Saturday, 2 November 2013

Saturday Spotlight: Jennifer Mathieu

Hey guys! It's Saturday, and for this week's Saturday Spotlight, I'm featuring YA contemporary author, Jennifer Mathieu!

About Jennifer:

Jennifer Mathieu is a writer and English teacher from Texas. She writes young adult contemporary novels. The Truth About Alice is her debut novel, which comes out June 3rd, 2014.

Jennifer was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to do an interview with me! So here it is! Enjoy guys!

1) Welcome to The Lovely Grace! I'm so glad that you took the time from your busy schedule for this! So The Truth About Alice is your first YA book- what made you want to write a YA contemporary as opposed to other popular genres like fantasy/paranormal or dystopian?

Thank you so much for having me! To answer your question, while I am amazed at those who can write fantasy/paranormal and dystopian and do all that complicated world-building, I have always been solidly grounded in the YA contemporary genre. It's what I read, for the most part, and what I love to write. I just love real life stories, I suppose, and character driven novels. I read a lot of nonfiction, too. I'm one of those people who believes everyone has a life worth writing about, so I think I just love exploring the real world as we live in it.

2) I know that you're a teacher AT an international school (she's not a teacher at an international spy school, sorry guys), so what was the writing process for you?

I would be the worst spy, by the way, because I'm terrible at spilling secrets on accident! For me, I write at night after I get home and my little one is asleep. I have a structure to it, and I'm fortunate to have a husband who is very supportive of my writing time. I have found that teaching makes me more productive because my students inspire me and my limited time makes me very efficient. I set word limits for myself each day and try to meet them - even if it's junk on the page at least it's somewhere to start.

3) What inspired you to write a story like The Truth About Alice? From the synopsis, it seems to be a very heavy book (emotional wise- if that's how I can describe it). Were there some subjects that you were a little unsure about because of the audience? Or just how true it is to some problems that teenagers may be dealing with? Or were you fine writing a book that talks about bullying, gossiping, and sexual harassment?

I really respect teenagers as people and as readers. I think they can handle intense topics and I also trust that if they feel a book is just not right for them, they will put it down. I didn't set out to write an "issue" book per se, but I wanted to write about how we all feel like outsiders at one time or another. All the characters in The Truth About Alice have demons they're fighting - even the popular kids - and they all feel unsure about themselves from time to time. I think all teenagers feel like that - all people do. As for what inspired me to write this specific story - when I was a teenager in the early 90s I read an article in Seventeen magazine about a girl who sued her school because of some horrible, sexually graphic graffiti in a bathroom stall. That story stayed with me because I couldn't imagine how horrible that girl must have felt - just so isolated and hurt. It was the seed for the story all these years later. I also always wanted to write a book that was told from multiple points of view, so I tried that, too.

4) Why did you decide to write about a girl that has a bad reputation (due to unfortunate circumstances) in different perspectives and not her own? Was this something you thought of since the beginning or just happened during the writing process?

What a great question. From the beginning I always wanted to tell it from other people's perspectives because that's what gossip is - everyone just talking about someone and that one person's voice sometimes not getting heard or getting lost in the shuffle. This is especially true about girls who develop so-called "bad reputations." Alice does have a chapter at the very end, but yes, the book mostly focuses on other voices that alternate from chapter to chapter.

5) Personally for me, I have trouble with my own characters that I have to punish them sometimes (my protagonist right now has a waffle ban for being uncooperative- actresses are such divas!). Did you run into trouble while developing your characters?

Your diva actress had that coming! LOL! One of the joys of writing this book was that because I was switching perspectives from one character to the next, just as I was starting to struggle with one voice it was time to take a break and pick up with another one. It always felt very fresh and fun to write as a writer. However, my characters do go through quite a bit. I especially felt for Kelsie's character - maybe even more so than Alice. Sometimes I thought, how can I do this to this poor girl? My characters really do become real for me. I still think about them.

6) What do you think makes this book stand out from other YA contemporary novels?

I love so much YA contemporary that I hope people love my book as much as they love some of the terrific titles out there right now! As for what might make it stand out - I think the character of Kurt is interesting because he's sort of a nerd but he's still really into Alice as a girl. He's still a teenage boy in that way. So often the "nerd" is this one-dimensional, asexual creature who has his nose in a book, but Kurt is a genius and also still hot for a pretty girl in this really honest, human, teenage boy way. He was so much fun to write - maybe my favorite character to write in the whole book.

7) This is one question that I always have to ask all my guests: what are you reading right now?

I just finished a wonderful, wonderful book called How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford that came out in 2009, and I just started a new release called Winger by Andrew Smith.

8) Would you want to be the character in the book that you're reading at the moment?

Another great question. The book opens with Winger getting his head stuffed into a toilet by some jocks, so right now I say no! ;-) The book has received some great reviews and I have a feeling I'm going to enjoy it.

9) Do you think your characters will survive the plot of said book?
I hope so because Winger seems very likable to me so far. :-) Although I've been warned there's a sad plot twist in this novel, so I'm getting my tissues ready.

10) I wanted to ask you some random questions about yourself, but your bio on your website tells a lot of awesome things about you! You speak Spanish, wrote a story about an ape dancing in a library (100% in my book btw), and were a former journalist. I don't know what to ask anymore. Have you ever considered taking horse riding lessons? Or try something crazy like... doing cheese rolling?

I am open for anything! I took belly dancing classes once but never horse riding lessons. ;-) But I'm a big believer in continuing education. What can I say - I'm a teacher!

11) What is one thing that you have learned as a student, a teacher and a writer that will be useful to students who have to balance four types of lives? (Family, Writing, Social and School).

I'm very type A and am a big believer in staying organized and making lists and maximizing my time - that is not a very romantic answer, but it's true. I've been that way my whole life and it helps me get a lot of things done. I try to dedicate time for all the important things in my life and sense when one aspect isn't getting "fed" and try to correct that. But not everyone operates that way, so that advice might not work for everyone. Some people need to focus deeply on one thing at a time. So perhaps know yourself is one piece of advice. Something else I think that would apply to everyone is ground yourself in what you love and things will fall into place. Surround yourself with friends you love and write what you want to write, not what you think you should write. And it's okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes. I think it means you have a curious mind and an energetic spirit.

And 12) Will we need any tissues while reading this book? And if so, how many? I just want to be prepared!

Without giving too much away, I do believe my book ends on a hopeful note but yes, there may be some tears Sometimes a lot of them. (I'm sorry!) But while there are a lot of heavy moments, I think there are some sweet and even funny moments, too. Elaine's character made me laugh several times as I was writing her chapters. She's a trip.
Wanna know more about Jennifer? Check out the links bellow!
Twitter: @jenmathieu
Facebook: Jennifer Mathieu
Have an amazing Saturday guys!

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