Into YA with Lianne Oelke
1. I absolutely love that your book is set on a college campus. Even though Jane is still in high school, It's awesome that this is adding to college YA books (which we desperately need more of!) What led you to put Jane's story at the community college instead of at a different high school.
Jane's story actually first took place in university. I was in university myself when I started writing NTJS. I wanted to find books that showed people like me trying to figure out how to navigate that awkward period after high school when you don't suddenly stop feeling like a teenager, but you're expected to move out, go to post secondary, deal with depression and existential crises and feelings of isolation all on your own. My agent suggested changing the setting from university to community college to make it fit the YA market better. I'm hoping that NTJS helps pave the way for more college YA.
2. The format of the book is very script-like. It makes the story so easy to devour in a sitting and highlights Jane's humor. Does that stem from your background in TV? Why did you decide to create your own format?
TBH, when I started writing NTJS I was too lazy to use dialogue tags, so I skipped them as a form of shorthand. Eventually it just made sense to keep going that way, especially since the book is written as Jane's journal. She's not the kind of girl to wax poetic when she can just get to the point.
3. Jane has a lot of contention with her parents over what happened last school year and their disagreements about religion. I love that you explore her relationship with her parents because it's so often ignored in YA. Where did these elements come from? Did you always intend to get into that part of Jane's life.
Jane's experience with religion is definitely inspired from my own. I wanted to write about a girl that asked the same questions I wanted to ask, but was too afraid to. As a teen I struggled (and still do) with being the black sheep (or morally ambiguous grey sheep) of the family. Like Jane, I grew up in a conservative, Christian family with conservative, Christian friends. It was tough to balance love for my parents and everything they've done for me with wanting to do my own thing and be my own person (without, you know, worrying everyone that my soul was damned for eternity). I think it's so so important for teens to see this kind of struggle in books. No matter where they end up or what they believe, I want teens to know it's okay to ask questions and doubt and struggle and not have everything figured out.
4. What was your experience querying like? Was it different because you are a Canadian author? Do you have any tips for querying authors?
I queried for around two years before signing with an agent. I don't think any agents treated me differently because I was Canadian (although I was asked once or twice if I would consider setting NTJS in the US. I always said no). My biggest challenge was how NTJS fit into the YA/ NA market. I think most agents just didn't know how to sell it.
To any querying authors out there: I feel your pain. I'd recommend getting feedback on your query from writing forums, querying small batches of agents at a time (a dozen or so), then considering changing your query if you don't get any nibbles. Always research your agents and look at what genres they represent and how they want queries submitted. Having a strong query and manuscript is half the battle; to get an agent's attention, you need to show them you can follow the rules and do your homework. And don't give up! Sometimes it takes years ;)
5. Jane is on her own You Tube reality TV show, House of Orange. Do you have any reality favorites?
I used to watch a lot of America's Next Top Model and The Bachelor, but now It's mostly Alone (an intense survival show) and Shark Tank/ Dragon's Den.
6. I can't wait to read your next project! Is there any hints you can tell us about what's coming up next for you?
I'm working on a fantasy inspired by saga-age Iceland, although I have no idea if it's going anywhere
Books By This Author...
Links of Interest:
Down and Across: Review Here
Two Can Keep a Secret: Review Here
Our Year of Maybe: Review Here
2018 Reading Stats: Here