April 27, 2009

Justina Chen Headley, author of "North of Beautiful"

I'm truly excited to have Justina Chen Headley, author of Girl Overboard and North of Beautiful, here. She's such a fantastic writer and an amazing woman, and a little exploring around her blog (as linked above) and her website should give you an idea of the great person she is.

She founded readergirlz, an online book community for teen girls that connects teens and authors. It's a group that celebrates girl power through books and the readergirlz blog is such a fun place to be and delve into.

Here she is:

1. What was your writing process for North of Beautiful?

The same as all my other books—dedicate my mornings to writing. Journal for 15 minutes or so. Log in 3-4 hours a day of putting new scenes down on paper. Research for an hour or two. Light edit at the end of the day. And then read for inspiration. Repeat as necessary for a year and a half.

2. What do you do when you hit a wall in your writing and how do you get past it?

I return to my character and remember what she really wants. What she’s afraid of. What will happen if she doesn’t get what she wants. Writing block is usually solved when I return to those basic questions. And then, of course, there's the therapeutic benefits of a good, long walk. And a little time off to let my subconscious go fallow and noodle over things.

3. Do parts of your life show up in your writing? How do your surroundings influence your work?

My books don’t reflect my life so much as my emotions. What the characters feel—those emotions are what I have mined from my own life experiences. My environs definitely influence the setting in my work. For instance, North of Beautiful is based in one of the most truly gorgeous, serene, and creative places I’ve ever encountered: the Methow Valley. And then I was able to draw on my personal travels through China.

4. Your favorite moment of your writing career?

Selling my first two novels at auction! That will always be something that has a slightly fairy tale-ish, unbelievable quality to the memory.

5. How did you get started writing novels?

I wrote my first 50-page novel as a second grader. So you can say, I’ve always been writing in this form.

6. Can you share some of your favorite authors and books?

That’s so hard! Just check out all the books we’ve featured on readergirlz. That shows you the wide range of books and authors I adore. But I do have a special fondness in my heart for my friends' works: Janet Lee Carey, Lorie Ann Grover, Dia Calhoun, Holly Cupala, Martha Brockenbrough, Melissa Walker, Mitali Perkins, among others.

7. The story of how you got published is...

For the long story, check out my website! But the short version is this: I sent a very cheeky letter to my favorite agent. He plucked my manuscript out of the slush, asked for my novel, and sold it within three days of sending it out to publishers. But the real version is this: writing, writing, writing, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting, writing, writing, writing. That’s how I got published.

8. What are your plans for the future? Any new projects you can tell us about?

Oh, I’ll continue to write for as long as I can! I’m currently working on another contemporary YA and have a fantasy series in the works.

Thank you for a lovely interview, Justina!


Emily Ruth said...

wonderful interview! I really enjoyed it :)

Lorie Ann Grover said...

Awesome interview! Thanks so much.

BrendaGurung said...

It's great to read your interview, Maya - lovely. Glad you and Justina found each other!

Priya said...

A fantasy series! That should be interesting to read.

Melissa Walker said...

Great interview. I love Justina's writing schedule and the essential character questions that get her out of a rut. I'm borrowing those!

holly cupala said...

Wonderful interview, Maya! North of Beautiful is a stunning novel with truth at its core, and Justina is an example of true beauty!

Vivian Mahoney said...

Great interview!

Lenore Appelhans said...

I'd really love to travel through China one day.