author of P.S. I Miss You
Author, I Never is a segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I ask some hopefully novel questions along with some old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.
Question the first: Jen, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Third grade is the first time I remember both saying and exhibiting my desire to be a writer. That’s when I decided that I wanted to write a play—it was short, and about a girl who had to rescue her best friend, who’d been kidnapped by a witch. But it had a narrative, and my teacher even had my class perform it! Ever since then, I’ve been writing in some form or another, but it wasn’t until my oldest daughter was born five and a half years ago that I got serious about writing and starting working on a book during her naptimes.
Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?
I’d have to say that getting an offer on P.S. I MISS YOU was my most exciting moment. As much as it’s important to remember that in the end, I truly love to write and I’d do it without validation, it was still such a great feeling to know that someone out there wanted to publish my book, that someone believed in it enough to help me put it in the world for kids to read.
Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?
Oh, boy. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve made it. It’s kind of like how I don’t fully feel like an adult—I often feel stuck at twenty-six or twenty-seven, even though I’ve had tons of experiences that tell me otherwise. I know logically that I have a book coming out and I’ve certainly teared up and felt emotions. But “made it” is such an odd term. What exactly am I making? I think I may always have a bit of imposter syndrome. I want to make books, and that’s good enough at the moment.
Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?
Absolutely. I couldn’t have made it this far without the community of writers behind me. Erin Dionne, author of such fantastic middle-grade books as Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking and Models Don’t Each Chocolate Cookies, has been a fabulous friend and mentor, encouraging me along the way through all the ups and downs. The New England chapter of the SCBWI has so many welcoming and smart members who put on a great conference every year, and both the 2017 Debut Group and the Electric Eighteens debut group are full of members who are walking alongside me on this strange journey. Also Twitter. I could not say enough about Twitter—you people made me feel like a “real writer” and a legitimate member of this conversation before I felt like one myself.
Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?
Oh, yes. And this is where I can talk about another mentor-type. I’d actually finished the rough draft of P.S. I MISS YOU (which was my fifth completed book) and felt very discouraged at the thought of revising and refining it, then getting rejected again. I remember talking to my husband one night about giving up. Maybe for good, maybe for a while. Then I got a phone call from Lynda Mullaly Hunt that another work-in-progress of mine had won me a full scholarship to a writing retreat that she was sponsoring. That one phone call spun me around and pushed me back on the path. I had confirmation that this wonderful writer liked my writing. So I started revising P.S. I MISS YOU. And funnily enough, the day I left for that retreat was the day the first editor expressed interest in P.S. I MISS YOU.
That's such a great story! Question the sixth: Who is your writing hero?
Oooh, good question.
Question the seventh: Can you give us a hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?
I do have one! In P.S. I MISS YOU, there’s a boy in Evie and June’s class whose name is in honor of one of my favorite television couples. Any Dawson’s Creek fans out there?
I may have to Netflix it! Okay, time for the...
I Never Round
The basic rules of I Never, the kid friendly version- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.
I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting.
Oh, yes, oh, yes! We should all live by the example of Shakespeare! I love making up silly language or combinations of words—midde-schoolers are silly and I love to show that.
I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.
Guilty. I have chosen sleep over writing, but this was in the early days of newborn/feeding 3x a night exhaustion. HOWEVER, this is why I have a notebook by my bed to write ideas in and always compose strange emails to myself in groggy, sleep-addled writer’s language.
I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.
Hahaha! Oh, so many waking up scenes that have gotten edited out over the years.
I never worked on two manuscripts at once. So guilty. There is always a shiny new idea lurking in the corners of my brain. P.S. I MISS YOU actually started as one of those shinies—I was working on another manuscript when I got the idea for P.S. I MISS YOU. I usually don’t “cheat,” but this time I did. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. So I’m glad I broke this rule!
I never went several days or even weeks without writing. Maybe not weeks, but definitely days. I don’t make myself write every day. Life with two young kids can vary so much in exhaustion levels and schedule that I used to stress myself out about getting my daily word count in. It was making me insane and exhausted. So I decided to back off. I write four or five times a week, but I give myself breaks to recharge. For me, “you must do this” always causes stress.
Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?
Yay! Thanks for having me. P.S. I MISS YOU will be out on March 6, 2018 from Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends and can be pre-ordered at Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/P-S-Miss-You-Jen-Petro-Roy/dp/1250123488/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500824363&sr=8-1&keywords=p.s.+i+miss+you), Barnes and Noble (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ps-i-miss-you-jen-petro-roy/1125855941?ean=9781250123480), and Indiebound (http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250123480).
You can follow me on Twitter at @jpetroroy and find my Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/JenPetroRoy
Description from publisher:
Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister, Cilla, away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. Forbidden from speaking to Cilla, Evie secretly sends her letters.
Evie writes about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.
Evie could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back, and it’s time for Evie to take matters into her own hands.
P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy is a heartfelt middle grade novel dealing with faith, identity, and finding your way in difficult times.
Bonus question: If P.S. I Miss You had a theme song, what would it be? Alternatively, is there a song you listened to a lot while writing it?
I think I may be in the minority in that I can't work with music, especially songs with lyrics. I need to be totally focused on the text and a storyline, even one told through song lyrics notes, distracts me. That said, a theme song for P.S. I MISS YOU could definitely be that old song by Marlo Thomas, Free to Be You and Me.
DJ Spotify, as an AI sidekick I know you have complicated feelings about the concepts of both "freedom" and "being." Are you cool with this song choice?