Saturday, April 7, 2012

Author Interview: Melissa Jensen

Hello everyone! Remember me saying that I'll be having a lovely author by in my little bookworm corner soon? Well here she is! Author of Falling in Love with English Boys and one of the most anticipated YA contemporary romance books of the year, The Fine Art of Truth or Dare - Melissa Jensen!
Welcome miss Melissa! Thank you for accommodating my request for an interview!

Bookworm Mia: Hi Melissa! Thank you for your time, I'll start with my questions.

We all love your goodreads profile, which begs the question, have you ever made your husband wear his Darcy costume and recite some lines for you? Which line would that be?

Melissa Jensen: I can't even get my husband to wear the cashmere sweaters I've bought him. Actually, I don't try too hard. He's a fleece-and-jeans kinda guys and he's pretty hot in his fleece and jeans. He pretty deliberately lost his Irish accent when he left Ireland (sad, I know, right?), but he can still put on the Celt with the best of them. I can tell you that the actual, exact moment I fell in love with him was when he read a Robert Burns poem to me with a Scottish brogue. Like, I thought, "Oh. Well. There I go." 

BM: I love the cover! Were you involved in its conceptualization? 

Melissa Jensen: As I was finishing the book, I had this image in my head of a girl and boy sitting on one of the low brick walls we have in the historic sections of Philadelphia. Only, the top half of their bodies would be replaced by an old Master painting of a pair of lovers. When my editor asked if I had any ideas for the cover, I did a mock-up on (one of my very fave websites—like paperdolls for grown-ups) and sent it to her. She gave it to the Penguin art department and they took it from there. I love the cover. 

BM: It looks utterly perfect! Any unique routine that gets you in the mood for writing?

Melissa Jensen: Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Especially on the days when I just want to sklathe on my bed with a few pillows and "Project Runway" on my laptop. So, coffee. Followed by reminding myself that I could be a meter-reader, that I really really love my job.

BM: Ella revealed why they play Truth or Dare but how did the idea of making the characters play the game come to you?

Melissa Jensen: When I was imagining Ella, I found myself creating a character who was terrified of lots of things (ferris wheels, sharks, rusty nails, being alone and being with someone) but just as determined to get past those fears and live whole-heartedly. What better small step--and her truly awesome friends are all about helping her take steps-- than Truth or Dare? I haven't played ToD in a while, but I was a summer camp counselor and boarding school kid. ToD is a staple of both. I remember some crazy amazing dares and a few uncomfortable home truths. I was incredibly fortunate to have truly awesome friends when I as sixteen, too.

BM: If Edward magically appears after Ella and Alex have gotten to know each other better would he have a chance at winning Ella's heart? 

Melissa Jensen:  I gotta give this one to Alex. As obsessed as Ella is with Edward and his art, as great as Edward is, there are a couple of truths about him (other than the "He's dead" one) that would get in the way. 
1. He's too old for her. She's happy to admire, even crush a little--or a lot-- on an older guy, but Ella is sixteen. She would draw the line at eighteen or nineteen. Edward's a lot older than that. Like enough-years-for-it-to-be-icky older.
2. He has seriously boring taste in reading material. He owns books about moss. Wouldn't have a clue who Sherman Alexie is. Would probably respond to "Katniss" with "God bless you" and the offer of a handkerchief.
3. He's a one-woman guy. And he's taken--by a woman who actually deserves him. Again, Ella might crush, even hope and wish on a star or loose eyelash or two, but she would never snog a guy who has a girlfriend. She's better than that, and knows better than to think a guy who juggles is anything other than a bad idea.

So, Alex. Seventeen, a fan of Shaun Tan and Neil Gaiman, and a pretty decent guy. Not above temptation, but pretty decent nonetheless.

BM: *laughs* still a handkerchief is needed when wiping tears from ones eyes due to too much laughing, maybe the question should have been "magically appears as a student in Willing". So going back to Alex and Ella, name three things why they are a perfect match.

Melissa Jensen: 
1. They both like Japanese woodblock prints, embarrassing music from the 70s, and the lighthouse at Barnegat Light, New Jersey.
2. She's failing French; he's fluent. And a good tutor.
3. Ella is terrified to let people see her-- really see her. Alex does. 

BM: Were there any difficulties that you encountered in writing the book then getting it published? Any message for aspiring writers out there that would keep them going if they encounter the same roadblocks?

Melissa Jensen: 
I was incredibly lucky to have had the terrific support of my editor (Jennifer Bonnell at Penguin) with this book. She was behind Ella all the way. It was a really pleasurable book to write and the editorial/publishing experience was wonderfully easy. My advice to aspiring writers... First, read. Read read read. Everything you can get your hands on in your genre and beyond. Then, finish what you start. I'm convinced that not getting to The End is second only to poor writing as the reason most people don't get published. So many writers have pieces of multiple books in their hard drives, but have never finished one. If you can write one page, about 300 words, a day, you'll have a book plus editing time within a year.