Interview with Author Jenn Reese

Greetings Seven Scribes Fans!  Jamie K. Schmidt here filling in for J Monkeys.  Keeping with my crafty resolution, I’m going to give away another pair of earrings to a lucky person who comments on this blog post.

Today, I’m pleased to introduce to you an old friend of mine, Jenn Reese.  Her MG book, “Above World” is scheduled to be released on Valentine’s Day this year!

Tell us how Above World came about.  What was the spark or the “what if?” moment that made you decide to write a middle grade book about Aluna and the Coral Kampii?

As ridiculous as it sounds, I was sitting around one day and I thought, “You know who would make an awesome space captain? A mermaid!” That’s what gave me the idea of combining mythology and science to get my various bioengineered humans of the future. Although I dropped the space captain angle, I do mention “sky ships” in book 1 in honor of that initial spark.

How did you go about searching for an agent and what made you decide to go with Joe Monti from Barry Goldblatt Literary? What was harder to write, the query letter or the synopsis?  Got any tips for improving a query/synopsis?

I am fortunate to have many published friends, so the first thing I did was ask them for their agent spreadsheets. Then I researched for months using, Publisher’s Marketplace, and several different mailing lists. I created my own spreadsheet with data and feedback from others until I had a three-tiered agent hunt list.

I got two offers from my first tier, and chose Joe – a decision I have never regretted. Joe had been to my website, read my blog, and I was confident that he wanted to represent me – in all my geeky glory – and not just this one book.

I spent over a month working on just my query letter and synopsis while friends read the latest draft of my novel, and I think it was time well spent. I’m certainly no expert, but I definitely recommend going lean and mean in your query. No unnecessary details about either your novel or yourself. Your goal is to get agents intrigued, to get them to ask for more. The longer your query letter is, the more likely you are to say something that will turn them off.

Did Joe have any edits for you? What about Candlewick?  How long did it take you do the revisions?  Did you wrestle with the changes or did they fit with your vision of the book?

LOL. Yes, both Joe and my editor at Candlewick, Sarah Ketchersid, had edits. Lots of edits. They all made the book stronger. (Joe is notorious for wanting more fight scenes, a request I am always delighted to indulge.)

Admittedly, you can’t always tell right away if you agree with the suggestions. I have to sit on editorial notes a minimum of four full days before my brain starts thinking about them constructively. For Above World, I actually changed the book’s villain. Instead of killing him at the end of book 1, I killed off a lieutenant instead and saved the Big Bad for future books. (A suggestion that implies the need for future books? I’m all over that!)

In the end, every single editorial pass — one from Joe, one before we sold, and two under contract – made the book immeasurably better. I will be forever grateful that no one has to read the book as I originally wrote it.

The cover to Above World is gorgeous. As a graphic designer yourself, can you tell me what you think makes this cover so great?

I love the cover! Candlewick was generous enough to include me in design discussions. We all wanted something bright and gender neutral that hinted at the fantastical elements of the science fictional plot. I think the intense colors and simple, bold design scream “adventure,” and I couldn’t be happier!

The artwork is by  Alexander Jansson ( and the cover design is by Candlewick’s Kate Cunningham.

Your first book, Jade Tiger — an adult urban fantasy, was published in trade paperback by Juno a few years ago and you’ve just recently released it out for Kindle and Nook. What can you tell us from an author’s perspective about the difference between the two mediums?

When the rights to Jade Tiger reverted back to me, I enjoyed converting it to ebook format – mostly because I was able to edit the book slightly and take out a section that had always bothered me. (No, I’m not telling you what it was!) I’m also loving the ability to change the book’s price whenever I want, just to see what sells. Ebooks give authors the control that they crave.

Having said that, I still vastly prefer to sell my books traditionally. It’s not just that the money is better, it’s that the book itself ends up better. All those amazing editorial notes! Copyediting! Proofreading! Professionally designed cover and interior pages! Marketing, sales, and publicity teams! Distribution channels! I would be lost without Candlewick.

Traditional publishing is for me – no question — but I love that authors now have a choice. And I also love that many authors are now putting their out-of-print backlists online. So many wonderful titles that we once again have access to! “Out-of-print” will soon be out of style.

I noticed you’re doing a book signing at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach, CA on 2/17/12.  Did you set that up or was that something Candlewick did?  How did you set it up?  What are your plans for the signing are you going to read chapters or give a talk?

The signing is a result of networking. While I was at the World Fantasy Convention, a good friend introduced me to the awesome Maryelizabeth Hart who manages publicity for Mysterious Galaxy. She took care of everything, including contacting my publicist at Candlewick (the equally awesome Tracy Miracle). I’m sharing the signing with a fellow debut author Sara Wilson Etienne (check out her novel Harbinger!), and we have yet to decide what we’re going to do. It will be my first-ever such event. Suggestions welcome!

Jenn Reese’s book “Above World” will be available on February 14, 2012. You can pick it up at Barnes and Noble  or wherever you prefer to buy books!

Inspired by the denizens of the City of Shifting Tides, the Coral Kampaii, I’m giving away a pretty pair of lampwork glass fish earrings to match the cover of Above Word.  I’ll announce the winners here around noon Thursday, January 12th.


Last week’s winner, Katy, will receive these funky vampire earrings.  


11 thoughts on “Interview with Author Jenn Reese”

  1. Welcome Jenn! Great interview, and beautiful cover. For your book signing, I recommend having some form of entertainment (reading of the book, music playing from your playlist for the book) something to get people to come up to you. People hate to be sold to but they love checking out someone who is offering something…and yes, free food or chocolate works as well:-)

    Jamie, I love Katy’s bat earings!

  2. Hi Jenn,
    Welcome to our blog! Fantastic cover and the premise is wonderfully out of the box. Best of luck with sales.

    Jamie – I love the earrings. I never did get to ask Katy to show them to me today!!

  3. The Winner of the earrings is Pam Hynes!!!! I put all the names in Mary’s hat and she picked you from a blind pull! LOL. I’ll bring them to work tomorrow 😀

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