It is! Specifically the #AlexFromTarget phenomenon–if you don’t remember it, Alex, a regular teenager working as a cashier at a Texas Target, had his picture snapped and suddenly, overnight, he got nearly a million followers on social media. That moment of ridiculously viral overnight fame was the inspiration for #FAMOUS, but in my story, you get to see both sides of the coin–what happens to Kyle, the insta-famous photo subject, and also to Rachel, the girl who took the photo.
Does your book have a lesson? Moral?
I’m not the kind of writer who works deliberate morals into my stories, but I do hope it makes people think more about cyberbullying. There’s always a real person on the other side of the avatar, with real feelings. I also hope it shines a light on how much harder people can be on girls and women. I can’t really imagine a version of the story in reverse–with Rachel getting famous from a picture Kyle took–that doesn’t turn a lot darker.
What is your favorite part of the book?
Probably my single favorite moment is when Kyle asks Rachel to homecoming (I don’t want to spoiler anything, so I’ll leave it vague). My favorite entire scene is when they go bowling together. I think it’s the first time Kyle and Rachel see how much more there is to the other person than what they initially imagined.
What is your writing style, and what tactics do you have when writing? (For example, outline or just write when you get bursts of inspiration)
I used to think I could work without any real outline, but it turns out that I’m just not any good at that–I would get a lot of words onto the page, but there wouldn’t be much of a story there. Now I’m an outliner-lite: I like to plot out all the major story points in advance and fill in some of the details between them as I’m writing and learning more about my characters.
When you write, do you have goals of certain # of words a week or when inspiration strikes?
I like to set myself daily word count goals and really hold myself to them–as in, “Jilly, you’re not allowed to leave this cafe until you hit X thousand words.” Writing can be a lot of fun, but it’s also a job–a hard one. Like any job, you sometimes have to show up even when you’re feeling sorta uninspired or when it’s too beautiful outside to imagine sitting in front of a computer screen.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
When I was researching #FAMOUS, I looked into internet bullying, because it was an important part of the story–Rachel sees the ugly side of going viral right off the bat. I knew how those things spread in a vague way, but looking into specific instances of viral anger, I was stunned by how quickly a situation could go from a single social media post to a wildfire where it seems like the entire internet is talking about this one thing.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Absolutely, and I feel super lucky because I ADORE my cover. I think it tells you a lot about what’s inside–something quirky, cute, romantic, and ultimately fun!
How did you get connected with so many authors for blurbs on the back of your book?
Fun fact: Jesse Andrews and I have known each other since I was a freshman/he was a junior in college (we started a VERY briefly-lived band together, and then continued to be friends forever after). I reached out to him directly for the blurb on the cover!
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
I think the toughest criticism is when someone tells you honestly that a project just isn’t working. Like a lot of authors I have more than a couple story ideas that I started–or even finished–that never wound up seeing the light of day. Giving up on a project that you love is one of the hardest things you do as an author, but sometimes it truly is the right choice.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Honestly, I try not to pay too much attention to my reviews, because even the positive ones can make me lose my focus, and I need every scrap of that to write books!
At the end of the day, though, once you put a book out into the world, it’s not just yours anymore, it belongs to the readers, too. Some of them will love it (which always makes my day, I’m only human after all), and some of them won’t. Some of them might even hate it. Theoretically, I’d love for everyone to love every single word I write, but we’re all incredibly different people, and that’s GOOD. If everyone loved and hated the same things, the world would be so terribly dull, you know?
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s? (* please provide a link to trailer if you have one)
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
They’re pretty much imagined. Even though the story inspiration very much mirrors the experience of Alex Lee, a.k.a. #AlexFromTarget, I deliberately tried not to dig too deeply into his life, because I wanted Kyle and Rachel to feel real and 3-dimensional on their own.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Full-time, the coolest and also scariest job on earth!
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
For #FAMOUS the toughest thing was getting the dual points-of-view to sound interesting and distinct while still making sure the story came together as a whole. And yet…I know I’ll write from multiple perspectives again because as an author it’s also just so much FUN.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I’d say a full draft takes me about four months. But once you send it to your editor and start really diving in together, that number can get a lot bigger 🙂
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
So far my YA ideas have only been standalone, but I’d love to try my hand at a series–I definitely have a lot of characters I love way too much to want to leave them alone forever after. I write comedy with a writing partner, and our first books were part of a series, so I know that I like the process
Have you considered writing in another genre?
Yes indeed…specifically comedy 😉
What do you think Rachel would have to say about you? What about Kyle? How do they differ?
Oh, they’d probably both be polite but secretly think I was boring and old.
Realistically, I think Rachel would have a lot of serious, career-oriented questions for me as a writer since she already knows that it’s her passion. Even though she’s writing plays, I bet we’d dig deep into books and really get along. I think Kyle might find me a bit cynical because he’s such a naturally optimistic person, but he’d probably laugh at my jokes, if only because he’s also deeply kind.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I do both–ideally, all my books would be in print, because I just love the feel of a book in my hands, but I’m running out of shelf space (not to mention funds), so lately I go about 50/50, ebooks and print books.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I finally got around to reading CROOKED KINGDOM and (no surprise here) it is PHENOMENAL.
What book that you have read has most influenced your life?
That’s a tough one because so many books have influenced me in such different ways. If I had to pick an author that I loved in childhood who has had the most influence on my writing, I’d probably go with Roald Dahl. I’m someone who uses dark comedy and absurdity as a way to process things–even the tough stuff–and that comes out in all my books.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Probably P.G. Wodehouse. He writes these incredible souffles of comedy, where everything is light and airy and full of fun and whimsy and it just seems so satisfying and delicious that you don’t even realize how incredibly HARD it is to pull off what he’s doing. I never pick up a Wodehouse story and DON’T laugh out loud at some point or other. That’s a pretty impressive feat, especially considering how prolific he was.
What is your favorite book and why?
All time favorite is probably the Lord of the Rings series. It was one of the first books that I just dove headlong into as a kid, and the depth of the world building is awe-inspiring. I think a lot of writers have used books as a form of escape at various times in their lives, and I found those books at a moment when I was really eager for that–and they definitely provide it.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To be confident with who I was. I think when I was younger there were certain things I tried to change about myself, or hide about myself, in order to fit in, because the world really pressures you to do that. And it took me years to get to a place of being really comfortable in my own skin (not that it’s ever 100% easy, or that you ever 100% reach that point). I actually tried to give Rachel some of the self-confidence I wish I had at her age because there is nothing cooler than knowing and loving who you are.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Man, that’s a toughie. I should say someone literary, right? Maybe Mark Twain–I think he’d actually make for good company (there are a lot of favorite authors who might be a real drag to run into at a cocktail party). Or Oscar Wilde. I bet he was a riot.
Where can we find you online? (Conclusion: )
I’m @jillygagnon on twitter and Instagram, /JillyGagnonWriter on facebook, and always updating my website,www.jillygagnon.com!
Anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
The most important thing I want to say is THANK YOU to everyone who has taken the time to pick up my book. I could not be more grateful that you’re spending time reading words that I wrote 🙂
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?