Jenny Moyer's YA novels, FLASHFALL and FLASHTIDE, show her fascination with speculative worlds and great action. She lives in Iowa.
Jenny studied writing at Seattle Pacific University, and has written and voiced national commercial spots. She co-owns Luminary, a production company, with her filmmaker husband. Their creative exploits have taken them all over the U.S., but they currently make their home with their three boys in Des Moines, Iowa.
When and how did you start writing?
I began writing in elementary school, and then at a young author’s conference in middle school, I started dreaming of becoming an author. I submitted my first picture book queries when I was in college, but it wasn’t until my third novel—years later—that I was offered representation from literary agents. Sarah sold my manuscript in a two-book deal with Macmillan, but I have 18 years’ worth of rejection letters that led up to that!
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
I was a voracious reader as a child. I have vivid memories of first learning to read because it felt like whole worlds had opened up to me. Because of that, I have to credit FROG AND TOAD as the first truly impactful book, soon followed by A WRINKLE IN TIME. I loved fantasy and sci-fi, but also gobbled up commercial books like SWEET VALLEY HIGH and the Christopher Pike horror novels. I think this is one of the reasons I love to blend genres in my own writing.
Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?
The first novel I wrote was historical fantasy--a labor of love that took two years of research and writing. It was the first novel that I finished, revised, and queried to agents, and it was a learning experience on so many levels. I received my first full request on that novel, and I’ll never forget how excited I was. It was the first real glimmer of hope that I wasn’t just fooling myself about my ability to write.
Was it hard to get an agent? Can you talk us through the process?
It was hard--extremely discouraging at times. The market is incredibly competitive, and the good agents are simply inundated with submissions. It can be difficult to get your manuscript “noticed” among all the others in the slush pile, and even then, it has to be just right for the agent who reads it—with a unique hook and a voice they fall in love with. I queried seven picture books and three novels, and persisted through eighteen years’ worth of rejections, but I feel incredibly lucky that things came together for me as they did.
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
I typically write from home, beside a huge window, with my dog snuggled beside me. Other times I write at coffee shops, or in my car while waiting for my boys outside piano practice. As a busy mom of three, I have to make time however I can. Often this means getting up extra early, and then making the most of the time they’re at school. I find inspiration in new experiences. When I was writing FLASHFALL, I went caving and learned to climb so that I could layer my real experiences over my fictional ones.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
Never give up. Write if it’s what makes you feel fulfilled, and know that the traditional publishing route can take time. Understand that rejection is part of the process, and do your best to learn from the experience and keep pressing on. Remember that art is subjective, and that your writing is not going to be for everyone, and that’s ok. Don’t take rejections personally. Know that most authors don’t publish the first book they wrote. Most writers I know have at least one “shelved” book prior to their debut. This industry is all about learning and growing and improving as you go, as well as having thick skin.
Read in the category and genre you want to publish in—it will help you learn the market, and the structure of those books. Really research the agents you query—don’t query anyone who doesn’t represent (and sell) the kind of book you’ve written.
Make sure your query and manuscript are the absolute best they can be.
Connect with other writers, whether it’s online or at conferences, etc. Support each other, share your work and be open to honest feedback.
Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you've developed as an author?
Voice is everything. Developing your unique voice as a writer can be hard to describe, but it’s what sets you apart from other writers, and what makes certain readers gravitate to your books.
Character: I’m constantly pushing myself to make my characters three-dimensional, relatable, and likeable—the kind of heroes/heroine readers want to follow and care about.
Plot. Again, it comes back to character. The story is driven by your main character’s choices, but working to connect those points is always a challenge for me. For me, a lot of this re-structuring happens in the revision stage.
Backstory. With all the world-building in my SFF novels, it’s essential to ground readers in the world. However, I tend to avoid exposition, and reveal backstory through action and dialogue. This helps amp up the pacing of the book.
Which favourite authors would you invite to a dinner party? Which fictional character do you wish you'd invented?
J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter.