I want this story to connect with any reader who doesn’t feel seen or heard, who feels lost in the chaos of life, or who doesn’t feel quite comfortable with who they are . . . I hope this book inspires people to love themselves.Jenna Miller
Today, it’s a real pleasure to welcome my long-time friend-from-afar and former book blogging pal, Jenna Miller, who is here to talk about her debut young adult novel, Out of Character!
Incidentally, I had the chance to read Out of Character early, and I loved it! The book is timely and relevant, filled with delightful humor, a protagonist who splits her time between online and real life (role playing! discord!), family drama, body positivity, and a lovely sapphic romance or two.
Miller’s characters are dynamic and interesting, right down to the scene-stealing cat (and perfect wingman), Mr. Tuttles! There are also some amazing descriptions of a regional favorite meal called “totdish,” and I have to admit, I’m now on the hunt for the best recipe. Is it the recipe Cass prefers? We’ll see! Since I loved this one so much, I bought an extra copy to giveaway to one lucky blog reader! See details at the end of this post.
AB: Since this is your debut novel, I’d like to start by asking what was the biggest surprise for you during (or after) the publishing process? Is there anything that caught you off guard?
JM: The biggest surprise for me has been how different every step in this process can be depending on which publisher you end up at, which imprint, which editor, etc. No two author experiences are the same. I’ve heard from author friends who are doing X for marketing/publicity, and I’m doing Y, and others are doing Z. Authors have different relationships with their publishing teams, and the timelines will also vary. So, if you’re new to getting a book deal, try not to compare your journey/process to others.
AB: I know that you’re working on edits for your second novel (hooray!), which must be quite a challenging thing to do while simultaneously preparing to go on tour for your first book. In Out of Character, the main character, Cass, has some “real life” and “online” friends she relies on; do you have a community of your own, like a writing group, or do you prefer to work solo?
JM: For the writing process itself, I work best alone. I don’t do live workshops or readings with groups of people, but I do have writer friends who I swap manuscripts with for critiques/revisions before sending a new project on to my agent and/or editor. It’s so important to get that outside feedback, find out what they love about the story and find out what can be done even better. It’s also important to have writer friends who get what you’re going through, because most other people in your life are so lost when you start to ramble about publishing. That support is essential, so find your people!
AB: As a newly published author, what advice do you have for young (i.e. inexperienced or new) writers who are trying to navigate that wide gap between having written a story and getting that story published?
JM: Finding your people is so important! You’ll help each other navigate the chaos and figure out next steps. And give yourself grace. It can be so easy to compare to others and feel behind or like your work isn’t good enough but take care of yourself and just keep going. On the process side, write down your goals and the steps it takes to get there. The process for self-publishing is vastly different from the process for publishing with a smaller press, which is vastly different from a big press. For example, not all paths require an agent. From there, do your research! If seeking an agent, research agents who are looking for the type of story you’ve told and pay attention to their querying guidelines. Same goes for if you’re submitting to a smaller press. Guidelines vary, so don’t treat every agent/publisher the same.
AB: What are you most looking forward to readers experiencing when they read Out of Character? Is there a particular audience you had in mind when you were writing?
JM: Writing Young Adult, my main audience is always teenagers (though I do believe adults can also enjoy YA). Digging deeper than that, I want this story to connect with any reader who doesn’t feel seen or heard, who feels lost in the chaos of life, or who doesn’t feel quite comfortable with who they are. Out of Character features a girl who is fat and a lesbian, but those things don’t define her. She is who she is, and I hope this book inspires people to accept/love themselves for who they are.
AB: There are probably a lot of difficult moments in the writing, querying, and editing processes. What kept you going—kept you motivated—throughout this journey? (Goal-setting? Playlists? Rewards for milestones?)
JM: One great thing about finding your people is that they will bully you into not giving up! Could you imagine the shame!? But seriously, I got to a point where my own determination to see it through drove me, but little rewards along the way definitely helped. Whenever I finish a big revision or get to a milestone, I reward myself with gay cake (aka rainbow cake). So, find your version of gay cake if you want that little reward!
JENNA MILLER (she/her) writes young adult books about fat, queer, nerdy girls who deserve to be seen and have their voices heard. When she’s not obsessing over words, she can be found making charcuterie boards, befriending people online, cross-stitching, or adventuring in the Minneapolis area. Out of Character is her debut novel.
You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok as @jmillwrites.
To buy the book, please visit BookShop.org.
I have one copy of Out of Character to giveaway to a reader of this blog! Here are the details:
Good Luck! And thanks again to Jenna Miller for stopping by to have a conversation about writing and about her debut novel, Out of Character! I can’t wait for the next book!
This book sounds amazing!! Congratulations Jenna on your novel. I’m looking forward to reading it!
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I absolutely must read this book! Even at my “advanced” age, I too need fictional validation from characters who are in their own categories and who don’t match up to whatever is the current Societal Norm. Best to find that validation within, but oh how Fiction (and biography, autobiography, essays, memoirs) can help!!
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I’m always looking for new authors to read, enjoyed the post!
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