Monday, March 9, 2015


Jennifer Doktorski and I both blog over at YA Outside the Lines; I was thrilled to get a sneak peek at her forthcoming perfect-for-the-beach read, THE SUMMER AFTER YOU AND much so, I wanted to chat directly with her about the book:

I love the title. I can see fifteen-year-old me grabbing this right off the shelf. When you write, do you visualize your reader—or do you find thinking of your potential audience distracting as you draft a book?

When I write a first draft, I’m mostly thinking about the story I want to tell and the plot. I read one interview with Meg Cabot in which she said she thinks about what she’d like to have happen to her. That always stuck with me, especially when I write romantic scenes. Once I’ve got the first draft down, I think more about the potential audience on revision. My critique partners are very good about pointing out aspects of the characters or plot that wouldn’t ring true for teens.

In the traditional publishing world, the author usually isn’t in on the development of their cover. This cover is so striking, I have to ask—did you have input at any stage? Was it a surprise?

My editor, Annette Pollert, asked me what I envisioned for the cover. This is the second time I’m working with her. She edited HOW MY SUMMER WENT UP IN FLAMES and she asked for my vision of the cover then too. Both times I was surprised by how absolutely perfect the covers were. The first time I saw the cover for THE SUMMER AFTER YOU AND ME, I thought: “That’s Lucy and that’s the Jersey shore!” I love how it captures the mood of the book perfectly.

How do you write: Plotter? Pantser? Combo?

I wish I could be a plotter. I’m told by authors who have converted from being pantsers to plotters that it IS easier, but I still consider myself a pantser on first draft. It’s usually upon revision that I make notecards (large, colorful ones) or some other visual mockup of the all scenes—in order—and take a look at what’s working and what’s not.

Let’s talk local color / book settings. I’m a lifelong Ozarkian—but I’ve written of different locations (Minnesota, New York…) The setting (the Jersey Shore) factors predominantly in TSAYAM. Is the Jersey Shore a place you’ve spent time yourself? Were you or your family affected by Sandy? What moved you to choose this location?

I’ve spent time at the Jersey shore nearly every summer of my life. I lived there until I was nine, and then my family moved to northern New Jersey. But we continued to spend summers at the shore. I love the Jersey shore. I’ve traveled a lot but it’s still one of my favorite places on the planet. I chose this location for two reasons. I wanted to show people what the real Jersey shore is like because I feel it has been misrepresented. I also wanted to write about the shore’s recovery efforts in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Like everyone else in New Jersey, my family was affected by Sandy. In my hometown, which is about 30 miles from the coast, schools closed for nine days. We also have a place at the shore, which thankfully was unscathed by the hurricane, but we witnessed firsthand the devastating losses many people and businesses endured. Recovery became the theme for this novel.

Did your own past influence this book? Do you have special memories of summers at the beach? Was there a Connor in your teen years?

My past very much influences this book. I have many special memories of summers at the beach, beginning from the time I was four. Most of the places mentioned in THE SUMMER AFTER YOU AND ME are real locations that people who frequent the area will recognize—Lucky Leo’s arcade, The Sundae Times, Marucas pizza. I went to some of these places as a kid, and am now creating new memories there with my family. Sadly, there wasn’t a Connor in my teen years, but I always wished there had been. That’s where Meg Cabot’s advice comes into play! Connor is the kind of boy I wanted to date back then, and Andrew is the type I wanted to marry.

Love the name “Breakwater Burrito.” Did you ever have a job “feeding the Bennies”?

Breakwater Burrito was inspired by one of my favorite places to eat in the summer, Surf Taco. That was actually the working title for this novel. I never had a job “feeding the Bennies.” By the time I hit my teen years, I technically was a Benny!

One of my favorite recurring tidbits in the book are the short excerpts from Lucy’s thesis, “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” Such a clever way to get us further into Lucy’s mind. How’d you come up with it? Was it a happy accident? At what point did the excerpts make their way into the book—first draft? Later on?

The excerpts made their way into the book on the second and third drafts. At first Lucy was working on a more traditional high school English paper involving famous, tragic lovers, like Romeo and Juliet and Tristan and Iseult. She was also keeping notes about animal life in a field journal. My critique partner, Jennifer Ann Mann (she writes the Sunny Sweet middle grade series), and agent Kerry Sparks get the credit for suggesting I merge these ideas and make the excerpts reflect Lucy’s interest in science and her desire to become a marine biologist.

Do you feel too many times that we settle for an Andrew rather than hold out for a Connor?

Hmm. Well, growing up I always talked about the concept of “big love.” My sister gave a lovely toast at my wedding telling all 250 guests how I was never the type to settle. That being said, I think you can have big love with a Connor or an Andrew, it all depends on the girl and the timing.

What’s your writing schedule—early bird / night owl? To music? Need silence? Any tricks (lucky hats, special pens, four-legged writing partners) that help you power through a draft?

I used to be a night owl, but now that I’m a mom, I’m an early bird. I get most of my writing done in the morning and early afternoon, while school is in session. For my YA novels, I make playlists that I either listen to while writing or running. Music inspires my scenes. Right now, I’m working on a middle grade series and for that I’ve noticed that I prefer to write in silence or with some kind of white noise, like the running of the dishwasher. Buffy, our fox terrier, is my writing partner. Or at least she thinks she is. She shows up every morning to sit beside me. She’s a bit bossy though, so now she has her own chair.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the first book in my middle grade series and then it will be on to the next YA, which I’ve been calling a post-dystopic novel. You know, when everything is back to normal?

You had me at "post-dystopic." Seriously. Catch up with Jen at her site, snag a copy of THE SUMMER AFTER YOU AND ME, or add the book to your Goodreads shelf. And DON'T FORGET TO ENTER JEN'S COUNTDOWN TO SUMMER GIVEAWAY!

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