Into YA with Jennifer Dugan


I don't think I've seen a more anticipated book for this spring than Hot Dog Girl. With it's super cute amusement park setting and a love triangle, it's easy to see why people are so excited for April 30th to finally come. If you haven't heard about the book or want to learn more, check out my review here, and if you haven't preordered, you can do it here*
I hope you enjoy my interview with Jennifer! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

1. The thing that struck me most about your book was how clear Elouise shines through. Her grammar, syntax, and diction are so specific and consistent throughout, and it makes it easy to connect with her optimistically scattered personality. Did you do anything to get in touch with her voice, or did it just show up on the page? 

Music is a huge part of my writing process, so the first thing I do when working on any character is to figure out their specific playlist. I think you can tell a lot about someone by the music they listen to. This really helps me figure out their personality and behavior. With Elouise, once I had her playlist worked out, it was easy to get her voice settled—probably the easiest of any character I have ever written.
 I won’t go as far as to say that she came to me fully formed, but she definitely came to me quickly and LOUDLY—which is different from how it usually goes. In fact, there were a few times during the drafting process where I felt like she was the one in control and I was just along for the ride. 


 2. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the relationships in Hot Dog Girl are messy. With all the shifting between friendships and romance, did you have to do tons of planning and outlining to keep track? Did you already have these twists in mind before you started or did they come with the story?

I’m actually a total Pantser, so I don’t do much planning before I start writing. Generally, I’ll get a flash of a scene in my head, and then write backward and forward from that moment until it’s done. This means I don’t usually know where a book is going until the first draft is in front of me. I think the first version of Hot Dog Girl was around 95k words as a result! But I needed those extra scenes and conversations to make sense of the characters and plot. 
 While most of the relationships were present in that early draft, they were certainly refined as I went along. Revising is where I really shine, and I have a MUCH more organized approach to that side of things which involves calendars and various office supplies. There’s a lot of plotting and tweaking that happens at that point.
 Admittedly, I’m trying to incorporate more structure into the drafts I write now, since there is more of a time constraint. I don’t think I’ll ever be a full plotter but I’d love to find some middle ground. 


3. Prior to Hot Dog Girl you explored a lot of new adult/college stories. Going forward being a more established author, would you ever go back to the “Older YA” area? I’d love to see more books that carry YA type voices into college.

Yes and no. I think it would be a lot of fun to do an upper YA story set in the early years of college. I actually have an idea for a book that would take place in the beginning of the main character’s freshman year at a university. (Although I don’t know that it will ever see the light of day because I have a few projects ahead of it!) I find the period of transition from high school to college a fun and fascinating time to write about.
 With that being said, while I would love to see publishing embrace new adult in general and think there’s a tremendous opportunity there, I don’t personally think that I would go back to writing about older college kids or recent college graduates. I’ll never say never, but right now I feel like I have a lot of stories left to tell centered mainly on the junior/senior year of high school. 


4. Beyond being a novelist, you’re also an indie comics author. Is there a format you gravitate too? Has writing one help strengthen the other, or are they in totally separate areas of your brain?

I’ve been a huge fan of comics for a long time, so trying my hand at writing them was sort of a natural evolution for me. Some of my story ideas just seem to lend themselves better to a more visual method of story-telling. In general, I’ve also noticed my comics tend to be fantasy or have more of a horror/supernatural vibe, while my novels have so far been contemporary. 
 I think any time spent writing strengthens your skills, but comics and novels do largely operate in different areas of my brain. As I mentioned earlier, I can’t really plot a novel initially, it feels too stifling. However, comics require meticulous plotting, or they just don’t work—at least in my experience. You need to account for things like page flips, words per panel, panels per page etc. Those are things I don’t have to consider at all while drafting a novel. 


5. Your debut is hitting the shelves on April 30th, but can we look forward to other new work from you soon?

 Yes! I have a second novel coming out in 2020, although we have not quite settled on a title yet. It’s another contemporary YA, this time dual POV, that follows two teens as they try to navigate life and love within the comic industry. 
 This one also features queer protagonists, like Hot Dog Girl does, but has a very different vibe from my debut. While there is still a lot of humor and heart, there is also a much bigger focus on things like mental health, complicated family dynamics, and what it truly means to love another person. 
 I also have a few other projects I’m working on right now, including a new graphic novel, which hopefully you’ll be hearing more about soon!

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Bonus Question!
Is there a real life inspiration for the park or what made you think of it?
Magic Castle Playland is really an amalgamation of several amusement parks I visited as a child. Even though I’m terrified of most amusement park rides, I found myself around them A LOT growing up! There is actually an amusement park not too far away from me that has diving pirates, and that was definitely a part of the inspiration. They sadly don’t have anybody there dressed as a hot dog, but maybe they’ll read my book someday and realize what a great addition that would be. (My apologies to any future employees that may have to wear the bun as a result!)


Jennifer's Book:
Hot Dog Girl: Review Here

Other Into YA Interviews:
With Kathleen Glasgow: Here
With Erin Hahn: Here
With Lillie Vale: Here

Links of Interest:
Opposite of Always: Review Here
Recognizing The Artist: Here
Her Royal Highness: Review Here
If I'm Being Honest: Review Here

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