A Rita Award Finalist and Crystal Kite Award Finalist, Janet Gurtler’s young adult books have been chosen for the JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION and as BEST BOOKS FOR TEENS from the Canadian Children’s Book Center.
Janet lives in Okotoks Alberta, Canada with her husband, son, and a chubby black Chihuahua named Bruce, who refuses to eat dog food.
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you start?
I think I’ve wanted to be a writer since sixth grade. I had a great teacher that year who really encouraged me and told me I had writing skills. I took a Communications diploma after high school and worked as an advertising copywriter for a year or so and then got sidetracked and went into sales and marketing for many years. It was only when I had a baby and was home on maternity leave that I decided to try my life long dream of writing a book. That book was never published, nor were the next couple I wrote, but I finally sold my first book when my son was about 8!!
What genre(s) do you write in? What is it that you love about them?
I write contemporary fiction. I have seven books published in YA, contemporary. I also have a young chapter book series about Mermaids published but my greatest love is contemporary. I love gritty stories that explore some of the darker emotions. A story that can make me cry is my favorite and I gravitate towards writing books that explore extreme emotions. I guess I love feeling and expressing myself in the safety of written words. I think this means I have a deep angsty soul.
Can you tell us about your latest book?
Well. My latest book hasn’t been published yet! I have a new agent and we are working on getting it subbed out to new publishers. This book is a YA and it’s a dual point of view book about a teen couple whose relationship with themselves and each other is dramatically changed by a violent act by the ex-boyfriend of the girl. It alters both their lives in ways they never expected or wanted. They both battle with guilt and anger and struggle to move on.
Wow this sounds amazing!!
What was your path to publication?
I kind of alluded to it, but I wrote a few romance and chicklit books before I wrote my first YA, which was the first book that sold. It was a boy POV and sold to a new publishing house that eventually went under. It was pubbed under a pseudonym, JE MacLeod. After that book I sold I’m Not Her to Sourcebooks and ended up selling them five more books. I really loved working with Sourcebooks but my contracts are done and we’re going to sub my new YA wide.
Before getting a book published I subbed lots of magazine articles and short stories and did a bit of freelance writing, which I still do from time to time.
You write both YA and MG. What made do you love about each?
I love YA so much as it allows us to go deep into raw emotions that many of us feel as we discover who we are and what life means to us. Teen years are full of flux and self discovery and that search for self really appeals to me. I think so many of the feelings are universal and reaching people’s emotions is something that I love to do or strive to do anyways! When I write YA, I find it taxing sometimes as I try to go to uncomfortable places but it’s also a safe environment, since it’s fiction. I think it’s a great way for teens (and adults) to poke around in themselves and think about and feel really extreme things and even mundane things, and somehow it’s safe to do it in this form.
The MG series I wrote is actually a bit younger, more chapter book. I loved writing these books because they still had some of the same themes about discovering yourself, but they also allowed me to get kind of silly and make up stuff about mermaids and were lighter and fun to write.
All writers are readers so who are some of your favorite authors and why?
Yes, I am an avid reader. I am a binge reader these days, where I’ll go for a couple weeks not reading and then devour two or three books in a row. It’s hard to name favorite authors because I love so many, but here’s a few that I am loving right now.
Fave authors- Judy Blume, SE Hinton
Books I’ve admired and loved in the last year-
We Were Liars, This Is Where It Ends, Girl on a Train, and Orphan #8
What inspires your ideas? How do you come up with them?
Everything! I am always listening to things and thinking of ways they would fit into books or make great stories. Lots of times I’ll hear something on the radio, or read the news or something an it will trigger an idea. A what if. Sometimes it’s real life scenario’s that I’ll expand on.
I do that too! Mostly with true crime stories. Real life is insane!
What are you working on now? Do you outline or write by the seat of your pants?
I am working on the new YA novel and also a Women’s Fiction novel about a group of friends named the Gogo’s -their nickname from lip syncing competitions when they were young- who reunite after one of them dies.
I am a seat of the pants writer for the most part. I have an idea and then I start writing. But I often have to stop writing often and do character building worksheets to get to know my characters better which influences the whole story for me. I am more of a character driven story writer rather than a plot driven story writer.
My Mermaid books were done by outline though and they were so much easier to write!!! They were short and I did chapter by chapter outlines and filled in the blanks.
What does a typical writing day look like for you/what is your process?
There is no such thing in my life now. Update. As of now I’m back to writing, but over the last couple of years I’ve worked full time and part time jobs outside of writing and expect I will again. For five years I worked as a full time author, with six books coming out of those five years. My process then was to just write full time. Up in the morning, some farting around on social media and then write write write. I had deadlines and things had to get done.
Now I don’t have actual contracts or deadlines and I’m not as efficient. I also have work and parenting duties and house cleaning chores (ugh).
When I get my groove on, I write everyday. I try to start where I left off and move on, but often go back and edit before moving on.
If one of your novels was made into a movie, which would you choose and what actors would you cast to play the three main roles?
I would love to make all my novels into movies!! Haha. My best selling book is I’m Not Her, about two sisters and one who has cancer but I think we’ve all seen John Green’s movie and it would be hard to top that!
I think the book of mine that would make the best movie is HOW I LOST YOU. This book is about two paintball playing girls trying to make a college team, but the heart of the story is how their friendship is coming apart because one of them is seriously suffering from trauma. It’s a tough story because the traumatized girl is messed up and her friend is sacrificing much of herself and her own life to help her. And her friend keeps messing up and is just not ready for help yet. It’s a story about learning how to let someone go for your own protection. I find it really sad. Which to me makes a great movie haha. The story is based around three best friends.
Grace- Chloe Mortez
James- Lucas Hedges
What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned on your writing journey so far?
Revising is the most important part of my work. Of course, in order to revise, the work has to be DONE!!
Also, editors and beta readers are super important to help with blind spots and things you need to tweak.
Being an author is amazing but it’s also tough to make a living at it, unless your book(s) are/is a best seller. You have to keep at it and the hard stuff never really goes away. It’s not easy but if you are a writer you’ll just keep doing it. Authors get to do some super cool things, but also get our hearts broken. Learning to appreciate the good things is part of enjoying the process.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers about writing? What about the process of trying to get published?
Do you love writing? Then keep doing it. Keep trying to make your stories better. Read craft books. Go to seminars or workshops or read writing blogs. For publishing tips, the best thing for me was the Blue Boards. Also look up Angela Ackerman and buy he books. She is one of the most helpful authors I know. Look at her blog and website. Ask other authors for advice. Be bold but be humble. Don’t give up. Rejection is hard and smells like stinky farts but it’s part of the process and the stench lessens with time.
Thank you so much! Where can people find out more about you and your books?