Jenni Merritt, originally from a tiny island called San Juan off the coast of Washington state, now lives in Oregon on the outskirts of Portland. Her book Prison Nation will be released this December.
Prison Nation is a YA dystopian, about a young girl who was born and raised inside a city sized prison. On her 18th birthday she is released, only to find the promises she had always believed in are far from what she thought they would be.
1) How did you develop an interest in writing? I can’t remember a time I didn’t write. My mom told me that when I was three I would sit at the dining room table and make up stories. I would ask how to spell a word, like “cat,” then proceed to ask what a ‘c’ looks like. I have been lucky enough to always be surrounded by people who support my writing mania. I guess I never had a choice. Writing chose me.
2) Please tell me a little about your blog. I have been blogging for almost two years now (JenniMerritt.blogspot.com) though I didn’t actively make regular posts until a year ago. Now I am on a three-post a week schedule, and addicted to it!
3) Please tell me a little about this MS. There are many things that helped grow this idea (Prison Nation). The main source of inspiration though comes from a close friend, who was put through a very hard time in his life and is still dealing with the outcome. It made me think. And thinking makes me write.
4) What other styles do you write - genre novels, poetry, articles, memoirs etc.? I have a first draft of a YA paranormal hiding in a “drawer” right now, waiting its chance to be edited. Along with that, I am working on a YA Fantasy… about shadows. I used to write poetry, and keep meaning to get back to it, if these book muses ever give me a chance.
5) Is this a hobby or do you plan to make a career from writing? I absolutely love writing. If I could make this a career, it would be my dream come true. Right now I am writing for the sole love of it, and can’t wait to see where it takes me.
6) What authors do you admire? So many - Terry Goodkind and Orson Scott Card take the cake. I also admire JK Rowling, Stephen King, and a close friend of mine who is a self-publishing maniac, Keary Taylor.
7) What music, places, people inspire you? I normally listen to groups such as Dashboard Confessional, Linkin Park, and Dave Matthews Band. Yet the book I am currently writing for NaNoWriMo 2011 is all instrumental music. Each book demands its own soundtrack, and I just have to bend to its will. As for places… my desk. I live in a small apartment, and have claimed our dining room as my writing den. Above my desk I have letters that spell “WRITE” and framed certificates of my NaNoWriMo wins. How can I not write when I see that?
8) What do you do when you have writer's block? I whine to my husband, surf Facebook, Tumblr and bang my head on the desk. No really, this is one of my hardest struggles. Lately I have found the best trick is to just skip the section that is blocking me and move onto something, anything, that will let me write it. The great thing about editing is you can always go back to add things. But you have to write something first!
9) Have you submitted anything yet? Even a letter to an editor, written for high school publications, other blogs etc? I went the query route with Prison Nation for a bit. Got some good responses, but no line and sinkers. Thank goodness for the great creation of CreateSpace. I am looking forward to self-publishing, but still plan to attempt the agent world with future novels.
As for other submissions… back in high school I always submitted works to our literary magazine. But that was some time ago. Oh, and there was the small piece I submitted to your blog Lost Warmth..
10) How long did it take you to write your current MS? 30 days. No, really. I wrote Prison Nation as part of the NaNoWriMo 2010 challenge. I hit the 50k word count on November 14th, then finished the first very rough draft by the end of that month. Then spent a year editing the bajeebers out of it.
11) When working on your current MS did you complete an outline first or did you just start writing? I am a major pantser. I got the rough idea, jotted down my opening sentence, then let the novel write itself. This works pretty well for me, though sometimes I do have to stop and have a serious conversation with my characters about where they are taking me.
12) What is your writing process like? I am a stay at home mom of two very energetic little boys. I would love to spend all day writing, but that is just impossible. Normally I try to squeeze in some words when the younger of the two is napping. Most times I write after they are put to bed. My husband seems to like this arrangement: it gets him his guilt free video gaming time. My main drive is doing word wars and write shoves with friends. I need a little fire under my butt.
16) Do you have an editor or agent? My editor is me, myself, and I. Oh, and my awesome beta readers. I am currently un-agented, but look forward to the day that that changes!
17) Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us?
My name is Millie 942B.
Next week is my eighteenth birthday. And I dread it with every fiber of my body.
I guess my name might seem pretty strange to someone who doesn’t know the world I live in. ‘942’ is the cell number I was born and raised in. ‘B’ is the floor level of which my little cubicle resides. It is a symbol of my existence. I have no brothers. No sisters. Only a silent father and a state-proclaimed unstable mother. And it is because of them that I am here.