Jennifer Lynn Barnes is the author behind novels such as Fate and Tattoo, Golden and Platinum and The Squad Series. She has graciously allowed me to interview her about her writing process and the chances of another title in the series.
Where did the idea for Tattoo come from?
With Tattoo, I knew that I wanted to write a book about four best friends who all had psychic powers. I had the girls' names, personalities, and powers down long before I actually had a concept for the book, but I knew that I wanted the powers to be acquired during the course of the book, so I set everything aside until I could think of a good way to give the girls a power boost. I was a sophomore in college at the time, and a few months later, my roommate and I were getting ready to go out dancing, and we found these really sparkly green tattoos. As we were applying them, I made a joke about how they totally looked like they could be magic tattoos. The light in my head went off, and I realized that temporary tattoos would be perfect for Bailey and the gang, and that's how the story was born.
I love that each of the four girls could very much be cliched in differentiating themselves from one another but they weren't. Where did you find your inspiration for these friends?
I wrote and revised Tattoo while I was living with MY five best friends, during our sophomore and junior years in college, and I definitely think that influenced the way that the girls' friendship turned out and the way they respond to each other in the book. None of the characters were actually based on real people, but the way they joke with each other and interact is very similar to the kind of relationship my suitemates and I had while I was writing the book.
If I were to pinpoint what I loved the most about the Tattoo series, it would be the humour. There are some particularly snarky cheerleading comments that I adored. How difficult is it to make humour seem natural?
I can't imagine writing these books without the goofiness and snark, because I'm a pretty goofy and (occasionally) snarky person, especially when I'm with my closest friends, so writing a book about close friends that didn't include humour would have felt really unnatural to me. Probably the most difficult thing about writing humour is convincing your audience that a character can be funny/silly/occasionally over the top, and still be a person who deserves to be taken seriously, too. I consider Delia- the one who makes a lot of the cheerleader comments- to be responsible for a large percentage of the comic relief in the books, but she's also (at least in my eyes) a pretty formidable opponent.
I usually see plot twists in advance but you seem particularly good at springing them on your audience. How much of a part does plotting play in this?
For first drafts, I'm not much of a planner, so part of the reason readers might not always see twists coming is that a lot of times, *I* don't see them coming at first either. I let the story build naturally as I write it, so it's not unusual for me to "discover" a twist before it's actually revealed, but after clues have started turning up. When it clicks in my head, I think something along the lines of "that makes so much sense," but a lot of the twists fall naturally out of the plot while I write, rather than being planned per se.
I would imagine there is a humongous amount of research to be done with books that incorporate myths. What kind of research did you find yourself doing?
I used to say that I don't really do much research, but one of my writer friends pointed out that I actually do research, I just do it differently from a lot of other authors who write about the same kinds of things I do. I rarely sit down and say "I'm going to research X" and look things up. I didn't read a single book on mythology for the purpose of writing this series- but I'm the kind of person who finds a ton of different things really fascinating and will read up on them and learn about them at random times, just for the heck of it. Tattoo and Fate ended up being a mish-mash of a ton of things that I was interested in (and had looked up) long before I wrote a book about them. I love Celtic and Greek mythology, and I've collected bits and pieces of them in my head since I was about eleven or twelve- so the only research I did while writing involved double checking what I already knew.
Which YA author makes you green with envy?
Oh, wow! Hard question. The thing about the YA community is that it's so open and so friendly, and I've met and become friends with so many amazing YA writers that it's kind of hard to think of seriously envying anyone who writes YA, because they're just all SO NICE. In terms of less serious envy, though, I envy my buddy Sarah Cross, whose novel DULL BOY comes out this spring, because she knows way more about superheroes than I do and has a much more extensive comic book collection, and I envy Sarah Rees Brennan (The Demon's Lexicon) because she lives in Ireland, where writers don't pay taxes, plus she can do truly magnificent (and only partially ridiculous) re-enactments of any book she's ever read. And also, I get pet-envy a lot, because it seems like a lot of YA authors have really cute cats and dogs, and my apartment doesn't allow pets. John Green and Melissa Marr both have really, REALLY awesome puppies...
Fate has just been released in Australia. How does it feel to know your book is available in various countries overseas?
Knowing your books are available anywhere is amazing- knowing they're available in other countries is mind-blowing. I'd love to have an excuse to visit Australia some day!
Are there any plans to revisit Bailey and her adventures with the Sidhe?
There's nothing currently in the works, but when I wrote Tattoo, I didn't actually know there was going to be sequel- which is just to say that I've been wrong before, so you never know.
What are you presently working on?
Right now, I'm working on a new YA called RAISED BY WOLVES (due out Summer 2010 in the U.S.) about a human girl who was adopted and raised by a pack of werewolves after her human family was killed by a rogue wolf when she was five. The story picks up when Bryn (the main character) is fifteen and discovers a secret at the center of the pack- lots of snark, lots of adventure, and tons of werewolf politics and teenage rebellion. It's a ton of fun to write!
A big thank you to Jen for taking the time to answer my questions of the eve of her trip. I appreciate it greatly. These books are definitely something I think all readers should check out. Jen's website and blog are also great founts of information. This week I have also been avidly reading her tweets from the Romantic Times Booklovers Conference which are pretty darn entertaining. Follow her now:)