Author of The Booster, Jennifer Solow, has been so kind as to answer some questions regarding how she wrote The Booster, her process in general, finding an agent, as well as some personal tid-bits that further illustrate her quirky and unique personality! Again, The Booster is well worth your money, try it soon. www.jennifersolow.com
HOUSEWIFECAFE: You’ve mentioned that your mentor pointed out South American shoplifting rings she’d seen in the news and the plot of your book clicked. What was your writing process like after that? Did you go right to submission after weaving that in, or did you need to revise?
JENNIFER: Basically, this was when the real book started.
I had been writing for 2 years but the process was chaotic and the storyline didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t actually exist Ã¢â‚¬â€œ just the character and a bit of her life (a few hundred pages worth). When I came back that summer from Sewanee WriterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Conference (and meeting Alison Lurie), I began researching compulsive shoplifters and shoplifting rings.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Weaving that inÃ¢â‚¬Â would have been delightfulÃ¢â‚¬Â¦but unfortunately, the entire house had to be gutted. I started again at page 1 but many of the old scenes made it in. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d often use dialogue or dramatic moments, but put them into different scenarios or with different people.
Many of the characters had to change. For instance, Alex, JillianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s love interest, was a real Euro-trash jerk in my first draft. In the final draft we had to like Alex Ã¢â‚¬â€œ find him real and respect-worthyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦he needed to become a better foil for her: if someone like Alex could love Jillian, so could we. If he could be fed up with her, so could we. AlexÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s character was a device I used to make Jillian more understandable.
All in all there were 36 drafts of this book. Each started entirely from page 1.
I am working on book 2 and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to say it gets easier.
I should write a book entirely from the Ã¢â‚¬ËœgraveyardÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the scenes, plot points and characters who all now live in discarded folders. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a good bunch.
HOUSEWIFECAFE: The Booster boasts a character with depth, yet there’s a lot happening plot-wise. How did you balance Jillian’s inner thoughts/struggles with having to move the plot along? Did you have to go back and muscle in the conflict in or did it just unroll in your writing once you settled on the crime ring idea?
JENNIFER: I am a very impatient reader. If I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get drawn into a book on the first page it rarely makes it off my night table.
I am an impatient writer as well. I knew when I was getting bored of what I was writingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦if I was just going through the motions, then something needed to change with the story.
I had really had no idea how to write a good story, I just kept writing (and bike riding and procrastinating) until it hit me piece by piece. Much of it just came to me from the ethers Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I had NO idea that Bingo would own a department store just as an example. It came to me one day in the car.
As the story got refined so did her character. Her wants and needs began to reveal themselves: Isolation, feeling Ã¢â‚¬Ëœkicked out of the organism,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ self-protection, entitlement, neediness Ã¢â‚¬â€œ these were all parts of who Jillian was that got strengthened through story revelations.
HOUSEWIFECAFE: How did you tackle the process of finding an agent?
JENNIFER: I asked everyone I knew how you go about finding an agent. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the process in a nutshell:
- Your favorite books and a bookstore
- 1 or 2 of those big books about literary agents
- A thousand Post-It notes
Go to the store and pull every book that you like and is similar to yours for one reason or another. Turn to the back and look at who the agent is that the writer thanks in the acknowledgements page (if they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t thank them, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want them).
Pick your top 10 and back-up 10. Get to know those 20 agents intimately through researching, even writing their authors on their websites. This process could take months. Work on your query simultaneously.
Write an awesome query letter (mine took 3 months to perfect).
For more about my recipe for the SUREFIRE QUERY LETTER, check out my blog, https://jennifersolow.blogspot.com/
Finding an agent was not difficult for me because of my marketing background and the way I tackled the process. I also wrote a book that Ã¢â‚¬ËœsellsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ easily. I pitched the book like a piece of new business Ã¢â‚¬â€œ hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why you need to hire us!
Do not settle for the only agent whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have you. YOU should control the process and find the perfect matchÃ¢â‚¬Â¦even if it takes a long time.
HOUSEWIFECAFE: Did you have to revise for your agent or editor?
JENNIFER: Yes. Yes. Yes and yes.
I enjoyed the revision process Ã¢â‚¬â€œ my agent and editor made the book better, no question about it.
HOUSEWIFECAFE: What do you think is most important part of querying agents?
JENNIFER: It is important to remember that agents get a hundred letters a week Ã¢â‚¬â€œ sometimes a day. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like getting junk mail Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 99.99% of those letters are tossed. Your letter must stand out and say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“you have to read this book right this second before someone else snatches it up.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Advice to other writers
HOUSEWIFECAFE.COM: Did you ever doubt your book would find a publisher? If so what did you tell yourself as you waiting to hear from your agent regarding the process?
JENNIFER: I was insecure everyday about the writing itself. It was the most challenging thing I ever did in my life. But I was always ridiculously (sometimes unreasonably) confident about publishing it. I had a vision for the book and for myself that never faltered. I still have it. I took that Famous Author photo before I sold the book.
I have more fun being confident than I do being insecure. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a better party.
HOUSEWIFECAFE: What advice do you give to writers who are trying to break into the business?
JENNIFER: Making real money writing is nearly impossibleÃ¢â‚¬Â¦visions of J.K. RowlingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s castle should be tempered.
Research tells us that debut novels make the bestseller list less than once a year. Of the TENS of thousands of debut books published each year, only a fraction of a fraction will pay for themselves. The chance that your advance will be less than $30,000 (dolled out in thirds over maybe 2 years) is very good. Some books, even ones published by great houses, donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sell ANY COPIES at all!
The best advice I can give is do something else. Just about anything is easier than this. But writers will be writers Ã¢â‚¬â€œ simple as that. I am as alive as I ever have been in my life Ã¢â‚¬â€œ right on the hairy edge everyday. I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t trade it in for the world.
HOUSEWIFECAFE: How about writing advice? Any quirky tips for getting in the groove?
JENNIFER: Put your ass in the chair. When you feel like getting up and going to the fridge Ã¢â‚¬â€œ donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. Stay an extra 20 minutes on your butt.
Also Ã¢â‚¬â€œ take time off from it. The book writes itself sometimes.
HOUSEWIFECAFE: With your substantial background in advertising, you have done well promoting yourself and The Booster. What do you think is the most important thing for people without your background need to know about selling themselves and their work?
JENNIFER: 1. Write a one-sentence way to describe your book. CONSTANTLY refine it until it makes everyone you know say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Oh my gawd! I need to read that book!Ã¢â‚¬Â I have used my sentence a thousand times at every juncture of this process. If you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t describe what your book is about succinctly no one else will be able to either.
2. Pretend to be a movie star. Have the best time of your life.
HOUSEWIFECAFE: What’s your favorite thing to do after a good day of writing and the kids are tucked into bed?
JENNIFER: Honestly, my favorite thing to do on a day like that is keep writing.
On a day when the writing didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go so wellÃ¢â‚¬Â¦I bake bread, I pole dance, I practice karate, I do stupid stuff around the house.
Tonight, for instance, I moved all my spices from little metal containers in my drawer to little glass containers in my drawer (in which they were before and I decided I prefer). Then I made homemade chai tea with spices that didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fit any longer and marinated a chicken for tomorrow night. I flirted with an English guy online who has a leftist blog and taunts me through email. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll probably stay up too late checking and rechecking my Amazon ranking. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll write my blog about how fabulous a day in the life of a Famous Author is, put my plastic night guard in and go to sleep.
THANKS JENNIFER FOR THE GREAT INFORMATION! FEEL FREE TO LEAVE JENNIFER COMMENTS OR STOP BY HER BLOG AND LEAVE THEM THERE.
Click here to read an excerpt of THE BOOSTER.
9 thoughts on “Interview with Jennifer Solow, Below…”
Great interview. I really like her approach on the query letter. I know Joe Konrath says to be short and to the point, but I’m a marketing guy, I love the clever interaction.
Thanks Jamie – I would agree on short an to the point.
The best thing I think in a query letter is great writing. It’s so easy to get boring and methodical in a query (which I did for many drafts of mine), which of course makes agents yawn and toss.
Always feel free to drop me a line if you want to add opinions or thoughts. It was really hard to find people who’d part with their advice when I was trying to figure this all out. Sharing our failures and successes is what it’s all about.
OMG> I want that Famous Author shirt. I saw that picture somewhere over the weekend–an article I think. And I didn’t realize it was this book that you talked about last week.
I’m definitley checking this one out. Thanks for the great interview, Kathie. And Jennifer thanks for the tidbits of wisdom.
Yes–I get a TON of requests for that shirt. Unfortunately all of them in existence are in my drawer. I made about 20 and wear them to the gym. I wanted to go about this whole process in the most unabashed way I could…being me – crazy and brash.
Those photos were taken by famous fashion photographer Terry Richardson. He had done work for me in advertising and I pulled in all my favors. I figured…if nothing else I could have the greatest day of my life: full hair and make-up, walking around New York City in my undies, while a famous photographer snapped away. Hey…I’m 42 next month…I needed a record while all the pieces were still intact!
This whole thing is about living life to its hilt now. I HAD the boring job where I had to play by the rules. My turn now, y’know.
Wow, you look about 25, Jennifer! I think your attitude and approach to the whole process works to help you be successful. It’s so obviously in you and out there for all to see. I do admire that. I’m going to borrow a little, if you don’t mind. Currently I’m about a 2 on the sassy cool woman scale.
It was so nice to offer to help people query…that’s so hard. Really nice of you.
Kathie, great interview, Jennifer, wonderful advice. Your methodical and logical approach to finding an agent really appealled to the (dork) engineer in me. I anticipate there being much revision involved if my stories ever get to the publishing stage, but egotistically I always think about Hemingway (or someone?) saying when he was done revising he wouldn’t change one single word. I would love to have that kind of confidence, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way about a story.
I do, however, love this: “I have more fun being confident than I do being insecure. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a better party.”
Me too, Mignon..thta line is so funny. Smart words for all of us.
Wait — did I read that correctly?
No way. Seriously?
The next job on my “to do” list is the fifth draft of one of my novels. If I’ve got to do thirty-one more before I get it right, I’ll be wearing Depends by the time it’s published!
Hi Kathie! I followed the link from the Chick Lit loop. Great interview! Thanks for posting about it!