Sweet Sixteener Tobie Easton recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Jennifer Latham about her debut YA mystery/detective novel, SCARLETT UNDERCOVER (May 19, 2015 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers).
Jennifer Latham has had some really normal jobs and some really weird ones, including school psychologist, middle school teacher, yoga instructor, and autopsy assistant. She was born in New York City and currently lives with her husband and two daughters in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Scarlett Undercover is her debut novel.
Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic fifteen-year-old, ready to take on crime in her hometown. When Scarlett agrees to investigate a local boy’s suicide, she figures she’s in for an easy case and a quick buck. But it doesn’t take long for suicide to start looking a lot like murder. As Scarlett finds herself deep in a world of cults, curses, and the seemingly supernatural, she discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks…and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder. Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.
Tobie: Hi, Jennifer! We all can’t wait to hear more about your novel. While it’s tough to choose, my favorite aspect of SCARLETT UNDERCOVER has to be Scarlett’s voice. Somehow, she manages to sound like both a jaded, noir detective and a gutsy, slightly lost fifteen-year-old girl. That unique combination drew me right in. How did you develop Scarlett as a character and how did you first conceive of her voice? Did she change at all during the revision process?
Jennifer: You know, one of the most consistent things about my various revisions to this book was Scarlett’s voice. She came out loud and clear from the very first time I sat down in front of my laptop to write her! Honestly, her character is straight-up hardboiled, stolen from the pages of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Their detectives – Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe in particular – were jaded, gutsy, and a little lost themselves. Physically, Scarlett resembles a little girl I saw at the Tulsa state fair. But voice-wise, she’s pure hardboiled!
Tobie: I’m so excited for SCARLETT UNDERCOVER to hit shelves! Can you tell us how that came about? How did you get your agent, and what was your submission process like?
Jennifer: I’ve been working with my wonderful agent, Rachel Orr, for about seven years. She used to be an editor, and is great at helping me polish manuscripts up for submission. She’s at Prospect Agency, and happily, after I’d queried another agent there and she didn’t respond after a few months, I met someone who knew Rachel. He asked her to read my submission, she did, and here we are! Scarlett is the third full manuscript we’ve worked on together. The other two are still on my computer, waiting for a home. Scarlett’s a great example of, “If at first you don’t succeed…”
Tobie: That certainly is motivating. In this novel, you’ve introduced readers to a diverse cast of characters (that are, in my opinion, all beautifully realized). As a Caucasian writer, have you faced any criticism or other challenges because of your choice to embrace different races and cultures in your writing?
Jennifer: Nope – at least not yet. And I’m very grateful for that.
Tobie: What has surprised you about the publications process (especially post-acquisitions) and about being a published author?
Jennifer: How everything can be moving along at a glacial pace, and then BAM! There’s a deadline looming plus three extra things you didn’t realize you needed to do. I’d say its about 95% glacial, but boy, is that other 5% a ride!
Lightning Round Questions
The setting of Las Almas in SCARLETT UNDERCOVER is incredibly vivid and was one of my favorite parts of the novel. You’ve lived many places. Out of all the cities you’ve lived in, which is your favorite?
I’m a believer in making your home where you are. So…Tulsa
What was your favorite book when you were Sweet Sixteen?
JACOB HAVE I LOVED
What’s your favorite online resource for writers?
The Onion, because when you’re working, sometimes you just need a good laugh.
Name one quirky but essential aspect of your writing routine.
The more into a manuscript I am, the earlier I get up to work on it.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Turn on the coffee pot.
What’s the last thing you do before bed?
Put in my earplugs. My husband snores 🙂
Thanks, Tobie. This was fun 🙂
About the Interviewer
Tobie Easton was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where she’s grown from a little girl who dreamed about magic to a twenty-something who writes about it. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Southern California, Tobie hosts book clubs for tweens and teens. She and her very kissable boyfriend enjoy traveling the globe and fostering packs of rescue puppies. Tobie loves chocolate chip cookies and Oxford commas.
Tobie’s debut novel, EMERGE (Month9Books, 2016), chronicles the tale of seventeen-year-old Lia Nautilus. Lia may be a Mermaid, but she’s never lived in the ocean. Ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped Mer of their immortality, war has ravaged the Seven Seas. Lia is supposed to be safe in Malibu’s secret community of land-dwelling Mer. Then an evil siren brainwashes the cutest guy in school and Lia must decide whether to embrace the darker side of Mer magic to save him—by sirening him herself.