Author Interview: Jackson Pearce on the 2009 Debutantes

Jackson Pearce on Jackson Pearce: “Jackson Pearce is twenty-four years old and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with a slightly cross-eyed cat and a lot of secondhand furniture. She recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in English and a minor in Philosophy. She auditioned for the circus once, but didn’t make it; other jobs she’s had include obituaries writer, biker bar waitress, and receptionist. In addition, Jackson coaches both colorguard and winterguard at a local high school.

“Jackson began writing when she got angry that the school librarian couldn’t tell her of a book that contained a smart girl, horses, baby animals, and magic. Her solution was to write the book herself when she was twelve. Her parents thought it was cute at first, but have grown steadily more concerned for her ever since.”

Congratulations on your debut novel! Could you tell us a little about it?

As You Wish (HarperCollins, fall 2009) is an urban fantasy about a teenage girl and the jinn granting her three wishes who fall in starcrossed-love with one another. It’s told in alternating points of view and is loosely based on Shakespeare‘s The Tempest.

When did you find out about your first sale? What happened? How did you celebrate?

I found out that someone offered on the book while driving to a colorguard rehearsal; I pulled off to the side of I-85, angering many a driver behind me.

After a few more offers came in and I decided to go with HarperCollins, I called and told my grandfather first. He thought I was joking; it took several minutes for me to convince him that there was no punchline. I actually recorded the phone call.

What else should we know about your writing life?

About my writing life? Hm, that’s tough. I’m focusing on YA and MG literature right now, I outline like a crazy person, and I sometimes I get so excited about a scene that I end up mistyping everything in my frantic attempts to get it down. I’ve started doing writing-related videos for YouTube and blog like it’s going out of style (not sure if that’s a good thing or not…).

What about being a near-debut author has surprised you the most?

How everything changes–and everything stays the same. I thought a sweeping sense of “Wow, everything is great and shiny!” would rain down on me after I sold my debut.

While I am very, very happy and excited, I still worry– just about new, different things: will I meet my deadlines, will they buy another book, will I like my cover, am I a flash in the pan?

I think selling a book really grounds you. Once you’ve realized that you aren’t guaranteed to spend the rest of your life walking on sunshine, you really begin to focus on the craft of writing and how you can improve at it.

You’re involved in the 2009 Debutantes: A Feast of Awesome! Could you tell us a little about the group?

The Debutantes are a group of YA and MG authors with books debuting in 2009. We’re not a marketing group, but rather a social group. We talk about all sorts of stuff– writing and editing and the process, but also what candy we like and what we saw on sale at the grocery store and….

All that said, we do have giveaways and contests going on– it’s hard to hang around with a bunch of like minded people and not want to make goodie bags, it seems.

What is your specific role?

I started the Debs community and mostly oversee initiating and setting up new members, site design, and general organizational type stuff. That said, I wouldn’t say I truly have a specific role; no one does. We have no officers, no dues, and no pecking order.

If you have an idea, you pretty much just post “Hey, what if we did XYZ?” and people chime in, offer to help, etc. No one is required to participate in anything, and if you need to take a month or two off for your personal life, you’ll be welcomed back with open arms.

We’ve really established a personal, community-type feel, I think in part because of our primary focus on being a social group with marketing serving as a side perk instead of the other way around.

How did the Debs come together?

We started with about 10-15 people, and now have almost 50. I was certain the number of membership requests would cool down as we got closer to 2009, but via word of mouth we’ve grown fairly steadily.

Who are your members?

A list of our members– and their relevant book/contact info– is available here.

Could you tell us a little about their works, highlighting as you see fit?

We really span the spectrum of the YA/MG genres. We have everything from lit fic (Secrets of Truth and Beauty by Megan Frazer (Hyperion, 2009)), chick lit (The Espressologist by Kristina Springer (FSG, 2009)), urban fantasy (Wings by Aprilynne Pike (HarperCollins, 2009)), historicals (The Season by Sarah MacLean (Orchard Books, 2009)), fantasy (Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink (Little, Brown 2009)), paranormals (Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell (Delacorte 2009)), boy books (Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta, Knopf 2009 )– the whole nine yards. [Note: some links require LJ log in; see also master list.]

The Debs have authors from big houses, little houses, and everything in between. We’ve been doing an ARC swap where everyone sends their ARC around to the rest of the group one by one (each person signs and writes in the ARC, so it comes back to it’s owner like a big Debs yearbook), and I haven’t read a single disappointment. Seriously–there are way to many phenomenal Debs-penned books for me to find “highlighting” anything but a daunting task.

What plans does the group have for 2009?

In 2009, we’re likely to be doing quite a few giveaways, donating to reading-related charities, and trying to connect with other writers, readers, and community watchers via topic discussions, critiques, and reviews.

But, in true Debs style, we’re also likely to be cheering each other on, shamelessly promoting other Debs’ books, and continuing to talk about life, writing, and candy.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

I didn’t feel right answering this alone, so I asked a few other Debs to chime in:

Jackson Pearce (As You Wish (Harper Collins, 2009)): Keep going– everything you put in the scrap heap is practice for a masterpiece.

Mandy Hubbard (Prada and Prejudice (Razorbill, 2009)): A published author is an amateur who didn’t quit. Don’t quit.

Rhonda Stapleton (Stupid Cupid (Simon Pulse, 2009)): Read, read, read–and when you’re done, read more.

Cheryl Renee Herbsman (Breathing (Viking, 2009)): [Don’t] try to control the form the writing wants to take…let go and let it be what it wants to be.

Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Delacorte, 2009)): Keep writing — that’s what it takes. Also, when writing, skip the boring parts.