One of the awesomest things about being a young adult author is I sometimes get to meet other (way) cooler young adult authors. I just happened to touch base with up-and-comer Jennifer Latham not too long ago, and I’m pretty pumped about her new novel with Little, Brown and Company, Scarlett Undercover (preorder here!). In the interest of introducing her to other readers and writers in this genre, I asked if I could virtual-chat with her about the biz and how she makes her own magic happen. Here’s what she had to say…
What led you to the point where you began writing teen fiction?
My father was in the Army, so we moved around a lot. The one constant in my life was reading. I was a book-a-day girl for most of my childhood and didn’t really slow down until high school teachers started telling me what I HAD to read (note: If you’re a teen, don’t be ornery and/or contrary like I was — those teachers know their stuff!). Books were safe places to disappear into, even when their characters were dealing with hard things. A Wrinkle in Time, Jacob Have I Loved, Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear books…those are just a few of the paperbacks I read to shreds. I guess I’ve always known I had to be a writer, and it honestly never even occurred to me to write books for anyone but teens. Why? Because the books I read when I was younger were so very important in my life.
How is your work different from others in the genre?
Hmmm…that’s hard. I guess I feel like every book is unique, since every writer’s stories grow out of his or her own experiences in the world. But if I had to name specifics, I’d say that Scarlett Undercover’s hardboiled detective vibe is something not a lot of YA books have. And Scarlett herself is a person of color (her mom was Sudanese, her father Egyptian). She’s also Muslim, which is – unfortunately – not something you see very often in YA.
Tell us about your new book coming out next year?
It so blows my mind that I actually get to answer that question.
Sorry. I just had an “Oh m’gosh, they’re publishing my book!” moment.
Anyway, Scarlett Undercover is a straight-up detective story. Scarlett lives in the city of Las Almas (which I made up) and works cases to support herself and her older sister, Reem. After a rich little girl named Gemma asks Scarlett to investigate whether or not her big brother really had anything to do with his friend’s death, Scarlett finds herself in the middle of an ancient feud that started back in the days of King Solomon. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that ancient curses and jinn are involved, and that Scarlett ends up learning a lot more about her family and her own father’s murder than she expected. And, of course, she cracks the case for Gemma, like any good detective would.
What advice would you give to other authors looking to get traditionally published?
Write a lot. Read a lot. Don’t fall in love with any particular words you write, fall in love with the process of writing them. Understand that writing is a craft even people with natural talent have to learn. And if you really, really want to see your words wrapped up in a pretty cover on a bookstore shelf, then never. Ever. Give. Up.
For more about Jennifer Latham, visit her website at jenniferlatham.com and/or follow her on twitter at @.