Jeyn Roberts lives in Canada and is the author of several thrilling novels for young adults. She has twice won Canada's prestigious White Pine Award for YA fiction.
Jeyn Roberts grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and started writing at an early age, having her first story published when she was just sixteen. When she was 21, she moved to Vancouver with dreams of being a rock star, graduating from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Writing and Psychology. For the next few years she played in an alternative/punk band before moving to England where she received her MA from the prestigious Creative Writing graduate course at Bath Spa University. This was followed by some time spent teaching high school in South Korea.
Her novels are always thrilling, pacy and tense. DARK INSIDE and RAGE WITHIN were published by Simon & Schuster in the US, and Macmillan in the UK. THE BODIES WE WEAR and WHEN THEY FADE published with Knopf.
When and how did you start writing?
I wrote my first novel when I was thirteen. It was pretty much a compilation of everything I’d seen on television that season.
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith. I read it as a teenager and it’s probably the one book I never grow tired of reading again.
As a child I was really into THE THREE INVESTIGATORS, THE HARDY BOYS, and pretty much anything by Judy Blume.
Can you talk us through the writing of your latest book? What were the key moments?
The key moment was when I finally decided to start writing it. I’d had the idea in my head for years but I wanted to wait till I felt I could do it justice.
Creating my characters was a wonderful time for me because they really came together. None of them felt like strangers - it was as if I’d known them all for a long time.
Was it hard to get an agent? Can you talk us through the process?
I was very lucky finding The Greenhouse. They were the first on my list. In fact, they’d turned me down a year ago with an earlier novel but I was impressed with their professionalism. When it came to trying a second time, I went right back!
I had sent my novel to Julia and was shocked when I found a strange number on my phone the next morning. She’d tried calling me several times. I was in Korea at the time so our hours were far apart. When I got back to my desk, I found an email from her, saying she’d tried calling me and would call again before she left for Bologna the next morning. I was horrified when I realized my phone batteries were about to die! I had to sneak home during my break. I could barely walk my legs were shaking so much! Julia ended up calling me at four in the morning her time, trying to get a quick conversation in before the taxi showed up to take her to the airport. It was such a whirlwind day! I’ll never forget it!
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
I’m a coffee shop writer. I do my best work when I have my iPod blasting and I’m surrounded by strangers with a hot beverage. I’m quite the night owl so I tend to write in the evenings, often until I get kicked out because the poor staff want to go home! When I’m stuck on inspiration I like to go for long walks and try to work things out in my head. It really works for me.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
Every single writer starts at the beginning and there is a first time for everyone. Be open to criticism. When we write, we get so involved with our own characters and stories sometimes we are blind to any faults we might make. It really helps if others are willing to lend a hand and offer suggestions.
Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you've developed as an author?
I really miss being in school. My professors and fellow classmates were wonderful at giving support and criticism. I’ve also learned to look at my own work with a critical eye and that’s really important with being a writer. It also helps to have a good muse (also called a friend) who is willing to put up with me when I get too obsessive over what my character happens to be doing at any given moment. I can think of two friends who are way too patient with me!
Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you'd invented?
Only three? That’s not fair! I guess Stephen King, Ernest Hemmingway, and Douglas Coupland. As for a fictional character? Harry Potter, hands down!