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

Dumplin'

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (375 pages)
Overview: Willowdean "Dumplin'" is fat. It's something that she's come to accept about herself even after years of fad diets enforced by her mother and bullying at school. Aunt Lucy certainly helped with her self acceptance, and in cultivating her love of Dolly Parton, but Will is left rudderless after Lucy has a sudden heart attack. To reclaim a bit of confidence she'd lost, Will signs up for the Clover City Pageant. Though she's not the typical beauty queen, Will and her group of friends get to put their own stamp on her mother's beloved pageant. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 I like Willowdean. She lives in the place most of us do on the fine line between insecure and confident. Murphy does a great job building a crew of characters around Willowdean. It was fun to revisit the cast after I'd read Puddin', Murphy's forthcoming companion novel.

Plot: 4 While this book is mainly billed as being about a beaut…

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…

Have a Little Faith In Me Review

Have a Little Faith In Me by Sonia Hartl
Overview: CeCe and Paul have no reason being at Jesus camp. Paul gave up his faith years ago when his paster father abandoned his mother,  and CeCe never really believed to start with. They're not there to find their faith again, though. CeCe is on a secret mission to win back her born again boyfriend who dumped her after having sex. Whether it's love or just proving something to herself, CeCe is determined to get Ethan back, even if that means fake dating her best friend, Paul, and listening to hours of sermons. While CeCe shakes the camp up, she starts to shake up some ideas of her own about what happened with her and Ethan. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 I love CeCe. She's bold, unflinching, bright, and impulsive. Unafraid to be quiet about her own beliefs she challenges a lot of the misogynistic happenings at the camp and vocally questions why girls are left to shoulder the responsibility for "tempting" boys by not being modes…

Long Way Down

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (306 pages) Buy At Your Local Bookstore*
Overview: It's just one elevator ride. Just one elevator ride to the rest of Will's life. Eight floors takes so long when you're headed to kill someone. Even in revenge. Even for justice. Even when your brother was just murdered. It's even longer when every stop brings someone who's left your life back in. There's so much to learn before Will hits the lobby. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Because of the atmosphere and the point of the story, we don't get super into the characters. They each represent a stop on a horrible cycle. It starts with Buck, Will's older brother, Shawn's, older brother figure. When Buck got killed, Shawn had to avenge his death, which got him killed. He also meets his Uncle Mark, an aspiring filmmaker who's death lead to Will's father's death because of the Rules. Each character doesn't exist to explore themselves or have their own motives- they…

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.…

Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett (417 pages)
Overview: Glamping should not include getting stranded in the middle of the woods with your ex-best friend. But life doesn't always go as it's supposed to. When Zorie agrees to go with her friend Regan and her crew on a summer camping trip, she doesn't know Lennon will be there, and she's certainly not expecting the group to abandon the two of them in the middle of the California wilderness, forced to complete a multi day track back to civilization. It turns out, though, that an adventure in the woods might be just what they need. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 I thought that all of the characters, including the adults, were given dimension. I loved the parental dynamic between Lennon and his moms as well as Zorie's relationship with her step mom who never considered Zorie less than her own daughter.
Lennon and Zorie are also awesome characters. Zorie has to battle her intense anxiety and relinquish control while she's stuck in…

Into YA with Shana Youngdahl

I'm so excited to announce this interview with Shana today. Her book blew me away and kept me prisoner on the couch while I raced to finish it. I loved how she took such a complex format and ambitious story and made it feel so easy. I really admire that as a writer and enjoy it as a reader. If you haven't had the chance to read As Many Nows As I Can Get, check out my review for some context on what we talk about.  Anyway, I'll let you get to the interview, but I want to thank Shana for doing this interview and chatting with me cause she really is the sweetest. 
1. The book is told out of sequence covering a broad span of time from senior year, the summer after, and through the entire freshman year of college. Did you write the book out of order or did you piece it together later? Was that your original plan? Did it take very intricate plotting to piece together a very specific way? 
Yes, it’s non-linear to reflect Scarlett’s understanding of time. It mostly covers her Senior …

Spin

Spin by Lamar Giles (387 pages)
Overview: Fuse and Kya have lost their best friend. #ParSecNation lost their leader, and the Dark Nation has decided to do something about it, even if it means terrorizing those who were closest of her. DJ Paris Secord, or ParSec was murdered at a warehouse she planned to throw a party in. Fuse and Kya found her when they'd come to make amends for different issues they'd rather the public, or the cops, not know about. But they both want to see Paris's killer caught, so they might have to overcome their differences and work together. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 Fuse, Paris, and Kya all get a turn to narrate the story which I enjoyed. They each have their own voices and personalities that really shine through and bring a different angle to the same storyline.
Fuse is rich. Her dad runs a successful marketing company, and she shifted what she learned from him to making Paris's music and brand famous. She helped Paris climb the ranks, but, at t…

Heroine

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis (417 pages) To Purchase From Your Local Bookstore (Affiliate Link)
TW: Depiction of opioid addiction 
Overview: Mickey has it all. She's on the best softball team in the county, she has a supportive best friend, and, even though her parents have recently gone through a divorce, they both want to support her. And then she and Carolina get into a car accident on the way home to watch Netflix and eat pizza, a regular Friday night. Mickey's leg is all but torn out of her body, and her hip has to be put together with screws. Carolina, the school's near famous pitcher, nearly destroys her arm. As the girls fight to be ready in time to play their senior softball season, Mickey falls down a dangerous road, slowly upping her intake of pain pills to get through the day and to quicken her pace through physical therapy. Even as she tells herself that it's just for softball, just for her team, just for her parents, as she gets further in and her dependency i…

Goodbye, Perfect

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard (January 29)
Overview: Eden has always been the irresponsible one with poor grades, a loud mouth, and a general air of irresponsibility, but it's her friend Bonnie that takes over the headlines of every major news station in the UK. Bonnie disappears with her ,music teacher and parent boyfriend, Jack Cohen, better known to everyone at Kett as Mr. Cohen. Eden can't believe that a friend would do this, but, suddenly, when she gets a WhatsApp message from Bonnie, she's clued in to their runaway mission. Pressured by her family, Bonnie's, and the cops, Eden refuses to tell them what they know because she made a promise to her best friend. Overall: 3.5 

Characters: 3 Okay, I guess I can see some of the thinking behind these characters, but it wasn't articulated very well. Eden refuses to tell on her friend even though she knows how wrong and serious the situation is. I can see making a promise and being hesitant, but I can't see a sixt…