Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Mark: Interview with Jen Nadol

One quick note: due to formatting issues in the original post, this interview has been reposted. Thanks to everyone who commented on the issue, and I apologize at the loss of your comments.

Today’s interview is with Jen Nadol, debut author of The Mark.

Sixteen-year old Cassie Renfield has seen the mark since forever: a glow around certain people as if a candle were held behind their back. Cassie has kept quiet, considering its rare appearances odd, but insignificant. Until the day she watches a man die. Mining her memories, Cassie realizes she can see a person's imminent death. Not how or where, only when: today. If you know today is someone's last, should you tell?

And here's an excerpt from the first chapter:

"There is nothing like the gut-hollowing experience of watching someone die, especially when you know it’s coming.

I saw the man with the mark at the bus stop on Wilson Boulevard when I crossed Butter Lane, as I did walking to school every day. I wanted to look away, pretend he wasn’t there and run for the safety of algebra and honors English, but I didn’t. I had promised myself...

At Linden Street, he turned the corner, hurrying toward the rear of the courthouse and the law buildings that surrounded it. I stayed with him, but started to wonder what I’d do when he got to his office or the courthouse. I hadn’t really planned this out, but obviously I couldn’t follow him in. I’d wait outside, I thought, wishing I had something other than textbooks with me. This could be a long day. I knew I was chicken, but deep down I hoped maybe it would happen inside, somewhere I wasn’t allowed. 

I needn’t have worried. We were at the end of the block, me still trailing a few paces behind. As the man stepped off the curb, I saw the elements coming together – the wet street, his head bent checking the time again, then snapping up at the screech of brakes, a crunch like nothing I’ve ever heard: of bone and metal and shards of plastic, screams, the people hurrying to work frozen, then running to the street or away from it. 

I stood still, book bag at my feet, and forced back dry heaves, thankful I’d skipped breakfast. An ambulance’s wail rose over the commotion, the ebb and flow of its siren mournful as it sped the three blocks from Ashville General. EMTs would be on the scene within minutes. 

I could have told them not to bother."

This truncated excerpt was taken from Jen Nadol's website. Click here to read the full version.

Hey Jen! Tell us a little about yourself as a writer. Do you outline, or wing it? Do you write daily, or in snatches?

The beginning and the end of a story are usually the first scenes that come to me. Writing those helps me nail down the voice. I’ll jot a sentence or two about any other scenes I know I want between point A and point B. That’s my outline. The rest gets filled in as I go. I have fifteen hours a week - three days, five hours each - of set-aside time that gets used for writing. Mostly. And, of course, there’s lots of random note jotting, day and night.

When – and why – did you begin writing?

I started my first novel when I stopped working to stay home with a newborn. I figured I’d have tons of extra time. The reality was a little different, but by then I was pretty stuck on the idea and I’m kind of stubborn.

What was it liked getting published? What was your publishing journey?

Amazing. Literally. I am still amazed that it’s for real and I’m enjoying sooo much - more than I even imagined. That said, there was lots and lots (and lots) of rejection. My first novel never got published. I racked up probably close to a hundred well-deserved agent rejections on that one. Added more with The Mark. But I’ve learned tons along the way.

What inspired you to write The Mark?

The idea of a girl who knew it was someone’s day to die just came to me and right away, I saw lots of possibilities. Not a very interesting “a-ha” moment, but that’s how it happened.

Tell me one thing I wouldn’t know about The Mark by reading the blurb.

Cassie uses what she learns in a summer philosophy class to try to sort out her problem.

What’s your favorite brainstorming tactic?

Not sure it’s much of a tactic, but I sit at my desk, computer ready, no distractions, and just kind of zone out - let my vision turn inward and toss around the problem or story or dialogue until I find direction. Sounds weird, but it works.

Here on Headdesk, I have a minor obsession with the rules of writing. Is there any particular rule you write by?

Only that you have to do it. Lots of writers have said variations of it: writers write. Sometimes it’s hard, but you can’t fix a blank page.

If knew you a teenager who aspired to be a novelist, what would you say to them?

Write. Lots and lots. Join a critique group or take a non-credit class to get some honest feedback which can be really, really hard to hear, but the best way to grow.

What’s next for Jen Nadol?

More books, I hope! My next one is finished and, by the time this posts, hopefully will be somewhere in the editor/submission/sale process. I’ve got three others in the works, beginning stages, and will probably have picked one and be running with it.

How have you grown as a writer, and how do you hope to see yourself grow in the future?

I feel like my writing from Book 1 that never sold to the pre-edited The Mark to Book 3 (the just-finished one) has tightened-up tremendously as I’ve learned how to be a better editor.

In the future…I have one WIP from the male perspective and I think learning to write a real, honest boy-voice will be a great challenge.

Jen Nadol grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, and got her Lit degree at the American University in Washington DC. She now lives in upstate NY with her husband and three sons. The Mark is her first novel. To learn more about Jen, check out her website or her blog.


August said...

Yay! It's fixed. Great post!

Lisa and Laura said...

Ooh, I love that cover and the book sounds AMAZING.

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