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.

8 thoughts on “Jessica’s FAQs

  1. Great post! I loved reading about how you get your ideas. It reminded me of a book on writing I read a few years ago. The author did not say exactly the same thing, but your process gets to the heart of how she felt the best writing would be done. I am really looking forward to your book; I am sure it is going to be a great read!

  2. Are you allowed to use song lyrics as titles because the first title that came to mind when thinking about sisters is “CRUEL TO BE KIND.” (na na na 90s)

  3. Okay Alexandra, I’m not sure how I ended up replying to your email instead of here, but I’ll repeat myself here: Thank you! Yeah, everybody’s process is so different, but occasionally I’ll hear people who say they do it my way, and think, oh good, I’m not a total freak! I’m glad you’re looking forward to VIRTUOSITY. I’m looking forward to finally having other people read it.

    And R, I LOVE IT. Book 2 will now be known as CRUEL TO BE KIND, or at least until Simon Pulse tells me otherwise. See people? I was serious about taking suggestions!

  4. So I have also been asked if I am asian…and hispanic. And I am also blond. Hmm. No, I realize it is because of my eyes…and now because of my hispanic last name. Oh the parallels of our lives 🙂 I am a walking contradiction. But it makes life interesting.

  5. THanks for the disclaimer on the relationship that Carmen has with her mother. As you said in an earlier post, phewww (is that how you spelled it?) I might have ideas for the title of book 2 but I haven’t read it so I guess I’m not about to score a big win. I loved the post and all the answers to questions, many of which I have had.

  6. Amy, maybe we’re twins separated at birth! I’d buy it.

    And Wendie, a.k.a. Mom, I’m going to be shouting that disclaimer from the rooftops.

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