Write It Sideways

Interview with “The Secret Year” Author, Jennifer R. Hubbard

Today’s interview comes from Jennifer R. Hubbard, author of the young adult novel, The Secret Year (Viking, 2010). She is represented by popular literary agent (and superstar blogger), Nathan Bransford. Welcome, Jennifer!

Can you tell us a bit about The Secret Year?

After his secret girlfriend’s death, seventeen-year-old Colt finds the notebook she left behind, but he is unprepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship.

Where did you find the inspiration for this particular story?

I don’t know exactly. I had the idea of a secret relationship, a sudden death, a notebook left behind. I wrote the book to find out what happened next, and why the relationship had to be secret.

When did you know you were meant to be an author?

I’ve always been writing, ever since I could hold a crayon. I knew it would be part of my life, whether I published or not.

What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I mostly plunge in, but I use an outline during revisions.

What book/books have had a profound effect on your writing?

The writing of Kerouac―its spontaneity and rhythm―affected me the most, although I’m influence in some way by almost everything I read.

Is there an unpublished piece of writing from early in your career that makes you cringe every time you read it? What were the main problems?

My first attempt at a novel was too short, had no plot to speak of, and dwelled on irrelevant trivial details. Also, the most interesting event in the book happened to a side character, not the main character.

What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?

It’s difficult to know what would surprise people. I’ve been surprised by how unusual people have found it that The Secret Year has a male narrator.

How much time do you spend on social media and promotion?

I spend a little time on it every day. But I make sure I write every day, too.

How did you find your agent?

I read his blog, and it seemed like we might be a good fit, so I did more research. I queried him through the slush pile―there was nothing magic about it, although I did personalize the query.

When you started querying agents, were you fairly confident in your writing, or were you still unsure of yourself?

I was both, and I am both now. I think most writers are! The confidence keeps us moving forward; the doubt keeps us humble, keeps us working to improve.

If this book were made into a movie, who would you want to play your characters?

The truth is that I see so few movies (I’m busy writing), I really have no idea!

You can learn more about Jennifer Hubbard at her website and blog, or buy The Secret Year now.