2012 YA Debut Interview: BREAKING BEAUTIFUL by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

It’s Week 2 of my 2012 YA Debut Interview series! My favorite part about a new year (besides building a wobbly tower of unrealistic expectations for how much I’ll write in the coming year, yay!) is the thought of all the new voices I’ll get to discover. There’s a whole crop of debut YA novelists coming out with books in 2012, and I can’t wait to read them! So, to share my excitement with you, I’m doing a new series of short interviews on this blog.

From December 5 through December 16, I’m featuring ten Winter/Spring 2012 debut authors who wrote books I want to read! Look for giveaways accompanying these interviews—as well as a chance to win a pre-order of your choice at the end of the series. Last week I featured five debuts… and this week I’m featuring five more.

Read on to see how Jennifer Shaw Wolf answered my questions about writing Breaking Beautiful and more…


2012 YA Debut Interview:

Jennifer Shaw Wolf, author of Breaking Beautiful (Walker Books, forthcoming April 24, 2012)

I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?”

Haha, just had the doctor experience. Here’s the pre-approved book summary from the back of the ARC:

Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a tragic car accident—including her memory of the event. She doesn’t remember driving on the cliff road. She doesn’t recall jumping from the truck just before Trip lost control. All she has left are the scars and a sneaking suspicion that the crash wasn’t an accident after all.

When the police reopen the investigation, it quickly turns on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around their small town. As the threats begin and the survivor’s guilt sets in, Allie’s memories collide with a dark secret about Trip she’s kept for too long. Caught somewhere between her past and her future, Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free?

In my experience, every book wants to be written differently—and each one behaves differently from the one before it. Some novels like it out of order, and some rigidly insist on being written from start to finish. Some novels come out fast; others are excruciatingly slow. Some novels torment you, and some sing you to sleep. What did your novel want? Was there ever a moment when it misbehaved?

This novel wanted to be written, fast. Most of the time, I honestly couldn’t get it out fast enough. A couple of times I was afraid of what was coming out. I felt like “How can I write about this?” Or “This is too tough of a subject.” At the same time I didn’t feel like I could quit. I had to do some research before I felt comfortable continuing.

Near the end I hit another point where I was ready to quit. I had written about twenty pages that I didn’t think were getting the story where I wanted it to go. It was painful, but I had to completely cut all those scenes and go back before I could move forward again. I’ve learned to recognize this point in writing a novel as transition (like transition in labor). You have to make yourself get past that point if you want to reach the all important “The End.”

What is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?

My biggest distraction from writing any book is my own lack of confidence or fear. It takes different forms; my family, my house, the internet, my own to-be-read list, whatever. What I’ve learned (and am relearning all the time) is that distraction is another word for fear. As a writer, I get distracted most when I’m afraid to move forward. What if this doesn’t work? What if I spend all this time and it’s is no good? What should I be doing instead of writing? What if I’m wasting my time? (This thought is usually followed by a couple of hours on Twitter or Facebook, looking for some self-affirmation.) Finishing a book (no matter how rough) is a triumph over distractions and fear.

Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book.

My couch in front of the fire was my favorite place to write this book, but I wrote a lot of it on the go. A good portion was written in the car on the way up to the ski hill. I also wrote while I waited for my kids to get finished with piano lessons, football, or soccer practice. Basically, my laptop was with me everywhere I went.

What was the moment when the upcoming publication of your novel felt “real” for the first time—when you got your editorial letter, when you saw the cover, when you held the ARC in your hands… or something else? Or if it doesn’t feel “real” yet, when do you think it will?

This is going to sound BIZARRE, but it was actually when I got the box of bookmarks I had ordered for Breaking Beautiful. At that point I’d already held my ARC in my hands, but my life was so crazy when I got it that maybe it didn’t sink in. Maybe the bookmarks made it real because then I had something to concrete to hand people when they asked about my book—see, this is really happening.

Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?

I would want to tour with Stephenie Meyer and Agatha Christie. Stephenie Meyer, because I would love to get to know her and, frankly, I know we’d draw a crowd. Agatha Christie because she was one of my favorite authors when I first got into mysteries. I love her plotlines and would love to give them a modern twist.

The three of us would cruise the Mediterranean and treat all of our fans to boysenberry cheesecake, Twizzlers (my favorite candy), and really good chocolate truffles.

How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday on April 24?

All the details aren’t planned out yet, but I’m looking at a local Indie bookstore that I really like. I want a room full of my friends and family, and my kids’ friends. I want food (cheesecake, Twizzlers, chocolate truffles, and maybe something salty) and balloons. We’ll have a showing of my book trailer and a slide show from the area of Washington that Breaking Beautiful is set.

I’ve been to book launches that were way too subdued for my taste. As much as I hate to be the center of attention, I want this to be a fun gathering of all the people who’ve helped get me to this point. I want it to be a party! Heck, I only get one first book launch.


Jennifer Shaw Wolf grew up on a farm in the little town of St. Anthony, Idaho, where she spent many cold mornings milking cows in the dark. She’s always been a writer, whether it was sewing together books to read to her little brothers or starting an underground newspaper in sixth grade. She met the love of her life at Ricks College (now BYU Idaho), after he dropped her on her head. She graduated from Ricks and later Brigham Young University, Provo with a degree in Broadcast Communications. Now she lives in beautiful, green, (rainy) Lacey, Washington, with her husband and four kids. She loves to produce videos, ski, ride horses, and read, but really all she has time for is chasing kids and writing.

Visit her at www.jennifershawwolf.com.

Read Jennifer’s blog at  www.wolftalez.blogspot.com.

Follow @jenniferswolf  on Twitter.


What is the next Winter/Spring 2012 debut novel I’m looking forward to? Come back tomorrow to find out.

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