Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes
I am pleased to welcome author Jenny Torres Sanchez to my blog. She has written The Downside of Being Charlie and Death, Dickenson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, both books that I love and enjoyed. I pretty much give both of these 5 star ratings. I reviewed the latter, but did not review the former. I hope you all enjoy this interview and will consider purchasing her books. They’re great reads.
1. Tell us about both of your books, The Downside of Being Charlie, and Death, Dickinson, and The Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia.
Both books deal with characters going through a difficult time in their lives. In The Downside of Being Charlie, Charlie is a teen boy dealing with his very dysfunctional family (mainly, his mother who runs away). He also battles with his weight and self image and is trying to understand the girl who he is in love with but who may or may not love him back. In Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, Frenchie is dealing with the aftermath of her high school crush’s suicide. They spent the last night of his life together and Frenchie doesn’t understand why he chose to spend it with her. The summer after her senior year, she should be looking forward to the rest of her life, instead, she’s trying to figure out why Andy ended his.
2. Both of these books deal with some pretty heavy topics. In The Downside of Being Charlie, Charlie’s mother is absent all the time and appears to be struggling with her own demons. Charlie is also struggling with his inner demons, especially when it comes to food. What made you want to deal with such heavy topics in The Downside of Being Charlie? As for The Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, Frenchie is reliving the moments she spent with Andy right up to the point of his suicide. You could have put the book in Andy’s perspective, and we would have received a very intimate look into his psyche, especially understanding what made him choose suicide, so what made you decide to put it in Frenchie’s perspective instead?
I don’t initially set out to write books with heavy topics, but my characters show up and I can tell they have problems. Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss teens and think their lives are easy and not so complicated, but lots of teens go through really heavy things. I want teens who are going through those or similar types of issues to see themselves in these characters and know that while sometimes they might feel alone, they’re not. There are a lot of people struggling. And there’s not always a clear solution. Sometimes the only solution is to struggle on for awhile and know that eventually, things can get better.
I wrote suicide from Frenchie’s perspective because I think the effects of suicide are far reaching. Andy wasn’t Frenchie’s best friend. He wasn’t her boyfriend. She hardly even knew him actually. But his suicide hit her really hard and left her reeling. I think this happens to a lot of people. Suicide takes so many people from this world and it seems like the people around them end up in this place where they keep trying to understand, keep looking for clues and answers, even if they weren’t particularly close to the person. I wanted to explore that place, that person’s story. I think it’s a story worth telling.
3. Do you see yourself always writing books that deal with heavy topics? (I myself set out to write about heavy topics)
It’s hard to say a definite yes, because I really do want to write whatever stories come to me. Sometimes they may have heavy topics, sometimes they might not. But it does seem like I’m drawn to exploring stories with darker themes, so for the most part, I think that will always be a part of my writing. Sheesh, that seems like a longwinded way of saying, “Yeah, probably.”
4. How long did it take you to write both of these books, from draft to publishable material? (This is how long it takes me, too)
About 1 year and a half on both.
5. What was the publishing process for you like? How long did you have to query before landing a bite?
I received a request for the full manuscript to the first query I ever wrote. And when I received that email, I kind of cried like a baby. It was silly, because it was just a request, but to me it was like angels were singing and trumpets were playing somewhere in a golden sky just for me. Seriously, I cried. But I guess it was because I figured, if I can get this request, I can get more. And if I can get more, then I think I can actually do this.
That agent ultimately passed, but the request gave me so much hope. Three months and several queries later, I was offered representation by the amazing Kerry Sparks (seriously, she is wonderful).
6. What is it that you love about young adult literature? Will you always write young adult literature?
I guess I just really like that point of view. It’s that point between childhood and adulthood that has it’s own unique flavor; there is wonderment, there is angst, there is confusion and fear, and all just makes for such a unique and interesting perspective. I love it.
7. Are you currently working on anything right now? If so, are you able to tell us a little bit about it?
I am working on something and it’s actually pretty different than Charlie and Frenchie, but I can’t reveal too much. There is dysfunction, though. And darkness. It’s been challenging, but I think it’s made me a better writer, so that’s pretty cool!
8. Now tell us anything and everything about yourself, including your love for red swedish fish.
Anything and everything? Ha, okay, well, obviously I love reading and writing. I love photography, painting, going to art museums, and music. I love hearing bands I’ve never heard before, though I cling to the music I grew up with. I am a very, very slow reader and an even slower writer. I want to like tea for some reason, but I actually don’t. But I still buy it anyway. My standard coffee (which I do like) order is an Americano. If given enough time, I will freak myself out when I’m home alone (because I think ghosts or aliens or something is out to get me). By given enough time, I mean, oh anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours. Which is completely contradictory the fact that I do actually enjoy being alone. I’m afraid of the dark. I run fight or flight mode and recite the alphabet when I’m scared. I don’t enjoy the outdoors unless it is NOT super sunny or hot out, which means I mostly stay indoors since I live in Florida. I’m married to someone who actually knows all this about me and still loves me. We have three amazing kids, the youngest whom we actually named after Frenchie (yeah, no joke). Oh, and I like to eat Swedish Fish until I feel sick and can hardly stand to look at them. Then I eat them some more.
9. Anything else you want people to know?
Ha, I think the above pretty much covers it! Thanks so much for these great questions. 😀
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