Denise Jaden’s novels have been shortlisted or received awards through the Romance Writers of America, Inspy, and SCBWI. The first draft of her debut novel, Losing Faith (Simon & Schuster), was written in 21 days during NaNoWriMo 2007 and she loves talking with writers and students alike about her Just-Get-To-The-End fast-drafting process. Jaden’s other young adult novels include Never Enough (Simon & Schuster) and Foreign Exchange (Evernight Teen, 2014).
Her first non-fiction book for writers, Writing with a Heavy Heart: Using Grief and Loss to Stretch Your Fiction, includes a variety of clear guidance and practical exercises to help writers get to the heart of their stories. Her second non-fiction book, Fast Fiction (New World Library) includes tips on constructing a story plan that works, as well as daily inspiration to keep writers writing, regardless of when the mood strikes. For more info, visit her website.
Have you ever broken a bone? What happened?
Yes, I broke my right arm when I was about seven years old. Our neighbors had a tree swing in their backyard. We were supposed to alternate our grip to hold on, but I didn’t know that. As I went sailing over a deep expanse, my grip couldn’t hold out and I fell on my right arm.
What have you tried in life, and simply were not good at?
Hmm, lots of things, but the one I think about the most often is video games. My husband and son love to play them, and every once in a while they convince me to play, but I seriously have no ability with them.
What are you most neurotic about?
My writing time. If my door to my office is shut and I’m in the middle of drafting or revising a novel, I will probably growl if anyone interrupts me. I set time aside and protect it like a bear with her cub!
What is your favorite movie line?
“I don’t think that means what you think it means.” – from The Princess Bride
What one word describes your bedroom?
Cluttered. My husband is a pack-rat.
Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?
Nope. I just sit down and write. Sometimes it starts off feeling like I don’t have a creative bone in my body, but if I keep moving forward, eventually something catches and carries me on into a flow.
Can you share some words of writing wisdom for someone just starting out?
Write a lot and read a lot. Just because you finish a story, doesn’t mean that is the one that will first be published. Keep working on new writing. The new stuff will teach you more about the stuff you’ve already written, and time off from one project will give you a lot of perspective.
When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Have you ever questioned that decision?
I’m still not sure I’ve made that decision. I think of my writing mostly as a hobby. It’s hard to make a living in this business, and it can be soul-crushing if it’s the only thing you have going in your life. There are lots of ups and downs in publishing. Writing is only one of the things I enjoy in my life. And I believe I keep enjoying it because it is only one part.
Do you censor your creativity because you don’t want to offend anyone?
I never censor myself on my first drafts, however, during revisions, I do choose things like offensive language carefully. This is not so much because it may cause offense. I once had a critique partner tell me she felt my main character was weak-minded and uncreative because she used so many expletives to describe things. That comment affected me, and so now I spend a lot of time thinking about if my character could be more creative or thoughtful in his or her word choice.
How did you pick your writing genre?
I believe my writing genre picked me. The first book I wrote was for the adult market, and was in the head of a thirty year old man (still unpublished). Every critique partner I sent the book to said, “Are you sure this isn’t YA?” I argued, told them it couldn’t be YA because it was in the head of an adult. The next book I wrote was in the head of a sixteen year old girl. It felt SO right, right from the first paragraph. It wasn’t until I finished that book that I realized the first book felt like YA because of my writing voice. (This is what I mean about writing something new in order to learn more about what you’ve already written!)