Sweet Sixteener Janet Taylor recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Jenny Martin about her YA science fiction novel, TRACKED (May 5, 2015 from Dial/Penguin).
Jenny Martin is a librarian, a book monster, and a certified Beatle-maniac. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son, where she hoards books and regularly blisses out over all kinds of live and recorded rock.
She loves to connect with readers and writers (and anyone else) who loves music and words (and anything delicious). Jenny is also an experienced speaker, panelist and presenter who’s appeared at many state and regional conferences, events and festivals.
The Fast and the Furious gets a sci-fi twist in this action-packed debut!
On corporately controlled Castra, rally racing is a high stakes game that seventeen-year-old Phoebe Van Zant knows all too well. Phee’s legendary racer father disappeared mysteriously, but that hasn’t stopped her from speeding headlong into trouble. When she and her best friend, Bear, attract the attention of Charles Benroyal, they are blackmailed into racing for Benroyal Corp, a company that represents everything Phee detests. Worse, Phee risks losing Bear as she falls for Cash, her charming new teammate. But when she discovers that Benroyal is controlling more than a corporation, Phee realizes she has a much bigger role in Castra’s future than she could ever have imagined. It’s up to Phee to take Benroyal down. But even with the help of her team, can a street-rat destroy an empire?
I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at this rocking, roller-coaster of a debut. And let me tell you…you will NOT be able to put it down. GRAB THIS QUICK! And prepare yourself for a helluva good time.
And…I just want to add, that Jenny Martin is one of the coolest, kindest, smartest chicks I’ve ever met.
Janet: TRACKED is your debut novel. Can you tell us how that came about? How did you meet your agent, and how did your submission process go?
Jenny: Sure. Tracked is my debut, but it’s definitely not my first novel. I’ve written a few others. Sheepishly, I must admit…they are awful. But they were good practice, so I’m glad I wrote them. They helped me hone my skills, and in the end, they prepared me to write Tracked. As for my agent, Sara Crowe, I met her the old fashioned way, through a cold query. No connections, no referral.
Sara is amazing, and we worked together for a long time before selling Tracked. Through it all, she never lost faith in me, even when we had to set aside more than one project. Even with Tracked, the submission process was not a quick one, and before it sold, we faced quite a few obstacles. I think this one of the many, many reasons I appreciate Sara so much. The right agent is everything.
Janet: What would you tell other writers out there, who are still struggling to get to publication?
Jenny: Oh my. There is so much I want to say, because I have been there. Really. I know what it feels like to struggle, and want to give up. I know what it feels like to get your hopes up and then face yet another setback or rejection. So my advice is this: Keep reading. Keep writing. Repeat. For as long as it takes.
The answer to every setback is always: write another book. Project not working? Write another book. Project not getting any requests? Getting rejected all over town? Write another book. Lose your first agent? Was your book deal canceled or your series cut short? Write another book.
And as my friend Alex always says, all you need to succeed is two of these three things: Talent, Luck, and Persistence. So even if you can’t catch a break, keep trying to hone your craft and hang in there.
Finally, for those of you who are right there, right on the edge of giving up your writing dreams: Listen to me. Don’t you dare quit. As long as you love the act of writing, and as long as telling stories feeds your spirit, do not stop. As for publishing, so much of this business is completely out of your control, and to make it, and keep making it, you have to be determined and resilient. Every time a setback or rejection knocks you on the mat (because they totally will), you’ve got to get right back up and answer the bell. Take time to mourn bad luck, and take time to be good to yourself, but always, always, always get back up and keep going.
Janet: How did you come up with the idea for TRACKED, and when did you know it was “the one”?
Jenny: A lifetime of watching space opera and action movies sure helped. That planted the seeds for TRACKED. I’ve always loved far flung adventure stories, and I have a soft spot for smart-mouthed rogues like Han Solo. In addition, I grew up in Oklahoma, and in school, we studied the breakneck land rushes and claims-staking runs for homesteads on the new frontier. So it wasn’t hard to imagine something similar happening in the future, millions of light-years away. I pictured a new world, one colonized by corporations and interstellar pioneers. And the final inspirations for Tracked came from two very different places. I’d recently watched two things on TV: Death Race with Jason Statham and the documentary, Hot Coffee, an eye-opening look at forced arbitration, the legalese of corporate contracts, and the slow erosion of civil rights. From there, I thought…what if the story were different? What if not only were these things happening on another planet, but what if the roles of Han Solo-like rogue and princess were switched? From there, Tracked‘s plot hit me like a fever.
Hmm, how did I know TRACKED was ‘the one’? To be painfully honest, my heroine, Phee, came to me during one of the lowest, most doubt-filled valleys of my career. Talk about getting knocked to the mat. I was ready to give up writing for good, when the inspiration for her story hit. And writing Phee changed me. Through her, and by channeling her fearlessness and ferocity, I was able to push through a lot self-doubt and timidity. I’d never enjoyed drafting a book so much. I think I knew, because her spark was so strong. Frankly, I owe this imaginary girl a lot. 😉
Janet: Your main character, a fiercely “driven” race-car driver named Phoebe Van Zant, is wracked with ‘the need for speed’. How are you like/unlike Phee?
Jenny: This is a tough one. Mostly, Phee is everything I’m not. I’ve certainly never blasted through folded space, or blazed down a track. Truth be told, I’m as fearful as they come, and I tend to second-guess myself at every turn. As for obstacles, while Phee blasts through them…I stumble over them. I crash and burn. Wreck and roll. Every time.
But…I also know how to get back up. I know how to put a book aside, when it’s clunky and terrible. I know how to pin a hundred rejections to the wall of my heart, and still keep clacking the keys. I know how to begin again, after failing for the hundredth billion time. Put it that way, and I guess you could say, like Phee, I know how to climb out of a spectacular wreck. 😉
Lightning Round Questions
Pantser or Plotter?
Both! Usually, I free associate a lot and write down lots of notes when I start a project. But it’s not really an outline. It’s more like a messy blob of ideas that changes over time. I just keep writing and keep thinking about what’s ahead. I usually know the major plot points, but not always.
What was your favorite book when you were sixteen?
Wuthering Heights. Ugh. I know. I can’t help it. I have a weird fascination with dysfunctional relationships, and I was so into that book junior year.
What three people (alive, fictional, or from history) would you invite to a dinner party?
Phee, so I could thank her helping me get through a rough patch in my life. Neil Gaiman, so I could thank him for his life’s work. And Dave Grohl, so I could thank him for the distortion
Robot revolution or zombie apocalypse?
Robot revolution. Definitely. Because robots.
About the Interviewer:
Janet B Taylor lives in such a small town in Arkansas that if you happen to sneeze when you pass by, you’ll totally miss it. (Cause, you know, you can’t sneeze with your eyes open. For real–try it–it’s impossible.)
Her debut novel, INTO THE DIM (HMH, Spring 2016), described as an Outlander for teens, chronicles the tale of 16 year old Hope, who must travel back in time to the brutal, medieval world of the 12th century to rescue her mom.
Janet is a reader/fangirl first and a writer second. She lives with her fantastic husband, two hilarious sons, and Dorda the diabetic dog who won’t win any beauty contests, but has a “nice personality”. Janet would think you’re the coolest thing since AC if you’d like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or Tumblr, or visit her web site. And if you felt like adding INTO THE DIM to Goodreads, she might come over to your house and do cart-wheels on your front lawn.