New Voice: Lenore Appelhans/Jennewein on Level 2 & Chick-o-Saurus Rex

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Lenore Jennewein is the author of Chick-o-Saurus Rex, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein (Simon & Schuster, 2013). From the promotional copy: 

The humorous story of a little chick who proves his mettle to the farm’s big bullies when he discovers he has a very mighty lineage. 

Lenore Appelhans is the author of Level 2 (Simon & Schuster, 2013)(teacher’s guide). From the promotional copy:

In Level 2, the liminal place between our world (Level 1) and heaven, seventeen-year-old Felicia Ward spends her days in her pod reliving her
favorite memories – until she gets broken out by
Julian, a boy she knew when she was still alive. 

There’s about to be an
uprising in Level Two, and Julian wants to recruit her to the cause. 

unsure whether she can trust Julian, and still in love
with her boyfriend Neil on Earth, she finds herself torn between two
loves—and two worlds.

In case you haven’t guessed, Lenore and Lenore are the same person.

Looking back, are you surprised to debut in 2013, or did that seem inevitable? How long was your journey, what were the significant events, and how did you keep the faith?

Not only am I debuting a novel (Level 2) in January, I am also debuting a picture book Chick-o-Saurus Rex (under the name Lenore Jennewein) with my illustrator-husband Daniel Jennewein.

The novel has somewhat of a charmed history, but the picture book was a long time in coming.

Daniel and I started working on our first picture all the way back in 2004. It was our learning book, and we tinkered with it for years (on weekends since we both had demanding full-time jobs) before we discovered SCBWI.

It was through SCBWI that I discovered I could submit this picture book for a professional manuscript critique. The critique stung because it showed us that we needed to do another complete overhaul on it before we could submit it to editors.

Eventually, we realized that as much as we loved this first book, we had to move on. Some books are never meant to be published, and this was one of them. We began developing a second project, one that got some good feedback from art directors at several publishers, but unfortunately never sold.

It was the SCBWI Bologna conference that put things in motion for us. Daniel’s artwork caught the eye of HarperCollins Art Director Martha Rago which eventually led to his first book contract for Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? written by Audrey Vernick (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins, 2010).

As for me, the conference got me interested in YA and I started blogging about books at Presenting Lenore. For the next few years, I read hundreds of YA novels – which gave me a sense for what works and what doesn’t. I also met many authors, several of whom became like mentors to me, and were very encouraging when I started writing Level 2.

The next pivotal event was the SCBWI New York conference 2011. I participated in the round table event, which led to an agent offering rep for the picture book Daniel and I were collaborating on (our third project together).

We ended up signing with a different agent, one who knew I was also working on a novel. He read it, loved it and sold it by the end of March. Meanwhile, Daniel and I had developed our fourth picture book and he sold that too.

So here I am with two debut books coming out in 2013 and I couldn’t be more thrilled, surprised and grateful.

As a paranormal writer, what first attracted you to that literary tradition? Have you been a long-time paranormal reader? Did a particular book or books inspire you?

Teacher’s guide to Level 2

My novel, Level 2, is set in the afterlife, so that automatically classifies it as paranormal, though I never really thought of it that way. It’s a bit of a mash-up actually, because about one-third takes place in this sort of sci-fi afterlife and the other two-thirds take place within the main character’s memories – her contemporary life back on earth.

I do tend to prefer novels with paranormal elements rather than those with full-blown paranormal universes. I enjoy that twist on the familiar – the examination of a world similar to ours except for “the thing that (subtlety or not) changes everything”.

I think that’s why I’m so drawn to high-concept dystopian novels.

What would our society look like if love were outlawed? (Delirium by Lauren Oliver (HarperCollins 2011)).

What would be important to us if we knew we’d die by 20 years old? (Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2011)).

How would our relationships change if only teen girls could get pregnant? (Bumped by Megan McCafferty (Balzer + Bray, 20110).

The afterlife world of Level 2 was inspired by my love of dystopian literature (I’ve dedicated six entire months on my blog to dystopian novels). I’d been playing with an idea for awhile that incorporated memories as currency in the afterlife, but I was stumped as to how to implement it.

My a-ha moment was the thought: “What would a dystopian afterlife look like?”, and everything developed from there.

5 thoughts on “New Voice: Lenore Appelhans/Jennewein on Level 2 & Chick-o-Saurus Rex

  1. This YA looks so intriguing, thanks for the interview and introduction. I love hearing your story to publication, Lenore, and I can't wait to meet that very "big" little chick.

  2. I feel like I've been anxiously awaiting both of these books forever. I have the greatest admiration and appreciation for Daniel's art. And it's ABOUT TIME I get to read Lenore's work. Bravo! Bravo! for two can't-wait debuts!

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