Success Story: Jenn Marie Thorne and her Novel SPIN

Today I'm interviewing Jenn Marie Thorne, whose debut novel SPIN will be published by Dial/Penguin in fall 2014.

(Update: SPIN has been renamed to THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT)

Hi Jenn! Thanks so much for the interview. I'd love to hear more about your debut novel, SPIN! What's the genre and one-sentence pitch?

Thank you, Maya! SPIN is a YA Contemporary novel that deals with the fallout after a sixteen year old girl learns along with the rest of the country that the Republican nominee for President is her father.

What inspired the premise?

Well, we had a whole lot of political sex scandals in a row for a while there, didn't we? John Edwards, Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner. But when the Schwarzenegger story broke, it seemed different. He had a child, old enough to really be impacted by the media attention and the scandal surrounding him. That got my "What If"s whirring: what if it were a girl, and what if she wanted the chance to get to know him, to be a real part of his family despite everything? And that became SPIN.

When did you first begin writing with a goal toward publication?

I'd been playing around with writing for years. In LA, I'd written a play, a full-length screenplay, several short stories and a web series. But it was about four years ago when I moved to Florida that I really decided to focus on novels as a career goal.

How many novels did you end up putting aside before SPIN?

There were a couple of false starts, then I wrote a middle grade fantasy that I'm still really fond of, though I now have enough perspective to see how derivative it was. I wrote a Western set in the future that first got my agent's attention, and while I was querying that one, I was also working on SPIN.

How did you initially pitch to your agent, Katelyn Detweiler (contest, conference, query)?

I sent my Western to her agency, not knowing that she was looking to take on clients. Thank goodness she was!

How did you feel when she offered representation, and how did you know that she was the right agent for you?

I was absolutely thrilled. First of all, Katelyn and I live in the same literary universe - the books I gravitate to are the ones she does as well. That's huge. I could also tell right away how passionate she was about publishing and working with writers to make their books as great as possible and to reach as many people as possible. On top of all that, she's a really fun, kind, lovely person - so I am a very lucky client!

How was your experience in the submission process for SPIN?

Submission was much less painless than I'd expected, to be honest. I'd scoured the internet for information on "submission hell," preparing myself for months upon months of dead ends and no-responses before finding the right house. But it was only a few weeks before we started getting traction and I began to have conversations with potential editors. Which was terrifying!

How thrilled were you when the deal closed?

I was beyond delirious. Just dizzy for days. I'd had one of those nail-biting, trying-to-sound-confident-while-trembling phone conversations with Jessica Garrison at Dial, and I'd kind of fallen in love. It was a bit like when I met my husband, that "Oh, there you are" feeling of compatibility. She completely got the book, and had such brilliant ideas off the bat for how to improve it. So when she came back with an offer, it was nice to see that the feeling was mutual! It was a dream.

I understand you recently had a baby. What are the challenges associated with writing between naps?

Oh man. It's tough. Honestly, I've enlisted childcare help, because my five-month-old's twenty minutes naps are not cutting it! What I find most helpful is to set really concrete, small goals for what you want to accomplish in a day. Like today's goals are to do a pacing edit for Chapter Fifteen of my current WIP and to start a world bible for a fantasy series I'm mulling.

What are you most looking forward to as you prepare for the release of SPIN?

So many things! The next big thrill will be seeing cover art. I think it'll really sink in at that point that this little speck of an idea I had has become an actual physical thing that exists separately from me. And then, of course, for better or worse, I cannot wait to find out what people think of it. I know I should remain aloof and avoid reviews, etc., and I probably will, but I really hope people like the book!

What do you think will be the biggest challenge?

Probably what I just mentioned. I understand rationally that you can't please every reader and that every author is going to get more than their fair share of nasty Goodreads reviews. But I know myself, and I'm probably going to sneak peeks at Goodreads and then regret it. And then do it again.

What's your current favorite YA book and why do you love it?

This is a tough question. There are so many amazing books out there. In terms of contemporaries, I really loved Ask the Passengers and, of course, The Fault in Our Stars. Right now, I'm really obsessed with Leigh Bardugo's Grisha series. Like, I get confused that it's not real. And The Scorpio Races and Graceling are two of my favorite books of all time.

What authors have inspired you?

I love the diversity and zap of Margaret Atwood's work. Ditto for Libba Bray - and I love her candor in how she talks about her own process. I'm inspired every time I read a great book, actually. It's what brings me back to the writing chair again and again.

What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?

Write another book! Craft your book as finely as you know how, and hone that query to a fine sheen, but while you're doing that, write the next book. If you're Harper Lee, that's one thing. But if you want to write books (plural) as a profession, treat it as a profession right now. Eventually, the universe will agree with you.

Thanks so much, Jenn, and I can't wait to read SPIN!

If you'd like to learn more about Jenn Marie Thorne, you can follow her on Twitter @juniperjenny or on facebook.