Today I'm interviewing an author I met at Teen Author Boot Camp. Go Teen Writers, I introduce to you Jo Schaffer.
Jo Schaffer was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area to a literary, intellectual mother and an artist, naturalist father. Her parents instilled in her a love of art, books, nature, people and philosophy. Jo wrote her first book when she was six and has written ever since. She is now a YA author, speaker, blogger, and a contributing writer on The Rogue at Patheos.com. Jo studied Arts and British literature in London as well as Humanities and English in Utah. She is married to artist/filmmaker Clark Schaffer and has three sons. Her debut novel Against Her Will released from True North Publishing in March 2015. You can find her online at www.joschaffer.com.
Welcome to Go Teen Writers, Jo. Tell us about yourself and your book Against Her Will.
I was born and raised in the California Bay Area into a huge, creative family. I’ve loved storytelling from the time I was little, filling notebooks and journals with all kinds of stories. I grew up reading a lot. A lot.
I also love good food, martial arts (I have my black belt in taekwondo), traveling, old movies and dyeing my hair weird colors. I have three creative, handsome sons and my husband works in the film industry so it can be quite an adventure.
I’m a founding member of Writers Cubed and co-founder of the Teen Author Boot Camp, one of the largest conferences in the nation for teens. It is so fun working with teens and meeting a lot of great authors who come to participate.
The main characters have all experienced different forms of bullying. Cassidy, from a wealthy home, has parents who have no time to show her love. Their primary concern is that she upholds the proper image. Her parents manipulate and shame her until she acts out and makes a string of bad decisions. Rather than trying to understand or support Cassidy, her parents have her locked up. Tony comes from serious domestic violence which has left him feeling powerless so he turns to pyromania to feel in control. Gina is a defiant trouble maker who becomes a bully herself after enduring a childhood in the foster care system. Erin, the anorexic, was horribly bullied and humiliated by peers from school and controlled by her perfectionist mother. And Julia is an endangered child, exposed to drugs and prostitution because of her mother’s lifestyle. They all play off one another within the walls of Oak Dale where unfortunately, some things only get worse.
Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
I have been writing for so many years. There have been ups and downs and will continue to be. So I just keep writing. Being a part of a writing group has really helped me become a better writer and has kept me encouraged through a lot of rejection and struggle.
Against Her Will was the fifth novel I wrote and was sold by my second agent. I am currently on my third agent, so the journey continues.
How many books did you write before your first book was published?
I had written four, and since AHW, I have written another book that is currently being shopped.
Your book, Against Her Will, sounds powerful. Where did you come up with that idea?
My co-author, Serita Stevens, had the concept, based on her experiences as a nurse in a psych ward for teens. I have always had an interest in psychology and have worked with teens quite a bit, so it was a subject that I was comfortable writing.
Although the topics in the book are heavy and sometimes devastating, it was important to me to infuse the book with hope for those who struggle.
You wrote Against Her Will with a coauthor. Could you tell us about how that happened and what it was like?
Serita and I had the same agent. She had other projects and deadlines going on and had not written YA before so we were put together. It was an interesting process, and a first for me, to further develop somebody else’s concept and flesh out the characters and help to create a plot that worked in their ideas while also contributing my own and putting it all together as a cohesive storyline. It was a lot of work in a limited amount of time, but it took on a life of its own as I immersed myself in the characters. I had Serita’s real life experiences to draw from. I learned a lot in the process.
Many of our teen authors are trying to write books with friends. Do you have any tips for them?
Write with somebody you are compatible with and decide ahead of time who does what. Have a great outline and lots of open communication. Be organized and make goals and deadlines that are reasonable for you both. Be honest but respectful in your feedback, and be open to each other’s ideas.
Check your ego at the door and “play” together in the world you are creating.
What advice would you give teen writers?
Have fun writing! Learn all you can about the tools of how to write well and to reach your audience. Write about things that matter to you and never stop working on your craft. Don’t worry about reviews or what people will say—you can’t please all readers and everyone is a critic! Don’t even worry about if you will ever get published. Just write for the love of it and pursue publishing if that is what you want—there are so many options for getting your stories to readers now. Most writers will never achieve fame or fortune. Do it because you love it.
Is Against Her Will a stand-alone novel or is there a book two?
Against Her Will is a stand-alone novel, although Serita may one day decide to add to that on her own.
What's next for you?
I have four other novels I have written myself that I am getting ready for submissions.
My new agent is currently shopping a YA book I co-wrote with friend and author, Jonathan Ryan. It’s a possible five book series about teens during the Great Depression. The boy, Stanley, is a newsie from the streets, and Hazel is from a wealthy family. They meet and sparks fly.
One night Hazel runs away only to find she is not equipped to deal with the world outside her rich neighborhood and luckily runs into a handsome street boy who offers to walk her home safely. They stumble across a murder that they decide to solve together and they begin to uncover some pretty scary corruption in their city. This has been a blast to write, with all of the fun 1930s slang and the interesting culture of the time. It’s already generating interest so hopefully you’ll hear more soon!
To thank Jo for coming, we're giving away a copy of Against Her Will. Enter on the Rafflecopter form below. International winners are welcome and will be shipped from The Book Depository.
And feel free to leave questions or comments for Jo below.