Welcome to yet another author interview, this time with Jennifer Bradbury! She's the author of the truly fabulous SHIFT. As with everything else on this website, the interview is more about the writing aspect of things. So let's hear what she has to say!
Tell us about your book.
SHIFT explores what happens after two best friends go on a cross-country bike trip and only one returns.
What was the inspiration behind your idea?
My husband and his best friend took a cross-country trip after they graduated high school. And then for our honeymoon, my husband and I rode from SC to CA. The book grew out of searching for something to hang the anecdotes and funny stories from the trip on, but once I found the characters and conflict, those elements sort of took over.
Did you need to research bicycle touring, or did you already know enough about it?
The cross-country trip we did taught me most of what I needed to know, but my husband was always around for technical consulting.
How many drafts did you go through?
Hmm. . . Before I sold the book I rewrote it three times. And then my editor and I went through a couple more good rounds. Interestingly enough, the book grew from about 40,000 words in the draft that sold to about 58,000 in the final.
How long did it take to find your editor? Your agent?
I'd queried my agent earlier on another manuscript that she ended up rejecting after a round of revisions. Even though she didn't feel like that book was one she wanted, she was really encouraging and gave me a lot to think about. So when SHIFT was ready, I came back and tried her again. She had it about six weeks before calling to offer representation, and then sold it within a week to Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum.
How do you get to know your characters?
I'm finding it varies from book to book. With Chris and Win, it was very much getting to know them as I went along on the journey with them. And they suprised me a lot. But with the book I'm about to start drafting, I've been trying to just write several pages about each character, doing snippets in their voices. And its really eye opening--I hope it ends up being effective.
What was your favorite part of writing this book? Least favorite?
I love the mechanical nature of the story, and how it sort of reflects the way a bicycle operates. It was really satisfying to make the plot and all the back and forth stuff mesh together. And my least favorite? Can I say copyediting? Because it was painful to read it again that way and we still missed stuff.
How does it feel to have your first book on the shelves?
Great! And terrifying--but that part's fading a bit.
How did you get in to writing for kids?
I hadn't read much YA before I started teaching high school. So in my first couple of years, I had a lot of catching up to do in order to have ready reading recommendations for my students. So over a few years, I read hundreds of YA novels. And pretty soon I had this sort of itch to try it. I came across a quote by Donald Graves when I was doing my thesis for my MA that talked about his reason for writing. He likened it to watching baseball played so incredibly well that you find yourself so inspired that you can't help but want to jump in there and play yourself. This sort of captures how I fell into writing.
What are you working on now?
Too many things! I'm on revisions for my second book (2011), preoccupied thinking about the revisions on the two after that one (2012 and 2013), and doing some character work on a brand new book.
Do you work on one project at a time, or multiple?
I used to stay really focused on just one at a time. But I find myself fragmenting lately. :)
Are you a planner, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Planner! I love to map out where things are going in pretty specific detail. It helps me commit to the book before I start the actual draft. But there are always surprises along the way.
What does your writing space look like?
We've got a room in our house that is sort of a converted garage. Before we had our daughter, we never even used the space, except for storage and a place to paint a table or something. But now part of its cordoned off for our offices, and the rest of it is the playroom/den. At the moment, I'm sitting in the recliner where most of my writing happens. To my right is my daughter's plastic kitchen. At my feet, is a coffee table, with a wooden train set, and across the room is the castle--complete with the my little pony unicorn my sister just sent as a birthday present for my daughter. It frightens me.
Thanks, Jen, for taking the time to share all this great info with us! Looking forward to future books... :)
If you'd like to see more of what Ms. Bradbury is up to, check out her website at Jennifer-Bradbury.com. To read my raving review of SHIFT, go here. For a chance to win a copy of SHIFT, go here. The contest ends April 25th, so good luck!