A few months ago, I reviewed Megg Jensen’s excellent YA fantasy novel Anathema. To give you the Reader’s-Digest version, I loved it. Which is why I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read and review the ARC of the second novel in the series Oubliette.
Apart from a kick-ass title, this novel is a seamless match to the first in the series. The main character, though a little wiser to the world than in the last novel, is still just as sweet and willing to search for the good in anybody. And I do mean anybody. The moments of romance between her and the revolutionary Mark are still as passionate without derailing the plot. And the various twists throughout the book are just as unpredictable and satisfying.
If you liked Anathema, then you’ll love Oubliette.
If you haven’t read Anathema, go and read it, and then come back to this review/interview.
In case this is your first visit to my blog, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m a sucker for interviews. I can’t resist any opportunity to interview an author, especially a successful one like Megg. Here’s what I asked and what she answered.
ME: What was it like writing a sequel? Was it harder/easier than writing the first book? Were there any surprises? Did you change your writing or editing process at all for the second book?
MJ: I wrote Oubliette nearly two years ago, right after I finished Anathema. In fact, for a while I seriously contemplated making the two one book. I chose not to because the two books together would have totaled more than 100,000 words, which is really high for a YA novel. My writing process is always the same—I pound out a first draft as fast as humanly possible (anywhere from 1,000 to 7,000 words per day). Then I let it sit for a month or two while I work on other projects, and then I dive into editing. The editing process takes the majority of the time, usually at least two to three months.
ME: You have a pretty strong theme throughout this series of relationships to fathers and father figures. Why does this particular theme speak to you as an author, and what techniques do you use to weave it into the story?
MJ: I’ll be honest, that relationship happened organically as I wrote the novels. I didn’t even know who Reychel’s father was until the end of Anathema. Yes, I am truly a pantser (a writer who lets the plot unfold while writing instead of outlining ahead of time). Once I knew, the story took on a whole new level for me. I was able to use that more in revisions. In Oubliette, I was just as stunned as my readers to find out what xxxxxx [redacted spoiler] was up to. Poor Reychel!
I don’t focus on themes that speak to me when I write (I have an awesome relationship with my dad, for instance). I try to tell my character’s story without letting my voice or thoughts influence her. If something is important to my character, then I explore it.
ME: There are a few substantial (and awesome) twists throughout this novel. Were these planned in advance, or did they occur to you as you were writing those scenes? If planned, how did you come up with them? And if unplanned, what thoughts initiated the ideas for the twists?
MJ: Nothing is planned before I write. Here’s an example of my thought process: I’m driving down a wooded road. Instead of enjoying the scenery, I imagine a man jumping out from the woods. I hit him! I pull over the car to make sure he’s okay. While I’m checking his pulse, he jumps up and cleaves me in two with an axe. Yes, this is how I often think in normal, everyday life. When I’m writing, I can allow my imagination to run wild. I’m often just as surprised as the reader. Do I always stick with my first thought on plot? No, I don’t. The early drafts of my novels are a mess. If you read any of my first drafts, you’d see how the story evolves. I frequently end up rewriting the first half of my books to fit the second half. My first drafts are only a creative shadow of what will eventually be published.
ME: As a veteran indie author with plenty of marketing and promotion under your belt, could you tell us some tips/tricks that have been really helpful for you?
MJ: I hate thinking about promotion. It makes me feel like a used car salesman. I try to walk the fine line between letting people I know I have a book available and encouraging them to read it. As a former bookseller (in the greatest new & used bookstore ever), I know that reading is a personal experience. Just because one person adored a book, that doesn’t mean it’s the right book for everyone else. I carry that with me and make it my goal only to inform people about my book, not force them to read it.
For me, Twitter and Facebook have been the most beneficial in getting the word out. I like making personal connections with people online (I’m very shy with new people in real life—I’m the girl who stands in a corner watching everyone or only talks to people I know), and using those two networks has significantly impacted how I let people know about my books.
I think what other authors need to do is figure out what works for them. Readers will see right through a façade, so if a writer finds Twitter an uncomfortable place to be, then she shouldn’t put major pressure on herself to participate. If an author is best in front of an audience, then he should try to attend as many book signings as possible. I’m not the most charismatic person in real life, so I do my best to stick to the Web where I can shed my shyness and, hopefully, shine a little brighter.
ME: Can you give us (pretty, pretty please with sugar on top) a teaser for the third book?
MJ: The third novel, Severed, will drop this fall. I don’t want to give away too much, but Severed will combine characters from both Anathema and Oubliette. It’s going to be explosive and something will happen that, I think, will shock everyone.
Thank so much, Megg, for lending us your valuable insight! Keep us posted on the release of the third book in the fabulous Cloud Prophet trilogy!
For more information on Megg and the Cloud Prophet trilogy, including a fantastic contest, go here.