Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Book Launch: Freaked

Announcing another book launch! J.T. Dutton's debut is FREAKED, and if you're still truckin', this book may be right up your alley:

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, FREAKED. The story is compelling. What inspired it?
I was asked to write a “dramatic monologue” for a class I was commuting to at Columbia University about seventeen years ago. One night, Jerry Garcia was playing at Madison Square Garden and the train car from Stamford was full of people (mostly teenagers) on their way to the city. I had been a Dead Head in college. I scrapped the piece I had already written and invented Scotty Douglas Loveletter’s voice instead. I developed the character for a novel later, when I was in graduate school, and then rewrote it again several years after that.

The time period in which you place the story is so clearly evoked. What kind of research did you have to do?
I wrote the first drafts of FREAKED during the time it is set. I didn’t have the confidence to send the manuscript out until fifteen years later, though, so when I did my revisions for the final version, I dropped the cultural references I didn’t think people would remember and researched new details, especially those related to the Dead and their playlists and venues at the time. Whenever I met a devoted Dead Head, I asked them to tell me a story. There are some great tales out there.

Did you face any challenges in the writing of this book?
I didn’t face as many challenges as you might expect in writing FREAKED. I had to learn to write, which is hard, and I had to be patient about how awful the early drafts seemed, but I had a good time creating the characters. I had a lot of support from friends and family, and when it came to finding an agent and publisher, all I really needed was the courage to face rejection for a while.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
I didn’t know much about the teen book market when I wrote FREAKED. I conceived of the original drafts as a book for adults—a nostalgia piece for people who had lived through the time. My agent was willing to market it this way, but thought we would have better luck selling it as a Young Adult novel because of the strength of Scotty’s voice. I did research in the teen section of the library and discovered shelves and shelves of amazing books I hadn’t known about that were labeled YA. I immediately saw that it was a niche for me. I’m really interested in adolescence—its complications, and rebelliousness. I’m so excited to be a part of this literary movement.

Can you describe your path to the publication of FREAKED?
I love to write but faced insecurities about being published. For a long time, I didn’t feel worthy of the success I hoped for. But one day our roof began to leak. My husband was deep into his PhD, we had two kids we wanted to take to enroll in preschool and dance lessons, I was losing my hearing and finding it hard to teach. I decided that being “great” didn’t matter as much as contributing what I could to my work and my family. I started drafting and placing articles, at first for free, hoping to get something going in freelance non-fiction. My husband said that if I was going to try to publish, I should put the finishing touches on the novel I had hanging around and send it out. So I did, not sure what to expect.

What followed was a large number of rejections by agents and one acceptance. But that’s all it took. She sold Freaked three days later. It was a quick turn around.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Believe in what you like in your work. It’s the struggle that you should find enjoyable, because even if you get to the top of the mountain, there is always another mountain that has to be slogged up after that.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
I’d like there to be a third and a fourth book (I’m just finishing a second). I’d like to see Russia someday, especially if I could take my kids with me. I’m pretty open to whatever adventures await, really.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
I am in the final draft phases of a novel entitled STRANDED about two teenaged girls coming of age in Iowa. A baby has been discovered in a cornfield near where they live. The tragedy forces them to think about their lives and draws them together in ways they don’t expect.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about FREAKED?

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