Month: March 2011

Jessica’s FAQs

Let’s start by defining a FAQ as a question I’ve been asked more than once.  That’s at least twice.  Except maybe half of them I’ve only been asked once.  Here we go:


Where do you get your ideas for books?

I hear voices.

That’s a lie.  Inanimate objects don’t talk to me, unless you count chocolate which speaks loudly and often, and story ideas don’t come to me in dreams either.  Sadly, my process is just not that magical, but I’m kind of proud of it nonetheless.

I start with a relationship.  I started one novel by thinking, I wonder what would happen if this kind of girl had this kind of mother (VIRTUOSITY), and the other novel by thinking I love the way sisters can be terribly cruel and love each other at the same time (BOOK 2: TITLE STILL GOING TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER-I TAKE PAYPAL).

After that, I write into the dark.  It’s scary.  When I look back, I can see where my story lines came from—movies, weirdos at the grocery store, the news, something that happened to me when I was seven, reality TV, stories my husband tells me—but I almost never see something and think, I’ve got to write about that! I just get into my characters’ brains and their relationships, and then start imagining what would really shake things up.

You know how you can have a totally insane dream and then look back at your week and pick out where it came from?  I think it’s like that.  More than once I’ve been surprised to realize that I’ve written something that I’m worried about into my story without even meaning to.

Oh, and no offense to those writers out there who get grand visions about stories begging to be told.  I’m sure it’s awesome being you.

Can I get a signed copy of Virtuosity?

Of course! 

I will sign whatever you buy!  Or you!  Or your pets!  Back it up—which body parts I choose to sign and which ones I pass on will be up to my discretion.  Let’s be smart, people.

Are you Asian or what?

This is ridiculous.  I haven’t been asked this in over ten years, but I used to get it way too often for a semi-blondish girl.  It was a combination of my maiden name (Low) and my eyes.  I took it as a compliment, but only because it confused me and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Now I’m more likely to be asked if I’m Hispanic, which is less ridiculous because my last name is Martinez and my husband is a quarter Cuban.  But at the end of the day I’m a Canadian with Scottish/French roots. 

How do you find time to write?

I neglect things that I deem less than crucial.  Sleep and personal hygiene come to mind.  Also, I’m not on the PTA, I don’t chat with the other moms at gymnastics, and I’m not a room mom.  I decide what can’t be hurried, skipped, or multi-tasked (time with my family, church, meals, laundry) and give myself permission to do a crappy job elsewhere, and sometimes a crappy job with the meals and laundry.

Would you like fries with that?

You think I’m sitting here in this drive through for the lame Happy Meal toy?  Oh wait, that is why I’m here.  But I would also like fries with that.  Thanks.  And a vanilla cone.

How long did it take you to write VIRTUOSITY?

A year and a half-ish?  This question is kind of difficult, because the idea for VIRTUOSITY came years before I actually was able to pound out a first draft (80,000 words, most of which I tossed).  The bulk of it was written in a much shorter time period—more like four or five months.  Revisions then went on and on and on, but let’s not talk about that.


Yes, your highness.

Why young adult lit?  Have you ever considered writing books for adults?

I feel like maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but here I go anyway:  While I was writing VIRTUOSITY I wasn’t intentionally writing YA.  I mean, I realized that Carmen being 17 made a teenage audience likely, but I was really just thinking about her story and how to tell it honestly.  I got into her head, and it was a 17-year-old head, which I guess makes it YA.

I love YA, both reading and writing it.  I used to teach high school and I currently work with the teenage girls in my church.  So right now, YA is what I want to be writing, and I don’t feel like that limits me in any way.  Some people have the mistaken belief that you graduate from YA to adult literature, but that’s garbage.  It isn’t easier to write YA.  In fact, I could make a pretty convincing argument why your writing has to be smarter and more passionate to capture that audience.  But that’s another rant for another blog post.  Who knows what I’ll be dying to write in ten years, but right now, it’s this genre.

Is VIRTUOSITY about you?

Heavens no.  I am nowhere near the violist Carmen is, my mother is nothing like Carmen’s mother, and sadly there was no Jeremy in any of my violin competitions.  Sigh.

I do know about the classical music world from experience—from the thrill of performing with a symphony to all the drama of the seedy underbelly.  (Yes, there is a seedy underbelly to classical music, and no I’m not telling you about it here and spoiling the book for you.)

Can I have your ARC?

Sorry folks, but I only have one.  If I had more, I’d be lending my extra copies to all my friends, but I don’t, and to be honest, it’s kind of freeing.  Simon Pulse handles who gets the ARCs, because the idea behind them is to get them to reviewers, and buyers, and people who can generate hype and sales.  So yay for people who know how to do that job, because I don’t.  In case you’re wondering, I sleep with mine under my pillow and a crowbar beside the bed.

Did you use my razor again?

Seriously?  Seriously?  Fine, maybe.

Guess what arrived?

World, meet Virtuosity!  Virtuosity, meet world! 

This is my advanced reader copy (ARC), and my new favorite child.  (Note to my biological children: maybe if you bickered less and remembered to say please you would still be in the running for that title.)  It’ll be a little different in October when it’s in stores: hardcover, typo-free, bio/acknowledgments/dedication updated, but otherwise the same.

It got here on Thursday.  My husband was out of town and my five-year-old was at school, so just the three-year-old and I were around to document Virtuosity’s first few hours at Casa Martinez. We spent the morning running around, giggling, taking pictures, and now I will subject you all to a ridiculous number of photos of our shenanigans.

The camera still functions, but it may smell like peanut butter.

First of all, this is my lovely, faceless assistant.

The music stand seemed like an appropriate place to start.

On top of my husband’s guitar case.  He believes in that sticker, by the way.

Hanging out with the my violin and my assistant’s violin.

On the top bunk and preparing to do battle with C3P0, a battle droid, and anyone else who gets in the way.

Because I just wanted to see what it would look like on my kitchen floor.  As you can see, we opted not to clean first.  We were way too giddy for that lameness.

Hiding in my bookcase.  That’s my “Hmmm, what should I read?” face.  Virtuosity is in between My Antonia and Watership Down.  Of course. 

I should feel more embarrassed about posting such dorkiness (that last picture especially) but I don’t.  As anyone who has read more than a few posts on this blog knows, I have no shame.


On a slightly more serious note, people keep asking me how it feels to hold my book.  Ahhh, the rainbow of emotions.  Where do I begin?  Honestly, at first I just felt…


That’s probably not normal, but I’m used to my emotions being a little off.  (This is unrelated, but when something really sad happens I know it’ll be about 24 hours before I have a good cry about it.  More than once I’ve considered poking myself in the eye with a stick so I can tear up with everyone else and not look like a heartless android.)

Don’t worry, the giddiness came later, but the THANK GOODNESS was definitely first.  The book is beautiful and I love it, and I didn’t realize until I was actually holding it how worried I was that I wouldn’t love it.  Weird?  Maybe.

I think it’s about control.  I had complete control over what I put inside the book, but zero, or very little, over the outside.  And this is my baby!  The good news is I couldn’t be more thrilled with the finished product, so fyewf.  That’s my own spelling, by the way.  Feel free to use it like it’s a real word.