Skip to main content

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!

https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif
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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Guest Post Claire Bartlett: Unpacking Fairytales

This week I want to welcome author Claire Bartlett to the blog to talk about the fascinating history of fairy tales throughout culture and how they play a role in her new book, The Winter Duke (out March 3). I've been a huge fan of fairy tales my entire life (I even wrote a giant paper on the Brothers Grimm for a school project once), so it was so much fun to read about the history of a couple tales that Claire uncovered in her research. If you missed the last time Claire was on the blog to promote her debut, you can find that post here.


I always wanted to write a fairy tale retelling, and it only makes sense to me now that I'd combine fairy tale, history and fantasy to create The Winter Duke. Fairy tales have long been intertwined with history, and in fact it's now estimated that fairy tale tropes go back thousands of years, being retold and reworked to fit audiences. Many of them were somewhat cemented in the public mind after being written down by the Grimms, among oth…

Books I'm Looking Forward To: April

Everything feels extremely uncertain right now, and authors are rightfully concerned about their books that are debuting in the coming months. Right now, Amazon is delaying book shipments, bookstores are being forced to close, and libraries are not providing in person services. While none of that this good news, it doesn't mean that books will be forgotten during this time. If anything, we need books and the arts in general more than ever. We've all turned to Netflix and reading and music to take our minds off of the situation, and these artists need our support too.
Luckily, there are tons of ways to do this. While authors aren't getting to hold traditional book launches, many are transitioning them to places like Instagram Live, so make sure you follow the authors you love on social media. Continuing on the social media theme, it's now more important than ever to talk about the books you enjoy online and leave reviews on Goodreads and Amazon to spread the word.
Anoth…

Top Reads of 2018

This year's best of 2018 list has tons of new categories to fit all of the amazing books I read this year. I've had the chance to read so many advanced books and recent releases, so most of what I read were books that came out in 2018. I mostly choose contemporary, so I've started with my favorite debut as well as the best books in other genres I've ventured into. After that, I have smaller categories in the contemporary genre. I hope you find new books to love and give to your friends and family for the holidays. If you're interested in learning more about the books on the list, click their titles to go to my reviews. Let me know if these are some of your favorites in the comments, and tell me your favorite books!
Best In Genre Top Debut
Nothing Left To Burn by Heather Ezell Nothing Left To Burn gave me the craziest book hangover. I was so immersed in the story, and I couldn't stop reading to do anything that I actually needed to be doing. There is a toxic relat…

Soooo... The World Is More Than a Little Scary

I'm not sure what exactly I want to say with this post. It feels like there's nothing left to say in a way. Over the last few days, the United States has come to realize just how serious COVID-19 is. It's a reality that people in Europe and Asia grasped long before most Americans. I think that we're all starting to realize just how much our lives are fundamentally changing. How long this will actually impact us.
I've seen a lot of different reactions on Twitter. Understandably, there's a lot of heartbreak over lost vacations, concerts, and book tours. A lot of us were using things like this to keep motivated. It's entirely understandable why these choices have been made, but it doesn't make it any less hard. So, I guess what I wanted to say first is don't feel bad for feeling bad. Yes, there are people losing much more from this, and we should be doing everything we can to help them through this time, but beating yourself up for being disappointed …

Fear of Missing Out

Fear of Missing Out by Kate McGovern 
Overview: Astrid has a form of brain cancer called astrocytoma that causes a star shaped tumor to form near her brainstem. Though she was in remission, two years later, the cancer comes back, and Astrid becomes convinced that she won't beat the disease. She starts to pursue options that will allow her to have a life in the future, namely, cryopreservation. After essentially freezing her body, she hopes to wake up when there's a cure for her cancer so she can rejoin the world and see some of the milestones she fears missing.
On the road trip to tour the Arizona facility, though, Astrid makes other realizations about her life and eventual death that alters how she sees her original plan. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Astrid is relatable. She has a touch of dry, witty humor that makes her relatable. She loves her friends and family deeply, but she also has a conviction to follow what feels best for her. I appreciated how she always tried to stay ho…

What If It's Us

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (448 pages)
Overview: Ben and Arthur meet at the post office during a flashmob. Well, Arthur followed Ben into the post office because he thought he was and, and, just as they started talking, in true form with Arthur's New York fantasy, a flash mob erupted. When the boys and split up, Arthur loses his chance at connecting with Ben, but when he can't stop thinking about him, he explores ways to reconnect even in a city of a million empty faces like New York. Even if they can find each other, with Arthur going back to Georgia at the end of the summer, will it even be worth it? Overall: 4/5

Characters: 4.5 I'm not sure what to say about the characters. I liked them enough, but I didn't feel any real attachment to any of them. I liked the cast of friends, but they all lacked a certain weight that would give them a stronger sense of reality. My favorite relationship in the book was the friendship between Dylan and Ben.…

Nice Try, Jane Sinner

Nice Try, Jane Sinner Lianne Oelke (420 pages)
Overview: Jane wants to forget the past. Forget the high school that expelled her. Forget the people that watched her fall from grace. Forget her family who thinks that prayer is the answer to everything. Facing community college at Elbow River as a last resort graduation option, she signs up to be on House of Orange, a new web reality show, to solve her housing problem. Though she knows to expect the unexpected, House of Orange and its inhabitants test Jane in ways she never imagined. Maybe the year won't be as bad as she imagined. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 I LOVE Jane. There are very few main characters I can say that I appreciated more. Her sarcasm, dry humor, and outlook on life echoed my own thoughts, and I loved how she was so introspective. It is fascinating to listen to Jane work through her own thoughts and recognize her behaviors as masks for other feelings. I also thought that Oelke did a wonderful job with her depiction of Ja…

How It Feels To Float

How It Feels To Float by Helena Fox (May)
Overview: Biz has a lot of sadness in her life. Her father died when she was age 7, her group of friends abandon her, and her best friend gets sent four hours away to live with her father. The world is too much, and Biz can't just float anymore. Exploring Biz's racing thoughts and grief, the book chronicles her discovering what it means to be honestly okay. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 The characters do come vividly alive but in a sort of passive way. Biz seems almost removed from herself, like she's telling the story about her life instead of speaking as they happen. Because of this, it's like seeing Biz through a foggy window and everyone else through a kaleidoscope.
I do love how supportive her mother is, her relationship with her younger twin siblings, and the mentorship and friendship she finds from an elderly lady in her photography class.
She also has an interesting relationship with her father who comes to her in hallucinati…

The Cheerleaders

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas (372 pages)
Overview: Five years ago, five cheerleaders on the same high school squad died in three separate incidents, but how separate were they? That's what Monica wants to know. Her sister, Jen, was the last teen to die in the tragedy when she died by suicide, but Monica isn't convinced it was simply survivors guilt at play. She's also not convinced that Jack Canning was truly at fault for two girls murders or that the car accident that took the final two girls was really an accident. With an unlikely friend by her side, Monica sets out to dig up the truth about what really happened to those five girls even if it jeopardizes her own life. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 I loved Monica's voice. Even though it's told in third person, her character really shined through. Despite making some poor choices and putting herself in dangerous situations, she does strive to do what she thinks will bring truth or justice. Ginny, a girl she connects…