Jody Sparks is a YA author represented by Ted Malawer at Upstart Crow Literary. Her novel is currently out on submission! Check out Jody's website/blog Sparks & Butterflies. You can also follow Jody on Twitter. Thanks to Jody for answering all my questions about her first novel, becoming an agented author & advice for aspiring authors and her younger self!
1. Can you tell me a bit about how you came to be an agented author? What was the querying process like for you? Have you queried multiple novels?
Truthfully, I never queried at all. I don't really understand them. I met an agent during a paid critique at a conference. She did not request to see the whole manuscript (this was not the first novel I'd written, but it was the first one I tried to get published). The agent did, however, give me some great ideas for revision. I never meant to have my main character join the Navy. I wanted her to think about it and then choose love instead. This agent suggested having her join the military, which required a lot of research. A year later, I had a whole different book, but it was so much better that I could hardly believe it. Soon after, I went to another conference where I met Ted. He requested the manuscript and a few months later, offered representation. Since we'd met and he'd spoken at the conference, I felt very comfortable signing with him.
2. I know this is a pretty impossible question (sorry!), but I just want to ask: What drives you to write?
I just like it so much. It's good hard work. I feel productive and happy and tired from it.
3. From what I've read on your blog, it seems you write YA novels with military themes. I think this is great, because so few authors do broach that subject in teen literature. Could you tell me a bit about your novel, or your writing in general, and why you particularly like military-theme books?
Thanks for reading my blog! I've only written one novel with a military theme (so far). I'm certainly not opposed to writing more, but I'm anxious to write about other things too. I suppose if I had to generalize my writing I'd say that it has something to with how love and suffering make young people a little bit older. That covers a lot of ground. The military--and how it relates to young people and Young Adult literature--is fascinating to me for many reasons. When I was a teenager, the military didn't have the same kind of presence in current events as it does now. It interests me to think about how young people are affected now that the military is more active and more of a presence in our culture. What do words like love and honor and sacrifice mean nowadays to teenagers?
4. Are there any particular books or authors that have shaped you as a writer (and human being)?
Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle made me love reading. Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl made me love YA literature and want to write it.
5. Complete this sentence: Outside of writing, my life is...
just as unpredictable and lucky.
6. Complete this sentence: My teenage years were...
as fun as they were awkward. Visit my blog on Sundays and you'll see what I mean.
7. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Use your resources. If you want to write, you can learn how. It doesn't have to be a big mystical thing. The Internet is the best invention of my lifetime! Not only can you research a book you want to write (Like one that has a few scenes in boot camp where you can't just walk in and get a tour) but you can also research the book industry: what agents are looking for, what books editors have worked on, what books are trendy and what the market lacks. The hard part is being patient with your writing until it's practiced and great, but you can learn to write; and if you do, you will probably get published.
8. What advice would you give to yourself as a teenager?
Write more. And record more; you won't remember as much as you think you will. Take more risks in general.