I’ve been following Ava Jae’s blog for less than a year, but it’s helped me as a writer more than I can say. What she lacks in age she makes up for in wisdom and experience. This woman is amazing. Want me to prove it? Read on for the interview.
When and how did you start writing?
While I dabbled with some writing before this, I really got serious about writing a novel when I was 13. Finished it at 14, queried at 15 (it was terrible, but it’s what got me started). As for the how…I basically daydreamed an idea for a book and decided to write it. Then I realized just how much I love writing and didn’t stop.
Your blog Writability is one of my favorites. What are some things you wish you’d known when you first started blogging?
Awww, thank you! ^_^
So this may sound a bit like a cop-out, but I did crazy amounts of research before I started blogging, so I’m not sure I can think of anything that I wish I’d known before I started. That being said! Something that I think is important is to set out your goals before you start blogging. What do you want to achieve with your blog? What would you consider a success? That way, when you inevitably achieve that goal (and if you don’t quit, it is inevitable), you can celebrate and know that you achieved that goal.
For example, when I first set out blogging, I said if my blog helped one person, it would be worth it to continue. Now, three years later, I frequently remind myself of that goal when I start to lose sight of it—it’s easy to get caught up with oh, if I just get x many hits or x many comments… and sometimes I have to step back and remind myself of my original goal, which I’ve now achieved several times over. It definitely helps to keep it in perspective. :)
I know you’re pretty active on Twitter and you’ve even written posts about social media being a great tool for writers. How has Twitter helped you and your writing?
How hasn’t Twitter helped me and my writing? I’ve learned so much from the writing community there—from excellent writing tips and resources, to book recommendations that I’ve learned from, to finding several critique partners and beta readers. As a bonus, I also nabbed two internships just from Twitter.
What are your top five favorite books and why?
Ughhh you are not asking me to choose five favorites. Seriously an impossible question. I guess if I HAVE to…these are in no particular order:
The Harry Potter series (duh)—especially The Order of the Phoenix. To this day, I have never re-read a book as much as I re-read the first four books of the Harry Potter series (four times each! Which is probably not as much as some people, but still). (Also, I am aware of the irony that I re-read the first four books four times but not my favorite of the series, but I can only handle Sirius dying so many times, okay?). But I mean, what is there not to love about the Harry Potter series? Nothing will quench my love for the world of Harry Potter.
The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. A sexy, badass antagonist, incredible secondary characters, amazing worldbuilding, awesome magic system, a quick pace that has you flipping through the pages…what’s not to love? This is one of my all-time favorite YA Fantasy series and I recommend it basically to anyone considering YA ever. As long as they like fantasy, that is.
Saint by Ted Dekker. Assassins + supernatural abilities + fabulous, dark voice = Saint. I love Ted Dekker (he’s one of my favorite authors of all time) and this is the second book of his I read (he’s written close to fifty now), and it still stands out to me as one of my favorites of his. Probably because I’m obsessed with assassins. And dark characters. And internal struggle. And all of that.
The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. Tahereh Mafi has one of the most incredible, distinctive, poetic voices I’ve ever read. I love her style, and even better, the Shatter Me series is an incredible example of amazing character development. My favorite of the series is tied between Unravel Me and Ignite Me but it’s an excellent YA series.
Half Bad by Sally Green. I just finished this one and it’s an insta-favorite. The voice is absolutely incredible (seriously can’t recommend it enough to YA writers), the plot is exciting, the characters are complicated and interesting and GAH. It’s amazing. I could not adore it more (and I raved about it here).
Tell me about your agent. How did you get her to represent you?
I’m represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency and she’s amazing (hell, the whole team she works with is amazing). I’ve had an absolutely wonderful experience working with her and Team Fury and I really couldn’t ask for anything else. I’m delighted to be part of the team.
As for the how, the short version is this: I wrote a lot of books, I received more rejections than I want to think about, I wrote more books, kept querying, entered contests, didn’t win and eventually got picked as a runner-up in Miss Snark’s October 2013 Mystery Agent blog contest. Louise was one of the mystery agents. She loved my book and many months later I was screaming on Twitter about my happy news.
Long version is here.
What’s your favorite quote about writing?
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” —Toni Morrison
“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.” —Gary Provost
You’ve defended YA along with several others on Twitter. What are some things you wish people understood about young adult literature?
SO MANY THINGS. That YA is a legitimate category. That YA novels aren’t any less powerful, emotional, exciting, beautiful and haunting than adult books. That YA is here to stay and while it’s not for everyone (no category or genre is), if you don’t at least give it a chance, you’re seriously missing out on some incredible stories. Also that YA isn’t written for teens, it’s written about teens—anyone can read them and there’s no shame in it.
What’s your writing routine like? Tips for being productive?
I get up around 5:30 AM, exercise (on weekdays), then write. I find that the later in the day it is, the harder it is for me to write (I guess my brain gets tired?), so I try to get it done nice and early in the day.
As for being productive, the key is to figure out what schedule works best for you. I’m most productive in the mornings, but some people work their best writing magic at 2 or 3 AM. Experiment to see what works for you, then stick with it the best you can.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and who did it come from?
I like how you saved this question for last. I saved it for last while answering, too, because this is not an easy question. Hmm.
I’d say my two favorite (that I can think of that moment) bits of writing advice are to finish the book and write what you want to read (which came from the first quote I shared above). I’m pretty sure I saw the first bit of advice in one of the many writing craft books I’ve read. The second came from the good ol’ internet.
I told you, she’s fantastic. For more Ava Jae, check out her blog Writability or follow her on (@Ava_Jae), tumblr, Facebook, or Youtube (bookishpixie).
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?