Today I have an interview with my super fabulous critique partner, Denise Jaden. Her debut novel, LOSING FAITH, comes out Tuesday from Simon Pulse!!! After the interview, you’ll have a chance to win a SIGNED COPY OF LOSING FAITH! Contest information below.
I’ve never been this excited for a book release because you see, I’ve been with this book from the very beginning. I remember when she sent me a paragraph blurb for her new book idea and asked me if I thought it would be a good project to work on. I was hooked immediately! Next came a short, 10-sentence outline of the book. Even from that I knew she’d have something good. I went on to read and critique several drafts, from the very first one that came out in a rush during Nanowrimo to reading after she’d implemented some of her editors’ comments to make sure she’d nailed them. If I can read a book multiple times and love it more each and every time, you know it’s good! I’m so thrilled she gets to share it with the world and I can’t wait to hear everyone’s reaction.
Oh and did I mention THE BOOK IS DEDICATED TO ME?!?!?!??!?!?!??!
A terrible secret. A terrible fate.
When Brie’s sister, Faith, dies suddenly, Brie’s world falls apart. As she goes through the bizarre and devastating process of mourning the sister she never understood and barely even liked, everything in her life seems to spiral farther and farther off course. Her parents are a mess, her friends don’t know how to treat her, and her perfect boyfriend suddenly seems anything but.
As Brie settles into her new normal, she encounters more questions than closure: Certain facts about the way Faith died just don’t line up. Brie soon uncovers a dark and twisted secret about Faith’s final night…a secret that puts her own life in danger.
INTERVIEW WITH DENISE JADEN:
Question 1: One thing I find interesting is that your first draft of LOSING FAITH came in at roughly 49k (per your emails) but the final draft is almost 80k. One of the reasons we work so well as crit partners is that you’re an underwriter to start and I’m a word vomiter. During an email while writing the first draft, you told me, "what descriptions??? ha ha. That’s why I end up so low on word count. My MS is mostly dialogue and IM… a few actions woven in." It’s interesting to me because I think your book has such wonderful and unique descriptions/actions. What was your revision process like to add that stuff in?
Answer: My outline and first draft are always about how things “work.” I need to make sure the plot and character relationships make sense and I usually blaze through at this point, only slowing down when I’m unsure about the logic of a scene. Later drafts move much slower for me, and I spend lots of time in the wee hours of the morning really trying to see and hear the characters and each situation they find themselves in. Even though I usually *think* I know my characters after the first draft, I really don’t know them well until at least the third or fourth drafts, and even then, with each draft I get to know/see/hear so much more.
Question 2: My favorite thing about the book is your voice. You told me while writing that you really pushed yourself on the voice. It definitely shows. How did you go about doing this? Did the voice change at all over the course of revisions?
Answer: With my first couple of novels (before Losing Faith), I just wrote when I felt like it and really let my muse drive the stories. With Losing Faith, first of all, I was strict with my writing schedule, as it was my first attempt at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – writing an entire novel in a month). It was also the first book I had outlined, and while I didn’t follow the outline to a “T,” I didn’t shy away when it took me to areas I wasn’t completely comfortable with and even on days when I didn’t feel capable of writing a certain level of emotion. I pushed myself to do it anyway, and I think I found things within myself I wouldn’t have otherwise found. It was probably the process of outlining that showed me how to create much more active characters as well.
The voice did change over time, and boy am I glad it did! The original first page is hidden on my website (it’s a bit of a treasure hunt to find it), but it’s basically just one big rant from the main character, Brie. I worked in later drafts to round Brie out and soften her problems with the people and world around her.
Question 3: Four days into writing your first draft, you told me the theme of your book is, "Just follow your fingertips. That’s turned out to be a big theme in my book actually. Brie thinks that everyone else has a Big Plan for their life. Rather than getting a big plan for hers, she’s learning to enjoy an unplanned life." Would you say that theme still remains the same? What changed over the course of your revisions in regard to your vision for the book?
Answer: I still think that having peace with where life takes you and making the best of all situations are underlying themes for the book. There are other themes that I see as stronger now too: finding out who your real friends are and valuing them; don’t take for granted the people you see every day; look deeper and really get to know people while you have the chance. I think Losing Faith is about a lot of things, but if I had to pick one line, it would be this: It’s a story about secrets, and wishing you had paid more attention.
Question 4: And in terms of plot and character, what were the larger changes you made over the course of revisions? I know I can think of a few things! I also was super impressed with the way you really amped up the characterization in revisions. It seemed to me the general plot stayed relatively the same but the characters changed a lot, gaining layers and becoming 3D. Do you have a different process for plot revisions versus characterization? How did you tackle each?
Answer: I think just the process of working through multiple drafts brought me a deeper understanding of the characters. As I made changes to the plot, I would have to spend a lot of time thinking about what the characters would really say and do in different situations.
Probably the biggest plot changes I can remember involved a larger cult-group that I had tried tying into the story. A critique partner had discussed this idea with me during earlier drafts, and I had the impression from various readers at that stage that the climax wasn’t quite impacting enough. So I tried adding in a cult group with an established adult leader. I ended up taking this subplot out during revisions with my editor, as she felt it might keep the story more focused on the teens in the story if I removed that one adult figure. Seeing the finished product now, I completely agree with the change.
Another big change plot-wise (or series of ongoing changes) was how to make the best use of Faith’s best friend, Celeste. I had a struggle with where and how to bring her into the story without giving away too much of the mystery up front. The idea of writing another book with a strong mystery element still scares me, since this was a big struggle for me in this book.
Answer: I think I was mid-way through my writing-a-novel-in-a-month mission, when I decided there was something missing. Brie had lost her sister, she was devastated and looking for answers, she’d seen this strange boy around, but hadn’t yet made contact. I started to notice how much time Brie was spending alone and I knew it was a problem and starting to affect the pace. I brainstormed about what kind of a sidekick I could bring in for Brie, and suddenly Tessa just appeared, and kind of stole the show!
Question 6: A few days into writing, you wrote this to me, "I’m deciding now whether or not to write the scene where Brie finds out her sister is dead. I didn’t have it in my outline, but now I feel so close in her perspective that it would make the reader feel left out not to have it in there. So I’ll probably write something… though I haven’t actually thought of how that scene would play out." When I went back through my emails and saw that, I nearly gasped. Because the scene where Brie finds out her sister is dead is my absolute favorite in the book. It’s so powerful and gut wrenching and the writing just shines in that passage. So I’d love to know more about the writing of that scene. The inspiration? The process? Etc?
Answer: Honestly, you’re going to be very disappointed in my answer here: I don’t remember. I really don’t.
I *think* this might mean that I was just in the zone and not really myself, and churning out the scene without even really realizing what I was doing. It has been three years though, so that may not have been it at all. I honestly don’t recall any particular inspiration though. Somehow, I just wrote it.
Oh, I do remember one small tidbit: When I came up with the visual of the Faith-like sweatshirt first at the nurse’s station in the hospital and then crumpled and dirty in her dad’s hands, that visual definitely spurred me on to write the scene.
Thanks so much, Denise, for the great interview! I love that I was able to ask you questions no one else could possibly ask! haha.
And now I get to share the book with my blog readers through a contest!
HOW TO ENTER:
In the interview above, Denise and I discussed how one of the themes of the book is that everyone but Brie has a Big Plan for life.
So in the comments, please tell me what your BIG PLAN for your life is (if you have one, that is. A plan, not a life, haha.).
You can also tweet your Big Plan by starting the tweet with "My Big Plan is" and including both @shanasilver (so I can find your entry) and the hashtag #losingfaithbook. Without these elements, the entry won’t count because I won’t be able to track it.
Each separate comment and each separate tweet will count as an entry. Enter as many times as you want.
– Please tally all your points into a comment and provide links when necessary (or include @shanasilver on twitter so I see it there and then just include your twitter name in your comment so I can tally it to you).
– This contest is open only to US and Canada residents
– Contest ends Tuesday September 7th at 11:59pm EST.