Today, we have the lovely Jen S. Downey on the blog, to talk about her debut novel, The Ninja Librarians!
She's been patiently waiting for us to post her interview with her, and we're deeply appreciative that she took the time to talk to us and share some insight into her awesome book!
(And check out our review to be posted later today!)
Q&A with Author Jen S. Downey:
Q: I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, but: what made you think to combine ninjas and librarians?
(I always thought my childhood librarian proably had a double-life as a ninja!)
Librarians were the keepers of all this treasure, and as such, mysterious and powerful custodians. There always seemed to be more to them than met the eye! Something secret and well-intended and unadvertised. When they became the heroes of the story, I wanted to pick a descriptor that captured that feeling, if not literally, than figuratively.
Q: Other early reviewers have praised The Ninja Librarian’s fun premise, but also its ability to tackle profound, adult themes – e.g. the idea that it’s important to protect those who have been persecuted for speaking out throughout history.
What made you decide to tackle such a profound theme, and what made you decide to set it in a MG setting verses an older setting – e.g. a YA one?
In the case of the Ninja Librarians, the theme in question was integral to the story, which I’d imagined from the beginning as an MG book. It’s funny, I have this distinct memory of myself as a nine year old, being acutely aware that my friends and I were taking in a lot more about what was going on in the world through snatches of adult conversations and snippets of news than adults generally thought we were. Perhaps that’s why it never occurred to me that MG readers would have any trouble with the theme.
Q: Say you’re in an elevator with Steven Spielberg, and you have a fifteen second ride to pitch your book as a feature. What would you say?
Q: I know that all of the characters in a book are special to the author in different ways. But is there one character from Ninja that you especially relate with? If so, why?
Q: It says in your bio that you’ve written non-fiction pieces in the past, for large-scale publications like The Washington Post and New York Magazine. Have you noticed any changes in your writing process, when switching from non-fiction to fiction?
In non-fiction, you’re shaping a story, or finding a story’s angle. In fiction writing, you’re inventing the story. In most of my old magazine stories, I was either explaining how to do something, or trying to educate the public about a situation or an issue. Lots of laying out an analysis or an argument. Lots of providing persuasive evidence. All these things have to be done in fiction too in the service of creating believable characters and plots, I suppose.
Q: Let’s talk a little about your writing process! First things first: are you a morning writer, evening writer or middle-of-the night writer?
Q: Plotter or pantser?
Q: What’s one author fantasy that you have (e.g. Benedict Cumberbatch fights to join the film cast for Ninja Librians) that you’ve had while writing, but have never admitted to anyone else until now?
Q: A lot of your readers will likely be aspiring writers, both young and old. What’s the one piece of advice that you’d want to leave them with?
Rather than pretend I didn’t, and shuffle a few words around, I’m going to share my verbatim answer: Grow fond of initial messiness in writing. Better to have a chaos of a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, then a perfection of a forever lonely first chapter so sharp and beautiful it could etch an image of the Mona Lisa into a diamond facet. Make friends with the idea of the momentary failure to express perfectly the thing you’re trying to express. Do your best and move on. Make friends with people who will give you honest tough critiques. Fall in love with revising. Expect to revise your story many many times. (Once I had a beginning, a middle, and an end, I revised a dozen full times) Reject the title of “Writer”. Embrace the title of “Human Who Writes”. And above all, let well-written books, the ones YOU love, be your teachers and guides.
Q: Finally, what’s currently on your TBR shelf?
The grand winner will also win an additional copy to be donated to their library of choice.