Interview with YA and Nonfiction Writer Denise Jaden

Denise Jaden

Denise Jaden’s novels from Simon & Schuster include LOSING FAITH and NEVER ENOUGH, and have received various nominations and awards through Romance Writers of America, INSPY, and SCBWI. The first draft of her debut novel, LOSING FAITH, was written in 21 days during NaNoWriMo 2007. Her first non-fiction book, WRITING WITH A HEAVY HEART: Using Grief and Loss to Stretch Your Fiction, was out in October, 2012. Her second non-fiction book for writers, FAST FICTION was released in 2014 from New World Library, and her latest YA, FOREIGN EXCHANGE was an Editor’s Pick from Evernight Teen. Here next young adult novel, AVALANCHE, will be released from Leap Books in early 2016.

She lives just outside Vancouver, Canada with her husband, Ted, and their eleven-year-old son, who she homeschools (and who fast drafts his own story during NaNo each year).

Hi Denise!

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you start?

I discovered writing relatively late in life. In my thirties when I was pregnant, I caught the sudden bug to get my thoughts down on paper. (I blame it on Pregnant Brain, since I had never kept any kind of journal before this). Those thoughts developed into characters and their stories, and creating through writing became addictive for me.

What genre(s) do you write in? What is it that you love about them?

I write fiction for teens (which is my first love) and nonfiction for writers. I love featuring teen characters because of their passion and unrelenting search for purpose. I think as adults, these feelings get supressed, or we feel like we’re too old to consider many of the options we may have considered when we were younger and full of unjaded energy.

As for the nonfiction, I get bursts of ideas that won’t let go. I find this genre harder work, and not as much fun, but I am thrilled to have resources out there that are helping writers.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Why?

Oh, gosh, there are way too many to name! But off the top of my head, I love Gayle Forman, Stephanie Perkins, Eileen Cook, Tara Kelly, Sarra Manning, and Jane Hamilton. I love them all for different reasons—with Gayle’s books, I get lost in her stories; Stephanie has such an entertaining writing voice; Eileen’s books make me laugh out loud; Tara’s books bring cutting and unusual characters starkly to the page, Sarra’s books fly by, often in one sitting, and Jane’s books use language in a way that makes me want to write better books. That’s just to name a few…

What inspires your ideas? How do you come up with them?

My ideas come from everywhere, but here are a couple of examples: With Never Enough, it actually started as an exploration of eating disorders. At the time I was living with a girl who struggled with a severe eating disorder, and I really wanted to know how to help her, as often I felt like any comment at all that I made to her ended up sending her into a tailspin.

never enough

On the lighter side, my novel Foreign Exchanges was born of an idea as I was watching the moving Life As We Know It. I was intrigued by the idea of a responsible girl having to team up with a player of a guy in order to overcome a serious obstacle. My story is, of course, much different than the movie, but that’s where I found the initial seed.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently writing my first series. It’s exciting and a little scary, but I’m a good ways into it and loving the characters. It’s about a girl trying to confirm her own mental stability, while helping the rest of her unstable family, and the guy she falls for, a musician who’s realizing all his musical dreams come at a high price.

What does a typical writing day look like for you/what is your process?

Gosh, I wish I had anything typical in my life! In my dream day, I would write for a couple of hours before I had to speak or interact with anyone else. Then I’d spend some time homeschooling my son, hopefully get to the gym, and deal with business-y stuff in the afternoon.

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?

This is always a tough one for me, because I’m VERY behind when it comes to pop culture, and so anyone I might mention may have been a teenager in the eighties. Most of your readers would probably be saying Whaaaat? Who the heck is that? However, there is one more modern actor I do know of who would kind of suit one of my books. I’ve always thought a young Kat Dennings would make a perfect Loann in Never Enough, and I have written a screenplay version of Losing Faith, so I would love to see that on the screen one day!

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned on your writing journey so far?

The biggest lesson, by far, is not to compare my journey with anyone else’s. At first, I thought I’d be happy if I just got an agent’s interest, and compared myself to every agented author out there. Then it was about the sale. After that, I found myself comparing reviews, foreign sales, movie rights. The list goes on and on. I came to realize that every writer’s journey really is unique, and that comparing only made me enjoy the process much less. Now I rarely think about what others are doing, unless it affects me, and I can be truly happy for my writer friends when they find success, without making any silly comparisons. At least most of the time. 😉

What advice do you have for aspiring writers about writing? What about the process of trying to get published?

First of all, as I mentioned above, try to stop comparisons with other writers. Besides that, I’d say to read a lot and take notice of what you love in books and what you don’t. Write a lot. Don’t be concerned with what the market is doing while you’re trying to be creative. Stockpile books and you will have something appropriate for the market in any season.

Anything else you would like to add or talk about?

Normally I can rattle on about all sorts of things, but I’m in the midst of drafting a new NaNoWriMo novel, and so trying to expend most of my words on that. But thank you for the interview and the great questions!

Thank you so much Denise! Where can people find out more about you and your books?


Online at: I’m on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, Pinterest, Tumblr, pretty much everywhere under denisejaden.

Thanks, Kelly! Great questions!!

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