop into my brain, I guess. I hope they keep coming. :-)

Are you generating new ideas, or working on projects that have been percolating since pre-pub days?

There’s one project I’ve wanted to write for many years but just wasn’t ready and now I think I am. But I get new ideas, too.

Do your experiences with your first books help drive your ideas for your new ones?

Not really, though I’m working on a manuscript now that features a character from Jumping Off Swings. Mainly, I always like trying new things. But in this case, I couldn’t get this one character out of my mind. After getting several e-mails from readers asking about him, I decided maybe it wasn’t so crazy to explore the next stage of his journey after all.

Writing has been described as isolating work, and I know you have a lot of writing friends. When you sit down to write, do you hear their voices in your head, or does it still feel solitary? Does the answer to that question change at different stages in the process?

Writing at home does feel pretty solitary, but that’s OK. A lot of times I’ll write “virtually” with friends on my blog or on Twitter, which is fun and makes the day less lonely. We check in from time to time and let each other know how we’re doing. I don’t really feel as though that changes for me at any stage, though sometimes when I’m in the zone I lose all track of time and realize I haven’t checked in with my writing partner for over an hour. I think having friends to write with is one of the most enjoyable parts of this process. I don’t know how I’d survive any of it without the love and support of my friends.

Thanks so much, Jo! I, for one, can't wait to see the next book.

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