Career Builder & Giveaway: Julie Anne Peters

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Julie Anne Peters is the author of 18 books for young adults and children, plus short stories in anthologies, and she looks forward to a new novel to be released in 2014.)

Her YA novel, Luna, was a National Book Award finalist, a Colorado Book Award winner, and an American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults.

Her other books include Define “Normal,” Keeping You a Secret, Between Mom and Jo, Rage: A Love Story, By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead, and She Loves You, She Loves You Not. Her newest YA novel is, It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It). Julie is published by Hyperion, Knopf, and Little, Brown.

Julie is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, PEN America, the Authors Guild, and the Colorado Authors’ League. She lives in Wheat Ridge, Colorado with her partner, Sherri Leggett. 

How have you grown as a writer? What skills have you seen improve over time? What did you do to reach new levels? What are areas that still flummox you?

I study the techniques of storytelling by reading a variety of writers in all genres of books.

Whimsy has only a stump for back legs but climbs like a pro.

Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t read fantasy. Enough of my critique group members write fantasy that I feel I do my part by critiquing their work.

I’ve subscribed to The Writer magazine from the day I decided to try my hand at writing. Their how-to articles have been extremely helpful, and reading about the journeys of other writers gives me inspiration to keep going.

With every new book, I challenge myself to incorporate a new storytelling method or technique. For example, I’d never used flashbacks, so they became a part of Regan’s childhood recollections in my YA novel, Luna. I’d been dying to try second-person point of view, so I did that in She Loves You, She Loves You Not… If written well, multiple narrators are always fun to read, so I gave that a shot in my newest novel, It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It).

My attempts may not always be successful or seamless (as reviewers are quick to point out), but if I wasn’t challenging myself, I’d burn out on writing very quickly. (I have a very short attention span.)

Have you ever made an affirmative decision to alter your creative focus? What inspired this decision? What were the challenges?

I didn’t want to write Keeping You a Secret. Megan Tingley, my editor at Little, Brown, was the one who said, “Julie, why don’t you write me a young adult lesbian love story?”

I said, “Are you crazy? Are you insane?” (You probably should never say this to your editor.)

All these fears burbled up inside me about writing a “gay” book. At the time I’d been working for ten years to establish myself as a children’s writer. I thought, If I do a book like this, I’ll be blacklisted by every teacher and librarian on the planet. My books will be banned. I’ll be labeled as a gay writer and expected to write more gay lit. There’s such a small niche market for LGBTQ books, I thought, how would I ever make a living with my writing? But my worst fear was that I’d get hate mail.

It took me a year to work through all my fears. They weren’t unfounded, but the response from readers who told me this book saved their lives made me wonder if writing for my community wasn’t what I was meant to do.

Sometimes you can be so dumb you need to be smacked upside the head by the hand of destiny.

Did you ever consider giving up? What happened? What kept you going?

Writing is hardest work I’ve ever done. It’s physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. I think about quitting all the time. But it never fails that when I’m at my lowest point, I’ll receive a letter from a reader who tells me that my books have changed her or his life and to never stop writing.

What do you want to say to established mid-list authors about staying in the game?

I want to show you a picture.

See all those medals and plaques and awards and framed starred reviews? (Okay, there’s only one framed starred review. But it was from Kirkus. Kirkus, baby.) I call this my Wall of Game.

Whenever I think I’m stalled out, or idling at a red stoplight on the Publication Highway, I take a look at all I’ve accomplished in my 20+ years as a midlist writer. I mean, hanging all this stuff on your dining room wall, how can you miss it?

I give myself a pat on the back, a nod of encouragement, and say, “If you rearrange all that clutter on the wall, I bet you could still find room for a Newbery Medal. Or two.”

Be your own best champion. Stay positive.

And those people who make millions with their books? They’re the ones who’re keeping your publishing company in the game so that editors can advocate for the books and authors they love.

Hopefully, that means you.

Cynsational Giveaway

U.S. & Canadian readers! Enter to win a copy of It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It) by Julie Anne Peters (Little, Brown, 2012). From the promotional copy:

Azure is secretly in love with her best friend, Radhika. Unfortunately, Azure’s other BFF (bisexual best friend), Luke, also has a secret crush on Radhika. 

When Azure is asked to plan an alternative prom at her high school, she jumps at the chance, not only because it’ll give her a chance to ask Radhika out, but also because she believes prom should be more inclusive.

Since Azure has no clue how to plan a prom, she enlists the help of Luke and Radhika. Everything that can go wrong does, including the PTSO eliminating all the events they find objectionable.

Will the watered down prom allure any students beyond the usual prommies to attend? Can the prom committee even raise enough money to put on an event? And, if so, who will Radhika choose to go with?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cynsational Notes

On Julie’s website, you can find links to the inspiration for her books, excerpts, and trailers.

The Career Builders series offers insights from children’s-YA authors who written and published books for a decade or more. The focus includes their approach to both the craft of writing and navigating the ever-changing business landscape of trade publishing.

Whimsy’s brother Toby is always getting in trouble.

Petey is a party animal.

13 thoughts on “Career Builder & Giveaway: Julie Anne Peters

  1. I really enjoyed reading this interview. Julie Anne Peters has been an inspiration to me in my journey to publication, and I'm so grateful to her role in busting open the publishing doors to more LGBTQ YA lit.

  2. When I heard JAP speak and read letters that teens had written her at the YALSA Symposium in 2008, I cried. She is AMAZING and LUNA is wonderfully wonderful.

  3. I love Julie Anne Peters. I never knew LGBT YA fiction existed until I found "Luna" in my high school's library. Ever since then, I've been a huge fan of LGBT YA fiction, especially Julie Anne Peters. I've done projects at my university about LGBT YA fiction, and whenever anyone wants suggestions of a good book to read, I always tell them about Julie.

  4. I have a autographed copy of Luna she sent me in the mail and it's my treasure 🙂 she's one of my fav authors

  5. Great inspiration for staying in the game. I know I'm not the only writer who gets discouraged, but it's encouraging to hear seasoned authors sharing their experiences.

  6. I love Whimsy!

    I think it is inspirational that Julie Ann will try new approaches to keep fresh and challenged, even if the end product is not completely seamless. Great attitude!

  7. I was SO thrilled to interview Julie years ago for my blog, and it was a kick to meet her at ALA in 2010. I love how low-key and understated she is personally, and her books just consistently present such nuanced and three-dimensional characters. I really am looking forward to this book.

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